Zhen Xian Bao · Zoom Workshop

The SDBA Connection

One of the best parts of teaching, for me, is having the excuse to make beautiful paper designs to work with.

I suspect that the people at San Diego Book Arts didn’t know what they were getting into when they asked Susan Share and me to teach our in-depth class on the Zhen Xian Bao through them this year. I just want to say that I’m glad that they picked us.

They curate a fabulous line-up of classes. Susan and I are both honored to be included.

Putting on an extended class is no small feat. It requires a great deal of commitment from quite a few people, It can be a lot to manage. We’re a month away from the start date, but already the folks at SDBA are in high gear, promoting the class, welcoming participants, and figuring out all the backstage stuff. They also have to deal with me. It’s a good thing they are patient (thank you SDBA).

For people who are not members of San Diego Book Arts, it’s worth becoming a member, which costs $50 a year. I generally shy away from membership fees, but this organization gives you a good bit of value for your buck. The membership fee gives a deep discount to classes, and since they offer so many fine classes, the yearly fee will seem to melt away. That’s not all, though. You will be reminded of their monthly membership meeting, which they obviously put a good bit of time and thought into, to make it an enjoyable and informative event. The people who run SDBA pour their hearts into being responsive to their members.

I’ve been lucky enough to get to work with people through zoom that I had previously worked with in-person. This is a Center For Book Arts workshop, 2019

This will be the third year that some form of this class has been offered on-line. It’s also the third year that people who have already studied the ZXB have taken the class. I’m feel confident saying that experienced ZXBers learn at least as much as students who studying this form for the first time. This reason I’m so sure of this is that each time that I co-teach this class with Susan, I learn an enormous amount. The people who take the class show up with so much wisdom, so many good questions, so much insight and skill, that I can’t help but learn as we work together. Susan, too, takes anything and everything that I bring to the class, and makes it deeper, richer, and more interesting.

Susan and I both bring decades of book arts and teaching experience to the class, so, although this class focuses on the Zhen Xian Bao form, what people get is everything we can manage to fit into each 2.5 hour class.

Here are some of the specifics about what we do.

A short clip showing my model of the Zhen Xian Bao with Accordion, based on a traditional model

Because of Rebecca, who took our class last year, we’ve come to appreciate how much people like to see historical examples of the Zhen Xian Bao. We, therefore, spend time looking at historical examples of the structure We look at them, teach how to decipher them, and watch people make their own variations. Last year a student, Sarah, pointed us towards a historical model that Susan and I immediately became enamored with, because it has an accordion fold out between layers. We couldn’t rest until we made our own. Then we helped others to figure out how to make it.

My four column ZXB

Another participant, Amy, shocked me when she made a four panel ZXB that has three big box layers. It was something I had made, but I had advantage of having been able to handle one to unlock its secrets. Amy did it all without my help, looking only at historical photos.

Zhen Xian Bao by Susan Joy Share, 2022

We have a great deal of playful fun in the class, exploring closures and messing around with surface design. Susan has done so much with these modes of working that I sit in awe. My favorite closure she made is one with a crocheted closure embedded in a methyl cellulose stiffened mesh cover. Where does she come up with this stuff?

ZXB using Shizen Design Handmade Papers for covers

One of my favorite things that Susan and I have done in this class, and which we are building on, is making simplified ZXBs. The idea is to learn one kind of collapsible box (and closure) per week, then use it in repeatedly in different folders. People seem to love this way of learning, as they have something finished to show and to remake after most classes.

Since it’s such a magnificent experience for me to be part of this class, I feel really good about recommending this class to people.

Addendum for the people who are signed up for the class: Optional paper pack is now available! https://etsy.me/3QmWyym


Making Patterns

My desk

Am in pattern making mode, trying to get just the right sort of papers ready for teaching the series of ten Zhen Xian Bao in Depth classes which start on zoom in early February.

Susan Joy Share and I are teaching two sections of this class. Since we have quite a few people who are taking the class for a second time (because they loved it so much!!!) I wanted to make new patterns to use. Or maybe I just needed a perfect excuse to do nothing but create patterns for days on end.

Everyone who signs up for the class gets a full set of black and white patterns in PDF files. These gorgeous gridded patterns help people sees if their folding is spot on. I was doing this even before teaching on zoom, as my first experiences with teaching folding showed me that imprecise folding leads to big trouble.

In 2018, when I first started making patterns specifically for folding, I exclusively used Islamic geometry patterns (IGP), which I learned through classes with Samira Mian. Learning about and using IGP was game changer for me. Recently, though, I’ve been finding inspiration elsewhere.

John Golden made just the coolest pattern making app in Geogebra. Anyone, and anyone, includes me!!!, can just pop over to his app and start fooling around by mouse-ing over the red dots. I created all sorts of configurations of lines, including the one above. Everything that I copied from John’s app is basically dissections a square, which is perfect for what I am doing. I trace what I like into Adobe Illustrator, and then just fiddle around.

Above is a screen shot of my AI workspace. What’s particularly cool this image is that not one of these exact iterations made the final cut for the optional colorful class paper pack. But I keep them around, as they could come in handy for something else.

Another place I look for inspiration is in old Dover pattern books that show lattices. The symmetry of lattices are perfect for what I am looking for, The trick is to use colors and scale that please me. I love how this one, above, turned out.

I don’t have any examples to show of what Susan Share does with the black and white PDFs that I provide, but I do want to mention what she does, because it’s so awesome.

Susan is just a master of playful exploration. When we are talk about surface design in class, Susan will show how she will overprint my pdfs with each other, or on to other images, using white or colored papers. The results are jaw dropping. It’s so much fun.

Another technique for making patterns is to start with some random shapes, then overlay or pair up some symmetry moves. This unassuming beginning above ended up giving me quite a lovely assortment of patterns to choose from (see below), one of which, after a few more alterations, ended up being something I could use,

As I am finalizing the PDFs and paper pack, I notice that I’m still including a couple of IGP patterns, most notably one I love, inspired by images from the Alhambra, which Vincent Pantaloni wrote about on twitter in 2019. Below is the photo that he posted, that got me interested in the the pattern. Glad to revisit this photo now, as I had forgotten how much I loved it when I first saw it.

Besides just wanting to write about the pattern-making process, I’m hoping to reach a few more people who might want to sign up for Susan and my Zhen Xain Bao In Depth class, which San Diego Book Arts is sponsoring this year. There are still openings in the Wednesday class, which starts at 5:30 Eastern Standard Time, which is also 2:30 Pacific Time. Here’s the registration link https://www.sandiegobookarts.com/workshop-events/zhen-xian-bao-in-depth-10-week-workshop

If you would like to read a couple of posts about past classes, here’s a something I wrote before the spring 2022 class, and during the spring 2021 class, which shows our attention to various historical forms of the Zhen Xian Bao.

Zoom Meeting

San Diego Book Arts Free Monthly Event

Tiles of a Zhen Xian Bao

San Diego Book Arts does this wonderful thing: Every second Wednesday of the month they host a meeting for people interested in book arts. These are rich events that include a make-and-take, tips and tricks, and get-to-know a guest artist/instructor, with a time for Q & A.

This coming Wednesday, November 9, 2022, Susan Joy Share and I are the guest artists. ~10 am PST; ~1pm EST; ~noon pm in Evanston, Illinois

We will get to talk about and show images related to our upcoming 10-week class, Zhen Xian Bao in Depth. It’s been eye-opening just getting ready for this talk.

If you are unfamiliar with the Zhen Xian Bao, here’s a great article by Ruth Smith.

Paula and Susan at the Cooper Hewitt Museum, 2018

This will be the third time that Susan and I will be co-teaching this course. we initiated this extended series of Zoom classes in winter 2021, in response to the extended period of isolation due to Covid.

We wanted to develop a course that people provided human connections and also helped people strengthen of their book arts skills in general while learning something specific. The next year, winter 2022, much of the isolation was lifting, but still, people were requesting this class, and we were happy to offer it again. Now we’re just as pleased to offer it, stating in February 2023, as we’ve experienced how students feel so enriched by the weekly routine of learning together.

Playful paper pairings

When Susan and I were writing up our description. I wondered out loud whether we could claim that this class helped support skills beyond making the Zhen Xian Bao. What I realized at that moment was -as a result of teaching along with Susan- my own book arts skills had grown considerably. I have to assume that if the class so profoundly helped my own work evolve, the same thing must be true of the people who take our course.

Twist Box Variations

The way that I see it, there are two components to our sessions. One part is the teaching of structures, such as various styles of twist boxes, and plethora of closure choice, such as those inspired by Nag Hammadi binding and by Hedi Kyle’s work,. Also ,we unlock keys to deciphering how to make one of many historical ZXB that we find, and explore how to make our own unique designs. The second component of our class is supporting people as they develop their own unique visions, whether it be in surface design pairings, exploration of content, and/or combining what hey learn with what they already know.

Mix and Match

About that last point: many of the people with whom we’ve been working with have been working with paper and books for a long time. It’s gratifying to see people bring their own materials, interests, and explorations to this form and figure out a way incorporate what’s important to them into the work that they do with us.

Now here are the links again. What you want to know is this: if you go to the link and RSVP you will be sent the PDF for the make-and-take, AND you will be sent the zoom link. Just don’t wait until the last minute, or you might not get the PDF.

Link to the Wednesday November 9, 2022 event [9am Anchorage Time] , [10 am San Diego Time], [11 am mountain time],[ noon in Illinois and Minnesota] [1 pm where I am EST] [8am in Hawaii]

Link to San Diego Book Arts home page

Link to Zhen Xian Bao in Depth class with Susan Joy Share and Paula Beardell Krieg. Note that the times of the classes are given in Pacific Time. For East coast people the classes are offered in the afternoon and early evening. European students would likely be more interested in the class that is offered in PST time morning.

Zhen Xian Bao

Zhen Xian Bao Gone Wild

In the book arts studio at The Center for Book Arts
In the book arts studio at The Center for Book Arts

Just came back from teaching a two-day workshop at The Center for Book Arts in NYC. One of the many reasons why it’s such a great place to teach is that there are enough materials around for classes to scavenge from (drawers of well labeled colorful and printed paper scraps, rolls of book cloth, shelves of random, unusual papers) that when I get to the point in our project where people can make their own choices of how to proceed I get to be surprised.

Barbara's Zhen Xian Bao
Barbara’s Zhen Xian Bao

After Barbara put on a bright orange cover, she was considering how the leaf paper would work with on the thread book. My thought is that these books are a celebration of personal choices so I was happy to see her bold preferences all combined altogether.

Karen's Book
Karen’s Book

Although my classes start out with people using papers I’ve designed for the class (which is the executive decision that I impose because the patterns on the paper help in guiding accurate folding) it’s always fun to see what choices people make when they take charge. Look how border around the edges of the collapsed boxes brighten the whole interior.

Karen's Thread Book, closed
Karen’s Thread Book, closed

Love this choice of chartreuse book cloth cover with bright yellow ribbon.

Rita's Twist boxes
Rita’s Twist boxes

Here, Rita used her scraps to decorate the twist boxes in a way that made the box feel like flower petals unfolding as the twist box opens. I’ve only thought of using these scraps at the top edge, but this other choice now makes more sense to me.

Vince's Big Box in Purple
Vince’s Big Box in Purple

Vince came to the class already having high comfort level with box folding. He made this incredibly dramatice big box layer out of some very cool looking purple/brown paper, not at all following my suggestions on how to construct this layer. Instead, he built on something else I showed him, just in passing, to create a veritable cavern in his book’s interior.

Nancy's Choices
Nancy’s Choices

I had a couple of people in the class who played in the rabbit hole of choices for so long that I didn’t get to see the final product put together. Nancy found all sorts of great scraps, then worked on all sorts of inspiring and unusual pairing and arrangements, both graphically and structurally. I hope I get to see how this one as it comes together.

Side View of Dana's Book
Side View of Dana’s Book

The surprises kept coming. Dana’s book, when closed looked like a yummy sandwich. The interior, well, I would need a dozen photos of this one to really show it off. Here’s a couple:

Dana's Chinese Thread Book/Zhen Xian Bao
Dana’s Chinese Thread Book/Zhen Xian Bao

Dana’s has a great eye for combinations. While the rest of us were carefully considering our decisions Dana was cutting and glueing up a storm. So much fun to see.

Dana's Zhen Xian Bao/ Chinese Thread book, open center
Dana’s Zhen Xian Bao/ Chinese Thread book, open center

Notice the pink cover. This was from a stack on from CBA’s shelf. Worked perfectly with the book.

Flower Top Box
Flower Top Box

There is so much to go over in these classes that I make it optional to learn the flower-top box. Still, everyone in this group made one.

While I was teaching this class I noticed a woman who was in the bindery, looking at the show in the gallery and watching our work in the class. When we broke for lunch she and I spoke for a few minutes. Turns out she had recently moved from Switzerland to Canada, and had taken a class in Canada on how to make these Zhen Xian Bao structures. She expressed a frustration about the fact that the class had been taught using inches as the unit of measurement, which she was not used to having been raised using the metric system. I wanted to give her the measurements that we used in class, which doesn’t rely on inches or units, but, instead, on parts of a square, but she already knew what I was talking about. She explained she understands the way that “Paula does it. ” Evidently she’s watched my tutorials, knows “Paula” but didn’t realize, until I said it, that I was the Paula that she was referring to. This made us both very happy. A wonderful moment. I found a nice note from her today in my inbox.

What a great couple of days!