As the first day of teaching Zhen Xian Bao in Depth approaches, I am in constant planning mode. I scrutinize very clever bit of paper engineering that I come across. My husband has recently taken to buying packs of Trident gum, which are packaged in a variety of ways. The pack he brought in last night caught my eye, so I’m recreating it as a cover/closure that I may or may not use in a class.
The fact that Susan Joy Share, who co-instructs the ZXBinDepth class with me, knows and creates such a wealth of closure solutions makes it unnecessary for me to work out any more. Last year Susan showed our classes some examples of what people call Nag Hammadi closures, named for the methods used on some ancient books found in Upper Egypt. She also developed some a gorgeous crocheted closure that seems to grow out of the cover it is on, as well as demonstrating ways to use magnets to make our folded forms shut with a satisfying click.
With such a treasure chest of methods that are already part of our plans, adding the Trident Gum packing option seems dubious. Still, it’s so darn sweet that I’m going to park it here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Susan Share and I are entering week 9 of our 12 weeks of the Zhen Xian Bao and Beyond classes that we are teaching through the Center for Book Arts. It’s pretty extraordinary to watch people develop over the weeks.
Susan and I have begun most classes by spending a bit of time showing a selection of historical Zhen Xian Baos. The people in our classes seem to have fully embraced the idea that Cathryn Miller expressed so well in the comment section of her first post about the Zhen Xian Bao, which is “there are almost as many variations as there are books!” After our students learn the basics parts of the structure during instructional time, they learn how to size the components to work together, then they experiment with their own creations. What people make retains the conceptual armature of the traditional thread books but are still decidedly unique . We specifically teach how to be flexible and innovate with the elements of the Zhen Xian Bao, which is why the word “beyond” is part of the title for this class.
I have to say that co-teaching this class with Susan Share has been just brilliant. Some days I learn as much as any other person in the class. Even though we worked together many times before, we have our own styles of doing things, and noticing things. Susan sees and works out details that raise the bar in everything we do. She is also like royalty when it comes to thinking about closures. For instance, in the Zhen Xian Bao variation above, she just naturally suggested using the cord from the sewn pamphlet to extend around the folder to hold it closed (see below, left). She is also giving us some insights into Nag Hammadi closures, magnetic closures, crocheted closures, and there’s more to come.
There are so many avenues of inspiration to follow as I take cues from people in the class. For instance, a woman who I will refer to as Sarah B pointed Susan and me to a video of an historical structure, from Yunnan, SW China, which Susan and I went absolutely gaga over. We call it the Sarah B ZXB. After watching the video about 30 times, both Susan and I made our own copies of the structure, and now some of people in our classes are making their own models too.
I have taken to making most of my new pieces in miniature.
Here’s an unadorned model of Sarah B’s ZXB which is only about 4 inches high. What I love so much about it, besides everything, is how accordions are paired with standard Zhen Xian Bao boxes, and how the accordion fold-ins can open up to make a new box.
Here’s another structure I made that shows the influence of Susan, who has gotten me to print designs on my papers from various sources. Also, Jo, a person in the class, has gotten me to think about embellishments in a different way, and another student, Rosemary, who considered using a pocketed side of some folds to add little pamphlets, inspired me to use those hidden pockets for my own little pamphlets.
Zhen Xian Bao with hidden pamphlets
One of the challenges of doing zoom classes is creating a space where people can inspire each other. When we are learning, there is no reason to have all the learning be top down, from instructor to participants, which is especially true when the rest of the people in the zoom are interesting and talented people. Even though class time is for teaching, we inspire and influence each other by posting examples of work on the class page for all to see. Susan and I have also facilitated a “playdate” page where people can post zoom links for times outside of class to gather, fold and talk. It’s simply outrageously wonderful to see people gather outside of class to further develop their work.
Only a few more weeks left to this class. Can’t believe the time is going so fast.
Here are a couple of Instagram treasures, posted by a couple of people in the class. Enjoy!