classes 2018


Paper Threads: North Country Shifu
Velma Bolyard 

Shifu is a web of threads spun from paper and woven into cloth. This weaving tradition emerged from rural Japan in the early 1600’s simultaneously with the proliferation and popularity of handmade paper. Cloths were woven for both rustic or everyday use and for very fine textiles, often kimono. Shifu clothing exhibits many of the characteristics of washi; it can be both a cool fabric for summer wear or, when spun and woven thickly, a warm cold weather textile. In this class, we’ll explore the beautiful technique of spinning a continuous thread called kami-ito from a sheet of handmade, long fibered paper. We’ll then use our threads to weave shifu on small looms we make, to stitch on other papers, and to use in other fiber techniques. Working in the paper studio, we’ll make papers that complement our kami-ito and shifu, combining pulp, page, and line.

Velma Bolyard is a fiber, paper, and book artist who sources many of the botanical materials she uses from the country where she lives north of the Adirondack Forest Preserve. Velma’s work includes botanical contact printing on handmade and fine paper, cloth, and shifu; and artists’ books made with handmade papers, shifu, kami-ito stitching, and cloth. She teaches shifu, dyeing, and papermaking throughout North America and Australia. Velma retired from teaching emotionally disturbed teens in alternative programs, and now enjoys teaching college students and adults fiber and paper arts.


The Printmaker as Naturalist
Rebecca Chamlee

Directly printing forms found in the natural world has been used for centuries by scientists, naturalists and artists to preserve the ephemeral beauty of nature. This workshop explores a variety of processes to create prints on paper with plant materials provided by the instructor, collected during walks through the woods, or brought by students from home. Students will learn traditional Japanese nature printing of fresh specimens on washi papers and other hand printing techniques, collagraph plates of pressed leaves sealed in foil that can be edition-printed on the Vandercook or hand printed in a nipping press, steamed contact eco-prints on watercolor paper and serial monoprints with the etching press. The results can be used to create a sample book or saved for students’ personal projects.

Rebecca Chamlee is a book artist, printer, writer, and bookbinder who has published letterpress printed, limited-edition fine press and artist’s books under the imprint of Pie In The Sky Press since 1986. Her work is in prominent special and private collections throughout the U.S. and has been exhibited widely. As a self-taught naturalist, Rebecca’s artist’s books examine the intersection of her artistic and scientific interests by collecting and cataloging the natural world. She is inspired to record, interpret, and celebrate nature. Rebecca is an associate professor at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles where she teaches bookbinding, letterpress printing, and artists’ book classes; and heads the Book Arts minor program. She also holds workshops at her studio and book arts centers throughout the country.


Jana Dambrogio

  What did Queen Elizabeth I, her spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham, Marie Antoinette, and Russian WWII soldiers all have in common? They were letterlockers. They, and many others throughout history, folded and secured their letters without the use of an envelope. If you identify yourself as an artist, conservator, bookbinder, archivist, origami maker, paper engineer, letter-writer, secret keeper, or information security expert, this is the course for you.

What is letterlocking, and how can a better understanding of it benefit conservators and other scholars? The workshop focuses on historical practices of letterlocking, asking how individuals folded and sealed their letters before (and after) the invention of the envelope. Why have there been so many letterlocking styles throughout history, and what did they mean? How does letterlocking fit into a 10,000-year information security tradition?

This session uses a hands-on approach. From a provided kit, participants will open models of 10–15 historically accurate locked letters, and then make their own, creating a set that includes both opened and un-opened models from which we will discuss the relative security, innovation, and elegance of each type. Participants will make iron gall ink, write with quill pens, experiment with locking handmade paper, and use historic sealing wax to seal their letters. We will consider what kinds of evidence archival letters hold that remain hidden until a model is made.

The workshop also aims to demonstrate the benefits of collaboration between conservators and scholars in other disciplines such as literature and history, and will show how this conservation-based practice is leading to new theoretical advances in the humanities.

 Jana Dambrogio is currently the Thomas F. Peterson (1957) Conservator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries. She has been working in the preservation field for 15 years as a conservator, consultant, and teaching professional. She previously held positions at the US National Archives, the United Nations, and the Vatican Secret Archives. She is a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome and an active member of various book and manuscript communities. She teaches workshops internationally on how to look at, make models of, and develop approaches to conserving library and archival binding and letterlocking structures which preserve the social life of the artifact. In 2014, with Dr Daniel Starza Smith, she formed the Unlocking History research group, and is building a series of online resources at


Introduction to Embroidery on Leather
Erin Fletcher

Historical examples of embroidered bindings typically date back from the close of the 14th c. to the mid-17thc., and were primarily done on silk, satin, velvet or canvas. These highly decorative bindings grew out of a tradition of textile bindings popular in England during the 14th and 15th centuries. The embroidered designs found can be classified in three categories: heraldic, scriptural symbolism, and floral and arabesque designs. The makers of these bindings included both professional (predominately male artisans) and amateur needle workers (typically women in their homes).

Contemporary bookbinders and book artists have been incorporating embroidery and other sewing techniques into their work. The range of materials and methods has certainly expanded beyond the historical examples. Using thread on traditional binding techniques allows the artist to express their vision in an unusual way and introduces a different tactile experience to the binding. Embroidered threads can be used to draw in the abstract or to add highlights and shadows to an illustrative design. The threads can be kept neat or left to tangle.

In this workshop, students will learn a range of hand-embroidery stitches and the best techniques for sewing into leather. We will look at the stitches most commonly found on historical models and ways to use them on a modern binding. We will also discuss ways to transfer the design onto leather and how to prepare the finished embroidered leather for covering. No prior experience with embroidery or leather is necessary, but some hand skills are encouraged.

Erin Fletcher was introduced to the craft of bookbinding at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. This initial exposure created a desire to culture a deeper understanding of the trade. In 2010, Erin entered the bookbinding program at the North Bennet Street School. She received training in both historical and contemporary binding techniques from early codex structures to case bindings to fine leatherwork.

In 2012, she established her business, Herringbone Bindery, located in a shared studio space in the Fort Point neighborhood of South Boston. Herringbone Bindery offers a variety of hand bookbinding and box-making services to a range of clients and institutions. She teaches in the Continuing Education department at North Bennet and as a co-teacher for the Middle School Book Arts Program. Her work has been exhibited domestically and internationally, and is held in both private and institution collections.


Conservation Binding Model for a 13th c.  European Manuscript
Vasaré Rastonis

The challenge of rebinding a thirteenth century manuscript offered a unique opportunity to work out an historically sympathetic conservation binding. A model was constructed prior to the conservation treatment with the aim of supporting a small parchment book block and offering it controlled flexibility without adding adhesive along the gatherings’ spine folds. The model was assembled using archival materials and incorporated structural elements of medieval European bookbindings. The structure was used as a basis to rebind two thirteenth century manuscripts with minimal effect on the parchment book blocks.

This class will offer background on the two conservation treatments and, through demonstration, participants will be guided through the steps of binding this conservation model inspired by the small parchment manuscripts. Integrating structural elements of medieval European bookbindings, constructing the book block will include sewing with a herringbone stitch over double-raised cords, sewing a primary endband, lacing on shaped boards, covering in leather, and sewing saddle stitch endbands to yield a book that can fit in the palm of one’s hand (approximately 13cm tall x 9cm wide x 5cm thick).

Some bookbinding knowledge is helpful. Please note that the models constructed in class will vary in appearance from the model pictured.

Course Fee: $25

Vasarė Rastonis is a book and paper conservator currently working as Manuscript Conservator at the Árni Magnusson Institute of Icelandic Studies in Reykjavík. Prior to shifting to Iceland, she was the Mellon Conservator for Special Collections at the Columbia University Libraries, where the two 13th c. manuscripts were rebound; and has worked at the National Library of New Zealand and the Newberry Library in Chicago. Vasarė received her training in the bookbinding program at the North Bennet Street School followed by a number of internships. She is a member of the Guild of Book Workers and of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic Works.




From Book Shelves to Cat Walk: Wearable Papercuts and Artist Books
Béatrice Coron

Paper cutting, from its historical roots to contemporary artistic approaches, is multi-faceted. Simple techniques—cutting, stenciling, modeling—can lead to both large installations and intimate works.

In this intense workshop of serious fun, we study wearable/collapsible structures and explore new ways to tell stories. Participants will cut their designs into scarves and create pop-up hats and masks out of Tyvek and paper. We will consider ways to engage the viewer by offering distinct content and shape; and will make clothing and accessories as metaphor with a look to fashion for inspiration. The course covers researching ideas, drawing compositions, paper cutting techniques, and basic pop-up and paper sculpture techniques to create 3-dimensional paper pieces. Adaptation to other materials such as glass or metal and digital possibilities available with 3-D programs and animations will be discussed.

Masking and revealing is essential to story-telling and will be played with to take the artist book over to the wild side.

Béatrice Coron is a studio artist who creates papercutting, artist books, digital animations and public art. She has made books out of cut paper scrolls fifty feet long, others to wear as dresses or masks; hundreds of surprising shapes and environments for words and thoughts. Her work can be seen in major collections such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Walker Art Center. You can see her public art in subways (New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago), the Charlotte airport, and a castle among


The Prototype: An Exploration of Edition Binding
John DeMerritt

This course will cover a component of bookbinding that is rarely taught but is widely practiced; edition binding. One of the most important parts of the editioning process is the development of a prototype. In this course, we will use the prototype as a means to explore the multiple layers involved in producing an edition. An edition of books is often a “symphonic” endeavor between many participants: artist, designer, printer, publisher, binder, and a large array of vendors.

Participants in this workshop will be encouraged to bring a body of work, working concept, or idea that can be transformed into a working prototype, including a “map” for producing an edition of the work.

Topics covered in this workshop will include discussion about the nature of collaboration, getting from “idea to object,” the meaning of publishing, and the joys and difficulties of working with others, along with nuts and bolts exercises in production management, jigs and templates, editioning techniques, developing relationships with vendors, calculating materials, and realistically considering costs.

John DeMerritt owns and operates John DeMerritt Bookbinding, in Emeryville, CA. His studio produces books and portfolios for artists, galleries, fine press publishers, and institutions. John has taught and lectured at The San Francisco Center for the Book, The Kala Institute, Columbia College Center for Book and Paper, Visual Studies Workshop, Oregon College or Arts and Craft, The Guild of Bookworkers, and Mills College. From 2000 to 2013, he taught in the Photography Department of the San Francisco Art Institute, combining the use of digital imaging and book structure with his co-teacher, Michael Creedon. John and his wife, Nora Pauwels, publish collaborative projects with artists under their imprint DeMerritt | Pauwels Editions.


The Typographic Print
Bridget Elmer

Embracing the possibilities and limitations of the movable type collection at Ox-Bow, we will explore typography as an inspiration for creative experimentation. Each student will discover a typeface in Ox-Bow’s collection, research its history, and analyze its appeal. With this knowledge in hand, students will generate and print texts inspired by their chosen typefaces. From this point of genesis, we will move on to explore page design, typographic hierarchy, and type as image. Each student will add experimental and variable layers to their initial letterpress edition, employing pressure printing and collagraphy as accessible and complementary printmaking methods. Students will conclude the workshop having produced variable editions of prints that engage and expand upon the history and art of typography.

Bridget Elmer is an artist living in Saint Petersburg, Florida. She works as the Coordinator of the Letterpress and Book Arts Center at Ringling College of Art and Design, where she also teaches undergraduate and continuing studies courses. Bridget is the co-founder of Impractical Labor in Service of the Speculative Arts (ILSSA), co-owner of The Southern Letterpress, and founding member of Print St. Pete Community Letterpress. She received an MFA in the Book Arts and an MLIS from the University of Alabama and has taught at Penland School of Crafts, Ox-Bow School of Art, Florida State University, and Colorado College. Her work can be found internationally in collections including Yale University, Tate Britain, UCLA, and the Brooklyn Museum.


Papermaking Informed by a Sensibility for Textiles
Mary Hark 

Soft, ephemeral and airy, or tough and bark-like, paper can be an absorbent material that carries fluidity with ease or possess a dense impenetrable face. Paper has the potential for a “smooth as glass” surface or to become a field of lush texture. Skin or substrate, this wonderful material has endless possibility.

A thorough look at papermaking fibers and traditional tools will be the starting point for a lively exploration of surface, form, and content. With a special focus on the material characteristics often associated with textiles (such as absorbed color, repeat patterns, and tactile surfaces) Mary will share her approach to papermaking; a practice that uses paper as an extension and compliment to the palette offered by fabric processes and traditions. A variety of experimental as well as traditional approaches will be introduced, including the use of natural dyes, sewing techniques, embedments, and other ways of building evocative tactile surfaces. With a commitment to making high quality papers, participants in this workshop will be encouraged and supported as they develop a portfolio of uniquely colored and textured papers appropriate for use in their own creative practice. All levels of experience with papermaking are welcome.

Mary Hark, University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor in Design Studies, is the proprietor of HARK! Handmade Paper where she produces limited editions of high quality flax and linen handmade papers in collaboration with book designers and artists, as well as unique paper artworks that have been exhibited internationally. Hark leads an initiative in Kumasi, Ghana, which built the first-hand paper mill in West Africa capable of producing high-quality papers entirely from local botanicals. An artist committed to sustainable practice, Hark recently led a team in St. Paul, Minnesota, designing and producing 2500 beautiful handmade papers, made entirely from urban bio and textile waste. These were used as placemats for CREATE: The Community Meal public art event (Seitu Jones). Her work can be found in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Smithsonian Museum of African Art, the Ginsberg Book Arts Collection in Johannesburg, South Africa, and in many university special collections.


Early Modern Record-Keeping Book Structures: Model Making and Investigation
Chela Metzger

Early modern European record-keeping book structures exist in astonishing variety. These book forms have many names: account books; paper books; ledger, archival, and stationers binding; or simply, blank books. Before the advent of the springback bookbinding patent in about 1813, these sturdy recordkeeping structures served the needs of businesses, organizations, governments, notetaking scholars, and archives across Europe. Largely non-adhesive and rich in exposed structural features including tackets, overbands, lacings, loops, toggles, buttons and buckles, these books offer useful ideas for conservators and artists alike. Those caring for historic blank books and those wishing to make new blank books will appreciate making one of these practical and appealing bindings.

Students in this class will complete at least one early modern record-keeping book model based on features from Italian or Spanish examples. As time permits additional models and/or samplers of specific structural features may be completed. We will work with parchment, leather, and alum-tawed skin.

Course Fee: $25

Chela Metzger is a long-time admirer of bound record-keeping structures. She is a graduate of Simmons Library School and North Bennet Street School. She now works as a conservator at UCLA libraries, after some years of teaching library and archives conservation at the University of Texas at Austin, and at The Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation. She has formally presented and demonstrated on laced and tacketed structures at the Guild of Book Workers and the Society of Bookbinders (UK). She has presented blank book research at the Material Texts Workshop at University of Pennsylvania and has (perhaps) the only history of the blank book lecture on YouTube: She has taught workshops where students completed early modern record-keeping book models around the US and as part of the Montefiasconi Conservation Project in Italy. Slides from a 2008 model workshop can be downloaded at