Book Arts Workshop rings in 25-year anniversary with exhibit

by Maya Poddar | 4/12/15 6:38pm

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he Book Arts Workshop is celebrating its 25-year anniversary, highlighted by an exhibit in Baker Lobby.
by Katelyn Jones / The Dartmouth

Tucked away down a hallway connecting the lower level of Baker Library to the Sanborn Library basement, the Book Arts Workshop, called “Dartmouth’s best-kept secret” by the Dartmouth College Library, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

Programming in honor of the anniversary, highlighted by an exhibit in Baker Lobby titled “The Secret Revealed — The Book Arts Workshop at 25 Years” included an open house and reception held last Friday. At the open house, students viewed examples of student-made work, took in a lecture by studio art professor Louise Hamlin and created their own postcards using a pearl-press — a small, foot-powered press — Barbara Sagraves, the exhibit curator and head of preservation services at Baker-Berry Library, said.

“The center of the book arts is hands-on, is experiential” Sargraves said.

Dennis Grady, a web support and graphic arts specialist at the College library who helped Sagraves put together the exhibit honoring the Book Arts Workshop, said that the exhibit contains materials gathered entirely from the College, ranging over different periods in the College’s history, Grady said.

“We looked at a lot of material that Rauner Library has, which is a lot of historical material,” Grady said. “For the more recent stuff, there were a lot of recently-made books and broadsides...that people have made in the workshop.”

The Book Arts Workshop — housed in the same location once used by the College’s graphic arts program, which was run by professor emeritus Ray Nash between 1937 and 1970 — was founded by three former students of Nash’s in 1990. The workshop provides students with access to a letterpress studio and a bookbinding studio, and students can also mix their own inks, create posters and cards and learn how to set type, Kelsey Sipple ’16, who works at the Book Arts Workshop, said.

Eva Petzinger ’15, who also works at the Book Arts Workshop, said the workshop was “an unusual resource.” While other schools do have similar studios, Sipple said, the Book Arts Workshop at Dartmouth receives less exposure than many of these studios.

“Bob Metzler, who is our letterpress instructor, for years has described [the Book Arts Workshop] as ‘our best kept secret,’” Sagraves said.

Many students who work at the workshop discover it through a class, Petzinger and Sipple said. Both said they were introduced to the workshop through “The History of the Book,” a class offered in the College’s comparative literature department. According to Petzinger, the final for the class involved a component in the Book Arts Workshop.

“I spent a lot of time in the book arts studio for that project,” Petzinger said.

Grady, when asked about the Book Arts Workshop’s lack of visibility on campus, said that the workshop’s “out of the way” location might be to blame for its low profile.

“It’s kind of hidden away down there,” Grady said.

Sagraves takes a slightly different view as to why the Book Arts Workshop is not as well known as other on-campus studios.

“I think Dartmouth students are just so busy that they think, ‘Well, I’ll just do this when I have more time,’” Sagraves said.

The Book Arts Workshop is open to all students after they complete an orientation session, Sipple said. There is no fee to use the workshop’s studios during open hours, and workshops are also free. All Dartmouth community members are eligible to use the workshop, though preference in registration is given to undergraduate students at the College.

“If you like anything about words or text and how we experience those, there is not really anything cooler you can do,” Petzinger said.