Book Making: It Takes A Village
Teaching in greater Minnesota has its limitations. No art supply stores. Can't ship book glue in the winter. No shiny metal museums to inspire (or intimidate) you. Just a simple landscape and cold winters... right? 20 miles from Canada, the tundra exists. Beautiful horizons of simple snow, line, sky. Lots of sky. An abstract painting in some places would be hyper-realistic in this part of Minnesota.
I was invited to Kittsen Schools, to teach bookbinding to K-6, the last week before the holiday break. A school without an art program, but with teachers passionate about bringing in the arts, meant that the week would be full of attentive students and excited teachers. (and Christmas had nothing to do with it, I’m sure!)
I had 2 sessions with the younger students (K-4), and 5 sessions with the older (5 & 6). We made accordion house shaped books, that I called “Village Books.” Display them in a group, you will have a town to explore. The concept of the book allowed the kids to cut rooftops, where their motor skills could be at any level, because “no roof top is perfectly straight, especially with snow on it!” And they learned about the tools of bookmaking, like the bone folder (oh, how we could talk about what kind of bone it is made!) The inside of the book, the village, was painted with bright watercolors. They created landscape collages on the covers using tissue paper and scrap paper from my “treasure of random papers!” The older students made hard cover, accordion books with a spine, as well as many other types of folds they could use in their classrooms or at home.
The students were sponges! The work we were going to do in the 5 sessions, only took 3 sessions to complete, due to the students’ attentive behavior and eagerness to learn and create! While we were limited in materials at that point, I decided to give them creative license! They used materials we had available, since no supplies would be available less than 70 miles away, and did what they wanted.
They had the tools, materials and imagination: the rest was up to them! Permission to play, paint, fold and cut was the rule for the last two classes! We all had so much fun! I was inspired, once again, to play with materials, and see what happens. Having access to everything, can limit one’s imagination.
To support the imagination process is the key to teaching art, or teaching, period. A pencil can do so much. The right words could change the world. Our eyes and ears feed our soul and our hands and voice create what we consider soulful. As teaching artists, that is what we are sent in to do. And seeing the limits as a blessing is key to the imagination and creativity.