BookArtsLA Artist Spotlight- Anne Covell

Book Arts LA Anne Covell
How did you first learn about the book arts? What about it piqued your interest?
 
My path into the field of book arts has been somewhat circuitous. After graduating from college, I worked for several years in the education department at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. In contemplating graduate school I looked for a program that would have education as a central theme, but that would also allow me to work with my hands creatively. I chose the University of Iowa Center for the Book for its unique joint program that would allow me to receive a masters in library and information science with a graduate certificate in book studies and book arts. I knew very little about book arts at the time and in a way the decision to move to Iowa was a blind leap of faith. However, it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. At Iowa, I had the privilege of learning from masters in the field like Tim Barrett, Julie Leonard, and Sara Langworthy who encouraged me to push myself creatively and pursue book arts full time.
 
After graduation, I traveled a bit and taught book arts and papermaking for the the University of Georgia study abroad in Cortona, Italy. However, at that point I wasn't quite sure what direction I was headed - if I wanted to pursue a career in librarianship or as an artist. Right around that time, the Center for the Book transformed into an MFA program and offered recent grads the opportunity to return to advance their graduate certificate to an MFA. The question to return was a no brainer. I think book arts is good fit for me because I am a naturally curious person who has always been interested in a wide range of things. As a book artist, I have the ability to create and control all aspects of a project from making the paper, to printing, to binding. Being skilled in all these art forms offers a tremendous amount of creative freedom. 
 
What is a project you are working on now that inspires you?
 
For the past couple of years I have been researching and producing work on the theme of political and ecological boundaries. My most recent work, "Towards a Just Landscape," concerns the US/Canada border and the 20-foot swath of clear-cut that runs the entirety of this 5,525 mile long boundary. I first encountered the swath on a boat excursion along Upper Waterton Lake in the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park in 2012. It seemed so strange to me that a political border would not only be imposed upon a park meant to celebrate peace and goodwill between two nations, but that it would be physically scarred into a landscape that was meant to be protected. After speaking with several people, it became clear to me that very few knew about the swath or had considered the political and environmental implications of this lesser researched boundary. In response, I set off on a trip from my home in Iowa City and traveled along the 49th Parallel from the Lake of the Woods in Minnesota to the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park that straddles Montana and Alberta and documented the swath at each crossing. What resulted are three artist books that comment not only on the scale and enormity of the clear-cut, but also on the swath itself and what can be seen growing in the wake of destruction. Another element of the project is a map and series of postcards that each depict the swath at different crossings along the border along with geographical coordinates and supplemental details as a means to disseminate information about the swath and its surrounding environments. 
How did you first hear about BookArtsLA?
 
When I moved back to San Diego after completing graduate school at Iowa, I began researching book arts communities and centers in the region. BookArtsLA was at the top of my list of places to check out. By chance, I met Marcia Moore, Director at BookArtsLA, at a papermaking workshop with Kathryn and Howard Clark of Twinrocker Handmade Paper at Scripps College Press in Claremont. We hit it off from the start. It so happened that she had been looking for someone to teach binding workshops and I was actively looking for teaching opportunities. I taught my first workshop in January and I've been teaching here monthly ever since. 
 
What is the most challenging part of teaching? The most rewarding?
 
Often the most challenging part of teaching, particularly in a workshop setting, is making sure that everyone is keeping pace with the material. Typically, I like to open classes to all levels, and in that environment, I have to make sure that I not only am I explaining things in a way that makes sense to everyone, but that I am watching the pace of both the beginners and more advanced students to make sure no one is getting too far ahead or falling too far behind. One of the most rewarding parts of teaching workshops is to see how happy people are when they leave with a completed project, whether that is a book, box, or stack of prints. I like to pack a lot into a day and it is often a race to the finish, but the reward is seeing happy students leaving with a new skill under their belts.
 
What is something we can do to educate younger generations on the art of book making and interest them in keeping it alive?
 
In response to our lives becoming increasingly digital there has been a resurgence of interest in the handmade and objects that show traces of the human hand. Not only that, but people have returned to wanting to make things themselves. You see evidence of that in the popularity of the do-it-yourself movement. I think it is especially important for younger generations, who's lives will be shaped by technology from birth, that they learn to work with their hands and know the possibilities of physically crafting something from scratch, because they will be the ones who shape technology in the future. I think what we are going to see is a paradigm shift in how we conceptualize digital and craft technologies in that rather than seeing them as separate entities that they are really parts of a whole. One great example is how origami paper folding techniques are revolutionizing the medical industry. To me, book arts is an umbrella term that encompasses so many forms of making: bookbinding, papermakiing, printmaking, paper sculpture and engineering, and so much more. I think younger generations will always be interested in this field, it is just a matter of how we present it to them. As an educator, that is something that I am always thinking about and evolving.
 
What is a little known fact about you?
 
I like to collect natural objects. Basically, anywhere I go, I am always looking around to see what I can find. There is so much in nature that fascinates me. In a way, it is like a form of continuing education, because I am always finding things that I know nothing about and that prompt me to research in order to try to understand. A lot of my work begins this way, with an intriguing object that sends me down the rabbit hole. So, if you ever see me staring at the ground for a long period of time, know that is probably what I am doing.
Please Find More of Anne's Work here. 

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