Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Spirit Book Skype Workshop + Giveaway

Although there always has been intention and thought in the development of the Spirit Books, there has also been an organic quality. Sometimes things just happen and often it is as much about letting go as putting in.

The Spirit Book Workshops have grown over time. I gave my first at my 2005 exhibit at Carney Gallery at Regis College in Weston, MA. At the time I called it a Book of the Spirit Workshop. I wanted to share the experience of meditation, calm, and connection with nature but I was not ready to call what others made Spirit Books. I held onto that name as something of my own. Over the years I gave more workshops at museums and retreats. I always showed a few of my books and introduced the concept as an extension of my Spirit Books and it made more sense to call it a Spirit Book Workshop. I concentrated on the book itself and didn't talk much about creating the cradles. The whole presentation—book, cradle, and stand—was still mine. At a workshop last fall at Wisdom House in Litchfield, CT, a few participants made cradles for their books. When I first saw them, I felt a slight tug at my heart and then realized it was time to really let go. The spirit in which the books are made is best honored through sharing.

And now onto Skype. I had been thinking about how to do Skype workshops in connection with the kind of work I usually do in schools but had not pursued it any further. In early September an email appeared in my inbox from Wendy Grosvenor of Cedar Crest Academy, in Clarkston, MI.

"In a search for book making projects to share with my middle school art students I came across your spirit books and am so inspired and excited to introduce your work and ideas to my kids! We have been involved in making altered books, sculptural books and other book making projects over the years and know this new extension of those ideas will be as exciting for my art students as they are for me! I am interested in getting some info from you about the possibility of a workshop via skype, though I’m sure you are very busy and may not be available at such short notice."

Organic and serendipitous indeed! I emailed her back, we agreed on a day and time, I cleaned the space around my computer screen, chose the books I wanted to show, came up with a better version of the book construction and wrote detailed directions, practiced a bit with Photo Booth so I could see how it worked on camera, and was ready to go. I started by talking about how I developed the Spirit Books, showed about six different books, and explained their project—both the bookmaking and gathering phases. At the end they asked very interesting questions which in addition to showing their sensitivity and intelligence also let me know that they had really listened. I was so pleased to get this report back from Wendy. I will mention that as this was a test for me, there was no charge which may have increased her enthusiasm.

"Thank you so much, Susan! We loved the workshop, you did a great job. The kids were totally engaged the whole time and all had questions, things they wanted to add, and ideas to use in their own books. They are really excited to get started, as am I! I used the instructions today to make the books with a couple of kids who weren’t able to go to camp, so that was nice to be able to try the process before doing it with a large group…it went very smoothly. The directions were concise, easy to follow, great visuals…I have no constructive criticism for you I‘m afraid! I think you did a great job all the way around! Can’t wait to try some of your techniques for stitching and wiring the objects, and I love that you added the quotes as options. I loved it when one of the kids asked about using glue and you explained how since your product is meant to be shipped and displayed, etc. that you have to consider the process for attaching things so that they hold up in different situations..that was a great conversation point, talking about what the end goal is for the product and craftsmanship, etc..we also were very interested in hearing about your process, and how all the elements were ideas that sprang from other ideas, or experiences you’ve had in the past…we talked about how knowledge, concepts, ideas grow organically out of each other over time and how the book itself is an expression of that.  Very thought provoking, inspiring, yet concrete enough for the age group to work with and not feel too overwhelmed. Loved it!!!! Thank you so much!! I will take pics as they work next week and send them to you.  Have a great week and thank you again!"

The finished books were creatively displayed at an art fair in Clarkston. A few more words from Wendy about their reception: "...everyone loved the concept and that the kids were doing projects with such meaning. We donated our earnings to our local land conservancy so it worked out well for all."

View all of Wendy's photos on flickr

Here's information about a Spirit Books via Skype for schools, retreats, nature centers, book clubs, and more.


Leave a comment with an email address (you can use at instead of @ to avoid inviting spam) to enter into the random drawing for my CD about the Spirit Books. Comments about the Spirit Books will be most welcome as I prepare to make them available for traveling exhibitions. Comments close on Friday the 18th at midnight.


Anonymous said...

OMGosh! how wonderful to see those students embrace the concept of you wonderful Spirit Book class...we need more of this type of thinking & teaching in our schools---love it! good job Susan!!!!


Kathy said...

Thanks for giving me a chance at winning your cd!

KLBull906 at gmail.com

Laurina said...

Thanks for sharing your experience working with the class in MI -- I love how they embraced the concept. I'm intrigued by the Spirit Books and hope to create my own someday.

kim said...

Thank you for all the things that you share. I initially found your blog while looking for help teaching book arts to my students, but I now visit often to enjoy and be inspired by your own art. We use different materials, but our approach to making books appears to be quite similar, so I enjoy reading what you have to say.


Barbara Rainey said...

Susan, your work is always inspiring. It's wonderful that you're presenting to the "digital natives" and giving them an opportunity to problem-solve, create and appreciate. Barbara

Barbara Rainey said...

Susan, your work is always inspiring. It's wonderful that you're presenting to the "digital natives" and giving them an opportunity to problem-solve, create and appreciate. Barbara


Beacee said...

Lovely to see yet more of your creative ideas shared in a way that inspires young people.
Your spirit books seem so magical, I love looking at them.


Anonymous said...

I am so impressed by the creativity and beauty that these young artists have created. I will be going to the Sequoia National Forest for Thanksgiving with my children and their families and would love to introduce this art form to them all. Thank you, Susan, for sharing your art with us all.

miriamg at ranchomiragelibrary dot org

Anonymous said...

I love all your ideas, and have been following your books for a while now. I have been spending some time thinking about how to share your ideas with my middle school girl scouts - I know that they would have a lot of fun with your ideas... thank you for putting your art 'out there'


Sr. Andrea Westkamp, OSB said...

Dear Susan,

I was looking for ideas of bookmaking as I want to create a Book of Hours (a prayer book) as part of a retreat. Your Spirit Book was just the inspiration I needed! I love the connection with Earth, Spirit and Seasons.


Tammy said...

Thanks for your inspiration. I've used many of your ideas with my class and with my book making club at school.

Mo Crow said...

I gave your wonderfully inspiring Spirit Books CD to myself for xmas last year & would love to do an online course based on the Spirit Books with you one day!

Unknown said...

Susan, I am very interested in spirit books and your Skype program. thanks for this freebie! lgcreateit at aol dot com

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