Friday, February 10, 2012

Museum at Texas Tech

Last week I gave a talk about my work and a bookmaking workshop at the Museum of Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas in connection with an exhibit called Speaking Volumes: Books and Ideas from 1250-1862 with books on loan from the Remnant Trust, a fascinating organization that lends out books for exhibits and allows them to be handled by classes and special groups.

Dr. Hoffman and one of the grad students, Melissa, were so gracious and did everything they could to make my stay as pleasant as possible. Larry was so helpful with the audio-visual for my talk. It was a great experience.

On Friday evening, I gave a talk, A Life in the Book Arts.

I began with my first bookwork

and then talked about growing up in a house filled with making and the creative spirit of my mother. Although I had no natural ability to draw and never thought about being artist, I know I was deeply influenced by my environment. I showed the two things I had dabbled in—calligraphy and embroidery—before my complete immersion in calligraphy at age 27.

I talked about my passion for calligraphy and its waning as I sought a way to move away from being what my mentor Jenny Hunter Groat calls "an interpretive artist" and toward being "an originating artist," the creation of Childbirth Journey and its leading me to the book,

the development of the Spirit Book Series,

my current two-dimensional digital work,

my teaching,

and my current frame of mind where I no longer have a sense of a defined path I should be taking as an artist and am embracing all opportunities that come my way—from community art installations to book design projects to lettering the walls of Hawthorne's Birthplace.

Dr. Hoffman asked me after the talk if the fact that I did not have an art degree had made things more difficult for me. My answer was that I wasn't sure if it did in fact but for a long time it did in my own head and that it's probably only been in the last five or so years that I am completely comfortable with how I got to be who and where I am. As he was leaving an art professor from the university came up and told me I should consider my not having a degree a badge of honor. I liked that.

Saturday was the workshop—Bookmaking with Recycled Materials. We had a wonderful group of college students, parents and children, two women looking for projects for a writer's table at an art fair, a grad student in the occupational therapy program, and assorted others. It was a self-directed session with materials and instructions for three simple books and another long table for adding drawings, text, and collage. Everyone was motivated and enthusiastic and I was able to work with smaller groups and individuals on other book forms as well. It was lively and fun.

In addition to the museum activities, I had a little time to explore and an accommodating host who made sure I saw what I wanted to. Although I was tempted by the Buddy Holly Museum, I decided that what I wanted to see most was the landscape so Jill drove me outside of the city where I saw the wide horizon of the High Plains,

cotton fields (and picked a bouquet of cotton stems for my hotel room),

oil wells in the midst of the cotton fields, and windmills.

The photos of me at the talk and the workshop were taken by Bill Mueller and are used here courtesy of the Museum of Texas Tech University and Photographer Bill Mueller. Thank you so much!


Valerie said...

Susan, thank you for sharing your artistic journey.
i have found that not having an art degree has only held me back from positions that were not right for me anyway.
Kudos to Dr. Hoffman for calling your non-degree status a badge of honor. Art comes from doing. Education of all sorts is the fire within, and i see that in you.

Anonymous said...

Dear Susan, I am shameless and continue to receive and enjoy your blog without ever giving any reply in return. The pictures of the boook workshop reminded me so much of my times working with children.
I have just recently retired from my latest , honest career and am working on getting my studio cleared out enough so that I can actually work in it. susanne wichert/sopha davenport

Linda Branch Dunn said...

Another thank you from another artist without that advanced degree. Art teaching, to me, is creation of a space where anyone who wants to can focus, experiment, and create.

Nancy Hajeski said...

Well, you know me, still plugging along with no degree in nuffin. Someone told me once that I was part of the last generation where people would be
allowed to work in a creative field without a degree, i.e., where experience got you hired and not a piece of paper. I hope that hasn't completely changed.

Your Texas experience sounded great and I like what you said about no longer being on a defined path. The "undefined" path has a very Zen ring to it.

Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord said...

I like to think it hasn't completely changed. You certainly do need degrees in the academic world but I from what I see, I don't think I'd be cut out for it. Did have a great time in Texas.

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