Today is the first day of my Book Arts 1 class. I’ve been working on the syllabus for the past week, tweaking and refining. The current version is a strange patchwork of old and new, of professors and colleagues past, present, and future. It’s interesting, from a teaching theory perspective, to see which parts of the syllabus change and which remain the same, to observe how my approach as an educator, the goals of the class, its context in the overall curriculum, and the needs/concerns/culture of the institution affect the way that the thing is structured. Here’s the opening section, the “Course Description:”

This class is an introduction to books as an art form—both in concept and structure/design. The class is structured around learning a series of binding styles of increasing complexity and expressive possibilities. We will cover all of the foundational skills and concepts for bookmaking (folding, sewing, pros and cons of different types of adhesives, and paper and board grain) as well as some low-tech printing and image generation techniques. Class discussions will include the history of the book, and the unique conceptual problems presented by the form. Individual class periods will be made up of demos, hands-on exercises, discussions, critiques, and some work time for the homework assignments. Field trips and guest speakers (if arranged) are TBA.

This is an informal, experienced-based course. How much you get out of it depends on how much you put into it. Ideally the class will function like an “art laboratory” where everyone involved is working, sharing ideas and learning together. Beyond the concepts and skills essential to a committed bookmaking practice, it is hoped that this course will open a window towards self-expression and awareness.

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