A Master Class in Book Art

Oakland, CA—July 11, 2019

Summer Book Art Print

A print from the Mills College Summer Book Art Institute.

This summer, book art practitioners and creatives of all stripes flocked to the Mills campus to take part in the Summer Institute for Book and Print Technologies—a two-week stint of hands-on workshops, artist lectures, and presentations steered by renowned book artist and Mills professor, Julie Chen.

The summer institute, which kicked off in 2016, brings well-respected artists and instructors to Mills to collaborate, create, and explore the powerful interplay of material, type, illustration, and form in book art. 

“What I enjoy most about teaching book art is helping people realize the full potential of the book form,” says Chen, who directs the summer institute, and who first discovered her passion for book art as a graduate student at Mills, where she studied in the 1980s.

At the time that Chen was a student, book art was a newly minted degree program at Mills, and among the first of its kind in the nation. Since its auspicious start under the guidance of artist and professor Kathleen Walkup, the program has gone on to become an anchor of the vibrant Bay Area book arts community and a national beacon of innovation and creativity in the field.

In part, the summer institute that Chen began four years ago was intended to extend the expertise of the Mills book art community to a broader audience. By opening the College’s extensive book art facilities and bringing institute attendees into the orbit of leading book artists, Chen’s aim is to create a space for practiced craftspeople and curious dabblers alike to hone their technique and explore new approaches to the versatile medium of the book, from physical form to graphic design. 

“As a book artist, I use the various aspects of the book—such as text, image, and book structure to create an experience for the reader that hopefully gives them an expanded view of what a book can be,” says Chen. 

This year’s workshops, which covered everything from letterpress printing to risography to paper cutting, gave those participating in the workshops hands-on experience in a wide array of forms and print technologies. 

Summer Book Art Coron

Artist and illustrator Béatrice Coron led a workshop exploring the many facets of paper cutting, from its historical roots to the contemporary art scene.

Artist Béatrice Coron led a session on paper cutting, showing workshoppers how to use the medium of paper to throw into relief complex and intricate stories through stenciling and modeling.

The interplay of type and illustration were at the center of printmaker Suzanne Moore and former pressman Clifton Meador’s workshops. Moore invited session-goers to consider and create works that engaged the synergy of word and image through illustrative lettering and painting.

Summer Book Art Meador

Art professor and former pressman Clifton Meador guided workshoppers through the intricacies of risograph printing, exploring a range of techniques for using overprint color to create a range of prints using just three base colors.

Meanwhile, the risography workshop, led by Meador, who is Art Department Chair at Appalachian State University, gave participants exposure to what Meador calls the “fast, cheap, and slightly out of control” risograph machine—an automated silkscreen copier where color is printed and selectively layered one hue at a time in order to create a wide spectrum of colors in the final print.

After working closely with session instructors, workshop attendees came away from their sessions with a slew of prints and other art works as well as a newfound understanding of a variety of tools and techniques to help them develop their artistic vision, which is precisely Chen’s aim for the program.

“I hope that participants take away a great experience of working in the Mills book art studios,” says Chen, “as well as forwarding their creative practice.”

“Because of the highly respected national reputation of the Mills College Book Art program, participants who sign up for a workshop at the summer institute come expecting that they will receive great intensive instruction in a well-maintained facility,” says Chen, “and I aim to make sure their expectations are met!

Explore the archives of past workshops on the Mills College Summer Institute for Book and Print Technologies' website. For questions about the institute, contact bookartsummer@mills.edu.

About Mills College

Located in Oakland, California, in the heart of the San Francisco Bay Area, Mills College is a nationally renowned independent liberal arts college for women and gender non-binary students, with graduate programs for all genders. Ranked one of the top-tier regional universities in the West by U.S. News & World Report, Mills is also recognized as one of the Best 384 Colleges in the nation by The Princeton Review. Since 1852, we’ve been empowering students to become creative, independent thinkers and leaders who take and inspire action. Take a virtual tour.