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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Chelsea Jennings
BISIA 374
Bothell Campus

Arts Workshop

Explores how art is made in specified areas of inquiry, genre, or media. Arts may include visual, written, or performance arts, or a combination of these.

Class description

Artists' Books

This workshop will explore how to create artists' books—sculptural/visual/textual works that engage with the form and idea of the book.

Artists' books can be made of just about anything: paper, fabric, glass, mica, wood, aluminum cans, rubber gloves, corsets, miniature beds, cell phones… They can be primarily verbal, exclusively visual, or somewhere in between. They can be vehicles for intimate personal expression, strong social messages, humor, and immense beauty. They may require unfolding, unwrapping, untying, unlatching, unrolling, or unpacking in order to be read. They can draw on longstanding traditions of letterpress printing and bookbinding as well as contemporary technologies. What unites these diverse artworks is their exploration of the book as an object and concept, their experiments with the relationship between content and form, and their insistence that readers reconsider their assumptions about books, reading, and art.

This workshop will center on the production of three unique artists' books: one that alters an existing book, one that that you bind yourself, and one that uses an experimental structure. During the quarter you'll learn some practices for creating new works of art out of old books, foundational bookbinding techniques, and strategies for combining verbal and visual elements in a single work. This artistic work will be coupled with critical investigation into artists' books. You'll encounter a wide range of artists' books that can serve as models and inspiration for your own books, and you'll read a handful of critical essays that situate artists' books in historical and theoretical context. By the end of the quarter you'll have a robust sense of what artists' books can do and a flexible set of skills for creating book-based art.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

In-class activities will include hands-on exercises in bookmaking, creative writing experiments, small and large group discussions of artists' books and critical essays, very brief lectures, and at least two field trips to the UW Libraries' Special Collections (on the Seattle campus, with logistics worked out around students’ schedules).

Recommended preparation

A background in visual art and/or creative writing will be an asset in this course, and students with an existing art or writing practice are encouraged to see what an exploration of the book-object might add to their work. However, since this course assumes no prior experience making artists' books, all interested students are welcome and will be capable of succeeding in the course.

Class assignments and grading

During the quarter you’ll submit three projects, each consisting of an artist’s book and a written artist's statement. Each of these projects will be worth 20% of your final grade.

Active, engaged, collaborative participation is important to the learning in this course and as such will be a significant component of your final grade. Expect to write a brief (250-word) critical and/or creative writing assignment—graded on completion—in preparation for each class session.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Chelsea Jennings
Date: 10/16/2013