Book Arts Guild of Vermont visit to UVM Special Collections

Last Wednesday I attended the monthly meeting of the Book Arts Guild of Vermont. Instead of meeting in our usual location, the Firehouse Gallery, we took a field trip to UVM Special Collections at the Bailey/Howe Library.

Special Collections at UVM is well-regarded among members of the College Art Association. According to an article in the Spring 2006 issue of Vermont Quarterly, The Illuminated Word: Special Collections Celebrates Artists’ Books, UVM’s book arts collection has grown to over 2,700 volumes. That number includes both fine press and artists’ books. Amazingly, you don’t need an appointment to view the collection. You can drop by any time during regular library hours and the staff will be happy to assist you.

The Guild visited Special Collections a couple of years ago and since then, the library has changed their policy on glove use. At our first visit, we were required to wear white cotton gloves when handling books. Visitors to Special Collections now no longer need to wear gloves. I asked Prudence Doherty, the Special Collections Librarian, why there was a change in policy and she remarked that there is an industry standard that is now against glove use.

Prudence Doherty, UVM Special Collections

Prudence gave us a wonderful tour of a selection of books with themes of “family” and/or “home”.

I really enjoyed Emily Martin‘s book More Slices of Pie. This piece is based upon an earlier work of Martin’s Eight Slices of Pie, with each slice containing family stories and recipes. I was particularly drawn to the work because it wasn’t complicated in its construction and yet it conveyed such a powerful message. It reminded me that sometimes less is more – you don’t need a lot to create a strong visual statement.

More Slices of Pie by Emily Martin

Emily Martin’s “More Slices of Pie”

On the other end of the design spectrum is Julie Chen of Flying Fish Press. Her work is so layered and complex. I love love love her work. I was lucky enough to view one of her more recent pieces, Panorama.

Panorama by Julie Chen

Julie Chen’s “Panorama”


Panorama by Julie Chen

I also got my hands on Evidence of Compression, a Chen work from 2001.

Evidence of Compression by Julie Chen

Julie Chen’s “Evidence of Compression”

I look at Julie Chen’s work through different eyes now that I’ve taken a class with her. Before she was just awesome.

Now she is total awesomesauce.

I blogged during my weeklong class with Julie and you can read all about it in the posts listed below:

9 Responses to “Book Arts Guild of Vermont visit to UVM Special Collections”

By Carol - 15 July 2009 Reply

Somehow I missed your adventures at Julie Chen’s workshop. I’ll save that to read & enjoy later.

By elissa - 17 July 2009 Reply

Carol –

Even if Julie taught the same workshop again and I had the money for it, I’d take her class all over again. It was so fabulous. She’s fabulous.

I’m a Julie Groupie.


By Kjersten - 16 July 2009 Reply

Great post! Special collections are the best. Thanks for the pictures and for the links. I enjoyed looking at Emily Martin and Julie Chen’s work.

By elissa - 17 July 2009 Reply

Kjersten –

It bugs me that I only visit Special Collections with the Book Arts Guild. I should schedule trips for myself several times a year to see their new acquisitions.


By dinahmow - 19 July 2009 Reply

Loved the Julie Chen classes write-up! Thanks.
And the new “no gloves” policy scares me a little. Here, we still adhere to the “minstrel look” when the collection is shown.

By elissa - 20 July 2009 Reply

Dinah –

The no gloves policy gets me all weird about my hands – “Am I clean? No, am I really clean? Seriously, go wash your hands!


By Carol - 23 July 2009 Reply

I was really interested in the ‘no gloves’ policy because we follow that in our library. We ask people to wash their hands but we feel (and have seen) that a lot of damage can be done to a delicate page by the fumbling attempts to turn the page. I’d like to know more about the industry standards mentioned.

By elissa - 23 July 2009 Reply

Carol –

Prudence didn’t go much further into why the industry standard has changed. I’ve also heard from others is that the white gloves cause damage because the texture is abrasive.

I think if a book is old and in disrepair, then gloves should be required for viewing. On the other hand, if one is looking at newer artist’s books, then clean hands should work.

I believe strongly that books should be handled. This is one reason why I’m so drawn to the art form – it’s accessible. Adding gloves to the mix takes away some of that accessibility.


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