Thursday, December 8, 2011

Tennessee Master Artist Apprentice Program

The Tennessee Master Artist Apprentice Program is a cooperative partnership created to encourage and invest in the continuation, advancement and creation of Tennessee craft by recognizing the role of the master craft artist/apprentice relationship as a way to preserve the state's cultural heritage. The program will contract master craft artists to offer a period of concentrated learning to apprentices who demonstrate a commitment to further develop their abilities as specialized craft practitioners.~from MAAP website

I have recently applied for and received the MAAP grant for 2012 along with my soon to be master artisan, Bob Roberts of the Gilded Leaf Bindery in Maryville, Tennessee. {TheGildedLeaf} This blog will serve as one way that I document this experience. First, a little about me. I am a bookbinder from Middle Tennessee. I have been involved in Book Arts for about 10 years now. As an avid book lover and collector, I am completely seduced by the tactile quality of books. When I started making books, I was driven by a desire to creatively contain my own writings. I saw the book as a form that could be manipulated in such a way as to add meaning to its content. Since that time I have focused my work on sculptural and found object books. 

In 2009, I assisted book artist Daniel Essig in a wooden book workshop at Shakerag Workshops in Sewanee, Tennessee. I grew to love the aesthetic of wooden books. I began reading books on carving and, in 2010, I took a workshop on wood burning and power carving with Myra Orton at Appalachian Center for Craft. I applied these new techniques to my practice as a bookbinder and began studying the decorative elements of medieval books and bookbinding. I’ve had a long standing romance with illuminated manuscripts and have often used gold leaf in my own work. My current and future work envisions contemporary sculptural books that reference medieval books.

I am active in the art community in Nashville through membership in the Nashville Book Arts Group, the Tennessee Book Arts Guild, and the College Book Arts Association. In 2011, I joined Lisa Williams and Annie Herlocker in establishing Nashville's first Book Art & Zine Festival which we called Handmade & Bound. It was during the planning stages of this festival that I took a day off to visit the TACA fall craft fair where I ran into paper maker, Claudia Lee and her apprentice Jess Jones. Claudia handed me a card about the Master Apprentice Program sponsored by TACA and the Tennessee Arts Commission. I immediately thought of Bob Roberts, a restoration and rebinding artist that I had been hearing about for a couple of years but never had the good fortune of meeting. I took the card home and talked to my family about it, I stared at the card for a few days, I kept working and thinking and wondering if I had the courage to call up a total stranger and ask him to devote 7 months to teaching me what he knows. One morning I received a vendor request from Bob for Handmade & Bound and I made up my mind that I would meet him at the festival and ask him in person to participate.

I was definitely nervous the day of the festival as my table was set up right next to Bob's {I wonder how that happened?}. I struck up a conversation with him and found him to be totally approachable and kind. After seeing his books in person, my mind was made up. I HAD to learn something from him...ANYTHING! So I asked and, after taking some time to think about it, he accepted my proposal that we apply for the TACA/TAC grant together. We had approximately one week to do it! We were able to pull everything together quickly and sent it all off. I promised myself that I wouldn't obsess over it and I didn't until I went to a Nashville Book Art Group meeting and heard that other applicants had already received letters and emails letting them know if they had made it to the interview segment. I started getting nervous and called Bob who had also not heard anything. As fate would have it, Hannah at TACA was also wondering why she hadn't heard from us! The email inviting us to the interview segment had been sent to a misspelled email address in my case and had just gone straight to Bob's spam folder. Fortunately, Hannah saved the day by contacting me directly by phone and we gleefully accepted the last interview spot.

Tune in next week for the riveting tale of our interview and to see photos and videos of our 7 month endeavor.

That's All!