Paper Has a Memory—So Does PCBA

A surprise email got me thinking. Kathleen Burch, one of the founders of San Francisco Center for the Book, and John McBride appear to be relaunching the Pacific Center for the Book Arts with a new website and a members' show at the San Francisco Public Library, June 21 - September 6, 2014. If you join now and send your info to PCBA by Friday, March 28, you can be in the show as well (no entry fee other than dues). I hadn't heard a peep from PCBA for several years.

PCBA was founded in 1978 by a variety of writers, artists, printers, papermakers, calligraphers, conservators, students, teachers, professionals, all those involved in the book arts. And they didn't all live in northern California; members were from around the world. San Francisco Center for the Book evolved from the work PCBA was doing, and was established by two then-PCBA board members in 1996 to provide a space for the book arts community: Mary Austin and the above-mentioned Kathleen Burch. Lectures at Mills college, events, the journal The Ampersand, and classes were some of the benefits of being a PCBA member. I joined around 1986 and was drafted to become a board member and program director, which I did from 1994-96. At the time, I instituted a series of "Book Arts Evenings and Weekends." Approximately 20-60 people attended these events. Three people showed their work each time: an established book artist who had influenced many others, a early-mid career artist, and a student. It was a great way for different generations to meet. The biennial members' show at San Francisco Public Library was always a highlight: inclusive and interesting.

I responded to Kathleen's call for entries and rejoined PCBA, which makes me think backwards and forwards at the same time. What did we have? How has the world changed since then? What can PCBA do now that is the same or different?

The book I decided to show is a felted book, Beautiful Tattoos, the one in which I first used needlefelted text. But as I handled it I decided it needed a box. And as I made the box, which can be used to hold it for display, I had to consider the materials. The book was made in 2008-09. The box in 2014. Old and new. I painted paper for the box cover, then painted over  it with gesso and scratched into it. I sewed a few stitches to indicate the front. Black book cloth for the sides, yes. But the painted paper I was going to use for the inside seemed to compete with the simple felt book. Gasp! I would have to buy a decorative paper.

photo: Sibila Savage

Not that I don't like decorative papers. I love looking at them in the stores. But I have a bad habit of being able to identify them when I see them in other people's work, so I've tried to stay away from them in my own. I don't really want someone to say, "Oh, that's a Lama Li lokta paper!" It takes away from the art. And yet. It was exactly what the book/box needed. And the book/box has final say.

Thinking again about decorative papers, I realize that they document a time. Paper mills go in and out of business, designs change, materials become unavailable. You can look at a book and know when it was made by the kinds of papers it uses. So, it occurred to me that it was okay. That it might be identifiable now, but in ten years, the paper would speak to another time.

Paper has a memory. So does PCBA.
PCBA is back. Let's see what we can do this time.
To join, see PCBA membership.  


Anna Mavromatis said…
A wonderfully told "story"; the book and its box are superb! Thank you for the PCBA "news" and everything in your posts and by mail!
CrowGirl said…
It's kind of a fun visual archaeology, really.