Horizon: A Guild of Book Workers Exhibition

For many, the horizon is a source of contemplation. For some, thinking about the horizon triggers images of the vast open landscape of the desert. For others, it is the silhouette of a mountain at dawn, a single ship out at sea, or the trajectory of a life. Establishing a relationship between the viewer and that which is beyond, the horizon serves as a threshold, waiting to be crossed. For the astronaut viewing earth from space, amidst the unknown and the undiscovered, the horizon represents home, a place to return. In the journey of the individual, the horizon represents ambitions and perceived limitations. For the hand bookbinder in the 21st century, perhaps the horizon is the drape of a leather bound book. The Guild of Book Workers’ 2012-2014 exhibition prompted entrants to consider the horizon, to interpret the theme, as they were so inspired.

For the Horizon Exhibition, the Exhibitions Committee decided that it was important to have a blind jury process, giving the jurors access only to the submitted images and descriptions of the processes and materials used to create each piece. The jurors, Jana Pullman, Emily Tipps, and Rutherford Witthus made their selections from the 124 submitted entries via a web site where they could revisit the images and descriptions as many times as they deemed necessary.

Thanks to Eric Alstrom, the jurors had access to a shared online spreadsheet where they made comments on the merits and importance of pieces that they felt were critical to include in the exhibition. These comments and notes created a rich dialogue among the jurors and represented many hours over several weeks of careful consideration. With diverse backgrounds and professional experiences, Jana, Emily, and Rutherford each brought his or her expertise and unique perspective to the jury process. As curator, it was both a pleasure and an honor to invite Jana, Emily, and Rutherford to jury the Horizon Exhibition.

As a form most at home in the hand, books are difficult to experience in cases behind glass. To provide a more interactive experience for visitors and to offer the viewer a glimpse beyond the physical exhibition space, each exhibition label includes a Quick Reference Code. This QR code is printed along with the artist’s name, title, year, and description of the work. Readable by smartphones and other mobile devices, the QR Code links the viewer directly to the artist’s web site. For artists who did not provide a personal web site, the QR code links directly to www.guildofbookworkers.org.

Many first-rate exhibitions and museums use this technology as a tool to further engage viewers, giving them access to more information about the work on display. Visitors to the exhibition can quickly access the artists’ web sites to view their online portfolio or the Guild of Book Workers site to learn more about our organization. Viewers can also save the link on their mobile device and return to the information later. This new technology increases exposure for the artists and for the Guild of Book Workers.

Planning and executing a traveling national exhibition and producing both a print and online catalog is not feasible without the support of a strong Board of Directors and the dedicated efforts of many additional volunteers. It is a testament to the importance of the Guild of Book Workers to so many members and friends of our organization that an all-volunteer committee can accomplish a job that involves several years of planning and administering. Much gratitude is due to former Guild of Book Workers Exhibitions Chair, Karen Hanmer, who graciously shared her expertise and experiences and to all of the previous Guild of Book Workers Exhibitions Chairs, whose dedicated efforts have created a history of wonderful exhibitions.

Dr. James Birchfield and the University of Kentucky Libraries graciously provided a venue to receive the work and, with Randy Arnold, assisted in preparing the work for exhibition and travel. Mary Rezny photographed the works for the catalog with a sharp eye for detail and over twenty-five years of experience photographing fine art works for museums, galleries, collectors, and individual artists. A fellow book artist, Rezny was enchanted by the works in the Horizon Exhibition. She generously went above and beyond the limits set by the photography budget and spent a great deal of time with each work, which resulted in high-quality photographs with multiple views of each piece.

Julia Leonard and Sara Sauers designed the beautiful printed exhibition catalog. Designers for the last three Guild of Book Workers Exhibition Catalogs, Julie and Sara have a vision for thoughtful design that includes careful typography and skillful use of image. Timothy Winkler expertly designed the online catalog and generated the QR codes for the exhibition labels. His well-organized, clean code made adding the text, and making changes and edits to the site, a manageable task. Amy Pirkle and Rick Barefield proofread text for the exhibition catalog on a very tight schedule. Sonja Rossow assisted with fundraising for the catalog and Suzanne Sawyer assisted with the venue search. The Southeastern Chapter of the Guild of Book Workers was also very supportive. Many thanks are also due to the exhibition venues and their staff, the donors who made this catalog possible, and all who submitted any entry for jury.

Two years ago, when this exhibition was simply a theme supported by enthusiasm, it was difficult to conceive of how all the pieces would come together to create an exhibition that honors the legacy of the book workers’ craft and celebrates some of the finest examples of book arts today. Founded in 1906, the Guild of Book Workers is the only national organization dedicated to all of the book arts, including bookbinding, conservation, printing, papermaking, calligraphy, marbling, and artists’ books. At a time when the masses are considering the materiality of the book and its presence or absence as a physical object, it is exciting to showcase the many hand crafts of the book form. Whether by contemplating the apparent horizon, personal horizons, or the horizon of the book as a physical object, the Horizon exhibitors created works that demonstrate conceptual integrity and the strength of a practice in craftsmanship.

Amy C. LeePard
Exhibitions Chair