The book arts have become mainstream enough that an exhibition of the genre is no longer a novelty. The curator’s challenge is to find a theme that will inspire potential venues, viewers, and exhibitors alike. For a Guild of Book Workers members’ exhibition, the theme must also be one that inspires the most traditional fine binder and the most cutting-edge book artist. For the Guild’s 2009-2011 traveling exhibition, members were asked to respond to the theme “marking time” and invited to interpret the theme as narrowly or broadly as they wished.

Marking Time showcases the rich diversity of backgrounds, talents, and interests that has been a hallmark of Guild membership for over 100 years. Exhibitors are conservators and bookbinders; also arts educators, full-time studio artists, and people with jobs outside the arts. A number of works in this exhibition reference, or incorporate actual parts of, time-keeping devices, some reference the end of time. Others suggest historical structures or formats, several create contemporary “books of hours.” Some celebrate the cycles of nature, while others track deterioration of an environment, or of the Environment. Some deal with a literal or figurative journey, or cultural or personal history.

Traditional leather bindings stand alongside contemporary bindings that have been dyed, collaged, or incorporate photographs or handwriting. Texts selected to be bound are as likely to be poetry or classics as they are science fiction or hard science. The show includes work in the codex format, complex folded structures, wooden constructions, hand-held toys, and sculptural objects. Text and imagery is produced by the most ancient and the most modern mark-making methods: calligraphy, painting, woodcut, letterpress, and digital output. In exemplary work, the artist’s facility with craft, structure, material and content renders each invisible to create a cohesive whole. This is apparent in the vital and varied work that comprises Marking Time.

Using processes initiated for the Guild’s 100th Anniversary Exhibition, intents to enter, entry forms, and digital images for jury were submitted online. Preparing a successful entry requires the artist to develop an additional skill set. High quality, carefully framed images are crucial—jurors are unlikely to guess at what they cannot see. A well-crafted description is also essential: a concise and compelling description of content, technique, and materials that clearly states how the entry references the exhibition theme. Jurors Jeffrey Altepeter, Melissa Jay Craig, and Peter Verheyen had access to a private website with images and descriptions for the 152 pieces submitted by 114 Guild members. The panel spent two weeks examining the entries individually and in discussion with their fellow jurors, revisiting their decisions until they arrived at the group of fifty that became this exhibition.

Mounting a traveling exhibition is another means of marking time; two years of planning, two years of travel to nine venues across the country and back, and the excruciatingly detailed schedule used to track it all. This monumental undertaking is possible only through the combined efforts of many. First, many thanks to former Guild of Book Workers Exhibitions Chair Peter Verheyen for sharing his expertise, sometimes daily. I am also grateful to Peter and to his fellow jurors, Jeffrey Altepeter and Melissa Jay Craig, for their role in shaping this exhibition.

Robert Hanmer programmed the online forms and the jurors’ website. Shu-Ju Wang created the elegant online catalog you are now viewing. Communications Chair Eric Alstrom consulted with both and made countless updates to the Guild’s Marking Time web page. Roberta Lavadour assisted with PR. Gerritt VanDerwerker and Colyn Wohlmut proofread text for the exhibition catalog on a very tight schedule. Guild President James Reid-Cunningham was always available to advise, suggest, and expedite. Former Exhibitions Chair Priscilla Spitler also provided much counsel and encouragement. Newsletter editors, first Jody Beenk and now Cindy Haller, continue to keep the Guild’s exhibitions program top-of-mind with members.

Jeff Rathermel and the Minnesota Center for Book Arts generously provided a venue to receive the work and, with Jana Pullman, assisted in preparing the work for exhibition and travel. Jerry Mathiason and Evan Mathiason photographed the work with skill and good cheer. Julia Leonard and Sara Sauers designed the beautiful, printed exhibition catalog. At a time when many new exhibition catalogs are available in electronic form only, I am grateful to every donor who supported production of the Marking Time catalog.

Karen Hanmer
Exhibitions Chair, Guild of Book Workers