It was a privilege to participate in the judging for Formation, and I thank Jackie for the opportunity. As a fine binder, I spend my time crafting design bindings, so the opportunity to be a juror and see the vast spectrum of disciplines from our membership was pure joy. The assemblage of fine design bindings, powerful broadsides, beautifully made sculptural artist books, and meticulously crafted letterpress books, dazzled me.
I understand that it isn't easy to submit work to be evaluated by a jury or by others, in particular for newcomers. However, I strongly encourage all our members to take advantage of the many Chapter exhibits as well as the triennial national traveling exhibition, as these are all fabulous opportunities to gain confidence and experience.
The jurying process proved to be more challenging than I anticipated, yet it was wonderfully rewarding. Early on we prepared a spreadsheet of evaluation parameters. Entries were carefully and individually considered for aesthetic expression as well as technical expression. The "formation" theme was broad enough to invoke a wide array of interpretations, and many entrants incorporated the theme directly, but just as many explored more abstract or personal interpretations. Evaluating entries based initially on images and descriptions was a challenge, and I found myself wanting more descriptive details of materials, methods, and structure; I wanted to experience the work through texture, touch, and smell, in addition to the visual images that were provided. Clear descriptions were paramount to our evaluating work and answering the questions that arose amongst us.
Most of our efforts were devoted to discussing the technical skills of craft and design concepts, uncovering carefully designed relational concepts between structure and content. We had a handful of tough decisions and occasional disagreements; however, the synergy of our combined skills and knowledge enabled us to see together the merit of an entry more clearly.
I feel lucky to have worked with fellow jurors Graham and Sarah, and found their expertise complimented mine. Among the three of us, I feel we selected the best possible work to display in Formation.
I first want to express my gratitude for the invitation to join the Formation jury, as a relatively young person in the field. It was an opportunity not only to share my experience and ideas, but also to learn from the experience of colleagues and be inspired by the work that the members of the Guild continue to create.
While each of us has our own opinions and tastes, we made a point of basing our conversations and decisions not on personal feelings about design or materials but on quality of workmanship, adherence to and interpretation of the theme, skilled use of and transformation of materials, and overall cohesiveness of design and message. From the exquisitely crafted to the wonderfully bizarre, and from inventive execution of traditional techniques to those that made us question our sense of what a book is, these works have been a delight and a challenge to examine and curate.
During the course of studying the entries and in contemplating the theme, I was reminded that while we may think of the formation of a given object or creation as concluding in some finished state, nothing is truly static and everything is in some sense a process. Who is to say when a book (or plant, animal, landscape, opinion) has truly become a book (plant, etc), and is finished? This exhibition speaks not only to each artist's process in creating a work, but to the continuous development and evolution of the things we create and all that surrounds us as they form.
I am thrilled to present this gathering of pieces that have come together from disparate places and experiences, and that have now become a sort of brief family during the course of this show.
SARAH M. SMITH
I was honored and a bit daunted when asked to jury this Guild of Book Workers Exhibit. After a number of years in conservation and teaching college-level book arts, I knew I would be looking at work produced by peers, mentors, and a host of talented people I don't know, but clearly should. I'm so glad the entries were blind entries! It was challenging enough giving a solid critique based solely on photographs - no matter how I zoomed in or switched angles, I always wanted to see or touch the book more to get a better sense of the work. Knowing who the artists were would have thrown a huge emotional wrench into the mix.
This experience was remarkable, not only because of the number of pieces showing incredible craftsmanship and skill, but because of the inventiveness entrants exhibited toward the theme of Formation. When I looked through and discussed the entries with my fellow jurors, I learned there were many more ways to interpret and express Formation than I had imagined.
Coleen Curry and Graham Patten were fantastic to work with. We each brought our different backgrounds and sensibilities to the task of jurying. Sometimes we all agreed, sometimes there were compromises and swayed opinions, but always there was an earnest and compelling discussion.