Course Description

This course will introduce upper-level students to the genre of artists’ books as literature and art in a combination of the critical study of original works and creative bookmaking activities. Focussing on contemporary artists’ books of the past 30 years, students will look at the unique interplay between word, image, and page/container that the genre facilitates. In the first weeks of the course, students will study various bindings and presentation formats, establishing the concepts and tools they will need to create their own books later in the semester. Students will also read from other more mainstream texts that are highly visual in form and/or language. The course will take place in workshop and studio settings to facilitate writing and bookmaking. Individual and collaborative book projects will be presented, and students will have the opportunity to utilize original artists’ books from the Gallery’s Permanent Collection and ODY Library Special Collections for research purposes.

Class Time/Location

Mondays and Wednesdays 6 – 9 p.m. in Richardson 304; some classes will meet in the Gallery or ODY Library, as noted in the syllabus.

Mary BarkleyCathy Tedford
Richardson 311Gallery Office

Office Hours
M/W 5-6 p.m.

Required Text/Articles

Smith, Keith A. Text in the Book Format. Rochester: Sigma Foundation. 1989.

In addition, you will be required to purchase a reader of articles from the faculty.

On Reserve at ODY (fall semester)

Smith, Keith A. Structure of the Visual Book. Rochester: keith smith BOOKS. 1991.

and Non-Adhesive Binding. Rochester: Sigma Foundation. 1984


Most bookbinding tools will be supplied by the Gallery in a kit (see last page of syllabus), which you can buy if you want to. We have tried to keep costs for this class reasonable, and a limited amount of paper stock was donated to the class by two printing companies. However, you should be prepared to purchase some items such as special paper, leather, and/or thread on your own.


Grades will be given on individual projects during the semester so that you will know how your work is being evaluated. However, it is expected that all work will be revised, and all work will be re-evaluated. All aspects of all assignments are weighted equally in the final portfolio; that is, the book projects, written rationales and reflection papers, and class participation will contribute equally to the final grade. Attendance is required, and if you miss more than one class, it will affect your grade seriously.


UNIT I: Introduction to Sources/Tools

Goals: Define the genre, show resources from the Gallery’s Permanent Collection and ODY Library Special Collections; discuss function of tools, discuss relationships among text/image/book-as-container; manipulating text/image; revision; function of the journal; introductory book project.

August 31 Meet in the Gallery

What are artists’ books? Discuss selected examples from the Gallery’s permanent collection (with worksheet). Discuss readings from Artists’ Books: A Critical Anthology and Sourcebook by Joan Lyons:

"A Preface" by Dick Higgins

"Book Art" by Richard Kostelanetz

"The New Art of Making Books" by Ulises Carrion

"The Artist’s Book Goes Public" by Lucy R. Lippard

"Conspicuous Consumption: New Artists’ Books" by Lucy R. Lippard

Hand out and discuss bookbinder’s tools.

Discuss Juxtaposition project.

For this introductory project, choose one visual source and one textual source that you will juxtapose in a simple book format. Think about your selection process very carefully, i.e., what is your idea and which sources make the most sense in order to explore that concept? You will be asked to consider manipulating images and texts, the sequencing of images and texts, double-page spreads, movement from page to page, what or what not to reveal to the reader, whether or not to cite sources, freshness and originality of texts and images, cliché, and titling. After a process of revision, you will make a final edition of 15 copies of your book to share with the class. For this and all subsequent book projects, you will write a one-page rationale explaining your formal and content-based strategies in conjunction with the first draft. You will also write a final reflection paper in which you restate objectives and respond to the comments provided by your peers and professors during workshopping sessions.

September 2 Meet in ODY Library Special Collections (1st hour)

Discuss selected artists’ books from ODY Library Special Collections (with worksheet). Discuss the texts/images that students bring to class; show book assembly technique and manipulating images and text on computers/Xerox machines. Discuss readings from Text in the Book Format by Keith A. Smith:

"Command of the Page," pp. 11-20

"Space of the Written Word," pp. 21-60

Font resources

September 7 Meet at Velma’s studio in Russell. Come at 5 p.m. if you can.

Discuss reading from Text in the Book Format by Keith A. Smith:

"Itineraries Through A Book," pp. 61-113

Papermaking workshop with Velma Bolyard.

September 9

First draft of Juxtaposition project due (bring 15 copies, folded and constructed as books) with one-page rationales of strategies; group critique.

Demo: Pamphlet Stitch and blank journal binding with Long Stitch/Link Stitch.

1st journal assignment: Spend time with your journal, in which you identify an event and develop three perspectives (imaginary conversation based on appropriated sources). You should include both texts and images. Due with Mary or Cathy on Friday September 11. Pick up readings for Monday when you hand in your journal assignment.

September 12

Optional Field Trip to Hamilton College to view exhibition Artist/Author: Contemporary Artists’ Books and attend panel discussion with artists/publishers. Meet in the Vilas Parking Lot at 11 a.m. sharp. Back by 9 or 10 p.m.

UNIT II: Multiple Perspectives

Goals: to make a one-of-a-kind artist’s book in which you identify a particular moment in time or a historical event/incident. You will enrich our understanding of that moment or event through the use of three well-developed perspectives (additional perspectives optional), problematize it and complicate it, and reveal the layers and versions of "truth." Be creative in selecting your sources; think about how different disciplines and perspectives can tell different kinds of stories. Source options include newspapers, oral histories, personal letters, legal documents, etc. You can appropriate texts and images, but you should also be creating your own that will weave into the book. Again, think about manipulating images and texts, revising them, if necessary, to suit your needs. You should be aware of differences in language and tone, incorporating, for example, 1st person/3rd person, point of view, etc. You will further explore how book design can reflect your book concept.

September 14 Meet in ODY Library Special Collections (1st hour)

Final draft of Juxtaposition project due (bring 15 copies again, folded and constructed as books) with reflection paper.

Bring your journal to class for group discussion of conventions and assumptions.

Look at examples of journals from Gallery/ODY collections (with worksheet).

Discuss readings (handout):

2/4/93 – 4/4/93 by Diana Froley

The Pillow Book video directed by Peter Greenaway

A Trail Through Leaves by Hannah Hinchman

News: Limbo Time by Peter Arkle

Hand out and discuss Multiple Perspectives project and discuss source options available in the Library.

Journal Assignment: conceptualizing the incident/event and pre-writing.

September 16

Discuss readings on multiple perspectives:

Selections from YO! by Julia Alvarez (character development and perspective)

Selections from Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich (sources and perspective)

Journal Assignment: Selecting your sources.

September 21

Discuss writing and visual strategies for this project.

Journal Assignment: Developing three perspectives.

September 23

Demo: accordian binding with bookbinder’s board covers-with or without attached sheets. Discuss simultaneity, transparencies and mylar, manipulating pages (refer back to some of the strategies in the Smith book).

Journal Assignment: Develop a conversation based on an appropriated text - letters, etc.

September 28

Share journals for group critique. Discuss use of language and tone to convey subtlety, characterization, etc.

September 30

Writing/studio time.

October 5

First draft of Multiple Perspectives project due with written rationale; group critique.

UNIT III: Collaborative/Community Book

Goals: This project will include you, as students in the class, as well as others in the St. Lawrence community in an experimental project in which traditional definitions of classroom, learning, student and teacher, and writer/artist are explored. The goals of the project are to bring diverse elements of the university community together in a reflective and creative manner. The function of art and bookmaking as social and political commentary/critique will be examined in a collaborative book that addresses issues important to our own community. Rather than direct what those issues might be, we would like for the entire group to determine and develop the content and format of the book. The forming of the community of writers and artists is a social issue itself which you might address either in conversation or in text. You will share the knowledge and skills you learned in earlier units with those new to the project.

October 7 Meet in Gallery

Meet as a large group to discuss project.

Discuss readings on collaborative/community art from Reimaging America: The Arts of Social Change:

"Telling Real War Stories" by Lou Ann Merkle

"Independent Publishing and the Politics of Social Change" by John F. Crawford

"Knowing Our History, Teaching Our Culture" by Willie Birch

and the reading from Talking the Boundless Book:

"Social Book Building" by Amos Paul Kennedy, Jr.

Look at examples from Gallery/ODY collections (with worksheet).

Journal Assignment: Develop interview questions.

October 12

Final draft of Multiple Perspectives project due with reflection paper.

In-class group project – 15 minute collage that describes you and your interests with follow-up interviews.

Journal Assignment: Start brainstorming book topics.

October 14

Class cancelled for Mid-Semester Break.

October 19

Group discussion of book ideas, developing textual and visual strategies (with worksheet).

October 21

Bring sources; writing/studio time.

October 26

First draft due with written rationale of strategies; group discussion.

October 28 (or equivalent)

Writing/studio time.

November 2 Meet in Gallery

Final draft due with reflection paper; compile and bind 26+ books.

Unit IV : Memoir (Cumulative)

Goals: To create a one-of-a-kind autobiographical artist’s book that reflects upon a personal event, time, or recurrent theme in your life. The memoir project is assigned at the end of the semester in order for you to provide more sophisticated analysis and reflection. You should avoid the obvious, cliché, and nostalgia that are so often present in this genre of writing and bookmaking. Instead this assignment challenges you to integrate all the things you have learned during the semester in terms of writing and formal strategies.

November 4 Meet in Gallery

Hand out memoir project; look at examples from gallery/ODY collections (with worksheet).

Journal assignment: Choose 2-3 possible events and record every detail that you can remember without editing or censoring anything; start selecting visual and textual sources that add to these narratives.

November 9

Class cancelled.

November 11

Demo: Album binding with folded covers.

Discuss readings:

"Chipped Beef" and "A Plague of Tics" from Naked by David Sedaris

"Memory and Imagination" by Patricia Hampl

November 16

First draft of Memoir project due with written rationale of strategies; group critique.

November 18

Discuss readings:

Selections from Remote by David Shields

"Writing Autobiography" from Talking Back by bell hooks

Writing/ studio time.

November 30

Final draft of Memoir project due with reflection paper; discuss final portfolio.

December 2

Final draft returned with comments; writing/studio time.

December 7

Portfolio preparation, final essay synthesis and reflection.

December 9

Portfolios due, final collaborative book project (if time allows).

Final Portfolio

The portfolio should consist of the following from each project:

Drafts of books

Graded books and faculty comments

Peer comments

Written rationales and reflection papers

Newly revised editions of previous drafts of books

Final essay that provides new rationale for revisions of book projects and provides an overview and critique of learning that has taken place during the semester.

contact Cathy Tedford

return to Mary Barkley's Home Page

return to Richard F. Brush Gallery Home Page

return to SLU Home Page


Special thanks to Peerless Press and Cayuga Press for donating paper to this class to help reduce costs. Feel free to write them a thank-you note!!


Shane Corcoran Peter Schug

Peerless Press Cayuga Press

P.O. Box 6638 1650 Hanshaw Road

Syracuse, NY 13217 Ithaca, NY 14850