The Big Read Blog (Archive)

15 Years with the San Francisco Center for the Book

Ice-Cream Sandwich by Laurie Coughlin of Motormouthpress, LLC

The book arts have always occupied a special place in my heart. An incurable bookworm with a love for visual art, handmade books seem like a sort of utopian overlap between visual beauty and literature. Typography, design, writing, and illustration are all bound up together, creating pieces that could generally occupy a museum display case as easily as they could occupy a reader?s bookshelf.

In recent years, the book arts have seemed to enjoy renewed interest, thanks in no small part to organizations such as the San Francisco Center for the Book (SFCB). Founded in 1996, SFCB has become one of the country's premier organizations for book arts, with over 300 workshops each year, exhibitions, and six-month residencies for artists who don't specialize in book arts. "It creates really innovative work if you don't have preconceived notions about how to make an artist's book," said SFCB's Rocket Caleshu, explaining why the residencies go to artists from other disciplines. "What you make might be really wild and innovative. Also, we feel that it elevates the stature of the artist's book as a viable, contemporary art form."

In honor of SFCB's recent milestone birthday, the center hosted a 15th Anniversary Exhibition this autumn, which presented some of the best pieces produced at the center since its founding. The photos featured here are from the exhibit, and represent the many different forms that artists? books can take. So where will SFCB be in another 15 years? With any luck, the organization will be curating its 30th anniversary show. "We are going to continue to make books and make prints," said Caleshu. "Darn it all if this technology's totally obsolete; our work is to preserve it."

Arbres Arrencats d'Ametles (Uprooted Almond Trees). Design and images by Elizabeth Sher, text by Maw Shein Win
Remember the Light. Book and photo by Mary Risala Laird

Bundled Up artist book by Nif Hodgson


Pathways by Macy Chadwick

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