Artists gather for bookmaking class

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A group of artists who gathered to experiment with sunprinting watched the rain in hopes the clouds would break.

For the rest of the 62 artists at the Paper and Book Intensive, the cold, gray weather was a great excuse to stay inside and focus on obscure and ancient papermaking and bookbinding techniques.

In Jim Canary's Tibetan Bookmaking class, students learned papermaking and dye techniques that Buddhist monks have been using for centuries.

Canary became interested in handmade Tibetan books while earning his graduate degree in the Tibetan language.

"I found myself more interested in the object the words were printed on," Canary said. "I was distracted by the paper."

Canary restores rare books at Indiana University. He is also a collector of Tibetan literature. Among his collection is a small blue book he commissioned in Llasa, Tibet. The pages are made from a mixture of yak brains, hide glue and soot. The words are printed in gold from a woodblock and, in the Tibetan tradition, the pages are not bound together. They are held together with two pieces of carved wood and wrapped in cloth.

With handmade paper and vegetal dyes made from pomegranate skins, safflower and black walnut, the students attempted to imitate the beauty of the ancient art.

Since June 5, the campus of Lowell Whiteman School has been transformed into an artist's community. People from Australia, England, Mexico, Canada and across the United States gathered with some of the world's best instructors of rare book conservation and bookmaking. This is the 22nd year of the Paper and Book Intensive -- an annual two-week workshop held in a different location each year.

It has been held at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico -- the once home of Georgia O'Keeffe -- at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Maine, the Oxbow Summer Artist Retreat in Michigan, and now at Lowell Whiteman School in Colorado. Organizers of the Paper and Book Intensive were invited to the area by local artists Patricia Branstead and Beth Banning. The workshop follows an exhibit of handmade books by PBI artists shown at the Depot Art Center.

Most of those in attendance had attended PBI multiple times. Co-director Maria Fredericks first attended as an artist in 1983 and has been helping to organize the event since 1988. She works as a rare book conservator for Columbia University libraries and enjoys the mixture of art and conservation at PBI, such as the class about Byzantine Bookbinding taught by Anna Embree.

PBI classes end Wednesday. The two-week workshop will be followed by a silent and live auction, open to the public, on Thursday.

Auction items include moveable-type printing press letters from the Chinese Times in San Francisco and a transformed Ken doll named "Papermaking Pete." Money raised at Thursday's auction will go toward restoring the Joinji temple in Japan that burned down last year and to scholarships for future PBI students.

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