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Academy of Art instructors chosen as Small Plates book artists for 2016

Three long time instructors from the Academy’s Fine Art department, specializing in Book Arts and Letterpress, were invited by the San Francisco Center for the Book to produce artist’s books for the Center’s Small Plates imprint. Macy Chadwick, Jennie Hinchcliff, and Bettina Pauly were chosen by a panel of board members, teachers, and community members on the strength of their proposals to create the small-scale books, in an edition size of 100.

The books were released at a party on June 10, at the Center for the Book, in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood. At the well-attended opening, each artist spoke about her process, from conceptualization to production. In addition to the books themselves, tools and proofs from that process were on display.

Macy Chadwick, a letterpress and book arts instructor at AAU since 2003, created a book called Input/Output. Chadwick says, “This is a book about the creative process. As artists, we gather information, text and ideas as fuel for making art. How does creative input transform into artistic output?” Her book is comprised of several folded sheets, which open up to reveal a complete image. In describing the process of designing and creating the book, Chadwick said, “Conceptually, I followed my usual mode of working—bouncing back and forth between structure, text, and idea in developing the book as a cohesive whole.” She did her printing at SFCB, rather than in her own studio, which presented both benefits and challenges. “It helped me focus on this specific project, and also gave me access to volunteers and equipment. But, I found that there was the added challenge of designing and producing the book in a public space.”

Proclomatie is the book by Jennie Hinchcliff, who has been teaching book arts at the Academy since 2007. Her book is an homage to the early 20th century Dutch artist H.N. Werkman, using text from his 1932 manifesto on art making, and employing many of the same techniques as Werkman himself – including spontaneous design decisions, hand stamping, and printing on an iron handpress. Hinchcliff found the 4x4” size to be comfortable: “small, personal, a book that the reader can hold in their hands and connect with.” The edition size was larger than anything she had ever worked with, though. “Planning out the logistics for 75 books (and then making each book happen) was a new experience for me,” she said.

Bettina1

Working with a large edition size was also new for Bettina Pauly. “It was a great experience to make this book,” she said. “I surprised myself that I actually finished the edition of 100 at the end of June.” Pauly graduated from the Academy, and has since been teaching workshops and Art Experience classes in letterpress and book arts. Her book, Grimm’s Fairy Tale Theater: Hänsel & Gretel, employs fold-out pages, pop-outs, and paper dolls to create a play set in which the reader can reenact the story of Hansel and Gretel. She made a tally of the different press runs and processes utilized and came up with this: 26 times through the press for printing, plus 5 for cutting, plus foil stamping on the cover, brings us to 32 total times through the press for one book.

All the artists had help from friends, colleagues from the Academy of Art faculty, former students, and SF Center for the Book volunteers for the many hours of printing, folding, gluing, and finishing that each edition of books required. 

The San Francisco Bay Area is one of the world’s most active regions for book arts and letterpress printing. With several university programs, the Center for the Book, and many private presses and binderies, book artists find themselves in a community rich in activity and creativity. Hinchcliff said, “I have been an active part of the Bay Area artist book community for nearly twenty years and feel incredibly lucky to be part of network of printers, binders, and local artists who choose to work in this format. Having a sense of one's community encourages established artists to to experiment and expand, while demonstrating to newcomers how vibrant the community is.” 

The Academy in particular has a wealth of talent and inspiration, as demonstrated by the three instructors. “It was an honor to be chosen for this project along with my AAU coworkers, Bettina Pauly and Jennie Hinchcliff,” said Chadwick. “The three of us have taught at both SFCB and AAU for years and this Small Plates project only solidified the connection between these two educational environments.” Hinchcliff added, “It was wonderful to spend time in the studio working on our individual projects, yet feeling like I was creating something that was part of a larger whole.”

-Megan Adie