Bookmaking panel coming to the UVAL

Paula Ranney is excited to get people into bookmaking.

She, along with Retha and Jonathan Blocher, will be participating and running a bookmaking panel discussion next Thurs. Jan. 30 at the Upper Valley Art League (in the Art Link, next to the gallery). The presentation, which will include the nature of the book and its role in the world, will run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. and is completely free.

Paula Ranney and her sewing frame for bookmaking at the Upper Valley Art League gallery. Progress Times photo by Jamie Treviño.

“What we’re going to talk about is the book,” Ranney said. “People have been making books for centuries, and we’re going to talk about why and the cultural reason that all happened.”

Ranney only discovered bookmaking a couple of years ago, and has been hooked ever since. After the panel, she plans on holding a couple of workshops so people can learn the basics of the craft.

“You’re doing something that people have done for centuries,” Ranney said, displaying a sketchbook she recently made for her grandson. “Part of what we want to talk about is the art of the book and what you’re going to use it for. We’re going to have examples.”

Ranney went over the changes books have undergone, from the inception of bookmaking to the industrial age to modern days. She noted that a lot of bookstores have closed recently due to the popularity of digital ebooks.

“My basic theory is that it may have opened up the door for people to learn how to appreciate handmade books in ways they might not have,” Ranney said. “Am I right? Am I wrong? I don’t know. So I started making books and got to exploring all the things that go into a book.”

Ranney came up with the idea to hold a panel. She explained that bookmaking doesn’t take a lot of tools and can be made with simple things.

“It really isn’t a very difficult thing to do,” Ranney said. “It takes just a needle, thread, paper, maybe some book board, and you can make yourself a book.”

Retha is a librarian, and her husband Jonathan has honed on the craft of calligraphy. All three have a passion for artistic expression in all mediums, and were inspired to teach others about bookmaking.

“People are born to create, they’re born to illustrate and make beautiful things,” Ranney said. “Creative people encourage creative people.”

Members of the Winter Texan community, Ranney and Blocher expressed that they are happy to have a place like the Upper Valley Art League in the area, so creative expression of all kinds can be displayed for the public.

“I’m happy to see people here doing things,” Blocher said. “We’re letting people know that there’s more out there than watercolor and photography, there’s so many creative outlets, and a place like this shows them off.”

“I think it’s essential,” Ranney added. “You can only ride around in your golf cart for so long. And if you’re the sort of person who wants to be creating, you need a place to do that.”

This article originally appeared in the Friday Jan. 24, 2020 issue of the Progress Times.

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