Bookbinding Workshop

Report by Faye Spencer (400384)

Lecturer in Painting and Drawing-Centre for Visual Art

In November 2010 I organized and participated in a Bookbinding Workshop Taught by Dr Estelle Liebenberg Barkhuizen (of the Alan Paton Centre) .The workshop took place over 4 days and was extremely rewarding. Dr Liebenburg Barkhuizen worked with myself and a group of postgraduate students and taught us basic bookbinding skills and presented a short seminar on the artist’s book. Participants made sample books as well as beginning several artists books which they would continue to work on after the workshop was complete.

Positive Spinoffs:

  • One of our MA students (Phillipa Haskins) is now working with the artist’s book (in South Africa) as her research topic area for her dissertation and is continuing this exploration in her practical work also.
  • It was intended that this workshop would equip several postgraduates and myself with foundation skills that we could then pass on to undergraduate ( and other) students within the cva- to this end a basic bookibinding workshop hosted by ourselves for interested undergraduates in the Visual Arts is scheduled for  a week (still to be determined) in the July 2011 Vacation

In April 2011 the Centre for Visual Art will be hosting a day long workshop on Monoprinting and the Portrait

This workshop is being held for the Tatham Portrait Artist group in order to help them find new and innovative ways of working with the portrait in preparation for their upcoming exhibition in the Schreiner Gallery (scheduled for September/October 2011)

This workshop was initiated as I was asked by Kobie Venter (education officer of the Tatham Art Gallery) to come and critique and offer suggestions to artists in this group about freer and more inventive possibilities for them I proposed this workshop as a means through which to get the participants to work innovatively with the portrait- and as a way of exploring the processes of chance and intuition afforded by this special medium. Kobie Venter was delighted to be offered this opportunity. Two undergraduate students (possibly three as the group comprises about 20 artists) will be assisting me with this workshop)

Prior Workshops:
In July 2010 I hosted a 4 day workshop for the SOS CHILDRENS Village in the long July vacation. I had hoped that the workshop (a foundation portrait painting workshop) would give interested participants an opportunity to explore aspects of drawing and painting which they might otherwise not have access too. Also knowing this holiday was extremely long I felt that many children at the village would require and appreciate a creative diversion, and engagement with other s in another space.

The workshop was not dreadfully successful. Namely while many of the participants claimed to have enjoyed themselves and I was asked by a number of the children if I would hold such a workshop in the next holidays- there were a number of problems: 

1)      the Village had sent children of completely mixed ability (some were from Special schools and could barely hold a pencil such was their mental impairment)- others were very able: it is very difficult to accommodate a group of such diverse ability

2)      The village (though I had asked them to please send children 13-18 years old- included in the group 2 9 year old children. I have a background in teaching and am not unused to working with youngish learners but  working with a 9 year old is very different than working with a 19 year old

3)      The participants were often abandoned by their allocated busses and had to wait up to an hour for their lifts to arrive

4)      I had requested that they provide their own food. Only one of the children was told by his houseparent to bring lunch- on the first day of the workshop I was obliged to provide food and juice to the remaining participants (12 if I recall correctly the number)

5)      No once did any senior (or even junior) personelle from the village contact em to find out how the participants were getting on, nor did anyone ever thank me for providing food  (paid for by myself) for the students

6)      On the third day of the workshop NONE of the participants arrived- I waited and waited and had to contact the Village (at first no-one had any idea were the children were or why they had not arrived. I later learnt that the Youth Leader (who is apparently paid a nominal amount for his services) had not arrived to take them to the busses as he had had a late night attending the FIFA world cup. Some of the children had been waiting at the buses for him

7)      The time allocation was too long (this was the fault of my inexperience) and not the fault of the Village or the children- and towards the afternoon the children became really rowdy and restless- thus I curtailed the session after the first day and ended each day at 12

Positive Spin-offs:
These were, regrettably, negligable, My experience (and that of my student assistant Dexter Sagar who generously helped me with instruction and studio care through-out the workshop) with the SOS CHILDRENS group was truly appalling and I shall never repeat it- although at least several children produced some paintings and enjoyed their time in the studio- and went away with some paint and brushes I provided so they could continue to work creatively