In a recent Facebook Live, Ali spoke with Lisa Merkin, a book artist and founding member of the Handmade Book Club. They spoke about how she got started with artist books, where she finds inspiration, and her process for making artist books.
Lisa’s Book Arts Journey
Artist books are a relatively new endeavor in Lisa’s life, but she’s loved creative activities since she was young. Lisa went to college for journalism to follow her passion for writing, thinking that art wasn’t a viable path. Why? As Lisa explains, she thought her lack of drawing skills meant she couldn’t be an artist. However, she continued to take a variety of art classes.
Over four decades, Lisa has worked in many fields, from fashion to finance and tech to entertainment. She’s spoken at business conferences, played semi-pro pool on tour, and done stand-up comedy in Hollywood. In 2017, she retired from all of it to make art full time.
Lisa stumbled across bookbinding and dove into learning this new craft. A few years ago she found a challenge on Instagram called Are You Book Enough, and that led her to making artist books.
Lisa describes her bookmaking process as “thorough.” If given a prompt for an artist book, Lisa will go through a free thinking process of writing ideas down, starting with the obvious, until she reaches an idea that speaks to her. She prefers to spend a significant amount of time researching and gaining knowledge before beginning a project, as illustrated by her Are You Book Enough project with the prompt of “legs.”
Lisa may take 50-100 hours to make a book, which she tracks through her studio log.
In addition to the Are You Book Enough prompts, Lisa generates ideas in a variety of ways. One simple method that anyone can use is to open a dictionary and point to a word without looking! Lisa also recommends paying more attention to everyday things that attract you—even the little things.
Another strategy Lisa uses is to spend time learning. Opening your mind to other cultures, history, science, or anything you’re not familiar with can spark completely new ideas.
Advice for Beginners
Lisa’s advice to those who are getting started with artist books is to just make something. Getting caught up in the details can stop you from getting started in the first place!
What’s Next for Lisa?
Of course, Lisa plans to continue her learning journey! After being postponed due to the pandemic, Paper and Book Intensive (PBI) is scheduled to move forward this year and Lisa will be attending.
If you’d like to try your hand at making your own book, sign up for our free long stitch journal class below!
Claire van Vliet, Poet’s House interview: https://bit.ly/3qEFed7
Julie Chen, Craft in America video: https://youtu.be/8rebvFWceFE
Are You Book Enough?: https://www.editions.studio/areyoubookenough
Craft in America on PBS: https://www.pbs.org/show/craft-in-america