The best way to tell stories is in the form of a book, says Britt Stadig, a Nashville-based master bookbinder and book artist.
And Nashville has a lot of stories to tell.
The sixth annual Handmade & Bound festival is set for Friday, Sept. 30 and Saturday, Oct. 1 at the Watkins College of Art, Design & Film. The annual festival celebrates the art of handmade books, paper and print work, highlighting Nashville’s reputation as a hub for a rich and growing print and paper art scene.
“Nashville has something pretty unique and pretty special,” said Katie Gonzalez, a Nashville book artist and bookbinder and one of this year’s Handmade & Bound community artists. “There is a great sense of community.”
A number of book artists, paper makers, and small binderies, along with letterpress icons Hatch Show Print and several larger book publishers all make Nashville a natural place for the paper and print arts to flourish.
The festival kicks off with a gallery opening featuring community-produced art, including works created by homeless or previously-homeless artists from the Poverty & the Arts collective. The works came out of The Stitches + Stories workshop, funded in part by The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee through the William N. Rollins Fund for the Arts. Each year the festival conducts workshops prior to festival in which local artists are paired with community members around a common theme. This year’s theme, Stitches + Stories, focused on the threads that bind our common experience and included collaborations with local artist Lesley Patterson-Marx and writer Gloria Ballard.
Interactive books made by local artists and a paper quilt made of squares created by people of all ages from all over the city will also be on display on opening night. Saturday’s event includes more than 40 vendors and artists and an interactive printing press giving people an immersive experience in all things paper and print.
For many, the interactivity and functionality of handmade books and paper are part of its beauty and expressiveness. Books and paper are meant to be handled. They tell our stories, keep our memories and bind us together.
“That is a really important part of the festival—that people can walk out feeling that art is accessible. It is something they can do, something they can achieve,” said Anna McKeown, director of community education at Watkins College of Art, Design & Film.
Last year’s community workshops centered around the theme Bound Together, and focused on the many different definitions of family. Seniors at FiftyForward Bordeaux Center, who crafted their own books in the 2015 workshop, said making the books gave them a sense of pride and a chance to share their memories and experiences.
“I wrote about my family and things I did in my childhood days. It was a letter to myself,” said Alberta Watts, a senior member at FiftyForward Bordeaux Center, of her book. “Sometimes you forget about a lot of things in the past.”
Senior Carolyn Hall wrote about small details: sparkling white sheets on the laundry line with the indigo tint of bluing, a laundry rinse common until the mid-20th century. Other participants filled their books with stencil images, or created the book with their children and grandchildren.
“It is great for narrative,” said Stadig, whose work tells the stories of the characters in her family’s oral history: farmers, quilters and even an infamous depression-era counterfeiter. “It’s a great way to express your ideas in a more intimate way.”
The sixth edition of Handmade & Bound Nashville, a festival and marketplace celebrating independent publications and printed matter, is set for Friday, Sept. 30 and Saturday, Oct. 1 at Watkins College of Art, Design & Film, 2298 Rosa L. Parks Blvd. in Nashville. Hours: Opening of the gallery show “Stitches + Stories” featuring community produced works will be held from 5-7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30 in the Brownlee O. Currey Jr. Gallery on the Watkins campus and will run through Oct. 14. The Handmade & Bound Festival is set for 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1. Admission is free. For more information, go to www.handmadeboundnashville.com or call the college at 615-383-4848.
Photos by Anthony Scarlati for The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.