While having a deep conversation of a bookbinding nature with a friend recently, and wrapping up one of my typical thousand-ply yarns, I said, “Guess that was more story than you bargained for!” “Well, it just means I don’t have to watch more Craft In America episodes,” she answered. A pause. “Wait, what’s Craft in America?” D’oh! My tv was one of the many things given up in my move from Chicago to California. Although I don’t miss it, I suppose there are work-related things on tv from time to time I miss by not having one. I caught up on some of the episodes available online of this 2009 PBS series, and to my surprise discovered a segment on my alma mater, the North Bennet Street School. This episode also has an interesting and thoughtful interview with bay area book artist Julie Chen along with some shots of her beautiful and well-composed work. Another beloved bay area artist and printmaker, Tom Killion (yessss!!!), is featured in this same episode. I am always interested in how craftspeople integrate their work into their lives– the different work environments we create and the business models that result. The PBS series does not go too deeply into these issues, just gives us small, tv-shaped windows into the work and lives of craftspeople in a variety of fields.
Since some time has passed since I left NBSS, it was nice to watch the segment on my school, although at the time of filming, the bookbinding department had a different instructor and had moved to a different floor. I hear that spring 2013 marked the final year of classes in the building where I spent my two years beginning to learn my trade, and that the school is moving to a much larger building as of fall 2013. It’s great to know the school is growing; hopefully a good sign for the traditional crafts taught there. But oh! if those basement walls could talk. I remember that tiny closet with the Tormek where we all honed our knives, and the closet on the other side where the finishing tools were kept. My year was the first class that had the distinct advantage of a full set of gouges including a blender set for finishing tools, and wow, did we all keep those in heavy rotation. One of my classmates tooled a line drawing of Hank Williams and his wife Audrey on a plaquette! Amazing. My class also shared the distinction of producing the first bookbinder to win the prestigious Stanislov Cup. NBSS, the Fighting Craftspeople! Thanks Mark.
The segment on North Bennet Street School is about 44 minutes into the episode; Tom Killion is at about minute 18, and Julie Chen is 37 or so.