On October 23, 2013, several members of the NMWA Library Fellows met for their 24th annual fall meeting to view the latest winner of the Fellows’ artist’s book award competition, hear the winning artist speak about her process, and enjoy a presentation by a renowned printmaker and book artist, Carolee Campbell, owner of Ninja Press.
Last year, the Library Fellows gathered to vote on over 45 submissions, many of which were outstanding proposals from both emerging and established artists. Day by Day—created by Russian artists Natasha Guruleva and Olga Nenazhivina—was chosen as the year’s winning book. Every edition of Day by Day is unique: front and back covers feature hand-stretched canvas and hand-written verse by Guruleva. Evocative graphic works by Nenazhivina are digitally reproduced throughout the work. A leather clasp “locks” the book, emphasizing its diaristic format.
Day by Day, along with many other past winners of the Library Fellows competition, is available for purchase in the Museum Shop. Visitors may request to see samples in the shop or the library.
After lunch, book artist Carolee Campbell presented to the group about the sources of her inspiration and why she founded the esteemed Ninja Press.
She also offered fascinating descriptions of a few of the processes used in the three books that she later showed to the group. The Fellows contributed to the purchase of two of her books for NMWA’s collection of artists’ books: The Persephones and The Real World of Manuel Córdova.
Campbell, who is self-taught in the fine art of bookmaking, says it can take months to complete one edition and she typically prints 200 copies or fewer. Specializing in poetry, she has a hand in the entire creative process of her books: she designs, prints, and binds every edition using handset metal type on fine handmade papers, often including her photography and hand-drawn illustrations.
She approaches her work with intuition and an eye to meticulous detail. As she writes on her website: “One of the primary goals set at the inception of the press was to strive toward the highest standards of excellence in craftsmanship and quality while attempting to find new approaches to the union between word, image, and book structure. That aspiration will continue to fuel the inspiration for future edition works as well as one-of-a-kind books.” Her methodology, skill, and creativity lead to stunning, distinguished works that are a wonder to see, read, and touch. Her books are held by most major collections of artists’ books, including the Library of Congress, the British Library, the New York Public Library, the Getty Research Institute, and Stanford University. It was an honor to hear her speak and to see some of her work in person.
—Jennifer Page is the Library Assistant in the Library and Research Center at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.