Wednesday, May 09, 2007
I woke up this morning thinking about my friend and mentor, Shereen LaPlantz. Shereen was an amazing artist and teacher who introduced many of us to the world of artist books. Her book Cover to Cover is still the best and most inspirational book on the market on making books, and her second book, The Art and Craft of Handmade Books, is equally as gorgeous. (And you can find some work by yours truly in that one!)
I had the great experience of working with Shereen in a 3-year artist book program. Over the course of those three years, twice a year I and 11 others would travel up to Humboldt County in northern California to spend a 3-day weekend in Shereen's studio learning new techniques and book structures. I'd never experienced such visual stimulation and artistic excitement as I did on those weekends. It was then, for the first, time, that I started to think of myself as an artist...or, at least, someone who had the potential to become an artist.
Shereen was an incredibly generous teacher. She would teach you anything you wanted to know, always with a positive and encouraging attitude. One wall of her studio was lined with plastic drawer units, all filled with handmade books of every kind. There were books she'd made, books she'd been given, books she'd bought... And in between work sessions, we were free to poke through the drawers and look at books and figure out how they were made. It was like having an enormous treasure chest at your disposal, with the freedom to explore at will.
We remained friends after our class ended, and I went up to visit her several times before she died of a particularly pernicious cancer. The most significant thing I learned from her, I think, was how to cope with illness with courage and spirit and determination. I've never seen anyone more determined to appreciate every day left to her.
Shereen loved typography, and ampersands in particular. So, to celebrate Shereen's effect on my life, here's an Ampersand mosaic.
Do you have a significant art mentor in your life?