Watkins College of Art, Design & Film • October 3 & 4

by Wendy Wilson | Photographs by Samantha Angel

From the beginning, Handmade & Bound was intended to be an annual event. But the organizers were surprised by just how quickly it took off. “There’s a big artist’s book community here, and that’s what we learned,” says Lisa Williams, library director at Watkins College of Art, Design & Film, the host of the event.

This year’s fourth annual festival will be held October 3 through 4 at Watkins and will be bigger than in past years, with more than 30 vendors and more opportunities for participants to express themselves creatively. While the festival is centered around artists’ books, book art, and printmaking, it more broadly celebrates anything paper-related, including zines and paper-cutting art.

An artist’s book is a contemporary art form that can defy easy explanation. Mary Beth Harding, director of community education at Watkins, puts it this way:  “An artist’s book is a piece of art that just happens to be in the form of a book, whereas handmade book art is journals and photo albums that are blank for the buyer.”

This year’s festival exhibition is called Poetry and Prints and will feature workshops led by professional artists, poets, and printmakers. Participants will be able to write poetry and produce handmade books inspired by the art of Wassily Kandinsky, an early-twentieth-century abstract painter from Russia, whose work will be on display at the Frist September 26 through January 4.

For zine fans, the festival is hosting a visit by John Porcellino, acclaimed zine author and publisher. The Chicago native will show Root Hog or Die, a documentary about his life and work, and answer questions afterward. He has been writing, drawing, and publishing minicomics, comics, and graphic novels for more than 25 years.

In a world of fast-paced technology, the festival stands apart in its recognition of all things paper. That’s what appeals to returning vendor Kelli Hix, who will give a paper-cutting demo. “It dives so deeply into one very simple, very ancient medium.”

An opening reception for Poetry and Prints will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. on Friday, October 3, followed by a screening of Root Hog or Die from 7 to 9 p.m. A marketplace with demos and activities for all ages will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, October 4. Free admission and parking. For more information, visit www.watkins.edu or www.handmadeboundnashville.com.

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