The Sketchbook Collective at Watkins College

girl drawing in interactive sketchbook at Watkins College

Nashville's one and only festival for the book arts keeps on evolving. In its third year, I was proud to participate in the Handmade & Bound artists' market, and to take part in a bigger way in its annual gallery show.

The gallery show went in a fresh direction this year, showcasing the sketchbooks of local artists, architects, fashion designers, puppeteers, and children. I was also among local book artists who created interactive sketchbooks that attendees responded to, filling in with writings and drawings. Here's a look at some of the dozens of sketchbooks in the show, and you can see another 200 photos in an event photo album here.

Katie Gonzalez handmade book at Sketchbook Collective

Sketchbook Collective Watkins College 2013

The show, The Sketchbook Collective, actually got underway a few months in advance of its opening, with a series of art workshops all across Nashville.

With a mission of bringing art to underserved communities, myself and other book artists led classes teaching simple book structures and encouraging participants to fill them as sketchbooks and memory books. We taught children, senior citizens, and recent immigrants to Nashville. Our goal was to bring art to those who don't have access to art materials or the chance to explore the arts in their daily lives.

I taught several classes, including for children in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and at the Looby Center in North Nashville.

In another class, at Casa Azafran, we got to know a few mostly Spanish-speaking families from the center's parenting and English classes. (My husband got to test out his Spanish, including creating a cheat sheet of bookbinding terms.) Together, we bound simple, two-signature pamphlet stitch books. The covers of the books were made with watercolor paper, and students got to personalize their books, inside and out. The families took them home to fill them with personal stories, photographs, and other clippings that I think really helped them to stand out in the gallery.

Casa Azafran bookbinding workshop

Casa Azafran handmade book

On the night of the opening, I loved the chance to see workshop participants standing proudly near their books. One senior citizen set up shop in a chair near hers and spoke with most every passer-by.
Hundreds came through the gallery during the weekend, including quite a few who invested real time and effort into the interactive sketchbooks that called for their participation. Those four books, arranged on pedestals, called for all sorts of expressions.

In my book, "A Collection of Lines," I encouraged people to experiment with line drawings and patterns, as well as trying blind contour drawings of their friends. Another book asked them to share childhood memories, another invited collage work with provided magazine and newspaper clippings. I noticed one couple dedicate more than 20 minutes to doodling in the book I had bound!

interactive sketchbook Watkins College

Hanmade & Bound and the Sketchbook Collective