ArtBeat: Making Books — Preserving old, creating new with paper

  • Kaylee Mulligan of Colrain helps Loretta Viecelli of Shelburne measure ribbon for sewing a stab-bound book during a Khandroling Paper Cooperative workshop held Saturday at Tsegyalgar East in Conway. For The Recorder/Trish Crapo

  • Loretta Viecelli of Shelburne uses a small punch to create a pattern of holes for sewing her handbound book. For The Recorder/Trish Crapo

  • Kaylee Mulligan of Colrain sews an intricate pattern to bind a small book she created during a Khandroling Paper Cooperative bookbinding workshop on Saturday. For The Recorder/Trish Crapo

  • The Khandroling Paper Cooperative — with help from the community — plans to make thousands of paper lotuses like these for Conway's 250th celebtration next summer. A Mindfulness Origami Club will meet every 2nd Tuesday of the month, beginning in October, to make the flowers. For The Recorder/Trish Crapo

For The Recorder
Saturday, September 03, 2016

The large room at the Yellow Schoolhouse at Tsegyalgar East in Conway was quiet on Saturday as nine students in a bookbinding class leaned over their work. The workshop in Japanese stab-binding techniques was offered by the Khandroling Paper Cooperative, a community project of the International Dzogchen Community of North America.

The Dzogchen Community was founded over 30 years ago by Tibetan scholar Choegyal Namkhai Norbu. The community also owns 220 acres of retreat land in Buckland and offers classes in sacred dance, yantra yoga and meditation practice.

Jacqueline Gens, a Dzogchen Community member and founder of the paper cooperative, said she became interested in handmade paper years ago when she was working as personal assistant and secretary to poet Allen Ginsburg in New York City, right near the Center for Book Arts. She formed the paper cooperative to create a community of artists interested in experimenting and collaborating in paper arts and to recycle sacred texts.

Gens explains that, in the Buddhist tradition, sacred texts can not be thrown away when they become dog-eared or worn, they must be burned or transformed in some other way such as recycling. In this vein, Gens has learned to create square amulets — that would traditionally hold a mantra handwritten on a piece of paper — to hold ribbons of worn-out analog tape from recorded sacred teachings, thus applying an ancient principle to a modern problem.

The cooperative owns a small Hollander Beater, a device that makes pulp for papermaking from natural fibers and rags. Gens said that artists can attend open studios, held most Saturdays, to make use of the cooperative’s equipment and know-how to make paper for use in their own work in exchange for a donation of money or by bartering supplies or time, perhaps by offering a class.

In honor of Conway’s 250th birthday next summer, the cooperative plans to make paper from rags donated by Conway residents. It is also starting a Mindfulness Origami Club that will meet the second Tuesday of each month beginning in October to make thousands of hand-folded origami lotuses to hand out at next summer’s parade.

Because the lotus blooms in mud yet flowers clean, it is a symbol of purity of the body, mind and spirit, and is often associated with spiritual awakening. And folding a facsimile of the flower from paper is what Gens calls, “one of the contemplative arts.”

Along with origami, papermaking, calligraphy and bookbinding, all of which the cooperative offers, would also be considered contemplative arts because of the quiet concentration it takes to engage in them.

Workshop instructor Pat Lehnherdt, who came from Illinois to teach Saturday’s class, said, “The sewing aspect of bookbinding is rather meditative.”

Lehnherdt had already been making paper, and considers herself a writer, so making books was an obvious next step. For the workshop, she brought examples of various stab-bound books as well as a variety of tools and supplies. Some of her books are softbound, using decorative papers as covers,while others use hardbound bookboard covered with linen that Lehnherdt hand dyes, prints and stitches.

Students in the 5-hour workshop were learning several stitching patterns, from a basic 4-hole stitch that creates repeating squares along the book’s spine, to patterns with names like “Tortoise Shell,” “Hemp Leaf,” or “Chevrons.” On a site that Lehnherdt recommends for learning Japanese stab-binding, https://beccamakingfaces.com, you can also find patterns for more complex and fanciful bindings that look like butterflies, elephants, tiaras or snowflakes.

Kaylee Mulligan of Colrain and Loretta Viecelli of Shelburne worked side-by-side stabbing the stacks of paper with a sharp awl or with a small punch, threading needles and sewing. Neither woman had made a book before and both seemed pleased with their progress. Mulligan had been inspired by the colors of Tsegyalgar East’s shrine room and was working with mauve and yellow papers for the covers her third book.

A stab-bound book starts out as a stack of individual sheets of paper, which makes it a great choice for binding collections of poems, drawings or other artwork. You can also bind blank pages to create sketchbooks or journals. Lehnherdt says she recently made stab-bound books for her grandchildren to take on a family trip, hoping they’d keep travel journals. At first she was disappointed that the kids seemed too busy to write in the journals during the trip, but was pleased when they started writing stories in them on the car ride home.

Lehnherdt says she began making books in earnest about a year ago, after she retired.

“I can’t stop making them,” she said with a laugh.

Where to find it: Khandroling Paper Cooperative is housed in the basement of the Yellow Schoolhouse, 18 Schoolhouse Rd., Conway at Tsegyalgar East. To make an appointment to visit, take part in an open studio or attend a workshop, contact Jacqueline Gens at jacqueline.gens@gmail.com or 413-522-1125. You can also visit the Cooperative’s blog: http://tsegyalgar.org/khandroling/khandrolingpaperco/