Liz Jeneid is a prolific and talented artist whose career began in weaving, and as she wandered around the world, her creative output also ventured into other art forms. Drawing, painting, and of most interest to me – bookmaking. Her works appear in many worldwide collections, including the NSW State Library and Australia’s National Gallery. She was a lecturer and gallery director of the School of Visual Arts at the University of Wollongong for many years. She now runs workshops from her quaintly and deliciously overstuffed studio in Mt Kembla. The setting is magnificent. The studio is based around a shearing shed and includes a large work area and accommodation.
Avril Makula is a fine art bookmaker who dabbles in printmaking. She is the owner of Alphabet City Press, and her biography shows that she certainly keeps busy with exhibitions and workshops. Avril uses traditional book binding methods to produce books that are an art form in their own right.
When these two accomplished bookmakers get together to run a workshop, you certainly don’t want to miss out.
I met Avril through a weekend course run by the Sydney Community College. I fell in love with bookbinding as it catered to my desire to make beautiful, useful things. I wrote about it in a post which you can read here.
Later, I joined another weekend workshop at Liz’s studio, which was co-hosted by Liz and Arvil. This workshop was more “arty” and really took me out of my comfort zone. In early January 2023, I attended their Adventures in Bookmaking workshop – a 7-day intensive book course. What a delight!
Outgrowing my stereotype
With nine other participants, I grew my bookmaking practice, stretched my very un-arty neurons and had a truly remarkable time. I came away with seven small books and lots of ideas. In addition, I met some talented people who, like me, enjoyed bookmaking. I must admit feeling a little overwhelmed when we did the introduction circle. All the other participants were practising artists who had either studied visual arts or were visual arts teachers. And then there was me. All I wanted to do was make pretty notebooks with blank pages to write in! Nonetheless I had a go at making “art” and it was very enjoyable.
A packed agenda
We started the week with some unstructured writing to get the creative juices flowing and then used snippets of this writing to guide us in making decorative pages for our first book. Using brushes we made from found objects and natural inks and dyes, we marked up large sheets of paper with daubs and splatters and smears. The paper was then cut to size and bound into hardcovers we had prepared as we waited for the paper to dry.
For some of the other participants, this was their first attempt at bookmaking and Avril, in her usual style, explained everything with patience and clarity. Avril demonstrates the techniques by making a book herself so you can see each process. I was able to scoot ahead a little but made sure I checked in each time to confirm my homegrown variations were not too much off the mark.
My favourite arty-activity was making book covers from plywood painted with a mixture of shellac and graphite powder. The surface was buffed lightly to reveal a gleaming soft grey pewter-like surface. I plan to remove the pages we bound inside and frame my effort.
We tried drum binding (my new favourite!) and spent a sweaty day learning how to use the Coptic binding method. Mine failed! The paper kept ripping in the humidity, so I gave up in frustration!
New experiences – new friends
Many of the participants came long distances to get to the workshop, including Melbourne and Queensland, as well as from other parts of NSW. Each day we shared a lunch buffet brought by the participants and soon found we all loved burek from the “best burek in town” shop in Cringilla. On top of all that I got to catch up with my Wollongong people!
This was a five-star experience, and I highly recommend it. You can keep an eye out for upcoming workshops on Liz’s website or for Avril’s through the NSW Bookbinders Guild and the Sydney Community College website.
Avril is running another extended workshop in Geelong, Victoria in September you can get details here. https://taftainc.com.au/workshops/avril-makula . There is also another one in Victoria in March with limited spaces at https://www.grampianarts.com.au/grampians-texture-avril-makula-255970.html