Before I could even think about which book artist I wanted to write about, I had to establish for myself what kind of book art I liked. A quick Google Image search brought up lots of altered books, folded books, up cycled books, book art sculptures – and awe inspiring as those are, they don’t really “speak” to me. They are works of art, to be sure, and beautiful in their way, but I can’t quite rid myself of the idea that they are somehow defaced books, even if I know that the original book might not have been anything special to begin with. I was looking for a book that was created from scratch, that evolved organically and thoughtfully from an original idea. Amongst those, my search showed me, there are many artist books that are interesting and inventive, but not necessarily very beautiful. There are also many that are intensely creative but – for my taste at least – strayed too far from what I feel a book should be, which is to say, an object containing words (or vivid images at least), that is bound together in some cohesive form.
Just as I was beginning to give up hope of finding what I was looking for, I came across Lotta Helleberg, who is actually a textile artist, but who also creates hand bound, eco printed artist books. One of her techniques is to print her original photography (typically leaves, but also roses and other nature sources) on handmade and recycled paper, and the effect is really exquisite and delicate.
What I was missing in Lotta Helleberg’s beautiful books was the words, and so I continued my search, and found Tania Baban, who owns a design studio called Atleier Baban. She is also the co-founder of a small press, Conflux Press, which publishes handmade limited-edition artists’ books, including her own. Her technique, while quite recognizable if you study her work for a while, is varied. Sometimes she uses an accordion fold technique, or a scroll technique. Another of her examples is a double book, which opens forwards and backwards, depending on which way you hold it. Some of her pages are double folded (by which I mean they are folded back on themselves) and that gives an interesting substance to the book. She often uses color motifs that lead the eye from one page to the next. I especially fell in love with a book called “Elegia”. It is a very slender volume in grey and black with creamy pages, and the design is quite simple – but its understated simplicity is the thing that makes it particularly lovely. She has used a Matisse-like line drawing in the body of the book, and the cover has such a subtle fleur de lis design that is almost looks more like a marble imprint at first glance.
The main thing I responded to in Tania Baban’s work is that her designs are thoughtful and uniquely designed to convey the meaning of each individual book.