It’s more than just the words

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By Kirsten Laskey

A book is a mysterious thing. You never quite know what you are in for until the book cover is flipped opened.


To celebrate the mystery and artistic quality of books, Mesa Public Library is hosting an exhibit that features the work of the LIBROS: New Mexico Book Arts Guild Saturday through April 18.

The exhibit will feature books that are hand-made, hand-bound and hand-printed. These are not ordinary books: The books on display include a wide variety of binding techniques, assorted materials and embellishments, flag books, sewn books, accordion books and books that fold and twist, curl and turn.

Geri Michelli, president of the Guild, explained they celebrate books as art forms because “it draws from so many different art forms. Some people look at the books in sculptural ways … there’s a one-on-one intimate connection from the artist who creates the book to the person looking at the pages,” she said. “There’s something very intriguing about a book … until you open it, it’s sort of mysterious.” Michelli added, “Our organization uses a book as an art form. Not all books (in the exhibit) necessarily have content to them but they are all handmade.”

A lot of art forms are combined into making books such as drawing, painting and design.  

“There’s a lot that has to do with design,” Michelli said. “It brings everything together.”

It’s a great time to celebrate books since April hosts National Poetry Month and National Library Week begins Saturday and runs through April 18.

“We’re celebrating books. Not only books that you can check out, but books that are works of art,” Bernadine Goldman, assistant library manager, said.

She explained the latter type focus not so much on the words but on the book itself.

Plus, Goldman said, because the books on display are all handmade, “they’re absolutely unique.”  

The guild is an educational organization formed to stimulate interest in and encourage development of the book arts through workshops, classes, exhibitions and lectures on the book and related arts.

It was started in 2000. Michelli said Mita Sadaña, who owns a book binding shop in Albuquerque called Against the Grain, really pulled the group together.

Michelli said there is a real mix of people in the group – some members have a lot of art experience and others are new to the field. Meetings are held the first Sunday of the month at the North Valley Senior Center in Albuquerque. Michelli said they either have a hands-on program or visiting artists will come and show their work.

While members show their work at the Albuquerque Main Library and guild members have made appearances at the state fair, it is the first time they have traveled to the Mesa Public Library. “We were very excited to be asked,” Michelli said.  The exhibit will be up through April 29 during regular library hours: from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Thursday, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and from noon-5 p.m. Sunday.