Daniel Essig

June 2015

The Altered Mica Book

Course Description
This workshop will explore the techniques of creating and filling a hand bound book.

Utilizing a binding that has withstood the test of time with its elegance, flexibility and strength, we will first bind a book of fine papers, translucent mica sheets, and thin wooden pages. We will then cut, hammer, glue, slice, saw, paint, and sew back into the pages creating niches, alcoves, and secret spaces to house and protect treasures, images, and words.

Participants will learn to work with mica using both the natural and manmade forms of this material, becoming familiar with the in and outs of the unique characteristics of mica.

Artist's Biography
Daniel Essig is a studio artist and instructor living in Asheville, North Carolina. Daniel has taught book arts workshops at Penland, Anderson Ranch, Iowa City Center for Books, Columbia College, and Oregon College of Art and Craft, among others. He has received the North Carolina Visual Arts Fellowship Grant. Dan exhibits his work nationally and his work is in numerous private and public collections; recently his work has been purchased by the Renwick Museum of the Smithsonian and the Charlotte M. Smith Collection of Miniature Books at the University of Iowa Libraries. Many of Daniel’s sculptural pieces are featured in The Penland Book of Handmade Books.

Artist's Statement
Some people use my books as journals and fill them up with words. I don't write in my books. For me, the books themselves are journals, visual records of my life and work.

I am interested in traces of the past, ancient binding styles, reliquaries, distressed finishes, and found objects. Since I was six or seven years old, I've been collecting small objects. I have seashells and interesting rocks that I collected at the beach on childhood vacations. I also have my grandfather’s arrowhead collection. He often walked the freshly plowed fields of the central Missouri town where he spent his life, collecting these stone relics of the land’s past inhabitants. I've stored up seedpods, rocks, bones, shells, bits of rusty metal, nails, animal teeth, fossils. They represent periods in my life, even just days or moments. I keep my collection of relics in drawers, bottles, and boxes within a single small room in my house. The space has the feel of a German Wunderkammern, a "cabinet of curiosities." I often sit in the room and scan my collection, seeking just the right object to inspire a new book or sculpture.

A symphony conductor who collects my work once told me that he hides my books in a basket every evening before going to bed so they won't be stolen during the night. Until fairly recently all books were prized possessions -- medieval libraries chained books to the shelves to prevent theft. In those days each volume was crafted with precision, elaborately decorated and embellished with precious stones and metals. I aim to make my books just as precious as those medieval manuscripts.

All of my work has a Coptic book at its heart. The binding was first used about the fourth century, in Ethiopia or North Africa, or perhaps this is just the area where the books were best preserved. There are several distinct sewings known as Coptic. The style I use is known as Ethiopian. I use two needles for each length of thread, one on either end. I use wood covers and tunnel through the edge of the board to attach the text block. The historic sewing style, wooden boards, and the type of board attachment are what distinguish the Ethiopian style Coptic Binding.

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