After a week in Susan King's Ideas for Artist Books workshop at Shakerag, I'm brimming with new material for several projects. Susan's process works and was not at all what I expected. Much to my delight and surprise, I walked into our classroom that first night for orientation and ran into some old friends: Julia Cameron's The Artist Way and Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird.
Our days took on a nice rhythm. We started every day with timed morning pages as a group, then shared (or not) what came up for us in our writing. After a timed writing assignment ("write about a place you call home," "write about the 30 minute walk outdoors you just took"), we spent afternoons into late nights creating mock-ups of the book that was inspired by our writing, complete with relevant structure, binding, possible look and feel and text. The next morning (after morning pages), we had a crit, then repeated the whole cycle again.
Creating under the gun like that was liberating. Not only did it work - everyone, regardless of level, dug deep and produced emotionally intelligent, articulate, communicative work - but I also learned that you don't need a lot of time and materials to do good work. In fact, they can be a crutch. Forced to let my intuition take over and dive deep for creative inspiration, I found myself just listening and making decisions naturally.
Another pleasant outcome is how much we bonded as a group. You don't spend five long days with ten interesting, engaged women and walk away untouched. Susan did an excellent job at creating a safe environment where we could take risks, feel supported, yet get real feedback. We're continuing the lively discussion, sharing, ideas and crits in our new online group through Artist Books 3.0.
By the way, if you don't know about Shakerag's Studio Immersion in the Mountains, you should. Faculty and staff are world class, as is the southern hospitality, food (!), and attention to detail for an inspiring, initimate opportunity to study with the best.