The Candyman of Artists’ books

The Magic of Paul Johnson: Movable Book Artist and Teacher

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson: book artist and children’s literacy expert

Last year I was fortunate enough to experience first-hand the art and magic of British book artist and children’s literacy expert Paul Johnson, as part of the Designer Bookbinders autumn series of lectures at the St Bride Foundation in London.

In her interesting blog about making books with children, www.bookmakingwithkids.com, Cathy Miranker said:

“Johnson’s specialty is doing exceptional things with single sheets of paper, and he uses his magic in two ways, teaching book arts to school children (and training teachers to use bookmaking in their classrooms) and making many-layered pop-up paper constructions.

“His show-and-tell session was electrifying, the most inspiring talk I’ve heard. The audience applauded and applauded—they just couldn’t stop. There was a lot of hugging, too, as if people hoped to catch some spark of his.

 

 

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“Paul himself is modest, low-key, soft-spoken, undemonstrative. Except that as he talked, something extraordinary began to happen: a quiet passion seemed to take possession of him and spill over into the audience, too.

“I was completely carried away by the story of how he discovered paper—he said he didn’t notice it until he was 45, and then he couldn’t help but change his life—his endless fascination with the possibilities in a single sheet of paper (“I didn’t add anything, I didn’t take anything away, but look what it turned into! I think this must be Zen.”), his work habits, his love affair with color, his belief in book arts as a compelling path to literacy for children.”

 

 

Paul Johnson has an international reputation for his pioneering work in developing literacy and visual communication skills through the book arts. He is author of over fifteen titles including A Book of One’s Own, Literacy Through the Book Arts and Pictures and Words Together (all published by Heinemann,USA.)  Recent teaching tours include Sweden, South Korea and Thailand and he regularly teaches in the USA.

 

Innovative educator and successful book artist, the work of Dr Johnson can be found in the collections of the Tate Gallery, London, the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York, the National Gallery, the Library of Congress, Washington DC, and many US universities including UCLA, Berkeley, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Yale and Harvard. His work was selected for the Stand and Deliver USA touring exhibition of pop-up editioned books, as well as the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild’s, The Art of the Book touring exhibition  for which he also received the guild’s Book Art Colophon Award. He is on the UK Craft Council’s select list of British designer-makers.

 

 

 

Johnson studied at Norwich School of Art and Rabindranath Tagore’s University of Santiniketan in India. When he was and art educator at the Manchester Metropolitan University in the late 1980s Paul Johnson inaugurated The Book Art Project, the main focus of which was to teach writing to children through the book form. Since then he has made books with over 200,000 children and over 25,000 teachers worldwide.

Paul Johnson says, ‘It was seeing the sculptural bindings of Phillip Smith over thirty years ago that inspired me to look beyond the book as something to read.’

pauljohnson_05In the Designer Bookbinders autumn series of lectures presentation, Paul Johnson shared his life experiences as book artist and teacher. It was simply delightful “eye candy” to see several of his unique carousel pop-up books: first in the flat-pack state, then assembled into the 3D form. An added joy was hearing how these books inform the pop-up books that children – some as young as four years of age – make in his workshops.

pauljohnson_06More information

 

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InsideOUT: Exhibition of contemporary bindings of private press books

The Designer Bookbinders stunning and ambitious InsideOUT project celebrates the art and craft of contemporary bookbinding and private press printing.

The project is a collaboration between thirty-four binders based in the United Kingdom and twenty-five based in North America and ran from 15 May to 22 August 2014 in the Layton Room Gallery at St Bride Foundation, Bride Lane, off Fleet Street, London EC4Y 8EQ, before continuing to the United States.

More than beautifully bound books, the exhibition shows the heights this art form can attain: these are finely crafted three-dimensional objects that are gorgeous to behold!

Seeing this exhibition was so awe-inspiring, especially for someone like me, who is just beginning their journey of discovery in the world of fine-bindings. I can only gasp in amazement at the finely crafted designs and hope to one day achieve something vaguely close in conception.

If you missed the exhibition in the UK, it continues in the USA (details below). I now look forward to the upcoming Designer Bookbinders lecture: Paul Johnson – Movable Book Artist and Teacher at St Bride’s on Tuesday 28 October 2014, 7.00pm.

USA Tour
Houghton Library
, Harvard, MA 11 September – 13 December 2014
Minnesota Center for Book Arts, Minneapolis 10 January – 28 March 2015
Bonhams, New York 10-19 April 2015
San Francisco Center for the Book, California 6 June – 5 July 2015


Participating Private Presses
Arion Press (USA), Barbarian Press (Canada), Incline Press (UK), The Lone Oak Press (USA), Midnight Paper Sales (USA), Old School Press (UK), Old Stile Press (UK), Shanty Bay Press (Canada), The Whittington Press (UK).

A fully illustrated catalogue of all the bindings will be available at the exhibition venues and may also be purchased from the DB Online Shop.