Jackie Radford – Book Artist

GA: So Jackie- what is a book artist?
Jackie: That’s an excellent question. A painter uses paint and a potter uses clay; I use books as my medium. I am a book binder, so I do make books by hand. And I also make books that have an unusual structure such as a flap book or an accordion-fold book. The content of the book will usually drive the choice of structure. As a book artist, I create books that are unusual, as well. Some of my Sculptural Bookwork teeters on the edge of even being considered a book. But, the work of a book artist is to think about books in inventive ways.

GA: How did you get started doing this?
Jackie: I have had a passion for books since I was a young girl. My nose would always be found shoved in the pages of “Green Eyes”, “The Bobsey Twins” or “Black Beauty”. I have remained an avid reader my entire life and I was stunned to discover that I could actually learn how to make my very own books! I attended every class or workshop I could find which culminated in my study at Penland School of Craft. I enjoy a variety of binding styles, but I must say that long stitch binding remains my favorite. When I teach classes on book binding, I am able to modify any binding style to be attainable by even beginner students.

GA: Some of your books have lots of blank pages, but also pages of poetry, maps, etc…
Jackie: Most of the books that I make are leather journals. I use a beautiful Mohawk 70 lb. text weight paper for the blank pages of the journals. But, I find that, much like a blank canvas, a blank journal is a bit intimidating. So, I like to use a lot of ephemera in my journals to help people connect with and begin to interact with the journal. I am often found lurking in the used book section of our local Habitat for Humanity Re-Store looking for interesting books or maps. I have used pages from old school plays, vintage maps and dictionaries in my journals. As you turn the pages of my journals, you will always find a nice, little surprise tucked in amongst the blank pages.

GA: Do you use a machine to make your books?
Jackie: Do I use a machine? Absolutely not! Every part of my books is conceptualized, designed and created by my hands. I cut the leather, tear down the pages and sew each and every book. Recently, I’ve decided to part with my substantial collection of vintage jewelry. So, I have begun using the vintage jewelry pieces as part of the closure on the journals.

GA: Tell us about your sculptures..
Jackie: My current body of work is in Sculptural Bookwork. In fact, my work was just accepted into the American Craft Council Juried Show, one of the premiere institutions for fine craft. My sculptural pieces encourage people to think about books in a different way. Much like painting had to change when photography was invented and radio had to change when television was invented, books are changing as the e-reader was invented. Now, we still have painting and radio and we will always have books. But, book artists are thinking about books in new ways in light of the e-reader. What is the purpose of a book? Does a book have to have a cover or pages? Does a book have to have content? These questions are being asked by book artists and being answered in their work. My sculptural books aren’t square or rectangular, they are round and the pages are trimmed into swirls and spirals. The book is elevated as a concept and as purely an object of beauty in my work.

GA: Do you make custom books?
Jackie: Absolutely. I love doing a custom book for a customer. Often times, a client will come to me with an idea about having a book made for a special occasion or a client might want a journal with certain pages or in a certain leather. I enjoy learning about the client, about the things they like, their hobbies and families. This knowledge helps me find papers and images to include in their book that accurately reflect who they are as a person. I have been commissioned to make custom guest books for weddings, baby books and many, many as gifts for Christmas and Birthdays.

GA: What is the most interesting or unusual book or journal you have been asked to make?
Jackie: Well, the sweetest book I created was for a gentleman’s 70th birthday. His daughter asked 70 of her father’s friends and family to write a letter to her Dad. I took those letters and bound them into a leather book. For another commission, I did have to get really sneaky. A client wanted a book for her boyfriend’s 50th birthday. She helped me get photos of all his favorite places from his Instagram account.

GA: Are you a Gaston County girl?
Jackie: I’ve lived in Gastonia for 20 years and my second son was born at Gaston Memorial Hospital. Both of my sons have attended school here in Gastonia and my husband is a Nephrologist at Metrolina Nephrology Assoc. We have a wonderful history in Gastonia and consider this town our home.

GA: Where can folks check out or purchase your work?
Jackie: My journals can be found right here in Gastonia at The Hive on Main Ave. in Downtown Gastonia, right next to The Sleepy Poet. My work can also be found at Ciel Gallery in Charlotte, K.D. Morris Gallery in Holden Beach and at Trashed Studios in Concord.

704-813-6714 jradford.com facebook.com/JRadfordArt instagram.com/jackie_radford