Handmade Path

Special Edition includes clamshell box

Handmade Path Press Release

Amanda Degener, hand papermaker and artist in Minneapolis USA and Lu Jingren, world renown book designer in Beijing China received grant money for programing in 2017 from Metropolitan Regional Arts Council to raise awareness of and interest in the fine craft of hand papermaking and book design. The ensuing lecture and workshop at Minnesota Center for Book Arts was also supported by the local chapter of AIGA.

Amanda Degener met Lu Jingren at Tsinghua University in Beijing where Degener set up a paper studio and has been occasionally teaching. This was Lu Jingren’s first visit to the United States, during his stay they explored the idea of making a book together.

Their idea was to invite people they knew to answer the same six questions using their handwriting, because it connects the hand the mind and the heart in an intimate way. There are thousands of talented international book artists, but they choose to invite paper/book artists whose paths they had intersected with. The questions included: How did you begin your practice? Why do you still make paper/books? What is the difference between reading on a digital device or in a book? In what way do you understand the five senses of paper/book: vision, touch, hearing, smelling, and tasting? Share with us some moments, either breakthroughs or break downs in your work? What is your next dream project?

If you are bilingual it is possible to read all of letters however for better access sections of the letters were translated. These artists have a lot to share, their wisdom is worthy of the beauty of this book. Tensions between China and the United States seem to be rising. The camaraderie and the timing of this publication are essential. Handmade Path shows individuals different perspectives and their universality, reaching beyond borders to improve China/US relations.

Fifty-seven of the one hundred invited artists responded with handwritten letters, images of their work, images of their hands working, and their portraits. Their letters came from Korea, Canada, Taiwan, France, Japan, Norway, but mostly the collaborators had crossed paths with artists in the United States and China. Production in China would have been more cost effective, but all production was done in Minneapolis, USA. Campbell Logan Bindery did the binding and clamshells with handmade paper by Amanda Degener, Jack Mader photographed the letters, Imageworks did the HMP scans, and Bolger the printing.

Degener met dik Bolger during her three years of being the first artist in residence then later, artistic director at Minnesota Center for Book Arts. Degener writes; “I had always wanted to do a project that would require a printing at Bolger.” Handmade Path won three awards at 2023 The Printing Industry of the Midwest including Best of category, People’s Choice and Best of Show. Meetings at Bolger taught Degener the limitations and benefits of offset printing. She learned which papers were too thin to run through their presses and the book structure was created after she saw the potential of their folding machines. Degener said “It has been my practice to make everything with my own two hands but with Bolger’s folding machines it would be possible to machine fold 77 flaps in each of the 350 books.” The more modern machine printing and folding is combined with traditional hand-crafted elements.

All books have handmade flax end sheets dyed with several layers of indigo and walnut with gelatin sizing. Custom alphabet paper is made for the all the book covers by printing then recycling the Chinese character for Dao and English text from Tibetan Book of the Dead. The letterpress printed image for the cover is taken from original calligraphy of ancient Chinese characters communicating a hand growing out of a heart by Lu Jingren. We invite you to bring your own heart towards a beyond that is right here inside this book.

Artist Bios

Amanda Degener, a leading figure in the field of hand papermaking and paper arts, educates through writing, publishing, and traveling to teach and exhibit her work in the United States and in places such as Japan, Italy, Sweden, Canada, Australia, Korea, and Taiwan/China. Traditional Chinese Medicine and Tai Chi are themes in Degener’s large scale sculpture and unique colleges. Degener was the first artist-in-residence at Minnesota Center for Book Arts (1984-1987) and later the first Artistic Director (1997-1998).

Lu Jingren lived through the Cultural Revolution working in rural China and felt his real life did not begin until 40 when he was able to design books. Thirty years ago, he spent three years studying with the renowned professor Kohei Sugiura of Kobe Design University of Japan. This master led him to understand that by fulfilling his work to make visual information on pages go alive, page turning becomes vivid, you can touch the emotion of the reader, and transfer creativity to others. Lu Jingren embodies the concept of creative design; he has an in-depth grasp of whole visual information and the 5-sense reading experience.

His work strives for a balance between intellectualism, tradition, and modern visual expression to achieve oriental style without drawing directly from the past, to achieve modern spirit without mimicking the West. His students are becoming leaders in the field of book design in China Lu Jingren has earned numerous book awards in Hong Kong, Germany, USA, and China. He has recently had solo shows in San Francisco and New York and museum shows in Shanghai and Beijing. He is currently designing a series on hand papermaking in all the provinces of China; this multi volume government-funded encyclopedia includes handmade paper samples.

Jingren’s Paperlogue is a book arts center with exhibition space, tearoom, classrooms and a successful store selling unusual papers.