The Paperworks Project

In October 2011, a piece of art created by Amanda Nelsen at the Book Arts Program at Wellesley College was part of “Agents of Change: An Exhibition of Artists’ Books and Prints with a Social Conscience” at Gallery 31 at the Corcoran Gallery of Art and College of Art + Design in Washington, DC. The exhibition included books and broadsides by twelve artists, and was held in conjunction with the Master of Arts in the Art and the Book Program at the Corcoran College of Art + Design. Amanda presented a lecture about the project at the Corcoran on October 28, 2011. Paperworks was a terrific collaboration, and the exhibition of the piece in Washington has presented a lovely opportunity to revisit the project.

During the spring semester of 2010, Amanda Nelsen was an artist-in-residence in the Book Arts Program. The residency was supported by a special sustainability-oriented grant from the Class of 1957 Green Fund. Throughout the semester, Amanda worked with over one hundred members of the College community to transform paper that had been abandoned in public printers on campus into a large scale book. Signatures were sewn onto cords, and the toner on the spine of the book created patterns. The completed book was 16 feet long and over 200 lbs. and was installed in an exhibition case at the Science Library.

The goal of the Paperworks project was to heighten awareness about the use of resources on campus. The project included many partners from across campus, including members of the Studio Art and Science faculty, student environmental and religious groups, staff from Library and Technology Services, and students from many parts of the College community. Email campaigns, letterpress printed posters, articles in the Wellesley News, the Wellesley Magazine, and coverage on the local cable news channel kept the community up-to-date on the progress of the project. In addition, Amanda and I did a joint presentation about this project at the College Book Art Association Conference at Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, in January 2011. I also did a presentation about it at the Association of College and Research Libraries, New England Annual Conference, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA, in May 2011.

The making of a 200+ lb. book


Signatures (printed pages folded into the correct size) made of abandoned printouts were sewn onto cords using sewing frames in the Book Arts Lab.


The sections of the book sewn on the sewing frames were connected together.


Additional signatures were sewn over the cords connecting the sections.


The completed book, which weighed over 200 pounds, was transported from Clapp Library to the Science Library.

Katherine M. Ruffin, Book Arts Program Director

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