Monday, September 10, 2018

Literary Niches Class at Shake Rag Alley

Rediscovery God by Gary Warren Niebuhr

Shake Rag Alley, Mineral Point, WI, September, 2018

The goal of the workshop is that each student will work on two to three altered book projects.  The first step is to carve a niche into each book using a variety of techniques.  Then each book will be altered using various mixed media practises.  Along the way, there will be sharing of the history of assemblage and book making as well as the study of visual literacy and its effect on creating a theme for each project.  At the end of the workshop, each student should have an altered book(s) with a strong emotional message or thematic content to cherish. 

The above statement is the original proposal I offered to Shake Rag Alley for their 2018 season.  It was accepted and this class became the first time I have ever taught a multi-day art workshop where the students actually paid me to be brilliant.


So the first thing that had to happen is I had to decide the supply list that the students would have to bring.  I made a decision that nobody would have to bring anything to be a success.  That meant the south side of the Lind Pavilion at Shake Rag started out like this

...and ended up chock full of goodies and tools.

As the weekend went on I believe my popularity as an instructor was overwhelmed by the appreciation for my pickin' skills.  

Friday night I offered to make a presentation called Nailing Crap Together and Calling It Art: the History of Assemblage.  That meant the north side of the Lind Pavilion had to be set up for the presentation.

I was kind of afraid that this is how it would also look when I actually gave the presentation.

This event was for the class as an optional thing but to my surprise all 11 students showed up, as did 20 members of the public. You might say it was a sellout as we ran out of chairs.

After I was done being windy or brilliant, we had a panel of Mineral Point assemblage artist come up and be interviewed by me.  They were Dee Hooks from DeeConstruct Gallery, Tom Kelly from Longbranch Gallery and Lorraine Reynolds from her Glimmering Prize Gallery and Studio.  As you can see, each panelist was thrilled to do this for the crowd.

Here are the class samples for what we were going to try to achieve.

The first project for the weekend was to take a book I had prepared with holes so that we did not have to spend the first morning boring.  Yes, I did not want the class to be boring (someone had to say it first!).

We worked on one, two or three books with a variety of methods, textures and tools from 9:00 a.m. to 1:30 a.m on Saturday.  Yes, that was not the actual scheduled time of the workshop.  Yes, some people were up to 1:30 a.m. working on their books.  On Sunday the workshop ran from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. whereupon we had a book discussion.  The group sat around in a circle and discussed each other's work.

Let's walk around the workshop and see how they did. (Please remember that some of these books were "complete", some were in parts, some got painted, some did not).

Carolyn Abramofsky

Marjorie caught in the act with a Carolyn profile

Marcia Hero

Kathy Steffen

Kathy and Sara so busy

Sara Rath

Pam Rogalski

Katherine Engen (photos by Katherine)

Karen Robison

Lynn Ovenden

Kelley Clarke

Cris hard at work

Cris Smith (photos by Cris)

I am very pleased with the results that the attendees were able to achieve in spite of me being the teacher.  I think I might be the kind of teacher who enables and it appears that all 11 of these book alter-ers were able to accomplish something in the two days. 

I want to thank all the participants for signing up, showing up and playing the game.  You were great.

I want to thank Dee, Tom and Lorraine for being a part of the Friday night art fry.

I would also like to thank Shake Rag Alley for the opportunity to teach an art workshop.  I can now check that off my bucket list.


  1. The student's results are AMAZING

  2. Thank you Gary for making this experience fun and successful for all of us. You free flea market was sensational.