On December 14th, it was a packed house at the Open Book building in Minneapolis as the Minnesota Center for Book Arts celebrated the release of the 25th edition of the annual Winter Book. As part of a special partnership with publisher Milkweed Editions, the 2013 Winter Book was entitled Minidewak and reproduced four selected readings from Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass in a limited edition, handmade artist’s book.
A botanist and professor of plant ecology, Robin Wall Kimmerer has spent a career learning how to ask questions of nature using the tools of science. As a Potawatomi woman, she learned from elders, family, and history that the Potawatomi consider plants and animals to be our oldest teachers.
Little Laos on the Prairie editor Bryan Thao Worra was in surprise attendance. Five years ago, he was the principal author of the 20th edition of the Winter Book entitled Winter Ink.
Thao Worra said “Back in 2008, three editions of Winter Ink were produced, each letterpress printed by award-winning master printer Paulette Myers-Rich with assistance of numerous artists, interns and volunteers.” The Chapbook edition sold for $30, the Standard edition sold for $150, and the Deluxe edition sold for $475, Thao Worra noted.
He added “It’s a great honor to be a part of this process. Saymoukda Vongsay’s writing was included in the 2012 Winter Book, entitled Lessons for Our Time. In that edition, she was included among literary luminaries such as Nobel Prize winner Tomas Transtromer, the work of Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson and Joy Harjo.”
Since 1988, the Winter Book has been considered the embodiment of the Minnesota Center for Book Arts’ artistic vision: to preserve and promote the traditional crafts of bookmaking as well as the contemporary exploration of the book as art. The tremendous artistry, superb materials and craftsmanship of each Winter Book makes it an avidly collected series, with many now found in museums and rare book collections in libraries around the world.
Thao Worra reflected on the five years that have passed. “When I composed the poems for Winter Ink, I pondered the significance of words in the world, and how much we can change with even an inch of ink, no matter where we were. It was a delight watching Robin Wall Kimmerer share her voice with the audience this weekend, and I hope everyone gets a chance to appreciate her words for many more generations to come.”
“There is something deeply powerful in the hand-crafted approach to creating books, one that I hope none of us ever lose sight of. As I often tell my students, we must all see that books are more than just ink upon a page, but souls talking to souls, each infinite in potential.”
The Minnesota Center for Book Arts is the largest and most comprehensive center of its kind. Its members recognize the book as a vibrant contemporary art form that takes many shapes. From the traditional crafts of papermaking, letterpress printing and bookbinding to new methods of art-making and communication, the Minnesota Center for Book Arts has supported the limitless creative development of book arts. You can visit them online at http://www.mnbookarts.org
~by Ketmani Kouanchao, Ed.D.