Life as a Graduate of Book Arts Collaborative


By: Lexi Wheeler

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It’s been a year and a half since I graduated from Ball State University and Book Arts Collaborative. My senior year was by far the busiest, but it was absolutely worth building in 6 credit hours of BAC each semester. Here’s some of the gems I gained in the process.



Yes, it’s in the name.

But, really though. Collaboration is the glue of this program. Acid-free, archival quality glue. We learned how to letterpress print on who-knows-how-many-presses-Kim-actually-owns. That only happened because of our relationship with Tribune Showprint. That only happened because everyone consistently asked questions and promptly paid their information forward to other students. That only happened because we collaborated.

We bound over 50 copies of Karl Alrichs’ book in a matter of a couple months. Everyone took turns setting type for the pages, tirelessly proofreading, and neatly sewing the signatures together. Every book was in at least twelve pairs of hands. That only happened because we collaborated. 

As a graphic designer at an architecture firm, everything we do is based highly on collaboration. We often work with school districts. Every party—students, teachers, parents, superintendents, contractors, builders, and us—has to come together to design a school much better and more suiting than what any single one of us could have imagined. The spirit of collaboration that defines Book Arts Collaborative has carried me smoothly into my 9-5 life.



Physical, hands-on, kinda dirty stuff.

The nitty gritty, the oily, the I just definitely sacrificed this pair of pants to the neon blue ink.

We scrubbed, de-rusted, cleaned, oiled, mopped, and organized on the regular. And there was nothing mundane about it. There is something special about being covered in dirt.

In an increasingly technologically advancing world, it is easy for many jobs to be transitioned into computer-based positions. While this is more efficient, it often leaves employees less fulfilled.  

I have placed a great importance on incorporating hands-on tasks in my regular routine. I take all notes by hand and sketch every concept on paper. I have every tablet-related item available to me, but I only use them later in the process. I visit job sites when possible. I want to see the process—the change that is being implemented through hard work. And, as a medium-sized firm and winter upon us soon, you can bet we will all take turns shoveling our own sidewalks. Because we take pride in our space and physically caring for it.




Those people who band together and make things happen. 

Book Arts Collaborative offered me a group of fellow students from many different majors, interactions with people from all over the country who were involved in the letterpress and books arts community, and most importantly, a much-needed connection with the community of Muncie through Arts Walk, festivals, and workshops.

I left BAC craving this connection to my community--this thing that made Muncie home--and I needed to bring it back to Cincinnati with me when I returned.

I found a local Art and Cultural Center just over the river from Cincinnati and proposed teaching several bookbinding courses there over various binding styles. I taught all ages and made important connections that integrated me into the city--including new friends that I see on the regular still!

Book Arts Collaborative was the best year of my 4 at Ball State. I am incredibly thankful for the exposure to community and directly impactful work. I can’t wait to keep returning to visit this inspiring place throughout the years.

This piece was written by an alumnae of Ball State University and the Book Arts Collaborative in Muncie, Indiana. The Book Arts Collaborative is dedicated to preserving and promoting the apprentice-taught skills of letterpress printing and book binding through community interaction. It's not just what we make that matters, but how we learn from one another to make it happen.