The Impact of Tribune Showprint: An Interview with Kim Miller
By: Aaron Stephens
If you enter Book Arts Collaborative or Tribune Showprint on a workshop or first Thursday, you are bound to find one of the many types of books sewn by students in the Collaborative. What you see is wonderful: books with different covers, spines, sewing styles, and sizes, but what impresses you the most is the variety in some of the books. Some words are sewn on the spine; some have printing mixed with binding; some are even oddly shaped or sized, but sewn like the rest. This is what makes Book Arts Collaborative shine. It is run by a class full of students whose creativity and imagination has no end, something you can’t find at a retail store where books were made by machines.
Though Book Arts Collaborative is essentially a class, this does not hinder it from being an innovative community project that builds on creativity and business skills. I had the privilege of talking to Kim Miller, one of the owners of Tribune Showprint, and she shared some of her thoughts on the Collaborative and why she lets students use such antique and irreplaceable equipment.
When asked why, Kim told me they already had all the presses seen in the class, but they weren’t being used. She said the dream they had was to see a community project spring out of Tribune, and an immersive-learning class was what fit the bill. This meant students not only got to use the presses and learn about the history of books, but they also acquired the fine details of what it really means to run a business.
I also asked if she has ever run into any problems letting college students operate such expensive equipment, and if any made her rethink the Collaborative. She says that the only issues have been minor, and they’re things everyone struggles with on a daily basis. Things aren’t put away properly; stuff isn’t organized; materials may not be properly stored or cleaned; nothing exclusive to college students. She said that, overall, there has been more good than bad, and getting to see college students enjoying binding and printing is enough for her.
I then asked if students stay involved after finishing the class, and how Tribune has benefited in a business sense. She said the Ball State alumni are great with staying connected to both Book Arts and Tribune; they stay connected online and in shop. Some come in on first thursdays to see how the place is running, some return to lead workshops, and a few return to print “Thank You” cards, posters, etc. from time to time. In terms of business, Tribune has seen good growth in recognition, and some thanks goes to students who have informed friends, family, and coworkers about what goes on at Book Arts Collaborative.
Finally, I asked if she has seen students warming to the idea of mixing printing and binding, and what she has seen in terms of creativity. She said in the first month of the semester, most students are intimidated by the sheer amount of things to learn, but as time goes on, many either get a grip of both or find their place in either printing or binding. The types of books created display the imagination of students as well. One book in particular has a calendar date on each page instead of everything being blank.
From my experience, I can agree with Kim on the fact that it is an intimidating class. I expected to come into a college class, and I got this immersive experience unlike any other, and I find myself not only printing and binding, but cleaning the shop, keeping track of materials, and pricing the things I make. Personally, I have been nervous in moving to printing, and that is typical as binding does not involve as much moving around, instead I can sit and sew in one spot. I am also less intimidated by binding as I am not using the rare equipment I would use for printing. As I have progressed in the class though, I have been working my mind into quality over quantity, a theme for the second half of the semester, and I am currently working on mixing two types of binding to create something entirely new to me.
In summary, the immersive-learning at Book Arts Collaborative can seem intimidating at first, and you can become comfortable to one thing throughout the semester, but once you take that first step into mixing printing and binding, you may be surprised by what you create in the class.
This piece was written by a Ball State University student and member of 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.