Last weekend, 10 students were fortunate to create their own nature journals using traditional bookbinding techniques. This MOBY class (paid for with federal funds through the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners) was free to participants.
Teacher Benares Angeley, owner of the Children's Art Lab in Mattapoisett, MA, taught students to create two kinds of books: the 3-holed pamphlet stitch and the secret room book.
Students started by making a small pamphlet stitch journal out of paper.
Then they learned the secret room book, which involves folding and cutting one piece of paper. While Benares prepared the cereal boxes students had brought for the project, students "broke in" their journals. Benares told students a great piece of advice she got from a teacher she once had: If you don't write in your newly created journal, it can become too precious and you never want to write in it. So she gave students an open-ended prompt to get them started.
I completely understand Benares' point. I had to stop buying nice journals for my day-to-day writing. I wouldn't use them because I worried the writing might not be worthy of such a journal. I now write all of my first drafts in regular old school notebooks or composition notebooks. I save the journals for when I'm traveling. I generally choose one journal per trip and include all of my notes, sketches, and ephemera from that trip.
Once students had a chance to break in their journals, Benares took them through the 3 holed pamphlet stitch again. This time they created a larger journal with a cardboard (cereal box) cover. Once students finished stitching their journals together, they were encouraged to decorate them however they chose using the variety of materials provided. They were given beads, paper scraps, markers, pencils, colored pencils, etc. Benares told them to ask if they wanted a material and didn't see it. Several students asked for fabric and within minutes, Benares reappeared with scraps of material, ribbon, and lace. I enjoyed watching how students surveyed the materials, selected what to use, and then executed their ideas. One student collaged with paper, another with yarn, and others with ribbon. One student was inspired by a sample journal and used waxed linen to stitch animal tracks on her cover.
Overall, the feedback was excellent. Several students said they want to come back to learn more advanced techniques.