Last week, our enthusiastic guests helped us turn the cranks of the Vandercook as they saw the magic of type transfer ink to paper. They pulled needle and thread to artfully bind pages into a book. And they watched light-exposed images slowly emerge from coated photographic emulsions on fine paper.

The standing-room-only Grand Opening event celebrated the completion of our latest and exciting addition--a new Book Arts & Alternative Process Photography Studio-which officially opened on June 12, 2014. Festivities kicked off with an open studio, where our faculty, staff, and guest artists invited people to try their hand at a range of historic processes in book arts and photography, while others mixed and mingled on the gorgeous new deck that will soon serve as outdoor teaching space. 

"The open house turnout was fantastic! Everyone clearly loved the hands-on demonstrations," said book artist Anastasia S. Weigle, whose work is currently on exhibit at MMW+C's gallery in Rockport. "The highlight for me was letting a child help me sew. We chatted about creating books, and I could see the romantic appeal of bookbinding in her eyes!"

Following the demonstrations, a full house gathered to listen to Mark Dimunation, Chief of Rare Books and Special Collections at the Library of Congress. Mark captivated our guests with a keynote presentation on the history and future of book arts, discussing how this art form continues to evolve as a dynamic venue for many kinds of storytellers. 

"Mark's talk was a wonderful insight to a world of books that most people are not exposed to," said Liv Rockefeller, publisher of Two Ponds Press and member of MMW+C's Board of Directors. "We could see how books can become expressions for a host of ideas and emotions. The event sets a high bar to begin this bold new adventure for Maine Media Workshops."

The new studio has given us the opportunity to greatly expand our creative offerings. A student who takes a photo with an iPhone can use a specialized printer to create a digital negative, develop the image using hands-on historic techniques, overlay old letterpress onto the final image, and then bind multiple prints into a handcrafted book. "It's a perfect marriage of old and new," says MMW+C President Meg Weston. "Our school's mission is to educate and inspire visual artists and storytellers, and this new studio will house the tools and talent to bring our students' creative vision to life."

"The studio was built with students in mind," explained Brenton Hamilton, MMW+C faculty member and resident expert in historic and alternative photographic processes. "It is a bright, well-equipped working laboratory that will remove limitations for artists to be able to collaborate between disciplines and create new kinds of work in a stunning and well-designed space. These new studios will add so much to our thriving community."

The book arts side of the studio is complete with an amazing array of traditional equipment including two Vandercook proofing presses, multiple book presses, a photopolymer plate maker, composing stone and base, stamping press, bookbinding sewing frame and much more. The adjacent alternative process photography studio embraces the resurging interest in 19th Century photographic techniques including tintype, collodion, gum bichromate and calotype.  

"I know of no other place in the world where the creative potential of using these historic processes to combine words and images exist in such close proximity," exclaimed Charles Altschul, whose vision for a book arts program at MMW+C began seven years ago, when he served as the organization's president. "I am so looking forward to seeing what wonders begin to emerge from the Haas basement. I expect that many an unsuspecting workshopper will walk up the hill, poke his or her head in the door and emerge a budding book artist."

Charles generously donated the beautiful book arts equipment you'll find in the new studio, and he'll also be teaching several of our new courses this summer and fall. "In a world where so many of us communicate, learn, work and even play in front of a screen for much of the day, people crave experiences that allow us to use all of our senses in our creative endeavors," explained Charles. "Maine Media is perfectly positioned to capitalize on this phenomenon. As digital devices become evermore ubiquitous, Maine Media can offer a haven where we still include the digital-but not by sacrificing the rich history from which it flourished."

Be sure to check out our gorgeous redesigned website to see all the new book arts, design, and alternative process courses being offered this year. We know you are going to love experimenting and creating in this very special space!