Using any subject you're curious about, learn how to research, investigate and find material to make your own handmade commonplace book.

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Learn how to make a handmade commonplace book on any subject you like.

Creativity comes from curiosity. Do you feel the drive to push your art practice beyond the subjects you already know? Try making a commonplace book in this weeklong, hands-on workshop!

In this course, students will make a handmade commonplace book in response to a subject they’re curious about. 

A commonplace book is a journal/scrapbook that documents research and discovery into a specific topic. Since the renaissance, many writers, scientists, and artists have kept commonplace books. It gives the keeper a chance to document their journey of discovery and curiosity.

An interesting commonplace book showcasing a collection of different sand types and description of each.
An interesting commonplace book showcasing a collection of different sand types and a description of each. By Barbara Bosworth.

The course will include instructions on how to research, investigate, and find material on whatever topic is chosen. All along, students will gather objects, images, and texts about their subject to assemble into a handmade commonplace book. Students will learn how to assemble their found material into a compelling visual narrative that tells the journey of their discovery. A commonplace book can be an art object in itself or the beginning of a larger project.

The way the clouds move through the sky, a place that you love, or a color you’re passionate about… A commonplace book can be made about any topic if you want to dig in.

Learn how to research, investigate, and find material on your chosen topic and how to bring it all together to create a compelling visual narrative. Books by Barbara Bosworth.

Meet your instructors

Barbara Bosworth & Emily Sheffer portraitYour instructors Barbara Bosworth and Emily Sheffer have worked together for the past decade. During that time, they collaborated on many projects, including several handmade photography books through the publishing imprint, Dust Collective. These titles include, From Where the Sun Now Stands (2020), Light of the Eclipse (2019), and Tide and Air (2019). These titles feature photography by Barbara Bosworth and book design and production by Emily Sheffer.

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Instructor: Barbara Bosworth

Barbara Bosworth grew up in Novelty, Ohio, and along the shores of Lake Erie. She currently lives in Massachusetts, where she is a professor emeritus of photography at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston. Bosworth’s work has been widely exhibited, notably in retrospectives at the Denver Art Museum in Colorado, Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., and the Phoenix Art Museum in Arizona. Her publications include The Heavens (Radius Books, 2018), The Meadow (Radius Books, 2015), Natural Histories(Radius Books, 2013), and Trees: National Champions (MIT Press; Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, 2005).

Instructor: Emily Sheffer

Emily Sheffer is a fine art photographer and book artist. In 2017, she founded Dust Collective, a handmade photography book collective, and has since published over a dozen titles. She earned her BFA in Photography with Departmental Honors from The Massachusetts College of Art and Design in May 2015. After graduation, Emily was listed as a 2015 LensCulture Top 50 Emerging Photographer. In 2019, Maine Media Workshops invited Emily to be their book artist-in-residence. She currently works as a studio director in New England. Emily graduated in 2022 from The University of Hartford Photography MFA program, where she was awarded the Merit Scholarship.