FOCUS ON BOOK ARTS is
A History of the Focus on Book Arts (FOBA) conference
FOBA was launched as the Focus Conference under the Oregon Book Arts Guild (the Guild) in 1993. According to the Guild bylaws, “the purpose of the Oregon Book Arts Guild is to increase public interest in and awareness of the art of bookmaking, to provide the book artist with the companionship and consultation of fellow artists and to educate both members and the public about the various crafts used in the making of books.” These crafts used in making the book include bookbinding, printing, decorating papers, paper making, book design and publishing. To fulfill the purpose the Guild met occasionally to:
- Share work and hear about special works or techniques of other artists.
- Bring in teachers to upgrade member skills.
- Publish an occasional newsletter to keep our membership informed about happenings in the book arts world.
- Organize a yearly members’ show to bring our best work to the attention of the public.
- Plan and sponsor the Oregon Book Biennial, a national, juried book show.
- Take part in various other events such as Literuption, Gathering of the Guilds and OMSI’s Renaissance Fair, mostly in a sales or demonstration capacity.
- Plan and sponsor the biennial Focus Conference, bringing together a variety of instructors for four days of classes for all levels of book makers and featuring a lecture, a trade show and a shop, attracting students from across the country.
The Guild also had the ultimate dream of establishing a Book Arts Center-but that never materialized.
Building the Guild
Founding Guild member Patricia Grass had taken book arts classes at the Oregon School of Arts and Crafts and graduated from Marylhurst College with a BFA in 1985. In the fall of 1986 she decided to organize a show. Grass typed up a flyer and sent it to art stores and all the colleges in Oregon that offered an art program and arranged to use the Streff Gallery at Marylhurst for the exhibit. Luckily and now to her utter amazement, about 30 artists submitted books. The show, called “Books, Books, Books,” got a lot of attention, so Grass decided to do it again in 1987.
At the reception for the second “Books, Books, Books” show, Grass called a meeting to gauge interest in forming a book arts guild, in part to help with the work of putting on the show. Most thought it was a great idea and so the first organizational meeting was held on March 3, 1988 at the Multnomah County Library. By April of 1988 the Guild had 30 members.
The Oregon Book Biennial
With the help of board member Earle Henniss, the Guild began a relationship with the Oregon State Library and its Center for the Book and established the Oregon Book Biennial. The Guild held three biennial shows before launching the Focus Conference. The Book Biennial and Focus Conference were held on alternate years. The Book Biennial was last hosted by the Valley Art Association in Forest Grove, OR in 2005.
The Members Show
The yearly non-juried members show was held at various libraries in the tri-county area until 2005. A grant from Catalyst Book Store established a traveling exhibit on the History of the Book. The exhibit is still available to any library or school in Oregon for display.
The Focus Conferences
Board member Debra Glanz came up with the idea behind the Focus Conference. The first conference, themed “Focus on Paper,” was held in 1993 at the Multnomah Art Center. Glanz then spearheaded 1995’s “Focus on Structure” conference, held at the Catlin Gabel School, as well as a third conference in 1997. Patricia Grass then took over chairing the committee to organize the 1999 conference at Marylhurst University and the 2001 and 2003 conferences at Lewis and Clark College. In 2005, conference chair responsibilities were passed to Laurie Weiss who arranged for the Focus conference to be held at Pacific University in Forest Grove, OR. Peg Falconer Weber assumed responsibility for the 2015 conference, then Laurie resumed as the director in 2017.
Focus on Book Arts (FOBA)
About the time of the 2005 Focus Conference, the conference team was the only group meeting associated with the Guild and the decision was made to cease future Book Biennials and close the Guild. The Conference, however, had been a big success every year, so the team decided to keep it going as an independent entity. As such, the name was changed for the 2007 conference to Focus on Book Arts
The Conference’s Scholarship Fund and supporting Raffle were launched in the late 1990s. This was designed as a way to support the OBAG goal of education. Committee members, staff and attendees donated items related to book arts (handmade books or paper, supplies, published books, etc.) to be raffled off. The money raised was used to pay part of the Conference registration fee for several attendees, the number being determined by the available funds. Many of the recipients returned as full paying attendees in the following years.
Focus on Book Arts is a 501(c)3 organization and is fully managed by an all-volunteer staff. Focus on Book Arts does not and shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion (creed), gender, gender expression, age, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or military status, in any of its activities or operations.