Student Interview: Boo Gilder

Boo working in the paper studio

What were you doing before you came to the Book and Paper Arts program (what is your background)?

I have an undergraduate degree in studio art with a concentration in photography and an associates in graphic design. Struggling to find a good job in design in a terrible job market and discouraged by all the time spent with my face pressed against a computer screen, I accepted a great opportunity to do a 6-month artist residency in rural South Carolina at the Rensing Center. While there I took an introductory book arts class at Bookworks in Asheville, NC. That kicked off my interest and here I am.

Why did you choose Columbia College Chicago?

Book and Paper is a niche program. There are only a few graduate level ones in the nation, but Columbia ultimately had the combination of concept and craft I was looking for. It wasn’t until after I arrived that I realized how connected to the New Media side of the Interdisciplinary Arts department we are, and it’s turned out to be a pleasant surprise. The two ends of the spectrum, new and old technology, makes for a special exchange of ideas and information.

Alabama Dirt Paper made by Boo

What was it like to enter the program without previous experience in the specific areas of book, paper, and print?

Exciting, scary. I knew I would not be the only one which was comforting. Most of us had little or no experience in at least one of the three studios: book binding, letterpress printing, and papermaking. The instructors are enthusiastic and generous with information and technical support. My classmates, regardless of previous experience, are constantly experimenting and testing the boundaries of the mediums and this makes for a supportive and dynamic atmosphere.

You’ve worked on some really great projects – making paper for E. Chagoya, working on the edition for Yanomami artist Sheroanawe Hakihiiwe – is there one outside-of-class experience that really stands out to you?

Working with Shero was a great hands-on experience. He was such a different and exciting presence to have in the studio. Learning about his story and his culture was special and fascinating. You get into your own routine in the studio and it is nice to have someone come in and remind you that its a big and varied world out there. On top of all that we got a lesson on producing a professional edition of paper.

The Chagoya project was a completely different animal. I was charged with making handmade paper for his print edition to be produced at Anchor Graphics. The goal was to use the texture of amate, a handmade bark paper from Mexico, as inspiration. They needed 70 22×25 of relatively uniform sheet–that is no small task using the techniques I was using. There was a lot of trial and error, and I learned a whole heap of stuff along the way.

Stamped Bullet Case Print also by Boo

What do you like most about the program?

Geez. Besides the fact that I have access to awesome studios, smart, supportive people, and I get to make stuff all the time, I would have to say its the all people I have met. My classmates especially constantly delight and impress me, and we have a great time. It’s also wonderful to have my brain constantly engaged and stimulated.

What are some challenges you’ve faced over the past one and a half years?

The move to Chicago has had its ups and downs. Moving to Bridgeport helped as I am closer to school and have an outdoor space. The first semester was certainly overwhelming. It just takes a moment to find your footing. It’s also hard to keep a positive attitude in February when you are sick of short days and a gazillion layers of clothes. But you take some vitamin D, join your friends at the pub, and power through.