Karen Hanmer Studio Visit

Mirage by Karen Hanmer

It’s always interesting to visit someone’s studio. You get to see how they work and organize and make their workspace operate. Karen Hanmer is a book artist who lives in a suburb outside of Chicago. Last week, a bunch of us Book and Paper folk hopped in a couple cars and drove north to see Karen’s place.

As soon as we walked in, I was struck with major studio envy. Attached to the back of her home by a hallway is a huge one room studio with flat files, large tables, printers, nipping presses — goodies galore to sum it up. It is open and full of windows. Even on the cloudy day of our visit you could tell how wonderful it would be when the sun was shining. That was just the space. Then then there was the work. Laid out on her tables were artist books upon artist books upon artist books. They were beautiful.

Flip Farm by Karen Hanmer

She is one of those book artists who really has the craft and art thing down. Her books are beyond meticulously made, incredibly careful. And their content in interesting, sad sometimes, and funny too. In addition to completed works, she showed us mockups she had made for a certain project. For one book, she had made something like six mockups. “The patience!” I thought.

Ann Black by Karen Hanmer

Seeing someone who works in such a technically advanced way was really inspiring. After we left Karen’s studio, all I wanted to do was hunker down in the studio and make stuff — slowly and methodically and perfectly. I think as anyone progresses in any field, there are moments when you think that you’ve got a pretty good handle on things — and you probably have — but it is always good to see someone who is reaching a different sort of level of competency and finesse. You remember that you can always work harder and always be better.