Meet “Colum Alum”: Heather Bella

Meet “Colum Alum”: Heather Bella

Heather Bella

Heather Bella

In last week’s post I spoke about taking a bookbinding workshop at North Branch Projects with Heather Bella. While taking the class, I learned that Heather is an alumni of Columbia College Chicago. I asked her a few questions about her time at Columbia and what she’s been up to since she graduated…When did you attend Columbia, and in which department did you receive your MFA?

I began at Columbia in 2007, originally as an MA candidate (when it was still a 2 year program) in Interdisciplinary Arts.  In 2008, I transferred to the Interdisciplinary Book & Paper Arts (3 year) MFA program.  I graduated with my MFA in 2010.

I know that you teach bookbinding workshops all over the city. In what classrooms can folks find you in the next few weeks/months?

As you know, I recently completed a short Intro to Bookbinding class at North Branch Projects in Albany Park. I might be teaching more there in the future, but nothing is scheduled yet.

I am presently teaching a 5-week First-time Bookmaking class at Lillstreet Art Center in Ravenswood.  I have two upcoming (one-day) Coptic Sketchbook workshops at Lillstreet on Saturday, May 4th (still open for registration).  And there will be a 5-week Friday night Artists’ Books class at Lillstreet  beginning May 10th (registration is still open for this course, as well).

Beginning April 30th, I have a Bookbinding 101 class Tuesday nights at Werkspace.  I also have two Longstitch workshops and an Artists’ Books class there in May/June, as well.

In July/August, I will have the pleasure of assisting a Papermaking class at the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina for a 3-week course in 3 dimensional handmade paper sculpture.

What is your favorite thing about teaching?

I enjoy helping other people learn, develop skills, and create work of their own.  I have found that I have a knack for facilitating a student’s creativity and assisting them as they explore art and craft as a means of self-expression.  Seeing a student smile as they figure out a new technique or delight in something they have made with their own two hands is pure joy to me. Teaching is also a learning experience in and of itself.  I find that the more I teach, the more I learn.   I never want to stop learning.

Heather Bella

Heather Bella folding paper

What project are you working on right now that you are excited about?

I am in the midst of a longterm project of creating my own Herbal, similar in style to the more archaic Materia Medica, but with contemporary herbal and medicinal data, based on plants of the Midwest United States.  Presently, most of my time on this project is being spent in the study of Botany, Western Herbalism, and Medieval (primarily 12th century) book structures.

I am also working with prototypes for a three-dimensional handmade paper project exploring (and magnifying) the minutiae of Botanical structures of some of my favorite herbs (such as lavender), using primarily kozo and overbeaten abaca fibers. I don’t get as much of an opportunity to work with hand papermaking as I do bookbinding, especially in the wintertime.  I prefer to make paper in the out-of-doors due to the wet and messy nature of working with pulp, so I am looking forward to warmer weather to continue development of this project.

To see some of Heather’s work visit her website or her Etsy page.