Interview with CB Sherlock

CB Sherlock is a book artist, teacher, and long-time member of MCBA’s Artist Cooperative. Her work plays with book structure, often incorporating three-dimensional shapes and interactive elements. We spoke with CB about how being a part of the co-op and larger MCBA community has changed the way she approaches her art.

Interview conducted on 2/26/18 by Nina Hagen

What do you create as a book artist, and when did you begin your career?

I create fine letterpress-printed, small edition, and one-of-a-kind pieces. There are two themes that connect my work: nature-based imagery and a preference toward boxes and cubes.

I started creating my own artist books in 2003. Five years before I started creating books at MCBA, I had taken a summer to decide where I would start working. I eventually discovered MCBA and started taking classes. When I came here, I realized I’d come home.

How did you become involved with MCBA’s Artist Cooperative?

I love MCBA. I love the book arts. I believe that the community here is a generous community. They love sharing and helping and getting people to explore this genre that used to be part of other genres, but now is its own. I bring people to see work here whether it’s mine or not.

I discovered very quickly that by renting studio space, I was spending more money than a co-op membership would cost. At the time, I didn’t know anyone in the co-op; it was mainly my love of book arts, which led to my love of MCBA, that made me decide to join.

How does being a part of the co-op and the larger MCBA community inform or inspire your work?

Being part of the co-op and MCBA community has pushed me forward as an artist. Having the opportunity to exhibit, receive immediate feedback, and be inspired by artists that have been doing this longer than I have has emboldened me and my work. When you are a young artist, your emotions are caught up in what you’re creating, and when you mature, you realize you are in the artwork but you are not the artwork. There’s a separation, and you learn that viewers are responding to the work and not you.

What else inspires you as a book artist?

Going out into nature inspires me. Also, last year two other co-op members and I had a show at Augsburg College. Working together to respond to a theme pushed me to make something more cohesive for the show. I feel like it fit the theme of the show but not the other co-op members’ work until I added another piece to it. It pushed me to go in a direction that I might have taken longer to get to by myself.

What do you think is special about book and paper-based art that separates it from other art forms?

I believe book art brings people immediately into artwork that’s more layered and has a beginning, middle, and end. Before I did book arts, I believe my work was immature and undeveloped; with book arts, I realized I’d found my voice. The flexibility of the form, the layers of the form, and the techniques used in book art make it distinct.

What’s been your favorite recent show at MCBA?

The Asemic Writing exhibition from 2017. It gave me a vocabulary for something I was already interested in and a way to investigate it better.

What are you working on right now?

I am finishing up my project on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. There are three components: the book with nontraditional binding, the print, which turns out to be a concertina, and the box that holds it. Normally, there’s a book with the slipcase or box. That’s the standard. I feel the project has to be presented invitingly.

I’m also working on one-of-a-kind block pieces, which have to do with taking care of the world, whether it’s the sea, jungles, or air. They’re interactive so people can build them, rearrange them, and learn from them.

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Go here to learn more about MCBA’s Artist Cooperative and how to get involved.