Cindy Gipple, MCBA’s awesome Youth and Community Programs Associate, is a book artist in her own right! We sat down with Cindy to learn more about how she became involved in the book arts community and what she loves most about teaching at MCBA.
How long have you been with Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA)?
I’ve been involved with Youth and Community Programs (YCP) close to four years and a member of the community for 15 years.
Where did your interest in book arts come from?
During the summer, my family would camp for two to six weeks together. My sisters and I couldn’t read in the car, so we’d do things like knitting to pass the time. My parents arranged educational outings in national parks where we learned about how materials are used in different environments and cultures. That was really inspiring.
How did your professional background lead you to MCBA?
I earned a degree in sociology, and then I went to the University of Minnesota for another degree in architecture. I really loved paper architecture. After raising a family, I worked at a children’s library. The overlap between design and writing ultimately led me to MCBA. At the elementary school library, I worked on book arts projects with students. I’ve just always been interested in teaching and books.
What do you enjoy most about working here?
This is an inspiring community to be involved with. I like working on projects with other people. Through collaboration, we come together and make something better than we could on our own.
Why do you think the arts and arts education are important?
Being able to express yourself through art is so valuable. Arts education is a nice way to live in a hands-on, three-dimensional world. It’s a stimulating brain activity as well. I also love that at MCBA, everyone from preschoolers to grandparents can work on the same projects, regardless of age. Everyone comes together in art.
One particular experience that was very meaningful to me was working with a group of 8th and 9th graders. They visited MCBA to make books as containers for writing they’d done at school. I would say there were maybe four to six languages being spoken in the classroom that day. After we were done, students went upstairs to read passages out of their books. I remember this one gal clutched her book tightly as she left our studios. The book was very precious to her. Some of the kids that come in don’t own books. At MCBA they are able to make their own.
What’s your favorite type of book art to teach?
I like to challenge students to sew bindings. I also like teaching paper because everyone has to slow down and match the rate of the water as they work—it becomes very meditative. It makes the kids realize that they have to slow down and not rush. I also like the tactile element of paper.
One Russian-speaking youth group came to MCBA to make paper. Very few of them spoke English, but they could all understand the papermaking process, despite it being a brand-new experience for them. That shows how universal this kind of art is. Someone from the group came up to me and said how much she appreciated being here, and that’s always special.
Outside of teaching, what book arts passions are you currently pursuing?
I usually have a paper architecture piece I’m working on. I’m also a writer—I write children’s books and poetry. I’ve also been working on my book arts certificate here at MCBA—I’m over halfway and it’s only taken me 12 years!