This post originally appeared on the Library as Incubator Project in April 2013.

When posts about the Library Card Project, facilitated by the American Craft Council, started to crop up on Twitter we naturally couldn’t wait to reach out to ACC organizers and find out more about this ephemera inspired handmade project. Today we ask project organizers Elizabeth Ryan and Jessica Shaykett to talk about the American Craft Council, the Library Card Project, and what it is about those little cards (and other types of library ephemera) that make them so appealing to crafters and makers. ~ Laura

Can you tell us a bit about the American Craft Council – the organizers, members, where the group “lives”, its mission, etc.

Located in the former Grain Belt brewery in Northeast Minneapolis, the American Craft Council (ACC) is a national nonprofit, educational organization founded in 1943 to promote the understanding and appreciation of contemporary American craft. We are a community of more than 25,000 members who believe in the value of things made by hand, the people who create them, and the meaning that creativity brings to everyday life.

Sandra Muzzy, "Dewey's Decimal Dilemma".

Sandra Muzzy, “Dewey’s Decimal Dilemma”.

Can you give us some background information about the Library Card Project – what was the inspiration for the project?

We have a one-of-a-kind research library that is open to the public, and although we’ve had an electronic catalog since the late ’90s, we recently uncovered several boxes of library cards hidden in the stacks. We thought it would be a shame to just throw them away, so we decided to see if we could convince our creative audience to repurpose them into new works of art.

Vanessa Walilko, drum farthingale and corset (detail).

Vanessa Walilko, drum farthingale and corset (detail).

How did you go about identifying/recruiting artists, and what guidelines were they provided?

We posted a call for submissions on our blog and promoted the project through our social networks. We simply asked anyone who was interested to send us their project proposal and how many cards they would need. The only caveats were that we wanted them to complete a short set of questions about their process and send us photos of their finished piece (or pieces) by a certain deadline. The response was tremendous. We went through all the submissions, divided up the cards, and sent them out to as many people as we could. Since then, we’ve been completely blown away by work that has been created, and we’re already planning to do another version of this (using a different library item) this fall.

 

 

 

 

Library ephemera is very popular with crafters and handmakers. In your opinion(s), what is it about these objects that makes them so compelling?

There’s a certain nostalgia for items such as library cards – especially if you grew up using a card catalog, and we think that was reflected in the enthusiasm of the participants. You can’t readily buy library ephemera like this at a store. It’s infused with a great sense of history, and that’s really appealing – especially to makers.

As craftspeople and “umbrella group” organizers yourselves, what do you see as being the role of libraries in the crafting world – currently, and potentially?

Most art libraries contain a plethora of resources – from how-to books to exhibition catalogs – on a range of mediums, and craftspeople are particularly interested in what artists in other media are working on, so we continually have people browsing our collection for inspiration. It’s also fun to see things like macrame and leather – which were very popular and well-documented back in the ’70s – having a resurgence, and you can’t find that sort of information on the Internet. So in this sense, libraries can serve as a bridge between the past and future of contemporary craft.

Keep up with all of the Library Card Project posts on the American Craft Council’s website. We also really enjoy following the ACC on Twitter at @craftcouncil.

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