Book Arts: A 3-day Visual Art Residency

Book Art

Martha Burdette, Teaching Artist
4500 Alder Ridge Court

Wilmington, NC 28412

(click here to download as PDF)


In this Book Arts Residency, students will create books using a variety of traditional and contemporary techniques.  The types of books will vary according to grade level or developmental level of the students.  Simple books can be completed in one session while more complex books may require two to three sessions with drying time between sessions.

The types of books created by the students will be determined in collaboration with cooperating teachers.  They will ideally reflect/reinforce cultural and literacy studies that may be occurring in the classroom at the time of the residency.  Types of books may include simple single and multiple signature books with sewn binding, accordion-bound books, soft and hard Japanese-bound books, wrapped and tied scrapbooks, paste paper and fabric-covered books, and portfolio books.

The residency may include writing/literacy/language extensions in the books by drawing, writing poetry, journaling, or scrap booking, or the books may be completed as blank books allowing the classroom teacher to design additional learning activities.


The goals of this workshop are:

  • To introduce students to the history and traditions of book arts in various world cultures.
  • To model for students a variety of traditional and contemporary methods for creating and embellishing books
  • To offer students an opportunity to create and embellish their own books
  • To motivate students to write
  • To encourage students to respect and appreciate books and to care for them appropriately.


Students will recognize various methods of creating and embellishing books from a variety of cultures and historical periods.

Students will create and embellish their own books based on the models they have studied.

Students will add text and/or pictures to their books, and discuss the purpose of illustration in books.

Students will gain appreciation for book-making as an art form, and for the skill needed to create them.

Students will develop a sense of pride in the books they have created.


How are books used by people now and in the past in various world cultures?

What are some common ways of creating and embellishing books in various world cultures, past and present?

How can I create a book that expresses my ideas, emotions and personal artistic style?


This residency is designed for 4th grade, but can easily be adapted to fit 3rd through 12th grade curriculum.


All materials will be provided by the artist.

White paper (80 lb weight) 12” x 18” – 20 sheets for each participant
Assorted colored construction paper, 12” x 18” – 10 sheets for each participant
Elmer’s all purpose glue – 8 oz. size – 1 for each participant
Scissors – 1 for each participant
12 inch rulers – 1 for each participant
Wallpaper paste – 1 carton
Craft paint – primary, secondary, black, brown, white colors – 1 4 oz container each
2 inch foam brushes – 10
Combs and found objects to make designs in paint
Cotton embroider thread – 1 skein for each participant (assorted colors)
Plastic “Big Eye” needles
Cover Stock Paper  8 1/2 “ x  11” – 10 sheets for each participant
Cardboard or mat “spreaders”  board  2” x 4” – 4 for each participant
Tack Hammer – 1 for each 4 participants
Plywood – 6” x 14 “ – 1 for each 4 participants
Nails  – 8 penny size – 5 for each participant
Clothesline – 100 ‘
Clothespins – 50


Each student will create and embellish one or more books.
Students will add text and or drawings to one book.


  • Students will learn to create paste paper for book covers.  In creating their paste paper designs they will learn to consider the following artistic concepts:
    Elements of art

    • Color:  primary/secondary/cool/warm/neutral/complimentary colors
    • Line:  direction and quality
    • Shape:  quality, shape, relationship, position
    • Space:  positive and negative
    • Texture:  real and apparent
    • Value:  tints and tones of colors

    Principles of design

    • Repetition and Pattern
    • Unity and Variety
    • Balance
  • Students will learn to assemble and stitch Japanese book bindings using traditional book binding techniques in use for centuries.
  • Students will learn to write simple poems using simple guiding structures such as diamanthe, cinquaine and Haiku form.
  • Students will learn to use descriptive narrative language building on the descriptive vocabulary they have already employed in their poetry.


Grade 4 Visual Art Objective 2.01: Know about and correctly use stitchery needles and small hand tools.

Grade 4 Visual Art Objective 2.02: Use additional art media, techniques and processes which may include:

  • Fibers – stitchery, a variety of fiber weaving techniques, felting and quilting
  • Cut paper – complex symmetrical folding and cutting;
  • Sculpture – experiments with varied tools including small hand tools.

Grade 4 Visual Art Objective 2.03: Increase skills with familiar materials.

Grade 4 Visual Art Objective 2.04: Demonstrate one’s own thought and feelings visually, using sequential, visual narrative.

Grade 4 Visual Art Objective 3.01:  Mix tints, shades and tones.

Grade 4 Visual Art Objective 3.02:  Differentiate horizontal, vertical, parallel, and diagonal lines.

Grade 4 Visual Art Objective 3.03:  Compare relative positions of objects in space through color intensity and value.

Grade 4 Visual Art Objective 3.04:  Exercise flexibility when approaching a problem-solving situation.

Grade 4 Visual Art Objective 5.03: Compare works of art from different times and cultures.

Grade 4 Language Arts Objective 4.07:  Compose fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama using self-selected and assigned topics and forms (e.g., personal and imaginative narratives, research reports, diaries, journals, logs, rules, instructions).

Grade 4 Social Studies Objective 3.04: Compare and contrast ways in which people, goods, and ideas moved in the past with their movement today.


Lesson Questions

1.  What are some ways to create surface decoration for book covers?

2.  What are some traditional ways to create pattern using only one color?


1.  Display of paste paper book covers

2.  Demonstration of paste paper technique

3.  Students will create 3 – 5 sheets of paste paper

Students will create paste paste by mixing ordinary craft paint with wallpaper paste to thicken it, coating sheets of construction paper thickly with the paint, then using various combs, found objects and cardboard tools to make line patterns in the paint.   Eash student will create several sheets which they will hang to dry for use on days two and three.


Lesson Questions

1.  How is paste paper used to cover a three piece core for a Japanese binding?


1.  Display completed Japanese bound book.

2.  Model technique for covering three piece core for Japanese binding.

3.  Students will begin covering precut cores with their paste paper

Students will use the papers they created on day one to cover pre-cut cardboard covers for their books.  They will learn what makes Japanese binding distinctive as well as learning some special tips for using glue as book binders do to assure flat, secure coverings.



1.  How are Japanese Bound books hole-punched, assembled and stitched?

2.  What kind of text would I like to add to my book?


1.  Demonstrate hole punching, assembling and stitching Japanese binding.

2.  Students will hole punch, assemble and stitch their books.

3.  Share examples of Haiku poetry which are traditional Japanese poems with a pattern of five, seven and five syllables in a three line poem.

4.  Students create one or more Haiku poems for their books

Students will use a small hammer and nails and work on wooden back boards  with supervision to punch the cover and pages of their books to prepare them for stitching.  Finally they will use large plastic needles and cotton thread to stitch their books together using traditional Japanese stitching patterns.


Students can study books from their library and pay special attention to the placement of text and images on the cover and in the pages of the book.

Students can learn about Haiku poetry before the residency.

Students could have a poetry reading for parents and visitors.

Students could exhibit their books in the library.

Students can continue writing poetry or narrative works in their books after the residency.

Students can illustrate their text after the residency.


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