The Joy of Bookmaking: Interview with Chad Alice Hagen

Chad Alice Hagen is a full-time artist, well known for her work with felt and bookmaking. Chad has worked with hand-felted wool for more than 35 years and is the author of three books about felt making. The Cloth Paper Scissors editors were very excited to learn more about Chad, her processes, and her love of book making, so they–and lucky reader Indira Govindan–interviewed Chad for the May/June 2013 issue. Here is an excerpt of that interview.

chad alice hagen makes handmade books
Book-making artist Chad Alice Hagen.

CPS: What part of the bookmaking process intrigues you the most?

Chad: The whole fabulous historical subject! My joy in making books is learning to recreate historical bindings from early Coptic and Ethiopian books through the medieval period. Sometimes when I am learning a new binding and am deep into the space where the creative juices are just flowing, I suddenly feel like I have done this structure before, almost "remembering" it from a former lifetime. I know that may sound like I'm having a flash back to the '60s but it's a real, very strange feeling. The last time it happened, I asked my teacher who was working close-by, if he had ever had those feelings/memories come upon him. He didn't even look up from his work but said under his breath, "all the time."

book binding techniques
How to bind a book? Chad loves exposed bindings
with long stitches.

I also like to work with "limp" bindings, not the regular hard bindings most people think of when they think of books. Limp bindings seem to lend themselves to my own work with resist-dyed felt, handmade paper, and recycled textiles to create something new.

CPS: Do you have a favorite binding? If so, what makes it your favorite?

Chad: I am in love, absolutely in love with all exposed bindings, and every single long stitch I can figure out or invent. Keith Smith's books are an utter goldmine of information and ideas. Currently my favorite is the Nag Hammadi tacket binding.

CPS: Why felt? How did felt become your substrate of choice?

Chad: I fell in love with hand-felted wool around 1977 when I returned to school and took a class in "Our Friends the Fibers." A woman gave a demonstration on felt making she had learned in Sweden and I was fascinated by the transformation from fuzz to coherent fabric. It was like magic. When I started to dye those fuzzy fibers and saw the depth of color that was possible, I was hooked for life. I sold my loom and started my exploration to see how I could change the surface of hand-felted wool with color.

In the rest of this interview, Chad discusses teaching, writing (or not writing) in her handmade books, how her book making is developing, and more. If you don't have your copy of Cloth Paper Scissors May/June 2013 already, it's time to order or download it.

P.S. What's you favorite substrate for handmade books? Do you use fabric, paper, recycled materials, something else, or a combination? Leave a comment below.


Blog, Handmade Books


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