It’s thrilling to see the Treewhispers project growing globally. Rose Camastro-Pritchett recently returned from Jiujiang, China where she implemented the project with her art students—as well as her oral English students. I had the pleasure of hearing the many stories surrounding the project and thought you too would enjoy some of the wonderful photos and synopsis of the events.
Treewhispers Project: Jiujiang University, Jiujiang, China 2010
For the first semester of the 2010 academic year I was invited to teach papermaking and book arts to 18 sophomore art students. We worked from the premise that the artist book is an art form that uses text and images to tell a story. It can take the form of a book or object. The approach to the work was conceptual in nature considering the idea to be the most important element of the work but not eliminating the importance of aesthetics and craft. As part of this course we participated in the international Treewhispers Project.
The work was challenging. Not only was papermaking and bookbinding a new art form for them, they had never been exposed to conceptual art nor had they done an installation or put together an entire exhibition. In order to do the projects they had to work as a team, collaboratively, rather than individually. They set up, did the work and cleaned up. They engaged in the critiques with Chunxue translating when needed. On a regular basis they volunteered to come to class up to 2 hours early and stay late to do their work to their satisfaction.
Upon seeing the DVD on Treewhispers, the students were awed. They had never seen anything like this and wanted to be a part of it as did the students in my oral English classes of which I taught two. The art students pulled the discs and they along with my oral English students wrote their own stories on them.
We created a Papermaking Studio on the veranda of my apartment and classes where held inside the apartment. The desks and chairs were provided by the Art Department. I brought some supplies with me— pellon and embroidery rings— and purchased the rest in Jiujiang. With the help of two students we searched many markets and shops throughout the city center to find what we needed. Students made paper from university recycled copy paper using plastic embroidery rings as molds and deckles. Rice bowls were used for pulp casting.
I found the students to be extremely creative and curious, hardworking and enthusiastic. They came to me with a good art foundation from their Jiujiang University art classes and a willingness to learn new art forms. It was a definite blend of two cultures, my background in the west and theirs in the east. As a result, the work that they produced is unique, intriguing and compelling. It was a pleasure to work with them.