For those who love books as art–or books and art–a visual and tactile treat awaits as Greenwich Village-based artist Alison J. Stein works feverishly to stitch, snip and appliqué a growing stack of delightfully-designed booklets that will eventually be exhibited as books without paper.
“It’s basically a fabric book,” the multi-talented, multi-disciplinary creator, writer and instructor said. “I bind fabric into a book, so instead of pages made out of paper, it’s made out of fabric.” It’s a time-intensive, creative process with enchanting results. It is also an extension of the work she does creating and binding her own paper art books.
“I love books, and I love working in a kind of intimate handheld way,” Stein said of her work. “I bind all my own paper books to make art in - that’s something I do every day.”
Stein was born in Manhattan, grew up in Kips Bay, and has been a writer since childhood. She focused on journalism as a career choice growing up, but always did art at the same time taking classes at the Art Students League and going to The Met on weekends to draw as a teenager.
While she did take some art classes as electives in college in the 90s, on graduation she worked as a writer–author, travel writer, editor, and freelance writer–for numerous publications for close to 25 years before returning to art in earnest. In 2012, after moving back to the city after living upstate for some time, she also started teaching writing at Gotham Writer’s Workshop, writing for blogs and other outlets, and when she started getting questions about design in her classes, she went to the School of Visual Arts for a design course.
“SVA completely reignited my love of art!” Stein said, subsequently taking additional classes at the National Academy of Art, 92Y and the Center for Book Arts in Flatiron. While still teaching, she has fully embraced the self-described multidisciplinary aspect of her artist life, “It just basically means I don’t make up my mind about which media I’m going to work in,” she says. It could be printmaking, collage, crochet, figurative painting, book arts, all while operating a wholesale greeting card and print business. And just last summer she had a full solo exhibit The Dazzling Margins at Mulberry Street Library downtown, a series of mixed-media paintings on canvas capturing “glimpsed moments” of the Village and surrounding neighborhoods during the pandemic.
Right now, however, Stein is focused on the soft fabric books that are “really pleasing to hold.” She says one significant influence for the idea of the books came from a MoMA exhibit of Louise Bourgeois embroidered work where the fabric pieces that had been bound into a book were then separated and displayed for the show.
“I just loved that idea, I don’t know why I didn’t think of this sooner because I love embroidery,” she said of her new, evolving line. The books that she has made so far are about eight to 10 pages of somewhat related fabric-theme, with average dimensions 8” by 8” square ones and 9” by 7” in rectangle.
Asked how someone will be able to purchase one of these completed books once the collection is ready, she hesitated and said she had several visions of how she plans to share them with art lovers.
“For people who collect handmade books, that could be an audience,” she said, adding she would be more inclined to allow someone who is interested in embroidery but did not want to use a pattern to have select pages where they could work instead of starting with a blank piece of fabric.
Her ultimate vision she says, “I kind of envision them...I can mount embroidery onto canvas, so [people] can hang it on the wall. Wall art, kind of like a tapestry-ish idea.”
To learn more about Alison J. Stein’s new embroidered book art collection, upcoming exhibits, and other works, visit verycuriousmind.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.