To start our new series, Book Artists in the Southeast, I chose Doug Baulos. Doug is an art professor at The University of Alabama Birmingham. His curiosity about the world and how things work keeps his work fresh and interesting. I recently went to his studio in Birmingham to interview him.
What is your artistic background?
How did you become interested in Book Arts?
When I was younger and interested in book arts during undergraduate school in Birmingham, I didn’t know Glenn [House, Jr.] or anything about Tuscaloosa. So, I applied and received a scholarship to The Whitney. While in New York City. I also wanted to study a bit about book arts. I called up The Morgan Library and asked if they would be interested in having me for a few hours a day. I was fortunate enough that they did, and also that The Whitney let me go. I studied with a wonderful curator/conservator and was highly influenced by their collection. I had taught myself Coptic and simple stuff, but I was an absolute beginner. She was amazing. Although I was only in New York for a month, I learned so much from her. It was really cool cause the Whitney let me study with her for two hours a day and she was willing to let me see stuff. As a result, all of my early training was on historical binding and historic conservation.
I see many of your books are based on historic structures, is that what you are mostly interested in?
How do you think about books in general?
Let’s talk about your work in the last few years. I see many wreaths around the studio. What is the inspiration and what are they made of?
I’ve always collected old dictionaries. In my school office, I have all these dictionaries from thrift stores that were going to dump them. I really had this thing because it’s weird when you get into studio and practice the decisions you make. I used to be one of those artists that didn’t really like to tear up books, but then I was like they are going to the dump them so you might as well up-cycle and draw attention to the fact that they are being thrown away. So, I started making things out of the dictionaries. It’s weird because when I go to the thrift store the ones I keep are the ones that are really dog eared and super looked at and then the newer ones, those are the ones I tear up. So it’s weird because a lot of people are attracted to the newer thing and I like the older ones that you can tell that people actually used and read.
The big project I’m working on now is one that I got hired for by the city of Birmingham. They commissioned me to make a wreath for the upcoming Civil Rights anniversary. It will be on display at Space 111, which is an arts organization in downtown Birmingham. They are going to drape the whole building and the wreath will be on the front. I’m excited. The installation will last for five days.
Do you consider these wreaths book objects?
Do you make editions of your work or are they one-of-a-kind?
Where do you find materials?
How have you evolved as an artist?
Tell us about new explorations you are involved in.
What do you mean by that?
Do you consider archivalness?
What are some of your favorite tools or non-traditional tools?