Yes to Hope: Artist Workshops with Maureen Cummins


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Book Artist Maureen Cummins led the second series of artist workshops that took place across three Sundays in March 2018. She shared skills based on her experiences as a printmaker, book binder, and editor of multi-author volumes to guide collaborators in using writing to connect memory to present day experiences. Working closely with the FPS team to design her workshops, Maureen’s workshops explored themes of names, family, food, travel and neighborhoods. As the workshops involved sharing potentially re-traumatic experiences through written word and imagery, Walid Musarsa, a translator, and Rabab Alma, a family therapist known in the community, provided additional communication support throughout all of the workshops. The workshops resulted in a bilingual, self-made, collective book called Yes to Hope.


Workshop 1:

As everyone got to know each other, it became apparent the group shared a passion for food. Collaborators and participants secretly organized food presentations as a way to share culture and flavors of home, which blended nicely into Maureen’s workshop themes. Surprising Maureen and the FPS team with home-cooked Iraqi food, each person who brought a dish presented the recipe and a story about the dish’s personal or cultural importance. Some people used their recipes for pages in their books. This exchange of recipes also prompted the idea for an FPS cookbook.

To begin, everyone introduced themselves and shared the meaning or importance of their name. Maureen used her first workshop to talk about free writing and editing. She asked collaborators to reflect on the themes of family and home using writing and drawing. Some people wrote poetry, others full stories, and some drew their family tree or the scenes of home. It was an emotional experience for many. Collaborators were asked to complete their writing and/or drawings and, for the next workshop, to come back with any additional photographs they wanted to incorporate into their books.

Workshop 2:

A continuation of the food presentation in the previous workshop, Syrian collaborators brought home cooked food and shared the personal and/or cultural significance of their dishes. Maureen began the second workshop introducing her own work and the process of bookmaking, including how to formalize, edit, design, and layout book spreads. While each Collaborator completed their individual spread, it was a collaborative process with Maureen, the FPS team, Swarthmore students, and additional guests, many of whom were bilingual. For those who had not completed their writing the previous week, it created an opportunity for collaborators to work one-on-one translating their pieces. Others finished drawings and/or physically laid out their pages. With the content of the book complete, the group collectively determined the title through a democratic process. Collaborators brainstormed titles and each person present had one vote. The title needed to be made into a letter block to be used on the letterpress to print the covers at the next workshop. The collaborators chose Yes to Hope! as the title for the collection of writings about home, family trees, recipes, songs, meaning and significance of names and naming.

Workshop 3:

Maureen’s third and last workshop was held at Second State Press. She demonstrated saddle stitch bookbinding and letterpress. Coming to the project with their own sewing, publishing and other artmaking experience, Collaborators shared their experiences from home they felt could contribute to Maureen’s practice. With finalized pages, each collaborator printed their own cover page via letterpress and sewed sewed their own book together.

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