Seven years of living in a small cabin on 100 wooded acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains gave Julia Leonard a deep appreciation of how handmade objects can profoundly affect people’s lives.
In 1997, Leonard left the Penland School of Craft in North Carolina for The University of Iowa to enroll in the newly created Center for the Book. She earned an MFA in studio art and a graduate certificate from the Center in 2001. After much internal debate, Leonard turned down a teaching position at another school in order to teach and work at the UI’s Center for the Book.
Leonard, a bindery supervisor and lecturer at the Center, researches the study of historical bookbinding structures and the creation of contemporary artist books. While these two areas may seem far apart, one feeds the other in practice. Knowledge of the development of bookbinding back to the second century has given Leonard a deep understanding of how the book functions as a physical object as well as how that object affects society.
“The Center for the Book is a singular place that approaches the art of the book and its sister arts in a manner that happens nowhere else,” Leonard said. “I believe it gives people a full and rounded understanding of the place of the book in contemporary society.”
Leonard marvels at the array of talented people at the Center, including the papermakers, lettering artists, fine press printers, conservators, and historians of the book. “The opportunity to live and work in a community of people who share the same passion for the book—what it was, what it is, and what it can be—is irreplaceable.”