CHUCK HARPER SHOWS COMMUNIVERSITY HIS CRAFT
By Jessica Turner
Not many of us can say that we are capable of time travel, but Communiversity convener Chuck Harper is able to take a class on a trip to the past by way of his traditional “Craftboy Workshop“.
In the basement of his inviting home in the Brookside neighborhood of Kansas City, Harper can show up to six interested members how to create their very own pocket journal from scratch. If anyone is a qualified candidate to instruct the bookbinding class, it’s Harper. His interest in paper crafts began in high school and continued in college.
“I didn’t really know what I was doing,” Harper confessed.
But he does now.
Harper’s “real job” is Senior Production Manager at Andrews McMeel Publishing, the same guys who published favorites like The Far Side and Calvin and Hobbes, and more recently, products from the hilarious hit website The Oatmeal.
The sight of Harper’s workshop really is like walking into a printing press museum. One member actually commented on how Harper’s process made her feel like she was entering an earlier century.
Harper’s got all the goods, and is beyond generous when it comes to prepping his students to continue the craft without him. He spills everything about tools and supplies, costs, and where to find the best stuff. Because he shares the inside scoop on all of his tips and tricks, no one leaves Harper’s class without the skills and knowledge to pursue the art form on their own.
“I’ve tried to simplify the process enough that, quite honestly, I do most of these sitting in front of the TV,” Harper admitted.
Members were intrigued by the setup of their stations as they were introduced to their handouts and utensils. When Harper showed them examples of his finished products, they couldn’t wait to get started.
Harper walked his class through every step. Members were able to choose their own unique cover material, glue in a ribbon bookmark, consolidate their pages with a spine, and make a handy back pocket for their books.
One member planned to use hers for spontaneous sketching, but there is no limit to the things these little journals can contain. Harper suggests “schedules, jotting down brilliant ideas, or just your grocery shopping list”.
Harper said that Communiversity used to have a six-week bookbinding class but that sadly, the instructor had passed away. At that point, Harper felt that he had an obligation to step up to the plate.
“There wasn’t anyone offering a bookbinding class anymore,” he said. “So I felt like it was kind of my turn to pay back the information I had learned.”
In addition to his work at the publishing company and teaching Communiversity classes, Harper also sells his products at various shops and shows.
“I have some at the Leedy-Voulkos [Art Center],” he said. “It’s in the River Market area, kind of by the Freight House District. They have an artist shop within the art gallery so there’s a little room off to the side [and] I have some of the journals for sale there. And then I do two or three shows a year.”
Next up, you can find Harper at the Bizarre Bazaar in Lawrence on Thanksgiving Weekend. And it may be a little early, but his class members were already talking about what great Christmas gifts his one-of-a-kind homemade journals would make.
He once made one out of an old leather jacket from a thrift store. Where else are you going to find a journal that special? (Hint: you won’t!)
Harper also teaches a Letterpress Stationery class. To search for his classes when our fall schedule is released, go to Communiversity’s database and search for “Harper” in the “Convener Last Name” field. You can also learn more about Harper by visiting his website, The Craftboy Workshop.
Metal by the Foot, Inc.
Leedy-Voulkos Art Center
Peace Works Kansas City’s UNplaza Art Fair
Bizarre Bazaar Art Event
Crossroads Arts District
The Craftboy Workshop
More Photos of Harper’s Class and Workshop (Saturday, July 20, 2013):