During the last two weeks of May, bookworms of Hawaiʻi got a special treat. The International Center of Photography based in New York City, teamed up with local publisher Bess Press and Minny Lee Fine Art to host a two week-long Masterclass in Bookmaking and several public programs.
It’s safe to say that Minny Lee, a recent addition to the Art School’s team of teachers, played a major role in getting the program over to Hawaiʻi. Originally from Korea but having lived in New York City for the past 25 years, Lee is no stranger to the ICP. In fact, their relationship spans 15 years. She was the one to propose Hawaiʻi—more specifically, her gallery space—as the next locale for the program for its unique arts and culture.
The program had 12 students in total, with six hailing from the islands—two from the Big Island and four from Oʻahu. In addition to the students, Lee had a teaching assistant from the Big Island and three interns who were also local.
“From the very beginning we were very conscious about having a large part of the students come from Hawaiʻi,” Lee said over the phone. “People want to come to Hawaiʻi to take these classes, but for us it was important to have local people come in and enrich our program by bringing their own backgrounds and culture.”
The rest of the six students came from all over the world—New York City, Finland, Japan, Guatemala.
“They were all working with each other and I really loved the community they formed here even if it was for two weeks,” she said.
The students didn’t need to have any prior bookmaking experience. They just had to apply to the program—and obviously have a large passion for books. Lee tau
ght the students how to turn their ideas into page-turning realities, teaching them how to edit, design in InDesign, and then hand-bind the books with sewing. With bookmaking, “You have total control about the way you express yourself,” Lee said.
Helping Lee out as faculty members were award-winning editor Alison Morley, Benjamin “Buddy” Bess, Lee herself, and Teun van der Heijden of the Netherlands.
The Masterclass and its faculty also held lectures, panel discussions, and of course, an exhibition where the students showed off their finished creations at da Shop in Kaimuki. The public programs were totally free and open to the public.
“With free public programs, we were able to connect with local people who were not part of the workshop,” Lee said. “It was important to hear their feedbacks and exchange ideas.”
At the end of the two weeks, the students each had a completed book made from their own body of work.
Even though Lee was an instructor of the Masterclass, she says she learned tremendously from everyone else. “Since everyone’s work had a personal significance or cultural significance, it was emotional journey they took with their bookmaking process,” she said. “Everyone was proud to hold a finished book dummy in their hands because of this journey everyone took with a courage.”