I love books (probably no surprise since I am a writer). However, I have never been to a book club. They seemed like a bad rehash of high school English class, where you had to sit in a circle and talk about books nobody really cared about. But then I saw pictures of a Camas Public Library Book to Art Club meeting on their Facebook page. They had read True Grit by Charles Portis (not something you usually see on a book club reading list), and the members had created all kinds of art — from culinary to performance — as a way of expressing themes in the book. Reading and crafts together? This sounded fun.
I had to find out more for myself, and so I contacted the library. It turned out that Judy Wile was responsible for bringing these fun and ingenious book clubs to Camas. “I was reading about The Library as Incubator Project, and they talked about their new endeavor, The Book to Art Club,” she explains. “I began the group here at Camas in April of 2016 because I thought it sounded like a fun, exciting concept. When I read, I always visualize things and figured that there were others out there who probably do the same. I also figured that it would be another way of considering and interpreting the written word, and provide yet another facet to book discussion.”
She was right. The group has grown each time they have met, which is once every other month. Wile decided it was best to give people two months, since they have to not only read a book, but create an art piece to go with it.
When it comes to the artwork, Wile has no rules. Members can make whatever their creativity and talents take them, which adds for great variety. For True Grit, members of the club made stunning cookies with character depictions and scenes from the book, a rope basket, a wreath and several pieces of illustrated art. One member even came dressed as a character from the book.
For another book, Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly, members created beautiful works of art surrounding the butterfly theme, including a butterfly cut out of the book and 3D paper butterflies.
Monika Spykerman has attended other book clubs in the past, but the Book to Art Club caught her attention because it gave her an outlet for creativity.
“I saw that the Book to Art Club was going to discuss The Brides of Rollrock Island, which is about the legend of selkies — a mythical, Irish half-seal, half-woman creature — and I was already thinking about what I would paint even before I started the book,” she says. “I loved the process of creating the painting even more — thinking about the book and what was meaningful to me in the story.”
Wile selects books that are available in paperback and uses the Book to Art Club site as a reference, often choosing books from their list. She says she likes to mix in adult and youth titles. While most are fiction, she does sometimes throw in a non-fiction book.
People who attend the Book to Art Clubs say they do so because it allows them to really delve into the book and express it in a way that makes sense to them. This brings a deeper level of understanding that you may not get just reading it, especially if you are more of a visual learner. “I’m thinking in images as well as words,” explains Spykerman about her process when it comes to her Book to Art Club books. “I usually know what I’m going to do before I get to the end of the book. If nothing jumps out at me, I consider my entire experience of the book: How did it make me feel? Did I like it or dislike it? What images, colors or themes are floating to the top of my brain right now when I think about the book? It’s during this process that I often find an extra layer of meaning, and I particularly relish taking that meaning and turning it into something visual.”
She says that sometimes she even finds herself loving a book that she assumed she would dislike, and that is one of the best parts of the club.
During the club meeting, Wile starts out by discussing the book, and then they reveal their artwork, which they keep secret until then. “The crowning glory, so to speak, is getting together with the other women — many of whom I already knew through the Camas Library’s adult Craft-o-Rama group that meets monthly — and really having a nice, juicy conversation about the book,” Spykerman says. “I absolutely loved seeing all the magnificent artwork and craft projects that each woman brought to the group. I was hooked and haven’t missed a Book to Art Club since!”
If you are like me, and ordinary book clubs had never appealed to you, this just may be the ticket. The combination of reading and crafting makes for the perfect, relaxing outlet.