Reading Craft: Understanding History Through Reproduction
with Brent Budsberg, Ellen Kaspern, and Jeff Altepeter, moderated by Miguel Gómez-Ibáñez
Panelists from Current Projects and North Bennet Street School—representing the worlds of traditional woodworking and craft bookbinding—explore the significance of their work for the Required Reading exhibition: a full-scale replica of a unique Colonial Revival bookcase; a faithful copy of a seventeenth-century “bookpress;” and leather-bound books emulating those in the historic King’s Chapel Library. By reproducing historic objects, we reach a level of intimate dialogue between past and present difficult to achieve through other means. What new questions emerge when we move beyond merely examining a piece to actively remaking it? How does the process of reproducing an object serve as a form of research, lending insight into past practices, tools, materials—and even the object’s social functions?
Jeffrey Altepeter has been the Bookbinding Department Head at North Bennet Street School (NBSS) since 2007. He is an alumnus of NBSS, as well as the American Academy of Bookbinding. Altepeter has worked for Harcourt Bindery, Harvard University, and also as a self-employed bookbinder. He specializes in leather bindings, boxes and presentation materials.
Brent Budsberg is an artist, exhibition designer, and woodworker living in Milwaukee, WI. He owns and operates Current Projects, a boutique firm that specializes in design and custom fabrication for museums, artists, and filmmakers. Since 2013, he has worked closely with the Chipstone Foundation designing numerous exhibits including Mrs. M___’s Cabinet at the Milwaukee Art Museum, Eliza’s Peculiar Cabinet of Curiosities at Lynden Sculpture Garden, and Florence Eiseman - Designing Childhood for the American Century at the Museum of Wisconsin Art. Along with his wife and collaborator, Shana McCaw, he has exhibited sculpture, photography, and film nationally and internationally. He has received numerous awards, including Fellowship.art and the Mary Nohl Fellowship for individual artists.
Ellen Kaspern started out woodworking in her father’s shop. After college and graduate school, she pursued a career in furniture making. She attended the North Bennet Street School in Boston and graduated from their Cabinet and Furniture Making program in 2003. In 2004, she joined the cooperative Fort Point Cabinetmakers where she was a member for 15 years. Currently, she is a member at The Ellwood Shop where she designs and builds custom furniture, built-ins and small objects. She teaches furniture making at various schools on the east coast and has written articles and instructional videos for Fine Woodworking Magazine. Kaspern’s work has been shown at the Society of Arts & Crafts (Boston, MA), Fruitlands Museum (Harvard, MA), Peters Valley School of Craft (Layton, NJ), Gallery 263 (Cambridge, MA), Pearl Street Gallery (Chelsea, MA), Mosesian Center for the Arts (Watertown, MA), The Umbrella Gallery (Concord, MA) and Windgate Gallery at NBSS (Boston, MA).
Miguel Gómez‐Ibáñez, as President Emeritus of North Bennet Street School, is the only graduate of the school to have served in that position. He combined his first career practicing architecture with his North Bennet Street School training as a cabinet maker to become a nationally recognized designer and maker of studio furniture. His work has been featured in numerous journals, including House and Garden, Good Housekeeping, American Craft and Fine Woodworking, and has been exhibited in galleries and museums across the country. He has contributed articles and essays on furniture and design to a number of books and magazines, such as Fine Woodworking, Woodworker’s Journal, American Furniture, and Furniture Studio. He is a past president of The Furniture Society and currently serves on the Board of Trustees of Haystack Mountain School of Crafts and the American Craft Council.