Hands-on fun: The 5th annual Easthampton Book Fest features comic drawing, bookmaking and more

  • White Square Fine Books and Art, at 86 Cottage St. in Easthampton. FILE PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer 
Published: 4/14/2019 7:51:45 AM

EASTHAMPTON — The city celebrated literary culture this past weekend with a variety of live readings, panels and hands-on workshops ranging from comic-style drawing to bookmaking to letterpress demonstrations.

The 5th annual Easthampton Book Fest, organized by Easthampton City Arts, hosted the events in locations throughout the city including the Emily Williston Memorial Library, the Old Town Hall and White Square Books. 

On Saturday morning, young children gathered in the basement of the library for auto-biographical comic book drawing with cartoonist and educator Grace Desmarais. Pens, markers and colored pencils were strewn out on tables as the kids illustrated original tales with cartoons. 

Instead of writing autobiographical stories, some kids took a different direction. Ava Brady, 11, of East Longmeadow, drew inspiration from a decorative gnome that happened to be in a corner of the library. Her drawing is of two gnomes quarreling over who the leader of their group is. 

“One is a gnome that says he’s the leader, and the other gnomes ask, ‘Why are you the leader?’” Brady said of her cartoon. 

Desmarais, who is an art educator at the Fusion Academy in Newton, said she enjoyed seeing the older kids take on a mentor role for the young ones in drawing activities. 

“What’s important to me is fostering an ability to draw and wanting to draw and being excited to draw,” Desmarais said. 

Upstairs in the library, five people were using decorative paper to craft non-traditional books. The group was working on a design called a diamond fold book that stretches out like an accordion. 

Lois Peirent, a volunteer leading the activity at the library, showed the group members how to fold the paper.

Easthampton resident Kelly Vogel and her daughter Willa Harwood, 6, worked on a diamond fold book with the idea of using it as a scrapbook. 

“You can write stories on them, you can use them as photo scrapbooks, and you can even use them to make a card,” Peirent said. 

Down the street at Flywheel Arts Collective, magazine makers from the area and beyond set up booths and displayed their creations. 

At one booth, there was a “zine” dedicated to strawberries and places to find them in the Valley. Rebecca Bannasch and her sister Eliza were selling small, red zines published before and after the summer strawberry season. 

“They’re personal musings of my exuberant enjoyment of strawberries that I want to share with everyone I talk to,” Bannasch said. She grew up in Shutesbury and has since moved to New Salem, but she also publishes a guide of where to get strawberries in the Valley at places such as Upinngil strawberry farm in Gill. 

At another booth, Dawn Graham of Boston brought her monthly magazine series titled “IMA EAT YOU!” and other zines from her distribution company called Stay Kind!

Her monthly magazine is comprised of personal writings with a page dedicated to each day of the month. Her written entries are posted over photographs she has taken and stylized to appear pixilated. 

“It’s about whatever is going on in my life,” said Graham, who wrote her first zine in the eighth-grade. “It’s a day-to-day zine.” 

Since 2008, Graham has also worked on an hourly photo project, which has given her plenty of material to choose from in crafting the pocket-size paper zine. 

Her distribution company donates proceeds to different humanitarian projects. Currently, 20 percent of sales are going toward No More Death, an organization in southern Arizona whose mission is to reduce deaths and suffering along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Luis Fieldman can be reached at lfieldman@gazettenet.com

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