Graduates earn first-ever UI master’s degrees in the book arts

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Friday, May 17, 2013

Nesrin Mostafa takes in the aroma of a book embedded with spices from her home in Egypt. Her husband, Islam Aly, made each part of the book by hand—creating the paper from flax fibers and spices, fabricating the cover, and binding the pages.

Learning time-honored traditions, students in the University of Iowa Master of Fine Arts in the Book Arts program also push the boundaries of book culture, embrace digital creativity, and engage the public in discussions about the role of books in our society.

portraits of Islam Aly, Nesrin Mostafa, Elizabeth Boyne, Katherina Siedler, Jill Kambs
Top left: Islam Aly and his wife, Nesrin Mostafa, came to the UI from Cairo, Egypt. After Aly completes his Ph.D. in secondary education, with a focus on art education at the UI College of Education, the couple will return to Cairo to open a Center for Book Arts.
Top right: Elizabeth Boyne came to the UI from Chicago. She plans to relocate to the West Coast after graduation.
Bottom left: Jill Kambs hails from North Manchester, Ind. She plans to teach visual art after graduation. Photo courtesy of Jill Kambs.
Bottom right: Katharina Siedler came to the UI from Berlin, Germany. After graduating, she plans to visit and work with other paper makers in the United States. She will be documenting their processes, with the possibility of producing a book based on her experiences. Siedler plans to teach Islamic style paper making.

The Center for the Book is an interdisciplinary program housed in the Graduate College. In addition to the Master of Fine Arts in Book Arts, the center offers a graduate certificate in Book Studies, and a joint Master of Arts in Library and Information Science and graduate certificate in Book Studies. “Kim Merker, and all of us who followed him, have been working for 26 years to graduate our first MFA class. What makes this moment truly significant is not that it finally marks the end of working toward the MFA,” says Tim Barrett, Center for the Book director. "Instead, these first four graduates—Islam, Eli, Jill, and Katharina, and the work they’ve accomplished—embody, finally, the beginning. This is where we’ve always wanted to be.” The UI’s rich history and ongoing vibrancy as a writing university create the perfect incubator for scholars in the Center for the Book, which was founded by Kim Merker in 1986.