By Beth Casteel
For centuries, people have been reading books to explore new worlds and stories, inspiring creators and audiences alike. Celebrating these worlds is something that many people do, but not a lot of people celebrate the process that goes into creating these magical stories.
With events like Octavofest, a month long event that is packed full of different activities to celebrate books, the festival gives people the opportunity to better understand the process that goes into creating books.
After going to the first Octavofest that was created by Art Books Cleveland in 1999, Glenda Thornton, Director of the Michael Schwartz Library, and Laura Martin, Professor Emerita at Cleveland State University, saw the potential of hosting the event at the university’s library, where they hoped they could show how much creativity there is in the Cleveland and surrounding areas.
“The whole purpose of Octavofest is to celebrate books and paper arts,” Thornton said. “If there are other events that do that, we try to help spread the word so people can enjoy all of them.”
Creating this festival was something important to Martin in particular as she felt the creativity in Cleveland was something that needed to be highlighted more. Once going to the first festival, the pair of Martin and Thornton decided to group the authors and other creative people that came to the library during the year and create one month filled with different activities for people to enjoy.
The festival gets its name from the word Octavo, which is a book format that refers to the size of pages used in the printing of early books where a sheet of paper was folded three times to produce eight leaves. While this style is not really used in today’s society, paper art is still alive and well.
Throughout the month, different members of the festival come together to find new speakers and things for guests to do while attending their event. The activities for people to do are things such as workshops, exhibits, lectures and presentations.
During the festival, different businesses in Cleveland participated in the event like libraries, museums and independent book shops. With so many participating members, they each offered something new that gave more people the opportunity to see something at each place. With no particular requirement, each member had their own themes, but each activity was related to celebrating the creation of books.
At Cleveland State, the exhibit was focused on pop-up books. The books came from Thornton’s personal library and students were given the chance to “play with pop-ups” during the festival. For students at the university who did not come to the library during the actual event, the exhibit will stay until the end of the semester.
With her exhibit, Thornton became fascinated with pop-up books during last year’s festival. The amount of details that go into creating the books and the artistry that is expressed, she decided, because of this, to focus her exhibit on pop-up books.
“I could write a book but I couldn’t create a book like this,” Thornton said. “[Opening the book is like] a surprise.”
While each event is filled with different speakers, this year’s being renowned book artist Emily Martin, and activities like book exhibits and workshops, the biggest takeaway for Thornton and Martin was to highlight the businesses and artists in the Cleveland area and the artistry that goes into creating books and the paper arts.
“There’s just a lot of wonderful talent in the Cleveland area,” Thornton said. “[We want to] let people know of the riches in this area, that’s what we’re trying to do.”