Maggie Puckett loves the juxtaposition of the Interdisciplinary Arts Department at Columbia, which features Book and Paper Arts alongside Media Arts. “It’s a conjunction of the medieval with the future.” After completing her studio arts degree at NYU, Maggie found herself drawn to that medieval side of the spectrum--the meticulous craft of making an artist book.
At Columbia College, Maggie Puckett learns how to make the book, not just write it.
“It’s more complex than more traditional forms of art, and it takes longer to flesh out,” she says of the process of creating an artist book. “There’s a lot of measuring and cutting; a lot of mathematical aspects combined with the creative. It’s a good balance.”
While in New York as an undergraduate, Maggie did a lot of gallery work, demystifying the industry and making her realize it wasn’t the right career fit. She ended up in Chicago where she began exploring graduate school options.
“I was kind of stagnant creatively, looking for a change,” she says of her motivation. “Columbia just seemed like the perfect program for what I was interested in.”
“It’s a very technical program,” she says of the Book and Paper Arts at Columbia. “It assumes you don’t know all of the techniques associated with this kind of work, which has been helpful as I’m continually learning new things.”
Now in her second year, Maggie has started her thesis project, based on the interaction between humans and the environment. “I like to use nature as a collaborator,” she says of her work. “There’s a lot of push and pull, and the paradox between sustaining our environment and using chemicals to create my work is sometimes difficult.”
Columbia's a great place where students can work together in a collaborative way, focused on original art making.
She is exploring a couple of ideas, including submerging a statue underwater and allowing barnacles and seaweed to become a part of the piece, or using algae to create glow in the dark paper. “It’ll be a project-based thesis,” she says of the work. “I like to work on more than one thing at a time.” She finds that easy to do in the Columbia program, which allows students to practice outside of the book and paper craft.
In addition to learning from the working artists who teach in the program, Maggie also draws inspiration from her peers. She is president of Pulp, Ink and Thread (PIT), the collaborative student group associated with the Book and Paper Arts program. ”Columbia's a great place where students can work together in a collaborative way, focused on original art making.”
Maggie is also the recipient of the Offset Fellowship at Columbia. The Fellowship is a print production program offered to Book and Paper students. “It’s like lithography,” she says. “We print artists books and journals and do indexing and archiving work.” The program offers opportunities to both create new work and contribute to the historical documentation of all artists’ work, preparing students for their own life as a working artist.