Community spotlight: Julia Jai Miller

by Holly Schaffer, Community Relations Manager

Exploring the world of book arts

Julia Jai Miller has taught numerous Creative Book Binding programs at multiple library locations. Curious about book binding and book arts in general, we asked Julia to answer some questions about her experience teaching these classes.

What is your background and experience in the arts?

Well, that is a big question. I never thought of myself as an artist. It just wasn’t a career option in my family, nor did I think I had the ability. But photography and crafts were something we always did and that I enjoyed. After my kids were out of elementary school, I realized I was missing creativity in my life. My husband suggested I go to art school, and I thought he was crazy! But I started at Pima and began to feel like I could do it. Then I enrolled at the UA as a photo major and absolutely loved it. Since then, I have created books of all different shapes and sizes. One of my photo books was even acquired by Specials Collections at the UA Library. That is a huge honor for me!

Can you tell us a bit about the book binding classes you offer?

I wanted to teach book arts because the instructions can be difficult to follow from books. I studied books arts at the UA and at the American Academy of Bookbinding. These classes helped me understand the process of creating many different book structures and forms from start to finish. I felt that giving people the basics would help them explore the world of book arts on their own.

How does book binding allow individuals to creatively express themselves?

Book arts can take you so many places! It really stretches the idea of what a book is and how art and books can be one and the same. Books as pieces of art can incorporate all types of visual art, from sculpture to photography, to paper craft and fiber arts. There is a point of entry for everyone in the book arts.

What memorable experiences have you had teaching classes?

I’ve had many memorable experiences, they’re often around the community that happens in the libraries. People helping one another and connecting with someone they didn’t know before they walked in the room. Those moments are precious. The most memorable is probably the librarian who recreated the book we made in a class for her wedding vows. She used them in her ceremony. That was pretty special!

Why do you like offering programs at libraries?

For me, it is a bit of giving back to my community. I love that I can offer programs that are free to the community, while being paid and respected as a professional.

Why are libraries important to you?

Libraries are such a treasure to our communities, especially in Tucson. As a mom, I was dependent on libraries for access to free books and activities for my children. As an ESL teacher, I’ve been able to take my adult English language learners to the library to explore the all resources available to them. We are so lucky! Many of my students from other parts of the world have asked me if the library resources were actually free. They just couldn’t believe it! As a GED instructor during the pandemic, my students were able to access meals for their children, and today, snacks. The library has become so much more than a quiet place for books. It has become a major resource for our community, and a place that embraces everyone!

Are you—or someone you know—interested in arts, crafts, and hobby programs? Check out our event calendar to find all that's coming up!