The University of Iowa

UI Fulbright scholar wins 2018 Holle Award for Excellence in Book Arts

September 18th, 2018


Lisa Miles at a tea plantation outside of Surakarta, Java 

After working for over a decade as a graphic designer, Lisa Miles changed course to begin studying book arts and printmaking. "I felt the urge to get out from behind the monitor and get back to making art with my hands," said Miles.  Now a graduate of the UI Center for the Book (MFA '17) and after two research stints abroad, Lisa Miles has been awarded the 2018 Holle Award for Excellence in Book Arts, a nationally juried award given by The University of Alabama College of Communication & Information Sciences. Miles’ book "Codex Chup Cabal" was completed at the UI Center for the Book as part of her MFA thesis and was created as a response to her experiences and research abroad. 

As one juror commented, “Lisa Miles’ book "Codex Chup Cabal" demonstrates a considerable degree of historical and technical research, in harmony with a strong conceptual foundation, and a finesse of craft... and asks viewers to contemplate aspects of shared human experience universal to all cultures. Miles’ dedication to studying a wide range of cross-cultural papermaking techniques through her studies at the University of Iowa, and time spent both in Mexico and Indonesia, demonstrate a strong commitment to the field of book arts.”

"Get outside your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid of learning a new language, and if possible, expand your research to less familiar parts of the world."

In 2016, after two years of researching hand-beaten paper barks based on the Mesoamerican tradition, Miles traveled to Puebla, Mexico under a UI Stanley Research Award to learn the technique of amate bark papermaking from the Otomí Indians, who have been producing bark papers since pre-Columbian times.  Then in 2017, she was awarded a prestigious Fulbright Arts Research grant to Indonesia, where she traveled to urban and remote regions throughout Indonesia to learn from modern daluang bark papermakers, and fiber artisans - an incredibly valuable experience that not only allowed her the chance to fully immerse herself in a new culture and hone her papermaking skills, but also open doors to new international opportunities. 

"Fulbright artistic research has exposed me to Indonesian culture and allowed me the time and space to explore their unique art forms," said Miles.  "During the past year, I've developed relationships with inspiring visual artists and makers, and have had the opportunity to exhibit my work internationally. As a papermaker, international research has allowed me to develop a more complete idea of global bark paper and bark cloth traditions. The new skills I have learned will undoubtedly influence my future work."

Upon her return to the United States this fall, Miles will give presentations related to her research, teach workshops to share the techniques she's learned in Indonesia, and participate in an artist residency at the Morgan Conservatory in Cleveland, Ohio, where she will be making a body of one-of-a-kind, naturally-dyed, bark paper books inspired by her time in Indonesia.

Miles' advice to students and faculty interested in taking their studies abroad: "Get outside your comfort zone," said Miles. "Don’t be afraid of learning a new language, and if possible, expand your research to less familiar parts of the world."


Learn how you can take your research abroad!


Visiting with batik and natural dye artisans outside of Cirebon, Java

At the Bandung Geology Museum with Professor Setiawan Sabana for the opening of our two-person paper art exhibition in July 2018

Lisa scraping Saeh (paper mulberry) fiber for daluang bark papermaking