Jan Baker has been teaching at RISD since 1980 and is currently the Andrew Mellon Fellow in the Costume and Textiles department at the RISD Museum. Encouraging an interdisciplinary approach, Baker teaches book arts with hands-on experimentation in letterpress printing, papermaking, bookbinding, visual poetry and Asian book arts. She recently donated a collection of artist’s books made by her students to the Fleet Library at RISD.
An enthusiastic educator, Baker has taught at Boston University, began the graphic design program at SUNY New Paltz and held the Koopman Chair for Visual Arts at Hartford University. She also teaches book arts workshops, such as Innovative Book Structures at Haystack and Unexpected Bindings at the Paper & Book Intensive, and this summer she will teach a workshop on Wild Books at Shakerag in Sewanee, TN.
Baker’s work is inspired by international travel. She has taught book design at the National Institute of Design in India as a Fulbright scholar, led a textiles workshop in Vietnam for UNESCO and lived in Italy for two years as chief critic in RISD’s European Honors Program. In her travels she collects handwritten books in non-Latin scripts and creates eclectic travel journals. During her most recent academic sabbatical, she studied the Rosetta Stone in London, Bodoni’s Manuale Tipografico in Parma, Arabic manuscripts in Doha, palm leaf books in Bhubaneswar, scholars’ stelae at the Temple of Literature in Hanoi and suminagashi in Echizen.
Baker enjoys creating in collaboration with other artists and designers. With Anita Meyer at plus design, she worked on identity systems, signage, and book and poster designs. She also created winning textile and wall covering designs with New York-based textiles designer Lori Weitzner.