JAN BAKER taught at Rhode Island School of Design from 1981 to 2017, guiding students through book arts, letterpress, papermaking, bookbinding, and visual poetry in the Graphic Design department. For 37 years, she infused her classes and the campus community with the magic and meaning that comes from the handmade. Lettering, cutting, folding, binding, inventing, collecting - these were some of Jan's favorite things.
Holding degrees in Printmaking and Aesthetic Studies from the University of California at Santa Cruz and Graphic Design from Yale University, Jan was also a lifelong educator and explorer. She taught book design at the National Institute of Design in India as a Fulbright Scholar, lead a textile workshop in Vietnam through UNESCO, and served as the Chief Critic of RISD's European Honors Program in Italy for two years. Those who remember Jan are often familiar with her effusive travel journals and the handmade treasures and handwritten books she would collect from around the world.
Jan made an indelible mark on her students and on RISD. Throughout her teaching career, Jan collected books and paper inventions from students in her classes. She donated over 350 of these works to Special Collections in 2011, supporting the growth of the Library's artists' book collection and student-focused book arts programming. At RISD, her legacy lives on through the inspiration students and faculty find in this collection, the annual Student Artists' Book Contest, and continued interest in the book arts.
Rest in peace, Professor Jan Baker. I will forever think of you when I hear of or see Sonia Delaunay, paste paper, color, textiles and books.
- Cathy Lee, BFA Graphic Design, 2015
Your teaching revealed the nuances of typography to me in ways that cannot be unseen.
- Nicholas Felton, BFA Graphic Design, 1999
Special Collections staff
A selection of artists' books made by students in Jan Baker's classes from 1982 to 2011.
Valentine's Day was a significant holiday for Jan Baker, who loved hearts. She celebrated by giving elaborate handmade valentines to her many friends. She made this paper valentine, along with the box to house the full set, while participating in an exchange project for a Wintersession Hot Printing class.
Jan Baker loved the Library, donating collections and supporting programs generously over the years. Included in this display are original printing blocks by Fritz Eichenberg and ephemera relating to the artist that Jan gifted to Special Collections. Fritz Eichenberg (1901-1990) was a German-born printmaker, illustrator, outspoken pacifist, satirist, and teacher. He lead the Graphics Arts Center in Brooklyn, taught at Pratt Institute, and then moved to Rhode Island to serve as head of the art department at the University of Rhode Island. As a prolific book illustrator, Eichenberg brought classics by authors like Dostoevsky, Charlotte and Emily Bronte, and Poe to life as well as many children's stories and folk tales.