Virginia Western Community College recently announced that Sok Ngim Chea is the winner of the 2017-2018 Brown Library Student Bookplate Contest. Dr. Robert Sandel, president, presented her with a certificate and a check for $100. Ngim’s winning bookplate will be placed on the inside cover of every other book added to the library’s collection during the coming school year.
Bookplates are small, graphic art prints, usually placed on the book’s inside cover. They provide proof of ownership and often provide hints about the owner’s personality, interests, or taste in design. Though they are relatively uncommon now, bookplates were a standard means of ensuring that one’s favorite books are returned after lending them out.
Ngim says that she wanted her hand-drawn, hand-colored bookplate to tell a story and express how she feels about the library. “I love to focus on the background, lighting, color, environment, and character,” she said. “All of these little things make a lot of difference”
In their 500 plus years of use, bookplates also became beloved by collectors, becoming an art form unto themselves. Brown Library has had its own bookplate since the college’s founding 50 years ago. In 2016, the library adopted a new bookplate, the third in its 50-year history. That official bookplate and the student bookplate will be used in every book the library adds to its collection next year.
Ngim is a native of Cambodia and speaks three languages, Khmer, English, and Japanese. She is a student in the engineering program and plans to continue her education at Virginia Tech. She took a year off after high school graduation to travel and came to Virginia Western at the urging of a relative in the United States.
Her path as an artist has not been a straightforward one. She became discouraged with art as a child and put her energies into other things. Later, however, she found that, “art is still one of the best ways to represent and express things when words could not be found to describe them.”