Sunday, September 28, 2014

Handmade Paper Love

I used to make paper, had moulds and an old Cuisinart dedicated to the process, learned from Don Farnsworth years ago. But in an attempt to streamline my art possessions and not having made any paper for several years, I donated everything to CCA. At this point, I have a rule of "Don't buy unless you know what you are going to make." It's fun to collect paper, and the anticipation of using it is exciting, but I've found I almost never do use it.

Today, I bought ten small sheets of letter-sized handmade paper from The Mobile Mill, "a traveling paper studio focused on arts ed[u]cation and community engagement," who had a booth at the San Francisco Center for the Book's annual Roadworks event, a book arts and printmaking street fair.

Jillian Bruschera, who runs The Mobile Mill, according to a past indiegogo project is an MFA graduate in Interdisciplinary Studies who studied at Columbia College Chicago's Center for Book and Paper Arts in Illinois. A recent transplant to California, she has been bringing art to communities much the way food trucks bring refreshment. Watch her tumblr to find out where she will be next.

There are a few limitations. In many of the sheets, Bruschera included bits of newsprint and magazines, so if I include those, the project may turn yellow or become brown-spotted over time. I won't be able to print metal or wood type on these papers, either, but I could print polymer plates or linoleum cuts without fear of the inclusions damaging the plate or block. It's a pretty even thickness for recycled paper, very tactile, and certainly eco-friendly.

I could also sew into the sheets  I just saw some interesting images sewn on interoffice envelopes by Angie Reed Garner in Lime Hawk Literary Magazine.

Ten sheets. The papers'  colors look nice together. A very small visual book. Ephemera. Perhaps.

I'm putting the paper out where I can keep an eye on it. A reminder.
Maybe I should have bought two packs.


Monday, September 22, 2014

A Brief Musing on a Verb-Change Operation

In short prose or poetry, precise words are needed to convey the mood or message. The shorter the piece, the more precise the words need to be. Verbs choice, in particular, can change a banal sentence into a mysterious one, can make a reader bored or curious. How does that work?

I walked to the store. Nothing particularly new here. You might even ask, "So what?"

But what happens when you change the verb? 

I limped to the store.

I danced to the store.

I flew to the store.

With each verb change, the story changes. The first change implies an injury, the second implies a mood, the third implies either a mood or a fantasy (unless the narrator is a bird). 

"I walked to the store" is not a story, but the last three sentences nearly are. One word makes a difference.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Star 82 Review Fall Issue 2.3 is LIVE!

The seventh issue of Star 82 Review, the art and literature magazine I started in 2013, is now available online and in print. We have a diverse array of poems, stories, and art featuring things broken and mended, duality and comparisons.

Book artists featured in this issue are Alastair Johnston, with a colorful translation of a Max Jacob poem, and Bryan Kring, with his short-short story Raft. We also have some wonderful pictures with words on them by David Fullarton and Stephanie Brody-Lederman in the company of other short and lively writing and art.

Two ways  to read:
(You can also order Star 82 Review 2.3 through Amazon.)
List of links to previous issues.

Contributors to 2.3
José Angel Araguz
Anna Bagshaw
Rachel Belth
Laura Breitenbeck
Stephanie Brody-Lederman
Howard Richard Debs
Ariana D. Den Bleyker
Lucia Dill
Sarah Dravec
Joachim Frank
David Fullarton
Bernard Grant
Shane Guffogg
Kamden Hilliard
Max Jacob / trans. Alastair Johnston
Gabriel Kalmuss-Katz
J.I. Kleinberg
Sarah Kobrinsky
Bryan Kring
Rick Krizman
Jennifer Martelli
Carolyn Martin
Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco
Jennifer Metsker
Masashi Musha
Ron Nath
Shervone Neckles
Coco Owen
Winston Plowes
Jeannette Ronson
Sloan Thomas
Natasha Van Zandt
Shelton Walsmith
Ali Znaidi

Interested in submitting work for possible inclusion? 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Mainstream Novels I Was Able to Finish This Summer

I like reading short stories and certain kinds of poetry, and I love a good novel, but I often lose interest. This summer (and I'm counting up until the Equinox as summer), I plowed through several mainstream books that, although they weren't always ideal and were sometimes unbelievable, were, nevertheless, entertaining. In fact, they were so gripping, they often kept me up instead of letting me fall asleep.

Longbourn by Jo Baker. 2013. This is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice, but from the servants' point of view, particularly one servant, an orphan named Sarah. If you are a P&P fan, that alone should get you to read it. The descriptions are interesting, and the downstairs plot echoes the original, but the humor is absent. Jane Austen is funny! This book is serious and a little melodramatic, but it still made me want to read onward. Read a review here.

The Invention of Wings: A Novel by Sue Monk Kidd. 2014. This is historical fiction surrounding the Grimké sisters, abolitionists and feminists during the Civil War era, when a woman's place was not speaking her mind. The chapters alternate between Sarah Grimké and the slave that was given to her, named Handful. Sue Monk Kidd weaves stunning images and poetic sentences, but at some point you realize she is the Steven Spielberg of writers: she can and does manipulate your emotions, and verges on the edge of disbelief. Vivid imagery. Makes me want to read a bio of the real Sarah. Read a review here.

Shanghai Girls: A Novel by Lisa See. 2009. More sisters in historical fiction who are struggling with "acceptable" social roles. These two sisters have a modern life in Shaghai in the 1937 until a family situation forces them to relocate to the United States: Angel Island and then Los Angeles. Lisa See has been researching and writing about this time period for several books, which grounds them. The characters go through difficulties and changes, but for some reason, the book is fascinating, touching, but not depressing. See is a wonderful writer who cares about her characters as well as about language.  There is a sequel, which, after a breather, is next on the list. Read a review here.

Codex by Lev Grossman. 2004. A young twenty-something man with a high-power job is enticed into working for a beautiful Duchess to hunt for a mysterious old book with questionable origins, which puts his situation in jeopardy. He drafts a young woman to  help him, with unpredictable consequences. The plot moves along quickly, descriptions are wonderful, that it centers around the search for a book caught me from the beginning. The ending was not as satisfying to me as I'd hoped,  but otherwise, a good read, with some funny lines! Read a review here.

The Gardens of Kyoto: A Novel by Kate Walbert. 2001. A lovely book of longing that takes place in the 1940s and '50s and that pivots around Ellen, the quiet and shy, first-person narrator, who comes of age and loses loved ones. Letters, war, and a book are prominent running threads. The paragraphs are beautiful and haunting, as if they were veiled. While the losses are sad, they do not feeling depressing or crushing because the author keeps the reader at somewhat of a safe distance, but the effect is still moving. The narration is told to an unseen "You," and it shifts among several interconnected story lines. Walbert connects and draws out her descriptions with emotional content so that the reader feels as connected to the places and detailed objects as the narrator does. Even so, it has a surreal quality to it. The social circumstances of what is acceptable for a woman in this postwar time period are touched on as well as Civil War era history. Read a review here.

With the exception of Codex, each of these novels features a woman as the main character, and even the supporting woman character in Codex is strong and takes charge of her life. Some of the women are active, some passive, most impulsive, but all with strong beliefs about justice and their role in the world. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

An Unexpected Argument for the Book (IKEA's BookBook)

Certain things just won't go away, and I'm happy to say that the paper book is among them. I know that there is still moaning and groaning and gnashing of teeth around this subject, but actually, that's good news! We're not (perhaps sadly) still debating the virtues of compasses over GPSs, slide rules over calculator apps. They are quietly disappearing. That we're still having lively discussions about paper versus screen means that we've got something meaningful and that we really care. In a clever parody, IKEA has presented a video that mimics an Apple ad that reinforces why we like the paper book so much.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Presenting Felt

I've been making felted books and flat pieces and sculptures since 2008 or so, and I pulled them out recently, wondering if I had enough for a show. Indeed! They fill up four big plastic bins. The books always feel so light, and in the past I've made boxes for them. But even though I gave someone a flat piece in its own matching handmade box, they still wanted to know how to frame it. I understand the desire to see a piece daily. The felt is so tactile, though; I feel strongly that it should not be under glass. 

I devised what I think is a good solution for the flat pieces, and one that makes them feel weighty, more substantial. I'm now mounting them on flat wood panels that I purchase from Blick and adding a 1/2" molding or frame of sorts cut from square dowels. My resident owner-of-a-miter-box showed me how to miter the corners. I sanded the edges, then fitted and glued the pieces to the panel. I mixed acrylic paint and painted the wooden edges with colors to match or enhance the felt colors. The panels are birch and pine, a good price, and come in a nice variety of sizes that happen to suit my pieces. This method satisfies me. 

We learned years ago that you could hang textiles, like small rugs or woven wall hangings, from Velcro attached to a yardstick. The prickly hooks from the Velcro stick to the textile. I adapted that technique here. It turns out that you can buy a roll of just the hooks in either black or white at a craft supply store like JoAnn's. Because the felted work is not glued, but hangs from Velcro that is stuck to the panel, the felt can be gently taken out of its frame to vacuum or shake out, if necessary, or just handled.


California Landscape

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

How to Tackle Six-Word Memoirs

Three years ago, in 2011 (!), I wrote about six-word stories in the post "Writing Tiny Stories." At this point, many website are devoted to them. The first, from SMITH Magazine, is linked to the 2008 book Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure, which itself started with a blog in 2006. The editors got a multi-book deal, so there are new books available that focus on different topics or groups such as: I Can't Keep My Own Secrets: Six-Word Memoirs by Teens Famous & Obscure; and Six-Word Memoirs on Love and Heartbreak: by Writers Famous and Obscure and It All Changed in an Instant: More Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure and Six-Words Memoirs on Jewish Life.

In the 2011 post I tried to break it down, to figure out what one needed to write them. I've come up with some other suggested formats. Again, I wonder, can you describe your life story in six words? My first thought was, "This is hard. I am overwhelmed."

The you that is YOU is complex. Where to start? Try focusing on one of these.
  • Character traits (intellectual or emotional: what are you perceived strengths or weaknesses?)
  • Interests and hobbies
  • Physical self-description
  • One moment in your lifetime (a particular memory or story)
  • Dream or dream self
  • Your fears
  • Your desires
  • Your connection to someone to whom you feel close or from whom you feel distant
Some sample formats
  • Cause and Effect: I did this. Then that happened.
  • Comparisons: I'm like this. But also that.
  • Similes: Being me is like ___    ___   (Swiss cheese? Braids undone?)
  • Metaphors: I am a/the/an  ___   ___   ___  (tiger asleep already? shiny beach shell?)
  • Puns or wordplay: Pick a subject. Use double meanings. (i.e. shoes and soles/souls or tongues)
And a few possibilities:

Talks in metaphors. Paints in rhyme.

Told the truth. Lost the "friends."

Throwing out crumbs. Waiting for fish.

School starts today. I'm going to try this with the class as content for the stick scroll.