Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Classics Uncovered

Growing up I was only interested in 20th century literature. I read "the classics" only when I had to, which in my case was in junior high, perhaps once in an English class in college. The only ones I remember were A Tale of Two Cities, which had incessant knitting in it, the rest dull to me, and Edgar Allan Poe's "Telltale Heart." But Poe was fascinating, and because the story was thrilling it almost didn't count. I may have read Madame Bovary, but I remember nothing. In high school, I avoided all the traditional literature classes and took Folktales and Mythology instead. What I remember most about that class was that we watched films, Fred Astaire movies, and in particular, Top Hat.

So what has possessed me now, in the 21st century, to go back to the 19th? Curiosity more than anything. Probably teased out because several years ago I went back to school and realized there were so many cultural references I did not know and so many books other people did. I started by raiding my sister's abandoned college bookshelf, starting with Jane Austen. Hilarious! Wonderful! Takes getting used to the language, but after than, how funny it is! 

When we go visit my mother-in-law I need only something to entertain me on the plane because, once there, I find she has bookshelves full of books I aspire to read, some modern, some classics. I first read Nabokov, Look at the Harlequins! there. I read Sebald's The Emigrants, and it was possibly there that I read Tóibín's Brooklyn. This visit I chose Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own, which talked about the Brontë sisters and Jane Austen as well. My mother-in-law reported that she was reading Jane Eyre. I wasn't sure I had ever read it. (Maybe I had seen the Wishbone TV version but was distracted by the Jack Russell Terrier in clothes.) I had loaded the original 1847 text, a free electronic book (Bookbyte Digital edition with illustrations by F.H. Townsend), onto my iPad mini within the past couple years, so I began. I had never read it. The language was easy to read, the descriptions romantic.

I didn't know the story or its twists and turns. I was captivated. I really cannot remember being so annoyed when interrupted reading a book. On Saturdays, when I do not turn on electronics, I had to get a copy from the library. Where were the Teen Classics? (Hidden behind the Info desk not in the Teen Section.) And why was it shelved there and not in fiction???? This paper copy had an introduction by Joyce Carol Oates. I would read it later. Dear reader, if you have never read Jane Eyre, do NOT, whatever you do, read any notes or introductions or anything. Just read the book. When I finished and went back I found that the intro was stitched together with spoilers.

Needless to say, I enjoyed the book. The characters are complicated. They accept convention, but also challenge it. Thinking back on how I was completely clueless about the story, I realize that in this age of letting one's fingers do the googling, somehow the info went on around me, and I was thankfully allowed to experience the book for myself. I say no more.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Let Us Reach for the Edges: Art Quilt #2

I like the activity of sewing. Seems reasonable, right? I make books. But many of my books end up being constructions in which I must fold and glue rather than sew. I'm stymied by this, why it happens. It seems like the book takes over. So I thought, why not just print on cloth and sew the prints into a quilt? I enjoyed making the first one, and had two more in mind. Here is the second. 

I chose three linoleum blocks from my "library" to use: the reaching woman, some leaves, and the root, and I carved the new hip-hop dancer (I wanted a dancer, but a ballet dancer seemed overused) with a jasmine vine, the text block, and California poppy leaves. The words are "reaching, reaching for the edges, let us." I also wanted to experiment with a collagraph: I used gel medium to adhere a piece of burlap to the back of an old block and printed that in the slate blue.

I have a fondness for the reaching woman: I carved her when I was a student and printed her to be included in a portfolio, The World Is Sick, She Cried, So Let's Dance (1983).
She looks younger.

The root was carved for my 2006 book, Driftwood & Roots

 The leaves are part of a print of irises.
Still available for purchase on Etsy at my store.

 On the airplane back from Nashville, seated between two football players,
a body of work came to me. Of course, most of it is box construction! 
But I think there will be another art quilt as well.

Let Us Reach for the Edges. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Dressing up a Single Signature

As I was preparing my presentation for the College Book Art Association conference I realized I was going to be talking about tactile materials but showing only pixels and light. I ended up making a pamphlet, a single signature that would relate to the talk, but something to take away and touch. 

Letterpress printing on the cover. Waxed linen thread. A window. An image. Quotes from the people I was talking about. Machine stitching with multicolored thread. A piece of a runover book that I used in my unique book Gangster, which I brought with me (along with one of Lisa Kokin's self-help rocks: see photo in this post.) Translucent paper. Laserprinter text. Many materials in a very short booklet. I bound eighty, gave away forty at my talk, and distributed many more. 

The instructions for sewing a single signature are in this 2011 post. The pamphlet below has three pages in all: a cover, one translucent page, one paper page. Each page has a hint of what came before and what is next: the window, the translucency, the sewing, the translucency again.

I reversed the type so I would only have to print on one side of the translucent paper. 
Still learning!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

After the CBAA Conference 2016

As I checked in at the hotel in Nashville, the woman behind the desk finished up, got me my key card, and said, "Have a good conference," with a twinge of suspicion. "Thanks!" I said, "I will." She thought about it a little. "I don't like conferences," she said. "I fall asleep. Or I try to leave fast."

Obviously, she's not hanging with the right crowd.

Imagine walking into a room where you don't have to explain what you do. You listen and are listened to. There are presentations about every aspect of your field, and you are torn among the three talks that happen at once. How to choose? You meet more people at the talks. You talk to the presenters afterwards. You go back to your hotel room saturated with new ideas.

There is an all-day vendor fare and you calculate how much room you have in your suitcase. Would paper fit? Different colors of linen thread? Carved bone folders? Tours, round tables, meetings, ask your new friends to lunch, gather a group for dinner. Don't be shy! Say hi!

Conference formats may all be similar, but the specifics, and most of all the people, are what warm you. At the College Book Art Association Conference 2016 in Tennessee last week there were over 200 of us passionate people, intense and dedicated to books, their making, their histories, their writing, and their teaching. 

As for sleeping at conferences, I can hardly keep still. It's so stimulating, energizing, and inspiring. A few photos, highlights from Nashville…

 The view out the hotel window.
Behind the Golden Arches is The Parthenon,
originally built for Tennessee's centennial in 1897 out of plaster,
but rebuilt in the 1930s out of more permanent materials.

 Hatch Show Print.
What we all came to see!
The amazing and wonderful letterpress shop:
I took my own walk before the conference started.
Others were on a tour.

 View of downtown Nashville from the pedestrian walking bridge 
over the Cumberland River.

I spent most of the first day at the Frist Center for Visual Arts
(on the far right). The "Phantom Bodies" show was quite thoughtful and moving.
The Frist was once a post office. We had a reception there that night for the Nashville Printmakers show.

 The Parthenon in daylight.

 Members' juried show: "Backstory."

 Minton Sparks, spoken word/storyteller/poet
and her guitarist, was our "Keynote Speaker."
She was awesome. Check her out at mintonsparks.com

 Hedi Kyle, grandmother of inventive book structures,
received the Distinguished Educator Award.
One of the highlights of the conference was having a long conversation with her.
About her life, about retirement, about coming out of retirement for a workshop or two…
She'll be having a show "The World of Hedi Kyle" and teaching at 
the San Francisco Center for the Book: April 15 - July 17, 2016.

 Cocktail competition winner: Mare Blocker
for "The Man in Black."
It was available for purchase at the bar, but I wasn't brave enough
to try what amounted to a hard root beer float with a splash of Jack Daniels.

 Friends along the molding in the art building on the way to the exhibition.

 This book caught my attention. Amazing, relevant, and political use of this form:
Mix and Match Family by Jaime Shafer (2013)

 Challenging the assumed character of family.

 Last evening. The silent auction: last minute bidding.

The theme of the conference was "Telling the Story."

 The Nashville-based committee that organized the conference.

Aside from the dancing, the last activity was paying up for auction bids
in the lobby at the student center at Vanderbilt.
The silent auction, combined with the live auction, presided over by a 
local Tennessee auctioneer, a generous chunk of change 
was raised for student awards.

The next day I had to get up at four forty-five to catch a shuttle to the airport.
But I woke at 1:00 am instead.
It was snowing.

Bye bye Nashville. 
See you again soon, new friends.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

A Dreamed 3-D Tableau Page

I dreamed a book that had a tableau at the end: a recessed page with a three-dimensional scene. The scene was certainly a banquet table (table/tableau, same root), possibly a version of the Last Supper. Honestly, it was a dream scene, so I don't know. But, as usual, I wondered if one could make the structure in waking life or if it only worked in the dream. 

This is one version, completely made out of paper. It should probably be a compact, smooth paper such as bristol. I used scraps of Rives BFK, a printmaking paper that is just a bit too soft. The background paper is Canson Mi-Teintes, which works nicely for this. One could sew a single signature to it before it is glued together and/or attach it to a hard cover. Not sure if I will get that far. If I do, you'll know.

Here's what I got. The dreamed tableau page.

Tools: pencil, metal ruler, X-Acto knife and cutting mat, PVA & small brush or piece of board to spread it, magazine pages to cover the work surface for gluing, low-tack artist's tape (temporary hold)

Materials: one piece of  heavy card or bristol, 10 1/2"w x 7"h, grained short; one piece of Canson Mi-Teintes or contrasting paper, 8 1/2"w x 5"h, grained short

 Measure, mark, and score 1" margin all around.

 Trim out the corner squares.

 Measure, mark, and score 1/2" from all edges.
Score from square to square as well (the 1" marks).

 Fold up, folding against the metal ruler if needed to keep the fold straight.

Measure and mark out a window in the center.
I like to leave a little more margin at the bottom edge.
Also measure and mark a horizontal line halfway down. 
My window is 2 3/4" x 5 3/4".

 Using the X-Acto against the metal ruler, cut an H.
(two verticals, the one horizontal)

 Use the bone folder against the ruler to score horizontal lines, top and bottom.
Measure, mark and score 1/2" down from each of those new horizontal scores.

 Fold up, two valley folds.

 Measure the same window in the contrasting paper.
But only cut two horizontals, top and bottom.

 Apply glue to the corners of the main paper.

 Press them down, using low-tack artist's tape to hold them, if needed.

 Turn over the main paper and slide the tabs into the slits in the contrasting paper.
(Remove the tape, if you used it.)

 Apply glue to the borders.

 Apply glue to the tabs.

 Press into place and hold. If you can put the center under a weight, even better.

Add an object, a paper sculpture, a tunnel book, whatever you like.

You may desire to make another and sew it to a single signature before you glue it so that you can include your story and have the object reveal as a surprise at the end. 


Afterward: I wrote this post before I left for the College Book Art Association Conference—in Nashville, TN, hosted at Vanderbilt University—but not consciously thinking about our finale of an auction and banquet. Look at the lovely table they set for us with a letterpress printed bandana and church fan, and a page from a 100-year-old Bible (don't worry, it was printed on really cheap paper). That cole slaw was really good.

I hope y'all can join us next time!

Next year's meeting is in Florida.
Conference 2018 will be held at University of the Arts, Philadelphia.
Anyone can join the organization and it's three days of talks, workshops, tours, and schmoozing with book arts enthusiasts from all over the country, and occasionally, the world. More on that later…