Monday, September 12, 2016

Letter by Letter: Working with Handwritten Text

I was delighted to be able to teach the course "Letter by Letter: Letterpress Printing & Handwritten Text" last summer. I got to reach back to my earliest memories in forming letters by hand, including practices from a calligraphy class I took in high school, and I researched what is happening in the contemporary lettering world today. New tools! Old tools used in a new way! A sugar-free candy zone for me. A great basic book is still the Speedball Textbook 24Th Edition. I had the 20th edition from 1972. The new one is much improved and a fantastic resource.

Here are some of the tools and approaches that got me into a new groove. The Pilot Parallel Calligraphy Pen  is made of two steel plates that hold the deep black ink between them, fountain pen style, in a cartridge. Wide strokes one way, thin lines the other. I ended buying two, the green cap (3.8mm) and the orange cap (2.4mm), but the whole set would have been cheaper per pen. Could not resist dying the pages with black tea for this one.


 It was fun to carve words into pieces of plastic eraser and use them as rubber stamps to add to the design. This was actually an old steel brush I had. A nib used with a pen holder from long ago and far away. Calli ink. The Pilot Parallel Pen is its replacement, I think.

Other great pens for styles that need chisel tips are the Elegant Writer (by Speedball) and the Itoya Calligraphy Doubleheader. The Sharpie brush pen can do a round Gothic. As can a Paper Mate Flair pen, and the non-brush end of the Tombow Dual.

I noticed this very distinctive M in some graffiti in Clarion Alley that hearkens back to an Arts & Crafts style. I found a version of this as a font used in the Klimt exhibition brochure: "Bala Cynwyd."



Fell in love with Ben Shahn's created lettering and attempted it myself with the Pilot Parallel Pen. So good for the thicks and thins.


Tested various black inks. Hard to see on the screen, but from left to right, top: Sharpie, Calli ink, FW acrylic pearlescent black, FW India ink black, Bottom: FW acrylic Payne's Grey, Windsor Newton Designer's Gouache. The Sharpie and the India ink were the darkest, although the Pilot Pen ink is quite juicy black as well.


Through a search I found the artist David Milan, who uses fat Crayola markers for beautiful script. His work is stunning. For me, the colors did not turn out as rich. Maybe the pens I bought were dry. I prefer using a Yasutomo Niji Water Brush with 12mm Tip, Medium. The Tombow dual brush pen is good, too. Pressure on the downstroke, lift on the upstroke.


The water brush and gouache also allow a nice fade out gradation that works well for layering. Here, in the background, I used the Yasutomo Niji Water Brush with 12mm Tip, Flat.


And back to the pointed water brush.


One of the keys to making it look halfway good: draw a baseline. I found that 20mm was a great height for my flat water brush, 15mm for the x height of my script. It will vary, depending on the width and size of your brushes. Well, there is much more to practice. In high school I practiced about three hours a day, particularly when babysitting and the kids were asleep. This past summer I tried to practice an hour a day to relax.


In doing so, I worked through almost four of the Grunge/Zen Journals from this post. And made a clamshell box for them as a demonstration box for the class. Instructions for the box are in Making Handmade Books: 100+ Bindings, Structures & Forms.


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Please Touch and D.I.Y. Collage Books

Sitting at a table at the SF Zine Fest last Sunday was a learning experience and a surreal one, too. What was most fascinating to me, aside from talking with the people who stopped by, was watching how people looked at and handled my books. Eighteen bookworks or objects, in addition to every issue of Star 82 Review, were on my table, but there was an almost identical triangulation between three particular things.

First, the visitor touched "Ear" of Ear. Egg. Yam. Coconut.. Maybe picked it up and read it. Smiled. Next, they scanned and found a title, A Fight for Chocolate. Flipped through it. Finally, noticed the bags of D.I.Y. Collage Books and thumbed through those. What was going on?

I mentioned this to the graduate students in the Letterpress Writing class I am teaching this semester, and one immediately plucked out this explanation that now seems obvious.: Touch. Reading. Then colors. The senses. Tactility, content, visuals. Of course. These are what we are looking at as we make books, and so, it seems, what people are looking for when they confront them.

At one point I was frustrated that people weren't handling the work, so I made a sign, "The books are sturdy! Please pick them up and read them!" A man pointed to it and said it was a good reminder. I felt a little silly, though. Every time I thought of something, I would make a sign. I began to wonder if I just needed a table of signs. Except that's exactly what I had in the books themselves. Each book signaled something. Only a few were successful at a distance.

Meanwhile, after selling some of the books, I still have many more left. Check them out at nevermindtheart on Etsy. Here's what a sample of the do-it-yourself collage book looks like. Instructions for a pamphlet stitch, a pre-punched, two-page booklet of cardstock, some colorful waxed linen thread, scraps of painted paper, ephemera, and old stamps are all included along with some random words that can all by cut, torn, arranged and glued to the booklet. Might make an interesting party favor.

Ear. Egg. Yam. Coconut., an older set of tiny bookettes from 1987, is coming to Etsy soon. They are aging a bit, but still readable, and definitely touchable.

Monday, September 5, 2016

"The Shelter of Bees" in Gone Lawn Magazine

The idea of what we can control and what we can't has been on my mind for a while. A few months ago I wrote a story that centered around bees and employed bees as a metaphor, based on a conversation with my next-door neighbor. It was recently published in the literary magazine Gone Lawn, titled "The Shelter of Bees." I hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Star 82 Review Fall Issue 4.3 is LIVE!

The fifteenth issue of the online and print magazine I publish, Star 82 Review (also known as *82 Review) was released today. This fall issue looks at people in plain sight and those plainly overlooked, among other topics. It's a lovely issue with plenty of art and poetry this time. Included is another wonderful book-related piece by Lisa Kokin, for example, as she explores the world of mute language. And photos of a sculpture of a sleeping bag that appears empty, capturing only the silhouette of a homeless body created by a recently graduated CCA student, Vlada Dronova. Vlada came to school here from Moscow and was surprised by the abundance of people living on the streets, which prompted her to create a whole series of these sculptures for her senior show.

If you are in San Francisco this weekend, come visit the SF Zine Fest and visit my table #192, where I will have copies of Star 82 Review as well as all my newest, affordable book art. 

Or read online:
Or support the magazine by purchasing a print copy:

Judith Arcana
Jia Oak Baker
Paul Beckman
Jonathan Beight
Micki Blenkush
Jota Boombaba
Joseph Burrows
Alicia Coe
Grace Curtis
Robert Del Tredici
Matt Dennison
Vlada Dronova
Minna Dubin
Melissa Fitzgerald
Brittany Fonte
Allen Forrest
Carolyn Friedman
Maryanne Hannan
Andrea Jackson
Michael Jones
Richard Jones
Lisa Kokin
Rupprecht Mayer
Jenny McBride
Stephen Mead
Todd Mercer
Robin Michel
Isabel Nguyen
Darrell Petska
Lia Roozendaal
Ray Scanlon
Sharon Scholl
Carol Smallwood
Jake Tringali
Phyllis Wax
Michael Weidman