Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A 50-Word Story Zine: Blink-Ink

Blink-Ink, a friendly little quarterly literary magazine, was introduced to me when I announced a call for entries for Star 82 Review's 50/50-word story special flash issue last spring. Lynn Mundell, whose three pieces "Sweet" and  "Speed Dating, 2917" and "Main Street" I published in that issue, met me at our local library and gave me a copy of Blink-Ink, saying she thought I would enjoy it and that "Doug and Sally [Sr. Editor and Managing Editor, respectively] are great." Issue #22,"Cities" intrigued me enough to send some of my own stories to be considered for the next issue, "Magic." While my particular magic-themed 50-word stories were not accepted, Doug Mathewson sent me an encouraging response.

And a short while later, he very kindly sent me issues #23 and #24, "Mystery Train" and "Magic." "Mystery Train" had a table of contents like a train, listing the cars before each title and author: Coach 1, Coach 2, etc. to Dining Car, Pinkerton Car, Pullman. There is definitely a subtle book arts sensibility on the tracks here.

The stapled booklets came together in an envelope with Star Trek stamps, which pleased me. Doug wrote: "and yeah, we even care about the stamps—hope the whole thing is an art piece." Each issue contains about 20-25 stories and thematic quotes on the inside cover.

I highly recommend the "Magic" issue, my favorite so far. The topics are varied and surprising, the excellent writing is, yes, magical, and best of all, the humor of the stories is entertaining and delightful. It has its share of rabbits, dragons, talking flowers, and magic bracelets, but each with a twist and a relatable emotional core.

My recent submissions of 50-word stories were accepted. First, to #25 "Crossroads" and second, to the upcoming "Space" issue. Since the magazine is only available as a physical publication, subscribing seems like a good idea. On their Facebook page, if you subscribe you are also publicly thanked and receive a bonus copy of a chapbook by one of the authors.

"Crossroads" came with an interesting bonus booklet by Sally Reno, "Tom, the Henchman's Boy," that says it is "Brought to you by: The Mambo Academy of Kitty Wang" and lists Doug as the publisher.

The materials and colors vary from issue to issue. "Cities" has a slick shiny cover from clay-coated stock with white printer paper inside; "Mystery Train" is gray card stock with gray paper inside; "Magic" has a color cover on semi-gloss paper with white paper inside; "Crossroads" has a warm tan cover with light tan paper inside. Each has materials that are related to the theme.

The magazine fits into a standard invitation envelope and in your back pocket, backpack, fanny pack, purse, hatband, saddlebag, evening bag, murse, and even between two slices of bread for a short, yet satisfying literary meal.

Thanks, Doug. And thank you, Lynn!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Beginning Coptic & Distressed Board Examples

Around the middle of each semester in my Bookworks class, we use mallets and metal objects and alphanumeric punches to distress and mark book boards and use them as covers for a Coptic binding sewn with a curved needle. One hundred percent cotton, 4-ply museum board is my favorite board to use because it is soft, but we had an ample supply of book board, so that is what we used this week. Here are some examples. Only one of the students had ever sewn this structure before, but all of them did an excellent job. 

Distressing boards is shown on page 216 of Making Handmade Books: 100+ Bindings, Structures & Forms. Coptic with a Curved Needle is on pages 174-176. We used a Fiskars Manual Rotary Craft Hand Drill for the holes. Much easier than an awl for this particular use. It would probably look nice to paint the boards again around the drilled holes. Waxed linen thread from the Caning Shop is terrific for this application, where the spine sewing is exposed. You can also use different colored paper for each signature to change the look of the spine as well.

 Runes with green and brown acrylic paints, runes highlighted in silver gel pen.

 Notched edges and runes with acrylic paints and gel pen highlighting the stamped runes.

 Blue acrylic paint and white gesso over boards with a rune and some notches at the edges.

 Green and blue acrylic paints with reddish edging.

 A lively mix of pinks, built-up gel medium, and white gesso with lettering added in silver gel pen.

 Gold paint covering lightly distressed letters and marks.

 A thick layer of acrylic paint that was textured and felt like leather after it dried.

 Lots of deep blues over paper layers adhered with gel medium.

 A dark layer was put down first with gold brushed over it.

Layers were carved into the board and stripped out before painting with purple and blue acrylic paints.

Many different approaches!
I had fun. I hope they did, too.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Bookbinding for Social & Economic Justice

As mentioned last week, we staged a union action at CCA, what we called a "bind-in" (think "sit-in" but with bookbinding). Armed with our awls and needles and thread we gathered students and interested faculty and taught them how to sew a single signature, a.k.a. pamphlet binding. Our booklet is a collection of 20 stories of adjunct professors and how working as an adjunct at CCA has affected our lives. The booklet is to raise awareness for why we need and want a fair union contract. It has been more than two years now, and an acceptable contract has not been settled yet.

You can read about how we "transformed conflict into art" and art into action here

As a side note, it was gratifying to help people bind their first book. And they got to keep what they bound.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Channeling Other Artists: Andy Goldsworthy

When I teach, I try to listen to the students and see what kind of work they are interested in, then give them some online links to artists that might resonate with them. Recently, I thought one student might be interested in Land Art, so I looked up some of the particular artists, which took me down my own path. I've always been a fan of Andy Goldsworthy's work. There are a few of his installations in the SF Bay Area I have seen and photographed.

"Spire" is one of several at the Presidio. The park website says "aging Monterey cypress are now reaching the end of their life" and needed to be cut down and new ones planted. Goldsworthy selected from the felled trees to create this 100-foot-tall work. (2008)

"Stone River" at Stanford University. According to the Stanford website, it is made "of sandstone from university buildings destroyed in the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes." (2001)

And "Drawn Stone" at the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. The website says this "faux fault line…was inspired by the unique character of California's tectonic topography." (2005)

I was sitting at the picnic table, staring at the fallen leaves from our Silver Dollar Gum Eucalyptus tree, wondering just what causes an evergreen tree to shed, when the different leaf colors from the same tree struck me. I started collecting them, sorting them, very much aware I was channeling Andy Goldsworthy and a work I had only seen in a photograph. 

He takes hours to complete his works. I took minutes arranging them in concentric circles by color. The process was delightful. As I worked I noticed myself calling the leaves "dark brown" and "pink" and "pinkish green." Pink leaves? I hadn't thought about that before. 

Perhaps a mashup of or homage to Goldsworthy and Judy Chicago? My "Leaf-Rose."

In one of my first art classes in college, "Form in Color," I had to choose an artist's work and copy it exactly. I chose Georgia O'Keeffe and painted in acrylics on paper what she had painted in oils on canvas. It was really hard, very frustrating to get it right, but in the end, I appreciated the process and learned a new technique for blending colors. 

Working with the leaves in my backyard gave me a new perspective, inspiration, and perhaps a new technique. The colors remind me of skin. Perhaps some leafy hands, both human and alien, are next.

Addendum (the next morning, 10.9.16).


Thursday, October 6, 2016

Instructions: Handmade Morale-Booster Flags

I have been printing on cloth lately, cutting it up, making it into quilts and now little flags. Pennants to boost morale. #1 Print (or: Go Print!) and Respect are the recent forays into the sporting life (the former a direct homage to El Lissitzky's book of Vladimir Mayakovsky's poems, For the Voice, the latter inspired by our non-ranked faculty union fight).

They are each printed on a rectangular piece of muslin. "Work and turn" is this style of printing. Feed one edge, rotate it, feed the opposite edge. Letterpress, that is. Print is made from two photopolymer plates in the style of El Lissitzky. Respect is a linocut in SEIU purple, with handset type on the back. You could make stamps from Speedy Cut, carve a potato, or stencil the the cloth with acrylic paint or gesso.

Cut the printed cloth diagonally. A rotary cutter with a metal ruler as a guide is great for this. (I actually did cut precisely from corner to corner, but lined them up this way for the photo.)

Trim the top corner off the pennant. (This is so it looks flat when it is glued and rolled up and doesn't look like a croissant at the top of the stick.)

Get some cheap grocery variety bamboo skewers (as thick as you can find), and cut off the pointy end with an old scissors, mat knife, or tiny saw.

Apply Aleene's Tacky Glue on the back of the pennant, along the edge.

Smooth out the glue with one skewer. Roll the skewer so the cloth sticks at the edge, then wraps all the way around.

Make some for everyone in your community. Wave together!

As a lively action organized with our union, I taught students and faculty a simple pamphlet stitch today. Each book took about five minutes to bind, and they were excited to make a book. They were also interested to read the stories of the treatment of twenty different adjunct professors and support us as we continue our fight for a fair contract at CCA.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Culture & (Re)Making

In a previous post I wrote about curiosity and changing the way people see the world. I will now quote myself:
Artists, makers, curious people can make things happen. David Brooks writes in the recent article, "How Artists Change the World," that artists can "retrain the imagination" and change how our society sees the world, really make the world better by giving us new images to enlighten us.
We hear the words "making the world a better place" and "social justice" a lot. The more I thought about this, the more the word "culture" came to mind. This semester, because the stars fell into place this way, I am teaching three different "cultures" of students: art school undergrads, general ed undergrads at a state university, and MFA art and writing students. Their needs are different. Their interests are different.

How does culture work? What is it? Why bother thinking about it? Each culture tends to have common beliefs, common sets of symbols, perhaps inside jokes, shared rituals (which may include candles and food, among other objects). A culture can be religious or linked to a geographical region, although neither overrides the other. It can also be a shared community or within a workplace, school, or centered around common interests. Firefighters have a culture. Chefs have a culture. Teachers share a culture. Art school students share a culture. Someone in each group can probably make at least one generalization, "We all do _______." 

We can be part of many cultures and be satisfied with aspects of one but unhappy with parts of another. Here is where we as artists can help change stereotypes, unfair practices, poor treatment. We can depict, for instance, women in roles we want to see them in rather than the roles we are protesting. We can show an ideal world, present it with a positive spin. Re-write by remaking. Repetition works. It may take time, but it works.

As I was musing on this, I started looking for the word "culture" in the newspaper. "Widow of Steve Jobs Takes Stake in the Media," said one NYTimes article. In it, Mrs. Powell Jobs is quoted that she "believes in the power of storytelling to shape our culture and improve lives." She has invested in companies that have made films about immigration reform, the discovery and prosecution of abusive priests, companies that are working to rethink American high school, look at gun violence, and work to create more "content aimed at African-American and Hispanic audiences." These are companies working to write over old stereotypes and beliefs and create beneficial new views.

When two cultures can't agree, one needs to point out the problem first, then present the solution. But just pointing to the problem isn't good enough. The other side likely WILL NOT SEE IT. In a patriarchical society, for example, pointing to a woman not being allowed to vote, for example, will look normal to that society (and once it did look normal to American culture—in the 1800s). But showing the woman voting shakes up the belief system because that is not normal to that culture. (Sarah & Angelina Grimke took big hits for that one, and the suffragettes that followed did as well, until women voting became normal.)

In "Three Methods of Reform" in Pamphlets: Translated from the Russian (1900) translated by Aylmer Maude (29), Leo Tolstoy wrote"…in our world everybody thinks of changing humanity, and nobody thinks of changing himself." We can change ourselves by looking deeply at our own beliefs and deciding if they are fair, deciding what is right and just for people outside our culture as well, and presenting imagery that shows this ideal. We know that hate works and is effective, but the culture of hate is not healthy for the culture of humanity.

Shanah Tovah.