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  1. Swell Things // Paris & London Edition

    November 30, 2016 by Erin Fletcher

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    1. Nearly everyday, my husband and I would pass by the Opéra Garnier, a 1,979-seat opera house built from 1861 to 1875. We never saw the inside of the building until our visit to the Musee d’Orsay. At the end of the nave sits a massive and highly detailed model of the building and its interior. No detail was left unnoticed. Quite amazing.
    2. At the tail end of my London trip, I spent two days in the studio with Tracey Rowledge to learn her technique for gold tooling. I was in awe of this piece that hung on the wall in the back of the studio. What appears as ordinary scribbles on a background of red, it is actually painstakingly carbon-tooled shapes on leather to mimic a scribbled handwritten note. The heavy and light flow of the ink was represented with the right balance of carbon on the tool.
    3. I idolize Shelia Hicks and her work. Growing up in my home state of Nebraska, Shelia eventually made her way to Paris, fell in love and set up her studio. Her work was recently exhibited in three parts and we were in Paris for the second installment. At five seemingly random spots throughout Paris, we gazed upon her work through shop windows. The pieces ranged from hanging skeins to puffs of yarn acting as bookmarks to massive flat balls of wrapped yarn.
    4. We visited a surprising number of churches during our trip, but my favorite was definitely Sainte Chapelle. Construction began around 1238 and the chapel was consecrated in 1248. During our visit the interior was flooded with colored light as the sun beamed through 15 stained-glass windows reaching around 49 feet high. A total of 1,113 Biblical scenes are depicted amongst the stained glass. It holds the world’s most extensive collection of 13th century stained glass.
    5. During a stroll through the Jardin des Tuileries, nestled between the Louvre and Place de la Concorde, we came upon modern sculptures amongst the perfectly manicured gardens and classical statues. I particularly loved this piece of cubes built from rusty mattress springs.

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    6. Invader is the pseudonym behind the global art project: Space Invaders, which places pixelated creations on buildings and structures at a running total of 67 cities. My husband and I enjoyed the hunt as we walked around Paris, which has 1,258 pieces out of the grand total 3,397 pieces worldwide. My favorite find was Han Solo and Chewbacca.
    7. While in London, I stopped by the Leighton House Museum, which is the former home of Victorian artist Frederic, Lord Leighton. The Arab Hall was stunning, with its recently restored gilded dome, detailed mosaics and beautiful Islamic tiles featuring arabic script.
    8. Before our trip to the Catacombs, my husband and I strolled through Montparnasse Cemetery. There were many stunning and unique grave markers, but I became overly fascinated with the weathered plastic floral pieces left behind; they had transformed into these gloomy, muted objects.
    9. At the beginning of my trip to London, I took a private workshop with Mark Cockram. Here he is, so proud of his piece Dicated, Untitled No. 1. Brilliant, Mark, just brilliant.
    10. I love the Victoria and Albert Museum and I make a point to visit anytime I’m in London. This time around I was delighted by an extraordinary exhibit on English embroideries from the 12th – 15th century. I was astonished at their condition, so many of the pieces were in near perfect condition. If you happen to be in London before February 5th, check out Opus Anglicanum: Masterpieces of English Medieval Embroidery.


  2. A visit to the Annual UK Bookbinding Competition Exhibit

    November 14, 2016 by Erin Fletcher

    During my visit to London, I was delighted to have my trip overlap with the 2016 Annual UK Bookbinding Competition Exhibit. A collection of bindings are on display at the St. Bride Foundation and during the opening reception on November 10th, many of the exhibitors received awards for their work. The exhibit is sponsored by Designer Bookbinders and The Folio Society, who provided the set book: La Vita Nuova by Dante Alighieri. Written between 1292 and 1294 as an innovative mix of prose and poetry, La Vita Nuova is considered Dante’s fist major work. The text is an expression on the torments and joys of young love before transcending into the ether.

    In addition to the set book, many of the binders chose to submit an additional binding. If you are in the London area, the exhibit will be on view until November 24th. Check out my some of my favorite pieces from the show. I absolutely loved Ann Tout and Glenn Malkin’s books, but the bright red leather on their bindings were difficult to photograph well (on that line, please excuse any awkward reflections and glare).

    Kaitlin Barber

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    Kaitlin Barber‘s interpretation of Vita Nuova extended beyond the book form with her 3-dimensional piece representing Dante’s dream of Beatrice in flames. The binding is covered with hand-dyed goatskin and decorated using the Sunago technique in gold leaf. Kaitlin’s binding won the St. Bride Foundation Prize for Finishing.

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    Kaitlin’s second submission was In Smoke: Ten Variations on Eugenio Montale by Gary Michael Dault. Kaitlin created another beautiful binding using a hand-dyed leather that creates so much movement.

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    The front and back boards have been debossed with leaves, with the front accented in gold leaf. The consistent themes of nature and repeated imagery of foliage and gardens within the text inspired Kaitlin’s design. The second place Clothworkers’ Prize of the Open Choice Book was awarded to Kaitlin’s second entry. I am so happy for Kaitlin, as a fellow North Bennet Street grad, it’s so great to see her skill and creativity grow. Congrats Kaitlin!

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    Bec Britain

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    Bec Britain created this gorgeous binding for Vita Nuova. As the exhibit pamphlet reads “the design reflects Dante’s evolving sense of the limitations of courtly love and its transition into sacred love.” The central design is created with crimson leather onlays, tooling and ink. Bec was awarded the Harmatan Ltd Leather Prize, which she completely deserves. Her combination of techniques created such a sleek and captivating design.

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    Jeanette Koch

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    Jeanette Koch’s binding for Vita Nuova is covered in terra-cotta and burgundy goatskin. The leather is cut-out to reveal laminated decorative paper and transparent vellum. I love the way Jeanette transformed the decorative paper in her design.

    The edges are decorated with watercolor, palladium and gold leaf. Jeanette was honored with the Lisa von Clemm Prize for this binding.

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    Jeanette also submitted a binding of the late 14th-century Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, an Arthurian story on chivalric romance.

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    This is one of my favorite bindings from the exhibit. The judges seems to agree, as Jeanette received The Judges’ Award and the Arthur Johnson Prize for this binding. Covered in green and burgundy French goatskin; Jeanette chose a beautiful green skin with stunning grain detail at the spine.

    Like Vita Nuova, this binding also has cut-outs revealing laminated decorative Japanese paper and vellum.

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    Kaori Maki

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    I was so in awe of Kaori Maki‘s binding for Vita Nuova, which was bound in alum-tawed goatskin. Kaori decorated her binding with an intricate and bold floral design using back-pared, cushioned onlays dyed red. Kaori’s binding received second place for The Folio Society Prize for the Set Book, which was so well deserved, her decorative work was so unique and captivating.

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    Yuko Matsuno

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    The most celebrated binding of the evening was crafted by Yuko Matsuno. Her binding of Through the Woods by H.E. Bates is bound in grey goatskin with decorative underlays. Ink-dotted calfskin and Zerkall paper peeks through a forest silhouette with animal onlays of colored Gampi and cushioned calfskin.

    The edges and endpapers are decorated using soft pastel to mimic the imagery from the cover. Yuko received first place for The Clothworkers’ Prize for the Open Choice Book and the ultimate prize: The Mansfield Medal for the Best Book in the Competition.

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  3. Swell Things No. 37

    October 31, 2016 by Erin Fletcher

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    1. A group of astronomers and physicists at the University of Texas have banded together to attempt to place Sappho at the time that she wrote her poem Midnight Poem. Existing on fragments of papyrus, the verse references the position of the moon and the visibility of Pleiades, giving clues to what time of year she may have wrote this piece of work.
    2. Considered to be the first modern artist’s book, Depero Futurista (known as “The Bolted Book”) was published in 1927 by the Italian Futurist Fortunato Depero. Less than a thousand were produced at the time and copies of it are extremely difficult to find today. The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Trento and Rovereto (home to the Depero archives) and the Center for Italian Modern Art have a launched a Kickstarter campaign with Designers & Books to republish this groundbreaking piece of art.
    3. The original stuffed animals that inspired A.A. Milne to write Winnie-the-Pooh became part of the collection at the New York Public Library in 1987. Over the past year, the animals underwent a transformation in the conservation department. They have been beautifully restored and are now back on displayed.
    4. I’m really digging the work of Rachel Beach, in particular the hand-painted hands.
    5. I’m loving these portraits by Chambers Austelle.

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    6. Cosmic Animal Gloves by Bunnie Reiss. A painter who transforms something old into something so stunning!
    7. Marra is a dying language; an estimated 90 percent of indigenous languages in Australia are now endangered. In as little as 10 minutes, you can learn part of a dying culture through My Grandmother’s Lingo, an interactive animation. Narrated by Angelina Joshua, rediscover her grandmother’s language through voice-activated interactions.
    8. Centaur turns one hundred: In 1915, Bruce Rogers designed Centaur after a 15th century typeface designed by Nicolas Jenson. We stock Centaur in our studio for its pure elegance and grace, so happy to celebrate its subtle contribution to the world.
    9. Chie Hitotsuyama is a Japanese paper artist, who creates these magnificent realistic sculptures of animals out of rolled up strips of wet newspaper. It’s quite stunning.
    10. Want to stand alone in a mirrored room filled with thousands of tiny lights for a full minute? Well, now you can (or at least until October 2017). On view at The Broad is Yayoi Kusama’s piece Infinity Mirrored Room. Oh, how I would love to make a trip to Los Angeles to experience this!


  4. Guild of Book Workers – Standards of Excellence Seminar // Charleston 2016

    October 24, 2016 by Erin Fletcher

    After an adventuresome time in Durham, North Carolina, where I consumed delicious local brews, lost at shuffle board, ate so many southern dishes, visited Duke’s conservation lab, toured a lemur center and discovered that I’m still allergic to mosquito bites, Henry and I embarked on our drive to Charleston, South Carolina.

    Upon our arrival we were greeted by Tropical Storm Julia, but luckily the next few days proved to be quite lovely with very little rain. After checking in, I began to rummage through my conference packet and found my name tag, which was beautifully done by local calligrapher Elizabeth Porcher Jones.

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    Day One:
    The conference began with a tour to the Charleston Library Society, an absolutely charming space that also served as the venue for the opening reception later that evening. Our tour began with Anna Smith, Special Collections Librarian, who gave us an overview the Society’s establishment and shared a few treasures from their collection. We were then led to the first floor by Kerri Harding, Director of Bindery and Conservation Studio, where she showed off their delightfully quaint bindery space. Having just relocated to Charleston, Kerri shared with us the range of her upcoming projects: a presentation leather binding, rehousing and holiday ornaments showcasing the Society’s newest titles.

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    Day Two:
    The first presentation of the conference was Drawn to the Writing given by calligrapher Cheryl Jacobsen. As a freelance artist living in Iowa City, Cheryl’s work ranges from design and lettering to illustrations and art. She began her presentation with her personal history on how her interest in art and lettering developed before going into a slideshow of her work. Cheryl is also an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Iowa, teaching courses at the Center for the Book. Over the course of the presentation, Cheryl created a certificate to commemorate the conference using a variety of letter forms. She spoke about line formation (this included pressure and hand position), nib use, ink/pigment preferences and tricks of the trade.

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    At the end of presentation, the audience was rewarded with a copy of the certificate Cheryl produced during the presentation (she even offered to add your name to the certificate). We were also allowed to handle some of her artist books.

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    For the afternoon presentation, the topic switched to bookbinding in Exploration of history and techniques for Pennsylvania German Liturgical Bookbinding before 1850. The presentation was divided into two parts: Chela Metzger, Head of Library Conservation at UCLA, demonstrated the construction of the binding and Erin Hammeke, Senior Conservator at Duke University, demonstrated the techniques used to create the bosses and clasps traditionally seen on this style of binding.

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    Chela quickly went through the construction of the binding. The book used in the demonstration was sewn in an abbreviated pattern (usually 2-on) using thicker supports (usually two supports as one), the shoulders are quite narrow and the edges were (historically) ploughed. The wooden boards (oak or beech; usually quarter-sawn) are heavily shaped along the spine and fore edge on both sides of the board. The fore edge is also notched in preparation for the clasps. The spine is lined with linen strips that extend beyond the shoulder. Unlike most wooden board structures, the boards are not laced-in. The sewing supports are frayed and adhered to the first and last leaf, then the linen is adhered to sandwich the frayed cords. The text block edge is colored after the boards are attached, then the hand-sewn or hand-woven endbands are stuck-on.

    One of my favorite parts of the presentation was the brief demo given by Chela on the technique behind the woven endbanding material. Using a make-shift back-strap loom (popsicle crafts!), she wove a traditional white and blue endband strip. A variety of endbands have been spotted on these bindings. The image below (on the right) shows just two varieties with the hand woven style on the bottom.

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    Chela’s portion of the presentation continued with the covering of the book and tying up the spine (this step ensures that the leather adheres to either side of the supports). The last step presented by Chela is one of the defining characteristics of this binding: the leather spine straps. Appearing on the spine at the head and tail (and sometimes the middle) many examples are seen adorned with brass studs or domes.

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    Using a 24-gauge brass sheet, Erin demonstrated the process for creating the corner pieces for the binding. Beginning with a flat piece of brass, Erin roughly traced out the design with a sharpie. Then she cut down the brass close to her design with metal snips; shaping it even further with needle files and emory paper. Supporting the brass with a lead block, Erin began to decorate the brass corner piece by striking the back with steel punches. This did not create a hole, rather pushed the brass into a shape that would be raised on the front side. In the image above (on the right), Erin uses a drill to create holes where the nails will be inserted when attaching the furniture to the book. After attaching this corner piece to the book, Erin began to bend the extended brass around the edge of the board with her fingers and finished its shape by striking the brass with a planishing hammer.

    Day two ended with a social gathering at a local pub for a Mentor-Mentee Happy Hour, those new to their field were encouraged to speak with the more accomplished participants. Afterward, I broke off with some friends for a very quick bite to eat before going on a Ghost and Dungeons tour through Charleston.

    Day Three:
    One the third and final day of the conference, two more presentations were given. The morning presentation was given by Betsy Palmer Eldridge on Paper Conservation Treatment Revisited. In 1989, Betsy gave a presentation at the Standards conference in Portland, this year she presented a revised version of that lecture.

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    Betsy was introduced to book arts during her time at Wellesley College in 1957 and further advanced her training in Germany and France. In 1973, she moved to Toronto, where she established and maintained her private conservation studio. Betsy has been an active member of the Guild since 1960 and the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild since 1983. Betsy gave an overview of a variety of conservation techniques and tricks she has picked up along the way. Many of the presentation materials she referred to were used in her original presentation 27 years ago, it was quite interesting to see how the materials had changed or retained their vibrancy over the years.

    The final presentation was on Herrnhuter Paste Paper given by Deborah Evetts. At the start of her presentation the audience received a brief history lesson paired with images of these papers collected from several sources. During the last third of the 18th century, a group of Moravian sisters living in a religious community at Herrnhut in Saxony created what came to be a very recognizable style of paste paper. The sisters traditionally used olive, bright or grayish blue, mustard yellows and reds in their papers. Deborah has seen several examples and has recreated tools to mimic the patterns seen on these historical papers. Herrnhuter Papers were used as both cover papers and endpapers on many common types of books such as ledgers and almanacs, but examples have also been found on works of literature, non-fiction and other genres.

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    After the slideshow, Deborah moved onto discussing tools and paste preparation. She began with a quick demonstration on making your own tools such as combs, rolls and mylar templates. The first image below shows Deborah marking out a small piece of plastic and then cutting out the teeth using a sharp scalpel blade. Combs can be made from binder’s board, plastic container lids or vertical blinds. The second image below shows three different styles of paper that utilize the same decorative roll and the handmade rolls that Deborah has made. The designs were carved out of linoleum and attached to craft rollers.

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    Over the course of the presentation, Deborah created several styles of the historical patterns seen on Herrnhuter Papers. She demystified so many patterns. One in particular that I was excited to see was the two-finger swirl. The crowd gave Deborah a round of applause after each paper blossomed before our eyes. Deborah was so delightful and high-spirited in her presentation and it was a great way to end this year’s series of presentations.

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    At the end of the evening, we all gathered in the Colonial Ballroom at the Francis Marion Hotel for the banquet and live auction. Also during this time, two members of the Guild are rewarded with the Laura Young Award and the GBW Lifetime Achievement Award. Catherine Burkhard was awarded the former for her dedication and long-time service to the Guild. The latter was awarded to Peter Verheyen, celebrating his achievements in the fields of conservation, bookbinding, book arts and creating a thriving online community. As the night came to a close, I allowed my nose to be traced, said my goodbyes and wished everyone  safe travel back home. Looking forward to next year’s conference in Tacoma, Washington!


  5. My Hand // Into This World

    October 18, 2016 by Erin Fletcher

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    I recently completed a French-style fine binding around Natalie Goldberg’s Into This World. The letterpress printed text is paired with woodblock prints both carved and printed by Clare Dunne and hand-tinted by Sialia Rieke. The texture of the prints were my inspiration for the design for the binding. By combining the natural texture of the buffalo skin with embroidery and leather onlays, I hoped to capture the pops and cracks between the layers of color.

    With this plan in mind, I used a single print as my inspiration to lay out the design. For the embroidered elements of the design, I chose to play with the technique in two new ways: an embroidered title and embroidered paper doublures.

    The script used for the title mimics the author’s own handwriting taken from her signature on the title page. The title was drawn onto tracing paper and taped in place, overlapping the white buffalo back-pared onlay. I tend to pre-punch the holes for embroidery, especially when I am trying to achieve something exact. For the pre-punching, I put a thin embroidery needle in my pin vise and placed the leather onto a piece foam. Then I used the tracing paper to guide my pin vise.

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    The embroidery for the title happened in two steps: back-stitch to spell-out the letters with french knots for the i’s dots and then I wrapped the stitches to create a raised, more defined line.

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    After the title was completed, several seed stitches were scattered around the binding with the majority of them appearing on the back cover. I used the same technique to pre-punch the holes for the seed stitches, this time using the full-scale template. The title and seed stitches were sewn with 2-ply cotton thread in an ochre yellow.

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    The second embroidered element in the binding are the edge-to-edge paper doublures. The prep for paper doublures is very similar to the set-up for leather doublures; for paper I allowed a wider turn-in as I trimmed out, this would ensure a smoother surface under the paper. Below you can see the turn-ins post covering and with the leather hinge in place.

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    After scoring a frame around the board and spine edge, I began to trim off the excess leather at a slight bevel. In order to create a successful doublure, several layers are added to the board (one at a time) and sanded to make the board as smooth as possible. The first layer (shown on the right in the image below) was a piece of 10pt. card, first sanded along all four edges and attached with a PVA/methylcellulose mix. After allowing that layer to dry under weight for an entire day, I sanded the edges smooth (which is the state visible in the image below).

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    In between these stages, I began working on the embroidered paper doublures. Referencing the same print used to inspired the covers, I traced an outline of the figure from the image. I felt that her pose embodied the sentiments of the text perfectly. Using the tracing paper once again as my guide for punching the holes, I placed the paper onto a piece of foam and poked through the tracing paper into the doublure paper.
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    Once the paper pieces were fully embroidered, I carefully sanded the backside of the paper to create a smoother feel along the edges once glued down to the board. Below you can see the board in it’s final stage. After sanding down the 10pt. card, I attached a medium weight smooth paper. This piece was slightly oversized on three edges and sanded down on the spine side. After allowing it to dry under weight, I sanded it down smooth. The embroidered paper doublures were attached with MIX and put under weight for a day in order to dry thoroughly and to prevent the board from cupping inward.

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    And here are the final results. I am so pleased with the outcome of the embroidered paper doublures, it will most certainly be a technique I use again on a future binding. To see more images of the binding and it’s embroidered quarter leather clamshell box, click here.

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  6. Swell Things No. 36

    September 30, 2016 by Erin Fletcher

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    1. Shapereader is an experimental way of storytelling purely through tactile-sensory graphics. Designed by Ilan Manouach, these graphics are mostly meant to be read by blind or visually impaired readers. Shapereader indexes the 210 different shapes and patterns; these are divided into different groups such as characters, props, settings, actions, and affections. The first actual graphic novel is titled Arctic Circle, a 57-page original relating the story of two climatologists digging in the North Pole searching for patterns of climatic change inscribed on ice columns.
    2. The Poetry Society of New York partnered up with the Parks Deparment to install The Typewriter Project: The Subconscious of the City, a wooden shack inviting anyone to contribute to a collaborative poem. The typewriter is outfitted with a 100-foot paper scroll and a equipped to transmit all submissions to a website, with the most recent post being: “mouthspine moonprow kitten bitten forwardness a kind of scent”.
    3. Yayoi Kusama illustrates Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid.
    4. The highly realistic and detailed paintings of Casey Gray.
    5. An exhibit of Fritz Scholder’s work was recently on display at the Phoenix Art Museum. Scholder was one of the first Native Americans to be recognized for his significant contributions as a contemporary artist (beginning in the late 1960s). His colorful and abstract pop art paintings challenged the cultural stereotypes surrounding American Indians.

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    6. Using wire mesh and colorful rope, artist Raquel Rodrigo, is creating urban embroidered installations around the walls of Madrid.
    7. If you go to Sigalit Landau’s portfolio website, you’ll find an entire page dedicated to salt. Sigalit has a love affair for the Dead Sea. In her piece, Salt Bride, a 19th century dress was weighted and submerged in the waters of the Dead Sea. Overtime, the salt crystallizes on the fibers of the dress.
    8. A 36-foot long by 13-feet wide mosaic was recently discovered in Cyprus. This particular mosaic is the first of its kind found in Cyprus and depicts a 4-chariot race in great detail with the names of the racers and even some horses. There are even some bystanders, one holding a vessel of water and the other brandishing a whip.
    9. Annie Vought has an obsession with handwriting and letter writing, which has blossomed into large-scale paper installations of intricately hand-cut letters.
    10. Graviky Labs, an India-based research company, has developed a way to turn exhaust from cars into a line products for artists. The device known as Kaalink, is placed on a exhaust pipe to capture pollutants without comprising the vehicle’s performance. The soot is then stripped of its carcinogens yielding a purified, carbon-based pigment, which is then transformed into pens, spray paint and oil-based paints marketed as Air Ink.


  7. Onward to Charleston, South Carolina

    September 10, 2016 by Erin Fletcher

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    I am on my way to Charleston, South Carolina for the annual Standards of Excellence Seminar put on by the Guild of Book Workers. My trip begins in North Carolina with fellow guest bloggers, Henry Hébert and Jeanne Goodman. This will be my second trip to North Carolina and my first to South Carolina. I’m looking forward to traditional Carolina barbecue, lemurs, exploring the southern landscape and oh, yes all things books. This year I’m looking forward to touring the Charleston Library Society, the presentations (particularly the ones given by Chela Metzger & Erin Hammeke and Betsy Palmer Eldridge) and the vendor room.

    I’ll be writing a review of the seminar shortly after I return, so look for it around the end of September.


  8. Swell Things No. 35 // Brien Beidler

    July 31, 2016 by Erin Fletcher

    I so rarely get the chance to hang out with Brien Beidler, which is a shame since he is so delightful to be around. After first meeting in Las Vegas during the Guild of Book Workers’ Standards of Excellence Seminar, I’ve come to find that Brien is also so incredibly talented, so supportive, and so very hilarious. Brien currently lives and works in Charleston, South Carolina as the Director of the Bindery and Conservation Studio at the Charleston Library Society. He’s a Jim Croft enthusiast and proponent of historical bookbinding techniques and materials.

    Brien gave me the brilliant idea of inviting contributors for the Swell Things column, joking that his own would just be various shades of brown and not the typical vibrant colors readers are used to seeing. So the idea was planted and Brien is now the fourth contributor of Swell Things. His selections for this month are especially fascinating. His witty, yet thoughtful comments will entice you to investigate each pick further. And you will find a surprising amount of color beyond the hues of brown. Enjoy!

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    1. An incredible combination of historical inspiration and contemporary setting, George Holt and Andrew Gould of New World Byzantine design buildings inspired by past practices and executed with solid materials and technique. The house in this picture, which burned down Spring of 2016, is even beautiful as a ruin, which to me serves as a testament to the timelessness of their designs.
    2. Based out of Charlottesville at the University of Virginia, Rare Book School is a one-of-a-kind academic wonderland for the book-driven flock. I just returned from an incredible week with the intrepid Todd Pattison where he taught the class 19th Century American Publishers Bindings, and I look forward to applying to many more classes in the future. Be sure to apply for the scholarships if you don’t have institutional backing!
    3. Brienne.org is a growing list of resources and research surrounding an incredible 17th century postal treasure trunk containing over 2600 undelivered letters, now located at the Hague in The Netherlands. Amazingly, 600 of them are still unopened, giving researchers and conservators an unprecedented opportunity to study the material culture of the early modern period by pushing the envelope in how to access the information without sacrificing the material that supports it, while also expanding their knowledge of early modern document security practices.
    4. Garip Ay is a Turkish artist who practices Ebru (what we would call marbling) in ways I’ve never really considered, and probably will never come close to emulating. Watching videos of him at work also give it a very real and substantial performance aspect. Thanks to James Davis for introducing me to Garip’s work.
    5. A medieval construction project in Treigny, France, where for the last 20 years (and for another 10 or so to come), scholars, craftsmen, and government funding are all combining forces to build a 13th century castle using only authentic materials and techniques. Now that’s a wall whose construction even I could get behind.

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    6. Who knew that a tent revolution was even possible? A dynamic combination between a tent and a hammock, Tentsiles have opened up a whole new world of outdoor lodging possibilities. Soon any rainy camping trips will just be ‘water under the Tentsile.’
    7. Most of the time the only thought I give to flatware is just enough to make sure I have a means to get food from my plate to my face. Well, the ocean inspired pieces designed and executed by Ann Ladson will certainly change your whole perspective on what it means to reach for a fork. Her work is a true hybrid of function and art (the hybrid of those words, functionart, is not and should never be a word).  
    8. Living in a disposable culture gets me down sometimes, and so any time I come across someone who does their part to minimize waste is as refreshing as a slice of watermelon on a summer afternoon. And when that someone someone finds a way to make minimizing waste beautiful, it positively inspires me. With his breathtaking knives made from 100+ year-old saw mill blades, Will Manning of Heartwood Forge does both of these things, and it makes me glad.
    9. Becca Barnet, proprietor of Sisal and Tow Fine Fabrication, makes anything, and she means ANYTHING. From designing children’s museum installations, to painting fried chicken on tiles, to taxiderming fish, Sisal and Tow can make even the most boring office seem like an exciting cubicle to be in.
    10. The Lewis Chessmen are 93 late 12th – early 13th century Northern European chess pieces that were found on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland in 1831. Aside from inspiring the Weasley’s chess set in the film adaption of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the Lewis Chessmen have been the subject of much scholarly ado, and many interesting books on their cultural significance and materiality have been published. I mostly just like the expressions of the Bezerkers (pictured here) – they look so scared and human. I am not sure if I pity their state of perpetual fear, or envy their long and prestigious lives.


  9. Exquisite Corpse Collaboration

    July 10, 2016 by Erin Fletcher

    ExquisiteCorpse
    As Program Chair for the New England Chapter of the Guild of Book Workers, I had the pleasure of organizing a project brought to me by one of our members. Jonathan Romain, a recent graduate of the North Bennet Street School Bookbinding Program, brought forth the idea of a collaborative project between the students at NBSS and the NEGBW. I loved this idea and so with the help of instructor Jeffrey Altepeter, we put this plan in motion.

    An Exquisite Corpse is a method of illustration invented by Surrealists in the early 1910s, where each collaborator adds to a composition in sequence usually without seeing the prior portion. Upon reveal this rule to hide the previous sequences offers up an abstract and amusing portrait. Each student created a plaquette covered in neutral leather (we used Harmatan Terracotta and Brown goatskin) and also completed the “head” portion of the figure. The plaquette’s were about 18in x 6in; allowing each participant to cover a 6in square portion of the board.

    The project spanned over 3 months as each participant received and worked on their portion over the course of a month. At the end of May, the finished pieces were on display as part of NBSS’s Student & Alumni Show, an annual exhibit that showcases work from current students and alumni from the various programs.

    I had the pleasure of receiving the finished pieces and bringing them back to the students. We gathered around one another as each student revealed the unique and strange characters that developed over the course of the project. Each piece is displayed below with a brief description from each collaborator remarking on their concept and use of materials.

    Jeffrey Altepeter – Samuel Feinstein – Lang Ingalls

    JeffSamuelLang-Corpse
    Jeffrey Altepeter
    The robot head was inspired by my son’s fascination with mechanical and technological design and construction. It is made up of traditional leather decoration techniques—leather onlays, tooled with gold leaf, foil and carbon.


    Samuel Feinstein
    Chicago, IL

    Gold and blind tooling.


    Lang Ingalls
    Crested Butte, CO

    I opted for humor in my approach to the Exquisite Corpse. The design concept was to depict bird legs: the initial tests were for tooling in the positive; it became clear that the negative space would be more interesting. I used four sizes of “dots” in gold foil to produce the background behind the legs. Repetition and rhythm became the focal point.

    Emily Patchin – Barbara Adams Hebard – Athena Moore

    EmilyBarbaraAthena-Corpse Emily Patchin
    This head was created as an onlay piece. The main portion was cut out of navy blue goat skin, pared thin. The sections for the eye, ear, and ghosts were all cut out, and their edges beveled on the flesh-side. Light blue leather for the eye and ear were glued to the back before pasting to the base leather. The ghosts were cut out from parchment; their faces backed with thinly pared gold leather, and painted with watercolor before being glued in place. The outline of the original drawing was then blind tooled over the leather. The intention behind the design was to look at intense personal struggles (depression, intrusive thoughts, insomnia) through a lens of whimsy and humor.

    Barbara Adams Hebard
    Melrose, MA

    Melrose, MAWhite alum-tawed goatskin onlay with blind tooled details, inspired by the shape of an Early Cycladic marble female torso (2800-2300 BC, Keros-Syros Culture). Flanking the torso are shapes commonly found incised on Early Cycladic pottery, a spiral and a two-headed ax, executed in surface gilding.


    Athena Moore
    Somerville, MA

    My materials were leather and hand-cast paper (made by the artist). The concept was a bit literal, since I had the last portion and was finishing the body with the legs, but I was inspired by a particular set of medical prints from Yale’s collection.

    Jonathan Romain – Erin Fletcher – James Reid-Cunningham

    JonathanErinJamesJonathan Romain
    a shapeless face, 18 karat gold, palladium, and ascona onlay


    Erin Fletcher
    Boston, MA

    I wanted to created something really playful with my portion of the plaquette. When I saw no indication of where to begin, I chose to create a headless girl with comically long arms. The girl’s dress is a series of blind tooled onlays in pink and purple goatskin and white buffalo. Her skin is gold tooled. And the blood spurting from her headless stump is painted with red acrylic.


    James Reid-Cunningham
    Cambridge, MA

    The design is largely non-representational, with a vague suggestion of legs. Otherwise, there is no concept. Tooled in gold and metallic foil, with inset lines of white box calf.

    Mary Grace Whalen – Eric Alstrom – Penelope Hall

    MaryGraceEricPenelope-CorpseMary Grace Whalen
    Blue Pageboy, a leather tool-edged onlay made of goatskin is inspired by the Russian pioneer of geometric abstraction, Kazimir Malevich’s costume design and his Yellow Man painting. Blue Pageboy gives off a theatrical and mysterious vibe. Who is s/he? Only the body will tell!


    Eric Alstrom
    Okemos, MI

    After many ideas, I kept coming back to the idea of ancient Egypt and their exquisite corpses.  My design is based on various historic paintings, but did not copy any single on in particular. The design is made from various colors of goat painted with acrylics and blind tooled


    Penelope Hall
    Kingfield, ME

    Inlay consisting of glazed earthenware, scraps of Thai papers, and wheat paste. Colored with watercolor. Additional adhesives used are E-6000, and Jade 403 PVA. Finish coat on the inlay is SC 6000 acrylic polymer and wax emulsion.

    Nicole Campana – Jan Baker – Colin Urbina

    NicoleJanColin-Corpse

    Nicole Campana
    This design was inspired by nothing more than a common theme in much of my art: day and night. I’m drawn to the color palette each time presents and the way in which our perceptions of those colors change as the light does. The techniques utilized are predominantly onlays and gold tooling, however a variation of the lacunose technique and an Ascona tool were used for the hair.


    Jan Baker
    Providence, RI

    what i lost this year:
    – my ovaries
    – my fallopian tubes
    – my uterus
    – all of my hair
    – and my brother


    Colin Urbina
    Boston, MA

    When I’m sketching, I often come back to the roots of a plant. For this project I decided to attempt the same type of free flowing, loose, many-from-one nature of these sketches with traditional gouges. Using five or six tools I built up the legs of this plaquette, and then added acrylic paint into them that gets darker as the roots go lower. The dirt is represented by grain manipulation with sandpaper, changing the surface of the leather and giving it a different look and feel.

    Peggy Boston – John Nove – Shannon Kerner

    PeggyJohnShannon-Corpse

    Peggy Boston
    My inspiration for this project came from a group of mustachioed, high-collared, quirky members of the Viennese Secessionist art movement. This movement was part of the golden age of illustration and graphic design in Vienna and Germany from 1897 to 1918. Their main influences were derived from William Morris and the English Arts and Crafts movement which sought to bridge the applied and fine arts. The Secessionists favored hand-made object opposing machine techniques. Hand tooling and acrylic paint.


    John Nove
    South Deerfield, MA

    The initial description of the project attributed the Exquisite Corpse to the Surrealists. My concept was of a Magritte-ian gentleman – fine suit, hands crossed in the standard coffin pose holding the usual flower  — but then with an amphibian’s green gnarly ‘hands’. Carbon tooling and goatskin onlays.


    Shannon Kerner
    Easthampton MA

    The vivid colors on the chubby tum were used to inspire whimsy, as well as the funny shape of the legs, which took inspiration from the cartoon Invader Zim, a silly plot animation focusing on an alien sent to Earth and meant to blend in. Stars: gold and palladium mixed together is a challenging medium to tool as they are different weights, but the outcome is very rewarding and attractive. Leather onlays, gold and palladium tooling.

    Todd Davis – Jason Patrician – Jacqueline Scott

    ToddJasonJackie

    Todd Davis
    The design of this head is inspired by the sugar skulls used as part of the Mexican celebration of Dia de los Muertos (day of the dead). On that day, these skulls, made of sugar, are part of an altar made to honor and celebrate dead ancestors, particularly children. Blind tooled outline filled with raised, ascona, and back-pared onlays. It is finished with blind and lemon gold tooling, and surface gilded teeth.


    Jason Patrician
    New London, CT

    I wanted to stay true to the surrealist exercise of the exquisite corpse by combining the distorted human figure and nature. For my design I chose the octopus, the master of disguise, which doubles as the female torso. Leather onlays (Harmatan and Pergamena), vellum inlay (Pergamena) with walnut ink wash and Prismacolor marker detail, blind tooling throughout.


    Jacqueline Scott
    Somerville, MA

    Materials: goatskin leather, gold leaf
    Concept: I wanted my plaquette section to be whimsical and colorful and wanted to utilize the feathered onlay technique. Something about chicken legs appealed to me, so I ran with that, though I think they ended up looking more like reptile legs with funny leg warmers.

  10. Swell Things No. 34

    June 30, 2016 by Erin Fletcher

    stno34a

    1. Painting the same portrait over and over using slight variations in scale and palette, one can get a sense of how colors can play off of one another or evoke different moods. Hayley Mitchell has done just this with the face of a woman with round cheeks, a floral headdress and large dangly earrings.
    2. In artist Richard McVetis‘s portfolio is a collection of finely embroidered pieces which a sketch-like, abstract quality. In the series, In Pursuit of Time, Richard has embroidered a collection of embroidered wool cubes with the finest stitches of black thread.
    3. Designed by the South African lighting company Willowlamp, this amazing chandelier assembled by laser-cut steel is arranged to represent a mandala. The design reveals itself as you move underneath it.
    4. Metro Queen by Swedish-based artist Jeff Östberg is a digitally rendered illustration that has qualities similar to that of a woodblock print or lithograph. He illustrations are rich in color and style.
    5. Diagonal Press, run by artist Tauba Auerbach, has a unique and irresistible collection of enamel pins. Oh, and some interesting (and affordable) artist books.

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    6. The work of Gunjan Aylawadi is mind-blowing. She meticulously crafts each piece by weaving together tightly curled paper ropes. Many times her work includes geometric designs layered and stacked into complex patterns. Her large installations are quite a sight.
    7. Transcriptions is a beautiful landscape series from photographer Kyra Schmidt.
    8. I really love Anna Hoyle’s gouache paintings of books. The titles are hilarious, but I’m particularly tickled by the little “bookmark” legs dangling from the pages of a stack of books.
    9. These are the most beautiful pencil shavings I’ve ever seen.
    10. Hyperallergic recently posted an article on the repairs done to five whaling logbooks from Martha’s Vineyard Museum. In addition to the normal wear and tear, whaling logbooks can also experience water damage. The repair work was done by the Northeast Document Conservation Center. Check out the article for NEDCC’s treatment on the logbooks and more wonderful drawings of whales.