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  1. Book Artist of the Month: Mary Uthuppuru

    January 6, 2014 by Erin Fletcher

    DestinyOfChoice1-MaryUthuppuru

    Can books save the world? Can artist books raise consciousness, create awareness or change thinking? These were the questions that EcoEditions aimed to answer through a collection of artist books that could raise awareness on the state of our environment. For her submission, Mary Uthuppuru, created Destiny of Choice in a small unique edition of three. Each book is bound in the Ethopian style with a tab closure on the fore edge. The title is hand stenciled on three unique covers sourced from boxes that were headed to the recycling bin.

    DestinyOfChoice4-MaryUthuppuru

    The text block is made from trash entirely sourced from Mary’s house. Which is also the major influence for creating this book. Most of us assume our trash is going straight to a landfill, but we lose sight of the fact that it may not. Mary’s concern with reducing the amount of waste that comes out of her household is an attitude that more people need to obtain.

    The books were sewn with dental floss (which Mary notes was unused for hygienic purposes). The illustrations and text have been inkjet printed onto packaging material. Other bits of trash including plastic bags and plastic netting were scattered throughout the text block.

    DestinyOfChoice3-MaryUthuppuruDestinyOfChoice2-MaryUthuppuru

    This artist book is brilliant; once again you successfully bring together humor and interactive elements. Destiny of Choice was part of EcoEditions, an exhibition at 23Sandy Gallery. Did you create this artist book specifically for the exhibition?
    This book was created for the EcoEditions exhibit. It was also a part of the hoped for quarterly project with Kristin of Space Paste Press. As mentioned earlier, we hoped to create more advanced projects than the one book per month endeavor. At the time, we were both thinking of environmental themes so it sounded like a really good goal, create a book that can also be submitted to an exhibit.

    I was really happy with the way the book turned out. Since I was already thinking of the theme, it was great timing. The theme asks artists to illicit change through the content of their artwork.  When trying to get people to change or realize that what they might be doing is harmful, I don’t think it is best to begin by ordering them around. I don’t listen this way, so I wanted to avoid a book full of preaching. The Choose Your Own Adventure format seemed really appropriate to me because the arrangement is playful, inviting the reader in. As a kid, I used to read choose your own adventure books all the time and I always approached them with a sense of reserve. I was choosing what would happen to the characters in the story, which hit home for me. So I wanted that same feeling to translate through this book.

    A favored story-telling method of mine is to anthropomorphize sometimes unexpected objects. In this case, a plastic bag is the main character of the story and while the reader decides what happens, the bag is doing the action. The reader chooses between recycling and throwing it away then how the bag gets from the garbage can or recycling bin at home to its final destination. Many people have heard about the gyres (islands of garbage) in the middle of the ocean. We all know about landfills. It is a very contemporary concern all over the world, and one that I have on my mind daily.


  2. January // Book Artist of the Month: Mary Uthuppuru

    January 2, 2014 by Erin Fletcher

    AndThenThereWere8_3-MaryUthuppuru

    In preparation for their 2013 Annual Open House and Silent Auction, the Morgan Conservatory presented participants with two sheets of paper made at the Morgan and asked them to create a piece of art to be auctioned off during the event. Mary Uthuppuru was given one sheet of charcoal grey and the other of bright white.

    Mary found inspiration from the recent drop Pluto experienced from its rank as a planet and the heated discussions that followed. As the sole character in this artist book, Mary personifies the now dwarf planet in the form of a letter, where Pluto freely express himself after hearing this news of rejection. You can read more about Mary’s process in her blog post, Poor Pluto

    And Then There Were Eight is bound as an accordion with a removable spine piece, when fully opened the viewer can experience the vast and expanding qualities of outer space. The covers are most appropriately wrapped in beautiful handmade Moon Paper from Hook Pottery Paper. The paper appears to be a 3-dimensional print of the moon, but it is actually smooth (like paper). The interior pages were given an airbrush look by using a mouth atomizer and drawing inks.

    AndThenThereWere8-MaryUthuppuruAndThenThereWere8_4-MaryUthuppuruAndThenThereWere8_2-MaryUthuppuruI really enjoyed reading about your thought process behind this book. Not only did you find inspiration in a literary influence, but also in your own sense of humor. The application of pigment really captures the atmosphere and depth of space. Can you talk about the challenges and benefits to using a mouth atomizer?
    The mouth atomizer was a really fun thing to use. I actually had it for over ten years before I discovered its use during this project. It looks a lot like a compass, but without the pencil. One end goes into whatever liquid you are using (in the case of the Pluto book it was India ink and Winsor & Newton drawing ink) and then you blow on the other tube.

    The benefit in its use is also its challenge. So long as you have the lung capacity, this tool is very simple. Blow in the horizontal tube, and the ink is sprayed from the vertical tube. The difficulty is in style. If you are trying to get consistent coverage, then you have to be consistent with the pressure behind your breath. But it is easy to get used to with a practice piece of paper. Also, beware your work space. Cover anything surrounding the piece you are working on with newsprint or other waste unless you want a speckled work space.

    ThereWere8_Atomizer-MaryUthuppuru

    There is more than one way to use it too. In this book, for example, I cut stencils from transparency sheets to create the planetary bodies. This allowed for a clean, shaded shape that is much faster and reads truer than a traditional stippling stenciled technique. It is also easy to clean by running it under water then drying.

    ThereWere8_Stenciling-MaryUthuppuru

    I first met Mary in Chicago for the One Book, Many Interpretations exhibit at the Chicago Public Library, where both Mary and I had work in the show. I’ll be featuring her binding of Interpreter of Maladies from that show later this month. From the beginning, I noted Mary’s impeccable skill and her exceptional eye for detail, but I can’t forget to mention her infectious personality. Her humor mixed with kindness and generosity makes her a delightful person to engage with and learn from.

    Like myself, Mary, is just beginning her career in the field of bookbinding. Her ambition and creativity are inspiring, as is the interview (after the jump). Mary discusses her love for bookbinding and how she caught “the book bug”. Later in the interview, Mary talks about setting up her own home studio and how being self-employed has its ups and downs. But it’s quite clear to see that Mary tackles her obstacles with smarts and humor. 

    Come back each Monday during the month of January for more on Mary Uthuppuru and her work, which will bounce between bookbinding and book arts.

    read more >


  • Visit My Bindery
    My name is Erin Fletcher and I live in Boston working as a Bookbinder.  This blog is an extension of Herringbone Bindery where I can share my inspirations with you.
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