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Posts Tagged ‘book art’

  1. Bonus // Book Artist of the Month: Laura Davidson

    April 29, 2013 by Erin Fletcher


    One of my favorite books from Laura Davidson is Lucky Girl. This unique accordion book bound with handmade hinges is inspired by Laura’s daughter, who can spot a four-leaf clover anywhere. Clovers from Michela’s collection have been delicately sandwiched between glass in each wooden page, which is also collaged with the typed text “lucky girl”.

    Since 2010, the vibrant green clovers have dried out and aged to a yellow-brown. During my visit, Laura brought out a book from her library. Tucked inside was a surprising collection of four-leaf clovers, each marked with the location where they were plucked.


  2. Book Artist of the Month: Laura Davidson

    April 29, 2013 by Erin Fletcher


    In 2012, Laura Davidson spent some time drawing her drawing tools. Ebony Pencils is a set of six silverpoint portraits cataloging the remaining pencils from Laura’s youth. These pencils were given to her by her father, who worked as a detailer at Studebaker’s and then the Ford Motor Company. This unique book is housed in a walnut box crafted by Laura’s father. 

    During my visit to her studio, Laura directed me towards her magnetic wall where additional drawings hung. Since Ebony Pencils, Laura has expanded to include more tools for her collection, capturing the detail of each tool. I hope these drawings will soon manifest into another delicately crafted book. 


  3. March // Book Artist of the Month: Sarah McDermott

    March 2, 2013 by Erin Fletcher

    problemsofscale1-sarahmcdermottIn 2011, Sarah McDermott of Kidney Press created Problems of Scale; an artist book exploring the syntax of a short prose poem by Joanna Ruocco. Sarah laid out all of the phrases and examined the relationships between each phrase and then used that as the framework for the book layout. An overarching relationship between two people is represented on the vellum overlays, which are tipped in to a modified hardcover long-stitch binding. The text was letterpress printed with metal type on a combination of Hahnemuhle Bugra, Chartham vellum and handmade abaca paper. In addition polymer plates for letterpress printing were made by hand with Rubylith cutouts and scratched negatives. The book is housed in a slipcase.

    problemsofscale4-sarahmcdermott problemsofscale2-sarahmcdermott problemsofscale3-sarahmcdermott

    On a visit to the New York Center for Book Arts, I saw Sarah’s work for the first time. I thought Problems of Scale was beautifully crafted as both an art object and a book structure. I’m really excited about this interview, her determination for making art and outlook on teaching are quite inspiring. Check back each Monday for posts featuring more artist books, as well as Sarah’s print work. 

    You received your MFA in Book Arts at the University of Alabama in 2010. Can you talk about your training in the book arts at UA and how you decided to get into book arts and printmaking?
    I’ve taken a somewhat indirect path toward this field. I have always liked making things, but I didn’t take art in middle/high school because I clashed with the art teacher’s conservative approach. In my twenties I started to get more into my own drawing practice and learned how to screenprint, inspired by the amazing art happening in Providence, RI where I was living. At the time I was working doing light construction/carpentry with two contractor friends. I then moved to Uruguay for a year and ended up hanging out at several vibrant collective printshops. I got inspired to learn printing and when I came back to the U.S. and moved to N.Y.C. I started to do work-study at the Center for Book Arts. All of the letterpress classes were full so I took bookbinding classes and really liked them, finding it kind of like carpentry but on a more appropriate scale for my body (smallish). After a year and a half I decided to go to the University of Alabama for further study. I chose Alabama because it had the strongest craft orientation of the M.F.A. programs and at the time I thought I was more interested in trade school than art school. Alabama also had the best funding; I knew I was looking at years of underpaid labor when I finished school (which has proved true) so I wanted to avoid debt if possible. At Alabama I just worked all the time, and ended up building my artistic confidence in addition to developing solid craft skills. Book arts still seemed somewhat random to me at the time, I’m not one of those people that has made zines since I was a child, but I kept being drawn to it, and more and more these days it seems like this field encompasses pretty much everything I am interested in. 

    Since graduation you have participated in residencies at the New York Center for Book Arts and at Pyramid Atlantic Art Center. How have these experiences influenced your current work and shaped your involvement in book arts?
    It felt essential to me to set up a structure for myself to continue working immediately out of graduate school. I felt happy with my work in my last year at Alabama and wanted to continue the momentum. I also thought that if I didn’t reinforce the skills that I had learned that I might forget them. I was therefore lucky to get the scholarship at the Center for Book Arts, because it provided the perfect place to do that. I systematically went through and re-did several things that I had learned in grad school, in an attempt to make them more of my own, instead of having to follow instructions or handouts. I also set up projects for myself that required recombining skills, and forcing myself to think creatively instead of, again, just following directions. As I did this I could bounce ideas off the community of binders and printers at the CBA. I also took a lot of classes, which were sometimes a review, but good for learning from different people and remembering certain things. So overall it was great.

    At Pyramid, I enjoyed being able to make paper and do printmaking simultaneously, which isn’t a combination that is easy to find. I was interested in the balance that Pyramid negotiates between being a community center and being an arts residency program. I also really enjoyed the personalities and the camaraderie at Pyramid which led me toward moving to the DC area. 

    When describing your work you’ve mentioned the use of raw materials: “fiber becomes paper, receives print, becomes book.” Once a concept has hatched, what is your process in transferring that idea into the book form? Is your workspace in a shared studio?
    Well, it’s been somewhat different for every book and I feel like it’s shifting with the project I am currently working on. My general process has often tended to be: get in over my head, and then catch up and learn what I need to in order to make the project happen. While some of this impulse is natural and exciting and good, I also think it comes from the pressure of being relatively new in the field and feeling like there is so much to learn. I am getting to a place where I feel like I can work less from this position of scarcity/catch-up, and instead from a stronger, more rooted impulse, where I am more comfortable in my role as an artist and craftsperson. This is a lifetime task, probably.

    I also use collaboration as a framework for projects. I frequently work with a writer, Joanna Ruocco, and with a magazine Birkensnake (edited by the same Joanna and Brian Conn). Being accountable to other people is incredibly helpful for getting things done. 

    Generally I have used the paper-making process as kind of a conceptual warm up. After coming up with some general ideas, I continue thinking about content while I am making the materials for the book, so the two grow side by side.

    I used InDesign for Compendium of Domestic Incidents, mostly so I would learn InDesign. I became worried though by how quickly it started to feel necessary (how easily I forgot how to organize material without computers) and I started to think about how expensive InDesign was and how I couldn’t find a good freeware option, so I decided to do my next project (Problems of Scale) without the use of the computer. 

    The book project I’m working on now, I want to have a bit more of a commercial/industrial feel so I am mostly using machine-made paper and am planning on going back to the computer some, especially now that I have access via the school where I teach. 

    I have no workspace of my own at the moment. It can be difficult to share equipment and create dedicated work time amidst socializing, but it’s also inspiring to be around other people making things. I rotate between working at Pyramid Atlantic and in the Corcoran letterpress and printmaking studios.  


    You work under the moniker Kidney Press. Is there a story behind the name?
    The Kidney Press moniker is pretty random. I have always admired the kidney, since reading about its functioning in AP Biology in high school. Since my work deals a lot with body stuff, fetishizing an organ seemed appropriate. I also liked that “kidney press” sounded kind of like a torture device, rather than some of the statelier press names I encounter. 

    You teach workshops in both the book arts and printmaking at various venues including the Corcoran College of Art and Design and the New York Center for Book Arts. What types of workshops do you teach and who are your typical students? What aspects of teaching do you enjoy the most?
    At CBA and at Pyramid Atlantic I’m teaching a class on alternative ways of making polymer plates in the coming months. I have also taught bookbinding at the CBA. At Pyramid in early summer I am teaching a class I am really excited about called The Intermediate Object combining screenprint with simple book structures. All of these workshops are for adults who run the gamut in terms of their motivation for taking the class- some are serious students of book arts who are looking to go further, some are folks who want to try something new. At the Corcoran, last semester I facilitated a large collaborative project with the second year Masters’ students in the Art and the Book program, which was challenging and fun. I also teach youth workshops via Pyramid Atlantic which engages different skills. I haven’t really specialized, which means I teach many different things and sometimes my brain feels like it is going to explode with all the prep work I have to do. But I also like it, because I like variety and I get to learn new things and push myself that way. At the moment I need to figure out how to make more time for my own work (which seems like a common teaching artist conundrum), but in general I love teaching- it keeps me ethically engaged and makes my own work better. 


  4. Book Artist of the Month: Dianna Frid

    February 25, 2013 by Erin Fletcher


    In 1572, astronomer and alchemist Tycho Brahe observed an incredibly bright star within the Cassiopeia constellation. A few months later the star disappears and Brahe publishes a small book in 1573, coining the phrase nova for a new star. We now understand this term as a supernova or the death of star. In 2009, Dianna Frid created this artist book Stardeath out of canvas and silk. The geometric layout of each page is embroidered with floss, additional details are added with aluminum foil and cellophane.

    stardeath2-diannafrid stardeath4-diannafrid stardeath6-diannafrid stardeath7-diannafrid

  5. Book Artist of the Month: Dianna Frid

    February 11, 2013 by Erin Fletcher


    Dianna Frid found inspiration in the tragic story of celebrated cave explorer Floyd Collins and in 1998 she constructed this memorializing embroidered cloth book. Using a heat transfer technique, Dianna also included a found image of Floyd Collins. This is one of Dianna’s first fabric books to use found imagery becoming a pivotal point in her approach to narration. 

    I asked Dianna to include a few words in regards to the concept behind Floyd Collins, Cave Explorer.
    It is, in essence, a narrative book that shows you, not only tells you, what happened to this minor historical figure from Kentucky in the 1920’s. As such, it is an exploration of the potential of the form to use a sequential progression of layers to achieve narrative coherence that echo the story. This happens again in Leak, for example, and in Reversal, although both of those books are comprised by words only. In Floyd Collins… each layer is visible at once when you first open the book because there is a large hole on each page. The hole gets smaller as the pages progress, and they eventually bury Floyd Collins (his photograph).

    The story of Floyd Collins is compelling on many fronts, not only because of the ironic tragedy it exemplifies. In the history of American journalism, he became the first ordinary person who rose to celebrity due to a tragedy: he got stuck and died while he was trying to explore an alternative entrance to the larger network of caves that comprise Mammoth Cave. Floyd Collins was an adventurer-explorer, and he was looking for “more.” I found out about his story—or, more aptly his story found me—while I was perusing a textbook on Physical Geography. I was struck that a scientific book with the mission of teaching us about the earth’s layers, volcanoes, and rock formations included this brief vignette of an unknown, illiterate farmer. I was assailed by the interlude. The stitched words of the artist’s book are sourced from the textbook, and I, of course, give attribution to the authors of the textbook in the colophon. 

    floydcollins_diannafrid2 floydcollins_diannafrid3 floydcollins_diannafrid4 floydcollins_diannafrid5 floydcollins_diannafrid6

  6. February // Book Artist of the Month: Dianna Frid

    February 2, 2013 by Erin Fletcher


    The Waves is an artist book by Dianna Frid created in 2011, taking inspiration from Virginia Woolf’s experimental novel of the same name, which Woolf said she wrote “to a rhythm, not a plot”. Exploring this same idea, Frid focused on the structure of the book form itself. Using canvas and cloth for the pages, the word ‘wave’ is embroidered once, then twice, slowly building up to six repetitions per page before retreating out of sight. In addition to the repetitious text is a build-up of material which include various fabrics, paper, acrylic paint and cellophane.


    Frid was born in Mexico City before immigrating to Vancouver as a teenager. She currently lives and works in Chicago as both an artist and Assistant Professor at the School of Art and Design at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Come back every Monday this month for more posts on Frid’s work.

    You began making artist’s books in 1993 while living in Vancouver, Canada under the pseudonym The Artery Archives. Did you have prior training or knowledge of bookbinding? What structures/form did your first bindings take? 
    In 1993 I returned to Vancouver after living in Oaxaca, Mexico for about six months. I had finished my undergraduate studies in anthropology and sculpture, which I undertook in part at Hampshire College (in Amherst, Massachusetts) and then at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Spending time in Oaxaca fortified my interest in pre-Columbian and early post-conquest codices that were made in that region and throughout Central Mexico. These codices are rich pictographic narratives that often depict the trajectory of a journey. As someone who had migrated from Mexico to Canada in her teens, I identified with the theme of movement and traversal and this is how I began to make some works.



    excerpts from ‘La Malinche Sueña que Hernán Realmente la Quizo (Malinche Dreams that Hernán Really Loved Her)’, based on a collaboration with Sergio Santamaría. 1995. edition of 4. Digital typeset with silver negative prints.

    When I returned to Vancouver I took a course in desktop publishing, a new thing at the time. It was a very basic and completely instrumental course that was entirely divorced from any kind of theoretical or historical connection to graphic design, but it became the beginning of my attempt at making books, and has turned into an ongoing area of research and interest

    When I came back from Oaxaca to Vancouver, I had hundreds of negatives of images that I had taken while I lived there. My parents had a darkroom in their home, and after much editing, a few of the photographs became the content of my first books. Some of the books were based on interviews I conducted with a woman who made corn tortillas for a living. In retrospect I see it as a very elementary “ethnography of process” (I had studied anthropology in college after all). Another early book consisted of photographs based on images taken during a performance and ephemeral installation piece that a group of friends and I created. These books were made in editions of four and some of them are now housed in special collections libraries.


    unbound excerpts from ‘Album of an Interview’. 1995. edition of 3. digital typeset and silver negative prints.

    With one exception, I have not made multiple editions since—my books have been one-of-a-kind artifacts. In terms of what held the pages together, my bindings were (and still are) rudimentary. I know that the binding styles that I use have names, but frankly I do not know what to call them. Perhaps I can learn from you! This is a peculiar if not ironic fact given that in my work I have often researched nomenclature systems. But to answer your question about binding, which I know is a topic dear to you, my approach to binding has been urgent and intuitive. Nobody taught me how to do it.

    In an interview with Violet Shuraka of Cheap and Plastique, you spoke of the structure of the book as ‘a site where movement yields to movement from one pair of pages to another’ similar to navigating oneself through the structure of a building. Can you elaborate on how your concepts are best expressed through the book form and not another avenue of art in which you work? 
    Holding a book in one’s hands can be a profoundly intimate experience. It is a tactile, interactive object. This fact applies to all kinds of books –not only artist’s books—and it can be a problem when artists’ or rare books are exhibited in vitrines, protected from touch or activation.

    My long-standing production of one-of-a-kind handmade objects represents an engagement with lineages of craft in a domain that has, for the last several centuries, increasingly been mechanized: first as print and most recently as digital dissemination. Like my manual transformations of other mechanically reproduced representations (charts, graphs, blueprints), my artist’s books draw sensuous attention to the potentials of a form – the book – that, in its predominant mass-produced version, has come to seem little more than a neutral, even disposable medium for conveying information in linear sequence. By calling attention to the embodied physicality of the book, I push against this neutralization.

    In terms of content, my artist’s books pull together concerns with translation. My books address the translation between language and its material embodiment as text and image, as well as the translation between sensation and objects—even in the absence of language. Like the rest of my work, my books, in a less format-specific sense, are explorations on how art contributes to our described experiences of time, sequence, light, space, mortality…

    I was first introduced to your work as a student in the book arts at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; a few of your pieces are housed in the Joan Flasch Artists’ Book Collection. At the time I was drawn to your work due their uncommon tactile characteristics and the pleasure I would find in handling them. Historically, we view a book as having either paper or vellum pages with text applied by hand or printed. Your book structures employ the use of cloth and thread, along with other materials. Have you always worked with these materials to create book forms? How do these elements project your themes and concepts as oppose to those more traditional to the book form?
    As I mentioned earlier, the first books were photographic editions in which an ephemeral event, a conversation, or a sculpture was documented and encapsulated sequentially. Over time, I started to use components traditionally used for the binding of pages, namely thread and needle, as the tools for marking and configuring content. This became an opportunity to think critically about craftsmanship and to expand on delineations of drawing and mark-making within contemporary art, beyond book works.

    I can speak about specific examples of books in which the work needs to be sewn because it delineates very clearly the content of the books and the relationship between “front-and-back” that sewing produces on two sides of the same piece of fabric. This is evident right away in “The Plot of the Story” and in “Leak;” and I revisit the concept of back-and-front in “Reversal.” These books explore the potential that a book holds for reversing time, reading backwards, reading something more than once, making text or icons defamiliarized or weird by means of repetition. Through this process I have come to understand in a fully embodied way that language is a material itself composed of smaller units. I had always understood this factually, yet the making of artist’s books generates an embodied understanding: the tactile staging of this fact.


    excerpt from ‘Leak’. 1999. unique book.

    Book Arts continually challenges the definition of a book by reformatting the structure, using unconventional materials and omitting the text.  Your books very much rely on imagery to advance the viewer. In the same interview with Shuraka, you so beautifully describe this as ‘rhythm without plot’ as initially explored by Virginia Woolf in her novel The Waves. Can you talk about how you formulate a fluid composition that will guide the reader from page to page?
    My first books were perhaps more guided by a narrative sequence. An example would be “Just Wait and See,” which you have seen at the Joan Flasch Artists Book Collection in Chicago. My works emerge from a dedicated studio process that also includes sculpture, drawing, collage, and installation. Over the years these pieces have become less representational, more formal, and in commensurate ways also thematically more open-ended. This includes the artist’s books, but to different degrees. The way a book unfolds in time is related to the concept of montage in film. I do not make moving-image work, but the books, as sequential vessels of time, require the production of a flow. This may happen immediately or it may take a lot of planning. I first plan out the books with tiny sketches and the rest follows.

    The example of the Virginia Woolf reference is important because once I came cross it I could not shake it off. It stood for what I look for in the books. I had read somewhere that “The Waves” was Woolf’s favorite among her own works, but she also understood it was more difficult for a wide audience to embrace because in it she had been “looking for rhythm, not plot.” This stroke me as inherently poetic and important— as a gesture that encapsulates the significance of PROCESS and RHYTHM that I engage in the studio performance of making art.

    You’ve been working with the book as an art form for over 15 years, how do you see your work evolving within this medium?
    Lately, I have been thinking about making limitless editions on CreateSpace, Amazon’s self-publishing site. This would be an experimental start for what I want to see becoming more accessible copies of artist’s books that I have made in the past. Because the medium is so different, I am excited to change the aspect of the books in ways it might require. As you know, my one-of-a-kind books circulate in very different modes from the way multiple editions are able to reach an audience, and I am curious to make an artist’s book that has a life that exceeds the singular copy.

    I will still continue to make the one-of-a-kind books because I have constant ideas for these. However, it is not unusual for me to need months or even years to actually figure out how to execute a specific idea in book form. This was the case with “Reversal,” for example, a book that I wanted to make five years prior to figuring out how… Some book ideas fail or never materialize. For example, I wanted to make a book that dealt with Odysseus surviving the Sirens, but instead the book idea resulted in a sculpture that is now called “I Alone Was to Hear Their Voices…” It’s a long story, but the fact is that the initial idea resolved itself into the form it needed to become, which was not a book. As you can see, in my work there is a back-and-forth between non-book objects and book objects. They inform and enhance each other.


    ‘I alone was to hear their voices/Their ravishing voices out across the air”. 2011.

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    My name is Erin Fletcher, owner and bookbinder of Herringbone Bindery in Boston. Flash of the Hand is a space where I share my process and inspirations.
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