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  1. Book Artist of the Month: Roni Gross

    May 19, 2014 by Erin Fletcher

    AnniversaryCommission-RoniGross

    Roni Gross crafted this celebratory gift for a couple’s 50th anniversary. The piece is housed in a birch plywood box distressed with milk paint and includes the stenciled word ‘TULIP’ in red. The text printed on the inside of the lid is a poem by Frank O’Hara called Having a Coke with You. 

    AnniversaryCommission2-RoniGross

    This is such a beautiful commissioned piece for a couple’s 50th anniversary. Can you talk about the relationship between the elements: poem, wooden typographic map and the book necklace?
    The couple are collectors of art glass, and are more visual than literary. The wife enjoys collecting wacky jewelry and so I thought that a book necklace would make sense for them. I am motivated by language however, and I told the daughter that I needed some text to start working from. The poem, by Frank O’Hara, is a avery New York poem, and we thought that a sculptural topographical map of a place in Riverdale would be an interesting reference for people that have lived their whole lives in NYC. The waterway provides the trough for the necklace to reside.

    AnniversaryCommission3-RoniGross

    – – – – – – – – – – –

    The text which makes up the poem by Frank O’Hara (see the poem in it’s entirety below) was printed, cut and sewn as a coptic structure along with monoprints. The wooden covers of the coptic book necklace have also been treated with milk paint.

    Having a Coke with You by Frank O’Hara

    is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, Irún, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne
    or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona
    partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St. Sebastian
    partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for yoghurt
    partly because of the fluorescent orange tulips around the birches
    partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and statuary
    it is hard to believe when I’m with you that there can be anything as still
    as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of it
    in the warm New York 4 o’clock light we are drifting back and forth
    between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles

    and the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint
    you suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever did them

    I look
    at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world
    except possibly for the Polish Rider occasionally and anyway it’s in the Frick
    which thank heavens you haven’t gone to yet so we can go together the first time
    and the fact that you move so beautifully more or less takes care of Futurism
    just as at home I never think of the Nude Descending a Staircase or
    at a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that used to wow me
    and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them
    when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when the sun sank
    or for that matter Marino Marini when he didn’t pick the rider as carefully
    as the horse

    it seems they were all cheated of some marvelous experience
    which is not going to go wasted on me which is why I am telling you about it


  2. Book Artist of the Month: Roni Gross

    May 12, 2014 by Erin Fletcher

    SayingsOfTheBlind3-RoniGross

    Sayings of the Blind is an artist book by Roni Gross that includes the poem of the same name (see below) from the prolific William Stafford. The book unfolds to reveal a hand-drawn and letterpress printed topographical map, which interprets the world of the blind.

    Bound in 2010 in an edition of 50, Sayings of the Blind is part of the Stafford Collection, a curated collection organized by the 23 Sandy Gallery. The Stafford Collection includes any work that incorporate the poetry of William Stafford and/or Kim Stafford. 

    SAYINGS OF THE BLIND — William Stafford
    Feeling is believing.
    Mountains don’t exist. But their slopes do.
    Little people have low voices.
    All things, even the rocks, make a little noise.
    The silence back of all sound is called “the sky.”
    There’s a big stranger in town called the sun.
    He doesn’t speak to us but puts out a hand.
    Night opens a door into a cellar–
    you can smell it coming.
    On Sundays everyone stands farther apart.
    Velvet feels black.
    Meeting cement is never easy.
    What do they mean when they say night is gloomy?
    Edison didn’t invent much.
    Names have a flavor.

    SayingsOfTheBlind-RoniGrossSayingsOfTheBlind2-RoniGross

    The poem by William Stafford is plotted across the topographical map in such an ingenious way. What is the correlation between the map graphic and the text from the poem?
    After many mockups, most more complicated than the final book, I realized that the topographical map is referring to the landscape of the blind. It is a different landscape than seeing people are aware of, and by placing the text within it, we are taking you into that world.

    SayingsOfTheBlind4-RoniGross

    The texture of Suminagashi wonderfully reflects the shapes of a topographic map, was this your intention?
    I did realize that the Suminagashi was a nice parallel to the lines of the map without revealing too much from the beginning. I commissioned the paper from Yukari Hayashida, who teaches a class in Suminagashi at CBA (The Center for Book Arts).


  3. Book Artist of the Month: Roni Gross

    May 5, 2014 by Erin Fletcher

    ZitounaPress-RoniGross

    I See You Everywhere – 2003

    Roni Gross has successfully continued her project Zitouna over the course of 25 years. Twice a year, she creates a limited edition book or broadside which expands on the cultural ideas which emanate from Valentines Day and Halloween. The projects have explored a wide variety of themes from folklore and superstition to wordplay and mythology. 

    As a project that began in 1989, what was your initial inspiration for this ongoing work?
    The Zitouna pieces started as limited edition book-like objects made in honor of Valentines Day and Halloween each year. I chose those holidays because they are secular and thus inclusive. It began by an investigation of the origins of the traditions cross culturally, and then deepened over time to consider the seasons in which they occur – times of death and rebirth. 

    How do you find inspiration as you continue year by year?
    I have found this a very fruitful project that has led me to investigate alchemy, concepts about skeletal understanding throughout the ages, mythology and superstitions, to name a few topics. The deadline is a motivator and I have not yet felt that I am reaching the end of the possible topics for exploration.

    ZitounaPress4-RoniGross

    If Luvin’ You Is Wrong – 2008

    ZitounaPress5-RoniGross

    Alchemy – 2008

    ZitounaPress2-RoniGross

    A Very Valentine – 2010

    ZitounaPress3-RoniGross

    Lover’s Knot – 2009


  4. Book Artist of the Month: Diane Jacobs

    February 24, 2014 by Erin Fletcher

    Cloudland1-DianeJacobs

    Housed inside this tin box is the miniature artist book Cloudland. Painted on site in the Mt. Hood National Forest, Diane Jacobs captures the altering cloud patterns viewed across the sky with the use of watercolor and slight burning of the paper. The eight accordions inside the tin fold out to 18″ long by 2.5″ tall.

    Cloudland2-DianeJacobs Cloudland3-DianeJacobs

    I was particularly drawn to this artist book due to my fondness for clouds and the gorgeous typeface you used for the title page. The cloud formations were painted on site at Boulder Lake in the Mt. Hood National Park, was this outing planned or were you unexpectedly struck by inspiration?
    I painted all the accordion folios on site. I had an idea to do a book about clouds before going on the Alpenglow backpacking trip with Signal Fire. The first part of the trip was backpacking then we could retrieve art supplies for the remaing 3 days where we were stationed at Boulder Lake. While planning for the trip I folded up some paper trimmings to take with me. For CLOUDLAND I used handmade cotton paper scraps from Helen Hiebert.


  5. Book Artist of the Month: Diane Jacobs

    February 17, 2014 by Erin Fletcher

    Nourish1-DianeJacobs

    Housed in an elegantly crafted bamboo box are a series of prints under the title Nourish. This unique artist book was created by book artist Diane Jacobs in 2012. The book explores both the natural and man-made systems in which we as humans depend on in our daily lives. As you advance through the book, these complex systems are displayed within a delicate balance of beauty and harshness. 

    Nourish5-DianeJacobs Nourish2-DianeJacobs Nourish3-DianeJacobs Nourish4-DianeJacobs

    This is such a beautiful artist book and is quite complex with the range of materials. The illustrations are so delicately printed; I especially love the ghost image on the reverse. The structure is so flawless, can you talk about the choices you made for how the prints would be housed and read?
    My goals were to investigate color, play with the transparency of gorgeous Gampi paper, wow the viewer with complex reduction prints, and engage with the viewer to ask questions and think more deeply about the interconnectedness of all living things and the state of the environment. At first I thought the book would be bound but soon realized it needed to be free and every folio needed to be opened twice (or four times in the case of the starling murmuration). I wanted the box to collapse and this took a lot of ingenuity by Mark Burdon. The clincher was relinquishing the idea of purchasing a prefab hinge. Once we realized we had to design it, it came more quickly.

    Watch the video below to see how the book unfolds.


  6. Book Artist of the Month: Diane Jacobs

    February 10, 2014 by Erin Fletcher

    WovenUndergarments-DianeJacobs

    Over a three year period, Diane Jacobs, compiled a list of slang and derogatory words used to exploit women. Sources for this list came from friends, family, strangers and several slang dictionaries. The words were set individually out of type and letterpress printed. These printed strips were then used to weave women’s undergarments and hats offering references to women’s craft, the body and our misogynist culture. 

    WovenUndergarments2-DianeJacobs

    This work has been exhibited at the Gallery Paule Anglim in San Francisco and the Hoffman Gallery at Oregon College of Art & Craft.

    WovenUndergarments3-DianeJacobs WovenUndergarments4-DianeJacobs

    I think it’s important to distinguish that a word can be ingested as either derogatory or empowering based on the context of the situation. I think your Woven Paper Undergarment series is teetering towards empowerment; allowing the woman to be in control and wear these words with confidence and pride. Can you talk about your overall concept behind this work?
    I am really glad you feel that way. I started this body of work after an experience I had in a Bart station in San Francisco right after being at a Gorilla Girls event. A man asked me for a quarter and I gave it to him. He said “thanks honey” and I said “ don’t call me honey” and he flew out of control calling me every name in the book. After that I picked up a dictionary on slang and derogatory words. I painstakingly hand-set many many words for this body of work. The words lost their negative power and I reclaimed them.


  7. Book Artist of the Month: Diane Jacobs

    February 3, 2014 by Erin Fletcher

    TheBlackHole-DianeJacobs

    The Black Hole is an intimate miniature accordion that explores the personal issues one may feel about body hair and so of, course it includes a surprise hairball at the end. The accordion can be read on either side and is letterpress printed with wooden covers and a parchment strap. This artist book was created in an edition of 45 by Diane Jacobs back in 2003. 

    TheBlackHole2-DianeJacobs

    In your work, you demonstrate the versatility of hair as a medium by forming hairballs, felted shapes and using full locks of hair to loose strands. Do you enjoy manipulating hair one way more than another?
    I love to roll my own hair into balls. It is very easy because of it being curly and relatively fine. But I discovered that I can pretty much roll anyone’s hair into a ball. I like comparing different hair color and texture in the ball form. I like the association of a hairball being something else when put in a different context such as the hairballs in the gum ball machine. I also enjoy weaving hair in the combs to spell out words.

    HairChart-DianeJacobs Tails-DianeJacobs Combs-DianeJacobs

    I noticed you only use hair with natural color. Do you avoid artificially colored hair for a reason?
    I am sure some of the hair I use is dyed. Personally I have always liked the natural  color of someone’s hair. I have used a bit of blue hair but that has been the only really artificially colored hair I have in my massive collection.


  8. Book Artist of the Month: Mary Uthuppuru

    January 27, 2014 by Erin Fletcher

    UndefinedLines4-MaryUthuppuru

    In 2012, Mary Uthuppuru created Undefined Lines. This unique artist book is designed with a cover that converts into an easel, making the image heavy content read as a guided tour along a trail commonly traveled by Mary. Using ink and watercolors to layout each scene on Rives BFK, the pages have a very soft, nostalgic feeling.

    UndefinedLines2-MaryUthuppuruUndefinedLines3-MaryUthuppuruUndefinedLines-MaryUthuppuru

    Undefined Lines is a really unique structure. The binding acts as an easel to direct the point of view of the imagery. Where did your inspiration come from for this structure?
    I chose to depict a hike I take every morning in a forest near my house. It is there that I sort out the agenda for the day, contemplate what might be on my mind or just clear my head. Being a little reserved with letting imagery be the message in my books, I decided that this book would be centered on large ink drawings with watercolors.

    This structure was a complete response to the content. In an unusual way, unusual to me, I created the pages of the book before considering how it would come together in the binding. As I finished the image panels, it occurred to me that I did two things: I created single sheets that then needed to be bound, and the image format begged for each page to be upright when viewed.

    UndefinedLines-inprocess-MaryUthuppuru

    So I leaved through all of the books about artist books I could find, hoping something would trigger an idea for my unique situation. First, I stumbled upon one of Claire Van Vliet’s bindings and I remembered the quilted books for which I first came to know her. The Lilly Library has a copy of her book Woven and Interlocking Book Structures from the Janus so I paid a visit and found a binding style that worked for my pages. The woven paper allowed me to bind the single sheets in an elegant and mostly hidden way. Another inspiration for the binding came from Susan Skarsgard, from whom I took a class at the Paper and Book Intensive in 2011. She showed us a non-adhesive structure that allowed the spine piece to slide into the cover to allow for the pages to open completely flat, something I found out I needed once I decided on the cover format.

    UndefinedLines-inprocess2-MaryUthuppuru

    Woven binding detail.

    Next, was to find a way to get the pages upright. I wanted the viewer to have the experience that they were walking through the forest with me. With the images as large as they are, I thought this would be possible especially if I could get the pages to turn towards the viewer. As each page is turned down, the viewer would find themselves in a new scene. I looked for inspiration in objects that are propped up for use that already exist like iPad cases and art easels. I made a few mock ups, but none of those things would work without making the book look clunky. Remembering that the box itself could act as the “easel”, I found the simplest ways possible to prop up the book. Having the box act as the cover in the form of a multi-flap portfolio was a good solution not only can all of the flaps be folded back for my purposes, but it also had a good-for-travel sort of feel. Once all the flaps are closed, it is self-contained.

    UndefinedLines5-MaryUthuppuru

    Last week you discussed your use of painted tissue for the cover of Fantasy & Nonsense. For Undefined Lines, Interpreter of Maladies and other works you’ve used paste cloth. Can you talk about your process for creating paste cloth?
    I first learned about paste cloth at my first Standards in 2008 in Toronto. Martha Cole demonstrated her beautiful technique of creating and using paste cloth for books as well as textile pieces. She even provided everyone with her recipes. I don’t use her recipe but I make a very simple recipe for mine which is just paste cooked as though you are using it for repair work, strained and thinned to the desired consistency, then divide the paste to be mixed with Golden acrylic paints. For the cloth, I use undyed natural cotton or linen…usually cotton since it has a consistent texture and tight weave that provides a nice smooth surface for combing if desired. All of my paste work with paste cloth is done on Mylar taped to a hard surface for drying.

    PasteCloth-MaryUthuppuru

    The cloth is sprayed with water and spread flat on the Mylar. At this stage, I make sure the fabric is laying evenly and the threads are not warped or distorted. The cloth is then pasted out with clear paste until the whole piece is evenly coated. Using your hands or a long ruler, turn the pasted cloth over onto the same piece of Mylar and smooth out gently with your hands getting rid of any air bubbles. At this point, you have to start making design decisions. If you plan on combing or drawing through the paste, then you need to decide if you will allow the color of the cloth to come through, by applying a layer of clear paste first, or if you want to build different colors on top of one another, in which case you just start your painting. If you are merely painting a design with the paste/paint mixture, you are ready to begin. Paste cloth lends itself to building rich designs by layering different colors or patterns on top of one another which is really fun to play with depending on the book’s subject matter.

    – – – – – – – – – – –

    Thanks Mary for a wonderful interview. It was great of you to share some of your techniques and creative processes.

    – – – – – – – – – – –

    UPDATE: Check out this wonderful review on Undefined Lines over at the Abecedarian Gallery Blog. The post includes a great slideshow of each page of the book!


  9. Book Artist of the Month: Mary Uthuppuru

    January 13, 2014 by Erin Fletcher

    InterpreterOfMaladies5-MaryUthuppuru

    Mary Uthuppuru received ‘Best Binding’ for her work based on Interpreter of Maladies. This award was given at the opening reception for the second edition of One Book, Many Interpretations exhibition at the Chicago Public Library in 2011. A total of ten titles were chosen by the CPL, a handful of bindings were created for each title and the award for ‘Best Binding’ was awarded to one binding for each title. 

    Housed in a beautifully shaped slipcase are nine individual books. Each book is bound in the Bradel binding style with handmade paste cloth. Details explained below are hand stenciled. Titles are stamped in gold. 

    This piece is so complex; you divided Interpreter of Maladies into nine books, which can be arranged two different ways to create either a map of India or the United States. I’ve never read these short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri, what inspiration did you find within the text to execute the binding in this manner? 
    This was my first competition binding and it was a perfect book for me because I have an intimate look into the content of Lahiri’s subject matter. Interpreter of Maladies is a compilation of nine stories featuring Indian people both in India and the United States as they deal with cross cultural issues and in some cases, the westernization of India. While the stories are about a specific culture, Lahiri writes them in such a way that they speak to a more universal experience.

    My husband is the son of an Indian father and a Japanese mother who moved to the United States for college in the 1960s. They moved here at a time when communication and travel is nothing like it is today. Letters were written and silences between phone calls were very long if at all possible. My first memories of visiting them were the numerous maps throughout the house. After a while it became clear that when you move to a new country with your family on the other side of the world, especially at the time that they did, there is comfort in looking at a map and seeing the two places a little closer together. It is this element that helped me tie the content of Interpreter with what became familiar to me.

    Since the stories take place in India and the United States I wanted both maps to be a part of the design. However, I didn’t want to overload the books with too many design features. Having the maps only appear one at a time as simple line drawings inset in the cover was the perfect solution. Additionally, I wanted the ability to create an intense color similar to marigolds, a flower present in various aspects of Indian culture, so I created paste cloth for my cover material. This also allowed me to easily stencil guides for arranging the maps into both configurations without which would make it nearly impossible for the viewer to figure out their order.

    InterpreterOfMaladies-process2-MaryUthuppuru

    Stencils used to create guides to help in arranging maps.

    This shuffling of book covers and rearranging them to create the two countries helped reinforced the difficulty of the themes in the book: life is a challenge, and when you move to a new place or what once was familiar changes, you have to make adjustments…and it can be difficult.

    – – – – – – – – – – –

    Below are images of the map blueprints and how the covers can be arranged to create both the United States and India. 

    InterpreterOfMaladies-process4-MaryUthuppuruInterpreterOfMaladies2-MaryUthuppuruInterpreterOfMaladies6-MaryUthuppuru

     


  10. 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.


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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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