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Posts Tagged ‘sarah mcdermott’

  1. Book Artist of the Month: Sarah McDermott

    March 25, 2013 by Erin Fletcher

    untitled 2 PA

    Throughout the month I’ve featured the book art work of Sarah McDermott, but she also works as a talented printer. This past winter, Sarah created these screenprints that will hopefully be part of a larger series. Sarah has been able to improve her method of registration using the pin and tab system, which she learned from Dennis O’Neil’s experimental screenprint class at Corcoran. 

    I really love these prints and I’m so glad Sarah shared them with me. I do hope they become part of a larger series because I’m curious to see where these limbs (or perhaps other body parts) appear next. 

    You can see more of her print work here.

    untitled 1 PA

  2. Book Artist of the Month: Sarah McDermott

    March 18, 2013 by Erin Fletcher


    In 2010, Sarah McDermott completed Compendium of Domestic Incidents as her thesis from the University of Alabama. Sarah worked in collaboration with friend and writer Joanna Ruocco to continue an investigation on the intersection between the book arts and writing communities. 

    Sarah has worked previously with Joanna, illustrating covers for two editions of her literary magazine Birkensnake and her first trade paperback, The Mothering Coven. Sarah is particularly drawn to the experimental nature of Joanna’s fictional writing and at the start of her thesis project was presented with several texts of Joanna’s, choosing the most complete work Compendium of Domestic Incidents, a group of prose poems centered on domestic spaces. The work involves the familiar interactions that occur during the course of everyday activities such as food preparation, eating, doctoring and living, elaborating on the erotic and sometimes violent interactions.

    Sarah captured the feeling of the Joanna’s writing and connected it to the book by pairing the text with illustrations of interconnected body parts, of people wrestling, balancing between the erotic and violent. The line drawings are accompanied by screenprinted patterns. 

    Made in an edition of 35, the book is sewn on tapes with an exposed spine. The text block is handmade paper of cotton rag and Alabama banana stems with the exception of one folio of machine-made Kozo. The text and illustrations are letterpress printed and silkscreened. Letterpress printing was done on a Vandercook press with polymer plates. The book is housed in a two-tone slipcase with a silkscreened image of a chicken’s foot.


  3. Book Artist of the Month: Sarah McDermott

    March 11, 2013 by Erin Fletcher


    Memories can be tricky. When recalling moments from our childhood, we can so easily and without realizing it, elaborate on the reality. In Dodge County Summers, Sarah McDermott constructs a narrative from the summers spent on her family’s farm in Wisconsin and now as an adult realizes their falsehoods. 

    Dodge County Summers is bound as a quarter cloth binding on an intimate scale of 5¼ x 5¼” containing fold-out sections, which allow for movement in two directions. The interior pages were handmade using cotton rag, abaca, mystery pulp balls and hemp and letterpress printed on a Vandercook 4 with the use of linoleum reductions and photopolymer printed plates for the text and drawings.

    This artist book was created in 2009 in an edition of 30 and can be purchased through Vamp & Tramp, Booksellers.


  4. Book Artist of the Month: Sarah McDermott

    March 4, 2013 by Erin Fletcher


    Sarah McDermott works in collaboration with friends Joanna Ruocco and Brian Conn to design and screenprint covers for their experimental fiction journal Birkensnake. Each issue is “irregularly published and imperfectly bound” in editions of about 300. 


    left: Issue no. 2 | right: Issue no. 3

    Birkensnake 2 has a 3-color screenprint design on flocked paper with the center scorched with a blowtorch and bound in a long stitch structure. Birkensnake 3 has a 3-color design screenprinted on recycled chipboard boxes and bound with a wraparound cover. 

    Unfortunately, all of the print issues are sold out, but Birkensnake can be read digitally through their website. The next issue is set to publish this summer, edited by seven pairs of strangers, that is until they signed on to complete Birkensnake 6.

  5. 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. 


  • 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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