Lev Yilmaz's Tales of Mere Existence: "Ready"
Yilmaz is a San Francisco-based animator and cartoonist who considers himself an "Ambassador to the Alienated." On his MySpace page he lists among his heroes Rod Serling, Kurt Vonnegut, Matt Groening, Alfred Hitchcock, Egon Schiele, Iggy, Ziggy, and Adam West. Check out his Tales of Mere Existence on his web page.
Playing for Change: Song Around the World: Stand by Me
Bill Moyers Journal: Interview with Peace for Change's Mark Johnson
According to Collingridge -- his post is a well-worth-reading appetizer to the film -- "more than twenty animators and model-makers worked with over 1,000 books to build a world, and an everycity, made from the world's literature."
"The film incorporates works from many of the 4th Estate's acclaimed authors: Jonathan Franzen, Jean-Dominique Bauby, Fay Weldon, Simon Singh, Dava Sobel, Nigel Slater, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Alaa Al Aswany, Giorgio Locatelli, Robert Fisk, Spike Milligan, Eric Sykes, Francis Wheen, Alexander Masters, Joan Didion, Michael Chabon, and many others.Enjoy!
"My personal favourite moments are those of almost hidden detail: zebra crossings made from the paperback jacket of The Corrections; the Imperial War Museum modelled from Robert fisk; the Greenwich Observatory made out of Longitude; the cinema made out of all the film tie-in editions, and the homage to The Corrections when the father falls out of the boat. The film is stuffed full of these references, and whilst they were a labour of love, they are (to me) what makes the film sing."
This Is Where We Live from 4th Estate on Vimeo.
P.S. Collingridge mentions that the pages of the books were influenced in part by artists Thomas Allen and Su Blackwell. See my earlier post about extraordinary paper artist Blackwell here.
My mother tells me that when I was three or four years old, I memorized the words of a children's book she often read to me. When we had visitors, they would point to a page and I would "read" it, to their surprise. Was that my first memory of the rewards of reading? Maybe. What I know is that books were my portal to the person I am today. Reading led me to many of the other art forms that I've enjoyed over the years: theater, foremost, but also dance, music, the visual arts, photography, design, and the handmade object.
And now a different kind of "book lust" is opening new doors. Book arts has introduced me not only to the craft of making books, but to art forms -- like printmaking -- that I'd only admired at a distance in the past. The more involved I become, the more I realize that the beauty of the handmade book is its ability to take on many forms, both literally and conceptually. It can exist on its own as an artfully-made object -- a blank journal, say -- or it can serve as a vehicle for expressing large and small ideas that incorporate a range of art forms -- as in artists' books.
In my case, my appreciation of book arts is directly connected to my lifelong love of books and reading. And yet, some of my book artist friends are not readers. Hmmm. Sounds like a subject for another post. Happy Thanksgiving, all.
Later in the article someone who studies popular culture and technology says that bloggers who tend to write short posts -- ones that mainly point readers to something they should read or see -- are moving to other venues, like Twitter or Facebook. Barbara Ganley, the blogger featured in the article, seems to agree. Her motto is "blog to reflect, Tweet to connect." As for me, I've yet to Tweet. For one thing, I like to communicate in complete sentences.
I suppose it's inevitable that there would be a blogger shakeout. Burn-out, lack of time, and loss of interest are probably the major factors for those who stop blogging. I'm certainly guilty of the second, and very occasionally the third.
I wonder how arts/artists' blogs fit into the discussion? Most of them, I find, are less about analysis (e.g., political blogs) and more about sharing and inspiration, and that may set them apart. I blog about books and book arts (and occasional asides) partly because the passion I have for these encourages me to share what I learn with others who have similar interests. And over the months that I've blogged, I've been so inspired and delighted by other bloggers' contributions that I feel a certain responsibility to give back, to contribute to the whole.
I'll be interested to see how this develops.
I love seeing the work of my fellow bookmakers together in one venue. As happens whenever I'm lucky enough to visit an exhibition of book arts, I'm delighted by the variety of the work, and the many interpretations of the book form. At this exhibit, I particularly enjoyed learning more about the personal aesthetic of each of the members of the group -- some of whom I know well and others whom I see only occasionally.
Here are just a few of the books in the exhibit, which closes this week. A detail from Annie Cicale's book -- incorporating watercolor and calligraphy -- is at top right.
Margaret Couch Cogswell's mixed media creation, The Village Idiot
Another mixed media work, Carol Norby's These Beautiful Counties
Priscilla Hill created a mixed media book with mica covers and pages.
Sharon Sharp's linocut print was the centerpiece of her book.
I've been meaning to write about Interlude Editions, and now's the perfect time. IE is a small organization that funds residencies for artists who want to create limited editions of artists' books and fine arts prints for education, exhibition, and distribution.
A group of book and print artists living and working in Western North Carolina founded IE in 2007 to address the needs of artists working the book form for space, equipment, creative resources, and dedicated time to create editions of their work (in the interest of full disclosure, I'm on IE's all-volunteer Board). You can read more about the artists' residency program, eligibility, and the application and selection process here. IE Artists are resident at BookWorks, which provides studio space, the use of specialized equipment, and staff support.
Currently, IE's budget is tiny, and includes provision of a small stipend for the IE resident artists, which typically pays for supplies the artist is using in her/his project. IE's first resident artist is Frank Brannon, a letterpress artist and papermaker. During his residency, he created an edition of more than 80 books featuring the paste-papers of "Larry Lou" Foster. Foster, who lives in Alabama, is a book artist, fine binder, and teacher, and is particularly known for her innovative paste-paper designs, many of which are based on traditional motifs. She and Frank will be at BookWorks in March 2009 to talk about her work and their joint project.
IE's Small Book Edition came to life in 2007 as one way to raise funds for the residencies (the Cold Mountain Collection is another -- more on that later!). Fourteen book and print artists each created a handmade book, each book no larger than 3" x 3," for the collection. The books were placed in a handmade display box, and the collection was auctioned at BookWorks' annual BookOpolis event. The winning bid was from Western Carolina University, and the 2007 Small Book Edition is now in the collection of the Fine Art Museum at that school. (You can see a photo of the 2007 collection here.)
This year we're holding a raffle. The 2008 Small Book Edition includes 17 books. Inspired by Gaston Bachelard's The Poetics of Space, the collection is housed in a wonderful one-of-a-kind handmade box with "movable rooms" created by mixed media artist Sandy Webster. The books incorporate a variety of printing and binding techniques and include both traditional and nontraditional books forms.
IE is selling raffle tickets at $10 per ticket, or $25 for three tickets. We're selling only 200 tickets (I told you our budget was small), so chances of winning are excellent. Having seen the full array of books, and the display box earlier this week, I've already bought more than a handful of tickets myself. The winning ticket will be selected on September 26, BookOpolis' opening reception (see more about BookOpolis here), and you don't have to be present to win (which is good for book arts friends who live elsewhere). By the way, there's also time to submit a book for the BookOpolis exhibition!
Here are some pix of the 2008 Small Book Edition collection and just a few of the individual books. The photo at top right is the amazing "box" that contains the books. Enjoy!
Eye Think A Lot About Potatoes: They Make Me Quite Round
(Frank is the first Interlude Editions resident artist.
He's teaching a letterpress concentration at Penland this winter)
A brief break from my posts about this summer's Penland experience, occasioned by my discovery of the blog slow reads. Glancing through the New York Times' books blog, Paper Cuts, I read a comment to a post about the lack of good essays in the current crop of literary blogs. The author recommended several blogs that he felt provided just that. One of them was slow reads. I plan to dig into it further, but the main conceit of the blog, the pleasures of reading slowly, struck a major chord. For me, not all books merit slow reading (what, as English majors, we used to call 'close reading' in college): if I'm reading nonfiction, and purely for information, for example, I rarely slow down. But there are books that offer many more rewards to the slow reader than they do to the speed-reader.
I couldn't resist including a few quotes from an essay by writer Teju Cole, reprinted in the blog, and titled, naturally, "slow reader:"
"One day I went to the bookshop and selected a pile of books—Svevo, Kafka, James, Calasso, about a dozen in all—and from each I read page fifty. Naturally, I often found myself in the middle of a sentence at the page’s beginning or end. But these are the fragments from which a life is made, like those snatches of conversation one hears on the subway, which are free-floating pages from a much larger and more intricate narrative. I eventually left the bookshop, late late in the afternoon, and it was as though I had been to the world’s greatest luncheon..."And here's the first paragraph of an essay by Dave Bonta (who blogs at Via Negativa, another blog mentioned in the Paper Cuts comment), about the joys of second readings:
"As for Love in the Time of Cholera, don’t even get me started. I've read the first hundred pages of that book no less than three times, Saint Ursula is my witness. The first time was out-loud to my wife, three pages a night. Maybe or maybe not I will eventually read the rest; more likely, I’ll go back and read the first hundred again..."
"Life is too precious to waste on fast reading; I bet Neruda says something like that in his Memoirs, but I haven’t gotten to that part yet."
"Reading something for the second time is so much more satisfying than that first read-through. So many books withhold their full treasures from the first-time reader. Not that the first time can't be special too, of course: surfaces are beautiful, and not to be taken lightly. During that first, heady encounter with a text, it is not merely the words that entrance us. The typefont, the design, the texture of the paper, the look and feel of covers and slipcovers, even the smell of the bindings - if new - or the patina that comes with good use: these too are manifest occasions for pleasure and surprise.
"But few of us possess the skill as readers to avoid succumbing to that first-time excitement and finishing the book too soon. And to lay it aside at that point, never to return, would constitute not simply callousness but profound disrespect. Unless the book at hand be some cheap, manupulative thing, in which case even a single reading amounts to little more than "an expense of spirit in a waste of shame," as Shakespeare once said about something else entirely."
I met Margaret Couch Cogswell in an artists' books class we took at BookWorks. My first introduction to her work was by way of her project for the class. The shape of a canned-ham can had caught her eye at the grocery store. She didn't want to waste the ham, so she took it to the local homeless shelter and kept the can. She painted it, attached wheels to it -- reminding me a bit of a vintage Airstream travel trailer standing on one end -- and made a book that hung inside the can. The result was both weighty and whimsical and so...., well, so Margaret.
Next, her cloth books captured my attention. It wasn't just the way that she combined colors and fabrics -- although that made me look twice; it was the elements she worked into them -- geometric and organic shapes that turned into characters, whether or not they were definable as such. These characters, which find their way into many of her mixed media pieces, seem to be related, residents of a community that exists in a parallel universe in a corner of Margaret's brain.
Then there's the eclecticism of Margaret's work. She makes crowns that no self-respecting, self-anointed, prince or princess should be without (see image above right), fanciful figures that beg to sit on your desk (see the pencil, clip, and paper creation below), cool stuff on wheels, lovely calendars, and cheerful metal and wire repositories for unique books (see one such piece from an exhibition at Penland's Gallery last year).
Visiting her studio at Penland made me salivate. It's spacious, with large double doors at one end to let in light, breezes and views (they're huge windows, really, since it's a second-story studio, and stepping out the doors would make for a long drop). Margaret's dog, Tessie, no fool she, has claimed the spot in front of the doors as her lounging area.
Margaret teaches both at BookWorks and at Cloth Fiber Workshop.
I love the pairing of these utiliarian objects with a book-page tutu.
The instructor exhibits at the Penland Gallery are always favorites of mine. You get the see the work of teachers that you're working with or with whom you've studied before, or whose work inspires you to consider learning from them in the future. Of course, I'm always drawn first to the work of the book arts instructors, and I took some photos of new work by Dan Essig and Julie Leonard.
The pieces on display were examples of their more sculptural work. As to some of Dan's pieces in particular, I can already hear some viewers asking "so, what makes this a book"? It's a topic that book artists and their audiences have been talking about for many years -- although admittedly, it's the academics who seem the most excited about the dialogue. For me, the more artists' books I experience, the less interesting the question becomes. So I guess we'll have to ask Dan.
Kelly O'Brien at Designing a Life was lucky enough to take Julie's class at Penland in the session before mine (check out some of the work she produced via the prior link). She tells me that Julie invited Dan to the class as a guest artist. Now if I'd only been able to take two classes at Penland this summer instead of one...(sigh).
Check out both Julie's and Dan's work in The Penland Book of Handmade Books.
Book of Nails III: Of Thunder, by Dan Essig
Horn Book: Wren, by Dan Essig
N'Kisi Bricolage, by Dan Essig
In each of the three works shown here, Dan's included a perfect, tiny, coptic-bound book (or two). Here it's on the top side of the piece.
Notice the tiny "signatures" and the use of mica to hold the treasures in the compartments/windows.
Another two terrific weeks at Penland this summer. I feel very fortunate to have this national center for art and craft virtually in my back yard. I'd been searching for training in using digital technology for surface design for a while, so when I saw this listing in Penland's catalog, I signed up in a flash. The class focused on inkjet printing on fabric, but I knew that I could adapt the techniques to paper, and I've also been interested in incorporating cloth into my book work.
Having taken a class at Penland last summer -- which, by the way, added a new dimension to the way I think about bookmaking -- I was less nervous this time about what to expect. The stars seemed to be particularly aligned: my room was in one of the more recently renovated buildings (some of the accommodations at Penland are a bit too rustic, particularly after spending a 17-hour-day working in the studio) and my dorm was across from Upper Textiles, the third-floor studio where I worked; and instead of the miserably hot mid-August weather that I'd been expecting, highs ranged from the high 70s to the low 80s, and I never used the small desktop fan that students were encouraged to bring.
Our instructor was Patricia Mink, an assistant professor in fiber at Eastern Tennessee State University, and an innovator in inkjet printing on fabric (here's an article from Fiber Arts magazine on digital quilts, which includes some of Patricia's work) . She uses her own photographs and inket printing as the base for the large-scale art quilts that she makes, working back into the fabric with sewing, embroidery, and other ways of creating layers and building texture. She's particularly interested in walls, and has been working on a series of quilts inspired by photos she's taken during her travels.
Here are a few photos to set the mood. The one to the right is of what I've come to think of as the Penland llamas, although, in fact, they don't belong to Penland, and only lodge there.
So for those of you who care about such things, here's an article from the UK's Financial Times, whose writer opines about the state of arts criticism in the U.S., and the value of good critics. A sampling:
"Essentially, our civilisation is tilting towards anti-authoritarian contests. Audiences, not judges, select winners. Call it the American Idolisation of culture. On TV, contestants get voted off without explanation. Quality is measured by thumbs, up or down. Scholarly analyses have turned into irrelevant extravagances for snobs.
"Many US papers have abandoned thoughtful, detailed reviews altogether. Publishers, editors and, presumably, readers want instant evaluations and newsbites, preferably with flashy pictures. It is Zagat-think, simplicity for the simple-minded.
"Of the thousand journalism jobs reportedly lost during the past year, 121 belonged to specialists covering music and dance, film, books and television. The music critic at the Kansas City Star was told to walk after eight years of heavy duty. The Miami Herald’s critic was granted eight weeks’ severance pay. The Los Angeles Times no longer employs a dance critic. The Village Voice in New York and the Los Angeles Weekly have ceased coverage of “classical” music. The Seattle Times no longer employs a music critic. Even the relatively secure New York Times has found two of its venerable critics – one in music, one in dance – to be expendable. Time and Newsweek gave up earnest arts coverage long ago.
"The departure of a staff writer does not invariably mean the end of criticism. Sometimes the gap is filled by “stringers”, often inexperienced freelancers paid by the piece, and not paid well. Some papers rely on recycled wire service reports. Exclusive viewpoints are low priority, if any priority at all. When Rupert Murdoch took over the Wall Street Journal, he proclaimed his intention to compete with the New York Times by expanding arts coverage. The evidence of that remains slim and dim.
"...Historically, the best critics have guarded standards, stimulated debate and, in the complex process, reinforced the importance of art in society. They have been tastemakers, taskmasters and possibly ticket-sellers. Some have even written well. Despite automatic controversy, they played a role in aesthetic checks and balances. If their opinions were important, the reasons behind them were more important."
In short, while we all are entitled to an opinion, rarely does an opinion informed criticism make (more on that here). BookGirl thinks we need both.
Mattazoni noted that NPR.org has a mandate to develop original online content and that the new book features are part of that plan. In addition to the work of the new reviewers, NPR.org will expand its Book Tour feature, which takes recordings of readings done at D.C.'s Politics & Prose bookstore (a great bookstore, by the way), edits them, and offers them as podcasts on the site.
BookGirl readers may recall my angst last year over the continuing drop of arts journalists, particularly book critics, from the editorial rosters of newspapers throughout the country (look here and here and here for the sake of nostalgia), so it's a joy to hear that book critics are getting work, and that readers (and visitors to NPR.org's Books page) will be the beneficiaries. Gee, I just may send them a check.
I love this fat little book (approximately 3 1/2" x 4 1/8" closed). It's a perfect keep-in-your-bag journal. Here are a few photos of the book, and some additional treats:
It's not an easy binding to stitch, since you're trailing the concertina while you're attaching each signature, but it gets easier with practice (and, of course, as you keep attaching signatures, the remaining amount of concertina lessens). We used a coptic stitch with bent needles. Dan doesn't like curved needles, but straight needles don't do the job, so we softened the metal of our needles over a candle flame and bent the ends at a 45% angle with pliers. Personally, I love curved needles for coptic bindings.
The cover was attached in a style very similar to the one we used for the papyrus book on Day Two. With this fourth book, when we covered the front and back cover-boards with paper, we left a "flap" on each cover on the spine side. We sewed through the inside fold of each flap, treating the cover like another signature. We used Cave paper for our covers, so it was strong enough to withstand being sewn through. If you were using a lighter-weight paper, you'd want to reinforce the area with a material such as Tyvek, which is strong and thin.
We also practiced making insets in the cover (indentations made by lifting layers of board with an exacto knife before we covered the boards). I adhered leftover bits of paper I'd painted and used for signatures in an earlier book.