Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Victor Hammer Fellowship

The view from my studio window indicates that it is undeniably fall. I installed my solo exhibition at the Print Center in early September, now it is early October and my feet have landed on solid ground, half-way through my two-year term as the Victor Hammer Fellow in Book Arts at Wells College.

I have been totally immersed in my work. If you are an artist who has prepared for exhibitions you know this focus I speak of. It is a very clear, deep, single minded kind of focus that always happens in the last few months before a big exhibition. The kind of focus that doesn't allow for friends and phone calls and Facebook. Emails pile up. Laundry piles up. I am in the studio early. I am still in the studio late at night. Acquaintances wonder if I am self-absorbed. The people who love me find themselves needing to be very, very patient. Everything falls away, except the work.

It is always like this for me--every time. I work hard in the studio year around. I don't wait for an exhibition to begin to make work. However, I find that there is something about the process of preparing for an exhibition that always pushes my nose right up against the wall. Everything around me get's fuzzy, but the thing in front of me that needs to get done--my work--gets crystal clear.

Today, the show is up, and I feel good about the work. I realize it's been awhile since I have simply looked around. The leaves are changing colors, it's fall. I count the months I have been in Aurora. I count the months that are left before I return home to Philadelphia. My fellowship is half over. And I am a little sad. I have really missed living in Philadelphia, but there are so many things that I like about being a fellow at the Book Arts Center.

But first: What is this fellowship?
According to the Wells Book Arts Center website:
"The fellowship is named for Victor Hammer, an Austrian printer, book designer, typographer and portrait artist, who fled Nazi Europe to come to Wells College in 1939. The Hammer Fellowship is a two-year book artist-in-residence program that was founded in 1998. By bringing young, emerging book artists to campus, the Wells Book Arts Center has made a name for itself in the book arts world.

The Book Arts Center teaches introductory courses in letterpress printing, hand bookbinding, calligraphy and various upper-level courses in binding and printing. In addition to courses taught in the academic year, the Book Arts Center offers two week-long series of workshops in the book arts at Wells College."
This is Victor Hammer's Press, for real.
For me the fellowship has truly been fantastic. I have had the opportunity to work at the Bixler letterfoundry where I have learned to cast type. I teach book arts and printing courses. The people I work with (in particular the Director, Nancy Gil) are lovely. I very much enjoy the students. The artwork I completed during my first year at Wells was possible primarily because the Center has been so supportive of my art practice. And upstate New York is, frankly, beautiful.
Wells Book Arts Center is located on Lake Cayuga in upstate NY.
My favorite printer's devil and boyfriend, Curt Sauer.
The Book Arts Center is charming, it's quaint, it's filled with presses and paper and woodtype and lead type and all the things that I hold true to my heart. However, I must tell you that one of my daily simple pleasures is my office. Walking in and closing the door: I have my very own office.
I love my office.
I come from a long line of fellows: Jocelyn Webb, Terrence Chouinard, Sarah Roberts, Morgot Ecke, Rachel Wieking, and Sarah Bryant. And the evidence of their presence lingers in my office....
Victor Hammer Mascot
Make-ready from Sarah's artist book Biography taped to the wall.

And every evening, at 6 PM, from my office window I listen to the chime of bells. There is a real range of expertise of "bell ringers" (some evenings the sound is better than others), but regardless of poor or perfect rhythm, it is a sound that I enjoy every time.

Waiting outside my office door is this guy:
In the sitting position he is about 3 1/2 feet high. He used to startle me, now we are old friends.
It's not just my office that is so great--as I mentioned--the entire Book Arts Center building is lovely. So not counting the obvious (my office, my boyfriend, the lake, Nancy, the former fellows, and the book-arts-buddha) this is a list of my 10 most favorite things:
1) I can park my bike inside the arched entrance: I never have to lock up my bike. That's right, never locked, never stolen--take that Philly!
2) The Bindery! This is where I teach.
3) The Scriptorium--how amazing is it that there is a scriptorium?

4)The Student Press Room--this is also where I teach! The color coding for type makes me very very happy.
5) The Faculty Press Room--of course the Uni 1 is my true love, but the carpets on the print studio floor warm my heart.
6) Graffiti covers the desks in the Art History room.
7) I admired this folded paper thing for months, later to discover that my former teacher Hedi Kyle made it.

8) Third Floor Bindery--my studio!
9) Hours of discovery & adventure in the basement.
I end with the safe, because now that I see that my fellowship is more than half over, I realize I may be leaving behind some unfinished business: breaking open that safe! It's not that I haven't tried. I have simply run out of resources. While failure eats at my soul daily, I take some comfort in the fact that there is a tradition of sorts here at the Book Arts Center. Each Fellow gets to leave behind some kind of unfinished project. In my case, I will be leaving "project safe" for Victor Hammer #8.