Monday, December 23, 2013

Paper Ribbon

Rolls of blue paper ribbons sit in my studio. Last year they functioned as the binary code for locating a specific letter on a mat for casting monotype.

A short clip while I was casting type—you can see the roll of blue paper on the monotype caster.

While it is possible for these rolls of blue paper ribbons to be used to recast the monotype from last year, today I see them as beautiful things in-and-of-themselves. 

Beautiful things.
I see them as objects with physical and mechanical limitations. And within limitations, there are endless possibilities.

There are limitations within: his luggage, her house, my day…In the same way that there are limitations within a job case.

Graphite rubbing of job case.
Even in the endless digital world there are limitations within a tweet.
140 characters.
From these paper ribbons, I burned a series of screens that I have shipped to Utah for [in code] at the College Book Arts Association Conference will be held in Salt Lake City January 2 – 4. 

Using information from hashtags on twitter by conference attendees, Denise Bookwalter, Sarah Bryant, Tricia Treacy and I will print a series of collaborative posters. Using this text-based content we will “retweet” a narrative back through social media. This on-site project will be an installation and a collaborative printing experience that extends the dialogue of the College Book Arts Association Conference to a broader audience.

This idea is inspired by our dual interests in limitations of communication in a physical sense in both the digital and the analog worlds. We will spend one day in the printshop at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City (on-site during the conference) working with the text-based content to produce a series of posters. However anyone in the world can use [#printedword #woodtpye #letterpress #shiftlab #cbaa] hash tags to participate in [in code].

[This project has been made possible by a generous donation from Legion Paper, NY and a 2013 Microgrant from]

Monday, November 18, 2013

I am looking back at you to see, if you are looking back at me looking back at you...

In August, I moved to start a new job at The University of Alabama in Huntsville. To be perfectly honest about the way I feel about things, I must tell you that I am a bit all over the place. I am teaching a lot. Trying to write. Applying for things. Making new work. Dealing with framing and exhibiting old work. Setting up the University's new letterpress studio. Setting up my new studio space. Cleaning up an old printmaking space. Everything is new, overwhelming and time consuming--a Shift indeed!
Alabama Studio
Each of the things that have been taking up my time and my headspace over the last three months have drastically interrupted the momentum of the artist book I am making for the Shift exchange. (A brief recap on the project: Denise, Sarah, Macy, Tricia and I will each design, print and bind a small edition of an 11x16 cm book with the theme or title of Shift.)  

I begin where I left off. Three half-finished mock-ups are unpacked. Despite how awkward and embarrassing they may be, I read and re-read pages of unedited writing. With half a heart I glance through stupid sketches and dumb plans for imagery. 

I identify with Sarah's thoughts after picking up her project after a hiatus: "So today is a day for models and mockups, a frustrating and satisfying investigation of an idea that has cooled slightly after a month of neglect.”

So today is a day for looking back. And tomorrow, I will move forward. 

Part I
Iceland, I am looking back at you to see, if you are looking back at me looking back at you. 
I traveled to Iceland in February of 2013 and it was in Iceland that I was (not surprisingly) inspired by the landscape. My work typically uses landscape as a stage on which the narratives play out. I learned in Iceland that the landscape is different. The heavens reach all the way down and touch the ground that we walk on. The land is moving and changing quickly. In Iceland, the land is not the stage, but rather a character with a story of its own to tell. 
Part II
Fact: There are two mountains in Icleand, Baula and Litla Baula.
In Aurora, New York I visited an Icelandic Sheep Farm and bought the wool coat of a lamb named Baula. 

My daughter, Helen carded and spun Baula's coat, while I knit it into a sweater. And I made a drawing of the Icelandic sheep farm in New York State. This is the part of my art making practice where I make things that are not intended for exhibition.
Baula's coat
Helen carding wool
Baula's coat
Drawing of the sheep farm

Part III
Fact: A copyist is a person who makes multiple copies, which are written by hand.
I visited the Fiske Collection--one of the largest collections of Icelandic manuscripts in the world--and looked at very old books. In the stacks I perused the section of "tinys" (books 11 x 16 cm or smaller are shelved together). 

While exploring the Fiske Collection I learned about copyists. A copyist was typically employed to write multiples of poetry, sagas, and musical scores. To copy is to make and re-make, to tell and re-tell, and to write and re-write. In contrast, a printer would be employed (generally by the Church or government) to print multiples of law books and bibles. 

The narrative for my artist book Shift regains some of its original shape: 
  • Three characters: a Sheep, a Copyist, and a bit of Land. 
  • A story that is told and re-told, each time from a new perspective.  
Part IV 
Fact: I barely have an idea, but I do have a place to start.

My students will be extremely pleased to know that my next task is to make a mock-up, or two, or three...whatever it takes. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Alabama Studio

Confession: I have been living in Alabama since August and I haven't written a lick about the move. It is not entirely my fault, because honestly, where does one begin when one moves from The North to The South? Clearly, there is a lot to say. I had only been to The South once before, and that was in the spring when I interviewed at the University of Alabama. I took the job and loaded up a 14 foot Uhaul with an etching press, a Vandercook, a cabinet of type, and a cat, eventually arriving in Hunstville, Alabama. If you have ever moved a press (or two) you know it goes without saying that this was an epic move. Perhaps you have tried to get a tenure track job? Or more specifically a tenure track job in book arts and/or printmaking? If so you will know that this was an epic job hunt. Or have you attempted to maintain an art practice while you juggle way-too-many-things? If you can relate, you will know that this was an epic year.

And it is difficult for me to write about such epic things. So I will start with something simple: my new studio. As an Associate Professor in Printmaking, I have my own studio space: four walls, two windows, one high ceiling, a concrete floor, a sink, and a separate storage space. I am going to take a guess at 400 square feet of art-making space.



As I adjust to my new home, new job, new students, and new friends, I am quietly working in this new space. Drawing, prepping paper, setting type, and filling paper bags with chips of wood.

And new work is starting to take shape.

I feel a kind of hesitation, looking at these photos of the studio. These images show show a space that has order (and it is true, like any good printmaker my studio has order). But it wasn't always like this. From the moment I arrived in Alabama, it took serious effort to get all of the equipment on the third floor and in its place. I had incredible support from my colleagues and the facility workers at UAH. But my friend Miguel, my daughter Helen, and my boyfriend Curt also helped--a lot. Damn, Curtles can problem-solve like a printmaker.

Friday, August 9, 2013

I Will Miss These Things

At the age of fourty-four, I am surprised to find myself to be the kind of person who has moved a lot. There was Texas and Montana. In Washington, I had stints in Snohomish, Lake Stevens, Everett and Seattle. Even in Olympia--where I lived for many years--I moved around: The Mill House, Cherry Street, The Duplex, The Studio Apartment, The House That Burned Down, The Apartment By Lincoln, The Bigelow House and The Boat. And in Philly: The Lombard Apartment, Sloan Street, The House For Wayward Girls, and The Snuggler.

For the past two years I have been living in Aurora, New York, where I was the Fellow at the Wells Book Arts Center. I am leaving Wells for a tenure track position at the University of Alabama, and I am excited for the move to Huntsville. However, there are things I am going to miss about my life in the village of Aurora.

With a population of about 725, Aurora is really, really, really small. There is something unique about living and working in a place of such an "intimate" size. I walk one block to Main Street. There are no traffic lights. I can count the local businesses on one hand.

There is no garbage pick-up in Aurora. Every Saturday, Curt (my boyfriend) and I would take our garbage and recycling to the dump, then we would go to breakfast at The Man in the Moon Bakery. This is my favorite breakfast in upstate New York, and I am going to miss it.
I am going to miss seeing my neighbor Britt, who lived across the street from me. I think about all the times that Britt's garage door was open and I could see her 4 foot hand-made sign: Obama got Osama. And I am going to miss pondering over her uncanny resemblance to Barack Obama. I will always remember the time I rode by Britt's house with the air low in my bicycle tires and she yelled after me: "Your tires are flat! That good for nothing boyfriend of yours is nothing but eye candy!" And the next time I saw her she pumped up my tires.

I am also going to miss my identical twin neighbors Lorie and Julie. We shared a driveway and their cars were also exactly alike. Exact same color, exact same style. Identical.

I am going to miss this tree and the fancy desserts from the Inn.
I am going to miss team Chichi, and my two friends John and Heather. Wednesday nights we played trivia at The Plant and I remember when I first started playing I was really nervous because I have never liked team sports. A gin & tonic calmed my nerves and eventually I found my place on the team: poetry & literature (multiple choice only); 1980's movies; and the very very occasional art question.
Trivia DJ Dan, me, and Curtles.
I am going to miss the fireworks on Lake Cayuga.
I am going to miss Nancy, my boss. I will miss walking into the Book Arts Center and wondering when the greenhouse will be restored so it can it can become the papermaking studio it was always meant to be.
I will miss my office.
I am going to miss looking at the make ready that Sarah left behind. So I am leaving my owl to keep her periodic table company.
I will miss my studio.
I will miss Buddha.
I will miss the Vandercook Universal I automatic, on which I printed oh-so-many things. And I will miss looking at Werner Pfeiffer's portfolio "Alphabeticum".
I will miss the students I taught.
I will miss exploring the basement.
Mats: 12 pt. Porson Greek
I will always remember each and every one of Michael Bixler's printing tips.

And I will never forget this sound:

And the smell of hot lead.

I will miss driving to the big city of Rochester to eat at Dinosaur Barbeque, where over dinner we would take in the view of the Genesse River.
I learned to play folf in upstate New York. Curt and I explored every course we could find. My favorite was the course in Danby and I am going to miss it, especially this picnic area. If Communist Architecture had a baby with The Future, it would look like this.
I will miss turning the pages of books from the Fiske Collection at Cornell.
Willard Fiske's book plate
Goodbye New York spring.
Goodbye Grisamore Farm's berry season.
Goodbye green...
...and white...
...and blue.