Façades for Mark Rothko by Crispin Elsted

Façades for Mark Rothko by Crispin Elsted

It has been a year since I posted and it’s time to get back at it!  Fast-forwarding past the rest of producing the Great Wall of China to my most recent project, I’ll backpedal next time and finish the story about The Great Wall. Just in time for the Oxford Fine Press Book Fair in March, my latest book project was finished. It is the last of three books I started working on at the beginning of 2016. From the first time I heard Crispin Elsted read Façades for Mark Rothko I wanted to spend more time with the poem. It had not been published, but Crispin was kind enough to send a copy by mail. After reading it and musing on it, I asked if I could print it.  When he said yes, I panicked, wondering what had possessed me to ask –how I could possibly do the poem justice? Several years have passed since that moment of horror, and Crispin has kindly offered suggestions and provided encouragement along the way. The text was sent off to Michael and Winifred Bixler to be set in 14 point Van Dijck and the Zerkall paper was ordered from the UK. I sent two other texts off to Bixlers’ at the same time, and since they were in line to be printed first I had time to consider the poem and how to present it. Thinking of Rothko’s paintings, I wanted the book to have a quiet presence but not be imposing, to contain and present Crispin’s writing without being illustrative. Many ideas came to mind, but they all seemed too imitative or...
Façades for Mark Rothko by Crispin Elsted

Façades for Mark Rothko by Crispin Elsted

It has been a year since I posted and it’s time to get back at it!  Fast-forwarding past the rest of producing the Great Wall of China to my most recent project, I’ll backpedal next time and finish the story about The Great Wall. Just in time for the Oxford Fine Press Book Fair in March, my latest book project was finished. It is the last of three books I started working on at the beginning of 2016. From the first time I heard Crispin Elsted read Façades for Mark Rothko I wanted to spend more time with the poem. It had not been published, but Crispin was kind enough to send a copy by mail. After reading it and musing on it, I asked if I could print it.  When he said yes, I panicked, wondering what had possessed me to ask –how I could possibly do the poem justice? Several years have passed since that moment of horror, and Crispin has kindly offered suggestions and provided encouragement along the way. The text was sent off to Michael and Winifred Bixler to be set in 14 point Van Dijck and the Zerkall paper was ordered from the UK. I sent two other texts off to Bixlers’ at the same time, and since they were in line to be printed first I had time to consider the poem and how to present it. Thinking of Rothko’s paintings, I wanted the book to have a quiet presence but not be imposing, to contain and present Crispin’s writing without being illustrative. Many ideas came to mind, but they all seemed too imitative or...
Kafka, Chapter 2 (‘The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.’ )

Kafka, Chapter 2 (‘The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.’ )

When I started the book, everything went smoothly and it seemed like it would be a straightforward project. The plan was to open the paper, stack it flat to relax, and cut it to size on a guillotine. Easy, right? I had cut Japanese paper this way, so it should work and I could get to printing. Then, out of the blue, Robbie Burns’ ‘Gang aft a-gley’ kicked in. Chinese paper is shipped ‘gently folded’ in packages of 50 sheets, rather than being rolled around a core. When the box arrived, I opened the packages and lay the paper out flat so it could relax before being cut to size. It didn’t relax. I waited. I tried putting weight on top. I rolled it up and let it sit over night. In the process of trying to flatten it, I realized that, because of its soft texture, it also wasn’t going to jog well enough to be cut on a guillotine. Time for plan B. Water. The 27″ x 54″ sheets were too big to dampen and stack, so I folded and knife-cut each sheet into eighths by hand. As I started folding it in half, I realized the paper wasn’t square. The concertina structure, with pages tipped back-to-back, requires that the pages be the same size and square. Time for plan C. Sigh. I would have to fold each sheet in half and trim it to square by hand before printing, then trim the head and tail of the book block after it was glued so they would all be the same size. The paper is Double Xuan, 2-ply paper we chose because it...
Printing Kafka’s ‘Great Wall of China’

Printing Kafka’s ‘Great Wall of China’

1. In the beginning… I have been working on an artist book of Kafka’s short story ‘The Great Wall of China’ for over a year. 2016 was the 30th anniversary of my return from a year teaching English in Chongqing, Sichuan; 2017 is the 100th anniversary of the creation of Kafka’s story, although it wasn’t published until 1931, after his death. The project has been a somewhat surreal endeavour at a time when the news was full of Donald Trump’s promise to build a wall along the southern border of the US, to make the Mexican government pay for it, to deport undocumented workers, and to ban Muslims. Kafka’s story seems eerily contemporary. In the story, a half-century before the wall is started word is spread through the country that people should train as architects and masons for the future. When the work is started, it is built in sections that aren’t connected – when one section is completed the group of workers is moved to a distant place to start another section. The populace is made afraid of invaders and distracted with preventing their arrival, keeping the nation unified by focussing on a defensive project. I was delighted to get permission from Ian Johnston to use his translation, and from Vihanga Perera to use an essay he had written about the story. The text was sent to Michael and Winifred Bixler to cast new type. Duncan Major agreed to create linocut illustrations, and the wheels were rolling! I wanted to use Chinese paper and a Chinese structure for the story. After testing several sheets, Duncan and I decided the double xuan paper seemed best. It had a bit...
Monotype Workshop

Monotype Workshop

A lazy Sunday, just back (2 a.m.) from a wonderful week at the Wells Book Arts Summer Institute in Aurora, NY. I spent 5 days at the Skaneateles foundry of Michael and Winifred Bixler, learning to use the monotype casting equipment. Participants included Tina Arsenault (the other Canadian – NS), Okara Harvey (Australia), Selena Matranga (California), Matt Rieck (NY), Peter Sutherland (NY), David Wilson (VA but really MA), and Al Zavar (FL). We stayed in the dorm at Wells College and ate our meals with the other workshops’ participants, so I met a lot of interesting people.  Michael and Winifred are wonderful, generous hosts, and it was a busy week as everyone worked on casting all the ornaments, borders and fonts their hearts desired. (Notice the pot of molten lead, swung out from the caster while Michael makes adjustments.) Wells College was founded in 1868 by the same person who started The American Express Company and Wells Fargo. The Book Arts Summer Institute offers 10 workshops over two weeks, but you can only take one workshop a week. I had a great time and met lots of interesting folks, and I have 43 pounds of type coming my way via...
Light again

Light again

Here are photos of the book I made for the CBBAG SK Light Book Swap. The structure is from Paul Johnson’s Literacy Through the Book Arts, but I learned it from the brilliant Ed Hutchins.   Linocuts of lilies and jasmine (mentioned in the poem) were printed on damp St. Armand handmade paper, and the text printed in black. The LED lights and copper tape are self adhesive, and I used ATG tape to adhere the battery to the paper and hold the covers together. A thin piece of foam with a hole in it holds the copper away from a 3V battery so when the circle is squeezed the lights come on. Light! The poem is by Rabindranath Tagore, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913 for Gitanjali, the collection of poems in which “Light” was...
Open Studio

Open Studio

I am joining Bob Brink, Di Dabinett, Jeanette Jobson, Po Chun Lau, Louise Markus, Mitzi Smyth, and Gerald Vaandering for Pouch Cove Open Studios on August 29th and 30th, noon to 5 p.m. It’s your chance to see what we are working on and talk to the artists about their work. I will have my artist’s books on display as well as a variety of paintings and prints. Have a look at the website here: http://www.pouchcoveopenstudios.comand come out for a visit at the end of the...
Going up!

Going up!

The mural of my painting is being installed on the Convention Centre downtown! This is what it looked like yesterday evening. It’s interesting to see how the painting was cropped, and how it wraps around the building. They are expecting to finish it this...

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