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...

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