The Complex of All of These

Ten years ago this June I had recently quit my conservation job at Columbia University to be an artist-in-residence at Women’s Studio Workshop, an amazing place in a quiet town about two hours north of Manhattan. I had proposed an artist’s book based on work from my last year in college, the only thing I still like, really, and in the end I made thirty five copies of a book called The Complex of All of These, with handmade paper covering over a bradel binding, hand-sewn tiny endbands with etchings and letterpress inside. It was the kind of thing that invites obnoxious clichés in trying to write about it, but the whole experience of living and working in this gorgeous old studio, having interns to help me, exploring the historic towns nearby, making fast friends with many of the people who work there, and ultimately producing an edition I was really proud of was really just a critical one for me. The book is now in amazing collections like the Library of Congress and many university libraries.

While I was at WSW and in love with everything I took so many pictures that I started making a stop-motion animation of the whole process, which was originally on YouTube with music I can’t use anymore, and a lot of people have asked after it since it disappeared from the platform so I’ve re-uploaded it silent for now! If any music people out there have something I can use instead, I’d be grateful.

Upcoming Classes at Women's Studio Workshop

We're happy to announce two classes at the 2016 Summer Arts Institute at the Women's Studio Workshop in Rosendale, NY! I did an artist's book residency at WSW in 2009 and fell for it hard; it's been a few summers since I taught my last workshop there and I'm excited to be going back. Looks like we'll also be the first class on the new Vandercook that they've just moved in!

Letterpress Intensive

July 18-22
Tuition: $750 ($700 members)
Lab fee: $25
Class limit: 6
There’s nothing, for a writer or designer, like the feeling you get when you realize letters can be tangible things; that you can hold your words in your hands; that even the space between words is a physical object. Spend a week with WSW’s collection of lead and wood type and learn traditional hand typesetting and letterpress printing. Bring your words or someone else’s plus a dose of curiosity and discover the magic of letterpress! We’ll start with a communal broadsheet just to learn the process, then students will make their own broadsheets or simple pamphlet bindings. Those also enrolled in the following week’s workshop—Bookbinding: Case Binding with Rounded Spine—can use their letterpress work for the bindings in that class and continue to use the letterpress studio. No prior experience in printing is expected.

Bookbinding: Case Binding with Rounded Spine

July 25-29
Tuition: $750 ($700 members)
Lab fee: $45
Class limit: 6
Student Material List
In this class you’ll learn how to make a traditional case binding from start to finish (although without cutting all the corners that modern machine binding does!). This is the style of your average hardcover book, with cloth covering and a rounded spine. You’ll learn the basics of paper selection, sewing, rounding & backing, edge trimming, and casing-in. Those who are a little faster will have time to learn more advanced techniques—such as hand-sewing endbands—or start a second book and really consolidate their skills. Use your book for a sketchbook or journal or just to learn the process so you can go home and make them on your own. We’ll talk about ways to get around any lack of equipment. Those enrolled in the letterpress class from the week before have the opportunity to incorporate their printing in these books.

The Making of an Herbarium, Part III

It's been colorful on my desk the last few days: all the flowers came out of blotters livened up the paper-covered case I made for the book. Even normal vellum is a little transparent, and must be backed with paper—this skin is so transparent you can read writing on the back of a piece of paper through it. And so the case had to be covered in paper first, to make it all white, then the flowers were pasted to that, then the vellum pasted on top. A ton of pressure in the press first, to sink the flowers into the boards, then I pasted them into their shallow beds. In the end I thought it would be best not to lay flowers over the joints, although it looked really satisfying, because I doubt they'll stand up to the stress of folding as the book opens.

I think the pale blue iris is the best; it grows no taller than the stem it has here, and is the first to come out. All the veins in the petals and stem came out in such detail. The big poppy on the front board is another favorite—poppies already look like tissue paper when they're alive, and it retained all of that character pressed. Also present (amongst some long-forgotten ones): crocus, primrose, winter aconite, anemone, nasturtium, nigella, forget-me-not, viola, ceropegia woodii, campanula, passion flower, lewisia, heuchera, osteospermum, bleeding heart.

Some small pictures, to tide over until I get the "real" ones off the camera:

The Making of an Herbarium, Part II

My herbarium is coming along between treatment proposals and lecture writing: I chose really beautiful handmade paper made by Chris Petrone of the Womens' Studio Workshop, with nonpareil marbled endpapers from Payhembury. I dyed Pergamena vellum green for the tapes. I've worked on a few green vellum account bindings and the color is really satisfying. And then I took a last look at the deckle edges—lovely but uneven & difficult to turn—and plowed them right off. I found immense satisfaction in putting the trimmings in my vermicomposting bin, though! The worms will eat them, which enrich the soil, which will grow new plants, which will become pressed specimens for the herbarium. It's too perfect.

I wasn't sure what to do with the head edge, and colored it yellow with gamboge first, but on second thought rubbed some Prussian blue in and made them the same green as the vellum supports. More or less exactly the same green. That was pretty satisfying, and with a little wax & burnishing they're super shiny. Endbands are green, blue-green, & a pale blue over alum taw & vellum cores. I made the vellum long to lace it into the case with the sewing support slips. 

The next step is done, making the case Bradel-style, to be covered in white vellum. I was planning on making it go transparent by soaking it in potassium carbonate & pressing hard, à la Edwards of Halifax, but no matter how I've tried to do it, I haven't managed to affect any change in the skin. Plan B has just come to me in writing this, though, so stay tuned for covering & lacing in. 

Now, if only the sun would stay out a little longer, & get my plants growing faster...

Papermaking at London Center for Book Arts

We're excited to be doing a few papermaking classes at LCBA, one of which will be open to the public: Introduction to Papermaking. I'll be teaching with paper & print artist Chris Petrone of the Women's Studio Workshop in New York. The first time Chris & I made paper it was for a book that I made at WSW, and it went a little like this:

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And then we collaborated to make this lovely stuff, which Chris made for me to use in a model of an 18th century French bookbinding.

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Meanwhile I ran some classes with a different papermaker called Chris at LCBA last year, for conservation students from Camberwell and West Dean College. Here's Ashley finally successfully couching a sheet:

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Come join us: two papermakers for the price of one! There are six slots available...