“The Water is Wide”: An edition of painted artist books as pandemic comfort art

I realize that I’ve never shared the variable edition of 12 manuscript books that I made last fall. Here are photos of the three verses of The Water is Wide. 5 x 8 in, Bister and sumi inks on Arches Text Wove, lettering done with a no. 2 round sable brush. Book cloth over hard cover.

These books were the “comfort food” of the studio this past fall. The melody that goes with these traditional lyrics is the kind of tune that sticks in your brain, but it’s soothing.

How to Be in the World: An Abecedarian Commonplace for Living – SOLD OUT!

If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know something about How to Be in the World: An Abecedarian Commonplace for Living. This is a portfolio of 26 sheets that each contain an illuminated letter, a verb, and a favorite quotation relating to that verb. Written and drawn all in pencil, these pages were developed over a number years. It was featured in Letter Arts Review earlier this year, and I also made a clamshell box to hold the stack of original sheets.

As of the end of May, these are all sold out. Thank you to everyone who purchased one!

Clamshell box #2 – measurement fail

clamshell box fail

I just finished making this clamshell box for my abecedarian pencil portfolio, “How To Be In The World”. Except that it’s about 1/16″ too shallow to fit all the pages! Simply checking the fit after I made the inner tray — the first of three components to be made — would have made all clear. But I didn’t.

So now I have a beautiful clamshell box that needs a content. And a stack of pages that still need a box. Ah, well, I had planned to make three clamshell boxes this week, to solidify what I learned in the online bookbinding class through the University of Utah. Looks like the second and third ones will be virtually identical!

Rachel envelope

It’s been that kind of day. I wrote a letter to my niece using sumi ink and a 1/2mm Brause dip pen. It looked quite nice, if I say it myself, except that I discovered a huge, wet splotch of sumi ink on the back of the letter when I began to fold it for mailing. I mailed it anyway. Sometimes you’ve just got to move on. (The scroll-point red marker on the envelope went a little better.)

My work in Letter Arts Review!

My ABC pencil portfolio in Letter Arts Review!

On Monday, I was thrilled to receive my copy of the current issue of Letter Arts Review. It’s always a good day when the LAR arrives, but especially so this time: my ABC pencil portfolio, How to Be In The World, was featured in it — all 28 pages! If you follow this blog, you’ve read about the portfolio several times here. The final product is definitely a ship of Theseus: every single page has been redone at least once.

Although I’m understandably infatuated with those particular pages, the entire issue is an excellent one. It includes an interview with the inimitable Julie Wildman, a book project by Louise Grunewald, Anna Pinto on pastels and pochoir, and more. Get your own copy here.

(In a few weeks, I may be letting up on the exclamation points. Maybe.)

Artist book – Can’t Not Look: Democracy in America

Unique manuscript books is complete and available for sale. Can’t Not Look: Democracy in America is a collection of quotations from our presidents in three sections: “Civility & Comity”, “Ethics & Equality”, and “Dangers to Democracy”. Each section contains at its center a fold-out quadruple truck of our present leader’s tweets on the same subject.

This book is difficult to photograph, I’m afraid. The paper is vintage handmade John Green: “Dover Castle”. Here are a few images.

Gouache and steel nib on John Green “Dover Castle” vintage handmade paper. From my artist book, Can’t Not Look: Democracy in America. Text from George Washington’s farewell speech. Single page size is 4.75 in x 7.5 in.
Gouache and steel nib on John Green “Dover Castle” vintage handmade paper. From my artist book, Can’t Not Look: Democracy in America. Text from Jimmy Carter’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, 1976. Single page size is 4.75 in x 7.5 in.
Brush pen on John Green “Dover Castle” vintage handmade paper. From my artist book, Can’t Not Look: Democracy in America. Detail of first four-page foldout. Single page size is 4.75 in x 7.5 in.

Scintillate, Scintillate book edition is finished!

Last three of Scintillate, Scintillate, a variable edition of manuscript books. Shown here in wrappers.

I am so pleased that I have finally finished the last of Scintillate, Scintillate, a variable edition of 12 manuscript books. I finished the first nine back in October. You can see a photo of one of the books, open, here.

LXV – artist book of Stephen Crane’s poem

Long time no post! We’ve been traveling, and I’ve been Instagramming, and … well, honestly, inspiration has been sparse on the ground. Anyway, remember this artist book I was working on? I mostly finished it shortly thereafter, but never posted any photos. I had a few binding chores left on the last couple in the edition, and I worked on that recently … which reminded me that I had never properly photographed it. Here are some images from the book.

A variable edition of 12 manuscript books; 4 are still available. The books are small at 1-5/8 in x 3 in x 1/2 in, and lettered in gouache with a metal pen.

The structure is a modified version of a flat-piano-hinge non-adhesive book described by Keith Smith in Non-Adhesive Bindings.
The clean, strong imagery of this text appeals to me. Indeed, the visuals were so strong that I endeavored to make the letters themselves illustrate the poem, which describes so beautifully the preciousness of words as well as our tenuous hold on them.
The text:
Once, I knew a fine song,
—It is true, believe me,—
It was all of birds,
And I held them in a basket;
When I opened the wicket,
Heavens! They all flew away.
I cried, “Come back, little thoughts!”
But they only laughed.
They flew on
Until they were as sand
Thrown between me and the sky.

LXV artist book in its wrapper 

LXV artist book, opening 3

LXV artist book, opening 4

LXV artist book, opening 5

My latest artist book edition

I realize that, although I posted process photos of my last book edition, I never did post photos of the book itself. (I forgot to photograph the entire edition before it dispersed. Gah!)

Umm, I seem to have misplaced those photos. But … I do have more process photos. As always, click on the image for a closer look. Next time, photos of a completed book or two. Promise.

A stack of lettered accordion text blocks, ready for their covers.

Various parts of the books, spiraling clockwise from top left: some folded text blocks and their end sheets; a pair of covered-board covers; a standing text block with end papers; a put-together book (partially shown); a text block being held open with a micro-spatula; 3 weaving strips; a homemade scoring tool, a needle punch, and a bone folder; another pair of covers; a couple of templates; a stack of unfolded end sheets under a template; 4 covers which have been laced together and are ready to be laced to their text blocks.

Lacing the cover to the text block. I’m using a micro-spatula and a tool made to pull elastic through a sewn casing.

New artist book

I’ve been steadily working on a new edition of 12 little books. Fun stuff! And I can’t believe I mailed off 7 of them today without taking photos. Hmph. When I know they’ve arrived safely, I’ll post some in-process photos and as well as photos of the books I have here. In the meanwhile, a couple of details …

Isn’t this simply luscious? One of the frustrations/pleasures of working  on an edition is seeing scraps like this come — and go. This sheets appeared when I pasted up scraps of painted Arches Text Wove onto another scrap of ATW to make closure loops for the wrappers. It was so beautiful on its own, I hated to cut it down into 1/4″-inch strips. 

One day I’m going to finish the paper mosaics I’ve begun with all the irresistibly beautiful little bits of paper that I can never bear to throw out.

Even though I’m not going to show the book today, I will show one in-process photo.  The structure is a flat-piano-hinge binding from Keith Smith’s, Non-Adhesive Binding.  Threading a flat strip of Canson Mi-Tientes through the folded tabs was driving me bonkers, until I located this loop turner in my sewing supplies. I finally worked out a method of guiding the strip through the loops with the aid of the loop turner and a micro-spatula. The structure requires that this be done three times for each book, so I’ve gotten pretty good at it by now.

In case you’re wondering about the scale … the book is 3 inches tall and 1-5/8″ wide. (See how I mostly got rid of the lime green cutting mat that clashed with this little book? But you can still see the 1-inch grid in places.)

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