Ode to collaboration

This Thanksgiving weekend, I am thankful for collaboration.

Over the past three(!) years, intense full-time teaching/program management combined with what I will summarize as "the unwillingness to sacrifice lazy Sundays" has had deleterious effects on the productivity of this humble bookmaker. Of late, the age-old but always wondrous phenomenon of collaboration has come to High5's rescue! Two portfolio exchanges were a significant ingredient in this recipe for my return to printing well-being. 

First, I collaborated with Marnie Powers-Torrey to produce a little flexagon number for the CBAA's 2014 folded form exchange. Here are the pieces in progress--printed on Masa (pressure prints and metal type), trimmed, folded, and ready for assembly:

Manipulated by the reader, the flexagon syntactically rearranges the lingo of modern social networking and digital connectivity. The resulting sentences, we think, are quite amusing--and speak to the confusion and silliness spawned by new technology and the often undercooked language that accompanies it.

Collaboration number two was committed with my colleague Laura Decker of Birdbrain Press. Here she is with the broadside we produced for a print exchange organized by Justin Diggle in the U's printmaking department:

(Aren't I lucky to have such a cute collaborator?) Sale of donated prints raises money for U students to attend the annual SGC printmaking conference. We used linoleum blocks, wood type, and metal type, rule, and dingbats for this print. This baby was cranked out in one 3-hour brainstorm session, a few weekend and apres-work typesetting/carving sessions, and one 9-hour, Lady Gaga-powered day in the studio on an otherwise quiet Sunday. We inked up two presses, side-by-side: one with gold, and one with what Laura termed "hot red" (a blended red with a healthy dose of yellow flourescent).

Conclusion: It is tough to put one's nose to the grindstone and keep it there all the time. When I started my "adult" job, I was always asking professors and program managers and artists-with-day-jobs, "How in the world do you make time for doing your OWN WORK?!" I wanted THE answer. I realize now that there isn't one. Some people have boundless energy, some people a compulsion to produce. I have neither of these. For me, working with a buddy is one of the most satisfying answers I've found. It is fun and social; shared deadlines are motivating; and the dialogue takes me in unexpected conceptual and visual directions. In both of these projects, we made things I never would've arrived at on my own, and that is exciting, so thank you printing partners! Let's do it again sometime.



High5 Goes West

Yes, High5 Press has picked up and moved west, finding a new home in Salt Lake City, Utah! I'm settling in to my position at the University of Utah's Book Arts Program, as Binding Instructor and Studio Coodinator. The program is proving to be a vibrant and active community of skilled and passionate practitioners (and just all-around nice and interesting people).

The Utah BAP has a full slate of visiting artists and lecturers in 2011, which you can check out on their online events calendar. As part of my job, I get to communicate with these artists, and arrange for their stays in SLC. Among them is Anna Embree, my excellent binding teacher from University of Alabama, who will be giving an intensive workshop on Byzantine binding. Also visiting from Alabama will be Amos Kennedy, in September. Looks like Alabama's Book Power!!! has long tentacles...

Work on my current project--a limited-edition artist's book of a short story by the lovely Marcia Douglas--continues, albeit slowly. It's a challenge to do justice to such a wonderful tale in this time of transition, but I'll be going to press soon in the amazing studio in the J. Willard Marriott Library at "the U."

I am also assiting Tomomi Nakashima, the Marriott's head conservator, in a class on book repair this semester. The first session met last Wednesday; she talked the class through some slides of treatments she's done, and among other things, taught them (us) about tape removal through various methods (lifting, heat, water, alcohol). Tomomi is very cool, and very knowledgable with a wealth of experience behind her. And thus my life as a student of the book continues...


"100 Books" Exhibition at the Kentuck Museum Association

The opening for "100 Books", my first solo exhibition, occured this Thursday (night of the full moon) at the Kentuck Museum Association's Annex Gallery. Lots of people came out to see the work, mingle, eat, drink and chat. Special thanks to Valerie Piette for her help setting up and getting ready for the show. She came up with the excellent idea to use old cd cases as improvised shelving for small book objects. Spraypainted white, they look quite excellent! Here are the notes I posted on the gallery wall, which help explain the project:

"These objects are not all books, but they all were books at one time.

The premise of 100 Books was to use constraints as a means to provoke creative thought, experimentation and production. To start with, I made 100 blank books—8½” x 4¼”, single-section, 32-page pamphlets, sewn into red paper covers. I then used these books as the raw materials to create new and unique objects. In addition to this overarching constraint, I set additional parameters: I was allowed to alter the books by removing material from them, and could add only thread and adhesive (traditional bookbinding materials) and containers where necessary. I also used water and various physical manipulations to change their forms.

Book making can be a painstakingly detailed process, requiring planning, organization and patience. As an experience, 100 Books gave me the chance to improvise; indeed, it demanded that I allow spontaneity into my work. It let me investigate the physical properties of paper and find new uses for tools. Though unified by the simplicity, scarcity and uniformity of materials, the collection is diverse—some abstracted paper sculptures, some tidy representational forms; some books, some not.

Books are compelling because they can contain anything. In this show at least, they can also be anything (or at least be changed into anything)."