Tuesday, August 15, 2017

New One-Sheet Book Instructions: Wrapped Accordion

I taught my Winged Book* in a workshop last Friday for the Miniature Book Society's Conclave. Peter Thomas, another book artist, was in attendance, and he commented how much he liked the way the cover was formed. Inspired by his interest, I wondered if that mechanism of folding and tucking could be used with a different book structure. After folding up my junk mail and figuring out what could work, I painted a piece of paper and am offering up the results of my exploration to you.

What's nice about this structure, which I am calling Wrapped Accordion, is that it can be made from one piece of rectangular paper and printed or painted only on one side. It has no sewing or glue. It has hard covers. You fold an eight-panel accordion, but it ends up with six panels. At the covers there may be a slightly uneven edge, due to the various thicknesses of board and paper, but perhaps you can't have everything.

Small size: 8.5 x 11 (or A4) paper, makes a book 1.5 x 3.5 inches 
Medium size: 22" x 14" paper, makes a book 2.75 x 6 inches 

Strathmore drawing paper is what I used for the example. The paper needs to be lightweight because of the folding involved. To create a different sized book, decide the size, double it for height, and add one to four inches (for the pockets that will hold the boards). For width, multiply your ideal book size width by eight.

Cut boards the size of the desired book and subtract 2 board thicknesses on the short side, then on the long side. My boards turned out to be 2.5 x 5.75, but I would recommend a thinner board than the book board I used.

Tools: pencil; metal ruler longer than your paper; X-Acto knife and cutting mat or scissors; bone folder

Inspired by the abutilon flower, I painted the paper.

When it was dry, I turned it over and measured and marked up along the short sides.
The height of the desired size book (6") minus 1/8"= 5 7/8".
Then the height of the book: 6".
Then there remainder: 2 1/8" (this could have been simply 2").

Line up the marks and score with the bone folder.
You'll ignore those marks for a moment.

Begin the folding for the eight panels.
First: fold in half to make the paper shorter and squatter.

Open it up, then fold each cut edge to the center fold you created.

Fold the edges back like window shutters.

Then complete the fan fold by matching folds to folds.

Now, turn so the tabbed edge is at the bottom.
Fold up along the score.

Fold down along the second score you made.

Open completely, and with a knife against a ruler
or using a scissors, make horizontal slits from the first
folded intersections to the edges.

You have four horizontal slits.

Fold the bottom tabs in toward each other.

Fold the center tabs in toward each other

Fold the bottom panel up. It will partially cover the center panel.

Slip the boards in the pockets made by the bottom tabs.

Fold the top panel down.

Tuck the edges around and behind the boards to anchor them into place.

Refold your fan.

And there is the Wrapped Accordion.

Thanks to Peter Thomas, for unintentionally inspiring this!
Here's a link to his and his wife's blog. 
They travel the country in their tiny home / art caravan.

*Winged Book is on p. 69 in Making Handmade Books, a.k.a. Check Book, in Expressive Handmade Books, p. 110.

Article about the conference in the San Francisco Chronicle here.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Reading Fiction and Haruki Murakami

I've got a story coming out in the online magazine Every Day Fiction on Thursday, and some comments by one of the editors got me thinking again about fictional stories and what we expect from them. First, I will mention that the magazine has a rating system—every reader can vote zero to five stars per story. Every reader can also comment, which often leads to a discussion. I've been reading the stories so far this month and the comments they inspired. There is a bit of the typical online discourse that happens; someone feels emphatic about one thing and continues to defend it long after others post their own opinions. There is some love. And there is genuine close reading of a story. Most of the stories have something dramatic or action-packed to them. I confess I'm a little nervous.

My stories tend to be quiet moments, low drama, or points of heightened awareness. I like finding meaning in the everyday, something that might seem insignificant on the surface. Perhaps that is more of a poet or visual artist's angle, but I love writing prose. In grad school I began noticing that books considered "bests" tended to include a death. While that is a natural ending for all things living, it troubles me that death is the only or best way to add tension to a story.

In my twenties, I read quite a bit of Japanese fiction. The sensibility for what makes a good story seemed different. And the high stakes might be there, but it is the main character's response and how the characters change that is the purpose of the story. The stories seem to examine why people do what they do or think what they think, or feel what they feel, a deeper psychological look at humanity, rather than an action plot of getting from here to there. The endings are often left open. They don't wrap up neatly, leading the reader to surmise, guess, infer, or hope. At least that is what I remember.

Curious, I recently checked out two books by Haruki Murakami. While I had read his book The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel (1997), which I remembered to be surreal and unsettling, I wondered what his more current works were like.

The Strange Library (2014) attracted my attention as an artist's book rather than conventional novel. It has two cover flaps up and down, and images on the versos. The text begins immediately with no other title page or introduction and in larger monospaced typewriter font.

Full-bleed images occur on nearly every other page. Extremely visually rich.

The story is a quick read and fairly simple: a young man ends up imprisoned in a library basement by an evil librarian who thrives on brains filled with knowledge. There is the odd servant and the mysterious beautiful girl, the mother waiting at home, and new shoes. All those tropes have been done cleverly elsewhere. But, looking deeper, psychological questions such as, "Why do I act like this, agreeing when I really disagree, letting people force me to do things I don't want to do?" (Section 6), run throughout. Unfortunately, it only skims the surface of why we might to please other people and not want to make waves. I wanted to be satisfied—the book looked lively and seemed to have so much potential, but ultimately, it was not enough for me. I'm also looking for well-crafted prose, so sentences like this one are problematic: "She was so pretty that looking at her made my eyes hurt" (Section 11).  Daniel Pinkwater can do absurdity better and with humor. And, in the end, someone dies (albeit in smaller type and as a denouement). But the design is so good! I was sure he wrote better than that.

So,  I also tried After Dark  (2007). The outward appearance is conventional, but the writing format, I realized, was more like a play, which delighted me. The descriptions at the beginning of chapters are like stage directions. For example, the first chapter: "Eyes mark the shape of the city. Through the eyes of a high-flying night bird, we take in the scene from midair." Much more poetic prose. The same writer! 

In each chapter, "We allow ourselves to become a single point of view" (24) and "We follow the same rules, so to speak, as orthodox time travelers. We observe, but we do not intervene" (26). The book is written at a remove, primarily in omniscient third person when it does not say "we." We only get close to the characters when they communicate with each other and choose to reveal their feelings. We are not inside their heads. We stay in ours and observe. After all, he seems to show us, we are the readers, not the writer.

The whole novel takes place from 11:56 pm through 6:52 am; times are the chapter names. Strange things happen. There is risk, a little violence, but those are placed to keep our interest and wake us up periodically. The theme is about connecting, getting close to others, how memories connect us, the metaphorical barriers we put up, and what to do to take them down. These are ordinary thoughts, quiet thoughts, but in After Dark they are presented in a poetic and imaginative way. The ending doesn't tie up nicely, and we don't see death. It's open in what I would say is a more classically Japanese ending. An imaginative and intriguing book.

Translation is another issue, but that's a subject for another post.

For a third comparison, I re-read Kawabata's story, House of the Sleeping Beauties in the story collection of the same name (yet again, spoiler alert: there is a death at the end, although not what you'd expect). I discovered that Murakami may have been consciously or unconsciously echoing Kawabata, perhaps both thinking of the fairy tale. In both, there are beautiful women who are deeply asleep. Things seem to happen to them, but they have no knowledge of them. They may wake up and go back to sleep, but that happens offstage. But these are Japanese stories, not Western ones, so the important changes happen to the people around the sleeping women, not to the women themselves. They are psychological and emotional changes that deal with our questions of life and death, memory and connection. Kawabata's writing, as makes sense to the story, is more visceral, sensual, and written in very close third person, so we feel more intimate with the character. 

Subtlety and nuance can be sensual, can slow us down, make us pause and reflect and feel. That's the kind of work I like to read. And write.

Monday, August 7, 2017

A Quilt as an Open Book: Hope Rants

I've been making quilts nearly as long as I've been making books, although I've made thousands of books and perhaps a dozen or so quilts. That doesn't count all the postcard quilts I made (instructions are here). My journey through quilt making was posted in 2015 , as I made two quilts in a row, then again in May 2016 and June 2017.  Here we are in August 2017 and here is yet one more, with another in the wings. What's going on?

Back in March, I bought ten giant aluminum sign painter's stencils from Rosebud Antiques on Solano Avenue in Berkeley. The owner had the whole alphabet, but my wallet said only ten. I had caught him as he was packing up for the day, and he said to call him with the ten letters I wanted, and he would put them aside for me. Which ten? The phrase, "HOPE RANTS" came to me. Nine! I added a D so I could, at some point, write READ. After trying an online anagram maker, I discovered I could make 2420 phrases with these letters. Sold. At the same time, I had wanted to try making some cyanotypes on cloth. The letters would be cool for that, I thought.

A moonlit night in the studio thereafter, I mixed the chemicals and spread them on square after square of cotton cloth, placing them between blotter paper and under a black garbage bag to dry in the dark. (I would recommend trying out the Jacquard SolarFast Starter Kit, which seems less fussy. I just placed an order for Jacquard Solarfast Teal 4 oz.) The next day, I printed. It seems that the cloth I bought was not plain ecru, but had a texture printed on it. In this case, the sharpness of the image wasn't crucial, so I continued, and found I had a few plain pieces as well (these printed darker). I experimented with some negatives under the letters for even more texture, and I had some paper stencils, which I used as well. I overprinted wood type and carved and printed linoleum blocks on many of the squares with subtle shades of blue and white, peach and olive. It was like creating pages, one at a time, each different from the next. The lino block I carved in a circle says: hope is the thing with or the thing with hope is or with hope is the thing. The rectangular block says: hope belongs to me. hope is an intake of breath. i know there will be more.

I believe this is a combination of a strip quilt and a block quilt, since I sewed sections into both strips and blocks before piecing them all together. The letters are basically in sequence, and there is a right way up.


I had much to say on this subject, so the quilting is also more text. I insist on hope! As a quilt hope can cover someone or something. Get wrapped up in it, like a book.
waiting at the end of the leash / hope is warmth just out of reach / hope has wheels and can tow you / hope is an intake of breath / i know there will be more / hope sings / vote to keep hope alive 
I used my own handwriting and sewed freehand, enjoying the variations in the letterforms in contrast with the type and sharp-edged stencils. I tried to keep the stitching neat. Some people seem to prefer the backs to the fronts. (I'm a printmaker, and I like the marks, too. Printmaking is all about transferring marks.) I sewed a hollow tube at top to hang the quilt with a dowel or rod.


In the past, I've had trouble working large. I tend to focus on the micro details, so making quilts seems to be a way for me to work both small and large. I've found that half of a twin size is perfect. It's also my height and wingspan, like I embody the other half of the twin, my project, an opening: an open book.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Looking for Book Art at SFMOMA

Within their website, the history of SFMOMA is slightly hidden. It opened in 1935 on the fourth floor of the War Memorial Veterans Building at Civic Center. I spent the most time there, in that building, in the 1980s, when I was a wandering art student. Their newer, bigger building that belonged just to them opened in its present location in 1995, and it expanded and re-opened in 2016, after being closed for three years for renovations and remodeling. All of this means I hadn't been there since 2013. We went on my birthday. The architecture feels much more open and lighter than the previous incarnations. I think it's a keeper.

It's also much bigger, which can be daunting, but just keep walking. Because it was a special exhibition with a timed entry, we visited the Edvard Munch show first. And fastest. It turned out he was a creepy dude who painted creepy paintings. I can take them individually, and many are so beautifully done, but whole rooms of works dealing with death and dying were too much for me, although obviously not for the crowds through which we navigated. His mother died when he was young and his sister died when she was a girl, so I can say that I do appreciate that death was on his mind.

After that, I began looking for book-related works that I could share with you. In the 2017 SECA Award show (SFMOMA's Society for the Encouragement of Contemporary Art), there were several lively artworks, but I found Sean McFarland's photographic work the closest to what I was looking for. He not only works with cyanotypes in the usual two-dimensional way, but creates little constructions as well. I liked this little (it was miniature) almost-tunnel book, and this little box. The wall text said he made a photogram of a moon into a bottle cap, but I must have missed that. 

The website says he "reckons with the challenges of representing the landscape." In this series, the whole arrangement is far more interesting than just one framed piece. And this is the second area where the idea of the book enters the picture: these feel like pages, related imagery, sequence, with a sculptural element in how they are displayed. The works together make a new physical landscape.

Below: detail of an original photograph and its cyanotype version. In this case, I find the idea of variation on a photo in a different medium and with a different shape and format very appealing. One is traditional and centered. The other bleeds to the edge, among other things. Totally different feel as the blue one puts you off balance, has a definite relationship with the one next to it.

The next collection is much more meaningful if you know what is behind the process. It is called "Echo," and according to the wall text, the work makes "connections between seemingly unrelated people…suggest a collective consciousness." He seems to be exploring reality as well. Which is real? What is nature if it is transformed into a photo? Is a photograph real? While the function of a photograph may be in part to capture something that may not exist again or to replicate something that once existed, by putting all these different views together, McFarland reveals something new.

McFarland is referencing Ralph Eugene Meatyard's and a U.S. Forest Service ranger named Rockwell's photographs of nature, several of which were published. McFarland is restaging, but creating his own version of the compositions. (I wrote previously about Meatyard here, in 2011.) In this frame the image on the left is a representation or hint of a book with pages, but not an actual book itself. It works as a symbol.

And a photo of Meatyard's notebook, "Book of odd names," rather like Magritte's "Ceci n'est pas one pipe." Not a notebook, but a picture of a notebook. Is a photograph of a notebook real when you cannot see the notebook anymore? We may even question if the notebook existed at all. Meatyard was a huge reader so I believe it did, but photography has the power both to insist on and to make us doubt reality, too.

On the photography floor upstairs, Mike Mandel's exhibit Good 70s, was a wonderful mix of nostalgia, invention, book art sensibility, and humor. Here, he asked his neighbor "Mrs. Kilpatric," if he could photograph her every day. He gave her a copy of each photograph. A selection is shown. Mostly she poses in front of her house. Sometimes she is gardening, coming home with groceries, or hugging a dog. Displayed in a grid 7x4, his project is like a book, capturing a sequence of moments in time.

When he was a photography student at San Francisco Art Institute, Mandel wrote to all the Edward Westons he could find in the phone book and asked them a few questions, one of which was had they ever taken a photo they thought was outstanding. He put together the responses from all the Edward Westons in a book. (If you did not know: the Edward Weston Mandel was thinking about originally was a renowned photographer. He thought this would be a kind of joke, but it turned into something more meaningful as he received heartfelt answers from the other E.W.s.)

And there, amidst the Mandel work, was work by his teachers, friends, acquaintances, which included cards from photographer, educator, and noted book artist Bea Nettles' Mountain Dream Tarot deck. She sells her work at her website. A few years ago, I featured Bea's photographic collaged, two-part poem called Hawk/Dove in issue 2.2 of Star 82 Review. She's been photographing words on gravestones for years, and she uses them the way you might play with magnetic poetry, creating whole new texts from the parts.

Also appearing, is an altered Newsweek magazine from 1974 by Robert Heinecken, where he "intervened with convention" by cutting through some of the pages to reveal other images, making new stories, much the predecessor of Doug Beube and other book artists of today.

Elsewhere, not to be missed in the Soundtracks show on floor 7: "clinamen v.3 2012-ongoing" by Céleste Boursier-Mougenot. It will be there until January 2018. This is a large
installation. You can sit around it as if you were at a park by a pond. In this pond with brilliant blue water float bowls of varying sizes that are in slow but constant motion. When they touch they make a tone. This is spontaneous music to contemplate as the bowls glide through the water.

If you cannot get to the museum, you can experience the work somewhat in the video here. According to the online notes, the artist has a background in theater, always loved music, but he did not want to be the performer. So, the bowls perform his piece for him. The title "is derived from a Latin word used by the Roman philosopher Lucretius in his poem De rerum natura (On the Nature of Things) to describe the unpredictable nature of atoms." (More about this poem, the word "clinamen" and the book The Swerve in this 2014 post.) Another video of his work that features an aviary with 88 live zebra finches who perch on instruments to make the music, "From Here to Ear" is here.

Outside, the wall of ferns, "The Living Wall" by David Brenner, is really nice, too.

What art comes down to for me is: how do we use our materials? how do we and how can we transform the materials into objects and compositions that wake up or soothe the soul, spark new ideas in others, and make our spirits soar? The new incarnation of SFMOMA contains some of that. Sometimes you have to search for it. Sometimes you have to spend more time with it. I find I learn even more when I try to write about it.