Monday, August 28, 2006

Featured Artist: Daniel Essig

Thinking about the Pulp Function competition I wrote about yesterday, I realized that books were not mentioned in the blurb about the exhibition but I hope book artists will consider entering. I think a survey of contemporary paper art should include books and there are a lot of book artists who use paper in innovative ways. Daniel Essig is one of them.

Daniel is a full-time studio artist in Asheville, North Carolina. His interest in book arts grew from his introduction to handmade books while he was studying photography at the University of Illinois at Carbondale. One of the first books he made, before he knew how to bind, was an altered book in which he placed his photographs so that viewers had to explore them actively, rather than just wandering past images mounted on a wall.

Around this time, Daniel visited his sister in Iowa City and met her friend, Al Buck, who was making wooden-covered Coptic books, a binding used around the fourth century, in Ethiopia, North Africa. Al followed up and sent Daniel a book he had made with instructions. It took awhile, nearly two years, but Daniel eventually made a book with which he was satisfied.

After completing his degree at Carbondale, Daniel’s mentor Frances Lloyd Swedlund encouraged him to attend the Penland School of Crafts, where he concentrated exclusively on the Ethiopian coptic book structure. Another mentor, Dolph Smith, helped push Daniel beyond the simple Ethiopian book, to developing his bridge books using the same coptic binding, but with exaggerated elements.

It is interesting to note that Daniel still relies on the idea of the altered book. Some of the bridge books (one pictured here) contain well over 1000 pages. Not being able to afford too much new paper, Daniel searches for books with mangled spines and covers but good quality paper to use in his work. He says he does not have a problem with the practice of tearing up old books, because the books he alters are not rare, and they've already lived their lives.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Competition: Pulp Function Call for Entries

Exhibition Dates: May 19, 2007 - January 6, 2008
Travel: through 2010

Submission Deadline
: October 1, 2006

About the Exhibition: Paper, that humble material that we use daily and take for granted, emerged in the 1970's as a new material for the substance of art, not just the surface on which to draw or paint. Since then, not only has handmade paper pulp been cast into sculptural reliefs, it has been made into sensuous bowls. Paper cording and rolled newspapers have emerged as popular materials for making baskets and weaving wall hangings. The structural possibilities of recycled paper and cardboard have been explored in furniture and environmental sculptures. Origami paper folding from Japan, and even the timeworn traditions of Jewish, Chinese and Mexican papercuts have found new expression, along with politically charged silhouette murals cut from paper. This survey of contemporary paper art celebrates the updated traditions of paper in art, and a variety of new applications.

Art made from paper pulp, recycled paper, cardboard, papier mache and cut, folded or otherwise manipulated paper will be considered.

Fuller Museum of Art for more information. Click on Exhibitions, then on Pulp Function Call for Entries.

cartoon via The Book Arts Web

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The 1000 Journals Project

Images from journals circulating in Ohio

If you ask a kindergarten class how many of them are artists, they'll all raise their hands. Ask the same question of high school grads, and few will admit to it. What happens to us growing up? We begin to fear criticism, and tend to keep our creativity to ourselves.

The 1000 Journals Project, is attempting to remedy our fear of exposing ourselves creatively by sending out 1000 journals throughout the world. The project began in 2000 when San Francisco graphic designer, Brian Singer, fascinated with the cryptic messages and drawings of bathroom graffiti, wondered what would happen if complete strangers around the world, not just those who happened to share a public bathroom, were able to exchange their private thoughts. As the project has evolved, Brian says, “what happens to the journals is as significant as what happens in them. Are people selfless enough to send them back, or will they find them and keep them?” To date, only one journal has been returned but many pages from the ones still circulating have been uploaded to the site.

Monday, August 21, 2006

1001 Journals

Journals serve a number of purposes. They provide a place to collect ideas, to store clippings of articles, photos … anything that inspires. Journals can be reference books when what is stored are notes about techniques, recipes, swatches, samples or photographs. They can be a repository of events in the life of the journalist or observations, written, drawn or photographed, of the world. If a journal is kept regularly, patterns emerge, patterns that reveal what is attractive/interesting to the journalist and patterns in the journalist him/herself.

Even though there is a trend in making journals works of art, journals do not have to be planned to end up being works of art. Setting such a goal, especially for a beginner, can be intimidating. Better to aim at exploring the process of keeping a journal, and practicing letting go of judgment and inhibitions. For inspiration, take a look at the examples at 1001 Journals, a recently developed website that appears to be growing fast. There you will find a variety of personal and collaborative journals.

Some ideas: writing (pen, pencil, typewriter, computer), calligraphy (brush, pen, ink), drawing (pastels, crayons, pencil, gel pens), painting (watercolor, acrylic, felt pens), photography (black & white, color, polaroid transfers), printing (stamps, patterns, shapes, symbols), collage (pasting, textures, photocopies), resists (oil, wax crayons).

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Turning the Pages

Leaf through 15 great books online and magnify the details. Yes, that's correct. You can actually turn the pages of these books ... well, virtually, that is. Turning the Pages is the award-winning interactive program that allows museums and libraries to give members of the public access to precious books while keeping the originals safely under glass.

A high-speed internet connection will give you the most features but for viewers with a dial-up connection, there is a narrowband version and versions that don’t require turning, that display images of pages (and enlargements) in standard web pages. To enhance the viewing experience, there are text and audio buttons, in addition to the magnifier. Extra buttons appear if there are additional things to see or hear. Some features are specific to individual manuscripts. In Leonardo's Notebook, for example, a button turns the text round (when using the magnifier) so visitors can read his famous 'mirror' handwriting. There are complete readings of Alice's Adventures under Ground and Jane Austen's The History of England, and audio descriptions of each page of the other books.

The trick to turning pages successfully is to move your cursor off the book once the page starts lifting but continue moving your cursor in the direction you want the page to go. Once the page starts falling onto the other side you can stop.

SKETCHES BY LEONARDO: The genius's personal notebook
MOZART'S MUSICAL DIARY: With 75 audio excerpts
THE ORIGINAL ALICE: Written and illustrated by Lewis Carroll
MASTERPIECE OF THE RENAISSANCE: Beautiful images from the Sforza Hours
JANE AUSTEN'S EARLY WORK: The History of England in her own hand
FIRST ATLAS OF EUROPE: Compiled by Mercator in the 1570s
OUTSTANDING 15TH-CENTURY CHURCH BOOK: The wonderful, and weighty, Sherborne Missal
CLASSIC OF BOTANICAL ILLUSTRATION: Elizabeth Blackwell's remarkable Herbal
BAYBARS' MAGNIFICENT QUR'AN: Epitome of sumptuous Arabic calligraphy
PINNACLE OF ANGLO-SAXON ART: The priceless Lindisfarne Gospels
THE OLDEST PRINTED 'BOOK': The Diamond Sutra, printed in China in 868
GLIMPSES OF MEDIEVAL LIFE: Selections from the famous Luttrell Psalter
FLEMISH MASTERS IN MINIATURE: The superb so-called 'Golf Book'
GLORIOUS HEBREW PRAYER BOOK: The lavishly illustrated Golden Haggadah
A LANDMARK IN MEDICAL HISTORY: Vesalius's stunning 16th century anatomy

In addition to the turning pages books, the British Library contains many millions of books, manuscripts, maps, newspapers, magazines, patents, music scores, sound recordings, photographs and stamps. You can read a brief description of an item, view an enlarged image and either find out more or move on to another treasure.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Typography: Letters in the Natural World

In the spring of 1960, Kjell Sandved arrived at the Smithsonian to conduct research. There, he met Barbara Bedette, the woman who was to become his collaborator, friend, and love of his life. And there, also, he discovered an old cigar box full of butterflies and moths. Among the specimens in the box was one with the letter “F” woven in a tapestry of color on it’s wing, reminding Kjell and Barbara of the embellished letters in old bibles and illuminated manuscripts. The discovery was to change their lives. They decided to travel the world and find all the letters of the alphabet from the wings of butterflies and moths. If there was one letter, there must be others.

The challenges were many, not least, Kjell knew nothing about photography and Barbara, nothing about butterflies or where the greatest diversity of design could be found. But, they persevered and in 1975, after years of traveling to botanical gardens, nature reserves and rainforests from the Amazon to New Guinea, and surviving malaria-infested jungles, leeches and ants while photographing letters and numbers on the wings of butterflies and moths (without killing any), their discovery was revealed in the first issue of the new Smithsonian magazine.

Visit the site and discover another nature alphabet and play around with both of them, even send an e-mail.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Typography: Alphabet Crackers

bokstavskex n. biscuits, shaped like letters of the alphabet, manufactured by Göteborgskex and sold throughout the Nordic countries, hence the inclusion of the Nordic letters å, ä, ö, ø, and œ.

Convert words into biscuits. The bokstavskex automatic biscuit image generator will take words of your choosing and set them in type composed of alphabet digestive biscuits. For some reason, though, the alphabet is missing the letters 'q', 'w' and 'z’ and it doesn’t look like the missing letters are going to show up anytime soon. The present alphabet appears to have been created sometime in the late 1990s and the missing biscuit letters are, well, still missing. But, if you are curious, you can listen to a phone call, in Swedish (transcript available), placed to the cracker manufacturer asking why they weren’t included.

Saturday, August 12, 2006


Typoglycemia is the lighthearted name given to a purported recent discovery about the cognitive processes behind reading written text. The name makes little sense as glycemia is the concentration of glucose in the blood. It is an urban legend/Internet meme that does have some element of truth behind it.

The legend is propagated by email and message boards and demonstrates that readers can understand the meaning of words in a sentence even when the letters of each word are scrambled. As long as all the necessary letters are present, and the first and last letters remain the same, readers turn out to have little trouble reading the text.

The phenomenon is illustrated by this widely-forwarded e-mail message:
I cdn'uolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg: the phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid. Aoccdrnig to a rsceearch taem at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Such a cdonition is arppoiatrely cllaed Typoglycemia.

Amzanig huh? Yaeh and you awlyas thguoht slpeling was ipmorantt.
In actual fact, no such research was carried out at Cambridge University. It all started with a letter to the New Scientist magazine from Graham Rawlinson in which he discusses his Ph.D. thesis.

While typoglycemic writing may be easy to understand, creating it is slow going. Consequently, a typoglycemia translator has been created to hlep you wtrie yuor own tmylyieogpcc msegesas or gaert Aermcian nveol.

The major part of this posting was taken from the Wikipedia article “Typoglycemia” under the GNU Free Documentation License.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Competition: Flag Book Bind-O-Rama

Karen Hanmer, Destination Moon, 2003

Initiated in 2004, the Bind-O-Rama challenge and online exhibition, sponsored by The Book Arts Web, has become an annual event. The 2006 Bind-O-Rama will celebrate the Flag Book structure.

Book artist and conservator Hedi Kyle created the first flag book, April Diary, in 1979. The foundation of the flag book structure is an accordion folded spine to which rows of flags are attached in opposing directions. When read page by page, images and text appear fragmented and disjointed, but when the spine is pulled fully open, the flags assemble into a panoramic spread.

Many flag book creators do not take full advantage of the flag book’s structure to experiment with layering of imagery or text. Too often, they opt for the simple approach of merely attaching bits of images or text to the accordion spine, missing the opportunity to exploit the flap book’s structure, shape and color potential and the book’s spine and cover surfaces for additional imagery or text.

For those not familiar with the flag book structure, there is a tutorial with step-by-step instructions in the Bonefolder, Vol 2, No. 1, Fall, 2005, an e-journal for book binders and book artists. The journal is in PDF format for downloading.

Two Entries (maximum)
No Entry Fee.
Entry Deadline: September 15, 2006

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Graph Paper on Demand

Do you need a special type of graph paper to help you layout the design of your new book or box project, or do you need guide paper to practice your calligraphy or Japanese or Chinese brushwork? Perhaps your child needs something special for a class project. Instead of spending your valuable time shopping for it, download what you need from It's free.

With thirty-two graphs from which to chose, you are sure to find one that is useful and when you do, you can tweak it by adjusting the size, color and line weight of the grid as well as the size of the paper. Once you've got everything the way you want it, print your paper from your web browser or download it as a PDF to your computer to print later.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Inaugural Post: The Art of the Book

Who would believe that the timid web explorer I was five years ago would morph into the web adventurer I have become. I give a good deal of credit to the introductory (i.e. reduced price) high-speed internet connection offer I received from my local telephone company those many years ago. I can always go back to dial-up I told myself. Not.

So here I am with tons of websites I have discovered. Why not start a blog? Thus was born The Art of the Book, a blog devoted to the bookarts. Here, I plan to post information that I think bookbinders and book artists might find interesting ... helpful ... inspiring. Topics will include, but will not be limited to, online book exhibits, tutorials, materials and tool resources, typography, announcements of competitions, blogs ....

Feel free to comment. I can't guarantee that I will answer but I do promise to read every comment. If you are not comfortable with identifying yourself, I have enabled anonymous commenting, although I do hope commentors will created aliases so that I can associate postings with a particular person, even if they wish to remain anonymous.