Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Open House, Open House

There are two Open Houses coming up where I'll be showing work, both happening on the same night! The University of Iowa's Center for the Book will have their Open House on December 14th. 3:30-6:30pm, in North Hall. On the same date, the University's Printmaking Department will have their Open House, 6:30-9:30pm, in the "old" Art Bulding. Come and join us for books, art, food, refreshment, and good company!

On the same night, my pal and fellow printmaker Erin Maurelli is also having a reception for her MFA show, Humechanicsform, from 5:30-8pm, at the Arts Iowa City Gallery.

See you there, there, or there!

Friday, November 09, 2007

making things

Lately, I've spent a lot of time in the Special Collections department at the University library as a part of my assistantship. For this research project, I 'm specifically looking for books from the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries with paper that has aged either extremely well or extremely poorly. Surprisingly enough, I'm having a harder time finding books with bad paper, but I suppose the crummy stuff would've disintegrated by now. Most of the books I'm finding have beautiful, crisp white paper that look like they were pulled off the shelves of the paper store yesterday.

I'm humbled by the craftsmanship I see in these books, especially now that I know the steps it took to create each individual book, from making the paper, to printing the text, to the finished binding. Even the books that aren't particularly well crafted in today's standards represent an extraordinary assembly of men and women working together to create lasting works of knowledge and art.

My simple little books that once seemed like such big projects look like small beans in comparison. Still, I'm honored to play a role in the continuing legacy of the art and craft of hand printed, hand bound books.

(images borrowed from "Paper in Printing History" by the Lindenmeyr Paper Corporation)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Oak Knoll Fest XIV

As I'm writing this, I'm listening to the audio stream of "The Book Guys" interviews from Oak Knoll Fest XIV that took place October 6-7, 2007 (you can get to them under "archives"). I'm reminded of the amazing people I met, beautiful books I held in my hands, and invigorating discussions about fine press. As a first time participant, it was overwhelming to soak everything in, and here I am, 2 weeks later, still catching up. (I represented University of Iowa's Center for the Book as a current certificate student.)

The guest speaker this year was Johanna Drucker, and she gave an insightful talk about the growing interest in letterpress printing, at colleges and universities in particular (the theme of this year's fest). According to Johanna, these are some of the benefits of letterpress printing:

> benefit of authority (transformation of manuscripts into something that resonates with authority)
> ownership (owning the means of production)
> community (shop culture as a something different from the classroom and the lecture hall)
> pleasures of camaraderie (the fun of exclusivity, being a part of a "secret club", an underground society)
> cultural legacy (the passing on of knowledge and an appreciation of literature and art)
> physicality, tactility (the impact of working with physical objects in a computer-based, digitized world, especially for a generation now deprived of that physicality)
> pleasures of sustained work (sticking with something that takes an extended period of time from beginning to end)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

post reading

Thanks to everyone who came out to Zine Machine's first ever Zine Reading - it was a sweet night. We heard readings from Cody G., Natasha B-R., John G., Christina M., and me, Jessica W. To top it all off, John Porcellino told us about his long journey with King-Cat Comics. Here are some pictorial highlights:

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Zine Reading

The Zine Machine is hosting a ZINE READING on Tuesday, October 16th at the White Rabbit Gallery (13 S. Linn St., above the Yacht Club), from 7-9pm. We're thrilled to welcome John Porcellino of the long-running King-Cat Comics as a presenter. John will be stopping in Iowa City as a part of his King-Cat Comics Midwest Tour. To find out more about John or to get details about the tour, check out www.king-cat.net.

We still have openings for more readers, so if you'd like to read your own zine, or would like to read someone elses', email Jessica White at jessica-c-white@uiowa.edu so she can add you to the list. It'll be a casual evening of snacks and zine sharing - don't be shy!

What's a zine? Find out at www.ZineMachine.org.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Present - a poster

I've been invited to be a part of the artists poster series through Lucky Creature, and here's the image I've chosen. The posters should be available in 2 short weeks, either at the Lucky Creature website (they're taking preorders already!), or at the Heroes & Criminals Press Etsy site.

It's of a drawing I made in 2005 titled "The Present", with a few changes made specifically for this poster. It was one in a series of drawings I made that echo images of old children's book illustrations, and the slightly scary or sinister side to them. I made these to inspire creativity in anyone looking at them, and I like to think of them as "illustrations for stories that haven't yet been written". They're like invitations to viewers to write that story when they see the drawing.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

grand summer finale

Well, here it is... the final week of summer freedom before schools starts. I'm madly finishing up personal final projects before school swallows me up and free time becomes a figment of my imagination. I'm in the inking stage of Art School Chronicles Year 3, and will soon be foiling it for color. Yes! It will be in full color, and FOILED! I know, you're giddy just thinking about it. Here's a sneak peek...

We're also finishing the last page of the new hisWorld/herWorld, which will probably be out as soon as next week. We have a special surprise for hW/hW fans - for the first time, it's a comic! It's all making sense... we like comics, so why not make it a comic? This issue has talking mushrooms, a little story about growing up in Taipei, and a Furikake demonstration. It's the best hW/hW yet!

Some things that have been recently crossed off my to-do list: I've put up a new item at Heroes & Criminals Press, the adorable Surprise! Porcupine Fish Card. Go check it out, and surprise someone with a spikey fish. Also, just sent off is my design for a "Ladies of the Letterpress" embroidered badge. These were made for an amzing group of ladies here in Iowa City, but I'll put any left over up on Etsy for other letterpressing ladies out there who want the official badge.

Friday, August 03, 2007

the future of historical printing

If you're looking for a great way to spend your Saturday (11am-4pm), please join us in Homestead, where we run a 1930's-era Linotype, a 1910 C & P jobber press, and a few cases of handset type.  Homestead is about 15 miles west of Coralville on Highway 6, and the printing/blacksmith shop is on the main/only street at the west end of town.  Look for Henry's Village Market: we're right in front of it.

At Homestead, we're working on printing a community newsletter in addition to small jobs for the Amana Heritage Society using the historical equipment available.  We also give demonstrations of the equipment to the visitors who stop by.  It tends to be busy!

This is just one of the historical printing opportunities offered through the University of Iowa Center for the Book. We're blazing a trail for the future of historical printing.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Heroes & Criminals Press

Many of my books and broadsides are now under the imprint Heroes & Criminals Press, which finally has an official online presence at Etsy. There is also a link to it from my website Bittersweetness And Light. It's sparse right now, but I'll continue to add other items so keep checking back!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Hot off the press, the very first issue of Dingbat from Heroes & Criminals Press is now available in our very own Zine Machine and at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. Dingbat is a new quarterly zine that's mostly about printmaking, with letterpress printed covers and a postcard included with each issue for those of the postally inclined. Articles in this issue include: "Movable Type: the non-western history", "Tank Man: Hero or Criminal?" and an artist spotlight on Xu Bing. It will also be available at Quimby's and Chicago Comics, probably in the next 2 weeks. If you can't make it to any of these fine establishments, or just prefer the USPS, send $3 or a trade to P.O. Box 10022, Iowa City, IA, 52245.

Friday, July 13, 2007

books in action

Portland Zine Symposium

Portland Zine Symposium is coming soon - August 11-12, 2007, in Portland Oregon. Mark it on your calendar, and while you're there, be sure to stop by Cody Gieselman's workshop about comics journaling. It'll change your life, one panel at a time!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

letterpress at the IPRC

Here's a great little video of the basics of letterpress and printing from a small hand-cranked platen press, made by the wonderful people at the Independent Publishing Resource Center in Portland, Oregon.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Foil Imaging

I've just recently attended the 17th Annual Foil Imaging Workshop, a week-long workshop here at the University of Iowa that introduces the ethereal art of foil imaging. It utilizes foil, a double-layered polymer film, to add color and texture to a print or drawing. This heat-transfer method of applying colors is used commercially for book covers (hot stamping) and greeting cards, but Virginia Myers has developed the tools necessary for artists to utilize it in their own studios, by using a hot plate and a heated roller. Most people recognize the foils that come in gold and silver metallics or brightly holographic films, but there is a lot of variety, including opaque colors, translucents, pearlescents, and even a wood-grain. Some of my favorites are the translucent foils that can be layered for richer colors with more depth. For any curious artists looking for new materials to try, I highly recommend coming to the workshop next summer! You can see some exceptional examples of foil imaging in Jason Snell's artwork at RustyScissors.com.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

publish, print, create

My friend Cody and I have officially started "Zine Friday", a once-a-week shindig for making and discussing zines, and whatever else comes up. We managed to spread out a little working space on the table, but got into a heated discussion about the differences between a press, printer, and publisher. We talked in circles for a while, and the only thing we know for sure at this point is that the lines are getting blurred, especially in the small- and independent-press world. As zinesters, we know all too well the many hats we have to wear, from the conception, the making of the original, the printing and binding, and funding, all done by one person. This is something I find appealing about zines and artists books, the determination of one person to put their own style of creativity into every step.

It's also appealing when zinesters/comic artists like Clutch create their own presses to publish others' work as well as their own (Tugboat Press, in this case). On top of that, we have the wonderful Microcosm, who publish and distribute, the IPRC, who provide the space and tools for others to self-publish as well as publishing for others, and Booklyn, who publish, distribute, and offer workshops, just to name a few in an ever-expanding world of self-publishing.

To bring it home, what about the Zine Machine? It's working hard as a little Iowa City distro, and one day, it might want to expand into publishing. Well, maybe not today...

(PS - Zine Friday is not a private party - let us know if you want to join us for some zine fun!)

The Moving Crew at Bemis

For anyone in or near Omaha during the next month, I recommend checking out this show:

WHAT: A site-specific, interactive installation, curated by Lydia Diemer
WHEN: June 23 – July 21, 2007
OPENING NIGHT: Saturday, June 23rd, 2007, 7:00 – 10:00 p.m.
WHO: Lydia Diemer, Jeremy Chen, Maggie Booth, Katherine Parker, David Bendernagel, Neva Sills, Nadija Mustapic, Heather Foster, Lee Running, Daniel Luchman, Matt Stults, Christina McClelland, Daniel Maw, Ryan Standfest, Kim Ambriz, Adam Wolpa, Aurora De Armendi, and more
WHERE: The bemisUNDERGROUND, lower level of the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, 724 S. 12th Street

Calling all landowners, pleasure cruisers, refugees, conquistadors, settlers, and nomads! New realms available now! Stake claim! Pursue vocations! Speculate!

Territory has opened in the bemis UNDERGROUND. Millions of idle inches, finely timbered and watered, the most fertile in the continent, and if reports are true, cardboard resources in lavish abundance, all awaiting the subduing hand of civilization. The Moving Crew has already begun development, establishing a town site, port, newspaper, general store, and saloon. Now is the time to secure a home on the finest land ever offered by The Moving Crew. Considering the unprecedented rush already in this direction, in this direction, you are advised to set at once.

The entire tract has been surveyed by The Moving Crew and recorded. The boundaries of this land will be clearly given by our Superintendent of Locations when you arrive at the bemisUNDERGROUND during opening hours, June 23rd, 7:00 – 10:00 p.m. The Moving Crew insures territory immigrants the lowest of prices in outfitting them (local currencies provided, bartering optional). Most trips abroad are trouble free, however you should take sensible precautions and ensure that you are adequately prepared. Passports available upon entrance (for a nominal fee)! Sectional maps GRATIS! This tide will continue until every vestige of the public domain is taken (each Saturday, noon – 5:00 p.m. or by July 21st, 2007, whichever comes first).

About the Artist:
The Moving Crew is an amorphous art collective working to enlarge and enliven the public sphere. An ever expanding and contracting group of civil servants, students, former elementary school teachers, and crisis line volunteers form The Moving Crew’s ranks, a collection of bodies and art objects, as well as a gathering of ideas, thoughts and relationships. Cultural animation drives our projects; we investigate the implications of a society in motion, its people migrating through space and time, simultaneously rooted and displaced, forever wandering and on the way home. By examining both humorous and serious issues on local and global scales, The Moving Crew hopes to engage the public in playful, interactive art activities that loosely surround ideas of community, movement and transformation with a sensibility of profound absurdity. Through the use of inexpensive or found objects and materials, The Moving Crew invites people into a new space where the normal rules of the world do not quite apply and where the public is welcome to collaborate.

For more info:
bemisUNDERGROUND Phone: 402.408.2397

Monday, June 11, 2007

Big Day 'o Books

I spent Sunday in Chicago at the Action/Interaction: Book/Arts Conference 2007, held at the Columbia College Center for Book and Paper Arts. Unfortunately, I didn't get to attend any of the panels, but instead spent my time there seeing the exhibits, and it was well worth the trip. I was really impressed with what students have made with book structures, represented by schools all over the country, including my own University of Iowa, and my alma mater, East Carolina University. The exhibit will be up until July 7th, so stop by if you're in the area. At the vendor's exihibit I picked up a small reprinting of "A True Depiction of All Manner of the Book Arts", with engravings and text originally published in 1568. I also got a copy of "Sombras Rojas" by Francois Deschamps, a collection of words and images by Mr. O, a former patient of the Sunnyview Psychiatric Institute who was obsessed with Che Guevara.

Of course I had to visit the Printer's Row Book Fair while there in Chicago, and fought a few crowds to look at more books, mostly used. It makes me appreciate quiet days in the used books stores when I can browse undisturbed. One highlight was a booth set up by Columbia College Center for Book and Paper Arts students where they were busy printing postcards on a little platen press. It was a big draw for the curious.

To top off my Big Day 'o Books, we went to Quimby's, my all-time favorite bookstore (I even named my cat after them). With the few dollars I had left, I picked up Sarah Becan's new comic, "Night and Day", and the new issue of Broken Pencil, a really nice magazine about zines, published in Canada. So much inspiration for my zine-in-progress, Dingbat! but more on that later...

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

reviews: Nilsen and Short History

I've just finished Don't Go Where I Can't Follow, by Anders Nilsen. I love the reprinting of original writing, unmediated and unedited (other than the scribbles), that give the sense of immediacy, of the truthfulness of the moment. I'm amazed that Anders can share such a personal experience, but he points out at the end that "This story is, obviously, very personal, but ultimately I think it isn't exclusive. It feels incredibly particular to me, still, but it's just love and loss. And everyone, for better or worse, can relate to that." He relates his story better than most could, through a beautiful collection of writings, photographs, and drawings.

On another note, Warren Chappell ends "A Short History of the Printed Word" with a McLuhan-esque prophecy, saying:

In 1930, Jose Ortega y Gasset wrote that the mass-man took the civilization into which he was born as a matter of course, "as spontaneous and self-producing as Nature." This, claimed Ortega, made a primitive of him, with civilization his forest. It is a timely concept, of man as a consumer rather than as one involved and at the service of the base cultural values of his time. It is difficult to perceive any great literary sensitivity coming as the result of the flood of print that has turned reading into a process of gulping rather than savoring.

This was published in 1970, long before Wikipedia and blogs. Gulp.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

summer in the shade

I've just returned from the library, loaded down with yet more books to add to an already precariously high stack of summer reading. The girl at the crepes stand on the Ped Mall even suggested that I get a little red wagon to ease the load. A few highlights:

- A Short History of the Printed Word, by Warren Chappell (almost finished)
- The Form of the Book, by Jan Tschichold (a little bit started)
- What Do Pictures Want?, by W.J.T. Mitchell
- Printing and Publishing in Medieval China, by Denis Twitchett (a lot more interesting than it sounds)
- The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, by Elizabeth L. Eisenstein
- Don't Go Where I Can't Follow, by Anders Nilsen (currently my favorite comic artist)
- A Field Guide to Getting Lost, by Rebecca Solnit (not that I need a guide for that)
- The Yiddish Policemen's Union, by Michael Chabon
- Making Comics, by Scott McCloud

My nose will be buried in these pages for most of the summer, but for a change of peripheral scenery, I've scouted out a few of my favorite third places: House of Aromas with bubble tea; by the Iowa River near the art building in the company of ducks; across the river by North Hall in the company of rabbits; in front of the Old Capitol under the best shade trees.

On a side note: whoever is eating my daisies, please stop. The poor thing only had two blooms anyways. The lady down the street has much more.

Sunday, May 13, 2007


Lately I've been thinking about migration and immigration. How does movement change a person, or a group? What about the constant search for 'home' - is this a real location, or is it a time and place that no longer exists for most of us?

I think this may be a seed planted in my head by the Moving Crew.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

the Kitchen

I've spent most of my waking hours for the past 2 weeks in the University of Iowa Center for the Book's wonderful little Type Kitchen, where I've set type and printed non-stop (except for a few small picnic lunches by the river), culminating in the chapbook mentioned earlier. A photographer with FYI, once a printer himself, couldn't resist spending an afternoon with us - check out his photo feature here.

While you're there, take a look at this profile of one of my favorite people, Rachel Marie-Crane Williams.

Saturday, May 05, 2007


I've started working on a new book, "Beasties of North America," and the first chaper is finally completed - "Elephants." This turned out to be a practice run before diving into the full book, which will include chapters on birds, squirrels, manatees, and raccoons. "Elephants" is complete as its own chapbook, and I like the format so much I may end up making all the chapters into their own chapbooks (instead of one whole book), and offer them each individually or as a complete set.

The book begins with a quote from Michael Russem (of Kat Ran Press), from his recent article "The Failure of Fine Printing" (published in the February 2007 issue of the Caxtonian - download it here for free). In this article, he talks about his surprise at discovering that one of his long-time collectors buys his books, but never actually reads them. Realizing that I am also one of those very people who love to admire fine press books, but very rarely read them from cover to cover, I've decided to make this book for that very purpose - to look at, not to read. So, my job in this endeavor to to make a luscious, beautifully printed and bound fine press book, but with intentionally boring text that will hopefully discourage the act of reading. Basically, I don't want the content of the text to distract the holder of the book from noticing the craft involved in the making of the book.

Did someone just feel Beatrice Warde rolling over in her grave? I think she might actully agree with me on this; in her article "Printing Should Be Invisible," published in 1932, she says that "it is mischievous to call any printed piece a work of art, especially fine art: because that would imply that its first purpose was to exist as an expression of beauty for its own sake and for the delectation of the senses. Calligraphy can almost be considered a fine art nowadays, because *its primary economic and educational purpose has been taken away*; but printing in English will not qualify as an art until the present English language no longer conveys ideas to future generations, and *until printing itself hands its usefulness to some yet unimagined successor*." (stars added are mine)

So, now that fine print's "primary and economic and educational purpose has been taken away," and we have those "yet unimagined successors" such as digital prints and blogs, can we finally call fine press art? Or even (gasp) fine art?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

swimming in gampi

Here's a little peek at one of my current projects, a collaboration with Cheryl Jacobsen for Hand Papermaking Magazine's 8th limited-edition portfolio, "Calligraphy and Handmade Paper." The paper is Japanese gampi formed in a deckle box, with a pseudo-watermark (applied post-pressing, but pre-drying). These days I'm just swimming in vats of Japanese gampi.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

art and poetry

Upcoming Friday Events:

Jim Sullivan is visiting and will be speaking on "Poetry Broadsides: Looking at the Printed Poem, Holding It in Your Hands" on Friday, April 6, 1:30 - 2:30 in Room 2032, Main Library. He is on campus April 5-7 as part of the English Department's Poetries Symposium, which is being sponsored in part by the UICB.

The Center for the Book is hosting a lot of great events this semester/year. Go see their schedule for more.

Also this Friday is the Gallery Walkette, happening in downtown Iowa City from 5-7:30pm. Participating galleries are: Mythos, The Milkmaid Gallery, Arts Iowa City, the Hall Mall, and The People's Portico Gallery.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

SGC review

We just got back from the Southern Graphics Council 2007 conference, this year held in Kansas City, and I'm feeling revitalized and so motivated to make new work! Some hightlights:

A panel on printmaking as depicted in the entertainment industry was interesting, and pointed out all the times that scenes are shot in a printshop - especially in Catch Me If You Can, where Leonardo DiCaprio plays a con-man who uses commercial offset presses to print fake checks. Panelist Richard Gere (not the actor) pointed out one scene where the checks go flying out of the press (when the faker gets caught), but explains in detail how that particular brand of offset press didn't have a built-in papercutter, so the scene would've been impossible. I love it when printmakers get nerdy.

A demo on flocking and glittering has my work going in strange, fuzzy new directions.

Also, Karen Kunc, Richard Gere, and Kurt Wisneski gave a demo were they collaborated on a series of long narrative prints that echoed film strip imagery. They re-used a stack of blocks and stencils in multiple ways, repeating imagery that would come forward and fade away along the long strips of paper.

I also saw a lot of good exhibits, and saw distinct trends in music posters, paper burning, and little books (!!). The best art viewing experience was during the open portfolio, even though it was on the last day and I was feeling pretty burned out. Overall, it was a good (although somewhat disorganized) conference. I got what I needed out of it, simply a desire to make more prints. I'm looking forward to next's years conference, which will be held at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA. See you there!