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?