Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Goat Elevator - custom binding

Well, it's a little late to get a custom made Christmas present, but have you considered a custom-bound book for a personalized present at any time of year? This is one I just completed that will be a Christmas present, for Virginia R., the little girl who wrote and illustrated this original story which won a regional first prize for her creativity. Her dad was thoughtful enough to gather the pages of her story and get it professionally bound so that it'll be a book that she can even show her own children one day.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Greetings From...

I got the most beautiful set of postcards in the mail yesterday, all hand-printed by members of the Ladies of Letterpress! This is a print exchange inspired by mid-century postcards we remember, with the friendly phrases "Greetings from..." or "Hello from...", received each summer from vacationing friends and family. For the summer of 2010, we greet each other from our hometowns and our presses, creating a unique collection of personalized letterpress printed cards. This is just a small sampling of the talent and good cheer that makes up the Ladies of Letterpress.

One of the members, Camille Robin of Fish Lake Press instigated this project, organized it, and spent an extraordinary amount of time typesetting and printing the colophon, collating, packaging, and shipping out the finished cards. I loved going through these cards, and felt like I was on a whirlwind roadtrip as I flipped through them, each one a wonderful new surprise. (This photo only shows a small smattering of the whole collection.) We also have a few extra sets to sell, and the proceeds will go into the LofL Scholarship Fund, yippee!

To see all of the postcards in this collection, check out the LoL Postcard Swap 2010 Album here.

Have I mentioned that the Ladies of Letterpress rock? Yes, they do.

Friday, December 03, 2010

New print - Information Desk

Finally, after being pushed to the back burner many times in the past few months, my latest installment of Heavens to Betsy is finished. I'm titling it "Information Desk", but sometimes I refer to it as "Librarian Bear". The little sign on the bear's desk says "Information" and the text says "Can you tell me how to live without fear?"

Now available at my website or stop by my table at The Big Crafty this Sunday to see them in person!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ladies of Letterpress at Pyramid Atlantic

Spent the weekend at the The Book (R)evolution, the Pyramid Atlantic Book Arts Fair, and had a blast. Instead of setting up a table for H&C Press, I decided to set up a Ladies of Letterpress table with Kseniya Thomas to promote LofL and our first LofL conference, to be held next August in Asheville, NC. We were asked by the planning committee to participate in the fair by giving letterpress demonstrations, so we set up a printing area and promptly dubbed it the "Letterpress Party Room". We set up our two Kelsey 5x8 presses, one set with type and the other with photopolymer plates, and let visitors print their own takeaway cards. It was fun to see their faces light up as many of them printed for the very first time! It was also great to see dear old friends and make a few new ones as well, and to see the fantastic bookworks being made by a group of talented and inspiring artists.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

My new UV exposure unit!

I recently bought a new UV exposure unit that I found by chance on Ebay. I'd never seen it before, or used one like it before, but at the price it was selling for, I just couldn't pass up a chance to buy one and try it out. Hey, if it didn't work, I figured, I could just sell it on Ebay.

It's surprisingly unlabeled and unbranded. In fact all of the information you'll ever get about this little machine is right there on the front panel:

Inside the lid is a spongy pad that helps create good contact between the plate and the negative.

I got a good tip from Kyle Van Horn that I would need to add a light diffuser to get good results, so I purchased a small sheet of Kreen from Boxcar Press which is specifically made for this purpose. I trimmed a piece to the size of the glass plate and attached it with double-sided tape to the underside before replacing the plate.

For testing, I used a small negative that I've already used before. This one has a good combination of thick and thin lines.

I exposed a separate plate for each setting, for a total of 12 plates.

I developed each plate using a washout brush, also from Boxcar Press, in a tray of lukewarm water for about 5 minutes each.

Then the plates were dried in my very home-made drying box (no need to keep frozen during this process).

After a second hardening exposure, I printed the plates on a Vandercook SP-20. Yippee, it worked!

You can see the progression from top to bottom, left column then right. For this particular plate, it looks like setting 5 gives the best results. However, the settings of the unit, labeled "Solarize Minute," don't exactly correlate with time. For instance, setting 1 only lasted 47 seconds, while setting 3 lasted 3 minutes 45 seconds. I plan on doing more tests with the timing to see if it's at least consistent. If not, I'll probably attach a dark room timer like the one used on the exposure unit I blogged about in August. I also plan on doing more tests using type, especially small and delicate type, before using it for detailed work. Until then, I'll probably continue to rely on the folks at Boxcar Press to make especially detailed plates, but use my new one right here in my studio for everything else!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

August redux

Well, thanks August - it was certainly fun and exhilarating, but I think I'm ready to get off this wild ride. I'm finally stepping out of the whirlwind and seeing everything that swirled around me (and I swirled around) for the past 4 weeks, and I'm surprised that I've managed to emerge fairly unscathed. Exhausted, yes, muddled and disorganized, most definitely, but breathing in the crisp fall September air and ready to move on. Well, maybe after just a few more days of cleaning, re-organizing, and breathing.

So here goes: it started with a six-week workshop at BookWorks, The Printed Book (still ongoing, with just two classes left). It's with a phenomenal group of super-talented women overflowing with ideas for book projects. They're in the final stages now, moving into printing and binding the books they've been planning for the past few weeks.

During this time, I was finalizing lesson plans for my first semester-length class at Warren Wilson College, Intro to Papermaking followed by BookForms. This school really blows me away, with a working farm that feeds the students and top rankings as an eco-centered campus. I'm so thrilled to teach here for a semester, and hope that it will continue for many years. My students have really impressed me already with their creative thinking, and the faculty have been incredibly kind and welcoming. I think the Papermaking class is going pretty well so far, but I'll be checking in with my mentors Tim Barrett and Frank Brannon for suggestions and advice.

An then, the biggest event by far was getting married, to my long-time partner Scott (we've been together for almost 10 years). We had a small, quiet ceremony with family at Lake Lure, NC, and spent the week with them in a cabin on a nearby river. It rained on the day of the wedding, but the rest of the week was perfectly beautiful. The idea was to spend a lot of time in the water, and that's exactly what we did - riding on inner-tubes down the river more times than I can remember. It was the perfect weekend of quiet relaxation mixed with thrills.

And then, a week after the wedding, I taught an Introduction to Letterpress workshop at BookWorks. It was one of my favorite workshop yet, because nothing really beats the fun of three days of letterpress printing, and showing other people how. By this point, I had completely lost my voice from a combination of constant talking and a little cold I picked up from Oliver. It was a strangely quiet workshop with lots of whispering and hand motions, but still fun. I just feel bad for the students who had to listen to my troll voice when it started coming back on the last day.

And just when I thought August had reached maximum capacity, the September issue of Verve Magazine comes out, with an article about me and my books, and a photo of me on the cover, trying my best to be the 'sexy librarian' they were looking for to grace the "Get Smart" issue. It was a lot of fun to be interviewed and photographed, and it was a special treat to have someone do my makeup and hair in preparation for the big cover shoot. I was feeling very rock-star that day, albeit a little out of my element.

So, if you're one of the people wondering why I still haven't answered your email, I hope this explains my MIA status. I'm slowly getting back to my non-rock-star life, and really looking forward to some quiet time in my studio.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Craft Corps - a new Lark book

I just got my own copy of Craft Corps, a recent release by local Asheville publisher Lark Crafts (I'm adjusting to the new name, and still tend to call them Lark Books, one of my favorite publishers of how-to crafting and art books. I also love their 500 series.)

This book is a collection of interviews given by master crafter Vicki Howell, who says she was inspired by National Public Radio's audio project StoryCorps to record her conversations with a variety of  crafty folks. I'm only just getting into this book, but I'm surprised that I'm not devouring it like most craft books. I've found myself reading each interview, then wanting to give it a little time to sink in before moving on to the next one. I really appreciate reading the stories that people share about their own experiences, not only to be inspired, but also to find similarities in my own crafting life; making connections that help me feel like a part of a larger crafting community. Also scattered throughout the book are personal anecdotes by Vicki about how she knows each person she interviews, and vignettes of other crafters around the country and their "Words to Craft By".

I'm surprised by, and really appreciate, the range of artists interviewed in this book. Not only are there the ubiquitous 20 to 30-something young women crafters, but Vicki interviews men and women in all ages. There's also a range of superstars like Amy Butler, Jenny Hart, and Mark Montano alongside regular folks like me. Vicki covers ground on a lot of different types of crafting, but is heavy on the fabric-crafts side and light on my personal favorite, paper-crafts. I also suggest that you look past the un-inspiring cover, which is one my little irks about Lark's publishings. Like this book, their covers tend to look outdated, but don't let this fool you - what's inside is inspired and very much current.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Using the Exposure Unit

A few weeks ago I tweeted that I loved McClain's photopolymer exposure unit, and I got a few questions and requests to learn more, so I thought I'd share my experiences with everyone here. This isn't my light box, it's Asheville BookWork's, and although it was my first time using it a few weeks ago, Frank Brannon has been working with it for a few months and came up with these ingenious designs to make it more user-friendly.

The exposure unit from McClain's is only a part of this whole assembly - just the box itself. Frank hinged it on the bottom right edge to a wooden base and added a darkroom timer. The little black square you see glued to the base is a piece of foam to protect the handle when you open it fully.

Here's another view.

The unit comes with the timer that you see on the front, but it's hard to get an accurate reading of exactly how much time it's set for. Having the large darkroom timer makes it possible to be very exact. I exposed my plates for 1min 30 sec, and it was perfect for line drawings and some type - the type was 12 pt. Old Newspaper Types, fairly large and already has a 'rough' look. I would play around with the exposure time for smaller or more delicate type.

Here it is opened. The black square is another piece of foam padding, also glued in place. This is where you put the photopolymer plate.

A piece of glass cut to the size needed for the plate and two heavy weights are used to create good contact between the negative and the plate (the weight have felt feet). We have about 6 different sizes of glass sheets. Another good option is to use a contact frame to press the negative tightly to the plate.

Here is how it would look in position to expose a plate. I had surprisingly good results, since I'm used to exposing plates in a vacuum table and was expecting poor contact with light bleeding through. All of my plates turned out perfectly on the first exposure!

All of the plates were made in a dimly lit room, of course. I'll be using the same exposure unit to teach this fall at Warren Wilson College, and will probably create the same set-up except for one difference - instead of using sheets of glass and weights, I'm going to stick with using just contact frames instead. It just seems safer and easier to have fewer parts and pieces to keep up with in a classroom environment. Sorry I don't have any images of the contact frames... I'll post some more photos after I get the set up ready to go at WWC.

This is one of the prints, a page out of my current book project, a reprinting of the book Spoon River Anthology.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Marbled and Paste Papers In Action!

 This show is currently up in the gallery at BookWorks, and will be up through August 31st.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

My Gordo Adventure, final Day 6

The best news of day six is that I finished printing the book! Well, everything I could finish while in Gordo. I still have to make a new plate for the colophon and create an image for the foldout, then print the title and maybe an image on the cover. I didn't quite have the materials prepared in time, but it's so nice to have most of the book done, and all done by lunchtime, too!

Since I had some extra time for the rest of the day, we decided to take a trip to the House family cemetery. It was full of good inspiration for this book project.

We had another fantastic home-made meal of spaghetti and eggplant parmesan made from fresh garden veggies. We got punchy and came up with our own gang sign, which I got Glen and Jessica to demonstrate.

After dinner I headed back to the print shop to have some fun with their type collection and work on my Gordo Project, inspired by an Aqua Teen Hunger Force episode but meant for the chicken feed processing plant across the street. We made sure to hang a few up in the windows this morning before I left.

Around midnight I just couldn't stop and moved on to a second project, a postcard for an exchange with the Ladies of Letterpress. I was originally going to print postcards for Asheville, but I guess I just got inspired, mainly by Cousin Jimmy's watermelons (I'm gonna print watermelons on these before I call them done).

Overall, I'd call this residency a success! I'm back home in Asheville now, but I miss Gordo already and am already making plans for going back. If you're looking for a place to go where you can print and  enjoy good food and good company, I'd definitely recommend it. (contact Jessica Peterson at jessica@papersouvenir.com for all the details).