Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Announcing the CATFISH Letter Arts School

The Art Legacy League is launching  a new letter arts and book arts program based on the Catich Method during 2013.  The CATFISH Letter Arts School will be a working division of The Art Legacy League. These courses and workshops will concentrate on introducing the novice to the Catich Method for letter arts and calligraphy, as well as other studio arts production. In addition, advanced courses will be offered for those students wishing to perfect their skills.

I am pleased to serve as a member of the Core Faculty for the launch of the CATFISH Letter Arts School. My first workshop will be "Making A Single Signature Manuscript Book," and will be held Wednesday, March 20, 2013, at the Bettendorf Community Center in Bettendorf, Iowa USA. Please click HERE to find more information about the CATFISH Letter Arts School, including course descriptions and registration information.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Writing a Novel in the Midst of Studio Haze

Several years ago my good friend Bill Gould encouraged me to join this project, and I never had the time.  This year I have decided to try and participate and write a novel based on the period in my life when my first husband Kent died. I am very interested in the "thinness" between this world and the next. The things I experienced through his final months of life and his transition from this life to the next changed me profoundly.  The guidelines and other information provided through this project will hopefully help me create the daily discipline to write about these life altering experiences for the first time. Please check out the site when you have time.

I have been out of the studio for the past month as my new part time job with Canadian Tire has been taking up a good deal of my time.  Finding a part-time job for 20-25 hours a week has made an amazing difference in our cash flow,  but the concentrated studio time I long for has all but disappeared in the push and pull of retail work scheduling. I do love the job though-it is like being an air traffic controller for the store. Working at the customer service desk in Deep River, I answer the phone, complete refunds, run the cash, and help with a myriad of small retail oriented tasks. The days fly by, my co-workers are amazingly wonderful, kind, informative, and have wonderful senses of humor. I could not have landed in a better place for part-time work.

This weekend I am participating with Valley Artisans' Co-op in the Arts and Crafts Fair 2012 in Deep River. We will have a large display along one side of the gym at MacKenzie Community School. Leslie White has been busily organizing all the infrastructure for our display units and co-op members are working in their studios to produce more work to sell. We will have hand dyed silk scarves, jewelry, pottery, fabric arts, glass arts, beading arts, wood crafts, handmade books, paintings, calligraphy and more, as well as an amazing assortment of greeting cards for sale.

Valley Artisans' Co-op is well-known in our area for producing some of the finest greeting cards, with a wide variety of styles and sizes, for the discerning correspondent. This fair is a wonderful opportunity to stock up for holiday giving and also for your own  winter correspondence needs. There is nothing like a hand written card!

As the rain continues to pour, and the leaves finish their journey to the ground, my heart calls me to the studio. I want to be making books and printing, cutting letters in slate, and so much more. Fall is usually a time when I hunker down to concentrated creative time in the studio. Working will change that routine, but the passion remains the same. When I think about the tragedy in the states resulting from Sandy, the fragile, precious nature of our lives and the thinness between this world and the next is made more clear to me in a tangible way.

I welcome precious gift of studio time today, and know in my heart, that all will be well, and all will be well, with the grace and love of God in her wisdom for her gift of time, all will be well.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Receiving the Day-Opening the Gift of Studio Time

Crossalphabet, 2009
I am finally back in the studio this week and it feels marvelous! Art on the Lawn was simply amazing but, but incredibly time consuming and exhausting!  My creative soul needs nurturing, but my studio must be put back to rights before that happens.

The calligraph to the left was completed nearly 3 years ago and still hangs in our home. I am now working on a series of small limited edition prints that combine letterpress and calligraphy techniques. The overlapping of the type and pen made letters creates a visual space that is very intriguing to me. I am exploring the thin-ness between the letter stems, counters, and arms each time I create one of these.

Finding the time to bring each of the new pieces to completion over the past three months has been impossible. My heart is calling me to continue to increase my studio time to get them done.

For me letters are symbols that help turn matter into spirit. I think often about the close relationship between the scholar printers and the calligraphers of the late 19th and 20th centuries. Many letter makers of the late 19th century went on to become type designers in their own right. They relished the making of each letter by reed or metal pen, by brush, and through cutting inscriptions in stone, one letter at a time, for unique presentations. At the same time many of these calligraphers were functioning as letterpress artisans, printing multiples of elegant broadsides and pamphlets, with type and ornaments they had come to love. Each individual sort, placed into a composed line of type, in the composing stick and then placed in the type form, was the equivalent, I think, of the making of one letter at a time with the pen or brush. There was more uniformity to the shapes of each piece of foundry type they placed in their composing stick, but the individual spacing and relationships of letter to letter, ornaments and borders, were just as unique as the illuminated page.

Ottawa Letterpress Gang Type Sampler Contribution
This past summer the Ottawa Letterpress Gang worked on a group project. Each participating member created a signature type sampler from type and ornaments they hold in their collections. There are different levels of expertise for each printer in the group, but everyone has tried their best. This is a copy of the bi-folio I prepared, which is not my best printing to be sure. I have a great deal to learn about printing, but had a wonderful time with the project.

My vision for the project included using my wood type for an illustrative element, with emphasis placed on the uneven, scratchy nature of the printing, akin to posters printed by Hatch Show Print from time to time. I tired to include as many fonts as time would allow, however, time did not allow for me to print more than the 6 sizes of Bradley, some of my Cloister, and a sampling of the massive amount of Engravers that sit in my cases. I have at least 10  more fonts, some of which are still unidentified, that will go into my own type sampler later this year. I have added my chinese chops for my name, "nan-chee" to the left of my prop card imprint, the chop for "calligrapher" to the right, and at the bottom the chop for "book artist." These little signatures are, for me, a small artist's book edition. There was to be on more folio in this signature, however, when I  printed the second color for the centerpiece, I managed to ruin the pages. My ink was too heavy, and bleed through was an issue, so that folio was not included.  Stephen and Gayle Quick of Weathervane Press in Ottawa will be binding all the signatures into a book. I now have to begin the very hard work of figuring out exactly how to refine my  printing process. So much to learn!

 In the month prior to Art on the Lawn I designed a new series of blank note cards using the odd bits of wood type and early 20th century cuts in my collection. Some of the cuts are printed and left to stand on their own, and many I have "hand coloued" with watercolour. Some of the cards have hand stamped images over the letterpress type.

Each of the letterpress multiples is signed. These cards are currently for sale at Valley Artisans' Co-op Gallery in Deep River. They are also available by mail. Email me if you are interested! Currently I am on the hunt for more unique cuts to use for these note cards as I am primarily interested in printing from vintage blocks. I am hoping to complete some additional collage printing for greeting cards this fall.

As I begin to put the studio back in order and assemble the pieces I need for two book projects and more cards, I am reminded that fall is upon us and winter not far away. My heart is calling out to me that I need to "hunker down", get everything in order, and my ducks in row for the winter studio time. As much as I love the changes in the seasons and our time at the lake house, I relish the quiet of the winter where I can remain indoors, surrounded by my studio books, supplies, and equipment, to create uninterrupted by calls to other chores.

The change in seasons also reminds me of the joy of acknowledging the opening of the gift of time that my faith provides for me. Dorthy Bass writes in Receiving the Day about a concrete way of living in time that is alert to both contemporary pressures and rooted in ancient wisdom. The rhythm of our lives used to be governed by the rising and setting of the sun from season to season. Now with our ever increasing modern conveniences, our daily rhythms are governed by the commitments we take and the choices we make. Often we get a real shock when the seasons change.

For me, moving from the brilliant hues of summer sun into the decreasing light of fall into winter, I am reminded of the grace that comes from acknowledging the gift of concentrated studio time that winter brings to me. I feel so very blessed to have such an amazing studio, filled with equipment, supplies, and materials for the production of the items I am driven to produce.

As the rain drips against the roof, and the coolness of the basement studio nips at my hands, I welcome opening this new gift of studio time brought to me by the change in the season. My heart soars like a hawk when I think of my creative time in the weeks to come, and I know that all will be well, and all will be well, and with the grace and wisdom of God in my time, all will be well.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Art on the Lawn September 7-8

I am the Show Director for this Event and am totally consumed with it these days!
Hope if you are in the area you can attend!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Stone Cutting Demonstration!

I participated in the Valley Artisans' Coop  Demonstration Day today. We set up a tent in our store parking lot, 33373 Highway 17, Deep River, ON, and several of our members demonstrated watercolour painting, pottery slab building, wheel throwing, sun dying of fabric, wood carving, spinning, and rug hooking. I demonstrated calligraphy and how to cut letters and shapes with a V-cut into slate. It was a wonderful day!  We set up the demonstrations to help celebrate the coop's 25th Anniversary year!!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Printing Arts Fair Road Trip

This album contains slides from my ongoing trip to the Printing Arts Fair at The Museum of Printing in North Andover, MA. It is this coming Sunday from 10-5, and admission is FREE! Stop by if you have time.

The first image is a calligraphy/letterpress piece I created for the Museum to use in a raffle at the Fair. We ended up on a ferry across Lake Champlain, a real surprise and quite fun!There are also photos here of my friend Nora and I at Harcourt Bindery with Sam Ellenport and Firefly Press with John Kristensen. We also managed to walk part of the Freedom Walk and see Gary Gregory at his North Church Colonial Printing Shop ( A MUST SEE) and also to have dinner with dear friend Pat White. We are back next week and I will fill in captions at that time!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Calligraphy Society of Ottawa Brush Writing Workshop with Paul Herrera June 2-3!!!

These are photos taken on "Day One" of a two-day Brush Writing Workshop given by Paul Herrera for the Calligraphy Society of Ottawa June 2-3.  I was there as the "sherpa" for Paul-carrying his things, setting up the room, taking photos and videos-helping him in any way I possibly could. He also asked me to tell some of my Father Catich Stories and to help the students one-on-one. It was a wonderful couple of days. I am still sorting through all the photos and videos and will post more later. This is just the first group from Day One. It was wonderful to see the room go from being set up for the day, and through folks working and Paul's demonstration pieces going up on the wall!! Enjoy!!!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cutting Down Blackboard Slate!

My dear friend from the midwest, Paul Herrera, has been here since Sunday. Monday evening he gave the Art on the Lawn Lecture, "The Life and Times of Father Edward Michael Catich," at St. Barnabas. He followed the lecture with demonstration of stone inscription carving. Today he has been helping me cut down my 10 or so large pieces of blackboard slate into manageable pieces. My stone cutting table is finally free from my paper cutter, which is on a new cart. My chisels are in need of sharpening, but I intend to be cutting slate midweek next week!!!

This coming Friday we travel to Ottawa for Paul to give a lecture and teach a two-day course on Brush Writing for the Calligraphy Society of Ottawa. I will be carrying things and helping him any way I possibly can with the workshop. It has been a week full of blessings!

Here are some photos! Enjoy!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Pembroke Book Fair Today!

Today I am at the Pembroke Library as an exhibitor for their Book Fair! I am demonstrating Calligraphy and making books. I have been writing names for everyone who comes by the table.

This has been great fun so far!!! I have met some amazing folks and sold a few things, which is really nice.

It is wonderful to be able to "give something back" to this wonderful library. Each year as we came up for Summer Holidays from Cambridge, we would get a library card here. Each time we came to town for supplies or to do laundry, we would stop in, check out books and movies, and of course, check our email!

If you are in the area today, stop by!   There are a number of local authors selling books and other vendors too! Celebrate writing and the art of the book. We will be here until 4:30 p.m.

Teaching Tealia how to sew a signature.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Introduction to Calligraphy Workshop April 21, 2012

These are photos taken at my Introduction to Calligraphy Workshop given at St. Barnabas Anglican Church Saturday, April 21, in Deep River, On. We had 14 dedicated students who had a wonderful time! It was a blessing for me to offer this workshop. More photos and video to follow!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Eagles Do Not Flock-You Find Them One At A Time!!

Father Edward Michael Catich was an eagle in every sense of the word. He had a sharp eye and whit, a dedication to his faith and service to God. He was a priest, artist, and scholar. During the last year of his life on earth, I was fortunate to be enrolled in his studio art program at St. Ambrose University. Father Catich took me under his wing. Not only was he my teacher, but he was also my priest and my friend at a time when I desperately needed both.

In 1976 after graduating from Mt. St. Clare College with an Associate of Arts degree I was awarded a significant scholarship to St. Ambrose to study calligraphy and studio art with Father Catich. I was afraid to start the program in the fall, so I sought permission to delay my scholarship and moved to New York City to be a mother's helper for a family.

In addition to working for a family, I had also decided I wanted to study with Paul Freeman from the Society of Scribes. I had only three lessons with Paul, who was wonderfully kind, when he asked me quietly, "What the hell are you doing in New York, so far away from your family, when you live 45 minutes away from the old man of the brush, Catich?" His wife was there with us that day-they were so nice to me. She served us tea and cookies. The three of us talked at length about my fears of "not making the grade." Paul convinced me to return to Iowa and pick up my scholarship. It was not until I had known Father Catich for about 4 months that he told me he had received a concerned call from Paul the year before about a young Iowa red-head who was lost in New York and coming home soon to study with him. I was very touched.

When I arrived at St. Ambrose in May of 1978 to meet Father and discuss school, he looked at my calligraphy work and told me it was midwest nothing, but that we could fix that in time, and not to worry. He told me I would need some books to study over the summer and he would get them for me. He proceeded to one of the back/side walls of his large studio and started to climb the metal shelving and pull down some books from the top. I was terrified the entire shelf was going to come down on him!  He handed me The Trajan Inscription in Rome, The Origin of the Serif, and Reed, Pen & Brush Alphabets. I explained that I did not have any money to pay him for the books right then.  He said, "Not to worry, we will just make a record." He walked to the studio door and wrote my name, the book titles, and the amount on the door. He told me I could pay him when I had the money.  Father told me to go home and study and practice, and he would see me in the fall.

It was not until after his death, when I was helping to clean the studio and to catalog all of his books, that I discovered that these very same shelves were bolted to the cement walls of the studio!

Father Catich was an amazing artist. He could draw letters and buildings upside down to stun both the lecture hall audience and the students he was trying to teach in the classroom. But he was always first, and foremost, a priest. His deep faith and belief that Christ should always be kept amongst us in our hearts was never more present that in his depictions of Christ in "everyday dress" which caused him great difficulties with the powers that be in the Catholic Church.

Below is a quote from the River Cities Reader, 2004:

From the Catich Digital Archives
"For instance, at the same time his iconic image of a black Christ on the knee of a Latina Mary was displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Time magazine was reporting on Catich’s notoriety as an anti-traditionalist. Catich was quoted as saying, “We must fashion a Christ who will be no stranger to our time. ... I do not think it vulgar to suggest we give Christ a shave and a haircut.” The Vatican was less than enthralled with Catich’s crusade to portray “Christ in a T-shirt” and issued him a monitum – a warning from the Pope." 

Father Catich was able to translate the stories of the Bible into everyday language. This interpretation of the Biblical stories helped us to see how they related to our own stories in present day, and how those stories could help us to be better daughters, sons, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and friends to those around us.

Father also believed that understanding the Bible within the context of present day events would help us to be better artists and craftspersons as well. He is quoted as saying, "I suggest, therefore, that a basic principle of religious art is that we must express religious truths in contemporary terms...Christ should be portrayed as a member of our household and our city, a person of our land and our language." He expected us to not only be able to make letters with some skill, but to be able to represent our world around us, interpreting the Biblical narrative with modern day visual vocabulary, using pencil, watercolor brush, and pen.

At the time of his death he had been planning another trip to Europe for the Summer of 1979.  He was taking his "3 girls" with  him, Maureen Long, Amy Nielsen, and me, to help with the creating of glass for a stained glass window in Cologne and also to make more rubbings of the Trajan Inscription in Rome. He was convinced that the pollution was eroding the inscription even more than when he had made his second set of rubbings in preparation for the cast he made for Donnelley Publishing in the 1960's. (click on the previous phrase to see the cast) He also wanted each of us to have our own rubbing of the inscription.

Father Catich's Leica
The last day I saw him, Maundy Thursday, 1979, we had class in the morning and then I was to leave to return to my hometown, Clinton, to pick up my husband and travel to a conference in Kansas with him on Easter weekend.  I kept forgetting items at the school-my negative notebook in the darkroom, my watercolor board in the studio. I ended up going back to the college 4 or more times that day. Each time I had wonderful long conversations with Father. He kept trying to give me money to pay for our plane tickets to Europe-we were getting them from my travel agent in Clinton. That day he also gave me his Leica camera. He wanted me to practice on my trip that weekend as he had asked me to be the official photographer for our journey to Rome. We talked about faith issues that day, about my family, and my hopes for teaching someday. The last moments I saw him he was standing next to John Schmits in his first floor office, talking, while John painted.

Returning from the trip to Kansas we arrived in Ames, Iowa at a relative's home to hear the phone ringing. It was for me. In the days before cell phones were common, we had been out of touch for the entire weekend. My mother was calling to inform me that Father had been found dead in his studio on Saturday morning by his apprentice, and our good friend. Paul Herrera. The next few days were a blur. The immense grief that we all felt was overpowering as we prepared ourselves for the funeral. The vigil in the chapel at St. Ambrose and the funeral the next day were difficult and exhausting for us all. At each step of the way we were reminded that Father Catich was our teacher, but he was first a priest and a servant of Christ and the church.

Over the years I have tried to understand why my time with Father Catich, this relatively short period of time in my life, changed me so profoundly. It has only been in the last few years that I realized it was due to the transformative nature of prayer in our lives. Father reminded me often of the need for prayer in my life. For me, making art work, either calligraphy pieces, watercolors, or artist's books,  are a form of prayer. I feel compelled to tell my faith story in the objects I create and to share the process of making, which are my prayers, with those whom I come in contact with on the journey.

Maureen Long and Paul Herrera, 1979 St. Ambrose
Recently I have been able to reconnect with  my good friend from those days, Paul Herrera. He has started a website, Catfish Art Group, and is completing work on a biography of Father Catich. As Father's apprentice at the time of his death, and the person who found him in his studio, Paul is the only person who can tell this incredible story of Father Catich's life, his faith, and his dedication to his creative soul.

Paul is also starting a lecture series about Father and is coming to Deep River in late May to give this lecture as part of the Art on the Lawn Lecture Series leading up to the show this September. He has also promised to help me cut down some of my huge pieces of slate and give me a few stone cutting lessons while he is visiting us. Paul is also giving a workshop for the Calligraphy Society of Ottawa the first weekend in June.

Father Catich died 33 years ago, April 14. In some ways he is more alive to me now than he has ever been. As I work in my studio making letters, preparing stone for cutting, and making artist's books, I am reminded of his dedication to prayer as a central portion of both his spiritual and creative life. He admonished us all in his last will and testament about prayer, using the words of Tennyson:

"I have lived my life, and that which I have done
May He within Himself make pure! but thou,
If thou shouldst never see my face again,
Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of..."
Pray for my Soul!

With each breath I take, with each stroke I make, I continue to pray for his soul, with grace and thanksgiving, that he touched my life so completely. Each day in my studio when I sit in his chair (given to me after his death) and look at his photo above my table, I am reminded that God's power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.

We need only open our hearts and our minds to God each and every day, and with the grace of God, all will be well, and all will be well, and with the peace of God, all will be well.

To learn more about Father Catich, please check out the Catich Digital Archives, St. Ambrose University, Davenport, Iowa.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Valley Artisans' TODAY!!!!

My First Display at Valley Artisans' Gallery
We have been very busy over the past week! On Monday my husband François drove me down to the US border at Prescott, so I could be "flagpoled" and officially enter Canada and begin my time as a PERMANENT RESIDENT!!! This means I can sell work in Canada and get a job if I am able. It is a glorious change for me after 18  months of being in limbo.

This morning I hung my work in the Valley Artisans' Co-op Gallery in Deep River. It is such a marvelous feeling to have been invited to be part of this wonderful Co-op that is celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year! I will be selling large calligraphy pieces, letterpress prints, hand-made books and journals, and my new line of Ducks in a Row Press note cards that have original art and photographic reproductions of my work. The greeting cards are all suitable for framing too!

In addition to selling my own art productions in the gallery, I will be working two shifts per month to staff the gallery. It will be a great way for me to become more connected to the greater Deep River community.
In preparation for creating all these new images for my Ducks in a Row Press Note Card line, I have been working on the 8x12 Challenge Gordon Press non-stop for the past two weeks. I have really been enjoying the time I have had on press.

Collage letterpress over brush calligraphy image
I have been experimenting with collage letterpress printing techniques. I made several large brush calligraphy broadsides with gouache and while the paint was still somewhat damp, I imprinted a collage alphabet type form onto the page. My heart has been racing with anticipation for doing prints like these for years. I am really pleased with the outcome for my greeting card line. It is my hope to continue making larger collage prints of this type in the weeks to come. The card prints are approximately 5x7 to fit on a larger card base.

My larger prints will most likely need to be printed on the Vandercook 01 proofing press, as the alphabet type form I have in mind is much too large for the 8x12 bed of the Challenge Gordon. For now, I am going to continue to work with the type form I have in my 8x12 platen press, nicknamed Ned.

Collage letterpress over glossy magazine pap
In order to get some variations in background colour for the collage prints I have begun printing on colour gloss pages from magazines. This coated substrate is thin but tough, and allows the type to bite into the paper ever so slightly.

I am really loving the changes in visual depth that appear when collage printing on all the different papers I have in the shop. The experimentation part of all of this has my creative verve soaring like a hawk. I want to be up in the studio at 5 a.m. and at 9:30 p.m. François is calling down into the grotto for me to "close the shop for today" and come upstairs. I have not had this kind of creative flow since we moved to Deep River, and it feels glorious!

Alphabet collage type form in chase and bed of 8x12

As I look back over the prints, both the ones I have been saving and using, and the ones that are in the recycle bin, I am struck by the beauty of the space between the letters. Fitting lead type into spaces creatively, as in a collage, on the press bed is a challenge. I find each turn of the type "sort" brings a new view to the piece as a whole.  Working carefuly to layout the type on the composing stone, I always must have an eye to the formal "lock up" of the chase so that I can actually print what I see. It is  wonder to me that I am now able to move the type into places instinctively in a way that will allow me to add quads and thins to make sure everything remains locked up and tight once the quoins are turned.

Life is like that for me. The pieces don't always fit together neatly, but they do come together in a good way that reflects our hopes and desires. We may not always see the finished page before us while we are trying to "sort it all out" but when the final page comes through life's press, we can see the intricacies of shapes-thick against thin, round against square, and rectangle against arch. Those thin spaces betwixt and between are where I find God in my creative world. The distance between being born into this world and born into the next through death is very, very thin, like the spaces between shapes in my type form.

We are about to embark on Holy Week, the week where we walk with Jesus again through those thin spaces of the last week of his earthly life. During this week, with each breath I make, and each step I take, I will be reminded of that thin space where we can find God in our lives each and every day.

And I am reminded that it is in the thin spaces when we pray, that we offer our hearts, our souls, and our minds to God. If we offer all that we are and all that we have to God, all will be well, and all will be well, and with the grace and peace of the thin-ness of the distance between us, all will be well.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Work In Progress

I am working today on some collage printing with Hamilton Wood Type. I am printing on my 8x12 Challenge Gordon Press and having a blast.

The layers created between the letters when I overprint really intrigues me. These are works in progress as I work out ideas in my head for layered letters. Thought it would be fun to share! My intention is to create these with 3 and 4 colours to the impressions. I will post photos when I get to that point.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Ned is up and running!

Stephen and Gayle with Ned
Stephen and Gayle Quick from Weathervane Press in Ottawa joined François and me for lunch on Thursday. Stephen helped to calibrate my new 8x12 Challenge Gordon Letterpress while Gayle hung out in my calligraphy studio. It was an absolutely marvelous day. Stephen was able to work on the throw-off lever and get it mostly working, as well as raise and level the platen for me. I was worried about trying to do this on my own and am very, very thankful for his gracious help in getting Ned up and running.

 I have been having a wonderful time learning about my press since they left. It inks up beautifully. The rails had to be taped, as most older presses, in order to get 3/32 stripe on the roller gauge. After about 10 strips of tape I had the 3/32 stripe and was ready to try and pull some prints. My good friend Rhonda came over to check out the press and arrived just in time to take some photos!

My old prop card form
It has simply been AMAZING to have Ned up and running. I have pulled proofs of the standing type from my former "prop" card.  The term “prop” is short for “proprietor,” stressing the individuality of the private press owner and operator, exercising freedom of the press. The prop’s card, or prop card, is akin to a calling card and contains all the pertinent information about the press and the proprietor. It is normally printed on a 3"x5" card which can easily be filed in a card box.

Type form on composing stone
Composing the type for my new prop card has been a real challenge. I decided to try some of the type that came in the Hamilton Cabinet Morris gave me with the press. I selected a font called "Bradley" and began to set the type in my composing stick. When I transferred the type to the stone, it became apparent that I did not have enough of the proper spacing material to make the form lock up tight in the chase for printing.  My goal for the week is to reset this form and pull some good prints.

I am very pleased with the impression I am getting with the press. I have adjusted the packing several times for different cuts I have in house and have had no difficulty getting clear even prints. It is early days yet, and I have so very much to learn, but it is WONDERFUL to have the press working at last. My head is swimming with ideas for projects! I will be patient and gentle on myself, however, and try to learn the proper composing procedure. I am working at keeping my press room tidy-makes it easier to find tools and materials when you need them.

Yesterday I went to Canadian Tire to get my jug of Hand Cleaner and a good stainless steel garbage can, and found one on sale! The hand cleaner is amazing for getting ink and grease completely off your hands at the end of the printing day. It is going to take a while, but I am starting to feel like an apprentice printer again! I have this small poster hanging in my studio that came from The Museum of Printing in North Andover, MA. My goals for being able to print are not to be a truly "fine letterpress printer" but rather to use the type and the press creatively to produce collage printed images of the alphabet for my books. It is going to be a spectacular journey, and I am enjoying the first steps!

My press is nicknamed Ned in honor of my teacher, and my friend, the late Father Edward Michael Catich, the world renown expert on Trajan Letters. Before Father was a priest, he was a signwriter and sometimes trumpet player in Chicago, where he picked up the nickname. He game me my nickname, Sadie, when I studied with him. I thought since he too was a letterpress printer early in his career I would name my first standing floor press after him.

It has been an amazing week here in the Grotto Studio. The snow is starting to melt, we have had some rain, and the flowering bushes that surround our home are beginning to show the tiniest of spring buds. Life is returning to the land. The air smells sweet and damp in the mornings and the redwing blackbirds are signing their song. My heart soars like a hawk when I think about the abundance that has come into my studio with all the materials and equipment that has been brought to me. My creative verve is soaring high, looking towards the sunrise, ready for the new day, with new challenges and work to complete. I look to celebrate this creativity by opening my heart and my hand to those around me who also wish to create and to share.

I know in my heart that through God's great gift of creativity and joy, my understanding of UBUNTO (I am a human being because  belong. I participate. I share.) will grow stronger, and that all will be well, and all will be well, and with the grace of God's holy spirit within us, all will be well.


Saturday, March 3, 2012

LENT and "Taking Up" Making New Books

Inside Front Cover Opening-Standing Book
The latter part off this week I began making new artist's books and also blank journal book structures. A dear friend, Dea Fischer, has published a new DVD , "Handmade Book Essentials." This is a wonderful DVD with basic and some advanced instruction on making folded books, side stitched books, and multiple signature books. You can order the DVD or a download a copy of the DVD from the link above. I have had great fun following the class and making books along with Dea.

Fully open folded book broadside view
 This is my first folded book based on instruction from Dea. It has calligraphic, type stamps, brush watercolour and pen elements. I completed the brush calligraphy and type stamps prior to folding the paper and cutting the pages. I added the pen calligraphy after the final cuts and folds were completed.

This book is intended to either be held in the hand, stood for a display, or laid out open, as a broadside, for viewing. This was a test run for me and I hope to be making more through next week.

Side Stitched Blank Journal, rice paper flyleaf
I have also been working on a book structure that is new to me, the side-stitched open sewn book. This is a marvelous structure for journals, albums, and scrap books. The one shown here is 8.5" x 11". I added silk screened Japanese rice paper to the inside of both covers, and also as an exterior decoration to the front cover. This cover is board and quite sturdy.

I am really am enjoying this particular book structure I will be exploring more forms in the weeks to come. I have posted a slide show here to illustrate my progress.

My creative verve for unique as well as  small edition artist's books is surging through the roof. In particular, I am considering a small letterpress edition of quotes and cuts from my collection, with hand coloured elements. For the next week, however, I will be concentrating on calligraphic folded books, and also some calligraphic side sewn collections of calligraphy illustrated with watercolour images. You can see a sample of Dea's instructional DVD by clicking HERE.

We are ending the first week of Lent tonight. (If you need a crash course in Lent, check out this video from Busted Halo by clicking HERE.) I find Lent and the prayer discipline that comes with it uniquely suited to my workshop practice of making calligraphic books and blank journals. For me Lent is not so much a time of "giving up" but of "taking up" something as part of my prayer practice. This Lent I have taken up trying to be in the studio by 7:00 a.m. every morning for pages and praying online with Sacred Space. I find the quiet of the house, and the heater warming the cool of the grotto studio, welcoming to my writing and praying.

I also am finding the quiet of the early morning conducive to listening to my heart and soul as I pray. Sometimes we can get so busy making sure we get all our own thoughts into our prayers, that we forget to rest a bit, open our hearts and get the wax out of our ears (both physical and spiritual) and listen to what God, in her infinite wisdom, is trying to share with us. In the quiet of the early morning I find that I am more aware than ever that the distance from this world to the next is very thin, and paying attention to that thin-ness is very important in bringing us closer to God.

More than ever, I feel called to create the artist's books and calligraphs that have been living in my heart and head all these years. Each letter I write, each stitch I take for binding, and each book I create and hold in my hand, reminds me that I have been called to do this creative work and to share it with others as my way of sharing my faith in God.

Each breath I take, each stroke I make, reminds me that if we open our hearts to  the infinite creativity, joy, and impassioned love that God wishes to share with us, that all will be well, and all will be well, and with the blessed love of God moving through the thin-ness of eternity, all will be well.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

My Sketchbook Project 2012-I Remember You Ruth & Ken

Cover of completed book
During the last months of 2011 and the first month of 2012 I was completely absorbed in finishing my entry for the Sketchbook Project 2012 put together by the Brooklyn Art Library through Art House Co-op. This project involves selecting a theme and completing work on a book that is sent to you in the mail.

It is a very challenging project as you are limited in terms of media, size, and scope. Once the book is completed it is mailed back to the Brooklyn Art Library where it is digitized and added to their collection. A digital version is posted in their Digital Library. The actual book itself goes on tour for the better part of a year all over the world. People come to view the collection and check out the sketchbooks. Each time someone views a book an email is sent to the artist who created it. I am very excited about receiving notices that people have viewed my book!

I was very intrigued by taking part in this project for several reasons. First and foremost, having an opportunity to have a work I created travel and be seen by people all over the world was very exciting. My hands have created a work of art, an artist's book, that will be touched (hopefully) by a great number of people. I find myself imagining them turning the pages, feeling the texture, absorbing the images, understanding that the distance between each of our souls is very thin.

Secondly, the format of the project-a book-grabbed my heart from the start. I love making works of art that look like books. Books are a means of transferring information, culture, images, in a very personal way. Boorks are also, in my view, the great democratizing agent of the modern world (knowledge is power) as well as being a very personal, individual and tactile experience of that same information, culture, and image of our world around us. The transformation of cultural communication from the oral tradition to early manuscripts into the printed books of the 16th century fascinates me. As a book historian I have studied the method of making and content of books given specifically to women from the 15th century to modern day. In my personal studio work I create artist's books that can at once be "read" through the narrative content of the images and also viewed as a very personal work of art.

In this project my heart was immediately drawn to one of the categories, "I Remember You," which was offered by the project coordinators as a starting point or creative muse for the participants. My only sister died in 1993, and both our parents died in 1994. My first husband died  3 years later in 1997. I have two adult daughters who are building their own lives, but I wonder sometimes that they do not know "all the stories" from our family that they need to know. I am the only one left to tell those stories and keep the memory alive for them. Over the past year since we moved back to Canada I have been going through all my files and putting together a family archive for them, including notes about what each of the documents is or represents.  As an object oriented art historian, I collect information about the method of making for objects in order to place them within the context of making. The same is true of this archive I am assembling. Each small object has a story, and that story places the object within the context of our family story.

There is not a day that goes by that I do not think of my sister and my parents, and my daughter's father. I often wish I knew them at my age now so that I could share all that I have learned since they left this reality. Often, during my prayer time or during my restless sleep at night, I encounter their souls reaching out to me through images and ideas that we shared. This particular Sketchbook Project allowed me to remember my mom and dad, Ruth and Ken, through images of their life when they were happy, healthy, and open to whatever life brought them. This is how I like to remember them to this day.

I designed my project to resemble a 1940's scrapbook. Both of my parents kept scrapbooks when they were in high school, and I still have them. My father was 5 years older than my mother. He graduated from high school, joined the Navy, and went off to serve in World War II, part of what Tom Brokaw of NBC News refers to the "greatest generation." When he returned he started attending the junior college being operated in the high school and met my mother, who was a senior. Nature took its course and they were married two years later.

When I was in junior high my parents showed my sister and I the scrapbooks they kept while in high school and also showed us how to make our own. I still have those books. My sister's scrapbooks have neatly organized pages, with careful labels and neatly cut tape. Not quite so with mine! Each page is a bit of a collage with layers, staples, scotch tape, and paste to hold the pieces of paper and photos in place. It is almost as if I were layering bits and pieces of my life onto the page, with texture and colour to tell the story of those objects which in turn, told the story of my life. Often as I look at them now, I can see precursors of my working method for the artist's books and collages I work on these days in my studio.

My 2012 Sketchbook Project is a reflection of both my parents and their scrapbooks, as well as the ones created by my sister and I so many years ago. Each photo, each piece of ephemera I reproduced and laminated for the book, has an intimate story to tell about our family. However, each photo, each piece of ephemera also has the potential to draw the viewer and their own story into ours. As the viewer moves through the book, they will have an opportunity to remove small laminated photos and objects for closer study, having a more tactile experience with the lives they see represented there.

Working on the project was fun. I disassembled the book mailed to me, and began to reconstruct a working dummy for the project to help me decide what images would go where. I created a form on my Vandercook 01 proof press with the title "I Remember You" and proceeded to make collage prints with three colours on several of the pages of the book.

When doing collage printing I print one colour, then turn the page and re-ink the form to print the second colour while the first colour is still wet. I also wanted to have an "off print" from the letterpress pages onto some of the facing pages in the book, harkening back to the scrapbooks I made when I was young.

As I printed each of these sheets, they hung in the studio to dry overnight.

Stages of Collage Printing
This project, and the folks I have met through the Art House Co-op website, are inspiring to me. Textures and colours, photos and ephemera are uniting not only in my head but in my studio production in ways I could never have imagined. I am very excited about two more sketchbook-like projects that I am working on  now in the studio. These involve more colour and calligraphic text than this particular project.

This project has also reminded me how important the stories of our lives and the lives of our families are, not only to us, but to our greater community. It is through the sharing of stories, I think, that we begin to discover our spiritual self. The stories we live and the stories we tell to others are the fabric of our lives that give us strength and courage when we need it the most.

Making this wee book these past months has reminded me of the hundreds of stories my parents told me about their early lives. When they told me those stories I could not understand the full impact they would have on me at the age I am now (56) or how not being able to discuss them with my parents at this more mature age would affect me. However, remembering those stories warms my heart and soul, and helps me to continue to be connected to them in ways I still don't quite understand.

One thing is for sure, when we tell all our stories, we celebrate the miracle of our journey, and this helps us to know that all will be well, and all will be well, and with the grace and peace of God in our telling, all will be well.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

I'm all right, I'M ALL RIGHT!

Ned cleaned, oiled and ready to print!
I have been away from my blog since we installed "Ned" my new 8x12 Challenge Gordon Press in the studio.  The final part of the installation is adjusting the rollers and platen. For these tasks I need a roller gauge, a tool I do not have in my studio. Fortunately, John Fallstrom in New England, The Gordon Press Curator for The Museum of Printing in North Andover, MA, has created a new tool that helps the printer to adjust both the rollers and the platen. The photos below illustrate how this tool works. I am hoping to have mine in hand by midweek so I can set the press and get printing!

The complete tool on the left; the "lollypop" for rollers; the platen height gauges.

You can email John through the email link in his name above. He has posted detailed instructions on how to use this handy little tool on Briar Press, click here to see this discussion. It is made of brass and delrin so there is nothing to rust or corrode. I am very thankful that John has created this tool and is willing to sell them to people who need them! My first printing project is my new "Prop Card" for Ducks In A Row Press.

Tony Kris, Paul, Irma, Emma, Anne, Emily
Christmas Holidays were full of praise for the incarnation and joy of family from the states with us for the first time in over a year. I made 6 pies on Christmas Day and thought of my mother, Ruthie, who died n 1994.  Emma came from Ottawa on Christmas Eve, my daughters Emily and Kris, and Kristin's boyfriend Tony drove up from New Hampshire on Christmas Day. On "Boxing Day" Paul and Anne arrived with their parents, Gord and Denise, and François' mom Irma. We had a marvelous dinner together and shared stories and board games.

Prior to the Christmas Holidays I was busy in the studio working on a couple of large broadsides for friends who wanted to give them as gifts to loved ones. This is one, "Alpha and Omega" that includes both brush and pen calligraphy work as well as gold leaf, Hebrew stamps, and Chinese "Chops" images.

My Roman Brush writing of the Trajan Alphabet needs a great deal of work. It is my hope in the coming months to spend part of my studio day working on perfecting Trajan again as I prepare to make slate inscriptions.

Library corner of my studio
As I putter in the studio this morning, I am conscious of the need  to arrange my space again, prepare the nest for a creative surge. My life in the last month or more has been consumed with housewifery and family duties, which I enjoyed. Now however, I feel the grotto calling with even more urgency that when we were installing Ned in his new home. I have two artist's books editions that need attention for sewing and binding. And of course, there is Ned to tend to and adjust, and get printing again.

I am filled with great joy and thanksgiving for the abundance in our lives. We have a wonderful home with a warm fire each day, beautiful snow draped trees and shrubbery around us, and a magnificent studio, filled with all the tools, supplies, and equipment I could ever ask for, that is calling to me each day. My mind reaches back to the movie "It's A Wonderful Life," a family favorite over the holidays. In one scene a rather intoxicated Uncle Billy heads home and runs into a few garbage cans, but calls out " I'm all right, I'M ALL RIGHT!".

This morning as I think about my creative verve, and all that God has given to me, I know that I'm all right, I'M ALL RIGHT! and that all will be well, and all will be well, and with the peace and grace of God's incarnation in our lives, all will be well.