Thursday, July 20, 2017

Has your summer had enough art?

Take a chance on a summer destination—say, Portland's
Pioneer Courthouse Square on July 29—you'll never
know what you'll find, just maybe not this Montana totem.

Before heading out to check on the purple mountain majesties of the home territory, I'll make one more big urban outing for the summer: to party down with independent authors participating in the Northwest Book Festival, running from 10 to 4:30 Saturday, July 29, in Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square, 701 S.W. Sixth Ave.

I'll have on hand my presentation showing the nine biggest milestones in bookbinding, starting in China and ending with Gutenberg, plus models to show the evolution of the world's most durable and sustainable communications device.

Oh, yes, and you can buy a copy of China Under the Covers: A Binder's Journey to the Roots of Books, there as well. Handsome discounts for iced coffee!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Chinese bookbinding—now you can bank on it

From now through September 30, drop by the Umpqua Bank branch at 4335 Northeast Fremont Street here in Portland, Oregon, for a hands-on history lesson in the world's oldest communications device. 

As part of Umpqua's Local Spotlight program, neighborhood entrepreneurs are encouraged to display their wares at the bank's branches. Who else better to illustrate my book's months in the spotlight than Scott Nasburg, who designed the cover for China Under the Covers? Using milestones in the history of books (the last involves Gutenberg), we put together a visual parade showing the evolution of this tidy, durable, and oh-so-appealing format.

You can actually buy copies of my book there, too, which has already come a long way in the six months since its release. I haven't put the marketing plan into full gear yet, but so far the book has done a great job of selling itself.

As The Seattle Review of Books noted during the book's rousing Kickstarter campaign:

"This is exactly the kind of book a large publisher would find a tremendous risk, but is perfect for Kickstarter. It proves there’s a market, and it proves there’s interest in stories this personal, interesting, and specific."

Monday, May 15, 2017

It's increasingly all in the image

Some web updates are way overdue, so I've been neglecting this blog, lately focusing in on whether my new personal site should star this pic on the splash page (by Dale Bennett, photographer and tanguero extraordinaire):


or this (admittedly, one of the cover-idea outtakes for China Under the Covers):


Or maybe it should be this (by Katrina Van Heest, photographer and editor extraordinaire):


I ponder these design questions while taking regular trips to the post office to further disperse China Under the Covers, now halfway through its first printing.

I'm thrilled the book now has international distribution in the U.K. with Alan Isaac Rare Books and the Netherlands with Lidy Schoonens Boeken. Aside from Oak Knoll Books, stateside you will very soon be able to order from Washi Arts and in Oregon get your hands on copies at the upcoming Focus on Book Arts in Forest Grove. Of course, you can always PayPal me through the links at top right above, too.

Ready for a lesson in bookbinding history?
Photo by Denise Szott

Above all, the best marketing (or better: connecting) occurs in person. What a joy it was to sign books and give my Chinese-bookbinding spiel as the last formal event held at 23 Sandy Gallery, where for 10 years books took center stage.

My cheater timeline covers 1,000-plus years of book history
 and ends with Gutenberg. Photo by Margaret S. Davis

Photo by Margaret S. Davis

Photo by Margaret S. Davis

Me and my ma, biggest book lover of all. Photo by Denise Szott

Thursday, April 20, 2017

True to type, letterpress crowd springs into action


Come on out to watch some prints steamrolled, take in booky and print demos, sample free kombucha, and browse the work of fine printers as part of Design Week Portland. I'm at Table 33 and look forward to seeing you Sunday!

Laura Russell (in black and white) announced earlier this month
that her 23 Sandy Gallery will close May 27 after 10 fruitful
years of presenting book art from all over.

If you can't make it Sunday, save the date Saturday, May 6, for a book signing for China Under the Covers: A Binder's Journey to the Roots of Books at 23 Sandy, 623 NE 23rd Ave., three doors north of Sandy.

Gallery owner Laura Russell recently announced she's closing the place effective May 27 after 10 years of spotlighting books in all their forms and masterminding well-curated and -presented shows.


Returning to the spring theme—this is the tree flowering
outside 23 Sandy. Visit it, too.
Russell has done so much for our scene, and we'll miss her bright showcase of creativity off Northeast Sandy Boulevard, but she still plans to curate exhibitions and support the field and hopefully will have time to do more work of her own.

May 6 brings another
chance to get some
hands on book history.
The gallery may be closing but other paths, and books, are opening. Come on out for a last look at a unique, special place; enjoy the current show (Built: Book Art & Architecture—how much better can it get?); handle my passel of Chinese book models; and/or simply say hello (or ni hao).

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Ma Nao Books goes underground

We moved last year, and most of the studio fixings remain in boxes. The book got in the way of home improvement, much less unpacking fully. At last I made the makeover, transforming a day-lit basement with brittle tile underfoot, tepid brown walls, and a dirty ceiling:

new studio for Ma Nao Books in Portland, Oregon (before)

into several hundred square feet of light-filled environs just awaiting occupants and their creativity.

Along with new flooring, lots of paint, and awesome curtains by my mom, the new studio for Ma Nao Books promises to present more fine editions, custom work, and bookbinding workshops—everything the old place had except the tango (and that practica relaunches next week, upstairs).

new, improved studio for Ma Nao Books (after)

Strike up the band—and the book press.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

East-west connections captured in Codex

Book designer Lu Jingren (above, below) makes a splash at Codex.



Earlier this month, books—and their makers—took center stage in the Bay Area for Codex, the global draw for binders, collectors, and just plain admirers of the world's oldest communications device.

This time the biennial happening took as its theme "the art of the book in China," so even though I've been meaning to attend Codex for years, this particular edition proved irresistible. With boxes of my mass-produced trade paperback China Under the Covers in tow (the irony), I roamed the lanes of the Craneway Pavilion in Richmond, ogling handsomely printed tomes (one was $18,000) in languages from French to Chinese and Italian to Hebrew, hand-bound and lovingly presented.

Codex exhibitors show how books take many forms.

From the first slide on, noted and prolific Chinese book designer Lu Jingren gave a gleeful overview of his oeuvre, both at the Codex Symposium and then at a reception at the Book Club of California, which I've always longed to visit. At the symposium we also heard about Diamond Leaves, a massive Beijing book exhibition that brought the spotlight to a heretofore neglected field.

I came home abuzz about books, and with two retailers recruited to carry China Under the Covers. You can still order copies direct from me at the links listed in the next post, or click on over to Oak Knoll Books, which specializes in "books about books." C'mon, you know you want some.

Attendees of Lu Jingren's talk get
a feel for modern Chinese books.

Friday, January 27, 2017

It's here

Years in the making, China Under the Covers enjoyed a successful soft launch through the Kickstarter platform and now heads out to the wider world. For a copy, click here if shipping to a U.S. address. For international orders, click here.

For the PayPal-averse, send a $30 check to Ma Nao Books, P.O. Box 12383, Portland, OR 97212.

Now enjoy this eye candy courtesy cover designer Scott Nasburg (who also did the technical illustrations and lots of photography inside):