Thursday, November 13, 2014

School book fair shows books far from dead

Here's the shoulder-to-shoulder scene at the recent sale in our neighborhood school. The kids came in jostling and shouting, then settled in to flip and browse pages even while they were buffeted by the book-loving crowd. Long live book lovers, long live books.

The sale last week at the Northeast Community Center also went well. I love watching people meet Japanese chiyogami paper for the first time and experience the tactile joy that comes from making contact with something—say, a handbound portfolio or archival clamshell box—made to last so long it easily becomes an heirloom. One customer explained his purchase thus: "I have to get this because every time I see it it'll make me smile." It makes me smile, too, thinking how the happiness multiplies.

This week I delivered a long-planned commission, which commemorates a life cut short. Hopefully the stories inside—wrapped in life-affirming colors—offer solace and enduring memories.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Smart Santas save the date

Early next month the Northeast Community Center rounds up local artisans for its annual wide-ranging craft fair featuring goods of all kinds. My chiyogami-covered boxes (bottom left) even made the promo postcard!

The event runs 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 7, with wine, cheese, and music, and continues 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 8.

See you there.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The real bookbinding season begins

As the leaves swirl around us and temperatures slide, I look forward to the rainy days ahead, when it's easy to focus on work in the studio. Aside from completing a long-awaited commission, I'm creating wares to meet everyone's holiday needs.

Come check them out for yourself at the show at the Northeast Community Center, which runs 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 7, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 8, at 1630 N.E. 38th Ave. I might bring some of my limited-edition books, too. This steadily evolving art fair also brings out the neighborhood woodworkers, watercolor artists, and soft-sculpture artisans, among others, for an incredibly varied outlay. Part of the proceeds benefit the facility.

Grain arrives by train. Shyla's not shy.

Most of my photos are stuck in limbo between two computers, so for now I go off-topic in presenting art for this post: views of the Kalama Export grain terminal in Southern Washington. Usually you can't access the site without a grain train or a barge in tow, but a special opportunity came to take a tour and, as a lifelong industrialist, I got on board and snapped away. Herewith: The Art of Kalama Export.

Rail and conveyors move the goods around.

When taggers get bored

A couple of other visitors come looking for nibbles.

Wheat piles up beneath our feet.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Tables made of paper (sort of)

Much of what I bind ends up covered in chiyogami, that righteous (and sometimes riotous) famous paper of Japan. I love how multiple motifs can work their way onto a sheet, and yet the design still exemplifies chic Japanese style. What could be chaos reads as calming complexity.

Long a fan of unique small pieces of furniture picked up at resales around town, I often bemoan their damaged tops, from water usually or simply decades of scraping and placing. I never got around to refinishing the furniture properly, but then it hit me, How about chiyogami? It looks stunning on books; what of the other plain or damaged surfaces in our lives?

First I cleaned the tabletop for a good seal, sandpapered the rough spots, then applied a piece of precisely cut chiyogami using wheat paste. Over that I spread another coat of wheat paste, then several layers of finish from the hardware store. Voilà—chiyogami furniture.

Tabletop detail of chiyogami pattern

Thus emboldened, I took on a larger piece.

Tabletop detail of chiyogami pattern

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Scripps College Press rolls with the decades

At reunion last month, I attended a presentation at the Scripps College Press, where years ago I took the typography class that would shape my life. My class had just five students, all working in a dark, cramped pressroom adjacent to Denison Library. No more. Now the press has a bright space many times larger, one that fits four proof presses plus all the type and a binding area.

Our class was among the first to produce a limited-edition book in one semester. Teacher Kitty Maryatt's still at it, now with more students and a ready audience including 58 standing patrons for the wide-ranging works that issue. It's hard enough for me to produce a book a year, and these students must come in collaborating from the get-go: within weeks of deciding their subject, they're hard at writing, proofreading, and printing. Naturally, the task of binding arrives at the busiest time of the year. Here's to you, Ms. Maryatt, and all the books you've helped bring into being.

Now for a visual recap of the presentation:

Kitty Maryatt, director of the Scripps College Press, showcases a limited-edition book produced by the typography class.

Ms. Maryatt plumbed the archive for the reunion tour.

Arch focuses on women in architecture, and stands on its own.

This semester's work in progress.

Frederic W. Goudy designed a typeface for the college, underwritten by the Class of 1941. The press puts on an annual lecture in his honor.

Books start here, with type set by hand. I still know the California job case by heart.

Vandercook envy anyone?

Type set on the bed.

Typesetters of old-time lead learn to read backwards.

All limited edition, all the time.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

American manufacturing is on the decline? Not at Ma Nao Books

Let's make books.

Many deadlines have converged, so that as I round up the art for the manuscript, I'm also remaking the models in the book and finishing some commissions. The studio hums. What I love about bookbinding is how low-impact it is—just a few tools and some paper and you're ready to roll. So long as you recycle the paper and bookboard scraps, it's also waste-free and carbon neutral.

The rest is all in your hands.

In verifying measurements and methods, I return often to one of my primary sources: the journals that I kept while learning Chinese bookbinding in Beijing. This little spiral ring notebook went everywhere with me and over the months grew fat with lessons, intrigue, adventure, and appreciation of the Middle Kingdom.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

For an artist, it's the best kind of hang-up

A chance to show, that is.

Along with fellow Artspace artists Brita Gould and Gay Mitchell, I have work at the ITT Center, 811 N.W. 19th Ave. The art stays up through May.

I enjoyed converting a blank ho-hum space such as this:

into this:

When not hanging, I'm rounding up artwork for the manuscript, and lucked upon this video of the Chinese cave where a massive treasure trove of old books was found around 1900. It's in Mandarin, but the footage shows the camera got to go where visitors normally can't in the far-west town perched on the edge of the Gobi.

Among the tens of thousands of manuscripts piled within the cave was the oldest, dated, printed book in the world, the Diamond Sutra (a scroll dated 868 A.D.). Considering all the indignities it has suffered in the name of "conservation" over the decades (bleach and cello tape among them), it's a wonder it has survived this long. 

The Diamond Sutra—still shining after all these centuries.