“Creative Heaven” is the only way to describe this September’s New Works session at Haystack School of Crafts in Deer Isle, Maine. Anyone who has ever taught at this idylic craft school along the Maine coastline can add their name to the lottery for a spot in the 3-day session. Participants are sumpuously fed, housed, and welcomed to work in any studio they wish. Some artists continue work on ongoing projects; others try completely new media.
I decided to forsake my usual work with books and paper to try my hand at metalworking on both a small and large scale. I set up shop in the Small Metals studio to make some jewelry bezels, then was given a welding lesson in the Metals and Blacksmithing shop. I also sat in on one writing session conducted by Alison Hawthorne Deming, who managed to get a whole group of visual artists creating poetry. It’s amazing how much work is done in such a short space of time, but with no chores or distractions, artists can concentrate exclusively on their work. Plus, the social exchange that takes place in the studios, over meals, and in the evenings after dinner is one of the most rewarding aspects of the whole experience.
This Sunday I presented a mentor workshop at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, with sixteen teens ages 13 to 16 in attendence. We started with a hands-on session on paper engineering, and everyone designed their own pop-up cards. The results were lively dimensional illustrations of everything from faces, to room interiors and landscape scenes. After a snack break, everyone went to the museum library for a viewing of the current show of artists’ books. I ended the workshop with a showing of my own books, including and in-the-dark look at my lighted book, “Five Luminous Towers, a Book to be Read in the Dark.”
Collector Daveen Herley
- Larry Rakow’s magic lantern presentation
NMWA book exhibit
This year’s Movable Book Conference was held in home territory, so it was easy for me to attend. A group over fifty book artists, paper engineers, movable book collectors and enthusiasts met for two days of lectures, viewings, book sales, and a visit to the National Museum of Women in the Arts where an exhibit of artists’ books was on display. Among the notables in attendance were Matthew Rhinehart who won this year’s Meggendorfer prize for paper engineering, Robert Sabuda, Andy Baron, Emily Martin and Ed Hutchins. One of the highlights for me was Larry Rakow’s magic lantern presentation that included several illuminated glass slides with moving images. Daveen Herley was kind enough to bring a selection of 19th-century movable books from her historic collection for everyone to see. And many thanks goes to Ann Montanaro, the founder of the Movable Book Society, for making the conference possible.
This past weekend was a busy one in Vermont, where I was working with members of the Vermont Book Arts Guild to hand assemble a hundred prototype copies of the Studio Protector Artist’s Guide to Emergencies. An interactive emergency-preparedness wall piece that is being produced by the Craft Emergency Relief Fund, the Studio Protector includes a two-sided volvelle (rotating paper wheel) along with numerous pockets for cards and pull-out folders outlining how artists should ready themselves for emergencies and what they should do when disaster strikes. The final production will be done in China, but these copies will serve as fundraising and test pieces.
In conjunction with the actual production work, I gave the group tips on streamlining the book assembly process, making jigs and templates, and choosing tools and materials for making large editions.
The weekend wasn’t all work. Elissa Campbell, a member of CERF’s staff, was kind enough to escort me to several Vermont points of interest, including the Ben and Jerry’s factory in Waterbury and the historic Hope Cemetery in Barre, Vermont.
Of course, the attraction at Ben and Jerry’s is the ice cream. We had an amusing tour of the facilities, ate some of the production, and strolled the grounds. Here I am alongside the Ben and Jerry’s Cowmobile bus.
Hope Cemetery in Barre is noted for its beautifully carved and sometimes eccentric tombstones. Barre, the “Granite Capital of the World,” is home to master carvers who emmigrated from Europe, many of whom were Italians who came during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The carvings in the older section of the cemetary are amazing, with floral and scrolled flourishes. But it’s the more recent headstones that make this cemetery so interesting. Many are riffs on the deceased’s interests and hobbies: a soccer ball, a race car, an ice fishing scene, an airplane, all carved into hard, beautiful, grey-white stone. Aside from meeting a group of people who share my interest in bookmaking, the cemetery was the highlight of the trip.
After a three-year hiatus in Brussels with her family, Eleni is back as my apprentice and enrolled in 6th grade. She’s working on new projects in the studio, getting ready to design several V-fold illustrations for Volume 3 of The Pocket Paper Engineer.
Eleni is joined by her younger brother Peter, age 8, who is working on developing some pop-ups of his own under his older sister’s tutelage.