Archive for April, 2007

I Do Has Itz!

April 30, 2007 at 5:34 pm Leave a comment

Anyone Want to Play?

I always post these interactive things on Fridays, which is just stupid because – as we all know – no one reads Xanga on Fridays. Oh well. Maybe I make up for it by not being online on the weekends, so you have three days to get to it.

Anyway… I was surprised to see how many comments I got that indicated that people would like to try to make a book, or had done so in the past, etc.. Then, I read a posting on a forum I recently joined. The administrator, a talented book artist with a great blog, is throwing a bookmaking “challenge,” one that sounds very accessible to people with a wide range of skills, as well as really fun. The forum is pretty new, and I was thinking that it might be fun for y’all to give the challenge a shot and maybe bring some new life into the discussion.

Here’s the challenge:

Create a journal with a travel themed cover. Just create a blank journal with the cover done in some type of theme that represents travel. Then post a photo of your book and a short description of your technique in this thread. The challenge will run starting May 1 through May 31.

You’ll have to register with the forum, which is free, before accessing that thread.

Okay, so before you say “I don’t know how to make a book,” let me tell you how easy it is to learn. First off, there are lots of great free online tutorials (most of which are PDFs, some of which are easier than others to follow) out there:

If they have them at your local library, I highly recommend either of these two books for ideas and easy-to-follow instruction:

You can also look in the craft section of the children’s library for some great bookmaking resources.

Not to mention, who cares about previously engineered bookforms? I basically made up my form for Anderson’s Grimoire – and I’ll tell you what, a big part of my motivation for doing so was that I kind of suck at the established stuff. I totally encourage you to experiment and play around with making pages stick together. And who’s to say that a nice spiral binding isn’t exactly what your travel journal needs?

So what do you think? Wanna come out and play with me? It would make this SO much more fun if some of my friends were playing along. 🙂

April 27, 2007 at 5:36 pm Leave a comment

Other Donkey Man Books

And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for: the other Donkey Man books!

It’s hard, I’ve found, to adequately write about artists’ books. They tend to be exceptionally tactile, so photographs rarely do them justice. Many of them are complete organisms, and if you look at only a page or two you’ll completely miss the point and impact of the message. Some make great sounds when you turn the pages. How am I supposed to share that with you online?

Eh. Pass the cheese, this wine needs a little something.

Going in alphabetical order, and skipping my own book, I present you with the ENGL 509 Donkey Man Book Exhibit of Extremely Photogenic Artists’ Books!

I Remember by Brooke Burton


I Remember is presented in a flocked satin folio wrapped in a lush satin cord. It takes some (calculated) effort to open it.


The book within is composed of a single altered photograph, replicated, and hand-cut…


…to create a tunnel which gradually eliminates the man and zooms in on the donkey.


The text is spare, showing – in increasingly agitated script – the narrator’s damaged relationship with her father. I liked this book in that it could be read in at least three words: at face value as a nice remembrance of a parent, at a deeper level as a stifled condemnation of the father as an ass, or through a Freudian-sexual lens tying in the text, imagery, odd appendages cut into the “frame” cover, and the slightly erotic nature of the outer cords. Also, this book offered up the opportunity for a full ten minutes of naughty innuendo, some of which went unnoticed, which amused this blogger disproportionately.

Photographs by Kim Labrum


Photographs is made from a like-new antique photo album, distressed and altered to replicate the subject’s actual photo albums.


The book includes prints of Anderson’s photos, including some of the ones that he doctored – with some skill, but plainly obvious (and funny) to contemporary eyes – as well as a number that Kim doctored herself in the style of Anderson.


The photos and pages are distressed within an inch of their life, and any abuse they may suffer at readers’ hands only adds to the effect. The large picture to the right in the above image is one where Kim, following Anderson’s tendencies, pasted an out-of-context American Indian into a photograph. This provides a lot of good opportunity for inside jokes.


The only source of text in Photographs is a letter to the author from a relative who has “found” one of Anderson’s lost albums and sent it along as a curio. The book is a fun hide-and-seek game of catching the doctored images (and discerning Kim’s work from Anderson’s, if you’re familiar with the latter) and a fine little commentary on Anderon’s artistic dishonesty. The idea of putting this falsified album in with Anderon’s actual things, and seeing if future book arts classes catch on, is very tempting.

Tergiversate by Sarah Lenz


“Tergiversate” means to turn ones back, as if to run away or flee.


This is a form called a flag book, which is – as I discovered – very fun to play with. It was almost like a slinky in book form.


One side of each flag has a portion of a photograph, while the other tells the parallel stories of Anderson’s first wife and oldest son leaving him.


On the reverse side of the accordian fold is Anderson, who – as an abusive personality – is pivotal to the upheaval in his family members’ lives. This book is not only great in that it draws parallels between two distant events in Anderson’s life but in the fact that it pulls together the verbal and the aesthetic so well. Sarah puts fledgling Photoshop skills to good use and has what looks to me like flawless technical execution as well. Pretty darn good for her first book!

Behind Anderson’s Camera by Earl Swopes


Behind Anderson’s Camera is presented in a wooden box covered with actual camera leather. The pull tab releases a fold-out section.


The book is almost like a museum exhibit. One panel includes a short biography of J.F. Anderson, and another talks about the kind of camera Anderson used. A third panel talks about the process of taking photographs using this kind of camera. The fourth text block is the colophon.


When the panels are folded back together, they form a replica of the camera, using photographs of the actual camera Anderson used. Apparently it was quite the ordeal to get the pictures just right, but the end result is fascinating.


Completing the interactive aspect of the book, the rear panel opens to illustrate how the pictures were developed. Photographs are included in a vellum “glass” case so that the reader can experience the sensation of pulling the photograph out of the camera, just as Anderson would have done. This is a beautiful work, and the expense Earl went to in creating it definitely shows and pays off. Very informative and engaging.

We’re waiting on one last book, and it will be interesting to see how the sixth member of our motley crew tackles this subject. I think it’s so interesting to see how people with different backgrounds can take the same story and the same photographs and come up with such completely different end results. It’s total creative playtime for growed-ups.

Regarding my own book, I think it went over well. I am continually surprised at my own inability to vocally explain my own work – I always just draw a blank, even after spending the past several hours thinking and writing about it. Hope I didn’t look like a total dope. If you’ve ever been unfortuante enough to be a person who is reading one of my stories you’ll know that I crave the experience of hearing other people analyse and critique my work, so I was a tiny bit disappointed to not get more of that in classroom discussion. (Not that I’d ever get enough of it to really be satisfied. I’m a total egotist in that way, I guess.) I did get some good tips for aging the paper if I want to try it, though.

::shrug:: I hope they liked it. I like it.

Well, anyway, there you are! Aren’t they fantastic? What do you think?

April 26, 2007 at 4:23 pm 1 comment

Anderson’s Grimoire, Part Two

It worked.

Eh – let me try that again.


My harebrained binding scheme actually worked. Anderson’s Grimoire is no longer just an idea in my head, it’s an ACTUAL BOOK.

I’m so excited about this, it’s as if this was my first bookwork. I just finished showing it to my first third-person viewer (family doesn’t count) and she loved it. I can’t wait to share it with my class and see what they have to say.

Oh, let’s just get this over with: SQUEEEE. (Deep breath.)

Okay, now maybe I can actually write.

When I was a kid, I got very hung up on things turning out Just Right. I would design and/or engineer things in my mind, but my technical abilities never measured up to my grand schemes. Consequently, I would get extremely frustrated. We’re talking throwing things at the everloving walls frustrated. (I was a charming child.) As I grew up I learned to control my frustration, and with time I was able to flush it out of my system. Now, when I’m creating, I take a much more “zen” approach to things. If I can’t find the exact right supply, if something doesn’t fit exactly right, if I have to abandon my initial idea and try a different approach, it’s all good. It’s just the way it’s going to be, and that may – and usually does – turn out for the better. It’s a much more relaxing way to be, and my artistic impulses are glad to have the room to stretch their legs without the confining chains of perfectionism.

I went home last night and put all of the photos into each text block. Some of them were a little bit too large – they fit, but ran really close to the edge – but yeah, zen, remember?


And finally I bit the bullet and began sewing my book together. (Did I mention that IT WORKED!!?)


Next slide, please.

The final product. I had envisioned a wilder, fuller “mane” of fibers coming off the spine, but I’m much happier with what I ended up with:


Detail of the binding:


An example page spread, showing the antique spectacles (although not on the right page… wtf):


Almost every page has an artifact. They include, in no particular order:

  • gold-filled eyeglasses
  • rusted square nail
  • woman’s kid leather glove
  • handmade lace
  • goose feathers
  • one of Anderon’s business cards
  • census record showing Anderson, wife, and two children in St. Maries, ID, in 1920
  • forged iron key
  • dried lavender

The business card and census records are scans of originals printed on aged paper. The key is a reproduction, and the feathers and lavender are contemporary. Everything else is an authentic antique from that approximate time period.

I’m experimenting with online albums so that those of you who are interested can see more and larger photos – even read the text, I think. Click on the little box below to check it out. If you don’t see a little box, or if clicking it does you no good, you are probably behind a firewall. Let me know if it works, too, okay? I haven’t tested it.

Donkey Man

I really think I pulled this off. The creepiness, the primitive quality – everything is just like I imagined it, only better. It’s very tactile, very time-controlled.

If you have the time – and I know it’s not the same, but I’m here and you’re there – go to the album and read the book (hopefully the pics are large enough) and let me know what you think. One caveat: I’m past “that point,” so if you catch a typo or something just don’t tell me. 🙂 The text is deliberately messy – I chose the rottenest functional typewriter I could for that purpose.

And, lest we forget: SQUEEEE.

April 24, 2007 at 4:26 pm Leave a comment

Anderson’s Grimoire, Part One

Howard Anderson only told his story once.

There are six of us in the graduate-level Defense Against the Book Arts class, and we are all doing a “Donkey Man” book for this Wednesday. To make a long story shorter, the Donkey Man was an itinerant photographer in northern Idaho at the turn of the century (the last century, not this one) whose donkeys helped him get business because kids wanted their pictures with the animals. We were each given a short bio of the man, written by his son (and by “bio” I really mean a ramble of almost connected information punctuated with some tantalizing details) and a selection of his photographs. We could then do ANYTHING with that, as long as we could tie it back to the source material. We could use the source material or not, could limit ourselves to what we knew, could take wild flights of fancy inspired by the stuff. Anything. Subject, format, all up to us.

Bookmaking is a very organic process for me, so I didn’t try to force the story. (Bookworks, or artists’ books, are kind of the place where art and literature collide. With my English background, I tend to focus more on the story aspect rather than the art aspect, so the story usually comes first.) I spent some time shuffling through the Donkey Man’s photographs, letting them soak into my consciousness.




51 1910

13[Howard and May 1917]

57 first home Jan

Some of them stuck in my mind’s eye, chief amongst them the wide-angle shot of the empty living room. The distortion of the lens gave the picture a creepy quality that seemed to rub off on all of the other images. A story began to brew in my mind, a story of evil and magic, of poor impulse control and short temper. It was a dark story, one that painted the Donkey Man – who was probably a very nice man – in an entirely different light.

Once the story had germinated, the physical structure came close behind. I wanted to create a book as auratic object – something that held, or seemed to hold, a mystical or symbolic power. I mentally engineered a book with velvet and satin covers, wildly bound with a crazy mane of fibers and beads – pages of thick paper – that old book smell – typewritten!

It took me six hours straight to write the 1,200-word story. I wrote three different drafts, each time fighting the impulse to write too much – more book than bookwork. I wanted it to be even more spare than it turned out, but this was as tight as I could get it. I pulled inspiration for the voice of the story from old memoirs from Ryan’s ancestors, books I’d read as a child about the Oregon Trail, and – perhaps moreso than anything else – the physical sensation of composing via typewriter. Sure, my machine is probably from the 1970s, but forcing myself to slow down as I typed had an effect.

Now I have two text blocks, four covered book boards, and the makings of two complete books. I’m anxious to bind tonight – “anxious” being used both in the positive and the negative sense. I’ve created this hybrid binding in my mind and I have no real idea whether or not it will work. Yeah, I probably should have done a dummy first. But that’s not how I roll. 🙂

By this time on Wednesday – hopefully by this time tomorrow – I will have at least one copy of Anderson’s Grimoire: A Forgotten History of Idaho in hand. And I’m really, really excited. (That’s my subtle way of telling you to look out for photoblogs in the next day or so.)

April 23, 2007 at 6:27 pm Leave a comment

Don’t I Wish!

Today is Drop Everything And Read Day. I think this may be my new favorite holiday!

I’ve got three books at home that I’m reading, another book burning a hole in my bookshelf, and very little desire to be productive – hey wait! I’ve also got a nine-hour bus trip starting this afternoon! Maybe I can celebrate after all. Whooooooo!

It’s Beverly Cleary’s birthday. She – with Ramona Q. – sponsors D.E.A.R. day. Everytime I feel nauseated, the scene in Ramona Quimby Age 8 where she tries to will herself not to vomit by trying to keep completely still plays through my mind. My alter-ego, QBobicus, grew from Ramona’s Q-cat concept. Those books played a disproportionately large part in the creation of my mental playspace.

Raise your hand if you shared Ramona Quimby’s world!


April 12, 2007 at 5:39 pm 1 comment

Fun Things


I actually have a book very similar to On Becoming a Woman; I’ll have to see if I can’t track it down and share some of the choice bits.

For the man or woman who just wants a comfy chair and a good book. Long-time readers will remember the world’s coolest – and perhaps most expensive – bookcase; its makers, perhaps remembering everyone’s favorite Groucho Marx quote, also have this offering for the reader who has everything. I’m not sure if I’d love or loathe a gigantic bookworm, but you’ve got to admire its lines.

April 11, 2007 at 5:41 pm Leave a comment

Umm… Nope

My enormously awesome sister found (clipped, and laminated) the Best Comic Ever for me. I found it online and have to share. Why? Because I love it THAT MUCH. And no, I did not edit so much as a name nor a hair follicle. It CAME THAT WAY.

April 9, 2007 at 5:43 pm Leave a comment

Kind of Like Bookworks

“Plath makes strange what should be familiar — which is, after all, a central task of poetry.” (Emily Nussbaum, New York Times)

April 2, 2007 at 5:49 pm Leave a comment

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April 2007