Posts filed under ‘Learning’

It’s Raining Books, Hallelujah!

The Book Fairy has been hanging around my house lately, waving her magic wand and making books appear in my mailbox. It’s like Christmas, only booky, and really hot outside! (Well, except for today, which is rainy.)

First, my Buddy Rabbit (hee hee, I came up with a new goofy nickname for you!) sent me Kelley Armstrong’s Stolen, the sequel to Bitten. I haven’t yet read the first one; at first I was holding off because I was fiddling around with a piece of werewolf fiction and didn’t want to taint myself, and then I got into a heavy work and school load and had to heavily curtail my pleasure reading. Anyway, I was so excited to get book #2 that I had to physically restrain myself from starting book #1.

Then, over the weekend, book #3 showed up. Broken, in which – the back cover reveals – the world’s only known female werewolf discovers she is pregnant. Buddy Rabbit, you are the devil herself! I don’t know how much longer I can resist the lure of this juicy trio of paperback goodness.:)

(Am I the only person who finds the cover art on the first two books really amusing? How much is that illustrator getting paid, anyway?)

Those who know and love me know that I’m a sucker for that particular vein of fantasy (currently quite popular, to my eternal downfall) that combines strong women, sexy mythologically-inspired costars, mystery, and humor – the Charlaine Harris/Katie MacAlister/Kelley Armstrong sort of books. Total crack – SO much fun, so (hypothetically) bad for me. And did you know that Katie has a blog? I haven’t yet figured out the first thing to say to her, but I love knowing that the person who created the devestatingly addictive Aisling Grey books is a real person with a (gasp) Livejournal. 🙂

The fun didn’t stop there. This morning as I was leaving for work, I noticed a nondescript manila envelope on the mantle, postmarked from Virginia. I promised myself I’d wait until my lunch break to open it, but my resolve proved weak. Jackie of TJBookArts (and the Book Arts Forum, which you should TOTALLY join if you make books or are interested in doing so) sent me a fascinating book: The Bookbinder in Eighteenth-Century Williamsburg: An Account of his Life & Times, & of his Craft. I can’t wait to sit down with it… it’s only 32 pages long, so it actually might get read before July. No promises, though – I’ve got seven weeks left in which to master educational psychology and classroom management… whoo hoo!

UPDATE: ::Squee!:: Did anyone around here know that Emma Bull had a blog? You did? And you didn’t tell me? Shame on you.

May 21, 2007 at 9:24 am 1 comment

Ten Books

classroom edition

Well, I finished my classroom edition. Ten copies of Chains, each weighing over half a pound, each 5.5″x4.25″, each painstakingly hand-bound. (The “painstaking” part of that sentence is completely literal – my triceps and forearms still haven’t forgiven me.)

title page

Chains is a book about emotional abuse. Over a third of all women who have had serious relationships have been the victim of emotional abuse (obviously men are victims as well, but most available statistics deal with women in heterosexual relationships).


It’s a nasty thing. Because there are no outward physical signs, it can be very easy to ignore or dismiss emotional abuse – to believe that it’s all in your head, or your own fault, or “not so bad.” The problem is, it is so bad. It does seriously bad things to your mental health, is a major predictor of future physical abuse, and is a major warning sign for murder and murder-suicide.


This book is about the chains of abuse that bind us, and the chains we bind around ourselves under the mistaken assumption that we are in a loving relationship. It’s also about the chains we lock around that part of our lives so that we don’t have to think about it or talk about it.  


Chains is difficult to open, reflecting on how hard it can be to open up about abuse, and once you’ve got it undone, the chains make it hard to handle – just as we can find it difficult to get a grip on our feelings as we try to process them in the aftermath of an abusive relationship. Finally, once you’ve got Chains open, it is difficult to close back up – a reminder that we shouldn’t try to lock up these things inside us but should expose them to the light so that they can heal and help others.


I’ve decided that multiple editions are the devil. It took me so long to do all of these. On the other hand, there’s something deeply satisfying about having an entire little stack of the same book – being your own publishing house. I am so impressed with “real” book artists who do editions in excess of a hundred books… how do they do it? I guess maybe once you’re good at this it becomes like knitting, and you can do it more automatically. That, or they use slave labor.


Chains is a multiple-signature book with medium-weight hard boards covered in heavy textured paper (I’d categorize the paper as handmade, but that would be deceptive as I purchased it… somebody had to make this stuff by hand, though) and tied shut with metal chain. The pages are printed on Astrobrite paper using Pharmacy typeface and graphics adapted from a Photoshop brush by Obsidian Dawn. The text block’s design is inspired by the zine aesthetic. And yes, I used tacky glue – I experimented with a lot of different kinds of glue, and Aileen’s worked best with this paper.

May 9, 2007 at 8:32 pm 1 comment

Anderson’s Grimoire – in 3D!

My Defense Against the Book Arts professor is in the process of building what may be the first 3D website in teh intrawebs. Yes, that’s 3D as in blue-and-red goggles and nasty headaches. He rigged up a 3D camera and took our pictures with our Donkey Man books so that they could be the first content on the site.

Yesterday I received the following press release:


Boise State University professor Tom Trusky is inviting the public to learn a little bit more about Pacific Northwest history and enjoy the works created by his book arts class – all in 3-D.

Visitors to Trusky*s Web site ( will be able to see the class project with the help of 3-D glasses, which can be obtained by calling (208) 426-4210 or by e-mailing Trusky. The students were asked to create a book that dealt with the story of the “Donkey Man,” J.
Fred Anderson, a photographer who worked in northern Idaho and eastern Washington at the turn of the 20th century.

Anderson found a suffering, abandoned donkey in Lewiston and nursed it back to health, later enlisting the donkey to carry his chemicals and other photography equipment. Anderson would travel from town to town,
often taking photos taking photos of children riding the donkey and wearing costumes, as well as portraits of American Indians in the region. He married a young woman that his family later referred to as
“The Child Bride,” according to Anderson*s son, Howard. The Child Bride ran off, and Anderson eventually married again and fathered Howard Anderson and a daughter. After being mistreated by his father, 17-year-old Howard ran away from his parents and Idaho, never to return.

The book arts class was tasked with using some part of the story in a creative way. Some of the creations deal with Anderson’s camera, or are told from the point of view of The Child Bride.

3-D enthusiasts have another opportunity to use their special glasses by visiting the Idaho Center for the Book*s Web site at Trusky worked with Kathy Robinson at Boise State Printing and Graphics Services to turn his photos into 3-D creations.

“I only regret that the glasses are red and blue instead of blue and orange,” he said.


Contact: Tom Trusky, English, (208) 426-1999,
Media Contact: Julie Hahn, University Communications, (208) 426-5540,

In addition to 3D images of book artists in all their artisty splendor, the website includes the following description of Anderson’s Grimoire:

6 x 5 1/2″ (irregular; spine “wand” 12″)
“Corset-stitch” sewn
Numerous artifacts (photographs, feathers, broken spectacles, lavender, a key, a nail…)
24 pp.

From information about J. Frederick Anderson Kate Baker has created a “Grimoire,” a witty, twisted homage to fairytales by not only imagined-distant-relative Hans Christian Anderson but also those German brothers Grimm. Baker was told this tale, she tells us, by Howard Anderson, son of J. Frederick Anderson. She cleverly includes faux facts, artifacts and photographs with real Anderson facts and photos in a bursting, suede paper-covered book held almost-closed by a band of beaded jute. In Baker’s biblio witches brew, Anderson senior is a malevolent magician given to fits of pique. In one of them, he turns Howard’s mother into a pooch. Proof’s not in the pudding, but in the photo Baker inserts at this point in the narrative she’s typed (on an antique machine known as electric typewriter): we see JFA’s Victorian-style photograph of son Howard, his drowsy, unsuspecting Little Lord Fauntleroy head resting on the family dog. But Baker’s told us who that woof once was….

May 9, 2007 at 11:02 am Leave a comment

Anderson’s Grimoire, Part Three

My Defense Against the Book Arts professor sent me his review/critique of Anderson’s Grimoire. I won’t post the full text here (last time I did that, one of his undergrad students Googled the post and caused an embarassing situation, for me anyway) but I will share the results.

He opens his email with the following: “I confess, I’ve not looked forward to reviewing your book. I silently groaned when you presented it in class.” Needless to say, my heart sank. I’ve had a lot of professors in my life thus far, but there are relatively few whose opinions I actually value. He is one of them, and to think that he hated my book… ::shudder::

Fortunately, the rest of the email talks about how his initial reaction was proven wrong. The phrases “a delight to read” and “authentic narrative voice” are highlights, as are “charming spite” and “evilness.”

Grade: A+. I can live with that.

All right, well, I’ve got another book to finish… still got to attach endpapers and chains. My hands were throbbing after yesterday’s board-covering escapades, and working with the chains is going to hurt like hell. Add on the fact that I am STILL SICK and… yeah. Whee.

May 7, 2007 at 1:59 pm Leave a comment

It’s a Love/Hate Relationship

I’m making a book that makes my hands shake.

Shaking hands are not conducive to bookbindery, BTW.

May 3, 2007 at 5:33 pm 1 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

Maybe with Red Bull Mixed In?

Could someone please bring me a creative-juice smoothie?

I have to email a prospectus, so to speak, of my two main bookwork projects to my professor – today, hypothetically. I’m ready to present on my final project plans, but in the meantime we have another book due in April. Basically he handed us a CD full of photographs taken by an itinerant photographer around the turn of the century in northern Idaho, gave us a rough bio of the fellow, and told us to create a book inspired by these items. We can use them, we can depend on them, we can twist them, we can ignore them – as long as we can honestly say “yes, I was inspired by these things, and here is why.” Closer uses of the materials are probably at least somewhat preferred (less explanation). Any ideas?

I thought I had an idea. Then I decided I didn’t like it. Now I wonder. Maybe I should just go with it?


Today is not a good day for me to need to spend lots of mental energy planning a bookwork…

To be honest, I also have some qualms about my final project. I’m definitely making the book, but is it going to fly with Tom – particularly considering I have less subject matter than I’d planned? Can I make a final-project length book with five subjects? (Answer: of course. But it’s 7:29 AM, which gives me license to dramatize and fret.) I have a backup final project that I can do if he frowns on my OAL idea, but that will increase my number of publications to three in two months – rough.

There’s probably not a lot anyone can do or say in response to this post, so let’s just leave it at “good morning” and move on…

UPDATE –> I opened my email this morning and had my horoscope waiting for me:

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): Flora, a Komodo dragon in a British zoo, recently became pregnant and hatched five babies without ever having had contact with a male. This is the first recorded virgin birth among her species. She’s your power animal for the coming weeks, Sagittarius. Whether you’re female or male, you too now have the power to spawn a beautiful brainchild without being intellectually or emotionally fertilized by anyone. That of course doesn’t mean you should avoid the kind of intimate interactions that would fructify you. On the contrary, I urge you to seek those out in abundance. But my point is that you don’t need them in order to be a fount of creativity.

March 21, 2007 at 7:03 am Leave a comment


WANTED: Subjects for a (extremely limited-edition) bookwork project. Looking for adults who lead mainstream lives during the day – office workers, students, executives, retailers, parents, etc. – who are a part of the goth subculture on their own time. Must provide photographs by March 1. Those who are included in the project will receive their very own copy of the completed work.

If you’re interested, go to for all the details you can handle.  The project’s dedicated email address is

More personally, because we’re all friends here…

You might remember that I took a bookmaking class a while back, and really liked it. Well, I got invited to take the graduate section this semester. There are seven people in the class, plus the professor, and while we have considerably fewer projects to deal with, they’re of a higher caliber.

On the first day of class, I got a brainstorm for a book I really want to do. This is that project – a (mostly) pictorial depiction of people who live a dual lifestyle, in this case, a mainstream/goth lifestyle. It’s not creepy or stalkery or exploitative – it’s respectful, exploratory, and hopefully insightful.

Anyway, if you fit the bill, or know someone who does… please consider helping out. This is one of these things where I’ve hung my hat on other people, and I’m hoping I don’t live to regret it – that enough people participate to make it work. If you’re really into the whole internet community thing and wanted to post my wanted ad on your blog/website/etc., I’d be indebted to you.

January 30, 2007 at 5:50 pm 3 comments

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