Sunday, November 29, 2009

Holidays, babies, books, travels & more books

This has been an eventful couple of weeks in blue bluer land -- as it probably has been for most people, with the holiday and all. Last weekend we drove up to DC to celebrate a friend's wedding and get some city-time. This week, we had family visiting here to celebrate Thanksgiving, which meant getting to visit with our adorable 6-month-old nephew.

The visit to Washington was a bit of culture-shock at first, since we've been living in bucolic bliss in the woods of North Carolina for the past 2+ years. Once we got our bearings, though, it was a blast to be somewhere walkable again with a convenient Metro system. It was Margarite's inaugural visit to DC, so it's only appropriate that we saw the President (speeding by in a tinted-windowed motorcade -- but cool, nonetheless). We didn't have much time, but we did manage to visit the National Gallery and the Natural History Museum (see Margarite staring down T-Rex above...).

The only book-arts related stop we made was at the Paper Source store in Georgetown, where I stocked up on their gorgeous decorative papers & other essentials.

The biggest book news here is that Vamp & Tramp Booksellers recently made their annual visit to our library. A visit from them is like the Christmas morning when you wake up to find a pony, a new bike, AND a brand new Vandercook printing press under the tree.

Vamp & Tramp represent a broad range of the best book artists working now, from the well-known and established to relative newcomers. Highlights this year included Julie Chen's incredible new book; a remarkable project from Midnight Paper Sales Press called Sylvae; and a beautiful book by Vince Koloski making use of glass & light to bring some of Jack Kerouac's haiku into a new dimension.

Those are off the top of my head, but they're just a fraction of the good work that was on display. Bill & Vicky Stewart (the Tramp & the Vamp?) have such good, eclectic taste that it's an education in artists' books just to see what they're carrying.

In that vein, I'm very pleased that they took Given Timbuk #1 along with them to show and sell. It joins one of my other books that they're currently carrying, the Googled English Frontier Deedbook. They've had a lot of success so far getting my books out into library collections around the country, so I'm thrilled that they're representing this new one.

As far as new work from the studio goes, check out these photos of a batch of blank books -- soon to be available at a local shop in Chapel Hill.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

New YouTube video from Asheville BookOpolis!

LeeAnne Smith and the folks at Asheville BookWorks have put together a video from this year's BookOpolis show opening. Check it out below!

In the video you'll see some of the amazing array of artists' books from the show. There were something like 140+ books on display this year. They represented the full spectrum of book arts, including fine letterpress printing, innovative binding, handmade papers, altered books, low-fi zine-style publishing -- you name it and there was a fine example on display.

There was a fantastic open, friendly vibe, and at a time when the death of the book is seen by some as a foregone conclusion, it was a thrill to be in a room humming with such deep and visceral appreciation for book-ness.

My Given Timbuk #1 makes a cameo at around the 2:35 mark.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

"If a rabbit laid eggs..." -- more reader questions

At the end of this week I was flattened by a Mack truck of a cold, so no new work to show from the studio.

Here's a fresh angle on Given Timbuk #1, in which you can see the dedication page. The book is dedicated to my wife, Margarite, of course, shown here as she famously posed for Botticelli's Birth of Venus.

Attached below is a scan of several more questions from G.T. #1. Again, handwritten ones were slipped into the book by readers during 2009 BookOpolis, and printed ones are slips that I placed in the book beforehand.

For the most part my intention isn't to answer these questions -- that's not the nature of the project and many of the questions are unanswerable. But there is one here that I can take a stab at: rabbit eggs are a combination of bright green, blue, red and yellow, with a very thin foil wrapper protecting their milk chocolate shells and delicious, creamy centers...

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Given Timbuk -- "It's magic, damn it!"

When Given Timbuk #1 was displayed at Asheville BookWorks' 2009 BookOpolis show, I was pleasantly surprised by how many people contributed their own questions. Here's a scan of some of the slips that people dropped in the book -- I'll drop a page of them into the blog now and then.

Handwritten ones are from readers; printed ones are my own questions and 'answers' that I placed in the book before the show. (My answers aren't in response to specific questions -- just interesting snippets of conversation or quotations that I've picked up along the way. The world's answers to my unasked questions...)

I think my favorite answer from a reader so far has to be: "It's magic, damn it!"

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A new book of questions -- Given Timbuk? #1

A couple of years ago I read Pablo Neruda's The Book of Questions for the first time. The questioning mode of it really clicked with me, and for a while I wrote nothing but question poems. Eventually I started recording answers, too, wherever I found them -- in books, in conversations overheard on the bus, in song lyrics, etc. The growing collection is called Given Timbuk?: A new book of questions. And now I have the first concrete result to share -- an altered book called Given Timbuk? #1.

I started with a copy of the 1965 edition of Marshall Lee's textbook of book design, Bookmaking: The illustrated guide to design & production. On the outside I altered the cover and spine to reflect the new title. Inside, I glued together the entire text block and hollowed it out with a slot in the top edge, like a piggy bank. When displaying the book now, I provide blank slips of paper for people to add their own questions or answers by depositing them into the book.

I added my own texts in the form of two small accordion-fold pamphlets pasted down to the inside of the book's back cover. One of the pamphlets features questions from the project; the other has answers.

Given Timbuk? #1 debuted at the 2009 BookOpolis show in Asheville. I wasn't sure how folks would respond to the interactive part, but by the end of the opening the book was packed full of handwritten slips. Some of the questions they contributed are hilarious, some of them are heartbreaking -- I'll be sharing some soon in a future post.

Now that the book has returned from Asheville we have it on display at the library where I work, open to more contributions from students and patrons.

See more photos here. Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Starting Out

When I started fumbling toward making handmade books over 10 years ago, the last place I would've thought it would lead would be to a blog (if I'd even known the word then...).

I'll be using this space to post info about new and ongoing projects at blue bluer books, which is the fancy name for me making books. With several exciting projects in the works, I'm anxious to have a place to share progress & get feedback.

One project that promises to be extremely long-term is Dr. Miracle Man's Adventures in Heaven, Hell, Purgatory and Other. It'll be a collection of collages telling exactly that story. Here's a small detail shot from the first collage, featuring what a friend has dubbed the 'hippoctopus.'