Sunday, November 3, 2013

Mr. Miracles begins...

When you haven't heard from me in a while, you can assume I've been busy in the studio...

The past couple of weekends have been big for the Mister Miracles giant book project! (Click here for a reminder of what the project's all about and to see what the empty giant book looks like...)  Last weekend Rio did a 24-hour-long drawing blitz to create panels for it, and this weekend I've been putting together the large panels for the front of the book.

Have to get back in the studio to continue working on it, but here are some teaser photos of the first panel, which will be the book's title page!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Surf Book #3 (Get Barrelled): Cover #4

The original image for this cover was pretty perfect just as it was, torn out of an issue of Surfer magazine. But I couldn't just steal it without altering it somehow. Okay, sure I could--it's all blatant appropriation, anyway. So rather than try to 'improve' on the image or expand upon the story it tells, why not give credit where credit is due with these portraits of the tools of the appropriation trade...

Front cover:

Back cover:

And the full, open spread:

Monday, August 26, 2013

Surf Book #3 (Get Barrelled): Cover #5

Things are getting weird in Surf Book country. On cover #5, Octopus dreams himself a surfer who dreams he's on a much gnarlier wave than he really is... or something like that.

Front cover:

Back cover:

And the full, open spread:

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Surf Book #3 (Get Barrelled): Cover #18

Following on the wizard theme from the previous post's cover, here's another guy who lent himself to that treatment. He works his magic to transform the back cover of this simple, saddle-stitched pamphlet into a reverse flaming traditional half-binding.

Front cover:

Back cover:

And the full, open spread:

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Surf Book #3 (Get Barrelled): cover #12

Another day, another unique cover for one of the copies of the latest edition, Surf book #3 (Get barrelled).  Cover #12 features a demoniacally talented surf wizard...

Front cover:

Back cover:

And the full spread:

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Surf book #3 (Get barrelled): cover #14

As I mentioned yesterday I'm working on unique covers for all 20 copies of the latest edition, Surf book #3 (Get barrelled).  Here are some views of the cover for copy #14.

Front cover:

Back cover:

And the full spread (pardon the glare from the scanner...):

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Surf Book #3 (Get barrelled)

A month of opportunities. In July I took a class with Maureen Cummins, who was teaching at ArtSpace in Raleigh. And last week I was at California Rare Book School taking a course on artists' books with Johanna Drucker. Either opportunity would've been enough to provide material to chew on for a year at least--to have them back-to-back as they were was overwhelming in the best of possible ways.

Maureen's class met four times, each Tuesday evening of July. The idea was that each student would create a small edition of an artist's book from conception to finish over the course of the month. I decided to continue a series I started with last year's Surf book #1/#2. Instead of a one-of-a-kind book this time, I produced 20 copies of an 18-page visual poem made up of collaged photos from surf magazines. It's called, creatively enough, Surf book #3 (Get barrelled). No text--just images I created by tearing photos out of surf magazines using a piece of packing tape.

Once I'd created and scanned the collages, I had the pages printed from PDF at Kinko's on a color laser printer/copier. Here's what the original cover looked like:

A title strip copied from the internal collage, glued onto the cover paper provided in class. Compared to the cut-up collages inside the book, which sample from the best and worst of surfing's visual culture, it was staid and out of character.

So now all the copies have been disbound and I'm creating new covers for them--a unique cover for each copy of the book. Over the next couple of weeks I'll be showing you the new covers, which I'm creating by altering pages torn straight out of surf magazines. A little graffiti, a little palimpsest, a little found poetry. Let me know what you think.

Here's today's cover, which graces copy #8 of 20. Front cover: 

Back cover:

And seen as a spread:


And here's a bit of found poetry I dug out of the advertisement on the back cover:

What is the future

What is the future
What is the future
we believe it is choice. The introduction of new 
shapes and tools means more choice
pintail, swallowtail, 
fiber, etc. All of these shapes, materials and technologies are relevant
Not all 
are created equal and neither are all
constantly testing
to give you the best
It is our job to not only supply our
products, but also
to make the right choice. Consumers deserve 
materials and
we are making the commitment to
you.  As the customer, you deserve

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The (Blank) Book of Mr. Miracles

We're starting to get some ideas about what Mr. Miracles will do to change the world. For example, it has been suggested that he creates The Infinite Ham Sandwich which he then donates to a food bank; that he enables people to select produce that is always of the perfect ripeness; and that he will be responsible for something called The Miracle of the Unmurdered Children.

Before you start to feel giddy with a sense that we have enough material, though, let me assure you that we're going to need more. Because, this... the book we need to fill. Oh, and this:

The Book of Mister Miracles is going to fill this hinged, room-dividing screen, which is six feet tall and six feet wide (when fully opened).

The front of the book (seen in the top photo), consists of four large, blank panels that will be filled with one continuous piece illustrating Mr. Miracles' interventions in the world. Think "Hieronymus Bosch meets Looney Tunes." The back of the screen is divided into small, comic-book-like panels:

It will feature episodes from Mr. Miracles' adventures in comic format. If you're counting, there are 336 panels on the back.

So yes, continue to send us your stories and ideas! They don't have to be detailed or fleshed out--part of the fun of it for us will be filling the gaps in what you tell us. And we will keep sharing what we get from you.

Feel free to send us your input any way you like--in the comments below, by contacting me or Rio directly, or by emailing us jointly at


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Mr. Miracles prompts

As you help us to get the ball rolling on what Mr. Miracles can do in the future, it would probably be helpful to know a little bit about what he's done in the past.

I've made several books and collages about Mr. Miracles (originally known as Miracle Man) over the past 15 years or so. They've been ephemeral little things like booklets of altered postcards and drawings on white styrofoam cups. Mr. Miracles' first act was to stomp on a city, Godzilla-style, but that was in his moody adolescence. He has matured, reformed, and dedicated himself to doing good in the world (although he still has his mischievous side...)

I don't have many images of Mr. Miracles' past acts to share with you because they were mostly given away to friends, but below is a collage showing the beginning of one of his frequent explorations of the afterlife. He's the guy on the bottom left in the walrus mask--he looks a little different than usual because he's in disguise.

So keep all of this in mind as you help us to brainstorm about Mr. Miracles' life and times.

See the original blog post for more ideas. Please send us your input either in the comments, or by emailing us at mistermiraclesproject at gmail dot com.

Thanks for the ideas so far, we look forward to hearing more from you, and will share more soon!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Help us with our next project: Mr. Miracles

We've got many projects a-brewin' here at Blue Bluer Books, and there's one in particular that we need your help with.

I'm working with Rio Aubry Taylor of Light Riot to create a large-scale, one-of-a-kind artist's book for a group show in December. We're soliciting your help in developing the content for it.

The book will feature a character named Mr. Miracles, who is capable of whatever you tell us he is capable of. We will gather your stories into a crowd-sourced mythology or hagiography, recounting how the life and adventures of Mr. Miracles changes the world as we know it.

So tell us...

  • What can Mr. Miracles do? 
  • Who are his friends, supporters, and antagonists? 
  • What are the titles of some of his most famous adventures, achievements, or parables? 
You don't have to go into great detail--we'll work from what you give us. Most importantly, tell us, if a little egg-shaped man with stick-figure arms and legs and a funny hat were to waltz into the world with the power to change it, what would change look like?

You can drop us your ideas in the comments below, or by emailing us at mistermiraclesproject at gmail dot com.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

New from the studio! I Ching #64 ("Unfinished")

Over the weekend I put the finishing touches on the first 5 copies of a new edition.  Combine that with the tricks we recently learned in a workshop about photographing your work, and I have some photos to share!

If this guy looks familiar, that's because it has been in progress for a while and we've popped some photos of it into the last couple of posts.  It's the first in what will be a series of small accordion books inspired by entries in the Chinese wisdom book, the I Ching.

This one is based on the 64th and final entry in the I Ching, which is usually interpreted as "Unfinished," or "Not yet completed."  I created the original copy as a sumi-e ink painting.  The edition shown here is produced digitally from a scan of the original, inkjet-printed on an Epson R2200 photo printer.  I couldn't be more pleased with the printed results--in fact, in some ways I prefer the printed version over the painted one because the contrast of the blacks and greys is more pronounced.

Since the theme of this one is "Not yet completed," I guess it's appropriate that when I finished the printing and binding of the first 5 copies, I was unsatisfied.  The plain sumi-e look wasn't quite right for it.  I started to do some more reading about the symbolism of entry #64.  As soon as I re-read that it was composed of the two symbols for Fire over Water, the light bulb turned on.  There was already water in the sumi-e ink for the painting.  It was time to burn.

Like with my last book, stitching speechless, I decided to invite chance and fire into the studio.  With a combination of incense stick and matches--lots and lots of matches--I added smoke and burning effects to the paper.  The effects are surprisingly different from the burning we did on stitching speechless.  The paper we used for that project was a mulberry paper that burned very easily.  It was all I could do to make some marks on the page without completely destroying it.  In contrast, the paper for this book--a digital inkjet paper called Moab--reacted very slowly to fire or heat.  The result is smaller, subtler burn marks, as well as some smoke effects whose fluid-like look I love.


For now I'm considering this an open, unlimited edition since I am printing it digitally and producing it all myself.  It's available for sale directly (contact me through the Blue Bluer Books website), or will soon be on the road with Vamp and Tramp Booksellers.

And keep an eye out for new books in the series soon!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Notes from the primate lab

Josh is off today with the Triangle Book Arts Group, in a workshop on how to photograph your work. I'm excited for him to tell me everything he learns, because every time I pick up a camera, I get this feeling of being watched through a closed-circuit TV camera by a bunch of unwashed grad students as they murmur notes into their recorders. "Chimp 447A has picked up the device. Subject is exploring the device with eyes, fingers, and mouth. Subject is moving the device from one place to another within her enclosure. Subject is becoming agitated. Subject has propelled the device with astonishing force and velocity. Subject is -- for God's sake, Jerry, where are the tranqs, the TRANQS--"

Chimp 447A is not very good at taking product photos, is what I'm saying.

But after one trip to Michael's and two trips to Lowe's, we put together this simple light box and have found it helps soothe the cranky photographer in me:

Lesson learned about light bulbs: "soft white" = "yellow." Nice for bedroom lamps, but not so great for photographing books. I wish I hadn't gotten rid of the super yellow photos, so I could show you how  much it looked like we were photographing from inside Scrooge McDuck's gold vault. Unfortunately, Chimp 447A deleted them with astonishing force and velocity.

We'll be making Lowe's trip #3 soon for some full spectrum bulbs. In the meantime, we've had pretty good results with the lights off, as long as we're shooting on a sunny morning:

Those are from a batch of books that are now at Vespertine. Stop by and take a look, if you're in the Carrboro area. Tell Ginna, the lovely proprietress, we said hi.

And for now we'll leave you with this:

What is dead can never die.*

*We tore through the second season of Game of Thrones last weekend. Oh, Theon -- baaad things are in store for you, my salty little friend.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

This week in the studio and a furry interloper

Lots going on in the studio this week (sometimes in our pajamas):

Busy, busy.

And now for our weekend wildlife encounter. We had some friends over and had just put some potato chips in a bowl for them (because we're fancy) when I saw a horrible thing: a ragged little hole gnawed through the side of the bag. You could see the toothmarks. It was particularly tragic because a) our friends were hungry and dinner wasn't ready yet and b) these were Martin's Bar-B-Q Waffle Potato Chips, which we had lovingly imported from Hanover, Pennsylvania. They are an exotic delectable that cannot be found in the state of North Carolina.

And since the intruder not only ate our chips but also probably enjoyed several satisfying poops in them (do you know this about mice? they poop everywhere) we had to wrench the bowl from our guests' hands and toss the chips.

Then the next morning when Josh opened the pantry for some cereal, he had a standoff with the Rodent of Unusual Taste in Snack Foods. A battle ensued that ended in the mouse's cartoonish escape, complete with a sliding skid across the kitchen floor, all while maintaining terrified eye contact with a broom-wielding Josh.

Not long after that we learned--please don't ask me how, it was a gruesome morning--that we are dealing with more than one mouse. "Mice" sounds much worse than "mouse" because it is much worse. More poop. More violation of our pantry.

Anyway, we've identified their point of entry. A sheet of taped-down aluminum foil seems to be holding them at bay. For the moment. Wish us luck.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Vintage Schwarzenegger and some goals for 2013

We don’t really have any 2013 resolutions for BBB because, let’s be honest, in my experience “New Year’s resolution” is generally synonymous with “thing I’m going to eventually have to feel guilty about not doing.” Goals, though, are different. We’ve got lots of those.

And really, all our smaller goals come back to our one big goal, which is to take our business out of the realm of hobby-dom and turn it into something that does more than just pay for itself.

We’ve been having lots of conversations about what exactly that means and what we need to do to get it there. After asking ourselves lots of uncomfortable questions (How does one get a business license? What does “incorporated” mean? When do we have to start doing something fancy with our taxes?), we made a list of some of the things we plan to accomplish during the next 12 months:

1) Make more stuff. At the bottom of every page on the Bunny Suicides calendar hanging in our studio, we’re writing down some production goals for the month. It helps.

2) Sell more stuff. There are some BBB books at Vespertine in Carrboro and others roaming around the country with Bill and Vicky of Vamp and Tramp Booksellers, but we want to make it easier for people to buy our books online. We’ll look into setting up a shop on Etsy or some similar online marketplace. Any recommendations? Preferences?

3) Keep the studio clean. This is not easy, given that our studio is also our garage, and it houses all manner of crap. We cleaned it over the holidays because it had gotten, um, very bad. I wish we had some “before” photos to truly horrify you, but rest assured that it was so bad that this is what it looked like after we cleaned:

Anyway, when the studio is a mess, we just don’t want to be out there and it keeps us from getting anything done. And really, garage clutter is just a nicer way of saying “spider sanctuary.” I found a black widow out there once, so yeah – we’re going to try to keep it tidy.

4) Revamp our website. It needs a facelift, for sure.

5) Talk more about what we’re doing. On the blog, on Facebook, maybe on Instagram. And we want to hear from you, too!

In other news, I defy you to find a better use for red wine than what we found last night when we used it to dull our senses as we watched The Running Man. I spent the better part of 2012 on an inexplicable Stephen King kick, so I read (or reread – don’t judge me) a lot of his books. And the book version of The Running Man was super entertaining. Well, in that horrifying, occasionally misogynistic way that old Stephen King books are entertaining.

The movie, though. Oof. So terrible. And really only loosely related to the original plotline. But here’s what the movie had going for it: Vintage can’t-touch-his-elbows-together Schwarzenegger. Gratuitous dance scenes choreographed by Paula Abdul. Angry Jesse Ventura. And Dweezil Zappa, looking exactly like the offspring of Frank Zappa and Weird Al Yankovic.

I was pretty delighted by the whole thing. Josh, on the other hand, endured it as a kind of Zen exercise in patience.

Anyway, how about you? Any favorite terrible movies? Or goals for 2013? “Avoid the gym with dignity” counts.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Meet the new Blue Bluer blogger and business partner

2012 was a busy year at Blue Bluer Books headquarters. There were many new projects and partnerships—I tried to keep you updated about them through the blog and our Facebook page, but I’m sure some slipped through the cracks. We’ll have a post soon with some of last year’s highlights. But the big news today is that I decided to take on a business partner. Well, we’ve been partners for a while now—more importantly she agreed to take on the role officially. Meet my wife, Margarite!

Over the holidays, Josh came to the same conclusion as a lot of small-business owners before him: it’s tough doing every little thing yourself. For years now, he’s maintained the website, updated the blog, marketed his work, and coordinated all the deadlines and vendors for Blue Bluer Books, eventually leaving him with not a whole lot of time to actually make books.

I’ve helped out behind the scenes for almost as long as we’ve been married (cough seven years cough). Usually, I tear paper down to size for blank books and punch holes for sewing stations. I also offer a steady stream of enthusiasm and unsolicited advice at no extra charge. But now that it’s 2013, we're making it official.

For now, Josh will do most of the making while I do most of the telling, but I’m sure we’ll each help the other out, like we do in everything else. We make an excellent team.

True story: Josh and I met at work. In a library. In a book repair lab. Coolest job ever.

We both have different day jobs now, but we both still love books and writing and making things with our hands. So we’re really excited to be working together more on Blue Bluer Books, turning it into something even bigger and better in 2013. And excited to tell you all about it!