Last fall I zoomed to an era long before smart phones and social media with a visit to Tribune Showprint. It’s a workshop full of printing presses dating as far back as 1878. Known for years as the printer of the Benton County Tribune, the shop also made posters for store windows and outdoor advertising. As we admired the presses in operation, owner Kim Miller told the story of how she and her husband moved machines from Fowler, Indiana, to their current location in Muncie — all overnight to preserve the reputation as the oldest continuously operating print shop in the country.
At the studio of the Book Arts Collaborative next door, we admired books and letterpress cards designed by local artists and students from Ball State University.
I learned that before the invention of modern duplicating machines or carbon paper, clerks used special copy presses. The clerk placed an original document — with the ink still wet — against a sheet of thin onionskin paper. When pressed together, the papers printed a mirror image! The text on the copy could be read from the back when held up to the light from a window.
On returning home, I focused on ideas for design sessions with teens. I pulled out my copies of Creative Bookbinding by Pauline Johnson and Cover to Cover by Shereen LaPlantz and tested techniques for decorating papers and sewing hard covers. The students, under the direction of Erika Lucas, completed their projects in March. I stitched two books then and plan to sew again this week.
On April 21 and 22, 2017, the Collaborative and Tribune Showprint will host Interrobang, a festival celebrating the craft and the art of the book.
Pattern, texture, color, and a project with beautiful surprises! This month twenty-three students at Yorktown High School created designs for book covers. I joined them as a guest artist, collaborating with artist and educator, Erika Lucas. With Erika, the students experimented with watercolor painting and carving and printing stamps. I brought materials for marbling papers.
There are some tricks to successful marbling. A good way to start is with shaving cream. It’s easy to squirt the cream onto a flat surface, spread it, and then gently drop or splatter ink on top. Drawing ever-so-lightly with the tip of a skewer or plastic spoon, the students made swirls and patterns in the colors. They placed a paper on top of each design and pressed softly to make contact everywhere. Then, lifting up, gently scraping the cream from the paper, and rinsing revealed a bright image!
The students went on to explore more traditional techniques. Once again, a light-as-a-feather touch led to success — swirling patterns of color.
A sunny afternoon and we couldn’t resist drawing outside.
I looked in my bookshelf and pulled out a copy of Nature Drawing by Clare Walker Leslie. Beyond the front door we sketched blue skies, puffy clouds, cherry trees and architecture — inspiration all around us.
Dancing. In my dreams. Last month I broke my femur. Thank goodness the surgeon put it back together. Now I’m painting and thinking about dancing. Maybe in the spring.
One of my favorite fairy tales is The Twelve Dancing Princesses by Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm. I have A Little Golden Book published in 1954. The story is retold by Jane Werner with pictures by Sheilah Beckett. I love the colorful dresses, the trees studded with leaves of silver, gold and diamonds, and the mystery of it all. Where do the princesses disappear to in the night?
How to enjoy a moment of relaxation and fun at noon? I spent an hour today with the staff of Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. First we sampled a delicious assortment of salads by artist and chef Nevin Bossart. Then we experimented with printmaking. I brought the paints and colored papers, as well as a collection of leaves and flowers — maple, sweetgum, peony, yarrow and lavender. Part of the fun was seeing all the amazing creations. I met nurses, chaplains, interns and clinicians, and we chatted about art, color, techniques, day-to-day activities and the scrumptious food! Everyone celebrated with cake and bid farewell to a staff member who is moving overseas. The event, a monthly feature of “Caring for the Caregivers, ” is sponsored by Lombardi’s Arts and Humanities Program under the direction of Nancy Morgan.
Shops open in Cairo today. May peace, religious freedom and respect for individual rights prevail in Egypt, in the United States and throughout the world!
Who can resist browsing through galleries with elaborately decorated coffins, mummified ibis, bronze cobras, linen baboons and gold amulets inlaid with stones in brilliant blues? Egypt, your antiquities provided inspiration for me time and time again.
I send my gratitude to the young people standing guard at the Egyptian Museum. When its website reopens, visit the collection. Until then, take a virtual tour of the Brooklyn Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Two of my favorite books for children include
ABC: Egyptian Art from The Brooklyn Museum by Florence Cassen Mayers, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, 1988
Aida, the story of an Ethiopian princess who falls in love with an Egyptian warrior, as told in the opera by Giuseppe Verdi, retold by Leontyne Price and illustrated by the award winning artists, Leo and Diane Dillon, Harcourt Brace and Company, 1990
Patience! Unraveling cocoons takes time! On September 26th, I spent the day exploring the world of silkworms. The teacher, fiber artist Renate Maile Moskowitz, arrived with a car full of cocoons, fabrics, dyes, silk hankies and even a box of hungry caterpillars. She was as friendly and vivacious as her supplies were intriguing. We spent the day degumming, finger spinning, stretching, dyeing and embossing silk.
Renate Maile Moskowitz teaches “The Secrets of Silk” at the Art League School in Alexandria, Virginia.
Sometimes as I walk in my neighborhood, objects catch my eye. They can be anything: maple leaves, sweetgum pods, buds fallen from magnolias. I bring them home and arrange them as subjects for paintings.
When I first enrolled in art school, I studied with the sculptor and fountain designer George Tsutakawa. He spoke quietly and encouraged even beginning students like me. He invited our class to visit his home in Seattle. I remember it as a tall house built in a regal era. His wife served refreshments, and he led us on a tour starting with an original painting by artist Mark Tobey. We stopped to admire a room full of handmade musical instruments, including a koto, and I believe his wife played for us.
The living room opened to an outdoor space. There I saw large ceramic bowls filled with many small smooth stones. Simple elements, collected and arranged, became something beautiful. It was a traditional idea but one I had not consciously considered until that afternoon.
We were lucky to have visited on a clear day, because later he walked to the backyard and showed us how he tested his fountains. From what looked to me like a garden hose, water squirted up into the air and collected in round cupped bronze shapes. Each overflowed with a bubbling cascade that caught the sunlight.
Professor Tsutakawa came to mind again many years later, when I saw his fountain as I walked in the Garth of the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. An interview with Tsutakawa is transcribed in the Smithsonian’s archives of American Art.