Latest Entries

A Conversation with Book Artist Karen Hamner

Written by:

We are pleased to announce that well-known Chicago book artist and binder, Karen Hamner, will visit the School of Art on October 19th at 5:30 pm. She will give an informal presentation in Room 205 in the Art Building.

Karen is in town for Guild of Book Workers Conference and has generously offered to talk to students, faculty and the our very own Book Art Collective. There will be a hands-on look at her books and she’ll answer questions about her work, which has been shown around the world.

Karen is an expert binder and has just come out with a new book Nevermore, Again: Poe Exhumed. She is probably best known for her flag books, one of which is in the University of Arizona Special Collections.

We hope you’ll join us to talk with Karen and see her work!

Happy Birthday, Paul Moxon, Vandercooks, Etc.

Written by:

This weekend, the Collective had the pleasure of meeting the master of Vandercook letterpress machines, Paul Moxon. Paul was in town for a week or so, offering demonstrations, workshops and a lecture on Vandercooks to the Book Art Collective, our ever-expanding club, as well as members from the community. All of this, it should be noted, was made possible by designer/educator Karen Zimmermann, whose excellent fundraising and organizing made the event possible.

It’s basically understood that Paul knows everything there is to know about Vandercooks, proof presses made by Vandercook & Sons beginning in 1909. In addition to working as a printer and artist, he maintains a website,, where anyone can access information about presses.

In the 59 years the company was in business, about 30,000 presses were manufactured; there are currently about 1,500 Vandercooks documented in existence. And what do you know, 23 of them are in Arizona; 4 are kept by the Book Art Collective. Last year was the Vandercook’s 100th birthday and Paul orchestrated a Centenary Print Bundle with lovely prints from shops throughout the country.

The workshop this weekend covered basic operating procedures of the presses and we brought him in not just to teach, but also to fix up our new machines. This summer, the Collective acquired three new presses, one of which seems to have been outside for, well, years.

Paul covered typesetting, adjusting furniture, proofing, measuring, inking and, finally, printing.

Paul was gracious enough to travel here from Alabama on the weekend of his birthday. So happy birthday, Paul! Thanks so much for spending some time with the Book Art Collective. We hope to have you back soon.

A New Semester, a New Space

Written by:

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been moving into an entirely new and pretty huge space. This space now houses a ton of new equipment, acquired by the excellent Zimmermanns this summer. Now adorning our building: a total of four (!) Vandercooks, one Chandler & Price, two board shears, two guillotines and a TON of new type. More than a ton. Like hundreds of new trays of type. It’s incredible. We’re still arranging things but here it is.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be making some small - or perhaps large - changes to our site, contributors and general face-life things. Stay tuned.

Radio Silence

Written by:

Hello, readers.
I just wanted to post to let you know that we’ll be posting again soon. It’s that crazy time of year in the spring semester when everyone is kind of zombie-like. But we have been making books. And meeting. And discussing book things. So posts will resume again soon!

Experimental Book Show!

Written by:

If you happen to be in Michigan between now and June 15th, make your way to Ypsilanti (the eastern part of the state) to see this awesome new show at the Ford Gallery (Eastern Michigan University). According to the site:

The exhibition investigates the role of the book in the contemporary art world. For this show, the curators have expanded on the traditional definition of a book: they have defined the term ”book” loosely as a vehicle for information that is organized into ”sections.” The exhibition includes unique traditional books, altered books, sculptural books, digital books, and installation-, photography-, and performance-based books.

The idea of this show seems important for a few reasons. First, while I’m somewhat ambivalent about the book entering into the gallery (books are meant to be held, touched, experienced, after all), I think it’s important to elevate them to the level of the gallery in terms of of cultural perception. Museums seem to imply culture and history for us (ie. importance), so of course books should live there. (Print is not dead.) And then, the concept of the artist’s book seems to be to challenge traditional notions of what a book might be. Or what it might contain. Or what it might do. Materials, form, scale, palette, content all work to provoke these questions.

Murmur Study from Christopher Baker on Vimeo.

One of my favorite pieces is this documentation called Murmur Study by Christopher Baker, which records Twitter feeds of “common emotional utterances” like ewww. Receipt, running record as book. Twitter meets book. What can this mean? Perhaps this piece is a way for humans, the human brain/body, to absorb the pace of something like Twitter. Anyway, if you can’t make it to the show, definitely check out the website, which links to all of the artists involved. The idea itself just makes me want to hop a plane.

New in Artists’ Books: Sanctus Sonorensis

Written by:

To kick off a new column on our blog (showcasing new publications in artists’ books), let’s start with none other than our very own Philip Zimmermann, a book artist, teacher, thinker and all-around interesting human.

Started seven years ago at the Border Art Residency in New Mexico, Sanctus Sonorensis emerged from Phil’s interest and observations in the landscape and the complex issues surrounding border crossings. The first edition of the book was published in 2006 while at a residency at Light Work in Syracuse, New York, and was printed by inkjet.

Because the book consists of a series of landscape photographs by Phil, he envisioned another edition in the form of a board book, which allows images to span the gutter without the interruption of a sewn signature. But also, Phil likes to push the borders of what a book is and what a form can do. Here are some of his own words:

“I decided to emphasize the missal-breviary-beatitude idea by making it look like a sort of high tech version of those Catholic book forms. I added gilded edges, the rounded corners and the gold-foil stamped titles to have a visual association with religious books. The text is meant to be read out loud as if by priest or an acolyte standing in front of a congregation (and maybe even repeated back by their flock), and I wanted the book to have the right kind of look (or bling) for that task.”

Two-page spread from book’s interior. (Source: Philip Zimmermann.)

The book becomes a sort of prayer; a really beautiful, slow meditation whose point of departure perhaps originated at the border, but ends in a contemplation of humanity. Phil presents a kind of sympathetic view towards all of the involved humans, while clearly asking us to reexamine our own value systems. And I’m happy to have it in my collection.

You can read more about the process of making the book here and you can purchase the book directly from Phil for $50 (+ tax and shipping) by emailing him. I highly recommend doing this.

Lovely Little Video

Written by:

I’m guessing you’ve probably seen this by now but I love this video so much, I thought we should post it here. This is a video by Abigail Uhteg, taking us through the making of an artist’s book at the Women’s Studio Workshop in upstate New York, which I had the pleasure of visiting a few years ago. A dedicated little place, with deeply interesting bookmakers and beautifully crafted book-forms.

The Tucson Festival of Books!

Written by:

This weekend, we set up up shop for the first time at the Tucson Festival of Books, a huge gathering with book lovers of all kinds. The festival was held on both Saturday and Sunday, and attracted droves of humans with author appearances, signings, talks, panel discussions and of course vendors.

To prepare for the big event, a group of us got together beforehand with intentions of binding some of the most beautiful notebooks ever to grace earth with their presence. Well…we did bind notebooks, and they were quite lovely, if I do say so.

Using some fresh paper from French, as well as a few of our pastepapers from Curt’s workshop, we made twenty or so pamphlet stitch notebooks, both single and double, hard and soft covers.

After a day of binding, we were ready for the event. We packed up our notebooks and some work from members and set up shop in our booth.

The festival was a really interesting experience for us. Ultimately, the main goal of our being there was to raise awareness of our presence at the university and let humans know about book art in general. At the same time, we did raise some money from donations (notebooks accompanied donations) and promoted an upcoming sale we are hosting with the UA Print Club in April.

Phil was signing his most recent publication, Sanctus Sonorensis, which is totally beautiful and local artist and writer (and member) Alice Vinson had interesting books there too, both blank and filled with content.

So! Overall, the event was a success. We now have a big list of interested humans to whom we will send newsletters and, in the meantime, we will bind more books in preparation for our Book & Print Sale later on this spring. Thanks to all who came by to see us and we look forward to meeting again!

Pastepaper Workshop!

Written by:


Pastepaper making is a technique developed by bookbinders about 450 years ago, according to some accounts, in which pigmented starch paste is designed on paper to create decorative pieces which act as book covers or end sheets. They can also be used in greeting cards, wrapping paper and boxes…or anything, really.


Pastepaper is actually a really interesting and rewarding technique of making your own decorative papers rather simply and beautifully. And today, we had the pleasure of participating in a workshop led by book artist and paper ninja Curt Dornberg. He spoke briefly about the history of the craft, then showed us - the Book Art Collective - what to do.


Basically, all you need to do is mix paste with pigment (as in, Golden Acrylic Paints). There are many, many recipes to make paste so here is a simpler one from Curt:
- 3c boiling water
- 1c cold water
- 1/2c cake flour
Mix flour and cold water with wire whisk. Gradually pour boiling water into mixture, stirring constantly. Bring mix back to a boil, reduce heat slightly and cook for ten minutes, stirring constantly to prevent paste from burning. Cool completely; then whisk again. Paste will keep for one week or so.


With the mixtures mixed and supplies at the ready, Curt demonstrated for us the basic techniques of pastepaper making. Or designing. Or whatever one might call it. A most basic tool to lay pigment to paper is a brush, which, if I do say so myself, renders this craft a lovely way of combining gestural techniques with design. Note, the paper is first dampened with a sponge before working.


In addition to the brushes, you can use other tools, anything really, like stencils, hand carved burnishers, plastic grout spreaders, rubber spatulas and popsicle sticks. Dough rollers also come in handy. You can carve shapes from sticky-backed foam and paste them onto cardboard rolls. Then you can insert them onto the roller and make patterns.



After watching the demonstrations, we spent the next several hours working on our own sheets that Curt had generously prepared for us.


We then laid them to dry. One of the exciting possibilities of pastepaper is that you can layer the pigments. Once your first layer/pattern dries (usually 24 hours is the wait time…but Tucson is a pretty dry place) you can add a second pattern, creating a really interesting sense of depth and texture.


Another spontaneous way of creating patterns/textures/designs is to paint them on, or literally remove the pigment using objects like the back end of paint brushes. This can also be a way of illustrating the canvas.



We were in the Printmaking Studio for this workshop, and laid our papers wherever we could find space. The equipment in there is so incredibly beautiful. Here are some of our final results!






In the next week, we will make many of our papers into book covers of notebooks to display at the Tucson Festival of Books, where we have a booth! So, if you’re in town, come check us out (Booth 108), and if not, visit us in the digital world here or on our site.

Lastly, here are some sources to inspire your bookmaking practices:
My Handbound Books
Paste Paper Patterns
Sage Reynolds

Happy painting/making/pasting/book-covering!

Making Memory: Stories of Nonfiction

Written by:

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the University of Arizona’s Special Collections scouting the stacks for artists’ books to include in an upcoming exhibition that I’m helping to curate, The Secret Lives of Artists’ Books: Stories of Nonfiction.

The Reading Room at Special Collections at the University of Arizona

With the help of designer/artist/teacher (and our faculty advisor) Karen Zimmermann, a loose criteria was determined with which to choose books (because there are so many, and I would have wanted all of them). We decided that the books should be nonfiction narratives that tell us about life in some way. I also have a particular fondness for accounts of memory, so wherever possible, that topic was favored.

Anyway, the collection is pretty expansive, and I wanted to share some of the books here, because it’s often hard to find images of artists’ books online. Also they are awesome; I love them and want to own them. (NB. In addition to Karen, I had the expert help of book artist Philip Zimmermann to help choose the books.)

Scott McCarney, Memory Loss (detail of cover), 1988

One side of the open view of Memory Loss

Detail of the interior from McCarney's Memory Loss

I don’t know much about this book artist, Meg Webster, but I enjoyed her boxed compilation of items, titled Matter. Inside the box is a bag of crushed clover, a mirror, six marbles, two pearls, and a plate of copper.

Meg Webster's Matter

Inside the box

There's really no reason for this...except that I thought it was pretty

Artist, bookmaker and gallery owner Susan Baker is a witty and talented thinker who is the recipient of many grants and fellowships, like at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. This is an interesting, hilarious book with stories of an adult life.

Susan Baker's How to Humiliate a Peeping Tom

Susan Baker's How to Humiliate a Peeping Tom

A book within a book

Humor. I like humor.

Henrik Drescher is an excellent contemporary illustrator and author (Hubert the Pudge, Turbulence, McFig and McFly…36 books in 23 years) whose work, I think, transcends genres and audiences. Aesthetically and conceptually, the ideas and style communicated within his work appeals to both children and adults because he doesn’t sacrifice his vision. Anyway, here is an artist book he made printed in an edition of 100.

Henrik Drescher, Comeundone, 1989. The book comes in a metal case.

An interview with Drescher can be heard here.

The cover of the book. The book comes in a metal case.

The book explores some sins.

Places (like Shanghai) attached to other places on the skull.

The following book was created by artist Sandra Turley at the Women’s Studio Workshop in Rosendale, NY in 2001. Processes used to make the book include devore printing (burning away of natural fibres) and letterpress. The fold is accordion and the craftsmanship is beautiful.

Sandra Turley, This Original Self, 2001.

Detail of the cover, which looks like stained cloth. Delicate.

Accordion fold.

The imagery is incomplete; sentences never begin or end..

One of the first book artists whose work I fell in love with is Julie Chen, founder of Flying Fish Press. Chen currently teaches at Mills College’s groundbreaking MFA program in Book Art and Creative Writing. Chen’s craft is impeccable and the content of her work is poignant, authentic and simple. Perfection, really. This book, True to Life, is about the power of memory on everyday life, and was created in an edition of 100 copies. The structure is a tablet, with a built-in lifting floor, with tabs that are moved and with them, the text/images changes. Very clever, very clean.

Julie Chen, True to Life, 2004.

The book is protected by a clam-shell box.

The book is protected by a clam-shell box.

Detail of the tablet, showing the first lines of text.

The fifth section of text. The pages were printed using a combination of pressure printing, letterpress and photopolymer plates.

Atlanta-based book artist Ruth Laxson makes beautiful experiments with form. Communication is a major theme in Laxson’s work, and she uses the surrealist technique of automatic writing to compose much of her text. The following book, (Ho+Go)2=It, was created in an edition of 500 copies (still available!) at the now defunct Nexus Press in Atlanta, using an offset press and Mohawk Superfine paper.

Ruth Laxson, (Ho+Go)2=It, 2004.

Ruth Laxson, (Ho+Go)2=It, 2004.

“I hope to test the language for meaning and merge text and image in the spirit as the surrealists. But I want to take it a step farther to text as image.” - Laxson.

Another spread.

Another spread.

So, this should be a good start. There are more books in the show and I’ll be photographing next week. In the meantime, enjoy the books!

Here are a few online resources for artists’ books:
- Buy artists’ books (many of the ones shown here) at Vamp & Tramp Press

- See a huge collection of books at the Joan Flasch Artists’ Book Collection

- A huge archive of artists’ books can be viewed (with background information) at Artists’ Books Online

- Here is the Book Arts Web which also publishes the online book arts journal, Bonefolder

- For techniques, tools and terms, see the curiously named Evilrooster Bookweb

Copyright 2010, Book Art Collective.

This blog is powered by Wordpress.