Saturday, June 23, 2007


Some of you may get the feeling that I am losing my blogging urge. Not so, my lovelies. I get the urge to blog all the time, but somehow I'm never near a computer when it hits the strongest. Mind you, over the last few weeks (months, years...) I've been a complete space cadet.

When I have a spare moment, do I rush to the computer to partake of blogosphere? No, I've been flaking in front of the telly, or picking up Bumblebee's Gameboy to whack a few odd creatures in the Forbidden Forest of the GBA version of Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire. Some may call this N O R M A L I T Y.

I think it's because I'm in-between books. I'm dipping into a few things, like The Tears of Things: Melancholy and Physical Objects by Peter Schwenger, and the unintentionally interrelated A Book of Luminous Things: an International Anthology of Poetry edited by Czeslaw Milosz, and the wonderous catalogue essay by Helen Ennis for the NPG's exhibition Reveries: Photography and Mortality. All completely fascinating in a non-fictional sort of way, but not as completely absorbing as a damn good novel. I'm surrounded by piles of books, but nothing I feel like reading NOW. This is the bookaholic's version of standing in front of a bursting wardrobe wailing 'But I've got nothing to wear!!!'

[Reading this through the day after, I feel I should expand upon this slightly. Dipping in and out of a few non-fiction books seems to make me a bit scatty. Reading an absorbing novel actually gives me focus, and I can move through the world held together by its narrative stream. Actually, the quantity means nothing. I can keep my head together with up to three long fictional pieces, whereas adding facts or choppy writings to my mosh of daily thoughts is difficult. And this includes blogposts. I prefer blogs that move through an individual's life like a narrative path than newsy/topical blogs that squabble and compete for your attention. They add to this sense of daily scattiness. Does any of this make sense? Hmmm...]

In other news, I have finally finished all of my making commitments in at the Bookstud and can finally place my energies into my own book project. I am the official visiting artist this coming semester, but also teaching three mornings a week (book design and typography) so I am trying to get myself moving now that the uni holidays have started.

On Wednesday I spent the whole day sifting through hell type trying to gather enough of the font I want to use to be able to handset one of my books. Hell type is metal letterpress type that has not been put away after use, and is usually mixed up or has fallen apart and heaped into a pile. The Bookstud has at least 15 years of trays of hell type, and very little of it is labelled. So I've been going through, trying to identify the font and size, and leaving little notes for either myself or whomever is brave enough to tackle the job for/after me.

For those who don't know, I'm trying to produce two separate fine-press books of poetry and images. The first is by Rosemary Dobson, with wood engravings by Rosalind Atkins, and the other is by Nan McDonald, with embossed drawings by Jan Brown. The production of each will be quite different, but the results will be companionable. Both will be the same dimension, because they will form the start of a series. Because the Dobson has 40 poems and the McDonald only 14, the former will be printed from photopolymer plates and the latter will be handset with what type I have managed to gather.

Luckily I managed to gather enough nice Bodoni 12pt to be able to set Nan's poetry, but we only have enough to set two pages at a time (i.e., one side of a section, because I'm using very thick art paper to allow it to be embossed). This is one of the curses of loving letterpress in a country that undervalues its historical resources, has too small a population to allow odd pursuits to thrive, and is too far from other resources to be able to replace type without exhorbitant expense. So I turn to polymer plate and computer setting to allow the printing of the longer book.

On Thursday afternoon and Friday morning I played nicely with Bernice, sliding around on the steep learning curve that was me trying to to remember how to print intaglio, much to the amusement of the graduate printmakers resident in the Bookstud at the moment, Katharine and Marina. They were invaluable help in reminding me how to set a press, wipe a plate, and eat humble pie. We got a bit further with our joint project (also involving poetry), but the biggest lesson learned was that it will take time to get what we want. And a mangle. Our very long printing plate was very frustrating in a press, so we turned to Bernice's trusty mangle.

mangle printing

We worked out that a mangle needs a board sandwich, not just one underneath. Plus good amounts of foam mat or felt. So Bernice is hunter-gathering for our next session (hopefully in a fortnight), and I spent the rest of Friday sitting quietly in front of a typecase setting a poem. Bliss.

Today we saw Pirates of the Caribbean 3 -- Yeee HAAAA! O wot fun. And now I'm about to guzzle a repeat performance of that fish curry to the last episode of Sideshow. I hope you're as happy as I am. Have a good one.


Enny said...

Did you stay to the VERY end of the movie?! :o)

JahTeh said...

I was wandering through wedding sites in America, sort of link clicking and came across invitations. Letterpress invitations are coming back big time over there but I forgot to save the page for you. They were really luscious.

Teej Mahal said...

I don't know if you're someone that gets the irrits if people recommend books to you (I've been known to), but I recently encountered only the second book in my life that has ever made me cry.

Marcus Zusak's 'The Book Thief'. I have weird feeling it was supposed to be a children's book, but hey - I couldn't tell. Very beautiful.