Wednesday, June 9, 2010

University of Utah Book Arts

Earlier this summer I had the wonderful opportunity to work (albeit briefly) at the University of Utah J. Willard Marriott Library in the Book Arts Department. I feel like such a fool not knowing such an amazing program existed in my fair home town. I moved so far for something so close.

I felt truly humbled to be able to jump into such an exciting work space and welcoming atmosphere. Marnie Powers-Torrey, Managing Director of the Book Arts Program and Red Butte Press , welcomed me with open arms and put me straight to work in the stunning facility. Over the last several years the Marriott Library has undergone an extensive renovation to make the Library ready for ever encroaching, impending earthquakes. The end result is a visually stunning, research drool inducing, librarian, bookworm, and artists wet dream of windows and light (oh yeah, there are books too). And at the end of this transformation, the Book Arts Program was given a floor to ceiling paradise of glass and light on the east side of the building to house the 10+ presses, 20, 000 zinc cuts, row upon row of movable metal and wooden type, classroom for thirty, lobby exhibition space for students, and the Red Butte Press. On a clear day, you can see Mount Olympus from the presses.

The majority of the work I did in my two week express internship consisted of shop upkeep and material prep. I helped sort metal furniture which had not been addressed since the big move. I scrupulously scrubbed 50+ years ink and dust off a tiny portion of the zinc collection. I had the wonderful opportunity to print and catalog several of these zinc cuts on a Vandercook 4 Proof Press. I had never printed on a 4 before and I think I may have fallen in love.

U of U Book Arts Program runs a K-12 reach-out program, Treasure Chest, during the school year where people will go out to local schools to teach kids history of the book and some basic bookmaking skills. Last year the program reached 10,000 school children and expects to reach even more next year. I assisted in prepping materials for all the different structures that will be taught. This included a lot of cutting, scoring, folding, gluing, and sanding. I got to use a Guillotine which I had never used before.

Marnie was kind enough to arrange for me to visit the Special Collections Lib to spend a few days looking at, holding, examining, and being in awe of real life Artist’s Books. I was able to see works by Ken Campbell, Julie Chen, Claire Van Vliet, Timothy C. Ely, Jan and Jarmilla Sobota, and Karen Hamner amongst others.

Working with this program and its wonderful staff was an amazing experience and I hope to stay in touch and work with them again in the future. I really want to thank Marnie, David, Becky, Amber, Mary, Laura, Claire, and Shidasha who I worked with.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Spring semester I letterpress printed a 20 page, 5 folio, single signature chapbook containing images and text created and written by yours truly. This part fact, part fiction piece pushed me from the ends of devastation and euphoria and everywhere in between.I was faced with, what felt at the time, insurmountable obstacles.

Writing your own material to print is incredibly rewarding and highly frustrating. I am not the creative writer in this little duo, and I have always struggled allowing people read my writing. But I wanted to get this idea that has been rattling around in my head. Boy was going back to where it all began, he and I. And it got me thinking about this cool idea for a chapbook. Only trouble with that is the words you write need to be worthy of being printed on the page. Pressure to write something good...

The extent of my previous art training was an AP Art History class I took in high school (that's right, I got a 5, people). I have no formal training in design, drawing, or even the most basic functions of photoshop. The most consistent thought in my brain during that semester: "Why the hell did I think I could get a master's in ART when I can't even draw?" The artwork to accompany the text was the biggest struggle I encountered. I spent tens of hours pouring over certain images I was determined to make work. Finally, with the support of my professor, I had to abandon all the work I had done and start from scratch. I was faced with not relying on other sources but having to create the images all on my own. Again, I was faced with creating something worth creating.

After hours of toil, tears, and a few break throughs I have my first printed chapbook, The City.