21.10.06

Inspiration for the lunatic fringe

What better way to start our book arts blog than with some of our favorite things. The list is long, so we will mention just a few that get our minds thinking and our hands working.

THE CLASSIC. Leonard Baskin and Gehenna Press have long been an inspiration for the aspiring book artist. His presence in Western Massachusetts lay the foundation for the wonderful craftsmanship and art making that this area is known for today. His devotion to literature, his love of printmaking and sculpture, and his play between classic and unconventional proportion produced some of the finest American books designed and executed in the later half of the 20th century. Baskin's work was achieved with the help of many professional printers and binders, among them Harold McGrath, Herb Fox, Michael Kuch, Bruce Chandler, Peter Pettengill, Art Larsen, Dan Keleher, Arno Werner, Gray Parrot, Daniel Gehnrich, David Bourbeau, and Claudia Cohen.

THE WILD CHILD. Buzz Spector has been making artwork relating to the book since the 1970s. He has a particular interest in investigating text as art, and has explored this idea using string script (shown here), torn pages that begin to show the topography of the page, and photographs of personal libraries. His writings on language, reading, and the book have been essential to the field, bringing the book maker's practice to a higher conceptual and theoretical level. We suggest reading The Book Maker's Desire (1995, Umbrella Press).

USEFUL PRETTY THINGS. Shanna Leino makes beautiful books and exquisite tools. We love her pretty hand-carved elk bone folders and have a hard time deciding whether they should be used in the bindery or framed and hung on the wall. The center punch and steel micro chisel are also favorites, especially when making leather bindings with vellum strips woven though the cover. When we wish that our tools are always sharp, our eyes always keen, and our client always satisfied, the hope is that we begin the process with excellent tools. These will not let you down.

BACK TO THE STACKS. We end our list of inspirational goodies in the library. As the cataloging systems shift from card to computer, and as librarians are asked to sort through the microfiche, the videos, and the DVDs, information is getting lost in the shuffle. The Reanimation Library, "collects, catalogs, and makes available materials that are generally considered to be outdated, obsolete and lacking the privileged cultural status and/or market value that adheres to such artifacts as first editions or manuscripts." Their search for forgotten texts save these documents from being lost forever. In a digital age, where many claim that the computer will be the end of reading, this group uses technology to save the variety and vastness our our reading selection. This project is still in its infancy. We hope to keep you informed of their progress as we are sure to see great things from them in the future.

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