Do You Want to Go Against the Grain?

In the book arts you generally don’t want to go against the grain but the point can be made just as well.

I thought I’d allow the exhibition I’ve featured on this blog (It has become known as The Terror Room) a bit of a break. The last post was the most meaningful response to the work; to have someone in painful isolation not feel alone. The entire premise for my thesis began with the book called ‘Invisible.’ I made the first edition at The Women’s Studio Workshop last summer with book artist extraordinaire, Maureen Cummins ( We spoke at length about whether I could create the sense of fear/terror during a rape with book art. Or any art for that matter. I believe it was the ensemble of prints, books and text shown in a small gallery inside the larger rooms that negotiated the beauty of book art with horrific content and imagery. After many objects of beauty on the walls in the rest of the gallery, some of which had existential subtext, the viewers came to the last collection of work unprepared for its intensity. Many found it “unpleasant but could not turn away.” Others said it allowed them to experience the violence; some responded to situations familiar to them as far as sexual abuse in everyday life that resonated. This kind of horror is at the tail end of the female experience. Not every woman has encountered it but far more than you would think have. The book Giant Water Bug has stories lifted from news feeds about such instances around the world. In the end, I can say ‘Mission accomplished.’

The question becomes, “What next?.” Currently, the Center for Book Art in Manhattan is keeping my spirits and skills level buoyant. I began a bookbinding course last night and it is delightful to learn how to do what I, by the seat of my pants, just completed. The goal is to tighten up the skills. Lee Marchalonis, ( a graduate of the legendary University of Iowa Center for the Book, is a wonderful and seasoned teacher. I am also enthralled with the atlas fold techniques taught by Pam Spitzmueller ( at CBA last March. If you are in the area, you will be very pleased with the Center if you decide to take a class.

So much for name dropping. I have a few of atlas books planned for the coming months. (One concerning Ripper women, the other poems of Catallus) I’m not a fast worker since I have other areas of interest where I research and always feel the need to think about things. I’d like to end with this historical film from Oxford University Press to pique your interest. It was made in 1925 to show how books are assembled. After 10 minutes into the man-filled video, women appear at the folding stations. We may still be folding but now many of us make our own books without an institution behinds us by the use of our wits and skills. If you are interested in going against the grain, as it were, and becoming involved in nontraditional fields, you are in good company. If you are like me and enjoy words, think about learning letterpress. This bit of video encouragement was initially seen on a post by


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