The Irish Riviera

Category : pamphlets
The Irish Riviera

If you take the 2 train from the stop near my home all the way to the end of the line, to Brooklyn College, you can find the Q35 bus. That bus will take you all the way down Flatbush Avenue, through Flatlands and Marine Park, parts of Brooklyn not served by the subway system. At the end of Flatbush Avenue you find Floyd Bennett Field, the city’s first municipal airport, the pet project of Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. Continue on Flatbush and you find a bridge, the Marine Parkway Bridge, home to Peregrine Falcons and the link to the Rockaway Peninsula. Right after the bridge there’s a random stop in the road next to an overpass where you can get off and start walking to the water. This sign helps show the way:

To your right is Fort Tilden, an abandoned military installation, and beyond that Breezy Point, the Irish Riviera, the private community of cops and firefighters that burned in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. In front of you is Jacob Riis Park, the People’s Beach, one of the many public parks built in the middle of the twentieth century by Robert Moses. Beyond that is the Atlantic. It is a quiet place to watch the tide come in.

The body of water you just crossed is called the Rockaway Inlet, and it separates the Rockaway Peninsula from the mainland of Brooklyn. The Inlet connects the waters of Jamaica Bay, in the east, to the Atlantic Ocean.

Jamaica Bay is a marshy saltwater estuary that is home to numerous birds, fisherman, public employees, two airports (one closed, one still operating), horseshoe crabs, sewage treatment plants, coyotes, endangered turtles, and many others. It is one of the more isolated corners of New York City, and it is going to be the subject of three pamphlets this year, generously funded in part by the Brooklyn Arts Council. I’ll be looking at the history, the infrastructure, the communities and the ecology of the Bay, and I’m hoping to host a few events in the area as well. I’ll be updating myself and you on my progress here, hopefully semi-regularly. Wish me luck and watch this space.

CODEX 2017

Category : book arts events
CODEX 2017

A few weeks ago I was thrilled to be able to participate in this year’s CODEX Book Fair out in the Bay Area of CA. I had been to the fair before as a rep for the Center for Book Arts, but this was the first time I had my own table. I had a FANTASTIC time.

Saw so much great work!. This one is a beautiful book in a can called Beans by Ian Huebert. His press Engine and Well does a lot of relief prints and (wordless) visual narrative out of the Iowa Center for the Book at present. 

This is work by Imi Maufe; she is one of the subscribers to my pamphlet series that I was able to meet in person for the first time. Another bonus! Her work here is all about travel, great stuff. She had a collaborative project (up there in the upper left hand corner) from 18 different artists on the theme of voyage; that project can be seen here.

She shared a table with her collaborator Megan Adie, who made this book, Recto/Verso, which is much lovelier in person than my crappy photo can show you:

Many familiar faces were there, but I was mostly concentrating on seeing new work from new people I hadn’t seen before. Here’s some work by Amy Borezo, a new book called Kingdom of Earth. She’s used original paste papers throughout the edition and they’re lovely- fresh and contemporary, abstract and rigorous. Have you ever seen rigorous paste papers? I think that’s the word I’d like to use for these. A good use of the medium.

This is work by Nicole Pietrantoni, who does editions that can expand into installations. They’re all archival ink jet prints but the colors are all strong and saturated, really well done.

Then there’s this  gloriously pink book by Jennaway Pearson, who made this silkscreen edition about Tonya Harding.

Jennaway was sharing a table with Elizabeth Curren, another subscriber I got to meet in person for the first time! This is all a tiny tiny fraction of everything I saw, and what I saw was just a fraction of what was there. Codex happens every two years; if you are in the Bay Area in February of 2019 I strongly recommend that you go.

Since it was February, there was of course a snowstorm in NYC the day I was supposed to go back and my flight was cancelled. So I had a bit of enforced vacation for a day or two, which turned out to be lovely once I got my flight worked out. Steve the cat kept me company at my friend Asuka’s house:

And I got the chance to visit the American Bookbinder’s Museum. They had this rad ruling machine, for painting the lines on ruled paper:

And I got to see a Smyth Sewing machine in action:

Smyth sewing machine #bookbinding @american_bookbinders

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So that’s ok then. I’m going to leave you with this:


Glasshouse is here.

Glasshouse is here.

The second project I spent most of the fall working on is a new book project: Glasshouse. It is a limited edition artist book that looks at the history of greenhouses, a technology made to cultivate foreign plants in a controlled environment, originally in service to empire. How did we build structures to contain trees meant to grow elsewhere? What is it like to sail off the edge of what you know? What does economic botany mean?

I spent a lot of the spring taking photos of exotic plants in greenhouses and reading about botanical history. I learned a lot about why botanical gardens exist, which is something I don’t really think we think about when we enter one. Today, botanical gardens do a lot of important conservation science and research into how plants are used and have been used by various people throughout the world.

But when they began, it was a bit different. Botanical gardens were used as a research facility for European imperial governments. Their roots were in medieval medical gardens, where the students would learn about botanical remedies and their uses. As Europeans began sailing around the world, gathering plants and gold and various other things from other countries they suddenly realized existed, they brought seeds and seedlings of foreign plants back and tried to grow them in Europe. Elites had already developed the technology to build heated enclosures to grow oranges and citrus fruit trees from the Mediterranean; these buildings were used to house these new kinds of exotic plants, which often weren’t happy to be in the colder climate of Northern Europe.

As European nations competed for power and resources through exploitation of the rest of the world, one element they considered was, What kinds of plants are there out there and how can we use them? Colonialism and botanical gardens had a tight relationship that I don’t think that is obvious when you are casually walking through and enjoying a room of orchids. A glass room in London filled with tropical plants is sort of a perfect image of colonialism if you think about it.

I wanted the book to be like walking through a garden; visually engaging, with the text as a caption to the plants, but one that makes the narrative and the context of these plants clear.


There are some waxed pages in there for the transparency.

And the second section of the book is specifically focused on the specific kinds of plants that I’m talking about and how they were transformed into commodities.

I’m pretty happy with how it looks. I’m going to the 2017 Codex Book Fair in California next weekend, Feb 5-8. You can see the book in person there if you happen to be there, otherwise I’ll also be at the Manhattan Fine Press Book Fair in NYC in March. So there’s that. Copies will be available in February; I’m furiously making boxes this week.

The World Turned Upside Down

Category : pamphlets
The World Turned Upside Down


I promised to write something here about those two projects that kept me frantically busy through the fall. This is image side of the Fall Informational Pamphlet for 2016, The World Turned Upside Down. 


This one was originally going to be about GMO’s, and why/whether they are/are not evil, to fit into the gardening theme I’ve got going on this year. But then, you know, the World Turned Upside Down.


This one came together very quickly, partly out of rage, partly out of adrenaline from having to produce everything so quickly. Not how I would ideally do things, but the place I print at was scheduled to close for renovations, and well, things. There’s a few more typos than I would like as a result.


I like the color scheme the best, I love that purple. This is how I would describe the contents: The third pamphlet of 2016 addressed truth, fiction, the sound of type in your head, and the history of pamphleteering itself. Is the end nigh? How can one identify a witch? What is globalism? These questions are posed, but probably not answered. 

The starting point is a seventeenth century pamphlet called The World Turn’d Upside Down, produced during the English Civil War. That was the inspiration for the illustrations too. I’m pretty happy with them.


Individual copies are available here and here for $20. And if you’re in the mood, it’s time to start thinking about 2017; I’m planning to do a series on Jamaica Bay in NYC, and am thinking about infrastructure, urban nature preserves, and vulnerable costal communities. Subscriptions for next year are available here and here.

Happiest of New Years to you.

My arms are tired

Category : art, book
My arms are tired

Hi Mom,

You may have noticed that I haven’t blogged in several months. I know! For a variety of reasons, I had to print an entire book and a pamphlet in the space of three months. I know, that’s a lot! A mad dash for three. whole. months, with no time to breathe, or cook, or clean, or certainly blog. This is a photo of the last run I printed last night:


I’ll post more soon about both editions. On to binding. See you at Christmas.


Category : pamphlets, travel


So last month I went to Chicago to print Tell the Bees, the summer Brain Washing from Phone Towers pamphlet. What a great time! It had been a few years since I visited, and I’m glad I went.

tell the bees
Printing went really smoothly; the studios at the Chicago Center for Book, Paper, and Print are fantastic. Great collections of wood type and stellar equipment, and plenty of light. Thanks to David Jones for being a great host.

Here’s some process shots of the book in progress:

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When not printing furiously, I got to experience all that Chicago had to offer. Such as, excellent signs:


MA Donague

I enjoyed a local variation of a hot dog at a joint covered from head to toe with dogs of all sizes:


There was a TV in the corner that played a looped video of dog-related trivia, with more dog photos.

Speaking of dogs, there was this to greet me every morning in the gallery at the studio:

more dogs

Meow. I went to the Museum of Contemporary Art, where everything I saw was great, including an AMAZING Kerry James Marshall show, which you should definitely go see if you’re in town. Also sat through this video twice from The Propellar Group, because it was beautiful.


And then of course there was the pure joy of a Smiths karaoke in Columbia video. WHY DOESN’T ALL CONTEMPORARY ART MAKE ME LAUGH. #smithsfanforlife.

Now I’m back in the sweltering heat of NYC summer, putting the pamphlets together. I aim to have them done by the end of the month, out to you soon afterwards, dear reader. Watch this space for updates.



Landscape art under glass

Category : inspiration
Landscape art under glass


I’m in Chicago right now, as the summer artist in residence at the Chicago Center for Book, Paper, and Print. I’m working on the summer Brain Washing from Phone Towers pamphlet, Tell the Bees. It’s going well, I’m happy with it. More about that soon.

Right now I want to talk about the Garfield Park Conservatory, a local greenhouse and public garden located on the west side of Chicago. I went and visited on Sunday:


In the 19th century all three of the parks on the West side had their own greenhouse; in the twentieth century the three collections were consolidated into one at Garfield Park, under the direction of Jens Jensen the chief landscape architect, who then designed and implemented what he described as a series of naturalistic landscape scenes under glass. This was a new idea the time, when most greenhouses housed a jumble of individual plants lacking an overall design or story.


Jenson was identified with something called the Prairie School of landscape architecture, which highlighted native midwest plants and materials, and encouraged a sense of wandering through a natural setting. The room that made me want to look him up was this one:

fern room

The fern room, which he designed in 1906, was designed to give visitors a glimpse of what Illinois might have looked like millions of years ago. Jensen designed the lagoon and the lush ferns to evoke a swampy, prehistoric version of Chicago. Originally called the Aquatic Room, it was designed  to give visitors a glimpse of the types of plants growing in Illinois during a much earlier and much warmer geologic time.  Perhaps the room offers a glimpse of the future as well.


Make it big.

Make it big.


I spent most of the last month or so carving an enormous piece of wood that had taken up residence in my living room.


Finally finished in time. Guttenberg Arts, the generous hosts that gave me a residency this past winter, hold an arts festival in nearby Braddock Park, with demos, vendors, steamroller prints and more.


I did a spoon printing demo of some of the enormous blocks in the park with my co-horts Beth Sheehan, Amanda Thackray and Ana Cordeiro.


We had to fight some serious wind gusts but we recruited some help to make it happen.

Spoon printing #woodcuts

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I finally got to see my block printed!

finished print

Both by hand and by machine.


And Ana found a friend along the way, who cheered us on:


Signal Return, Detroit, Signs.

Signal Return, Detroit, Signs.


What on earth have I been doing, you wonder? Well, I jumped on a plane as soon as my spring semester classes ended- thanks to all my students for a great semester!- and headed out to visit Detroit for the first time.


I taught an experimental pressure printing/ wood type poster workshop at the lovely and amazing Signal Return, an open access public letterpress shop located in the Eastern Market area of town, then stayed on for a few days to mess around in their shop. My students made wonderful letterpress magic!

class 4



My friend Lynne Avadenka became their Artistic Director a few years ago and has been busily fundraising away, bringing amazing artists and great programming to the space. Signal Return does a wide range of activities, including workshops, private lessons, press rentals, custom printing, and special events. Their work is stellar and their shop is a great space to work in.


In part because of my friend Lee Marchalonis, the printer in residence and master of all things book arts related. I met Lee at the Center a few years ago when she was an artist in residence there, and I quickly recruited her to spread her bookbinding knowledge to the masses. See the book she made at the Center The Mystery of the Musty Hide, here.  Then Lynne lured her to the Midwest with promises of reasonable rent, sane arts administration, and room to grow.

I made some prints I’m proud of while I was there as well.




Detroit looks like nothing I’ve seen before; it’s a strange combination of urban and rural. Lots of empty space. Lots of local pride. Lots of new construction and new people moving in eager to start their new thing. How does gentrification work in a city where there is so much empty space?


There are lots of really beautiful hand painted signs in Detroit, too many to count. You need a car to really get around, so I didn’t get a chance to photograph all the ones I wanted, and I saw only a fraction of the city, but there were so many around every corner I managed a solid representative slice.

safety deposit

tip sheets

marching band



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Lavender and Evil Things

Category : pamphlets
Lavender and Evil Things


I am happy to announce the Spring 2016 Informational Pamphlet is done and already in the mail to many of you.


Lavender and Evil Things takes a look at physic gardens – the forerunners of western botanical gardens – which provided medieval doctors and medical students their remedies. Information gathered in the physic garden was gathered in illustrated reference books called herbals. Herbals helped inform the development of botany as a science.


Also considered is the herbalism in the contemporary world, and outside the Western tradition. Included is advice on plants from Hildegarde of Bingen, German abbess and superstar polymath.


Printed in an edition of 200 from woodblocks and handset metal type. Individual copies are now available for purchase, if you so desire, here and here. And there are also still subscriptions available for the entire year’s worth of 2016 pamphlets, if you meant to subscribe but forgot. I still send pamphlets out hither and yonder to a wide variety of unsuspecting recipients, so watch your mailbox, you might get a surprise.


This year’s pamphlets will all be loosely organized around the botanical world, in order to keep my research process relatively sane. Coming up later this summer I’m happy to announce that I’ll be producing the summer pamphlet at Columbia College Chicago’s Center for Book, Paper, and Print, where I’ll be in residence for two weeks. So exciting!

As always, thank you for reading.

Orchid Research

Category : inspiration
Orchid Research


Last week I made the trek up to the New York Botanical Gardens for “Orchidelirium” their annual Orchid Show, which they billed as a “journey through orchid collecting history”.


I love the greenhouses at NYBG; you get to travel through different microclimates, can climb up through the different levels of foliage in a rainforest.


After wandering through the permanent collections you finally arrive at the main event:


The show drew its inspiration from Victorian orchid mania and the fashionable exploits of nineteenth-century orchid collectors. Brief panels gave historical background on Victorian adventures in rare orchid collecting, which I loved, but I think most just came to see the flowers.


I learned about Benedikt Roezl, the Czech gardener and traveler who excelled in the pursuit of orchids. European elites were obsessed with the flowers; the expense of finding, collecting (or stealing) and then transporting delicate flowers from around the world became a popular extravagance in the nineteenth century. Roezl was at the top of his field, despite having lost an arm in a farming accident.


Orchid hunters made their living traveling to remote locations to find the widest range and the rarest of breeds, to be shipped back to Europe and sold at a profit as a luxury good. Hunters like Roezl were competitive and secretive; they would strip bare entire populations of orchids to keep flowers from getting into their competitor’s hands and often traveled alone to prevent disclosing their favorite spots. It was a dangerous way to make a living, and could be not particularly lucrative for the orchid hunter. Many specimens would die in the long journey by sea back to Europe, and a shipwreck could mean an entire shipment would be lost.


Orchid hunters generally were interested in the glamour and excitement of discovering a new exotic species, but not so interested in preserving the population or conserving their habitat. They also stole much of what they took, in the hopes of being able to sell the flowers for prices similar to gemstones, and wrecked havoc on wild orchid populations.


At home orchid-owning elites could show off their collection in their private greenhouses, as a way of bringing a little bit of the colonies back home. Orchids were an immediate visual symbol of the exotic.


Eventually patient gardeners back in Europe learned how to propagate the flowers and grow them in greenhouses in Europe, enabling them to be sold at a more reasonable price point and saving the remaining wild populations of the flowers from further devastation. Today, there are many rare orchids, but only a small number are actually endangered in the wild. Greenhouses like at the NYBG are used for conservation efforts.

I also got to see a Wardian case, the nineteenth century contraption that helped transport flowers from remote locations, a kind of terrarium which made this kind of plant displacement possible. I was pretty excited about that.


The show closed on the 17th, but you can learn more about Roezl and orchid hunting here.



Category : book arts events

No more winter hibernation here. Over the past week and a half I’ve been lucky enough to take part in not one but TWO book fairs, and boy, am I tired of smiling.


April 1-2 was the second annual Philadelphia Art Book Fair. Like the NY one, but without the portal to hell or the fire code violations. I had a great time, talked to a wide range of awesome book-loving folks, and didn’t have a panic-stricken “I’m going to be crushed by this enormous crowd” moment, not even once. Amazing! It was held in something called “The Annex on Filbert” which was apparently an old department store in the center of town. It had in its heyday a great big food hall, which was guarded by this guy:



Who my friend Miriam says is a replica of a famous Florentine wild boar. She says the Tuscan one has a snout that brings good luck to those that rub it. I  didn’t feel comfortable getting that close to this guy, handsome though he was. I discovered him on the way to the bathroom, which involved a trip across a large abandoned space complete with chandeliers, raw drywall, old elevators, extension cords, and a staircase. The bathroom itself seemed like a place where your life might end and no one would find you for weeks.




But why am I talking about the bathroom? The books were great, as were the book-slingers. I saw great work from Huldra Press, Tammy Nguyenpaige hansard (and her actual work), Ditta Baron Hoeber,  Pellinore Press, Pioneer Works, the Soapbox,  and the always-delightful Purgatory Pie Press.



I was lucky enough to stay at Alice Austin‘s house, where even monsters can find friendship:



I then sprinted back to NYC to get ready for the Manhattan Fine Press Book Fair. I don’t have funny photos from this fair, partly because there’s nothing funny about antiquarian book enthusiasts, they are serious people. And partly because I was tired, and fully consumed with talking about books to an interested audience. And tired. And happy to talk about books! To people who also like books! And tired.

In all seriousness, this was a great fair, and full of lovely people. I got to spend some time with Sara Langworthy‘s books, which I don’t think I’ve done very much before. They are lovely. I met the phenomenal Alicia Bailey in person, and got to look at the nice books she brought with her. I met Elies Plana from Barcelona, who shared their mints with me and make beautiful books in Catalan and English. I gossiped with all my favorite book arts people that I haven’t seen in awhile, and saw new books from Nancy Loeber, Barbara Henry, Russell Maret, and Emily Martin. I had a grand time.

And then I woke up early the next morning and ran a race for the first time in almost a year.



Because I am crazy, and because I am determined to get back on various wagons right now. Like the blogging wagon. Have you noticed this is the second blog post in two weeks? This is what a comeback looks like. BOOM.