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.






This Friday is the opening of Made Here, Winter 2016 AIRs Artists at Gutenberg Arts, where I’ve been working since January. Work by Chris Bors, Joiri Minaya, Seung-Jong Lee, and myself will be in the gallery through May 1. (Come say hello!) 



For the last three months, I’ve been concentrating on woodcuts for a new limited edition book on greenhouses, botanical history and the global reshuffling of tropical species.



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? What did new plant species mean before the development of a pharmaceutical industry?



And then what is the relationship between science and empire?



I have a general idea of the structure of the story and how to house it. I have proofed the blocks I have already carved, and have a plan for what is to come. Guttenberg Arts was a great place to work; the residency provides a stipend, printmaking and ceramics facilities, exhibitions, visiting critics and lots of support. I’m hoping to edition the book this  summer and finish the edition this fall.


I’m going to try to give periodic updates on the book and its subjects, we’ll see how that goes. I’ve been neglecting this space lately. In the meantime, come to New Jersey on Friday and see the show. The reception is from 7 to 9 on Friday, April 8th at Guttenberg Arts, you can find directions here and here’s the Facebook event page.


Also: coming up this weekend is also the Manhattan Fine Press Book Fair; info on that is here. I’ll have some prints from the new project with me at my table at the fair, if you’d like a sneak preview.  It’s a busy week!


Category : art, book

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It’s time to break out the hot pink ink, folks, in a vain attempt to keep warm, perhaps. I’m working out how to print something that looks like a greenhouse, something that looks like a staged version of tropicality. Or something along those lines.

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I’m also working on portraits of Joseph Banks this week, the renowned botanist and free love enthusiast. I discovered that not only did he come up with the idea of bringing cotton as a cash crop to the West Indies (to develop new markets to provide England with cotton for its textile mills), he also thought England should bring Chinese teas to India, so that the British would have a more affordable place to buy their favorite beverage. Never underestimate a botanist.


Beginnings of a Book

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I found out this week what the beginnings of a pineapple look like:

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As I’ve been muddling forward trying to learn what the beginnings of a new book might look like. It’s all vague at this point; I’m trying to figure out what I want it to look like, and what kinds of things are going to be there.

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I’m not sure what to say about it all. It’s fun, messing around a bit with bits of paint and wood.

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NJ was frigid tonight, and I am happy to be back home with a warming cat. I’ve gotten to the good part in this book, (James Cook and Joseph Banks just got to Tahiti) and am looking forward to getting a copy of this one. Here’s to progress, and future endeavors.

If you are in Portland, you may want to stop by 23 Sandy Gallery during the month of February, where they are currently hosting Ink+Metal+Papera new exhibition organized by the CC Stern Type Foundry:

 Ink + Metal + Paper features recent letterpress work from a select international roster of renowned printers and includes books and broadsides showcasing the use of metal type, ornaments, and border elements in relief printing.

There’s lots of amazing letterpress work in the show, and I’m proud to have a pamphlet in there. And if you’re in LA this weekend for the LA Art Book Fair, check out the Floating Library, which is making a West Coast appearance in conjunction with the fair. There’s some pamphlets involved, I heard. You can learn more about Sarah Peters’s aquatic reading escapades here. 

Thinking warm thoughts

Category : art, book, inspiration

2015-04-28 16.14.05

So I’m about three weeks into a residency at Guttenberg Arts in New Jersey. It’s been fabulous so far. I’m hoping to flesh out a mockup for a new book to be produced this year, about greenhouses and botanical gardens.

2015-04-28 16.14.25

Why did Europeans sail around the globe picking up plants to bring back home? Bring artists on their boats with them to paint samples of plants? Build enormous iron and glass structures so one could grow a palm tree from a pacific island in the middle of England? Develop interconnected analog networks of naturalists and botanists, trading plants among themselves? All of this seems odd to me, but tied into the history of the field of natural history, and colonialism, and the spread of invasive species.

So I’ve been drawing some flowers:

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And some windows:

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It’s been great fun. I hope to have a plan for the edition at the end of the residency, and some blocks ready to go, paper and structure sorted out. Seems reasonable so far.


Reading Time

Category : art, book arts events


body glitter head to toe_web

As of this week, I’m starting a new residency at Guttenberg Arts in NJ. Three artists enjoy the luxury of 24 hour access to their facilities at a time for three months; I’m planning on starting work on a new book, and am wildly excited. (Details to follow.)

To kick it off there will be an exhibition of my work opening on Friday, January 8:

Reading Time is a reading room installed in the gallery at Guttenberg Arts that invites visitors to engage with monologues, brochures, ephemera, manifestos, scientific matter, propaganda, and alternate histories in the form of printed language. Included are a range of publications and a selection of prints which collectively revolve around the authority of the printed word. Publishing creates community, though that community may only be temporary and hard to hold together. In a culture where visual noise is inescapable, printed matter creates an opportunity to pause, ruminate, speculate, and share.

Totally accessible via a short bus ride from Midtown, Guttenberg Arts is a 4500 square foot gem, with both printmaking and ceramics facilities as well as a gallery. (It also serves as home base for the great artist-driven magazine Carrier Pigeon) Come say hello! from 7 to 9pm. I would love to see you there.


Winter pamphlet ready to go.

Category : art, pamphlets

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It took a while, but the December pamphlet is ready to go out, and will soon be arriving in a mailbox near you.


Where does money come from? Why don’t I have any of it? Is there something I can use instead of money? Should we just burn the banking system to the ground and start over?


All these questions and more answered in a convenient paper-based portable format.


Edition of 200, printed letterpress from wood and metal type and linoleum blocks. This is the last pamphlet of 2015; if you were a subscriber this year and would like to continue next year, subscriptions are available here. 

Subscriptions support the production costs of the series; each subscriber is guaranteed to receive all pamphlets produced in three mailings a year, plus a thank you, AND have the option to nominate someone in addition to themselves to also receive pamphlets for a year. The balance of each edition is mostly sent out to a variety of folks as a surprise, some people I know, some people I don’t know. The list changes. If you have received a pamphlet and have questions, they might be answered here:

Thank you for all of your support, I am so happy to be able to make these things. 

Looking Forward

Category : art, inspiration

special deluxe

Things to look forward to:

I brought my letterpress class to the Center for Book Arts yesterday, and showed them books from the collection made by the students at Scripps College Press. They were suitably amazed. I was especially taken by this book from 2001, Deep Rooted, I love how simple it is:

deep rooted 2 deep rooted

In other news, I went to Philadelphia last weekend. I somehow missed out on the book fair, but did get to see this:

Which pretty much made the whole trip worthwhile.


Category : art, birds, book, pamphlets

Apologies for the shameful lack of blogging as of late. I’m finishing up various things, and starting various other things, and rushing around and such, as one does in fall. Having spent a sweltering summer without air conditioning I am really appreciating fall this year. Leaves! Sweaters! Squash-based dessert items!

SO, to sum up: this happened:


Which is the summer Brain Washing From Phone Towers publication Milky Seas. All about the wonders of bioluminescent bacteria. 100 copies in silkscreen and letterpress went out recently, if you received a copy I hope you enjoyed it. They glow in the dark!

I learned to silkscreen this summer, which is still exciting and new. I’ve been doing so at the friendly and convenient Shoestring Press on Classon Ave in Crown Heights. They are lovely people. I have been messing around with various patterns and colors, trying to get a handle on what to do next :

new print in progress

I am, miraculously, almost completely done with binding bird books. The deluxe editions of the Field Guide to Extinct Birds are now available:

book with prints_web

which include a set of hand colored additional bird prints for your enjoyment and informative benefit.

And finally, I am looking forward to starting the fall pamphlet this year. I can’t tell you what it’s about, but I can tell you that it involves FIRE.


And that’s my whirlwind report from the last two months. I’ll make more of an effort to keep up in the future.