Summer vacation is here

Summer vacation is here

Which is apparently going to involve a lot of type setting, what a surprise.

And bicycling to parks

and the taking of pictures.

I am almost done with the summer pamphlet- early this year! And will be slinging it next weekend (June 2 & 3) at the Philadelphia Art Book Fair.

And I’m planning on spending the rest of the summer printing a book. A real one!

Hope you’ve had a lovely holiday weekend.


The Acclimatization Society

The Acclimatization Society

I made an edition of pamphlets for Wave Hill last month.

The Acclimatization Society is about birds in the city, and how they adapt, and how some birds have evolved in response to the city environment. Evolution doesn’t just happen in pristine jungle ecosystems; the urban pollution that makes cities a harsh environment for animals is known for causing genetic mutations. Birds in cities have to adapt fast to their circumstances. Genetic mutations plus adaptations equals speciation in action.

Also included is information about some of the most common bird species in New York today.

This work and Flyway are on view at Wave Hill, which you should go visit as soon as you have an appropriate spring day at your disposal. It’s a beautiful place. The magnolias are getting ready to bloom soon and there’s lots of blue flowers out right now.

Avifauna: Birds + Habitat is on view through June 24. Info is here.

A bonus: I got to see one of my favorite greenhouses around when I came to drop off the work.

Don’t even think about stealing their plants.

In other news: I caught the first whiff of spring out in Jamaica Bay a couple of weeks ago with my friend Ana.

And there’s more printing on the horizon- I’m thinking about strategic retreat this year. More soon.

Brain Washing from Phone Towers Informational Exhibition

Brain Washing from Phone Towers Informational Exhibition

Now that the final pamphlet of 2017 is in the mail and out to subscribers, I am happy to announce that in January I will have the opportunity to show the work I made in the past year about Jamaica Bay, in the place that inspired it all.

Some of the things that I did last year:  made pamphlets, rode bikes, gone on walks, looked at birds, brought some friends to visit an old landfill, seen antique aircraft, tried out lithography, and told as many people as I could about it all.

I had a great time exploring the area.

Join me on Saturday, January 27 for the opening reception of Brain Washing from Phone Towers at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. This exhibit celebrates the completion during 2017 of the series of three pamphlets on the history, ecology, and communities of Jamaica Bay, and documents the methods used in creating pamphlets by hand. There’s a gallery inside the visitors center in the Wildlife Refuge, and I think it’s the perfect place to celebrate the completion of the series; I hope you can join me.

Event information is here. 
The Jamaica Bay Pamphleteering Project was sponsored, in part, by the Greater New York Arts Development Fund of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, administered by the Brooklyn Arts Council. as well as the Puffin Foundation.

(Gesticulating wildly)

Thanks to all who came to the artist talk last Saturday night at Shoestring Press- I had a wonderful time and I hope you did too! Here’s some photos taken by the lovely Ana Cordeiro:


(Gesticulating Wildly)

I love the idea of gathering people in person to talk about things I’m fascinated by and make pamphlets about. I hope to do more of this in the future, thanks to everyone for coming, it was lovely to see you all!


Artist Talk and Flyway is done~

Artist Talk and Flyway is done~

Flyway is here:

I’ve sent copies to everyone on the list that I can think of, if you haven’t received one and would like to, let me know. Preferably in person! I’m giving an artist talk on :

Join me on Saturday, October 14th at Shoestring Press, a community-based printshop in Crown Heights, to learn more about pamphlets, Jamaica Bay, letterpress, and local history. I’ll talk about my ongoing pamphleteering project, Brain Washing from Phone Towers, and this year’s series of publications, all about the history, ecology, and communities surrounding Jamaica Bay. Refreshments will be served, and everyone will go home with some pamphlets to keep or share. Free to the public.

Saturday, October 14, 7pm
Shoestring Press

The Jamaica Bay Pamphleteering Project is sponsored, in part, by the Greater New York Arts Development Fund of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, administered by the Brooklyn Arts Council. Funding is also generously provided by the Puffin Foundation.



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:

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.

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

A video posted by Sarah Nicholls (@phosphorescentfacehighlighter) on

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



Processed with VSCO with a6 preset




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!

Beginnings of a Book

2016-02-09 20.19.01

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

2016-02-07 19.31.24

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.

2016-02-02 19.53.34-2

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

2016-02-06 19.15.38

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.