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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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.


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.

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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.


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.

Return to Governor’s Island, Artist Summer Institute, new pamphlets, etc.

Category : inspiration, time

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I made a brief return to Governor’s Island this month, for LMCC and Creative Capital’s Artists Summer Institute, which takes a motley group of assorted artists, performers, writers, musicians, and inundates them with information on finances, strategic planning, marketing, communicating, and otherwise how to work more professionally. I’ve been to a variety of professional development workshops in a past life as an arts administrator, but this was far and away the best, and only partly to do with the fact that I was there to professionally develop myself, and not a malfunctioning institution. Mostly this was due to the really high quality of the program: great speakers giving actual useful information; interesting presentations; useful feedback; interesting fellow participants who were are truly supportive and excited to be there.

And did I mention it was free? Free as a bird, the whole shebang. I entered a lottery to get in, and for the first time in my life I won. Me! And it was perfect timing. They sent us off after five days with a mountain of new skills, homework, workbooks, and a new social circle to bounce ideas off of. Thank you so much for the opportunity.

gratuitous chicken
Enter a gratuitous Governor’s Island Chicken.

And so now you’ll be happy to know that I’m set to take on the world. Huzzah!

But what am I making, you ask? Enough with this business talk. I have started printing a summer zine, the details of which will remain a secret for the moment. I can tell you that there will be fish, and other living things, and glowing things, and text, and actual pages, that you turn. I think it will turn out nice, fingers crossed. Pictures soon. In the meantime, I am anxiously awaiting the day when I will finally stop sweating. Hope you are all staying cool.





Bobtail squid are my favorite

Category : inspiration

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It’s summer, which means a lot of sitting in front of fans, thinking about moving, and thirty minute rain. My cat Jasper needs a thunder buddy. (You can find him under my bed, if you’re interested). I’m not running so much this summer, due to a lack of desire and a sore hamstring. I am making less pie. I am learning new things.

I printed this yesterday: 2015-07-17 17.40.24Silkscreen, not letterpress. I need to practice a bit.

I visited the Giglio, looked at the small horses, and wondered why a four foot rasta banana needs to exist.


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I’ve made new friends.

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Bookbinding and such continues apace. I’m figuring out the deluxe edition. I’m planning new things. I’m sure I’ll have more to report come the fall. In the meantime, here’s to moving on.

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New things to think about

Category : inspiration

In no apparent order:

Tugboats, and other ships that sail.

Signs, and other words in public.






Print Week, and Ornithologists

Been drawing ornithologists this week, to complement all the birds:

Alexander Wilson

John James Audubon

florence merriam
Florence Merriam

james cook
Captain James Cook. Not an ornithologist, but brought naturalists along on his trips round the world.

Also looking forward to Print Week: 2014. The Editions/ Artist’s Book fair is back this year, and Central Booking is holding a new book fair this year: Buy the Book, November 7-9. Here’s a short list of things going on, there is a more complete list of everything on the IFPDA’s main website, (link below). Many of these events are free to the public. 

International Fine Print Dealers main website, includes a calendar of everything going on in the city:
IFPDA Print Fair
November 5-9, at the Park Ave Armory
International Print Center Opening
November 6, 6-9pm
Editions/ Artist Books Fair
November 6-9
540 W 21st street
Buy the Book Fair
at Central Booking
21 Ludlow Street
November 7-9
Prints Gone Wild
November 7
Littlefield NYC
622 Degraw Street, Brooklyn



Found type, prints for sale, and the passenger pigeon

Category : art, birds, inspiration

I printed this guy this week:

He came out well, I think. A little folk arty. I caught up on my photo archiving and posted a bunch of pictures from various sign hunting expeditions:

Someday I may do something with these; at the moment photographing signs is just a way to relax.

I’m printing faster and faster in an effort to get it all done. This guy happened all in one day:

I also posted some new prints in the etsy shop this week; they’re a little something on the side I’m thinking about:

You can see them and get a copy here.  My five point solvency campaign is underway. More work is ahead. 

Things I can do now

Category : inspiration
This is how I feel about time off.

Now that I’m almost officially done with my full-time job, I can start in on that list of things I haven’t been able to do for the past twelve years. I wake up every morning and add something to the list. The top contenders at the moment:

1. Anything on Saturday.

Do you know how many fantastic cultural events in NYC only take place on Saturday? I do, because I’ve been able to go to a grand total of none of them for the past twelve years. Here I come, Mermaid Parade. Can’t wait for the Brooklyn Comic Festival. Prints Gone Wild? Good thing I don’t have to get up early the next morning.

2. Galleries

I kind of hate galleries, for many reasons that many people understand and sympathize with.  But they do show art there, for free, and I like art, and I like free, and sometimes that art is even worth seeing. And it’s easier to do now that I don’t have to be at work during all of the hours that galleries are open.

3. The High Line

The High Line is a sweaty packed freeway of tourists during most of the times that I have had the time to visit. But Wednesday mornings? Perhaps there’s hope.

4. Going on the Lam

Those of you who know me know that there’s nothing I like more than wandering around aimlessly in a new city, taking pictures and talking to no one. Much easier to do when you’re not expected to be at work the next day.

5. Afternoon runs 

You know what sucks? Forcing yourself to get up at 6am in the winter, in the dark, to go run 5 miles. Yes, I  know I don’t really have to, but you know what happens if I don’t run? I’m like one of those large breed dogs that starts biting the kids and chewing its fur off if it doesn’t run around on a regular basis. 2pm sounds civilized, it really does.

It’s official, I’m setting sail

Category : inspiration, time

I’m leaving my full-time job as of the end of the month.

I’ve been running programs at the Center for Book Arts for 12 years, which is a very long time in one job at a very small organization. It has been everything to me for a long time. I have been extremely lucky to have been able to do work that I enjoy and think is important with a great group of artists.

However. While the community there has always been fantastic for me to be around, it has also always been a very demanding job. The last few years especially have been tough.

It’s time for a change, time for some rest and rejuvenation, time for a little peace and quiet.

I’m super excited, and very lucky, to have the ability to focus on my own work for a while, to figure out new things I want to do, to have a new routine and new priorities. It’s like a reset button has been pressed.

On the agenda: a bit of teaching, a new pamphlet, a new book, and who knows what else.Here’s to new beginnings. A perfect thing to think about for fall, don’t you think?