Lett-Er Run, Press

To me, Pressing On: The Letterpress Film had a very melancholy feeling about the future of the letterpress. It wanted to be hopeful, but had a strong push of ideas of dying out and forgotten tools. And admittedly, when it comes to bigger book selling stores that require enormous quantities of each printing, letterpress will ultimately be beaten by faster modern technologies. But, I do not think the letterpress’s use is gone forever.  

This picture is a drawing of the first Printing Press made by Gutenberg. The link to its source is here. https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.history.com/.amp/news/printing-press-renaissance  

Modern people will still use the press for their own smaller stories and creations because it is so unique. Each pressed piece is connected to its creation and its creator. Beyond just the basic individual styles that letterpress has, each printed piece is its own original thing. Even when it may look like others, it could perhaps have ink missing in a letter or a spilled dot somewhere else on the page. Letterpress naturally has a handcrafted feeling to it that at least a small grouping of people will appreciate. 

Plus since letterpress allows creators to create whatever they would like, pieces can be much more experimental. They do not have to fill any forms the big store company books may. Letterpress work can be of any topic, style, etc. that the creator wants without the conformity. This allows many stories not normally mentioned to be able to be posted and shown.

I know personally I am learning about graphic design and more digital arts, but when it comes down to it, I tend to work traditionally. I love learning different types of materials and seeing what can be made out of their processes. And I’m sure I am not the only one. People will still love and appreciate the process that goes into making it. They will love to visually see that an artist they like has worked on something and support that. Letterpress will in the end be pushed by it’s personal aspects and artistic styles. 

Work Cited

Pressing On: The Letterpress Film, 2017, https://www.letterpressfilm.com/. Accessed 12 October 2021.   

Creative & Criticism: The Map of Ketune

Amaranth Borsuk writes that “books are always a negotiation, a performance, an event: even a Dickens novel remains inert until a reader opens it up, engaging its language and imaginative world” on page one-hundred and forty-seven of The Book. For the past couple of years, I have been creating my own imaginative world. This world originally was created to pass time, but I had also considered possibly using it for an actual game. This game would likely be played using Dungeons and Dragons or some other tabletop role-playing game’s rulebook. My book, like Borsuk’s texts, would bring the reader into its fantasy world. Specifically, the book would show the continents of the planet, Ketune.  

Above is a slideshow showing a couple of the details on my accordion book, entitled The Map of Ketune.

My other inspiration for my personal art book came from a quick description of the history of books found in Borsuk’s The Book. Specifically, I got inspired by the slow historical switch from scrolls into a codex shape. The quote “while bamboo slip scrolls were durable and portable, in lengths over two feet the rolls would have been cumbersome to transport and read” stuck with me (Borsuk 27-28). Scrolls and fantasy worlds already have a strong connection, but I chose specifically to connect them as an ancient world map. 

I imagined an adventurer or mercenary in the world had found the old map. They decided it was hard to transport and open when needed, so they folded the scroll into an accordion style. This item would have to survive travel and adventures without more damage, so two sturdy covers would be added with an easy to open string and button latch. The world would have and have had the abilities to make paper and use technology like looms and forges. Now, as shown by the weathering on the cover, the artistic map book could and was easily used during their travels. And perhaps now, outside of the fantasy world of Ketune, the next person who unwraps the string from around the button, can flatten out the map and imagine themselves as the next adventurer or mercenary. The viewer can imagine what may be there on the unfinished pieces of hand-drawn map. 

For some other things to mention about the book. This ancient weathered accordion book barely has any text but for its compass rose. This part is written in English, which for ease if I would use it in a fantasy setting could be considered like a common language. The map, even during its drawing, was made to be easily read and understood by all. 

Soon enough, I would like to continue working on this book. The map itself can be weathered more. I would also like to see the empty spaces of land eventually filled in when I can think of what should go there. But much like the ancient map’s existence in story, in real life it will take time to discover the entire world. 

Work Cited

Borsuk, Amaranth. The Book. The MIT Press, 2018. 

Planted Papers

This picture is a spread from Susan Mills’ “Twentysix Plants.”The left side shoes a light green paper made from pampas. It has a rougher edge. The right side, made from burdock, is also green, but covered in many different dark spots. 

Sometimes, certain books can seem simple. For example, Susan Mill’s “Twentysix plants” book, where each page contains only one cut-out word. But then you have to think about the processes that made that book. Susan Mills was inspired by another artist who previously made an artists’ book with twenty-six pictures of gas stations along a long stretch of road. Mills published her book on the twenty fifth anniversary of her inspiration’s publishing.  

Besides the inspiration, the book itself is a whole other process on its own. “Twentysix plants” much like the title suggests, is made up of twenty-six pages, each made with a different kind of locally grown plant. This is personally the part that drew me into this book. I have done my own paper making once. And I am certainly no expert, but I found the process really fun. So, someone like Susan Mills, collecting the plants and turning each into paper to then bind together into her book, was an interesting idea to me. Plus, I liked that you could see the different looks the paper got, based on what material was used to create it.  

I think it was a really good idea to cut the words out rather than print or write onto them. It makes it more interesting to get a peep at the next page and still see pages you had seen before poking through. It makes the words pop out more. 

Works Cited

Mills, Susan. “Twentysix Plants.” Women’s Studio Workshop, Women’s Studio Workshop, 1 Nov. 2017, https://wsworkshop.org/collection/twentysix-plants/.  

“What Follows” & What is Left Behind 

This image shows a picture of Joseph Massey’s Chapbook, entitled “What Follows.”

We discussed how often a book is seen as an object. And how most of the time, that object is not questioned or examined much in today’s settings due to the average selling standard of books. But the book as an object can do a lot to help tell its meanings. Joseph Massey connects multiple parts of his chapbook, “It Follows,” as an object to its figurative forms in its contents. 

A large part of Massey’s poems focuses on litter and how long it stays before decaying. One poem even says about how an old plastic plate is mistaken for moss and lichen. His chapbook, although made of different types of paper, feels very sturdy and lasting in your hands. This is due to its cardstock cover that covers over a fly leaf sheet of the same material. Personally, while I do understandably believe this is for structure, I was very fascinated about how this cover and fly leaf were set up. It seemed like the fly leaf was originally the cover, until a new, block printed cover was glued on. 

The above image is a picture showing the cover and fly leaf previously mentioned. As you can see, the book has staple binding. The true cover is longer so that it can fold over the cardstock fly leaf.

The cover also features a block print of a broken, run-down window that is surrounded in very tall, weed-like plants. This cover image welcomes you into the story if its poetic contents. 

The paper itself ties into its poems. The back of the book has a section that mentions all of the paper that created the book itself are made from recycled litter. The papers, especially the yellow sheets, still have some visible little specks and marks from the items it was made from. So not only does the book feel sturdy and lasting like long–lasting plastics, but it itself is made FROM litter.  It is a creation from contents that connect it to the book’s own writing contents.

The Strings of Fate

[The image above shows five different, stab-bound books by Matis Stephens.}

For a while now, I had wanted to try to bind my own books. It sounded incredibly cool to make my own sketchbooks and fancy, fantasy-esque notebooks. But every time I had seen quick, short videos of other’s homemade books, I had assumed it would be much harder. Perhaps that goes along with the fact that they tended to be hardcover books. I had never looked into the process of bookbinding. So it comes to no surprise hopefully to hear that I was ecstatic at the idea of being taught the act of stab binding.

At first, I was cautious and very worried about getting each and every step done correctly, especially since I had to step out of the class right after the hole punching stages. Asking for assistance later in the week, I quickly was starting to guess the next steps. I had wanted to start testing different placements of hole placement and see where that took the strings. Then I wondered about different string colors. And what would the book look like if it was tea-stained or dyed in some way, which i have yet to try. Other inspirations were using the clean edge of the paper near the binding over the ripped, and what shapes I could make the string look like. Lastly, in this grouping, I tried having two colors of strings in my binding. Admittedly, in wanting the specific blue colors for this, I started searching. I could not quickly find the right blues in waxed string

All of these are still practices I am still learning and of course they are not perfect. But I have multiple possibly ideas for them and different experiments to try out. I thought the process would be VERY difficult, but I was gladly wrong. I cannot wait to keep trying different binding styles and try out ideas I have to make more and more books.

Borges & Books: Expanding upon “On the Cult of Books”

While reading “On the Cult of Books” by Jorge Luis Borges, I very quickly noticed a more modern-day example to the first two examples Borges gives in the first couple paragraphs in his piece. The one example comes from Mallarmé, who says that “’the world exists to end up in a book’” no matter how good or bad the event was (Borges, 568). The other, from Book VIII of the Odyssey, states that the world has evil and disasters because a story needs conflict to continue to be told generation after generation (Borges, 358). Borges discusses how these two ideas are contrasted because one originally was created to be read out loud while the other was written to be read in a book. 

On the other hand, I was reminded of the storytelling game of Dungeons and Dragons, and specifically within it, my own character Calypso Mistgrove. Already, Dungeons and Dragons is known both to have written modules to help lead a story and created together by groups of friends telling stories. This helps it be an example both to Borges written and spoken examples. The one that stuck strongest with me though was a connection of these friends to “gods” of The Odyssey. Though I will also mention how it feels like an exaggeration to compare to such a high title as gods, even if technically correct, as this group adds and defeats different conflicts to the story in order to obtain different characters’ goals.  

My own character, Calypso, who I will not go into much detail here, started his adventure with a goal to become part of a heroic tale. In time, he would find out that adventuring is a lot more dangerous than he had imagined, especially after becoming cursed by a Corruption from a sealed off other world. He had gained new worries that maybe his own story would not be so heroic. Instead, maybe his story would end up as one of a villain’s, a destroyer of worlds. Both the heroic and evil stories easily reminded me of how both great and horrible events have used Mallarmé’s beliefs in why events happen. That they happen to then be written down into the books of all history that has ever occurred. 

[Image Description: This is a sketch of Calypso Mistgrove drawn in a red Colorase pencil. This sketch was drawn by Matis Stephens in 2021.]

While perhaps not a perfect representation of these ideas, it was interesting to see how a common game and even my own characters connected with Borges’s examples of books and the spoken word. 

Works Cited 

Borges, Jorge Luis. “On the Cult of Books.” Selected Non-Fictions. Translated by Eliot Weinberger, Penguin, 2000, 358.