Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Linoleum on the press again! I love the hand-carved, quirky marks that come off of a linoleum block. Last week we had the opportunity to print for a local artist, Leo Debruyn. Leo's wife, crafter Maria Debruyn, brought the linoleum and helped to pick three bold colors and fine, velvety papers to match. The cards are available in their etsy shop, Crafty Mamacita. The cards are shown here before they were folded.

Guest Artist, Kevin Carman

Working with guest artist, Kevin Carman, on a book, fly fly fly, that contains striking linoleum cuts and a meandering rant through a scary, yet familiar dream-scape. Plans are in the works to have a book release party at Art City in Ventura on the first Friday of October.

Pictured is the book cover sheet that will be glued to boards. The spine of the book will run down the center of this sheet and there will be exposed stitches stabbing right through the bird's body.  It was printed on the Vandercook using a split fountain (two ink colors applied at opposite ends of the roller).


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Widow

There was a humor magazine called The Cornell Widow published by students at Cornell University between the 10s and 60s. I had never heard of this mag until suddenly Cam hauled 700 pounds of printing blocks used in issues of The Widow into our workshop.

It was a strange offer, difficult to refuse, and the "project" of owning these treasures/out-casts is still undefined for us. We went through three boxes and found a variety of blocks. Some skillful, absurd illustrations simply make no sense without the comedic text they were created for. Other images are so simple, like the moths, they've become icons for us already.

The caricatures are great and maintain abundant personality.

So far, the plan is to print the ones that stand out for us and maybe post scans on flickr. The call is being raised to "get the Widow off the floor!" I'm hoping that we'll get to some 1920s content somewhere in the pile like this great cover courtesy of the ephemera assemblyman.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

looks too good to not eat

These are (to the best of my knowledge) flowers growing in the center of collard greens. They are so exquisitely proportioned and geometrically perfect and my favorite color that I set them up on my window sill and photographed them. There must be millions of tiny flowers in there.

Then we ate them in salad- taste like mild broccoli. The vegetable fascination called to mind a letterpress card by Pancake & Frank that our friend Anne had sent a few years ago. I found it on their site along with several other lovely vegetables.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Even More

An interview with Yma Ray Leggett, author of The Even More, a collection of stories, games, linoleum cuts, jokes, and poems. The hand-bound book was recently published by Lettre Sauvage in an edition of 90.


Genevieve Yue: When did you start working with your mom this way, where you would think some thoughts and tell them to her, and she would write them down?

Yma Ray Leggett: Probably when I was about three years old.

GY: Do you remember the first things you had her write down for you?

YRL: Well, "The Dumb Doctor" was one of the first ones.

GY: Can you tell me what "The Dumb Doctor" is about?

YRL: It's about a little girl who doesn't want to go to the doctor. And she's arguing, "I want my chocolate now!" It's a really funny story, and she is screaming and kicking, and she said she's going to use her magic pear to make her party. It's really funny.

GY: Was this story based on experiences you had about going to the doctor?

YRL: Well, I do sort of act like her!

GY: Do you have a magic pear?

YRL: No. No one on earth has a magic pear unless it's electric.

GY: You've been making prints for a while, right?

YRL: Yeah.

GY: And I see we have a very nice linoleum cut that you made and printed.

YRL: This is the first one I did. I haven't done any ever since. I made this when I was seven and I still am seven.

GY: Who is the Stupid Dodo of Tips?

YRL: He's a dodo who has stupid tips.

GY: Who listens to him?

YRL: Well, I made him up. So me and my mom and dad are the only ones who know about him so far.

GY: Is it worth following his advice? Is it good advice?

YRL: No. Especially not for other birds. "Lay your eggs by the dog house." Yeah, it's bad advice for a bird.

GY: Can you tell me about "The Hand Game"?

YRL: Well, you read something... Mom, can you read something to me? We'll show her.

Fiona Spring: I have Frog and Toad. [As Fiona reads aloud, Yma places her hand over words in the book, replacing them with the word "hand."]

"Yes," said Toad. "Hand is my sad hand day. Hand is the time, hand I wait for the mail to come. Hand makes me very unhappy."
"Hand is that?" asked Frog, "because I never get any hand, Toad!"

"Not ever?" asked Frog.

"No hand," said Toad. "No one ever sent me a hand. Every day my mailbox is empty. That is why waiting for the mail is a sad hand for me."

the author at the West Hollywood Book Fair

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

ah ah ah ah ah (ah)

Fiona’s description of Yma’s discovery of the hand, and hand-writing, recalled to me a single edition published by Allen Ginsberg in 1975 called The Poet’s Hand Book. It is comprised of 24 Beat hands traced and illuminated: Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Anne Waldman, Gerald Malanga, Bill Berkson, Jim Carroll, and others. I’ve only been able to find this one picture from the book, Ginsberg’s own with characteristic mantras scrawled on his fingernails. (The book goes for $6500 at Biblio.com, if anyone is curious/wealthy enough to see more of it.) I particularly love the floating “ah” that hovers between the thumb and the forefinger. To me it signals something yet to be grasped. I’m also fond of this odd little sentence from the seller’s description: “Lefties win on paper 14 2 10 but only on paper.”

The place of the hand has often been a contentious one in the history of printing, but the two are more intertwined than is commonly thought. Manuscripts, as Peter Stallybrass has noted, were a concept largely invented by printing, as the handwritten text was commonly defined against mechanical typesetting after the advent of the printing press. But print and writing mixed as early as the early modern production of indulgences, which, to save time (as a great number of indulgences were being meted out, especially by the time of the Reformation), left blank spaces for names and debts to be filled in. Like later fill-in-the-blanks like tax forms, checkbooks, contracts, and Mad Libs, these types of documents weren’t considered complete until the hand had made its mark in the form of an autograph. This was the writing of the self, through the hand, through touch, and moreover through our primary organ of touch.

Roman Catholic indulgence, 1521

Perhaps the most significant thing that we can write is our own names. It is probably the most common thing that we write by hand in the form of credit card slips or, if we are marginally famous, the scribblings on cocktail napkins (or poetry broadsides, as we are more accustomed to here at the press). But this returns us to the idea of the hand, of the fingerprint being some unique, signature marker of ourselves, of our actual bodies, which Ginsberg understood with The Poet’s Hand Book, and which Yma realized instinctually with her word-and-hand play. I am reminded that the French word for “now,” maintenant, literally means “hand-holding,” which shows how the time of any experience and its communication is intrinsically connected to the physical sensation of holding pen to paper. In writing we literally inscribe a part of ourselves onto a page. And like the indulgences of the age of incunabula, the printed section marks a time of the past, while the blank spaces open to unknown futures, dates and signatures, or prayers in Ginsberg's case, the yawning "ahs" just out of reach.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The hand had stirred her mind.

Yma still doesn't feel very comfortable gripping a pencil, but she never tires of dictating. Recently we've been gathering her dictated compositions into a collection that we'd like to make into a book. In going through the work I noticed that Yma created two writing games that we can present in her book: the "hand game" and the "speak for the trees game." Both of these games sprung out of the moment very organically and were instant classics. We were cruising through the Avenue of the Giants in Humboldt County, feeling the cool breath of the ferns when Yma informed us in a languid tone that she would let us know what the trees were saying.

Speaking for the Trees

The sticks of the lemon tree in the riverbed
the trees in the river
the bridge over the rocky path

The scroll is on the cave of the beast
the thousand scrolls of love

papyrus, frames of fresh bamboo

we can get through all this
we have passed it & know that it is true

"Speaking for the trees" reminds me of a book we have called Who Speaks for Wolf about a tribe of Native Americans who are in competition with wolves for the space they occupy. I've also heard of Shamans speaking on behalf of places and animals to their people–being intermediaries with the wild. It's an old and venerable concept that she tapped into and I liked the resulting poem.

Another time we were lying on Yma's bed reading The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett. As I read aloud she placed her hand over the text, so instead of reading the next word I said the word "hand." Yma liked it and asked if I we could continue like that for a while. Then we started writing down the phrases as we went. We went back to The Secret Garden and read it through later so we didn't have a hole in the beautiful narrative.


In a house with one hundred mysteriously closed hands
there is no doubt that the hand, the fresh,
strong hand had given her an appetite.

The hand had stirred her mind.

She had been too weak to care about the hand.
But already she felt she could look at the ivy
growing on the hand. Howsoever carefully
she looked, she could see nothing
but thickly growing hands.

And, she looked them over, as the tree-tops
inside her hand- it seemed so silly-
she said to herself –to be near the hand.
If she ever should find the hidden hand,
she would be ready.

Today was Yma's first typesetting lesson. We got out the diagram of the California job case so she could search out the letters and place them upside-down into the composing stick. It had been months since we played the hand game, but the concept was awakened in her mind and she composed "Why did the hand go into the hand?" Then she placed a little star above it shining down on the cryptic words.

Monday, June 14, 2010

animated decay

Recently I came across a video that had been uploaded and downloaded from YouTube 1000 times. Contrary to popular opinion regarding the “perfect” reproducibility of digital media, the result was heavily distorted, with images and movements rendered thick and abstract, and the videomaker’s voice sounding like it was underwater.

I’ve long been interested in the degeneration of images as they move from one medium to another, or are copied successively using the same reproductive technologies. I once took the iconic man on the moon photograph and photocopied its copies until Buzz Aldrin slid completely off the page. It took over 500 acts of copying for that to happen, and in the meantime his bulky astro-form became nearly indistinguishable from the pockmarked lunar surface on which he was standing.

Another time I took an image of a film strip from Bruce Conner’s REPORT and applied a similar technique.

Here is the original, scanned from a book:

And here is copy number 50:

I like the way the strip curves, reminding us of the malleability, and manipulability, of celluloid. In this case, Conner’s REPORT reworks the famous Zapruder footage of JFK’s assassination, so the material is already optically printed over, layered, and as can be seen with this selection, punctured. Because REPORT hole-punches through the actual moment of death, it suggests all the missing information, the gaps and empty spaces, around events we have recorded in some way, as well as the inherent flaws that such acts of recording always entail.

I tried to work with this idea of degeneration with the images used in Negative Sky, scanning found photographs and then rendering them as photopolymer dies for use in a letterpress. After they were printed, I applied a light gray ink and randomly reprinted them, sometimes over the first image, sometimes in a different spot. Vernacular photographs are suggestive of memory and keepsakes to begin with, and here I was interested in using the process of decay to push them further into the realm of ghosts.

Ghosts live, or they move, in aberrant ways. They lurk in the spaces we assume they don’t, in between acts of reproduction, even in supposedly flawless media. While the static-y videotape that haunts the Ringu/Ring franchise might be a more popular example, I think Alexander Stewart’s Errata most vividly explores this idea of animated decay. Photocopied off a photocopy, and with each page used as a frame for animation, dots and lines come alive, constantly changing shape and color and direction. The film is only a few minutes long, but it’s clear that the copies could go on mutating forever, ghosts that not only live in the machine, but transform it altogether.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

in the fold

Paper is a Chinese invention, the oldest known pieces dating from around 140 BC. 200 years later, Ts'ai Lun, an official of the imperial court reported its invention to the Emperor and therefor went down in history as the inventor of paper. Although not the inventor, his innovations in the process of making hemp into smooth insect repellent sheets revolutionized his country.

This is medium weight paper with a hot pressed "laid" effect that feels like ribbed fabric. This isn't a book model. Just a formation of folds that crunch flat and pop apart when handled.

This is a very simple book structure that we plan to use with children. We want to print a river going down the middle crease and then have each child carve their own tree in linoleum to print a 3-d forest popping up. When it's folded together it looks like a slightly slanted booklet that we'll fashion a sleeve for.

Cam's way of book design is very fun to watch.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What is paper?

What does it do? And what do we do because of it?

Why do I, an ecologically conservative person use paper as my main means of expression? When many of my friends have stopped their magazine and newspaper subscriptions, avoid fancy packaging, operate the written word mostly in cyberspace...here I am pushing paper around, leaning over a white sheet, reading, studying, copying, remembering, folding, gluing, sewing.

Paper can be made from the waste of industry. It's becoming an afterthought. We seek out paper that's not made from virgin materials. Paper is the energy put into its production and how we use it.

Paper is a harness.

Recently Cam had a brainstorm of book structures based on origami techniques. One of his structures will be part of the next rendition of the Forest Drive. We spent a good portion of our day looking at it and discussing what content it was fit to carry.

The front cover has this nice polygon shape. The foredge can be cut to make a rectangular shape without disturbing the structure which will be sewn into the larger book as a single signature.

The first spread is a hexagon with an upturned triangle beckoning to be flipped under the index finger.

The second spread reveals two triangles balancing each other at the corners and segment of the previous spread peeking through.

The back cover with its shadows. Maybe it will reflect a richly colored sheet that starts the next signature? Could this structure be about putting things together, about divisions like stations in radio frequency, about shadows and reflections? It marks the first foray into the Forest Drive. The paper invites our hands into a smooth, blank place. Our fingers gently pinch and rub along the folds.