Sunday, April 28, 2013

Week 17: Veggie Haikus

Buttery yellow squash and crispy cucumbers
   Spring is dragging in, here in North Carolina. Hot... cool...  hot again... cold... hot again... cool again... hot again. The trees are budding, the flowers are blooming, the pollen fog wafts along in big yellow clouds and coats everything. Tiny seedlings are just peeking up from their potting soil flats on the window sill. And this halfhearted gardner is imagining the perfect garden. That is the inspiration for this week's book-of-the-week titled Veggie Haikus.
Imagine the perfect garden!
This little book is a mixed salad of haiku poems about garden vegetables. The poems were written several years ago by a young woman who spent the summer as a garden intern at an organic farm in the mountains of North Carolina. Soon after, I letterpress printed a variable edition of eight texts. Since then, they have been waiting for just the right book in which to set roots.

Title page: letterpress printed on Thai Chiri paper with katazomi paper spine piece
   Veggie Haikus is illustrated with eight watercolor paintings on pages that explode out of the book... ! just like the perfect garden! ...bursting with fruit and vegetables! Each illustrated page is folded with an origami structure called a turkish map fold. There are several tutorials for the turkish map fold on You-tube and other blogs such as Green Chair Press. Check it out at
Peas, first crop of the year for this gardener...
The first poem is about the cucumber...

Heavy jade jewel resting
under desperate grasping fingers
in a sharp outer coat

Usually lettuces, kale, swiss chard and cabbage come early in the spring.. even before the peas pop up! In the South, there might even be some tasty collard leaves to pick all winter long. In the perfect garden there's always something fresh to eat. 

Ode to Kale!
Stiffened silk ruffle
sunset tumbling down the mountain
a hazy bouquet

Cabbage, swiss chard, and kale
Another early arrival is the onion...

On onions....
Fresh zesty scent
Iridescent skin sleeping
under broken clay

Radishes, carrots, onions and a basket ready for picking
Singed lace trim
Pink and purple gold beads
sown to my red skirt

Potatoes are a delight in a garden.. all those little golden jewels hidden under a mound of dirt and a lusty green topknot. But mellons are like jewels scattered all across the garden in plain daylight! They have no shame but flaunt their beauty for all to see. No summer is complete without cutting open a cool ripe watermellon, then setting in to eat a slice... juice running down your chin.
Mellons yellow and green
The Queen of the summer garden.. the King, the Prince, and the Princess is one vegetable... the tomato.
In our family, it RULES.

Tomatoes in their special house

Dressed in slip of grime
can't stand up in your special house
needy, but I love thee
Your big red heart
Hovering above your special bed
'cause you need fresher air
Peppers.... red, yellow, green... hot and sweet!
In our garden, the peppers bring in the Fall... hanging strong and waxy on their little bushes until frost's first bite... and then it's time to plow under the garden and wait for the new Spring.

Brown silk spine cloth and handprinted japanese paper cover
So the little book of Veggie Haikus goes...  a tribute, a celebration, a commendation, a laudation, an appreciation of a homegrown vegetable garden and it's delicious bounty.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Week 16: Chemistry

Pastepaper covered boards and hand-dyed bookcloth spine greet the reader of Chemistry
   To many of us, science and math are often thought to be mysterious and difficult to understand. The words are often long and the equations don't have any pictures. The book-of-the-week for week 16 is an assembly of some of the basic elements (ha ha) of chemistry and is titled simply Chemistry. Be aware, this little book Chemistry will not clarify your fogginess relating to this fascinating science.

Cased-in stiff leaf book with a soft spine from handmade book cloth
The red paste paper on the cover prompts one to imagine the heat of energy and the orb-like spheres of molecules. Streaks of white refer to the illumination of knowledge.... also repeated in the stark white paper boards of the pages. The batik hand-dyed spine of geometric patterns relates to molecules, particularly carbon...known as the building block of life. 

Looking down on the stiff leaf book of collaged chemistry information
Inside the book, each page is affixed with an excerpt from an old Britannica Encyclopedia Book of Knowledge. .....did you know there are no more bound Britannica encyclopedias being made? Gosh! 
A diagram of the carbon molecule, atomic number 6 and atomic weight 12
I chose to focus on the chapter on chemistry from this vintage text book because of the range of information concerning chemistry that comes to us from the media every day... from how our bodies process food to environmental concerns. At the bottom of each page is the list of all of the chemical elements. A chemical element is a pure chemical substance that is made of only one type of atom. Each new atom has a distinct atomic number which is due to the number of protons that it has. As of 2011, 118 chemical elements have been discovered. When the source book of Chemistry was written in 1974, there were only 102 known elements. Amazing that there are still undiscovered entities in the world! 

Thinking about the properties of matter...
   Studying chemistry is fascinating in a broad sense. How our world is put together as teeny tiny they interact and affect each other in a communicative and reactive way is likewise amazing. Laws of science like Avogadro's Hypothesis and Bohr's Model give chemistry a visual language that helps us understand this invisible world. 

Chemists are all familiar with Avogadro's constant...which has to do with a quantity known as a mole

The law of Definite Proportions and a molecule of the atom hydrogen
   So this is how it starts...the smallest atom is hydrogen. It has one proton. The next smallest atom is helium. It has two protons. Lithium has three protons and is the next largest atom. The elements continue like that... each one adding a proton and becoming a new element. Really! Were it all that simple.. just adding a new proton.. then, wouldn't chemistry be so easy?  

   Lots of complicated laws and hypotheses tend to muck up the simplicity of chemistry. A reassuring fact is the Law of Conservation of Matter which states that matter is neither created not destroyed during chemical change. Well. With all the change that seems to be a constant since the beginning of time, isn't that a relief?

The law of Conservation of Matter

Finally, this little book ends with Figure 2, a drawing of how to categorize ALL MATTER.

...that's pretty simple...and we thought we were all so different!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Week 15: Postcard Time

Last page of Postcard Time

   A bookmaker ends up with piles and piles of tiny pieces of pretty paper. Eventually they are sorted into separate boxes based on their colors....Reds, Oranges, Yellows, Blues, Greens, Purples, Browns, Blacks and Whites... then stacked on the studio shelves. Tiny triangles, rectangles, squares, strips and circles fill the boxes on the book artist's shelf. Making miniature books in hopes that the stash will diminish.. is one solution.. But still more scraps tend to accumulate. The situation begins to be somewhat catastrophic and the bookmaker forgets about making books on important things like poetry, political activism and personal angst. It's time to tackle the mounting scrap paper! Another plan for getting rid of some of the scraps that seem to spontaneously generate is collage! The definition for collage is.... the act of gluing little pieces of paper on top of each other. So, this week's book-of-the-week is an accumulation of collage cards titled Postcard Time.
A 1940's tablecloth transformed into a book cloth cover
While reusing the old scraps, making book cloth from old textiles is also worthwhile... so a 1940's tablecloth was pressed into service as the cover material for the cased-in little book the size of a standard postcard.
City street map postcard
Houses-from-all-over postcards
Windows postcard
A paper forest postcard... Can we see the forest for the trees?
Looking down on the stiff leaf book of collaged postcards
   Handmade postcards are delightful to make and lovely to receive. I watch with trepidation as the ever changing world moves toward a rare use of the handwritten letter and actual paper mail. Even junk mail has diminished! (ok, that's a good thing) As I write this blog on my computer... clicking away and easily deleting my misspellings and grammar errors (sometimes)... I mourn the loss of the personal letter. .. Thanks to Kindles and Nooks I can't begin to imagine the future of the b....K! Yikes! Ok.. I'm being a bit dramatic. Meanwhile I'll keep making my handmade collage postcards and perhaps scratch out a few folksy letters to some friends and family... why don't you do the same?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Week 14: Persephone's Soliloquy and Defense

   Mythology has always fascinated me. The references to Greek and Roman gods and heros in art, literature, psychology, business, science, music, media, and pop culture are a symbolic and illustrative mainstay. Yet, I am drawn to the stories because of the explanations they give for the unexplainable. Last week, spring arrived amid a range of snow and unseasonal weather in locales not too far from here. In lieu of the arrival of this unusual spring season, the book-of-the-week for week 14 is based on the Greek myth of how we got the seasons. It is a poem titled Persephone's Soliloquy and Defense.
Cover of paper dyed with walnut hulls and silk spine piece
   When my children were young I read them the story, The Origin of the Seasons, from the book Classic Myths to Read Aloud by William F. Russell, Ed.D. In this classic Greek myth, Persephone, the teenage daughter of Demeter (goddess of agriculture, marriage, and fertility) is abducted by Hades, god of the underworld and also brother of Zeus (King god and god of the Earth). When Demeter looses her daugher, she searches all over... neglecting her earthly responsibilities. This causes the crops to die, trees to wither, and the Earth to go dormant. Eventually Demeter realizes that Hades has Persephone in his realm in the underworld and has made her his queen. Demeter goes to her brother Zeus and demands he force their brother Hades to release Persephone. But Zeus claims he can't help. On her own, Persephone refuses to go along with the marriage and refuses to eat unless Hades releases her. Still, Hades holds her as his bride, hoping she'll change her mind.

   Meanwhile on Earth's surface, the crops have gone dormant without Demeter's blessings and the humans are suffering from a blighted world with no food, no forests, and no way to keep their families alive. They pray to Zeus to save them as they begin to die of starvation and cold. Finally Zeus decides to step in, so he goes to Hades and tells him to release Persephone. Hades agrees, but says the deal is off if Persephone eats anything before leaving. Then Hades throws a huge feast in honor of Persephone's return to Earth.... not telling her of the deal breaker if she eats. During the feast, Persephone relaxes her resolve and eats six pomegranate seeds. With this trickery Hades has his bride for life. Yet Demeter is just as adamant that she's going on strike unless she has her daughter back. Zeus resolves the conflict by having Persephone live half the year in the underworld as Hades queen, (one month for each pomegranate seed eaten) and the other six months she is free to return to her mother on Earth. When Persephone is on Earth with her mother, the earth blooms, crops grow, and we have the seasons of spring and summer. When she returns to Hades, Demeter lets the crops die, trees loose their leaves, and fall and winter arrive. That's how the ancient Greeks explained the seasons.

Used tea bags line the pages which are cut with windows

A red silk spine piece connects each page spread

Cut windows are strung with cotton threads through which weave the poem
   The poem was letterpress printed onto handmade paper with 10-point Sans Serif font. Then the poem was cut into strips, with each line on a separate paper strip. The paper strips were then woven into the threads within the windows so the poem reads as if it is a weaving.

last page...
   Myths have the tendency to address more than one area of the human condition. In the myth of Persephone and Hades, there are several issues which relate to human nature. The poem, Persephone's Soliloquy and Defense is one aspect of how this myth touches on issues still pertinent today.

Persephone's Soliloquy and Defense

How did I come to this darkness?
A man stole me from flowered fields,
in an iron chariot he looked at me
with empty eyes. Oh gray doom!
For what do you owe me this pain?

Many women live in shadowed prisons
serving, but yearning for beloved fields.
Yet I am not woman of mortal stock.
Alas, what is the fate of a goddess?
(she eats a seed from a pomegranate.)

How I hunger for light, for warmth
not for love. In Love's bottomless pool
I am drowning. (She takes another seed.)
Oh what vital juice, filling me with the heat I lack.

Tiny beads of garnet, I shall have bliss
twice at once. (She eats two seeds.)
What do I do with the finished flesh?
Swallow to avoid unsightly mess.
(Persephone sucks another seed.)

The color of a poppy, the taste of wine-
juice makes crimson my lips.
(She puts a sixth seed on her tongue.)
such a succulent gift from earth.

Harvest, how I miss my mother
like hunger that is lost forever.
This fruit is like her, nourishing.
But how does this ripe fruit grow
when I hear nothing grows on Earth?

Tis not fruit! Tis Hades!
(She drops the red-skinned pome.)
King of Death, how dare you
test upon me and hit my weakest mark
to damn me to a cursed life!

Zeus, I beg, let ignorance be my alibi.
I blame you for keeping me down so long,
that I withered like a droughted flower.
Shall I suffer from your cold neglect?
Dear Father, bend the rules for me,
daughter of Demeter.

Her sadness strips the olive trees
and turns green grass to straw,
Apollo takes the sun home early
due to the barren sight he saw.

Yes, spare me for my mother,
for her despair kills the grain.
Ah, your worshippers also suffer
as they starve and die as mortals do.
Grant me acquittal, to save the favored

before your gloried temples crumble,
for I will rule forever among the dead.
Yet, you will rule oblivion. 
Strike me a compromise, for I did not 
complete the crime of an underworld feast.
I will love Hades six months a year
for every seed resting inside of me.
But when the day and night reach
perfect harmony, set me free
so your mortals reap the harvest bounty.

There are so many wonderful myths. Which are your favorites?