Sunday, November 24, 2013

Week 47: The Topiary Ballet

Two parts of The Topiary Ballet
    The book-of-the-week, Topiary Ballet, consists of two parts... a stiff leaf book and a tunnel book. It is a brief story about some dancing shrubbery. Most of the time, a book is the information contained wholly on the pages bound between the two covers. But sometimes, a book has elements that are separate. They may be a selection of letters and postcards nested within (and removable from) page envelopes... such as Nick Bantock's Griffin and Sabine Trilogy Or, they may consist of a variety of pamphlets, newspapers, broadsides, and clothbound books stashed inside a book-shaped box... like Chris Ware's NYTimes 2012 Notable book, Building Stories. Another fantastic example is Personal Paradigms: A Game of Human Experience by book artist Julie Chen of Flying Fish Press. Just knowing that there are so many options in creating book content opens up the imagination to unlimited ways of telling a story and making a book!

The cased-in tunnel book and it's stiff leaf book partner
   Pastepaper covers are the first hint of what's inside The Topiary Ballet.  Lively red flowers seem to burst off the paper... and a net-like grid alludes to both ephemeral alchemy and structured floriculture. Shades of green, gray, and terra cotta refer to nature and the earth elements. ...And the sizes are meant to fit comfortably within the hand or on a tabletop. The tunnel book is about 7 inches tall and 8 inches wide. The little stiff leaf book that accompanies it is about 5 inches tall by 4 inches wide and has a letterpress title-plate inset atop it's pastepaper cover. 

real and imagined

pastepaper art on the cover...
   Open the tunnel book cover and 5 panels depict the stately topiaries in a sun-lit glow. When creating tunnel books, it helps to have an idea of the rules of perspective. It's also useful to remember that things in the back need to be seen, so don't cover them totally with images in the forward panels... Cutting out sections of the panels so one can see through is a necessity. There are many on-line resources for how to make tunnel books. Examples of many fascinating tunnel books can be seen on Carol Barton's webpage,

The topiaries... tall and stately (during the day)
   The little letterpress stiff leaf book of the dancing topiaries has a hard cover and silk bookcloth spine pieces which bind the pages. The pages of the stiff leaf book and the tunnel book accordion side pieces are made of Pop-Tone cover weight French Paper  ( in the lemon drop shade. The panels of the tunnel book are cover weight Stonehenge paper which was painted with acrylic paints. This is the story...

The Topiary Ballet

There stands in formation

In the land of Pin

eight silent and stately

tall green men.
They stand in two rows

that lead to the gate

and the moat and chapel

of the great estate.
Over the frogs in the lily ponds

they keep a watchful eye

for pesky lads and treacherous hawks

swooping from the sky.
Like chessmen they stand there

along the terrace to the Keep.

But come nighttime they get up and

dance while we sleep!
They shake their long limbs,

do some boogie-woogie voodoo!

They sway in the moonlight

and sing Abba’s “Voulez Vous...”
If you asked them they’d tell you

the monotony of their days...

but their nights are a curiosity

of arboreal ballets!

The collophon: printing information
   The inspiration for the book is seen in the black and white photo attached to the back of the tunnel book. The real topiaries were planted sometime after the year 1920 by a young husband along the entryway to his wife's and his new home... a 300-year old chateau in the Loire Valley of France. The topiaries have been maintained for many years by one of his granddaughters and her staff at Chateau du Pin, Champtoce-sur-Loire, France ( As far as this visitor knows, the topiaries do not dance nor sing at night, but magic is definitely happening in this lovely place.

through the topiaries, past the chapel, through the gate, over the moat, 
to the 700-year-old chestnut grove

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Week 46: 29 Dresses

The Hwy 311 Flea Market near Sofia, NC
   The book-of-the-week for this week, 29 Dresses, is about a collection. Some days the bustle and hubbub of life seem to rise in a crescendo through objects... Whether it's chinaware, furniture, a certain child's toy, or a rack of sequined ball gowns... each has its own story.. signifying a sort of chapter in the book of a person's life. Recently, an outing to the Highway 311 Flea Market in rural North Carolina illustrated that same energy and narrative. While walking through a labrynth of clothing, chinaware, furniture, toys, military memorabilia, old tools, and more... the fullness of life was oddly displayed in the discarded remnants and the cheap merchandise. 
The cover
    The cased-in cover of 29 Dresses has hand-dyed indigo bookcloth and marbled cover paper. The title plate is letterpress printed with Antique Caslon typeface and indigo blue ink. Looking down on the book, the 29 dresses, glued onto the stiff pages, give the book a slightly rumpled, textured effect. One by one, the dresses tell a story...

the glued-on dresses and indigo bookcloth spine pieces.
Dresses of a child's book and a pastepaper painting
Dresses of a Paris map and gardening seed catalogue
Dresses of notebook paper and Japanese cloud paper
Dresses of a magazine page and a monoprint in pink
Dresses of a collograph print and a peacock feathers print
Each of the dresses in 29 Dresses has it's own story... just like the racks of clothes and the tables of goods at the Highway 311 Flea Market.
Inside the labyrinth of things
To make paper folded dresses, check out the You-tube video

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Week 45: The Reminder of Christmas Past

   The book-of-the-week for Week 45 is The Reminder of Christmas Past. This little stiff leaf book is a three dimensional assembly of stiff paper triangles that have been folded in half then glued on their adjoining outer sides. Depending on the scale, this book structure can fill several useful guises, from holiday tree ornament... to door stop. 

This particular book accompanies the ongoing House series.

The poem, The Reminder of Christmas Past is handwritten inside with sepia toned calligraphy ink and an old fashioned pen and nib...

The Reminder of Christmas Past

It stands in the yard
somewhat alone -
The small fir tree
A relic from some long ago
Bought with the fervor,
the impending

of the yearly
drama played out
as Love, Devotion, Joy and Peace
One night a year.
So it stands, somewhat alone -
in the yard. Because
trees should not
be grown, harvested,

used for
one night a year
and discarded! No!
So it was harvested with its roots
intact, and after the celebration, was
planted in the corner of the yard...
an odd reminder of Joy and
Devotion, Love and

Not just a singular book about a place in time, this little tree is part of the setting... it moves around the books of the House series as some toy soldier on movements. It stands sentry by the tree house stairs, or perches on the porch veranda.

When all the doors of the old house and the tree house and garden shed are flung open, it stands firmly in the center of the stage.

...and in the corner of the yard at Orange Lantern Press, the real little tree stands guard at the beginning of the driveway.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Week 44: Ode to Stairs

   The book-of-the-week for week 44 is titled Ode to Stairs. It is an additional book to the House series. Ode to Stairs completes the Garden Shed and The Tree House book set...maybe.

The front cover of the book has a cut-out silhouette of a staircase over pastepaper and sepia toned sun-printed kozo. It was planned to resemble the real stairs leading to the tree house and garden shed in my own backyard.

The soft spine cased-in book opens to a single folio which is letterpress printed with the title, Ode to Stairs. The folio has been affixed to the case so it's centerfold is at the base of the book rather than along the spine. 

That way, when the page is pulled down, the stairs rise up as if they are leading up to the tree house. The stairs are a type of box pop-up known as origamic architecture. Read about architectural origami at

   The poem was letterpress printed along the side of the pop-up. Hand-marbled paper was used for the background and a grey-tinted white ink used for the letterpress printing. The font is 12-point Caslon.

Climbing up stairs takes some effort, but once at the top, there is always a feeling of having accomplished something. Is there the same feeling when descending?