Sunday, March 30, 2014

Week 13: Less is More

   A quote can be a gate to a personal philosophy, a mantra for a cause, or that endless ad jingle rattling in your ear. In this case, the quote "less is more" ... originally from the 1851 poem Andrea Del Sarto (or The Faultless Painter) by Robert Browning ( was used by pioneer modernist architect, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to define his architectural style. The original poem by Browning has nothing to do with the sleek lines and circumspect visage of Mies van der Rohe's pure forms and spacious interiors... in fact, the quote doesn't appear until lines 70 through 78 of the poem! and has nothing to do with space and form, but rather, a somewhat lovelorn drama and extensive self inspection.. as Browning's works can be... where each line seems to hold the information of a hundred trains of thought...

"I could count twenty such
On twice your fingers, and not leave this town,
Who strive—you don’t know how the others strive
To paint a little thing like that you smeared
Carelessly passing with your robes afloat,—        75
Yet do much less, so much less, Someone says,
(I know his name, no matter)—so much less!
Well, less is more, Lucrezia: I am judged." -R. Browning

Oh well, the book...

"...I am judged." -RB
The Colophon:
Less is More is a tiny 2-inch by 2-inch case-bound book constructed of black silk bookcloth, hand-painted pastepaper, and gray Rives BFK paper. Binding is completed with the kettle stitch with french-link binding. The fore-edge of each page is tipped with black bookcloth to resemble posts of a wrought-iron gate. A strand of metallic silver thread is strung through each page as well... similar to the industrial steel cable outlining Mies van der Rohe's balconies and stairwells. 

silver thread along the fore-edge..
Each page was illustrated by this artist with calligraphic brush marks in India ink.

mark of entry
Polyester plate lithography was used to transcribe the single line of text, in InaiMathi 18 pt. font, of Mies van der Rohe's adaption of the Browning quote "Less is More".
... a cross can mean change...
more of less...
symbolism of three
...the gate
Fifteen pages of the quote, "Less is More," with fifteen unique pen and ink drawings complete the tiny book. Unlike many of the works of Mies van der Rohe, it is physically insignificant.

Some examples of the works of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe...
architectural drawing of an unfinished 1950's residential complex
Seagrams Tower, NYC
Barcelona chair
Farnsworth House

a gate
and permission 
your shelter

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Week 12: Growing Up: Vintage Trading Cards Set

   What do gates have to do with growing up? Between the blown-out birthday candles of a lifetime and the countless days in between are many gates... Most often, the gates are invisible. They are the metaphysical gates of change happening.  A new year doesn't cause the transformation, living does. The book-of-the-week for Week 12, Growing Up: Vintage Trading Cards Set  is a book about some of these gates. It's a snapshot of a period in time for a little boy during his first few years... Some are real memories and some are fun-loving fiction... Instead of a traditional photo book or childhood journal they are expressed as athletic trading cards. 

a tape measurer and magnet create the clasp
   The book structure is an accordion book with pockets... and can be a sort of activity book...with trading cards going in and out of the pockets. The accordion pages are heavyweight Mohawk paper, mono-printed in shades of green and blue. Inside each pocket fits a Growing Up Trading Card. The front of each card is a polyester plate lithograph (of a photograph) of the little boy. On the back side is a fictionalized account of the lithograph's event in the style of a real athletic trading card.

Here, the trading cards are inside the pockets

Here, the trading cards are pulled out of the pockets

Track and Field trading card... Gold Medalist?

the title card...

the title card, photo side

the title card print side... and the Track & Field card
Trike #34, Nascar Hall of Fame
card for Trike #34, Nascar Hall of Fame
Greatest Clown
silly boy did all those things!

Top Gun World Traveler...
Shredding the gnar on the pow
Robo-Guy: can do anything!
all the things Robo-guy can do when all grown up!
   Baseball trading cards date back to the 1860's when they were printed by sporting goods companies. By the early 1900's they were placed inside candy and tobacco products as a free gift. In 1909 the American Tobacco Company released the T206 tobacco card set in their cigarette packages. This set included the T206 Honus Wagner card... which is said to be the rarest baseball trading card of all time. In the 1950's the Tops Chewing Gum Company began inserting trading cards in its packs of gum and began including the sports players' game statistics. In addition to sports figures, the Tops cards included TV and movie stars, astronauts, and other celebrities. Non-sports cards produced by Topps included Wacky Packages, Star Wars, and Garbage Pail Kids.  By the 1980's  Topps was the leader in the trading card industry. When trading cards began, they were added incentives to buy gum, candy or cigarettes... by the 1990's, the cards were valuable on their own and the cards were sold without the gum.

the all-time favorite baseball card of the little boy in the book...

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Week 11: KEEP OUT

A gate the artist came across in Winston-Salem, NC
   Gates can be barriers against passage from one space to another. Metaphorically, the gate can signify any sort of stop or blockage. The book-of-the-week for Week 11, KEEP OUT, is about one element of gates... locks. It's a pictorial essay of 29 different locks... antique ones and contemporary ones... locks with keys and locks with combinations. It's just the locks. 

   The small case-bound book is covered with paper from a colograph print made by the artist and the spine is covered in black Japanese silk bookcloth. The title plate is handmade paper of abaca and linen  which was printed with polyester plate lithography for the lock image and letterpress printed for the title.

Throughout the book, hues of black, white, brown, beige and gray set the mood. When the book is opened, one sees the endpapers of vintage gray marbled paper. The pages are a soft handmade semi-transparent Japanese mulberry paper... chosen to contrast with the hardness of the locks. The locks were printed on the mulberry paper by the polyester plate lithography technique. A thorough discussion of this relatively simple process, is found at:

A few of the 29 locks...

Whatever the purpose, locks are intriguing
...and sometimes beautiful.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Week 10: Gate Translated

    The book-of-the-week for week 10 is titled Gate Translated. It's based on the idea that language is a sort of gate... by simply translating the word gate into 18 different languages. .

   A papyrus cover with mother-of-pearl button clasp and a red satin ribbon make up the outer cover of the little 3.5 inch by 3.5 inch book. Marbled paper accents the fore-edge flap. Inside, are the translations... hand-lettered on crimson ruled lines over lithographic prints of the Rosetta Stone.

The binding is made with the chain-link coptic stitch using a dyed linen thread. Added strength is created with Ethiopian headbands at top and bottom. A great resource book for instructions on corporating headbands onto handmade books is Headbands: How to Work Them, by Jane Greenfield and Jenny Hille.

A close-up view of a page spread shows a lithograph print of the Rosetta Stone, done in sepia ink. The Rosetta Stone dates back to approximately 196BC Egypt, and is one of the most important discoveries ever made with regards to translating ancient languages.. and ultimately opening the door to lost cultures. The prints are rotated in a variety of ways ... just as differing languages can change viewpoints and thought patterns...

Gate Translated...

Chinese: da men, fang men

Dutch: port, draaihek

French: porte, portillon

Egyptian: bab

German: tor, flugsteig, gatter, pforte

Icelandic: hliðið

Irish: geata

Italian: cancello, valvola, porta

Hebrew: sha’ar

Hindi: phāṭaka

Japanese: mon, gēto

Korean: mun

Portuguese: portão

Russian: geit

Spanish: paso, portalyn, verja

Swahili: mlango

Swedish: öppning, grind

Turkish: geçit, patika

   When two contemporaries speak the same language, the way is open for understanding and sharing. Learning a new language can take years of study, a quick memory, and the ability to think logically and reasonably. Certainly learning a language cannot be mastered by books alone, but requires the input of teachers and peers who already know the language. This is not a new concept. Linguistics was studied as early as 500 BC by Pāṇini... who, in studying Sanskrit, found over 3900 rules of grammar. Certainly, even today's modern languages are just as complicated...  and it can take years to master the nuances of the lexicon of a language. The words in Gate Translated are taken from literary sources and bilingual dictionaries, not necessarily the most common usage. Instead, they were chosen to make one regard the beauty of all the world's languages... and work for the blessedness of understanding... even if it's one word at a time.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Week 9: Red Gate Haikus

   The book-of-the-week for Week 9 is a small collection of haiku poems titled Red Gate Haikus.  Haiku is a form of Japanese verse dating back to the 1600's. Haiku poetry has a clearly defined set of rules based on the number of lines (3 lines for non-Japanese haiku, one line for traditional Japanese haiku),  the number of syllables per line (5-7-5 for non-Japanese haiku), a subject matter based on nature, and an unexpected twist in the poem's meaning on the last line. Modern haiku may not follow all of these parameters, yet will incorporate some of the elements.

   The book has been bound with a traditional Japanese 4-hole stab stitch. The cover is made of vintage printed Japanese silk such as might have been used for an obi sash or lining a kimono. Red waxed linen thread and red silk book cloth compose the binding elements. A wonderful reference for the process of binding Japanese books is Japanese Bookbinding: Instructions from a Master Craftsman, by Kojiro Ikegami.

Japanese stab-bound with cover of vintage silk 

   The text block was made of handmade kozo and Stonehenge printmaking paper. A carved linoleum block of a Japanese gate was printed in red on each sheet of Stonehenge paper. The title and haikus were letterpress printed on the kozo paper using either 18-pt Brush type or 14-pt Ionic type. The type-faced kozo sheets were wrapped around each Stonehenge leaf so the red gate print showed through the translucent Japanese paper. 
Red Gate Haikus...title page

These are the haikus....

Be quiet when you enter this gate
Peace lives here

Strong, broad posts beckon
heartwood from the Tree of Life
walk inside its blood

Ancient red gate
to Eden's locus amoenus
Eternal spring

Crosshatch crisscross gate
Garden of the Golden Mean
Holy rules laid out

Red gate rises tall
Monks in saffron robes kneel, pray
to Buddha at the Bodhi tree

Sunset of the day
Red frames the gate to Heav'n