Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Exhibitor Spotlight - Vicente Vertiz Pani

Vicente Vertiz Pani is one of our international artists that specializes in small editions of painted artist books that reflect his unique experiences. What follows is an interview that will explore the origin of his artistic influences and future projects.

Patty Lee: What is your first creative memory?
Vicente Vertiz Pani: The 1968 Olympics in Mexico city. I was just a kid 9 years old, but all the buzz around it inspired me to create a comic book that I wrote and drew about a very fat lady that was a real pain in the ass.

Patty Lee: What is the most interesting use of a book that you have seen?
Vicente Vertiz Pani: One I made when I was a boy that has the cover of a very serious text book and underneath I could camouflage a a sketch book or a comic book to make appear that I was studying.

Patty Lee: What is the oddest thing or experience that has inspired one of your works?
Vicente Vertiz Pani: My experiences as a pro ultradistance athlete, the kidnapping I suffered 16 years ago, the long walks of up 18 hours non stop I enjoy to do on the trips I take to different cities, odd buildings, etc...
Patty Lee: What are you working on right now, what is in your studio?
Vicente Vertiz Pani: I am working on several prints on wood for a book called "Ciudades en las que nunca he estado" (cities where I have never been) That is a group of 7 large format xilographies on Guarro paper, that I am going to present at the Estampa fair in Madrid Spain next October and in November at the Pyramid Atlantic Book fair. My studio right now is a mess. I have several prints on silk that I am painting by hand for a project on edition of wearable art, there are plates all over the place on big piece of wood over with I am carving a large format Xilografia blocks one of my entrance and on the other my dog an airdale terrier named Croc sleeps peacefuly so I cant get out.

Patty Lee: What is your favorite warm drink?
Vicente Vertiz Pani: Hot Chocolate with a touch of vanilla, cinnamon or coffee.

Look for more of Vicente Vertiz Pani's work at

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Exhibitor Spotlight: Sarah Nicholls and The Center for Book Arts

Kelly: What is the Center for the Book Arts...and what is your role there?

Sarah Nicholls: The Center for Book Arts is a hybrid gallery/studio/hub of artistic and social activity. We were the first non-profit in the nation specifically devoted to book arts. We’re dedicated to encouraging contemporary interpretations of the book as an art object, as well as reinvigorating traditional artistic practices of bookmaking. What that means is we mount exhibitions, teach classes, offer lectures and talks, host poetry readings, and publish chapbook and exhibition catalogs, as well as offer scholarship and residency opportunities for artists and writers to expand their knowledge of the book as an art object.

I’m the Programs Manager, and I organize a workshop schedule of over 150 courses yearly in bookbinding, printmaking, letterpress and artists books. I develop our schedule of artist talks, poetry readings, professional development programs for artists, and panel discussions, as well as oversee our artist residency programs, scholarship programs, and annual poetry publications. I’ve collaborated with other organizations, such as the Drawing Center, CUNY, NYPL, Printed Matter and the Museum of Arts and Design, to present programs and events around New York City. I run the studio programs, maintain equipment, manage our studio volunteers and interns, and provide and/or arrange for technical support for our artists in residence.

Kelly: Can you give us an example of the kinds of things going on at The Center this fall – perhaps things you’re particularly excited about?

Sarah: Today we’re finishing up installing the three fall exhibitions, which open on Wednesday September 22nd: Ear to the Page, organized by James Hoff and Alan Licht, which is a show highlighting the interaction between audio recordings and books. There’s also a Featured Artist Project by Catya Plate called Clothespin Tarot, as well as an installation of recent works by renowned book artist Barbara Tetenbaum, who will be speaking later in November, as well as teaching a GREAT artist books class that begins with the relationship between music and the visual arts. She’s going to be here November 19-21.

I’m also really looking forward to Find a Collaborator! – a visual artists and writers mixer on October 6th; artists and writers are invited to come in and hear about the collaboration between Wennie Huang, former CBA resident, and Ed Go, poet and book arts student, bring in some examples of their own work, and then participate in a few simple exercises designed to help them find a potential collaborator for their own projects. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.

Kelly: What are you working on in your own art these days?

Sarah: I just finished carving blocks for two prints published by Cannonball Press. Who do great things! And I was really excited to be able to do that. I’m aiming to publish an Informational Pamphlet on Weasels on their Habits this fall, as part of an occasional pamphlet series. And I have an idea for a lino cut animation, called Hot Doug’s Sausage Superstore. That’s as far as that idea has gone so far.

Kelly: What can you tell us about those index cards? They’re quite compelling.

Sarah: The index cards, oh my. Well, most of my artwork uses found text. I collect my text on index cards, and photograph the really nice ones, mainly out of an obsessive need to document. The texts are works in progress and the photographs are evidence of that process. The ones that stick end up being set in lead type, and I think a lot about the difference in how a text sounds between when it’s scrawled on an index card and when it’s set in type and printed. Right now I’m collecting a lot of text on weasels, and on eating.

Kelly: What are you looking forward to seeing or doing at the Pyramid Atlantic Book Arts Fair?

Sarah: I’m excited to see new work by old friends. I’m excited to get out of the city. I’m excited to see people I haven’t seen in a while. It’s always a great event.

Find Sarah at The Center for Book Arts, her website, and at the Pyramid Atlantic Book Arts Fair in November!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Exhibitor Spotlight: Sarah Bryant of Big Jump Press

Kieu: I know you've recently finished a new artist's book. Can you tell us a little about it? Will we see it at the Pyramid Atlantic Book Arts Fair?

Sarah: I began the design for Biography a year and a half ago after making a few prints about the periodic table. I wanted to create a book that explored the role of these chemical elements as both the discrete ingredients in our bodies, and the visual system way we’ve chosen to simplify and codify the world around us. The book introduces the table in an early spread with the elements present in the human body printed in specific colors. These colors identify the same elements throughout the book in a series of diagrams illustrating the chemical composition of the crust of the earth, sea water, and a variety of weapons, medicines, and man-made building materials.

I’m in the process of binding the book now and I’ll have several copies of it with me at the fair.

Kieu: You do a lot of letterpress printing in your work. What do you enjoy about letterpress printing?

Sarah: Letterpress has a lot to offer for me. It allows me to be in control of the process, and offers me a chance to experiment with varying methods of image production. It is ideal for editioning, which is critical. The traditional connection to publishing is also important to me. My books often draw from reference materials and educational printed matter, and I like that the process is related to the theme of the works.

Kieu: Can you share with us three books (artist's books, literature, etc.) that have influenced or inspired you in some way?

Sarah: Reference material of all kinds has always held a special place for me. In addition to my encyclopedias and old science books I collect Baedecker travel guides from the late 19th-early 20th century. These books were mass-produced with such sweet attention to details (half inch fold-outs to include certain elements in maps, for example) despite added costs. I enjoy reading the out of date information; which steam ship to take, how to pack, local customs, etc. I love this once useful set of information. I have a great Northern Germany guide from the 1920’s with descriptions of Dresden before the firebombing.

In Artist’s Book Land, Barb Tetenbaum’s Gymnopaedia #4 is a winner with me. And I’ll just admit right now that I love Watership Down.

Kieu: What do you look forward to doing or seeing at the Pyramid Atlantic Book Arts Fair?

Sarah: Without a doubt I am most looking forward to seeing the other tables at the fair! It is such a luxury to be able to wander around a room and see what other artists and publishers are doing, to handle their books and talk to them (the people, not the books). I will be sharing a table with Jessica Peterson (of Paper Souvenir), a great friend who lives a thousand miles away, and we will probably spend a lot of the day laughing.

Kieu: And for the random question of the day -- I think all of us have very diverse interests. If you could have another career in addition to being an artist, what would you choose?

Sarah: I enjoy teaching books, so maybe I’d teach something else? God knows. Fireman?

Sarah's websites:

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Katie Baldwin: Exhibitor Spotlight

GS: What are you working on currently?

KB: I am working on a series of narrative prints that use the traditional Japanese woodblock technique called moku hanga. This work has a little letterpress tossed into it as well. These prints will be exhibited at the Delaware Center for Contemporary Art. The show is just around the corner, so I am carving like crazy and getting ready to edition very soon. It’s pretty much all I think about…

GS: What are you most interested in exploring in your upcoming projects?

KB: I received a Van Line/Stein Scholarship from The Center for Book Arts. I am interested in taking as many workshops I can in order to explore a variety of book structures. In the past I have worked a lot with the accordion, and it’s time to move to other things. I am hoping to learn some new skills, develop new forms and see what ideas I generate.

I am also looking forward to experimenting with textiles and felting. I did a wall installation piece for Philagrafika last year that really surprised me. I worked with cut paper and felted wood and created a narrative installation. The end result was really interesting to me and I hope to continue developing my ideas with these materials.

GS: How or when did you discover your love of woodblock printing?

KB:As an undergraduate at The Evergreen State College, I studied sculpture. When I was finished with school, I moved to Montana and lived in a very small apartment with my daughter. I didn’t have access to a studio, tools, equipment, or even a community of artists. My dad sent me a set of carving tools as a gift and I started carving wood to make prints by hand. I didn’t know much about the process, but I liked planning out images in the same way that I enjoyed planning out sculptural pieces. However, I think I really fell in love with the labor of carving. Somehow, taking the time to carve my images out of wood makes a lot of sense to me—work and labor make a lot of sense to me. As I became more proficient with printing, I became attracted to the idea of becoming skilled at an obsolete technology. This drew me to letterpress, book arts and moku hanga. Of course, it takes a lot of time to become skilled at these things. I am still working on that today.

GS:If you could have dinner with three artists, living or deceased, who would you choose?

Marilyn Frasca, again.

Louise Bourgeois, of course.

Mary Katherine Goddard, for fun.

GS: What are you looking forward to doing or seeing at the Pyramid Atlantic Book Arts Fair?

I am looking forward to getting out of Philly for a bit, visiting friends, and seeing the new work at the fair. I do hope that I will be able to back track and find that restaurant that Mary Phelan took me to in Silver Springs—the one where they serve $1 beers in small juice glasses.

GS: I'm pretty sure Katie is referring to The Quarry House, Silver Spring's favorite dive, located across the street from Pyramid Atlantic. They carry the largest selection of brews in the area, and yes, serve many of them in tiny glasses for a mere $1.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Exhibitor Spotlight: Letterpress Printer and Artist Val Lucas of Bowerbox Press

Marty Ittner: What has Bowerbox been up to lately?

Val Lucas: I have been printing a lot of custom wedding invitations this summer, as well as working on new woodcuts for coasters and small prints. I'm planning to begin some small, fun color reduction woodcuts, hopefully in time for the Fair. I've also been restoring an old C&P letterpress and am really excited to get that working again; the new press will probably become my real workhorse press for custom work, leaving the bigger Colt's Armory available for printing big woodcuts. Restoring presses is something I love just as much as actually printing!

Marty: What are some differences you see between the Baltimore and DC letterpress/art communities?

Val: Well, Baltimore is about to get its first community shop, which should draw a lot of printmakers out into the open— I know of several commercial shops in Baltimore but I'm sure that many printers are lurking in the shadows! MICA is offering more letterpress classes, so more people are learning about it. I'm a member of APHA (American Printing History Association) and the Potomac chapter includes printers from the DC area as well as Baltimore, Virginia and even Delaware; but I'm only really familiar with DC through my network of APHA friends, most of whom operate private presses. I have not had a lot of contact with the younger printers in DC—I hear of great things going on at Pyramid but haven't been able to participate. I do hope that both communities continue to grow and find new ways of reaching out to each other.

Marty: I see you created a Edgar Allan Poe poster...did you know Pyramid Atlantic will be putting on "The Big Read" focusing on Poe? Hal Poe will be also speaking at the Book Arts Fair.

Val: I heard that Hal will be there— I am excited to hear him speak. I created the broadside in honor of Poe's 200th birthday, but also because I was itching to carve a really big block. The broadside is the maximum paper size I could fit on the Vandercook and still fit the entire poem in large enough to read!

Marty: What will you be bringing to the Book Arts Fair?

Val: Bowerbox Press will be showing The Raven and Albatross broadsides as well as other woodcuts in the Avecedarium series (alphabet of birds), reduction prints, woodcut cards and also handmade books featuring woodcut covers and glass portholes.

Marty: How did you come up with the name BowerBox?

Val: Bowerbox is a combination of 2 things, bowerbird: my favorite birds, they built elaborate bowers to attract a mate which they decorate with flowers, berries, bits of plastic- each bird is an individual, a collector; and birdbox, an idea for a website name that was taken. Best of both!

Marty: I love your beautiful bird renderings. Are you a bird watcher? What sources to you use?

Val: I'm only a dabbler in bird-watching; I do love watching and scouting for birds whenever I get the chance. I grew up outside of Baltimore near the park, where lots of birds live. I consider myself lucky to have grown up there, and also to have been interested enough to learn the names of the birds (bedtime reading was the Peterson bird guide for awhile.) Most of my images, sadly, come from birds that have hit a window or other structure. I carefully photograph and sketch them, not only to memorialize them but to use as inspiration for my work. It's sad, but it's also much easier to draw a bird that isn't moving. I also have 2 lovebirds at home, and sometimes they show up in my work.

Marty: There has been a letterpress craze for a few years. Do you think the momentum is still there, or has the market become oversaturated?

Val: There is definitely a resurgence in interest, both in printing itself and the letterpress printed product. I think it's great that so many young artists are learning how to print, and more importantly saving all the old equipment from the scrap heap. I do worry a little about the "fad" side of it, as even large corporations are noticing the trend (Starbucks using faux-wood type lettering, Fossil working in Hatch Show Print) but most of my customers are still genuinely impressed by the feel and look of the letterpressed pieces. However, if the fad gets out of control, I just hope to continue working true to my own craft and heart, creating well-printed pieces of art and respecting the tradition, and I'll still be here when everyone moves on to the next thing.

Marty: What's next? What can we look forward to from Bowerbox?

Val: Well, Bowerbox Press is hoping to break into wholesaling cards to stores, and at the same time I'd like to expand what I'm doing with my fine prints. I have done a lot of craft fairs, and while they are great they just take so much effort that I often neglect working on that new print in order to get ready. I'd love to finish up my Avecedarium series, and maybe work on some larger reduction woodcuts. Of course I also plan to continue rescuing and restoring old presses to printing condition.

The Raven, 2009, woodcut and polymer on Arches Cover, 15x21. Photo of Val Lucas courtesy of Stuart Bradley.

Find Val at and and at the Book Arts Fair in November!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Libros de Artista: An Interview with Carla Nicolas

We are delighted that Carla Nicolás, Pyramid Artist-in-residence during the the month of November, will be presenting a lecture titled Flipbooks: Back to Front, at the Book Arts Fair. I asked her some questions regarding her present work, upcoming projects, and what she is looking forward to at the Book Arts Fair.

What are you working on currently?
Carla: I’ve finished ‘Derelict’ recently, an unreadable book-sculpture. This book is like a drift boat: the content is a sea of paper making with aeronautical tables, the welded structure cover represents the upper works (part of the boat out of water) and his light’s the lighthouse wich will take to solid ground. The light is a very important part of this work.

Gretchen: What are you most interested in exploring in your upcoming projects? What will you work on during your residency at Pyramid?

Carla: I’m interested in letterpress woodblock printing (I don’t have the possibility in the city where I live) and I want to work about the unique book concept with sculptural forms.

Gretchen: If you could have dinner with three artists, living or deceased, who would you choose?

Carla: I’d choose have dinner with Käthe Kollwitz, Charles René Mackintosh and Edgar Degas. (it’s a great and very dificult question… maybe tomorrow I’d choose other artists like Warhol, Dalí, Tàpies... but this is the answer for today).

Gretchen: What are you looking forward to doing or seeing at the Pyramid Atlantic Book Arts Fair?

Carla: I hope to learn watching the works of the artists invited and his creative process, find new concepts, materials and other processing around book arts. In short, I hope to find quality artist’s works and interact with them. This is a great opportunity to learn and nurture the intellect and creativity.