Recent Blog Posts

Book Art Theory

Capitalizing on the interdisciplinary nature of the field, this blog calls attention to criticism and theory about the book as a medium and/or subject in works of art and, more generally, about book art. It seeks to encourage dialogue, solicit comments, and create a generative space for new ideas from critics and theorists of various fields regarding the aesthetic, semiotic, haptic, cognitive, historical, and other features that distinguish these works and their function in ethical, political, and social matters.

To contribute to the list of underrepresented voices in the book arts, see CBAA Book Art + Social Justice Resource List.

  • 15 Jul 2023 12:00 AM | Susan Viguers (Administrator)

    As I endeavor "to think what I am doing" (thank you Hannah Arendt). 

    6. In 2008 OEI published a special issue on the "aesthetics of editing”: “trying to reflect upon every possible aspect of the editorial work, from the commission of a text, or the appropriation of a selected document, to the editing of this text or document, the montage of texts and images, the choice of specific fonts or a certain paper, and the different degrees of collectivity involved in the work, in this specific space of tensions and unresolved questions that constitutes an editorial office.”[6] I consider how to make room for the “space of tensions and unresolved questions” in the task in front of me. Accepting that some questions are unanswerable.

    7. A quick google search for "aesthetics of editing" returns primarily film and video production, a smattering of literary editing. I find little exploration of this specific comprisal of activities that is artbookmaking, when one is both editor and designer (in addition to perhaps printer, binder, publisher, possibly many other roles . . .). Similarly, White's book Editing by Design presumes that the editor and the designer will be different people; the book's aim is to ease a collaborative process between different individuals and even different departments, not explore this singular yet multi-faceted process of being designer-editor / editor-designer[7]. I am pleased when google offers an article by Ramia Mazé entitled Bookmaking as Critical and Feminist Practice of Design, highly relevant to my interests, but it explores bookmaking as a team-based process, and not this more autonomous venture I face at my desk. While Codish and I are collaborating on this book, it is very different from what Mazé describes[8]. Codish shares remarkable material from her archives, lists of people to interview, and enormously helpful feedback, suggestions, and moral support. I couldn’t make this book without her. But our roles aren’t codified. She is not sitting here every day, driving the mouse, nor discussing the choice of this and not that.

    8. This and not that. How to visually represent an idea, or an emphatic point in the story? Grönberg has described her picture editing approach as “the visual material could make a proposal, or propose an argument, in a different way than a theoretical essay or another form of writing, but with the same intention to contribute to a way of conceptualizing an issue, a question, or a problem. Given of course, that the viewer/reader is willing to engage in looking at the images and reading the documents: to give them time.”[9] I consider this as I place scans of textual documents in the book file; how to encourage they are read rather than flipped past? When does it make sense to show the original document, and when does it make sense to typeset it anew? I had thought that my answer would be that when the form is important to the content, when it was carefully considered in the original, it should be scanned. Yet an ‘undesigned’ typewritten page has specificity and materiality. It is a loss of contextual, historic information to typeset it anew. On one hand: is all information equally important? Surely not? On the other: might my default be to show documents in their entirety, and only content that had no visual textual form (i.e., transcriptions from audio and video) be newly designed for the book?

    9. On Father's Day I visit my parents.  My mom is a quilter; both of my parents are avid gardeners. We play rummy. I realize that all these activities (quilting, gardening, rummy) are forms of editing: rearrangement of what is there, to achieve a desired outcome. Of course, in quilting, you seek out other fabrics to work with your stash; in gardening you identify what will function and flourish and accordingly transplant; in rummy, you draw cards to build your hand. In my work, as I cut out shapes and arrange the pieces and make relationships, I also identify absences, possibly needs. I wonder which might benefit from being left open as space.


    1.Jonas (J) Magnusson, “Editing OEI,”, accessed June 15, 2023.

    2.Jan V. White, Editing By Design (New York: R.R. Bowker Company, 1982).

    3.Ramia Mazé, Bookmaking as Critical and Feminist Practice of Design (Aalto University, Finland)., accessed June 17, 2023

    4.Cecilia Grönberg, “Image Editing OEI,”, accessed June 15, 2023


    Emily Larned has been publishing as an artistic practice since 1993. She is an Associate Professor of Graphic design at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. Emily is currently working on a book with feminist activist K.D. Codish, former director of the “non-traditional” New Haven Police Academy.

  • 01 Jul 2023 12:00 AM | Susan Viguers (Administrator)

    “What I propose, therefore, is very simple: it is nothing more than to think what we are doing.”—Hannah Arendt [1]

    1. I'm in an editorial-design phase of an archival-research-based book project that I began in 2020. That’s a lot of hyphens for one sentence. I will try again. I am adding pages to an InDesign file, cutting and pasting various text and images I’ve acquired over the past three years. I am resizing, rewriting, deleting, layering, interspersing, scaffolding, rearranging. On my desk I have a flexible outline of nested post-it notes that I refer to, remix, and add to. While I work, I've been reflecting upon this editorial process as one of the lesser discussed book arts. By “editorial process” I do not mean the mechanics of editing for grammar and clarity (although there is that too, I’m condensing many transcripts), but rather the larger editorial project of selecting, guiding, steering, (re)presenting. As Jan V. White writes in Editing by Design, the “Editors’ greater purpose is to organize the material in such a way that its significance shines out.... What matters is that some message, some point of view, be communicated to the viewer”[2]. 

    2. I am neither writing the text nor creating the images for this book I am “making.”

    So what am I doing?

    Pointing out

    Asking questions

















    Putting into relationship

    Cutting & pasting

    Moving things around



    Designing (is all the above comprised in this one verb?)

    3. As I compose this list, I think of Jenny Odell's Harvard Graduate School of Design 2020 commencement speech, published as the lovely slender volume Inhabiting the Negative Space. Odell offers that “the most substantive work you can do” as a designer is operate as an “orchestrator of attention,”[3] referencing Sarah Hendren's terrific 2016 Eyeo Festival presentation. In this talk, Hendren muses that synonyms for “designer” might also include “impresario” / “translator” / “curator” / “believer” / “amplifier”/ “archivist” / “conduit” / “midwife” / “radical generalist.” Hendren quotes George Saunders (also a favorite writer of mine), “When you tunnel deep into what you don’t know, sometimes that becomes your voice”[4]. Yes. All of this resonates deeply with my current activities. I am definitely tunneling into what I do not know. That is the main thing I am doing, in fact. Add it to the list in #2.

    Editorial Thinking, Image by OEI ( 

    4. Or, as Jonas (J) Magnusson and Cecilia Grönberg of the Swedish “extra-disciplinary” magazine OEI phrase it, “To edit is to work with what exists”[5]. In this particular kind of bookmaking, I am working with what exists to make what does not yet exist. 

    Founded in 1999, OEI has published 97 issues, which they describe as “experimental forms of thinking, montages of art, poetry, theory, visual culture, and documents; critical investigations, infrastructural poetics, localities, ecologies, new epistemologies, and counter-historiographies." 

    Last October at the Camden Art Centre in London, I had the pleasure of seeing Magnusson & Grönberg present about their editorial practice. While the OEI exhibition is a one-night pop-up, its installation is characteristically thoughtful. Individual issues, which appear not like magazines but rather as large, hefty softcover books, are dispersed among tables for perusal. A slideshow of images, including an intriguing diagram of “Editorial Thinking,” is projected on the wall. The sound of an operating printing press—an audio recording—fills the gallery.

    I extract small gems from their talk: 

    “Outsource as little as possible”

    “Proofreading is untheorized”

    "Prepress work = labor intensity + care + differentiation"

    Building an archive of an area — collaborating with experts about the area (scientists, historians, etc.)

    Fieldwork, editing, “radical publishing”

    Exhibitions, events, readings, are all seen as editorial events in 3 dimensions

    Micro-communities, localizing publishing (much of their work is in Swedish)

    “Giving a location a mirror of its history”

    “Cultural counter-history”


    “Very material work”

    You can only bind up to 6cm in Sweden!

    In answer to an audience member's question, “Why don’t you publish digitally?" Magnusson replies, “It wouldn’t be fun.” 

    5. I remind myself: what makes this type of bookmaking wholly engrossing is being wholly engaged in all the parts of making the book. It is very material work. It is multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, extradisciplinary. And it is fun. Fun, I tell you! (Sometimes I need reminding).

    (To be continued July 15)



    1. Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1958), 5.

    2. Jan V. White, Editing By Design (New York: R.R. Bowker Company, 1982), 2.

    3. Jenny Odell, Inhabiting the Negative Space (Cambridge: Harvard University Graduate School of Design, and Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2021), 23.

    4. Sarah Hendren, Design for Know-Nothings, Dilettantes, and Melancholy Interlopers, Eyeo Festival 2016,, accessed June 19, 2023.  

    5. “Public Knowledge: OEI.” Camden Art Centre., accessed June 17, 2023 


    Emily Larned has been publishing as an artistic practice since 1993. She is an Associate Professor of Graphic Design at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. Emily is currently working on a book with feminist activist K.D. Codish, former director of the “non-traditional” New Haven Police Academy.

  • 15 Jun 2023 12:00 AM | Susan Viguers (Administrator)

    In The Century of Artist’s Books, Johanna Drucker describes a mode of self-reflexivity specific to the artist’s book as an auratic quality which returns the reader’s attention to the physical form of the book object. Where readers might usually enter a mental state in which the object disappears and the text exists purely as its meaningful information, an attention to the construction in this way creates an energizing space in which the material and the imaginal are not opposed to each other and, in fact, vibrate, spark, bounce off, and connect in multiplying, generative, and surprising ways. In considering the concept of an editor’s/maker’s intent, I find it more direct to think about my own approaches in crafting such an object. 

    In founding the small press Carrion Bloom Books in 2019, my partner Jace Brittain and I wanted to publish innovative writing which could burst from its codex container and realize the kind of energizing qualities Drucker describes. We were aware of some remarkable writing (and had a sense that there must be much more) that wasn’t being published, and we thought that the form of artist’s books might help such works take a shape which would realize the thorny, grotesque, sparking potentials that made those texts innovative and challenging in the first place. Beyond showing or containing a text, we wanted to find forms which could shape and be shaped by their content. 

    Our edition of Hannah V. Warren’s Southern Gothic Corpse Machine, like many of our publications so far uses an exposed longstitch binding. Warren’s chapbook is constructed of three signatures of 16 pages (4 folded sheets) each. Three signatures being slender for the longstitch, a form whose visible threads already seem to provoke a desire for carefulness and preservation, there is a preciousness to these objects which is productively challenged by Warren’s perverse and visionary poetry. During its production, I made decisions about the makeup of a book already tuned in its text toward filamentous algae, roadkilled armadillos, and moldering monstrosity. Choices about paper, thread, and design which echoed and answered the book’s radical qualities: collisions of disintegration, vibrancy, vitality, atrophy, preciousness and perversion. A reader, approaching the form with apparently fragile intent, in this case is turning the first pages of Warren’s text in exactly the right mood.  

    During the production of each of the books Carrion Bloom has published, we’ve committed to adding at least one physical element which is totally new to us as bookmakers. With leia penina wilson’s call the necromancer, we experimented with allowing the lead type to leave a deep impression which we later rubbed with white charcoal. The result evokes something spectacular, confounding, and elusive in wilson’s work, an unstable sigil and not-quite frottage which rubs off a little on its reader. Our chalky fingerprints appear literally on many of those covers, and these marks appeal to us as visible evidence of an object which felt closely collaborative. And, the visibility of this process models formal self-reflexivity.

    In the case of our newest book, dossier for the postverbal/ by Carleen Tibbetts, we used a fading split fountain print on the cover in an attempt to capture some aspect of Tibbetts’ cosmic grappling with concepts of ephemeral data and deceptive language. Tibbetts’ poem describes “a darkable network ruined in such intervals,” spaces where language won’t cohere in symbol and images disintegrate, and we thought that such transcendent and extravagant writing deserved a form that might offer continuing collaborative engagement with those ideas.  

    I believe that readers respond deeply and meaningfully to such engagement. And there are many projects forthcoming from a diversity of exciting presses that advance new ways to read across translation, challenge conceptions of the page, and give complex attention to structural form. I continue to feel profoundly emboldened and energized by the books and projects being produced by Ugly Duckling Presse, Inside the Castle,, and so many more. These ecstatic book objects range widely from pamphlets to perfect bound volumes to digital artifacts, and it’s truly inspiring to be working and creating as a part of this community.

    Rachel Zavecz is a book artist and writer living in Salt Lake City. She co-edits the small press Carrion Bloom Books with fellow writer Jace Brittain. She received her MFA in Poetry from the University of Notre Dame, and is a PhD candidate in Fiction at the University of Utah.

    Post moderated by Emily Tipps.

  • 01 Jun 2023 12:00 AM | Susan Viguers (Administrator)

    I recently attended an event in the community room of a new urban apartment building. The room featured sleek contemporary furniture and was decorated in soothing, muted colors (think sage, pumpkin, sand). Various items adorned pale wood shelving and end tables: minimalist vases, useless wicker spheres, and monochrome stacks of books. In the context of this innocuous, semi-public space, the books were decidedly not a library intended for use, but rather a design decision. 

    As a reader, writer, and book maker, I’m interested in public and private symbology, use, and perception of physical books, so I forayed into the internet wormhole of book-based design. I found my way quickly (via home goods giant Wayfair) to Booth and Williams, whose catch phrase is “design by the book.” Online, Booth’s customers can search for “ColorStaks” and “BookWalls.” Books are grouped for sale according to the hues of their covers or wrapped individually in colored paper to suit designers’ palettes. 

    Selections from Booth and Williams’s Color by the Foot offerings

    One description reads, “Take your design to a new level with the Modern Beach Book Wall . . . Seventy-five authentic modern hardback books in crisp shades of off-white. All books are published 1980-present and include a variety of literary works, period novels and topical texts with light overall wear. Books total approximately 7.5 linear feet. . . . Actual titles will vary from those pictured but will remain the same color pattern. Book titles could be repeated after three linear feet.”

    Sample context for Booth and Williams’s Modern Beach Book Wall

    In the above description, reference to content is cursory and general, couched among physical descriptors. But Booth and Williams does offer a few themed sets; customers can purchase a “Vintage Curated British Library” or “Mini Christmas in July Book Set.” But no one is expected to read these books. Rather, the themed sets emit a slightly more genred ambient aesthetic (cozy study or seasonal spirit, maybe) by virtue of their general subject matter and appearance. These options are just different shades of the iconography of the book.

    Booth and Williams’s Vintage Curated British Library

    So why use books for interior design? A book is an important cultural signifier that conveys a message without the need for anyone to open it and read. First, the book signifies literacy—and tangentially knowledge, education, intelligence, and even wisdom. The book also implies privilege; book owners must have the wealth to purchase them, the space to store them, and the leisure time to read them. While these assumptions may not be strictly true in 2023, they are contained in the legacy of meaning physical books carry. Perhaps also the totemic presence of books offers relief from increasingly digital lives.

    Books embody many of the material qualities interior designers exploit like texture, color, and shape. Their modularity opens them to multitudes of arrangement. Composed of organic materials like cloth, paper, and leather, books can lend warmth and comfort to a space. With all these factors combined, it is not difficult to see how books occupy this niche. 

    I’m unsettled by these books chosen only for their covers. Their raison d'être feels tenuous. What happens when crisp shades of off-white go out of style? Yet the unread shelf of books is nothing new (War and Peace, Moby Dick). My personal bookshelves house plenty of books I haven’t gotten to yet, and I do enjoy the atmosphere they create in my space simply by existing. So what’s the difference? My unread books are hopeful; I aim one day to read them. The titles reflect my past experiences, enduring interests, and future ideals. They are recommendations from friends and mentors and have come to the sanctuary of my collection one-by-one. Read and unread, they are also the chaotic and contradictory amalgam of all their contents. 

    The commercialization of curated book sets for interior design raises a bevy of question that are worth asking in the age of books’ changing position and which I’ve barely touched on here. Next time you see a color-coordinated stack of random books in a waiting room or real estate open house, you might ask: Where do these books come from? Who is putting these sets together and wrapping them in paper? Who is buying them and where are they displayed? What are the historical precursors to this practice? Are we printing too many books? How do these displays stack up (pun intended) against those repurposed for art, or used for insulation, or ground into cat litter? And what else are we doing with books, aside from reading them?


    Emily Tipps is Associate Librarian, Instructor, and Program Manager at the University of Utah’s Book Arts Program, and the owner/operator of High5 Press.


  • 15 May 2023 12:00 AM | Virginia Green (Administrator)

    Recién estuve en CDMX. Mientras ahí pude ver varias cosas que he anhelado ver por mucho tiempo, incluso el Azteca/Mexica Piedra del sol y la Coatlicue monumental, Cabezas colosales Olmecas, el Castillo de Chapultepec, y murales de los tres grandes del muralismo mexicano, Orozco, Siquieros, y Rivera, el campus de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), y el Ballet Folklórico de México en el Palacio de Bellas Artes. Fue impresionante ver y considerar toda la historia posible que comparten y contienen estos restos y espectáculos en esta ciudad que presenta una cultura cosmopolita y tan universal como única. 

    Hay una frase en un libro religioso que leí que dijo que todo lo que estaba escrito en tal libro representaba solo una pequeña medida de todo el conocimiento concerniente a ellos, para que sus descendientes sepan algo que tiene que ver con sus antepasados. De todo lo que sabemos del pasado, ni una centésima parte entendemos de todo lo que ocurrió en culturas y pueblos anteriores. Así es como me sentí al contemplar lo que sabemos y no sabemos de la historia de México que está escrito, y ausente, de sus libros. 

    Poster for Trayectorias paralelas / Parallel trajectories. Artist's books and artisan and independent publishers at the National Library of Mexico. The exhibition is open to the public from February 24 to May 26, 2023.[1] 

    Mientras ahí, como detallé en la entrada del blog anterior, pude visitar una exhibición de libros de arte en la biblioteca nacional en el campus de UNAM. Luego presenté una lista de editoriales que encontré ahí. Para continuar, quisiera hablar de algunos detalles que pude encontrar en esta exhibición. 

    Una cosa interesante que surge de hablar del género de libro de arte en castellano/español es que el término artist book tiene dos equivalentes en castellano, el uno libro de arte y el otro libro de artista. En castellano no hay necesidad de debate sobre dónde poner el apostrofe en su ortografía porque la pregunta no se trata de quien hizo el libro, sino de cantidad y género en la gramática castellana/española. 

    Octavio Paz. Marcel Duchamp O El Castillo de la Pureza (Marcel Duchamp Or The Castle of Purity). 1968. 

    Unas obras sorprendentes que incluyeron en la exhibición fueron: Un libro del autor mexicano Octavio Paz (1914 – 1998) que se trata de la obra de Marcel Duchamp (1887 - 1968) de 1968. Estoy esperando poder acceder a una copia para aprender más de ella. 

    Octavio Paz y Vicente Rojo. Discos Visuales (Visual Discs). 1968. 

    Vicente Serrano y Vicente Rojo. Prosa del Popocatépetl (Popocatépetl Prose) 2003. 

    Otras sorpresas fueron dos libros creados por colaboración entre el pintor español-mexicano Vicente Rojo (1932 – 2021) con Octavio Paz de 1968 y con el poeta mexicano Vicente Serrano (n. 1949) de 2003. 

    Por supuesto, con tan solo estar ahí un puñado de días no pude profundizar mucho en el asunto de la historia de estas obras. Eso entendido, quisiera relatar algunas cosas que me resultaron fascinantes de esta exhibición.


    Las obras de esta exhibición incluyen un amplio rango de fechas, desde 1792 hasta 2023, con la mayoría creada desde 2016, la mayoría de las cuales eran de 2022. Por si acaso Uds. no supieran, la primera imprenta europeo en las américas estuvo fundada en la Ciudad de México en 1539. También, hay una historia aún más larga antes de eso, que incluye la creación conocida, y desconocida, de códices creados por las culturas anteriores al encuentro europeo con las culturas de México y la América Central. Esta larga historia de la elaboración de libros en las Américas representa una necesidad paralela al desarrollo histórico de la información portátil por todo el mundo. 


    A pesar de que la exhibición está en la capital nacional de México, hay obras de todo el país y hasta de artistas de libro de otros países, como Venezuela, quienes ya viven en México. 

    Cuestiones estéticas

    En los textos presentados en los 4 afiches grandes en las paredes de la exhibición los organizadores de esta muestra hablan de los libros de artista como “extensión … de la memoria.” Hablan de cómo el libro, por medio del arte nuevo de hacer libros, ahora incluye “experimentar con otras estructuras que producen distintas modalidades de lectura: cajas, biombos, pop-ups, carruseles.” Incluso habla del uso de “diversas prácticas artísticas, como la pintura, el grabado, la fotografía, la escultura” y de “alejarse de las lógicas de producción y distribución comerciales, con lo que se abre nuevos caminos.” También habla de “editoriales artesanales e independientes” y la gran “variedad de formas, materiales, formatos y estructuras que el objeto libro ha tenido tanto en el presente como a lo largo de su historia.” Esta exhibición presenta “ejemplares históricos” y “el resto de la historia del libro” [2] en diálogo paralelo. Estas cuestiones clásicas de la producción y teoría de los libros de arte son de gran importancia no solo en México sino por todo el mundo. Todavía tenemos que reconocer que la producción del libro de artista y su interpretación y reinterpretación es una práctica tan universal como la de leer, desear saber y aprender. No hay fronteras ni límites en tal búsqueda. 


    Giovine, et al. “Presentación (Presentation).” afiche de la exposición Trayectorias Paralelas, 2023. 

    Giovine, et al. “Editoriales artesanales e independientes (Artisan and Independent Publishers).” afiche de la exposición Trayectorias Paralelas, 2023. 

    Giovine, et al. “Libros de artista del MUAC (Artist Books at the University Museum of Contemporary Art).” afiche de la exposición Trayectorias Paralelas, 2023. 

    Giovine, et al. “Horizontes infinitos para la creatividad (Infinite Horizons of Creativity).” afiche de la exposición Trayectorias Paralelas, 2023.

    Recently I was in Mexico City. While I was there, I saw many things that I had desired to see for a long time, including the Aztec Sun Stone and the Monumental Cuatlicue, Olmec monumental heads, the Chapultepec Castle, murals done by the three great Mexican muralists, Orozco, Siquieros, y Rivera, the campus of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), and the Mexican Folk Ballet in the Palace of Fine Arts. It was impressive to see and contemplate all the history shared and embodied by these artifacts, art works, and spectacles contained in this cosmopolitan cultural center that is as universal as it is unique. 

    There is a phrase in a religious book that I read that says that everything that was written in that book represents only a small measure of all the knowledge concerning the culture that made the book, so that their descendants would know something that has to do with their ancestors. Of all that is known of the past, we cannot understand even a hundredth part of everything that happened among any previous culture and its people. That is how I felt contemplating what we know and don’t know about the history of Mexico that is both contained, and absent, from its books. 

    While I was there, as I described in the previous blog post, I was able to visit an artist book exhibit at the national library on the campus of UNAM. I then included a list of publishers that I found there. To continue, I would like to talk about some details that stood out to me from that exhibition. 

    One interesting thing that arises from talking about the artist book genre in Spanish is that the term artist book has a primary equivalent in Spanish, libro de artista (artist book). In Spanish there is no need for a debate about where to put an apostrophe in spelling the term because the question is not one about who made the book, but about quantity and gender in Spanish grammar. 

    Some surprising works that were included in this exhibition were: A book by the Mexican author Octavio Paz (1914 - 1998) that is about the work of Marcel Duchamp (1887 - 1968) from 1968. I am currently waiting to get access to a copy to learn more about it. 

    Some other surprises were two books created in collaboration by the Spanish-Mexican painter Vicente Rojo (1932 - 2021) with Octavio Paz from 1968 and another work by Rojo with the Mexican poet Vicente Serrano (b. 1949) from 2003. 

    Of course, because I was only there a handful of days I did not have time for any deep research into the history of these works. That said, I would like to share some other things that I found fascinating about this exhibition.


    The works in this exhibition include a broad range of dates, from 1792 until 2023, with the majority of them created since 2016, the majority of which were from 2022. Just in case you did not know, the first European printing press in the Americas was established in Mexico City in 1539. There is also an even longer history before that, that includes the creation of known, and unknown, codices created by the pre-contact cultures of Mexico and Central America. This long history of book creation in the Americas presents a parallel historic need for the development of portable information all over the globe. 


    Despite the fact that the exhibition is in the national capital of Mexico, there are works from all over the country and even book artists from other countries, like Venezuela, who now live in Mexico. 

    Aesthetic Questions

    In the texts presented on the 4 large posters on the walls of the exhibition, the organizers of the show talk about artist books as an “extension … of memory.” They talk about how the book, through the new art of making books, now includes “experimenting with other structures that produce different reading modalities: boxes, screens, pop-ups, carousels.” They even talk about the use of “various artistic practices, such as painting, engraving, photography, sculpture” and “Moving away from the logic of commercial production and distribution, thus opening up new paths.” They also address “artisanal and independent publishers” and the great “variety of shapes, materials, formats, and structures that the book object has had both in the present and throughout its history.” This exhibition presents “historical works” and “the rest of the history of the book” [2] as parallel dialogues. These classic questions of the production and theory of artist books are of great importance, not only in Mexico but throughout the world. We still have to recognize that the creation of the artist book and its interpretation, and reinterpretation, is as universal a practice as reading, seeking knowledge, and learning. There are no borders or limits in such a quest. 


    Obras citadas/Works cited:

    [1] Exposición: “Trayectorias paralelas. Libros de artista y de editoriales artesanales e independientes en la Biblioteca Nacional de México.”Accessed May 9, 2023.

    [2] Giovine, María Andrea, Alejandra Hurtado, Cuauhtémoc Padilla, Martha Romero, y Laura Elisa Viscaíno. “Presentacion.” afiche de la exposición Trayectorias paralelas. Libros de artista y de editoriales artesanales e independientes en la Biblioteca Nacional de México, 2023. 

    Peter Tanner is an Associate Instructor in Spanish at the University of Utah and Editor of Openings: Studies in Book Art. He has a Ph.D. in Latin American literature, an MA in Latin American Art History, and a BFA in Painting and Printmaking. His research focuses on artist books from Latin America. 

  • 01 May 2023 12:00 AM | Susan Viguers (Administrator)

    Durante la semana del 17 de abril tuve la oportunidad de viajar por primera vez a la Ciudad de México (CDMX) para presentar en la conferencia de Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA). Había viajado antes a otras ciudades de México como turista, pero nunca había tenido la oportunidad de conocer a la CDMX. Luego de estar ahí por una semana entendí como fue que los surrealistas se enamoraron tanto de ella. Hay tantas cosas únicas en toda esa ciudad que por fin entendí el gran sentido de orgullo y amor que tienen mis colegas y amigos mexicanos por su país. Por cierto, hay cosas malas y buenas en todo parte, y no estoy diciendo que CDMX es lo mejor de todas las ciudades, sino que es una ciudad fascinante, y que al pasear y ver la ciudad la palabra que me salió de la boca con más frecuencia fue “¡fenomenal!” 

    Mientras que estaba ahí pude ver a cienes de libros de arte, y conocer a varios artistas del libro. Pues, con esta entrada del blog quiero compartir algunos datos que conseguí por ahí. 

    Es libro de arte esta vivo y se esta iterando de muy distintos indoles por todo México y todo el continente americano.

    Aquí les presento una lista de varios editoriales de las cuales aprendí en tan solo una semana en CDMX. Espero que les sea útil.


    During the week of the 17th of April, I had the opportunity to travel for the first time to Mexico City in order to present at the conference of the Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA). I had traveled to other cities in Mexico as a tourist, but never had had the chance to get to know CDMX. After being there for a week I understood how it was that the Surrealists fell in love with it. There are so many unique things all over that city that I finally also understood the intense pride and love that my Mexican friends and colleagues have for their country. Of course, there are bad and good things everywhere, and I am not saying that CDMX is the absolute best of all cities, but that it is a fascinating city, and that while I walked around and saw the city one word frequently kept popping out of my mouth, “¡Fenomenal!” which can be translated to English as amazing, great, fantastic, phenomenal, awesome, brilliant, and tremendous (All those meanings in one word, “¡Fenomenal!”).

    While I was there, I was able to see hundreds of artist books and meet various book artists. So, for this Blog entry I want to share some of the information that I acquired there. 

    The artist book is alive and is being created and recreated in many different ways all over Mexico and the entire American continent.

    Here is a list of the various publishing houses that I found out about in only a week in CDMX. I hope it is useful to you all.

    Lista de editoriales / List of publishers

    Hydra + Fotografia
    Tampico 33
    Roma Norte

    Malulu Editions

    Gato Negro Ediciones
    Jalapa 51m 803
    Roma Norte

    Ediciones Hungría

    La Maquinucha Ediciones
    Oaxaca, México

    Suárez Juárez, Tania Elisa. Xanini. Oaxaca: La Maquinucha Ediciones, 2022.

    La tinta del silencio

    Niño Down Editorial

    Quadrivium Editores
    Temixco, México

    Ediciones Odradek
    Huitzilac, México

    Vodevil Ediciones

    Polvoh Press
    Oaxaca, México

    La Duplicadora

    Haz Encuadernación

    Petra Ediciones
    Zapopan, México

    NO GRUPO, Artist’s Book, 1982. Impresion em ladrillo. Fondo No Grupo. Located at Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC), CDMX, UNAM Campus.

    Ediciones Kaput Kollectif / Tramedia.

    Kena Kitchengs
    Toluca, México

    Editorial Cayuco


    La Cartonera
    Cuernavaca, México

    Victor Ríos. Chess-Land (2022). Litografía y huecograbado, montados en madera, piezas de ajedrez y estampado.

    Peter Tanner is an Associate Instructor in Spanish at the University of Utah and Editor of Openings: Studies in Book Art. He has a Ph.D. in Latin American literature, an MA in Latin American Art History, and a BFA in Painting and Printmaking. His research focuses on artist books from Latin America.

  • 24 Apr 2023 12:00 AM | Susan Viguers (Administrator)

    This posting is based on conversations and correspondence between Kathleen Walkup and Jeff Groves that have been edited for form, clarity, and concision. Kathy is Lovelace Family Professor Emerita at Mills College, now Northeastern University Oakland. While at Mills, Kathy inaugurated the first separate graduate degree in book art in the U.S. and later co-established the first MFA in Book Art & Creative Writing in the country. Jeff is the Louisa and Robert Miller Professor of Humanities at Harvey Mudd College, the founder of The First-Floor Press at the Claremont Colleges Library, and the inaugural faculty director of the Harvey Mudd College Makerspace.

    Jeff: In our previous exchange, we suggested that studio art typically begins with concept and then moves towards technology, whereas makerspace practice often starts with technology and builds towards a project. So both the studio and makerspace environments are creative, but creativity is developed in different directions. Exceptions abound, of course! But in both environments, there are certain necessary, routine practices that artists and makers need to take seriously. Think about type distribution, for instance. In either environment, undistributed type is a tool that can’t be easily utilized without a significant investment of time by a new user. In the studio, I find it’s easy to insist on distribution–near the end of the semester I tell my students that I will check every galley in the rack, and I will not award a final grade to students who have not distributed their type. In the makerspace, though, there are no grades with which to discipline practice, and not necessarily any strong supervision of students using the letterpress station once those students have gone through a training workshop. Each time I walk by the press in the makerspace, I notice a bit more undistributed type on galleys, and so I’m working on how we can more successfully build distribution into the letterpress training and make the expectation of distribution a value in the user community.

    Kathy: There is no question that, in the letterpress studio, handset metal type is the most vulnerable material. At Mills we not only withheld a final grade but put a student’s record on hold if their type was not dealt with; luckily, this rarely came up, although more than once I received a call from housekeeping to say that they had found some weird-looking letters in someone’s abandoned dorm room and wondered if they had anything to do with us. The way we were more or less able to keep the type in check was to constantly look through the galleys to make sure they were identified by type and student and then keep track of when that type was distributed. The studio manager always expected to have the studio lively with students on the very last day each semester when they could get in to deal with their type. 

    I once was invited to work in an academic studio where the community was allowed in one Sunday a month to print. While this was a noble gesture, it was literally impossible to work in that studio after several years of this: untied metal type spilled over on galleys, I couldn’t find two slugs that were the same length, and the collection of rare wood type was stacked in unruly piles on top of every type cabinet. 

    It may be that students in makerspace environments have to earn the right to use the type, which would otherwise be off limits. This might seem harsh, but we both know that a letterpress studio can become unusable in as little as six months if the type isn’t kept under strict control. Of course in studio classes, students support each other in their work. And while they rarely rat on someone whose individual studio practice is less than stellar, they do find ways to let someone know when a student is making work difficult for the others. I’m not sure how that concern for a workable collective environment translates when it comes to workshop or makerspace classes. What have you found?

    Jeff: I think the answer will be found in community building. The HMC makerspace is largely student run. We have a staff manager, but beyond that we depend on more than forty student “stewards” to make the place hum. The academic literature about makerspaces suggests that having a student-run shop, instead of depending primarily on staff members, is a potent way to create a collaborative maker community, and part of creating that community is building norms or expectations for behavior. We do that through our student-developed policies and training programs. Within our steward workforce, we also have a group of six head stewards who work closely with the manager and me to direct the efforts of the other stewards. Training the stewards to compose and print just got underway this year, and I’m hopeful that as we begin to build some letterpress experience among the stewards, and as they in turn share that with other students through our training program, all our users will see more fully than they do now the need for proper distribution. I have great faith in our stewards. We can touch base again in a year to see how the community building is going. Beyond distribution, what other press-room practicalities do you see that might differ between studio and makerspace?

    Kathy: Yes to community building! It sounds like you have found a great way to do this in the makerspace environment. In the studio environment, community is built by the instructor, of  course, but also by teaching assistants. Before Mills had a grad program in book art, I developed a system for volunteer teaching assistants. These were usually students who had graduated from Mills but were sticking around the Oakland area, although in some cases I brought in students from other programs in which I taught, like Community College of San Francisco. The assistants got press and bindery access in exchange for a set number of office hours per week in which they were available to students who were currently in the classes. This was so successful that we kept up the volunteer TA program even after we had actual graduate assistants.

    Speaking of graduate assistants: I had a great conversation with Rebecca Josephson, a recent graduate of the Mills MFA in Book Art who largely took over my classes when I retired. Becca has been teaching the workshop classes initiated by Northeastern University when that institution took over Mills. When she was asked to set up these courses, she initially had the same concerns about studio practicalities that you have had. What she did was, first, say no to teach one-off classes in which students would spend only one or two sessions in the studio. Instead she proposed four-session workshops in which students were given the time to develop a small project while they also learned basic studio practice in setting and distributing type, handling ink, elementary lockup, safe studio practice and, not least, press cleanup.  While she was not happy to lose some semester-long classes, she did see that students were able to be excited about their projects while also learning to treat the studio with respect. What was missing, and what she particularly mourned, was the ability to have students in an open studio environment outside of class, since, in the absence of TAs, there was no one to supervise the time. And unless students can be trained to do those supervisory jobs over longer periods of time (by someone that the college is willing to pay as an instructor/supervisor) that option will most likely remain off the table. Becca has done an impressive job of making workshop classes work, and I have suggested that she might want to write a future blog post about her process.

    Jeff: I appreciate Becca’s solution and that her new structure has allowed for student excitement. Perhaps the makerspace or workshop can serve as a gateway to more prolonged and rigorous studio practice? I think I’m seeing some developments in that direction with my fall enrollment. A fair number of makerspace stewards who I trained to use our letterpress station have enrolled in my for-credit course. I’m hopeful that they’ll then return to the makerspace with much more expertise and a greater sense of how to keep the whole operation running. We’ll see!

    In the meantime, Kathy, we should probably stop here, but only after inserting some photos of our respective spaces! Good as always to talk to you. I hope our conversation spurs some further discussion, and I also hope to see a posting from Becca in the not-too-distant future.

    The First-Floor Press at the Claremont Colleges Library. 

    The letterpress station in the Harvey Mudd College Makerspace.

    Poster for spring 2023 workshops in the Mills letterpress studio taught by Rebecca Josephson, who designed the poster.

  • 06 Apr 2023 12:00 AM | Susan Viguers (Administrator)

    This posting is based on conversations and correspondence between Kathleen Walkup and Jeff Groves that have been edited for form, clarity, and concision. Kathy is Lovelace Family Professor Emerita at Mills College, now Northeastern University Oakland. While at Mills, Kathy inaugurated the first separate graduate degree in book art in the U.S. and later co-established the first MFA in Book Art & Creative Writing in the country. Jeff is the Louisa and Robert Miller Professor of Humanities at Harvey Mudd College, the founder of The First-Floor Press at the Claremont Colleges Library, and the inaugural faculty director of the Harvey Mudd College Makerspace.


    Kathy: To get things started, let’s each give a little background information to establish our perspectives on our topic. Mills College, where I taught for over forty years, promoted innovation in the arts. The college did so by encouraging rigorous exploration of contemporary forms in the disciplines of music, dance, and studio art. It was in this environment that the fledgling field of book art—which didn’t have a name when I began teaching at Mills in the late 1970s—came into fruition. The program was grounded in letterpress and hand bookbinding, but intentionally moved students away from the outmoded master/apprentice approach of these traditional fields. Instead, students were encouraged to locate their own voices through self-generated projects while practicing and perfecting the craft practices of these two disciplines. 

    Jeff: My background is quite different from yours. By training, my field is literature, although most of my research has been in the area of American book history. I didn’t start teaching letterpress until the last third of my career. Harvey Mudd College, where I’ve taught for thirty-five years, is a science and engineering school where students are required to take a quarter of their coursework in the humanities, arts, and social sciences. Hands-on learning is common across the curriculum, including in the letterpress workshop I teach every semester and in the work that students do in the college’s new makerspace. While I see my studio and the makerspace as different in many ways, they both foster creativity in my students. Can you say a bit more about what makes a studio work well, in your experience?

    Kathy: Good studio programs are built on a framework of conceptual practice. Students learn to build their art on the solid ground of a well-thought concept, and they learn to develop their craft so that those ideas can be realized in the strongest possible way. In the process, students learn good studio practice: how to use and, just as importantly, care for the equipment, how to evaluate materials for their projects, how to function in a shared studio space, how to respect that space and the people who use it with them.

    Jeff: Yeah, good studio practice–learning how to use the equipment, thinking about materials, leaving the space in good working order for the next user–is really important to me, and in my workshop I try to drill all those things into my students over the course of the semester. Good makerspace practice, however, tends to be more experimental, and I’d say it generally works the other way around–from learning the technology to developing an idea of what you might do with it. I’ve built a small letterpress facility into the makerspace, and students are very interested in learning how to work in it, but they tend to do so based on a training system that utilizes other already-trained students as instructors. The users seem less interested in the conceptual side of what they produce, at least initially, and more interested in seeing what the technology can do. In that sense, “makers” are not conceptual artists, really, but they still manage to unleash their own creativity. That they are not instructed in a class setting over the course of a semester does create some interesting challenges to maintaining the letterpress facility.

    Kathy: What you are describing is much more in line with workshop teaching, at least in the sense that workshop students (and this is highly generalized) tend to be less interested in concept. In book art workshops, students are very often focused on the level of craft they can achieve, which can come at the expense of a developed idea. They want a product to take home. What I’m seeing now in academic programs is a tendency toward more workshop-type classes, either credit-bearing or extracurricular. These short-term classes might be instructor or institutionally driven, and can result in satisfying products, but often at the expense of process-driven work that takes time but can lead to serious exploration and innovation. For instance, I would give my grad students short-term proof-of-concept projects in their grad seminars. The idea wasn’t for them to come up with finished work; instead, they focused on the conceptual nature of the assignment and developed quick prototypes with little or no craft focus. By removing the pressure of perfected work, the students had space to explore purer forms of their ideas, based on the concepts I set forth. 

    Jeff: One of the recent innovations I appreciate in my printing course is that students are now utilizing the technologies of the makerspace to supplement the technologies of the press room. They’re creating printable surfaces with laser cutters, water-jet cutters, and 3D printers, then using those contemporary products on nineteenth- and early twentieth-century presses in conjunction with hand-set type. There again, though, I’d say the impulse is somewhat counter to the studio practice you describe. They experiment with the technologies, and then come up with an idea they can develop over the course of the semester. Of course, there’s some sense of what they’d like to do that precedes the experimentation, but that idea is rarely fleshed out before learning the makerspace equipment.

    This project-level merging of the press room and the makerspace, though, creates some challenges for the discipline of the medium, such as proper use of tools, learning practical methods with the equipment, estimating the difficulty of a project, or even efficiently moving through the routine distribution of type. I’m curious about whether there are similar problems in your studio experience, but perhaps that’s the conversation for our next installment!

    Kathy: Letterpress is of course relief printmaking. One of the exciting developments is the increasing adaptation of various relief modes (think Legos, for example) to the medium. And students should experiment with expanding the technology when they have the opportunity and the tools. What you describe here does, however, also have some affinity with a very common mode of book art instruction, which is to teach a structure and then have students pour content into that structure. My own instruction in book art classes tended toward teaching basic structures as tools that students could use in the development of their ideas, while encouraging them to use these basic structures as armatures for further experimentation rather than as fixed practices. And yes, I agree we should next explore specific issues around workshop-type classes when it comes to the letterpress studio. As you say, next installment!

  • 15 Mar 2023 12:00 AM | Susan Viguers (Administrator)

    When I was in undergrad (Memphis College of Art, R.I.P.) we had a fantastic foundations class called Idea, Process, and Criticism (IPC). I hated every minute of it because it felt like the goal of the class was to show us just how depthless, expected, and trite all of our ideas were. So many of us were trying to make projects about giant topics like climate change and body image and our own voices were hardly in the work. That class, along with the rest of my education at MCA, was an important catalyst for changing my approach to idea generation and helped me become more confident in my decisions as an artist. But even with the boom of accessible online learning spurred by the pandemic, I still find myself wishing that the equivalent experience existed in the non-art-school environment.

    There are plenty of assumptions about what being an artist means or what it looks like and most of those assumptions are manifestations of the (ridiculous) idea that “creativity can’t be taught.” In this brief article, I want to go back to the beginning of the art making process: the ideas; and I want to start a conversation about methods, tools, and teachings for idea generation that lead to deeper and more nuanced artworks. 

    When you are first starting anything, it can feel like you are floundering - never quite sure if you’re going about things in the best way and not sure if you know all the “rules.” This can be especially true with more abstract processes like idea generation. In that first semester of undergrad, I knew (in theory) that art could be about anything but through the assignments and discussions in IPC, I had to confront my preconceived notions regarding what I unconsciously thought art should look like, what it should be about, and what my role was as an artist - all of which were caricatures of the truth.

    When you finally believe that your work can be about anything, where do you start? How do you continue thinking about ideas and at what point do you start making? There are so many things to consider:

    • What topics are you interested in?
    • What is the goal of your work?
    • Why does this work have to be an art piece?
    • Who is your audience?
    • What do you have to say that differs from what others have said?
    • How does your work fit into a larger context?
    • How can aesthetics/processes/materials aid your ideas? 
    • How do you want your work to be experienced?
    • What do you want audiences to take away from your work? 

    And so much more. It’s a lot. But you have to eat an elephant one bite at a time.

    I start by asking myself what I’m interested in. You’ll notice I did not say “what do I want to make work about” because that is already jumping too far ahead. What topics do you actively seek out more information about; if you had to talk about a topic for hours, what would that topic be; is there a topic you find yourself perking up for if you overhear others discussing it? My answer to various forms of that questionwould probably be: memory, the function of time, sci-fi and speculative fiction, perception and reality, LGBTQIA+ stories, multiple universe theories and quantum physics, relative truths, dinosaurs, how memories inform our identities, and cryptids. (Honestly, sometimes it’s also helpful to make a list of things you are not interested in.) All of those topics are still huge though, so let’s narrow the focus. 

    What’s the goal of your work? I think a lot of artists think their work has to do something big and important which is why many of us in IPC immediately tried to make work that confronted huge issues. But one artwork can’t possibly solve such large problems and expecting your work to do so isn’t fair to the work, nor is it fair to the topic. So what is your goal for this one artwork? Why do you want to make this piece? Along those lines, beginning to answer that question can also help you start to think through how the work will manifest. It’s a slow process to work your way through continuously asking questions about your artwork before you begin creating, but I feel like the quality and effectiveness of artwork raises with each additional consideration.

    Note: All images are of my studio. 

    Beth Sheehan is an artist currently living in Tuscaloosa, AL. She teaches paper, print, and book workshops around the US and virtually. She co-authored the book Bookforms. Sheehan has also worked as a professional printer at Durham Press and Harlan and Weaver and was the Bindery Manager at Small Editions.

  • 01 Mar 2023 12:30 AM | Susan Viguers (Administrator)

    February 16th-19th, 2023 was the inaugural Tropic Bound fair and symposium: the first international biennial artist book fair set in Miami, Florida. As with many things, the pandemic changed the original timeline for Tropic Bound, causing the fair to be years in the making but therefore also highly anticipated. As I walked around the fair, elated to finally be amongst all of those incredible books and book-lovers, I found myself thinking about the way location (and the slightly more abstract notion of place) impacts the way one experiences artist books and the like. 

    Michele Burgess, Director of Brighton Press, showing her artist book The Blood Book

    Location and place play a large role in the way something is contextualized, affecting the attitude people approach something with, the connections and associations people make with something, and the reception of that thing. The contextualization of artist books is mused over relatively often within the community, although mostly in regard to situating book arts among fine art or craft, where those lines should blur, and where distinction and labels are beneficial. But what about place?

    How does a place like an artist book fair contextualize the artworks present in a way that a place like the Institute of Contemporary Art (located only a block from where Tropic Bound was) doesn’t? How do fellow exhibitors contextualize the work of other exhibitors at a fair? How does the city the work is seen in contextualize the work itself?

    Aldeide Delgado, founder & director of Women Photographers International Archive, discussing works with Tayina Deravile

    With the inundation of digital spaces becoming the new Normal during the pandemic, the general sense of place seemed to blur for everyone as events fluctuated from being solely location-dependent in-person events to accessible regardless of their base location through digital space, then occasionally utilizing a hybrid model and finally, now, often back to location-specific in-person events.

    Naturally, seeing the work over the backdrop of Miami adds a different flavor than one would experience in a different location and Tropic Bound took place within Paradise Plaza in Miami’s Design District, surrounded by stores including Gucci, Louboutin, Balenciaga, and Givenchy. This may seem like a somewhat comical pairing when considering the differing price tags, but Miami’s Design District embraces contemporary fine art, both on the streets and within those luxury stores in a way that high-end retail districts in other cities do not. Furthermore, Miami’s Design District is situated just north of the Wynwood district: an arts district known for its colorful street art, skate punk aesthetics, and funky nightlife. Because of the nature of Miami as a place, the eclectic collection of the sixty-three exhibitors at the fair felt especially harmonious, with each table displaying an excellent range of niches within the book arts community that mimicked the ranges within the city. Exhibitors showed all manner of books: from chapbooks to fine press books, movable books, zines, portfolios, art objects, tools, and so much more – each feeling equally at home at Tropic Bound.

    Dale Zine and O, Miami exhibitor tables

    Furthermore, the influences present from the base locations of the exhibitors themselves added to the contextualization of the works. With Miami’s proximity to Central and South America, the fair included quite a few exhibitors from Mexico, Cuba, Argentina, Colombia, and Chile as well as featuring eight exhibitors from Florida itself. Additionally, the fair’s line-up seemed to hint at its East-Coast accessibility with the bulk of exhibitors coming from the Northeast, although there was still moderate representation from other locations as well. With this unique group dynamic, I felt like I noticed commonalities among areas of the book arts community that I would not have noticed among a different group of exhibitors. As I circled the fair, I couldn’t help but relate the works I saw on one table to the works on several others: noticing common themes within the topics contemporary makers are exploring in their projects, discovering similarities such as more makers using traditional print techniques, or spotting ways certain books changed the way I interpreted others.

    Sarah Horowitz with Two Ponds Press showing her book titled Footprints

    Tropic Bound left me inspired by everyone’s creativity, care, and passion for artist books and their tangents and I am excited to see how this new avenue for community continues to expand connections in its next iteration in 2025.

    Beth Sheehan is an artist currently living in Tuscaloosa, AL. She teaches paper, print, and book workshops around the US and virtually. She co-authored the book Bookforms. Sheehan has also worked as a professional printer at Durham Press and Harlan and Weaver and was the Bindery Manager at Small Editions.

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software