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Josh Hockensmith


Josh Hockensmith is a book artist living in Pittsboro, NC and working as a librarian at UNC-Chapel Hill. He produces artists’ books, small collaborative editions, and blank books under the name Blue Bluer Books. He has a BA in English from the University of Richmond and subsequent coursework in printmaking at UNC. The bulk of his book arts training, though, has come from working in the library: seven years as a book repair technician followed by eleven years working with the Sloane Art Library’s collection of artists’ books. In 2011 he helped to co-found Triangle Book Arts, a network for people interested in book arts in the Triangle area. His books are held in more than 25 library and museum collections. He was awarded a 2017 Ella Fountain Pratt Emerging Artist Grant from the Durham Arts Council, to support an exhibition of two new artist’s book projects, After and A New Geometry.


I came to artists' books as a poet, so my first projects started as texts that I translated into book form. Now my approach is more varied, but I still think of each book as a narrative whole. Reading a book is a physical and conceptual experience that unfolds over time, so I try to consider the effect that every element of the book will have on that experience. Sometimes that means using materials that are directly related to the book's contents (e.g. using Japanese kozo paper and a stab binding for a book of haiku). Other times I might use dissonant elements to undermine a book's apparent meaning. In all cases, I think an artist's book is successful when its physical body and its conceptual underpinnings resonate with each other in ways that stay interesting.

I'm inspired by ideas from Zen Buddhism and Taoism, by nature and the environment, by language itself, and by other books. The aesthetics of the haiku tradition were very important to me as a poet, and I look for ways to translate those values into my books-close attention to the ordinary, suggestion rather than explanation, and a light touch. Finally, I'm interested in the future of the book-how books and digital media and tools are evolving together, exploring their intersection and what is uniquely valuable about the physical book.

You can see more of Josh’s work at or on Instagram: @bluebluerbooks.


Ghost images from the interleaving of an old art catalogue and other images of “after”-ness, paired with a blackout poem made using Zen poet Ikkyu’s “Skeletons” as the source text.
Letterpress & inkjet on Stonehenge, Red River, and Hiromi paper, with sumi ink blackout by hand. Edition of 25 + 5 artist’s proofs in progress, 2018.

A New Geometry
Photos and text from a sequence of walks in our hometown, centered on compelling pieces of litter.
Letterpress & inkjet on Red River and Hiromi papers.
Edition of 17 copies planned for 2018-2019.

Sierra Suite
Chapbook of "found oral poems" I copied down during a presentation about how to use a new library software.
Letterpress on Rives printmaking paper. Double signature pamphlet stitch.
Edition of 10, 2017.

heart sutra, remix (cassette edition)
Inkjet on Hiromi paper with burning done with a soldering iron. Accordion-fold.
Edition of 75, 2015.

Doctor Mister Miracles's Vocabulary Guide for the Perplexed Miraclist
A collection of terms, made-up and real, to "vivify your miracle practice." Things escalate.
Inkjet on Red River paper. Hidden side-sewing binding.
Edition of 100, 2014.

Googled English Frontier Star
Collection of thirty 2- and 3-word phrases that brought back zero Google search results at the time.
Hand-set rubber stamp type on a variety of commercial decorative papers, hand trimmed. Invented 'star' binding using a steel can as the central spine.
Edition of 5, 2008.

Escape from Eden (collaboration with Ippy Patterson)
Design binding for a book of rapidograph drawings by Ippy Patterson.
Inkjet on Hahnemühle paper. Double-leaved accordion binding.
Edition of 20, 2001.

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