Lonely galley tray: some thoughts on a new book project


Lonely galley tray, a photo by Miss Birdsong on Flickr.

While working on my thesis at PNCA, I wrote quite a bit.  Writing is my preferred method of developing the deeper concepts and emotions in my work, so I filled scraps of paper and notebook pages with writing during the thesis proposal process.  Some of them were lovely little stories; others were half-coherent ramblings through places I did not anticipate. The body of work that resulted from all that was  Stories From the Stone House.  One can tell from the title alone that, even though I did not present any of the writing with the etchings, narrative remained an important component.

When I began writing stories, I pulled directly from memories.  I focused on ones that illuminated my relationship to my family.  As time approached to present my thesis proposal to a public audience, I became increasingly aware of the nakedness of such things.  Then, horrified, I pushed everything into the realm of myth, depersonalizing my stories through archetype and metaphor.  There are two ways to successfully use personal material in art: to be so nakedly personal that the work can’t help but evoke empathy (and in that way, becomes universal or nearly so), or to depersonalize it enough that it becomes universal or nearly so.  I chose the latter method for my thesis.

Now that I have had some time to decompress from the thesis process, I am circling those original stories once again.  Seems a shame to waste all that work, doesn’t it?  I want to make small books of those short stories.  This is an act of art making rather than of publishing; it is about the object of the book more than the content of the writing.  I’ve long loved the fabulous books that Leonard Baskin created at the Gehenna Press.

I began setting type for the first page of a story, failing to follow my own fundamental rule about type setting: if one must set type, first count the most often used letter(s) in your text (“e” for example).  Then, count how may of that particular letter there are in the drawer of your chosen typeface.  After choosing Centaur in 12 point, I set my first page, which takes quite a lot of time and is very tedious.  When I got toward the bottom of the page, I ran out of “e” and “d”.  Oh, great… now what?

I distributed all the type yesterday, and now have to decide if I want to count “e” and “d” in another drawer, or suck it up and have a photopolymer plate made by Oregon Engravers.  Until I decide what’s more valuable (my time or my money), I intend to edit the other shorts into useable texts and make inkjet print mock-ups.  Stay tuned…

P.S. – Still working on that Medusa plate.  It’s lovely, and I can’t decide what paper I want to print it on.


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