Showing posts with label Libraries. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Libraries. Show all posts

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Greatest Cake on Earth

This edible oversized cake is nearly too sweet for words. It is a remarkable replica of one of the 20th century's greatest Russian children's books, Tsirk (Circus) written by Samuil Marshak and illustrated by Vladimir Lebedev. It is also the culinary creation of Eleanor Ionis of Ella's Cakes. In the publishing world, this book facsimile might be considered an infringement of intellectual property, but in this instance, she has artistic license to thrill. No detail was overlooked, including the headbands and page leaves. And just as every book has a story, this "greatest cake on earth" is no exception. 
     To honor the publication of a long-awaited book catalog and exhibition of early 20th century Soviet children's books, this magnificent cake was recently presented to book collector and author of the catalog, Pamela K. Harer by her husband, family and friends. Long an avid collector and scholar of early 19th and 20th century children's books, Pamela Harer has spent years researching and assembling this prized collection of Soviet children's literature, and beginning this week, her curated collection will be on display until October 24, 2014 at the Allen Library, University of Washington, Special Collections in Seattle. Both her collection and breadth of knowledge about these spectacular books are an achievement few others have gained, making it a highly recommended visit. Earlier this week I had a brief opportunity to see the exhibition, and I promise to report on it in much greater detail in coming weeks.

Like any great book, this one was devoured from beginning to end and will not be on display at the library. A 1928 edition of Tsirk (Circus) will do nicely in it's place however.

The poster for Harer's exhibition "From the Lowly Lubok to Soviet Realism" also features Lebedev's cover illustration. Below is a photo of Pamela Harer staring in stunned surprise at the presentation of her wondrous cake.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Opening Exhibition of Camp Stories, Illustrated

It is a good thing this campfire wasn't any hotter, or it would melt the Letterology masthead above, making a sticky mess. As it was, the Camp Stories, Illustrated exhibit of my mother's and my own artwork, received a very warm and enthusiastic reception this past weekend at the opening, and I'm proud to say we may have set a world record for building the first publicly sanctioned bonfire and marshmallow roast in a university library. No books were burned in the process, I promise. 

I have to admit; setting up camp in any library is no easy task, but librarians are the best scouts you can imagine. Anything in need, they found it for me. I really want to thank Jane Carlin and her staff at the University of Puget Sound Collins Library in Tacoma for all of their accommodations while building the Camp Stories exhibit. The centerpiece of the exhibition was my campfire with roasting paper marshmallows, but more on that later.   

As I have described elsewhere in weeks past, this exhibit began with the stories of my mothers' childhood adventures spent living on Puget Sound, during the Hard Times of the Depression. Each Summer, the family of seven lived in a small, one-room beach house fondly referred to as "Camp". This was a time of neighbors-helping-neighbors and children who were free to run barefoot all Summer long. 

The image for the exhibition's poster originated from her joyful 11x14" illustration Swimming in the Rain as you can see above. Stepping back further, you can see my grandmother standing on the porch watching four of her young children playing in the water. This portrait sets the stage for over 30 more of her wide-eyed childhood drawings, each illustrated in 1983, at age 54. Her collective memories were all recorded in a journal which I discovered only after her death last January. All of her stories and drawings were produced within just one month, at the same time she was struggling with the increasing loss of her mobility after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The drawings were produced with no motive of financial gain nor recognition, but only for her own personal growth. In the purest sense, this was art for art's sake. 

The rustic Camp house often overflowed with company every Sunday—sharing in a meal on the long front porch—as seen in another of her charcoal drawings below. My mother was the devil child in the middle who is being chastised by her father for clowning around during prayers. My grandmother, Mert is seen working away at the wood stove with dog, Spunky waiting for handouts.  

Most every image had a story accompanying it. For additional context, I sprinkled in a number of copied pages of her journal and early photographs from family members and various historical archives.

In this scene, my mother put herself in the image twice—in the foreground drawing, and on the bench looking out to the water. She also cut the roof open as an xray, to view the scene from above.  

Having Fun With This 
April 8, 1983

I want to do a night scene with the full moon coming over the bay—I want to draw us eating breakfast on the porch in the morning sun; the beds on the porch; the pillow fights we all had; the wood block and chopping wood. 
     I want to show the fear of the snakes coming up the path and how we'd throw rocks and wood sticks to chase them away. I want to draw a big bonfire and how we all sat around and roasted marshmallows and sang. I want to have us in a scene walking through Newell's property, Mrs. Garness and the cow, the milk house, the pasture and the barn I want to draw us on the bridge and dock waiting for the boat—the "Elsie C". 
     I want to show us going to first dock, the huge rocks we'd climb up on top of and the clay cliffs I want to draw the fire at 3rd dock and the ruins, the blackberry picking, Mert cooking in the kitchen. I want to draw rafts, the ocean liners coming from the Narrows, and the huge waves. 
     I want to draw the back of the Camp from looking down from up on the hillside. This is so exiting that I love it. 
     My childhood was active—I ran my legs off so it's no wonder I can't walk now. I never walked but ran full speed. I see now the body wears out from childhood and I need rest now I can write and reminisce forever but visual imagery is where it's at. 
     I can draw the boogeyman—the bears, the skunks, feeding the seagulls—we had wood to burn from the beach we had kerosene for light, a roof over our heads and a warm wood stove to heat on cold days. We had fresh water from the hillside spring, clams from the beach and fish from the sea. We had it all and life was rich even though we were poor. We never knew it.

My mother was essentially a unskilled self-trained artist who made her own rules of perspective, composition, style and technique, and her narrative line drawings reflect some of the raw, spontaneous folk artwork of outsider artists. Combined with the many stories accompanying them, I was delighted to see they brought enthusiastic responses and smiles to many at the opening reception this past weekend. For myself, it was an incredible journey I was able to make with my mother back to her family home in the 1930s, when she could still run free. I can't imagine a better collaboration. 
    The exhibition will continue through January 14th at the University of Puget Sound Collins Library in Tacoma, WA. Check website for the Library hours. Stay tuned for tomorrow when I will feature some of my own artworks from this exhibition.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Please Don't Eat the Library Paste

Eating library paste was a popular arts and crafts pastime when I was young. Maybe this explains why I love books so much. Made mostly of a vegetable starch such as flour and water, it was used on paper and paperboard as an adhesive binder. I recently discovered this Sanford's Library Paste jar in my travels and recognized it as one I had seen as a wood engraving from an early 20th century stationer's catalog I own. It now contains just the dried and crusty remains of the white paste.

The Sanford Manufacturing Company, makers of writing inks, adhesives and sealing wax, was founded in 1857 in Massachusetts. Five years after the company relocated to Chicago in 1866, their facilities were completely destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire. Eventually they relocated again and operations resumed.    
     The Sanford's Library Paste jar was curiously called "Utopian" because of their patented central chamber which kept the brush and paste in perfect condition, so long as the brush-well was kept half full of water. The paste was possibly a favorite among librarians, but it also gained popularity at home for use in photo albums, which was a growing trend about this same time period when the photography trade began to flourish.  

Some promotional materials for many of the Sanford's line of writing inks and adhesive products from Bottlebooks. Below is a 1928 advertisement for Sanford's most popular products from the Society of Historical Archaeology who provide listings for unearthed bottle types.

Sanford's Library Paste advertising cover from 1904, via Sheaff Ephemera.

I'm not making this up. This gravestone marker is from the Goldfield Pioneer Cemetery in Goldfield, Nevada. It marks the grave of the "Unknown Library Paste Man" who was a starving vagrant who dug up a tub of library paste out of the trash and consumed enough to be a lethal dose. In addition to the flour and water, the paste contained small amounts of alum, which is poisonous when consumed in large doses. Kids: Put down the library paste! Don't do this at home! 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Mayflower Power, Part 2

In my earlier research on the late 19th C horticulturist John Lewis Childs (1856-1921), I came across a few of his illustrated bookplates in a collection at the Harold T. Clark Library in Cleveland. An astute library volunteer by the name of Rebecca Molton-de-Greeff had discovered a collection of Childs' books on ornithology and noticed they each had a different bookplate attached with hand-lettered and hand-painted images of birds. Her research lead her to Childs colorful career as "a successful businessman and politician whose love of nature influenced both his business and leisure pursuits".
      As I mentioned in my previous post, Childs began the first seed catalog business in the US and published The Mayflower magazine which were both widely distributed. He also had one of the finest private ornithology libraries in the US which included Audubon's rare Birds of America. Molton-de-Greeff's research also lead her to the blog of Lew Jaffee, who is a self-confessed bookplate junkie. He has 3 of Childs' scarce bookplates in his own collection: they contain a flower, and insect and a frog seen here. Jaffee speculated that the artists Childs hired to illustrate his colorful seed catalogs were likely responsible for the bookplate illustrations as well. His assumption was also confirmed by a contact at the Floral Park Historical Society on Long Island where Childs' seed and bulb business first began. Although this bookplate artist is long forgotten, they claimed there were many artists employed by Childs over the years, including one who lived on-site to help publicize his botanical merchandise.
      These unnamed illustrators and letterers were some of the first and finest commercial artists in the US. When Childs created one of the very first publishing empires in NY, he likely provided these gifted artists their first start at a career. (I give Childs credit for recognizing and encouraging their talents too.) I suspect many were untrained, but may have been influenced by sign makers, printers and typesetters of the day. The late 19th century was truly the golden age of typography and printing in the US and I do wish there was more of a public record of these amazing artists who helped make it so. I am however, very grateful for the beautiful archive of some of their work seen below. This and more are now included in the incredible digital archive of the Smithsonian

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Poetical Works & Letters of Robert Burns

In honor of Robert Burns birthday today (1759-1796), I have one of my own favorite title pages to share from a 1787 edition of The Poetical Works and Letters of Robert Burns. I recently found this book on a flea market table for $10. It has a very nice stamped leather binding with some wear, gilded edges and it is all in tact. Evidently, this is the "family edition" of this book. Just beyond the title page it has the comment "(In this Edition the more Objectionable Passages and Pieces are excluded)". The decorative title with beautiful line art and blackletter text is an inspired work of lettering and illustration. I have seen other titles of this very same nature, but so it goes...I can't seem to put my fingers upon them now. (I have digital copies of them floating around here somewhere, so will revisit their comparisons again later once I find them). This title page and other illustrated pages throughout the book are steel engravings. Below is the same edition of this book I found on The Philadelphia Rare Books & Manuscripts Company site recently. It has a plaid front cover and a nice fore-edge painting of Ripley Castle.   

This beautiful edition of the same Burns book is currently on display through February 5th for a Robert Burns exhibit at the Morgan Library in New York City. It was lavishly rebound for Charles J. Sawyer (1876?-1931), in the 20th century, probably by Sangorski & Sutcliffe, in London. The binder even included a miniature portrait of the author on the back cover. Visit the Morgan Library's online exhibit and you can listen to some audio versions of Burns works over a hearty meal of haggis tonight—or not. 

 This is how the poet's birthday was celebrated in Glasgow a few years back.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Check Out This Library Material

Leave it to librarians to uncover some great film and TV clips about libraries and setting it to a dance beat. This is over 5 minutes of solid gold material and long past due. Excellent editing of 31 different Hollywood clips by Ryan Ireland and the staff at the Greene County Public Library in Ohio. Parker Posey has to be the best librarian! Thanks to Booktryst for the tip on this one. Made my day!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Book in a Bag

NY artist Trong G. Nguyen provides his own interpretation of a library in his ongoing series, Library. Beginning in 2007, Nguyen has used rice kernals, ink, gold paint, gold leaf and clear mylar to record entire books on grains of rice. He writes one single word in ink on each grain of rice, until he completes an entire chapter and places them all into a clear mylar bag. To distinguish the books' titles, he paints the rice grain with gold leaf. The book's title and individual chapters are noted in the top corner of each mylar rice packet with a due date card inside. His project gives new meaning to food for the soul.
:: Via Blessé par le mot

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Pocket Bookmobile

This adorable bookmobile-shaped brochure from 1952 was to promote service for the library on wheels in the state of Maryland. According to Larry Nix at the Library History Buff Blog, the first traveling bookmobile service in the US actually began in Hagerstown, Maryland in 1905. It was a wagon pulled by 2 horses with enough space for 200 books on the outside and additional space for more books on the inside of the wagon. The driver of the wagon did double duty as the janitor of the library. 
      Prior to the bookmobile, there were traveling libraries with small rotating collections of books which were stationed for months on end at convenient locations such as a post office, store or someone's home. This allowed for library service to be extended to rural areas across the US in the late 19th century. 
      Bringing books to the people has a long legacy around the world, yet it's unfortunate the bookmobile barely coasted into the 21st century before it became roadkill. Call me a sentimental old bibliofool, but I miss having a traveling library on wheels. 
Hey Amazon! Give us an eReader shaped like a bookmobile why don't you?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Read! Read! Read! Read! Read! Read!

In early 1971, a city librarian in the town of Troy, Michigan wrote to dozens of actors, authors, artists, politicians, writers and musicians and asked them to write a letter to the children of Troy about the importance of libraries and books. These 3 letters above were among 97 letters she received in reply. Read the full story here. As usual, these images are always clickable.
:: From the Troy Library Flickrstream.