Thankful

I have a lot to be thankful for.  As I write this, I have a floor-to-ceiling window view of the mountains outside of Asheville, North Carolina, all sunshine and quiet.  Before we left for this vacation -- to spend Thanksgiving with my brother and his wife at the house my family rented for countless Thanksgivings before my parents died -- an envelope showed up in my mailbox: a thank-you accordion book made by art students at the Ohio State School for the Blind.

Accordion thank-you book made by students at the Ohio State School for the Blind.

Last year I met the OSSB's social studies teacher at a conference I attended.  I’d listened in on a conversation he’d been having about how much the students at OSSB love their art classes, and we got to chatting. I told him about my Flying Adventures book, and he wanted to put me in touch with the art teacher at the school, thinking that there might be an opportunity for some sort of collaboration. One thing led to another and -- poof! -- all of a sudden I was going to be a guest presenter. 

I was excited about the idea, but had no clue how to go about teaching visually impaired kids to make books.  In the end I figured, just do what you can, keep it simple, and somehow it will work out.  Also, over-prepare!  I brushed up on book formats (with Sherman's help), trying to figure out what might fit into the timeframe I had.

My cat, Sherman, helping out with research.

I practiced by closing my eyes and imagining how to explain what I was doing: creasing paper, finding a center, tearing paper, using a bone folder.  It felt like trying to brush my teeth or write with my left hand instead of my usual right.  You really have to think hard about every single little step that you don't usually have to think about.

My sample pocket accordion book.

My sample pocket accordion book.

I started the week off with a Flying Adventures reading, and then got to work.  The kids were great... polite, funny, gracious, generous.  They helped me learn how to teach (and showed me how a braille typewriter works!) Yes, they needed help here and there, but they were able to help each other too. We folded mini-books out of single sheets of paper, made accordion books with tabbed extensions, and also ones with pockets.

A student's accordion book.
A student using a bone folder.

We creased, folded, glued, cut, made covers, and even did some pamphlet stitch sewing.

A student sewing a pamphlet binding.

One girl, after tying the final knot in her thread, smiled.  “I made a real book!” she said. That gave me happy goose bumps.

Tying the final knot in a pamphlet-stitch book.
Books we made in class.

After my week of classroom visits ended, the students worked on their own personal projects, choosing one of the book structurea we practiced and making it their own.  In the spring, they’ll be exhibiting their work at the state library, and I can’t wait to see it.  To tide me over, they emailed me some photos of their projects.

And then this amazing thank you gift arrived: an accordion book that stretches around my entire kitchen counter.  Every student designed a page, some with words, others with artwork. One in braille.

Thank-you accordion book from students.
Thank-you accordion book from students.
Thank you from a student.

It's been an absolute honor to work with the OSSB students, and I can't thank them or the school enough for giving me the opportunity to share a little bit of what I know.  Thanksgiving?  Most definitely.  This is what it's all about.  

The art shark!

ps -- Miss Rachelle has THE best art room.  My favorite thing?  The art shark!  

Wishing you a very happy Thanksgiving!

Photo-an-Hour: New York

I thought a day in New York would be the perfect opportunity for a photo-an-hour post.  Here goes...

claudia-retter-teacup.jpg

8:30am - Breakfast with Lynn at the Eveready Diner in Southeast.  She wasn't going to be able to come to the city with me, so we thought we'd at least start out with breakfast together before she dropped me off at the train station.

claudia-retter-chappaqua.jpg

9:30am - Hillary. Sigh...

American Flag, Grand Central Station

10:30am - Ahhh... Grand Central Station. Being here never gets old.

International Print Center New York

11:30am - On the train I looked up "print museum New York" just to see what would turn up. I had no idea I'd discover the International Print Center New York. Their current exhibit, Just Under 100, is the fifty-sixth presentation of its New Prints Program, a biannual, juried open call for prints that included 98 international artists. 

Framed prints

I loved seeing so many different printmaking techniques all displayed in one space.  It makes me look forward even more to getting started at the printmaking co-op once fall comes.

Louise Eastman, Jess Frost, Tara Geer, Katie Michel, Wendy Small, and Janis Stemmermann. Miss 2017. Letterpress. 20 5/8 x 16 1/2 in. Printed by Leslie Miller, published by Planthouse, NY. Edition: 15. Courtesy of Planthouse, NY. © 2017 the artists.

Louise Eastman, Jess Frost, Tara Geer, Katie Michel, Wendy Small, and Janis Stemmermann. Miss 2017. Letterpress. 20 5/8 x 16 1/2 in. Printed by Leslie Miller, published by Planthouse, NY. Edition: 15. Courtesy of Planthouse, NY. © 2017 the artists.

View from a Chelsea window

12:30pm - The view from the IPCNY elevator hallway.

Cape and dress, Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology

1:30pm - Thought I'd pop into the Fashion Institute of Technology's museum since it was just down the street a bit. Their current exhibit, Forces of Nature, focused on how nature and science has influenced fashion and even vice-versa. For example, beautiful bird feathers found their way onto hats and couture clothing in the late 19th and early 20th century, but demand for plumage rendered several species nearly extinct and ushered in protection laws which still exist today.

The cape (1920) and dress (1953) above were inspired by new concepts and technologies that brought the far reaches of space closer to ordinary citizens. 

A Typographical Romance, Typefaces from the 1920's

2:30pm - The Center for Book Arts.  I spent some time looking at exhibits & books and poking around their studios.  What a special place! One of their current exhibits, Animation & Printing, presents "a selection of short animated films from around the US and the world, each created using techniques common in the book arts such as letterpress printing from moveable type, wood type, pressure printing, lino and wood cut, etching, silkscreen as well as animation in watermarked paper." 

I loved seeing how artists were using printed material in digital ways.  Just because we create something in one medium doesn't mean we can't present it in more than one format!

Boxes of fonts

Boxes of fonts!  (drooling here...)

Emily Martin, Desdemona In Her Own Words

This was such a powerful piece.  Emily Martin's Desdemona In Her Own Words. While this photo only shows a single print from the folio, visit Emily's website to see the animation and learn more about the work.

Pasta at Eataly

3:30pm - Agnolotti at Eataly.  Heaven on a plate!

Cityscape in the Garment District. New York.

4:30pm - On my way to Mood Fabrics! 

Rolls of fabric at Mood Fabrics

I knew Mood would be overwhelming, and it was, but in a fun way.  I DID find the red silk velvet I was looking for to make my new "singing" dress (for jazz caroling during the holidays), and I took photos of other fabrics that caught my eye.  I'm a little more cautious now about what I buy when I'm excited in a fabric store (or a paper shop or a greenhouse or a...) I don't want to come home with TOO much. So now I'm going through my photos, narrowing down the choices. I'll either stop in quickly on my way back to Ohio or order online.

Trims at Mood Fabrics

5:30pm - I loved looking at all the trims.  I could have taken home every one of these, even if I don't necessarily have a use for any of them yet :-)

Just as I was paying for my velvet, the Project Runway designers & crew showed up. Too funny. I guess they're filming the next season!

Gotham Writers Workshop

6:30pm - Gotham Writers Workshop. They've got a Friday night "write-in" where you're given a writing prompt (which you can use or ignore), take some time to write, and share your work with the group if you want.  Then there's wine & cheese & good cookies, and then you repeat the process. It was fun! I didn't write to the prompts, nor did I share what I wrote (and to me, 15 minutes of writing time -- even if it's twice -- isn't enough.) But that's okay.  I'm glad I went and I was able to talk with a couple staff members about their online classes.

View of building windows. Cityscape.

7:30pm - The view from Gotham's 14th floor window.

Times Square cityscape at night

8:30pm - Finished and walking back to the subway.  Needless to say, I slept on the train.  Goodbye for now, New York!

Sunday, June 11: Reading & art talk

Join me on Sunday, June 11 at Phoenix Rising Printmaking Cooperative in downtown Columbus for a reading of my Flying Adventures book and accompanying art talk (which now has a proper title!): Creative Persistence: Lessons From a Long-term Project.  Details below.  Phoenix's address is 243 N 5th St, Suite 140, Columbus, Ohio 43215.  Hope to see you!  

If you're planning on coming, kindly rsvp to info@phoenixrisingprintmaking.org