Once again, I have visited and emerged brimming with ideas from the Codex Book Fair. This year I braved the concrete floor and many hours on my feet to see my newest creation, Morning Prayer/Evening Prayer, on display at the Vamp and Tramp table. What a pleasure it is for me to be represented at this show! Though my quiet bookwork about the meditative hours of dawn and dusk may be a bit overwhelmed by the cacophony, no matter. It is out in the world now, and will find its way. I promise to write more soon about this new work.
Of course there were many more reasons than this to visit the show. This year, I marked my fair program with the dozen artists and makers I most wanted to see. To do this meant putting on blinders while I passed other tables beckoning with so much creative candy I could hardly stand it. This biannual book arts event in Richmond, California is held in the old Ford Auto Plant in the enormous Craneway Pavilion. The show had 219 tables of handmade books, as well as specialty bookmaking tools, materials, leathers and papers. Each table could easily take an afternoon to absorb. Other years I have gone and let myself wander to see where my meandering takes me, and happy those times have been also.
The miracle was to feel so connected to a relatively few artists amid the chaos and crush of people. For a while I forgot to take pictures, so didn’t capture the enigmatic jungle-rich prints and books of Luz Marina Ruiz at Lapis Lazuli Editions. Thank goodness for websites that allow us to visit again the work we have loved seeing!
The rich shimmery pastepapers of Madeleine Durham captivated me and proved to be the only purchase I made. This painted piece is on a fine sheet of Kozo paper.
I enjoyed a quick stop at Casey Gardner’s Set in Motion press to visit her immaculate and imaginative work, and was delighted with her enthusiasm.
Shanna Leino‘s handmade tools provoked deep admiration, particularly her tiny bone folders made from old-fashioned lady’s fans. I also had productive research visits to Hiromi Paper, Washi Arts, and Cave Paper, all makers and purveyors of exceptionally fine papers.
A surprising window of quiet let me have a welcome visit with my dear friend and teacher Suzanne Moore and a visit with her luxuriant books. Her work is a treasure and I never tire of discovering it.
It was Suzanne who first taught me the wonders of translucent paper, and here she has utilized the effect in a most marvelous way, letting us see the poetry on recto and verso pages at the same time, while still maintaining the sequential experience. And her lavish colors just make my eyes happy.
Here is one of her delightful “Q’s” from her series of books on that letter. So much inventiveness from a single letter!
Her husband Don Glaister is making marvelous creations with aluminum pages, contrasted with the airy feeling of Walt Whitman’s verse on sheer vellum.
Finally, at the end of the day, when I had such sensory overload I thought I could not absorb one more wonder, I made the altogether fortuitous decision to visit the table of an artist I did not know, Maro Vandorou. A friend, Georgia Angelopolous, did some Greek lettering for this book and told me about it. Once there I drifted through a portal into a very quiet place indeed, an enchantment of photographs, materials and story that was very moving. Persephone’s Chamber is a journey of transfiguation.
I have a deep connection to the Persephone story, as I think many of us do: her visit to the underworld, by choice or no, there to become something else, transforming from a girl into the Queen of the Dead, or perhaps simply mist and light. Everything about this book was soft and mysterious and oh so beautiful. After the pictures was this delicate text. The whole experience took my breath away, or rather caused to me let it out in a long, long sigh.
Finally, a visit to Jan Owen‘s table offered not only her intricate calligraphic books, many written on pages of gauzy Hollytex, but a bracing statement of one of our most important founding documents, the First Amendment.
So many of the works I saw made use of translucent papers. These diaphanous pages let the light shine through, seeming insubstantial and yet strong, allowing deeper layers to be seen and to emerge slowly. To me this is the delight and the duty of art, to let us see the in-between spaces where nothing is quite what we thought it was, allowing discoveries about ourselves and other people. We are living in such black and white times that the ability to see nuances and layers is sweet, and rare.
Though the show was full of the physical exchange of objects, the deeper transactions were the opportunities to see one another and our creative work. Most artists work alone, and every artist I know has played the refrain “I’m not a real book artist” (or ______ fill in the blank). Sales might help this self-doubt, but most artists will tell you our deepest happiness comes when someone really “sees” our work. It is only by making our art, and then by sharing it with the world, that we can shine our light, and be illuminated in return. It is how we “ordain” each other.
At the end of the day, I was flush with inspiration, enlightened and grateful by the outpouring of beauty in that great room full of artists.