The Tunnel of Mortality

The Tunnel of Mortality, a life-size tunnel-book installation at Artisan Gallery, has been extended to September 9th, 2012! The next reception is Friday, July 27, 2012, 5-9pm at Artisan Gallery.

Here’s some shots (click any image to enlarge):

Door's entrance to old cheese cooler with show title: S.V. Medaris, The Tunnel of Mortality, inside reveals dark, wallpapered room.

“Come in.” said the spider to the fly….

Once you step in the door, you are in a floor-to-ceiling, darkly wallpapered, little anteroom, about 8ft x 8ft.

fancy-framed portraits on dark wallpapered walls

Back wall and right corner of anteroom

ornate wallpaper, fancy-framed portraits

Chairs are upholstered in the same, matching, printed fabric as the walls.

The richly detailed wallpaper is actually a 10in x 10in linocut pattern printed black onto burgundy duckcloth. About 480 times. If you look closely at one of the “tiles” you will see the underlying theme of the show:
plucked chicken, intestines, bones, axes, chicken foot...

If you look behind you to your right, the outside light looks blinding compared to the dramatic low lighting surrounding you.

taxidermied chicken on low table next to portrait hung on densely patterned wallpapered wall

Taxidermy chicken NOT for sale.

As you step through the door, into the anteroom, The Tunnel of Mortality is that big framed piece on the right-hand wall. It looks like any other of the framed woodcuts, except as you walk towards or by it, it changes (since it’s a 3-dimensional space, not a flat piece). If you’re not paying attention though, it doesn’t “read” as an interior space, but rather a mirror…or something. A number of visitors were looking behind and above them to figure out where the projector was. Most think it’s a mirror, but can’t figure out how come they don’t see their reflection.

Fancy framed portraits on dark wallpapered walls, and low table covered in matching tablecloth

Matching tablecloth and upholstery! This is really the only time I’ve gotten into “interior decorating” (in our real house, nothing matches. I mean, who has time when it takes this long to make pretend rooms?).

Walk into the center of the room, turn to your right, and there’s the tunnel.

fancy frame contains busy collage of farm animals and farm life

The Tunnel of Mortality, framed.

I’m not going to try to explain how this looks in real life, since you really have to go experience it to get it. Suffice it to say, that it’s confusing at first since you can’t quite tell what you’re looking at. Some have said it feels like a mirror.

And here’s a cropped panorama of the center section:

scene filled with relief-printed farm animals, carcasses and scenes of farm life

All woodcut or linocut prints on fabric or Tyvek.

Reception is this Friday, 5-9pm at Artisan Gallery (directions).
And the show is up through September 9th.

So, come check it out!
Experience the tunnel!
Sign the camouflaged guestbook!
Read some of the entries in the guestbook here.

cloth-covered book matches pattern of tablecloth

The “Tunnel” guestbook

printed, cloth-covered artists's book
At the Tunnel of Mortality show, I made this matching guestbook and left it on the table in the anteroom, with a sign “comments welcome” (the anteroom’s wallpaper, upholstery, tablecloth, etc all used the “bones and offal” linocut pattern on burgundy cloth).

Here are a few of the comments (favorites), below…

Love this one:

Artwork that makes you think! Yeah!! Nice processing:

Cracks me up:

Wait, what?…

Girl after my own :

Hog hides arrived!

They made it. Finally! These are hog hides (and one buckskin) from last fall, 2011 (when I took them into a tannery in Milwaukee, WI). They’ve all been tanned and dyed to specific colors…

black, brown and natural colored hog hides and bucksin

Clockwise from top: Buckskin dyed brown, Hog hide–natural, hog hide–tan, hog hide–brown, hog–black. Can’t wait to make book covers with these, but have deadlines that need to be finished first. Eyes on the prize!

BTW, anybody know how to soften hides? The hog skins are really stiff. It’s not a real problem (I dampen the hide before using it for binding, so it’ll be soft to work with), but it would be nice to know how to do it in case I need them softer when they’re dry….

Making 4th Century Books

wooden covered bookTook a fantastic bookbinding course at Valley Ridge Studio last weekend with instructor Daniel Essig! I love his work, and showcased his books in the book arts class when talking about contemporary book artists this past semester. He’s so inspiring. So, I was thrilled to be able to take his class and learn how to make his wooden book covers and Ethiopian binding.

Click on any image to enlarge it.

Closeup of mica window with corn insideThe book is about 5 inches tall, the cover wood is cherry–cut, filed, sanded, drilled, then stained with Kiwi shoe polish, then buffed to a shine.That window on the front encases some field corn and a small chicken feather (from a Black Laced Polish), sealed in with sheets of mica. Mica, or muscovite was originally used as windows in horse-drawn carriages as well as windows for early 20th century cars [more…]. Daniel uses it in many of his books and taught us how to cut, drill, peel and manipulate it for use in our books.Those are tiny little nails holding down the mica.

The thread is 4-ply and heavily waxed. the pages are a mixture of cotton rag paper sections alternating with mica sheets–all sewn in with the coptic stitch using 4 needles.

top view of Ethiopian bound book

It’s a coptic (or chain) stitched book, but there’s a lot of detailed intricacies to drilling and sewing on the covers that I never would have learned by reading a book (that is, I wouldn’t have had the patience to figure it out from written diagrams all by myself). Daniel says that the Coptic-stitched book combined with the wooden covers is what makes this an Ethiopian binding, a style of bookbinding from the 4th century. More information about the history of this book form is here.

rooster spur on left, page from old book on right

(click on photo to enlarge)

The Standard of Perfection (cover)

This spread (in progress) features one of my rooster’s spurs (cut in half with a jeweller’s saw)–you see the back of the spur here, encased in mica (click on the image to see the awesome growth rings exposed when it was sawed in half!). And on the right, some pages from a 19th century version of The American Standard of Perfection (a chicken breed book), sandwiched in-between sheets of mica.

Anyway, just wanted to share the experience here. To see much better made, polished, gorgeous books by Daniel Essig, as well as his amazing wooden sculptures and more, please visit his website. You’ll find his schedule of workshops there too, as well as information about his private workshops in his studio in Asheville, N.C., so you can learn how to make these too!

An abbreviated version of the links I gathered for UW’s 446 Book Arts class….

…more links will be added as time permits…

Artists who do sculptural book forms: Beautiful and Creative Book Sculptures

From the NZ Book Council

Some of the most amazing book art I’ve ever seen (stop-action animation). Audio is horrible, but visually….

And another…

Links to online viewing of Artists’ Books

Artists’ Books Online
UW-Madison’s Kohler Art Library Artists’ Book Collection
Bonefolder | Book Arts Web
Bonefolder’s Online Exhibitions and Galleries
Artist Books 3.0
Granary Books
Artists’ Books collection at Otis College of Art And Design
And exhibit of Alphabet Books

More Artists’ Books

Timothy Ely’s Charts: 1, 2 and Fire
Inspired by the palm leaf manuscript from Indonesia.

Tutorials, etc

Making a Casebound book (sewing on tapes)
Making a Clamshell Box

Jim Escalante’s Video: Coptic Stitch Binding, Part 1
Jim Escalante’s Video: Coptic Stitch Binding, Part 2
Video: Sewing on Cloth Tapes
Video: Sewing on Cords

Links to Supplies, etc

Boxcar Press (polymer plate printing supplies)
French Split Goatskin we used to make our leather books in class