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!

This little piggy…

…is going to the Wisconsin Biennial.

woodcut printed 8ft pulltoy pig with kids

"Market Weight Pull-Toy" • 8ft x 4ft • woodcut prints on feedsacks, wood, cardboard, acrylic, training wheels....

As is this tom:

woodcut by S.V. Medaris of giant wild turkey

"Turkey Promenade" • 30in x 22in • 5-color reduction woodcut

Wisconsin Biennial at The Anderson Art Center, Kenosha, WI. June 26 – August 7. Reception: June 26, 1:30 – 4pm

Birds in Art 2010

Ran screaming around the house when I found out this morning via email. Dogs wagging tails, but looking concerned, until they realized I was ok. Ivan (the Pyr, the guardian of all), plunked down in my computer room to keep an eye on the situation to be sure I was alright…. I made it in Birds in Art this year. Can’t believe it. Only made it once before with On the Run in 2005, and I submit work almost every year (since 2002). Anyway, the relief-printed pull-toys made it in this time–that’s why I’m so excited–it isn’t the medium I usually submit to Birds in Art.

box with 2 pull-toy chickens

"Back in the Day, Poultry Edition" • mixed media assemblage (hand-colored relief prints, wood, acrylic, farm journals from 1800s) • 27" tall

For those who aren’t familiar with this event, Birds in Art is an international, juried show they hold every year up in Wausau (WI) at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum. There really are wildlife artists from all over the world who come to the opening celebrations, so it’s a pretty amazing event. Every year, many of the Master Wildlife Artists from years past show up, so it’s really thrilling to meet them in person. Some of the Master Wildlife Artists from years past have been Carl Brenders, Robert Bateman, Guy Coheleach, Maynard Reece, and many others (including Owen Gromme in 1976–the first year). Andrea Rich was the Master Wildlife Artist in 2006, and she is one of my all-time favorite woodcut artists–really incredible work.

So, Back in the Day, Poultry Edition will be at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum for this year’s Birds in Art Exhibit, opening weekend Sept. 11, 12. Public opening on Saturday, Sept. 11, details to follow at my exhibits page.

Zoobilee tiger

was finally finished in mid-December. A great opportunity, but much too much detail to get done quickly (as I’d originally planned). Grad school work suffered, but then again, the stipend earned helped pay for this spring semester’s courses. So I can’t complain.

See the tiger’s progression here, plus further information about the event, dates, sponsors…. Coming soon to the Henry Vilas Zoo this summer! More info about the Zoobilee. A few pics:zoobilee tiger, s.v. medaris, cyber, painted fiberglass form

1.) Worldly Cat features a world map of the current populations of big cats (on the left side of the tiger’s body). The final tiger, lifesize, face modeled after Cyber, the Siberian tiger at the Henry Vilas Zoo. The actual tiger (Cyber) at the zoo is well worth the trip–he’s a real cutie and just gorgeous.

2.) With the littles for scale (ah who am I kidding? I just love posing them):

terriers, dexter, zuzu, tiger, zoobilee, s.v. medaris, fiberglass animal

3.) Right side features a map of Madison, WI with some popular points of interest…
fiberglass tiger, map of madison, s.v. medaris

Fiberglass form is from Cowpainters in Chicago. They make the greatest forms!! (my cow and pig, from other shows, also came from there)

Wanna see where Worldly Cat is these days? This month (January) he is at Hilldale. Then the tentative schedule: The tiger will be moving to the Monona Terrace for the month of February and then the plan is to move to the Dane County Airport at the end of February through March. They hope to bring it to the Zoo in April. This is the schedule as of now.

See more painted forms…

The Chess People (undergrad work)

A long long time ago, in a country far far away (California)….there lived the Chess People.

The clay figures are hollow (made with slabs formed into cylinders), lifesize, with the tallest at 6ft (Lizard King) and 7ft (Bunny Queen). The chess board measures 16ft x 16ft. The whole thing took about 5 months to make, during my senior year at U.C. Santa Barbara.

I will add more photos as I have time. But here’s the first ones.

lifesize chess set made out of clay

And my favorite guys from the whole set—The Lizard King:

The Lizard King-6ft. tall clay figure