Richard Wagener, wood engraver extraordinaire, stood at a table displaying his wares during Roadworks, an event sponsored by the San Francisco Center for the Book.
His books begged me to touch them. I obeyed.
Loom, Wagener’s collaboration with the New Zealand poet, Alan Loney, pairs Wagener’s wood engraved loom prints with lines from the poem throughout 40 exquisite pages. The images and text explore the question of connection and “the thread of life itself.”
Published by Nawakum Press , only 46 deluxe editions (those bright red covers) and 30 slipcased copies of Loom were made. The bindings of each are hand sewn on linen tape and laced into a limp paper case made of Handmade PC4 Blue from Timothy Barrett at the University of Iowa Center for the Book.
The handcut woodblock prints on each spread are unbelievably fine. The lines, the shading, the way the eyes convey a sense of how the fabric of the loom feels. My photo of a photo of the print doesn’t do it justice. Take a look at the website. There’s also a film, showing Wagener carving one of the loom patterns.
His images offer up a zen-like sense of eternity, the orderliness of the woven sections all unraveling. I am reminded of the way I attempt to create order when entropy would have it otherwise. The act of creation, whether of a life or of art, is an act of weaving, sitting at the loom, thread over, thread under, knowing that sometime down the road, the ends will release the pattern.
These images are perfectly paired with Loney’s poem:they say at the gates of Hades two rivers flow drink from one for oblivion drink from the other for memory beyond that the white cypress may be the last thing you see whether hero villain or nobody is out of your hands this is where you let go (excerpt from “Loom” by Alan Loney)
The engraver and poet are collaborating on a new book, “Vestiges,” coming out this February. Wagener’s other books can be found on his website.
Even more intriguing? The CODEX Book Fair, held Feb. 8-11, 2015 in Richmond, California.“Digital is dead, at least for one week this coming February. Over 200 of the world’s most distinguished book artists and artisans, private presses, and fine art publishers will be exhibiting their work…THIS IS THE LARGEST BOOK FAIR OF ITS KIND IN THE WORLD TODAY!”
How can I NOT go to this event? I wonder if that infamous book thief will be browsing the exhibits?
Nawakum Press also offers limited edition art books of select authors, including Jorge Luis Borges, Rachel Carson, and Herman Melville.
28 thoughts on “Books as Art”
Ah Jilanne, my biggest drool this fine autumnal morning is your sentence beginning ‘the act of creation, whether of a life or art….that stopped me in my tracks and led me scurrying for the tissues to mop up my complex tears….the ones that spring from a deep place where truth, joy, sorrow, hopes and fears, grieving and acceptance all twine together
It means so much more to me to be surprised and shocked into the gift of these sorts of moments, which someone. ( you, this time) drops unannounced, then any number of ‘ inspirational reflections’ in ‘little books of wisdom’ and the like. So thank you. I’ll have a proper look at the drooly pictures later.
I, too, have never been a very “Chicken Soup for the Soul” kind of person. There always seems to be the sense that those little nuggets of wisdom were prefabricated or welded together on some type of assembly line. The whole idea just puts me off.
I’m thrilled that you found something of value within the lines of this post. Thank you! I am, however, distressed that you might leave traces of tears on those paper objects that we so dearly love. 😀
Ah but thanks to my propensity for the ‘surprised by’ moments of weepiness I’m working with a designer to produce a stylish little 3 cup drip tray, to be worn like a set of droopy spectacles, hooked over the ears, when reading. tow cups hang just below eye level, and the central one, for those of us whose noses run unbecomingly when we tear up, under the nostrils.
There will of course be the 4 cup option with the fourth cup attached below the mouth, for those of us who are simultaneously eating chocolate whilst surprised by a moving moment, and the subsequent tendency to drool as well as weep and drip.
Probably if poetry books are being read, which are remarkably prone to induce watery responses, prior to reading, the intended chocolates should have been either broken up into smaller pieces, if a bar, or anyway, assembled into accessible small pieces, and put in a bowl with a little pair of sugar tongs, which should be used to convey the pieces fo the mouth, without the use of fingers.
Ah yes, the unbecoming Chicken Soup stock cube set!!
Hilarious! I think you’ve got your prototype well thought out. Now you just need to patent them and put them into production and you’ll be wealthy enough to buy as many art books as you’d like.
Linen tape? No way an ebook can top that. 🙂
I sure that if Steve Jobs had lived long enough, the iPad would have started to resemble an art book.
One of the offshoots of the digital book age is that the quality of paper books is improving dramatically. I’m glad publishers, authors and artists are aware that, although many of us like our pulp fiction fix on e-readers, there is still a huge market for beautifully crafted ‘real’ books. Even I, the Queen of the Kindle, sometimes want to hold a book in my hands, feel and smell the paper, and admire the craftmanship. In fact, because I don’t read on paper so often now, I appreciate it more when I do. I reckon the future of the printed page is secure…
Yes, indeedy. From what I can tell, there must be a market for these exquisitely crafted books. They are so beautiful that I’d want to put them in a display case—in between reading them over and over again, of course. I’m considering asking for one for my birthday and Christmas, combined.
The problem is…which?
Aye, there’s the rub…
As a (slightly) more serious comment from me than my last one, Persephone Press, though producing mass print books, are particularly good at making these lovely objects, with beautiful dust jackets
Must take a look!
What a perfect match. I particularly enjoyed the poem.
And that is only a short excerpt. I read through the entire poem while standing in front of Wagener’s table, and I wanted to read through it again and again. But it was a warm, sunny day, so I was afraid of leaving sweaty fingerprints on the book. Now, if libraries could only afford these things, we could all read them at our leisure!
His books seem so tactile. I can understand that you had to stop and touch them. I watched the making of Loom video on one of the links you provided. It was fascinating to watch (I love watching the creative process unfold).
He’s amazing, isn’t he? Yes, I still find myself thinking about them. And when I look at the photos, I want to reach out and touch the real thing!
Lovely’s a word that feels like cliche for comments, but I’ll use it anyway. Everything is lovely on your site, Jil, this post especially. This post reminds us what special qualities an e-book will now and always fail to capture.
I enjoyed finding this post this morning — a still point in my turning day.
Nick, you have touched on something I didn’t mention. The stillness I felt when holding his book, Loom. It’s as if the simultaneous concentration and daydream that puts artists into “the zone” is contained in these pages, essentially stopping time for the reader. Unfathomable how an object can hold and evoke such a feeling.
I think the touch definitely leads to a deeper level of contemplation. The same’s there for telling a rosary or turning a Buddhist prayer wheel. I definitely agree with you that books like Loom create a sacred space. Love that dang post of yours!
That looks really cool! 😀
It was, Erik. Just imagine hand making every book you sell! Adds a whole new dimension to publishing. 😀
I love knowing that digital will be dead for about a week — lol — what a great way to advertise a book fair!
Yes! Although my son is now asking for a Kindle paperwhite for his birthday. His argument? “Mom, I’ll be able to read in the back seat in the dark while we’re driving places.” My interpretation? “I’ll be able to read in my bedroom in the dark without a flashlight even after you’ve told me to get to sleep.” 😀
Couldn’t you just decorate all of your walls with books?
Believe me, I’ve thought about it! 😀