Bookmarking Book Art – Hedi Kyle’s The Art of the Fold: How to Make Innovative Books and Paper Structures

Looks fantastic:

Books On Books

The [artists’ book] movement had its beginnings with a few individuals (conceptual artists Dieter Roth, Hansjörg Mayer, and Ed Ruscha immediately come to mind), but in the area of structural experiment and invention only one person seems to have been markedly influential (albeit seriously ignored): Hedi Kyle.

Alastair Johnston, “Visible Shivers Running Down My Spine”, Parenthesis, Fall 2013m Number 25.

While Alastair Johnston’s 2013 interview with Hedi Kyle is a rich one and welcome, it is inaccurate to say Hedi Kyle has been seriously ignored.  After all, in 2005, the Guild of Book Workers awarded her an honorary membership, and Syracuse University’s Library invited her to deliver that year’s Brodsky Series lecture. In 2008, the Philadelphia Senior Artists Initiative recorded her oral history and posted her artist’s statement along with an extensive list of prior exhibitions, honors, professional roles and board memberships stretching back to 1965.

If, however, Johnston’s…

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Tara Books: Slender Art Galleries on the Book Shelf

Ever since the internet and inexpensive computers and e-readers came into existence, people have been speculating on the death of the book.  From where I sit, though, books are flourishing.  Instead of killing off the book, I think new technologies have allowed more people to produce more kinds of books and find an audience.
One of the newer presses I’m particularly grateful for is Tara Books.  I’m pretty sure I would never have even found out about them if it weren’t for modern networking through the internet.  Tara Books was started in Chennai, India, by visionary publisher Gita Wolf over 10 years ago.  Here’s an excerpt from an article by the Christian Science Monitor, July, 2014:
“Over the past 10 years, she (Gita Wolf) has collaborated with women tribal artists to create award-winning publications. In doing so, she’s helped the women step across the gulf that divides preliterate societies from the modern world of arts and letters.
”She had a young son and was dissatisfied with the available children’s books. She wanted to see bold illustrations that showed children the world of India, and she enlisted friends who were writers and designers to help create them.
“She was also active in the feminist and anti-caste movements. Five years ago she turned Tara into a worker-owned collective.”
The first book I bought from Tara was The Night Life of the Trees, by artists Durga Bai, Bhajju Shyam, and Ram Singh Urveti of the Gond tribe.  It was a pleasure to read, touch and see.  The art was exquisite line work in bright colors on black handmade paper.  The ink had a presence: it had what artist Tom Sarmo calls a “thingness.”  The narrative was poetic and told tales that blurred the borders between trees, humans, and creatures.  It was true work of art, handbound, and I could purchase it here in Portland for about $30.  Anyone anywhere could purchase it from Amazon.

It’s almost miraculous that these beautiful books by tribal people from a remote area can be bought and treasured everywhere in the world.
Not all their books are silk screened and handmade, but all of them are beautifully presented.
The latest book I got from them is Hope is a Girl Selling Fruit by Amrita Das.  Das has painted in the Mithila tradition of art, which originated from women living in rural Bihar.  Das builds on traditional style and creates a compelling story.  Her art illustrates her personal journey and the journey she imagines of an impoverished girl she met on a train.  The story honors the traditions of women in her culture but also questions the confines of their lives.  Even the girl who represents hope is a mixed metaphor — the art beautiful, the life it portrays hard.
“This other girl was poor too, and her clothes were torn.  She had lost a leg, but she managed to push her cart around confidently.  Two boys pointed to her and laughed, but she wasn’t bothered….  She’s her own creature, I thought, she walking around, she’s earning and supporting her family.”
I learn more about human strength and dignity in a book like this than I can ever glean from the news or documentaries.  Tara doesn’t print books about artists, the artists speak for themselves.  And it turns out their personal stories are universal, with undertones of myth and magic.
In a similar vein, Following my Paintbrush by Dulari Deva, text by Gita Wolf, is done also in colorful vibrant Mithila art.  It starts out simply:
“I am an artist, but I wasn’t always one.  This is the story of how it happened.”
 She tells how she worked in rice fields, cooked and took care of brothers and sisters, sold fish, and washed other people’s dishes.  “Time passed and I grew up, but I still did the same work.  I had never gone to school, so I was not trained to do any other job.  Sometimes I wished I could do something else.  Everyday was the same, as it had been from the time I was a small girl.”
One day, she sees a group of children playing and makes a picture in her mind.  Next she paints a fish in the mud.  Then she finds out a lady she works for is an artist.  The artist encourages Deva and she begins to create not only gorgeous art but a new identity for herself
Tara publishes all sorts of stories.  They have both men and women artists and storytellers creating books.
Alone in the Forest, by Bhajju Shyam, Andrea Anastasio, and Gita Wolf, is a folk tale.  Musa has to gather firewood because his mother is sick.  “I’m grown up now, I’ll get the wood!”  But it isn’t long before the sounds of the forest convince him that he is being stalked by a wild boar.  His imagination runs wild as he hides in the hollow of a tree.
 The illustrations of his imaginings and fear are enchanting, even when they’re scary.  The text is integrated into the drawings and furthers the visual delight.  The colors are muted and natural; it feels like you’re looking into a forest. The style isn’t realistic but it portrays the chaos of feeling lost.  The trees and animals are highly detailed — imagination and traditional imagery are at play here. I love that a yellow cow comes to the rescue, in its peaceful way, and brings Musa home.
Gobble You Up,by Sunita and Gita Wolf, is another of Tara’s hand made books.  Printed on handmade brown paper with black and white drawings, it’s a captivating book in all regards.  An adaptation of an oral Rajasthani trickster tale, featuring a wily jackal who tricks and eats his friend the crane.  Then he proceeds to gobble up every animal he comes across.
Sunita is an artist from the Meena tribe in Rajasthan, who works in a traditional finger painting style called Mandna.  This book is the first time that this art form has been used to illustrate a children’s story.  To keep the feel of the art, it’s been silkscreen printed in two colors by hand on specially made kraft paper.  The drawings have a lacy, delicate feel that speaks of the transitory nature of all life.
I’ve loved introducing children here at Bridge Meadows to this book at Halloween time, when funny scary stories are in demand.  It’s a work of art they can touch.  They know a jackal can’t eat an elephant, but they also know greed can be insatiable.  It delights them to see all the animals in the bloated jackal’s belly and then see the animals come back to life. We love the off kilter rhymes and expressive texts.
And I, too, know that greed can be insatiable.  I feel insatiable about the books Tara is creating and encouraging.   I have to buy them rather than just check them out at the library.  I feel like they are little art galleries I can open and immerse myself in.  And when I’m done, I can slip them back onto the bookshelf in my small apartment, where they will wait til I need them again.  As I collect them, I’ll share what I find.
These books are available in some libraries.  The Multnomah County library has Following My Brush, Alone in the Forest, and, surprisingly, Gobble You Up!, a limited edition.  (They have #99 of 7000).  So, if you can’t afford them, check them out at the library.  Most libraries will help you get books from other libraries through their networking system.
You can learn more about Tara books here.
Here is a direct link to a video of their printing process:
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Thanks for stopping by.

From the Good Mountain Review

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Someone asked me a few days ago, why I read juvenile literature.  The only answer I could think of is, “Why not?”
I did stop reading such books in my teens, but when I had kids, I started again.  I was reminded of what great art is published in children’s picture books and what fine coming of age stories, historical novels, and great fiction are written for the juvenile market.  There is always a bit of poetry, magic realism and hopefulness in the books I read – I’ve kind of skipped over the whole dystopian young adult phenomena, just as I’ve try to choose “adult” literature that doesn’t leave me feeling bereft about humanity.
Children’s books are written by adults and most are purchased by adults, so the writers and illustrators keep that in mind.  These writers are adults who have kept their sense of play and wonder. 
My latest favorite in juvenile literature is the picture book From the Good Mountain, How Gutenberg Changed the World by James Rumford, published recently by Roaring Brook Press.  
It’s illustrated like an illuminated book from 1450.  The book begins, “It was made of rags and bones, soot and seeds.  It wore a dark brown coat and was filled with gold.  It took lead and tin, strong oak and a mountain to make it.  What was it?”
The whole process of the first book is then told, from how the paper was made, to how the printing press was constructed, and how the pages were sewn together.  You really get a sense of the time and energy it took to make a book.  Although it was not a simple process, it did make books easier to publish and eventually made reading a skill available to even the poorest of people.
Rumford is an award winning author who spent over 2 years writing and illustrating this book.  He is also a papermaker, letterpress printer and binder.  His love of the book form is evident on every page.  But unlike many who fear the loss of the form, Rumford is excited about the way technology is leading to new kinds of books.  I love how the golden flora in the borders of the illustrations transform at the end into the circuits of a computer chip.
Each two page spread is illuminated like a 15thcentury incunabula, the term for the first printed books, which means “cloth in which you wrap a newborn baby.”  I found this out in the informative epilogue that gives a history of books, as well as some insight into why he chose to portray Gutenberg in an elegant red turban.  
The book begins with a portrait of the city of Mainz, Germany, where the first book was printed, and ends with the same scene lit by a rosy dawn.  The watercolor painting is gorgeous.
Much of the action takes place in margins.  The characters are beautifully painted anonymous workers all contributing to the production of the mysterious book.  On every page there is something surprising to learn about how a book is made. 
People are busily boiling rags and bones, processing ink, pressing paper.  Medieval times come to life with  dirt and glory.  Children work along side their mothers, ladies hold their noses against the smell of the tannery.  There is a lovely vignette of an African boy panning for gold for the gilding process.  Another scene shows children begging as workers troop by with printing supplies. The overall feel is active excitement as people work together to make this marvelous new thing.
The illustrations were done in pen and ink and painted with watercolor and gouache.  On his website, Rumford says:
“I would make the look of the book as old-fashioned as it could be so that kids today could feel what it was like to hold a richly ornamented book in their hands. On each two-page spread I decided to show how each step in the bookmaking process was done—from paper making to gilding to typecasting and press-building. I would end the book by showing graphically how the old technology was being transformed into the new as I changed the gilded designs of the illuminated pages gradually into the circuits of a modern computer. To emphasize this, I painted a portrait of Gutenberg in the style of fifteenth-century illuminators on the front cover while on the back cover I digitally transformed the same picture into a portrait of a computerized man….Since the illustrations were to be like the miniatures done in medieval manuscripts, I decided from the start to rely heavily on the computer. This gave me the freedom to break up the image and work on each element separately….Thanks to the computerI was able to approximate the unique work of fifteenth-century illuminators.”
It’s an absolutely delightful book and a visual treat for anyone who loves art, books or a history.  The writing is crisp and rhythmic, and is fun to read out loud. I enjoyed the way each new page spread answered a question from the previous page.   It held the attention of my 5-8 year old audience, and the illustrations were great for prompting questions.  But I think I liked it best.  
James Rumford lives in Honolulu and runs Manoa Press, which makes handmade books.  He is the author of the award winning Silent Music, and Tiger and Turtle, both of which I hope to read soon.  James Rumford website is here:
And the website for his press is here:
As a side note, From the Good Mountain, reminded me of another children’s book that I love, Marguerite Makes a Book, by Bruce Robertson and illustrated by Kathryn Hewitt, published by J. Paul Getty Museum in 1999.  This is also done in the illuminated style of the 1400s.  A young girl helps her father make inks and illustrate prayer books for the nobility.  She journeys all over Paris gathering supplies from goose eggs, to vellum, to the minerals needed to make paint.   Kathryn Hewitt recreates the ornate luxury of a prayerbook.  It was inspired by a book in the Getty collection.  This book is still in print and widely available.    
So, literature had it’s beginning in conjunction with illustrations.  So don’t limit yourself.  Even if you are an adult with no kids in sight, let the magic of picture books back into your life.