Book Letters

I wanted to create something special for my friend Victoria Waddle’s birthday. I imagined her initials made out of open books.

I started playing with a physical copy of Robinson Crusoe to determine the general shapes and the component parts of the end view of an open book.
I cut a piece of paper the size of my linoleum block and sketched out my design. I then taped the design to a block and went over the lines pressing firmly. Since her initials are V and W, I didn’t have to worry about flipping them so they would turn out facing the correct direction when printed. If her initials included letters like D, B, or E, I would have had to invert the image on the block so the letters would print facing the correct direction.
My retracing of the drawing left a faint in impression on the block.
After I removed the paper, I penciled over the impressions to make the design more visible.
I began outline the design with a small V-gouge.
The areas of the block that are uncut become the areas that print. You carve out the negative spaces of the design. In this photo I’m beginning to use a large V-gouge to remove the open spaces surrounding the book forming the letter V. I chose not to texturize the area immediately around the book since I want the view to focus on the V shape of the book.
I carved out the negative space with a design so if it accidentally got inked that it would add to the piece. I also like to think of my block itself as object of art.
Having played with a physical book while creating my design, I chose to place the book-letters in my design inside a bookcase. Without the support of the bookshelf frame, a real book would open flat.
Here’s the block before a test print.

I tested the block using some black ink. The first impression (bottom left) showed some of the lines in the negative space. I carved them lower to remove them from the print (top right). I created a cut-out form (upper right) to help me align the block with the paper. I ended up choosing blue ink for the final print (bottom right).

I matted and framed the print before wrapping it as a gift.

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Commonplace Books

Recently, I’ve been exploring the use of a commonplace book for myself and for my students. My Inlandia Literary Journeys column for this morning appeared in The Press Enterprise, The Inland Valley Bulletin, and the San Bernardino Sun.

Letters Encourage Intimacy

img_1319A dear friend gave my wife and I Writing Letters with Pen & Ink  for Christmas. Although the author has scattered quotes about letters from others on almost every page, one of my favorite sentences Paige wrote himself:  “Seemingly, the letter is a distant form of communication, but in actuality it encourages intimacy, for people frequently dare to write what they would find it difficult to say.”