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Archive: Do It Yourself

What E-Book? I Made This With My Hands

By Tanya Paperny on Thursday, May 12, 2011 - Comments Off

p>Letterpress blocks shaped into a faceIn 2002, I was a high school student on a four-day retreat with my creative writing class where we took walks in the woods, did lakeside writing exercises and learned how to make handmade paper. Our teacher led us through the various steps, making a wet pulp of recycled materials, flattening it on a mesh screen and decorating with leaves and scraps. I thought it was so neat and quaint but eventually useless because the bumpy sheet was too thick to write on.

Almost a decade later, it turns out there?s a burgeoning movement of artists and writers making handmade and/or hand-bound books and paper as a response to the digital book world.

Evidence of the aforementioned: In the fall of this year, the University of Iowa will launch its new Master of Fine Arts in Book Arts. The first cohort will choose between emphases in Artist Bookwork, Bookbinding, Calligraphy, Digital Bookwork, Papermaking and Printing.

Along with U. of Iowa, there are seventeen members of the three-year old College Book Art Association. Ten years ago, most of these programs didn?t exist and people didn?t think of book making as art.

All this while people continue talking about how e-books may be hurting paperback sales. In fact, it seems they are also inspiring a growing number of small presses to treat book-making as an artistic medium.

There are hundreds of small presses cropping up all over the country, publishing in small volumes, often using handmade or letterpress technologies.

One notable example is Ugly Duckling Presse (UDP), a Brooklyn-based small press that makes chapbooks, broadsides and artist books in their one-room studio. They?ve published over 200 titles in the last ten years and many of the ones they put out have some handmade element, whether it be a letterpress cover or a hand-stitched or rubber band binding.

Co-founder and UDP collective member Matvei Yankelevich says that treating books as art objects is a natural reaction to the digitizing of texts: ?Because of the ephemerality of blogs and the internet, people want a reminder of the tactile sensations of reading.?

Since 2000, the number of presses like UDP has been growing and there are resources that support this expanding network. One example is the Center for Book Arts in New York City (many similar centers exist across the country).

According to Sarah Nicholls, program manager at the Center, the rosters for their classes on book making are exploding these days. They get a range of students: from graphic designers tired of staring at a screen all day, to writers who want to learn to make their own books, to teachers who want to get their students more excited in reading by offering kids a chance to make stuff with their hands.

Nicholls sees the resurgence of interest in book arts as part of a larger cultural shift towards valuing things that are made locally and in a small scale (i.e. food, crafts).

Whatever it is, I?m happy to see it, even if it?s just plain ol? nostalgia. Yankelevich adds, ?the romance with efficiency has dwindled.? And he?s right: UDP books are well-made objects that encourage you to read more slowly, to really look at each page.

To look through the UDP digital archive, click here.

Developing A Way With Words

By Andrew Boryga on Wednesday, March 17, 2010 - Comments Off
Words, words and more words

Words, words and more words

While reading Jonathan Franzen’s National Book Award Winner, The Corrections, I realized the amount of words I simply do not know: rube, elephantine, elfin, tumid, the list goes on.

I don’t know if this is the case for everyone else, but for me, as a reader, I tend to gloss over words I don’t know and rely on figuring them out in context. If that doesn’t work I skip them all together, so long as they aren’t central to what the sentence is trying to say.

So I began a collection of words.

I went down to my school store and bought two packs of 5x8in index cards. I cut them into eighths and kept them close to me while reading Franzen and anything I might have had to read for class. Every time I came across a word I didn’t know I circled it in my book and looked it up. When finished reading I went back and wrote the definitions to the circled words on the cards. So far I have 137 from the first half of Franzen’s book alone.

To give my collection value I set aside 10 minutes of my day to read over my cards once or twice, reading aloud the definitions and letting them sink in. I don’t remember every single word (on a good day I’ll remember a quarter of them­­), but I am becoming acquainted with them.

So why do I do this? Read more »

Robot and Juliet

By JK Evanczuk on Thursday, March 4, 2010 - Comments Off

I was inspired by Jacket Copy’s classic literature web movie and so put together one of my own using the simple (and free) online animated moviemaking tool xtranormal. Below is a video featuring part of a scene from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet–with the titular characters as robots. Xtranormal only has sterile, computer-generated voices to provide the dialogue, but in this context I’m thinking it kind of works.

After the jump, watch Jacket Copy’s Pride and Prejudice web video. Read more »

Create Your Own Animations With DoInk

By JK Evanczuk on Wednesday, April 22, 2009 - Comments Off

Create your own animations with DoInk, even if you've never considered yourself an animator.Amateur animators and procrastinators alike will love DoInk, a free web tool that makes it simple and fun to spend countless hours creating sophisticated animations. Find out more about DoInk, and watch a couple of animations (including an extremely impressive one made by me, ha), after the jump. Read more »

Solve Edgar Allen Poe’s Cryptogram

By JK Evanczuk on Monday, April 20, 2009 - Comments Off

I can't even begin to figure this thing out. Cryptograms are not my thing.Did you know that Edgar Allen Poe considered himself not just an accomplished writer but THE BEST CRYPTOGRAPHER EVAR??? He loved to dedicate his genius to solving ciphers, puns, riddles, you name it, and he was known to boast that “nothing can be written which, with time, I cannot decipher.” Oh, and he also liked to remind people that “Edgar Poe” is an anagram for “a God Peer.” Nice.

In 1841, Poe challenged readers of Graham’s Magazine, where he was an editor, to solve a devilishly difficult puzzle a friend had sent him. He promised to post the answer in the next month’s issue, but flaked (could it be that he couldn’t solve the puzzle himself??). Today, The New Yorker is giving readers the chance to match wits with the self-declared puzzle master by offering that same puzzle. Read the text full of jumbled letters and numbers, and with the help of a few cryptic clues, find out for yourself if Poe was nearly as brilliant as he thought he was. [The New Yorker]

10 minutes