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Re: [BKARTS] craft standards, poor books

Peter, I think you're begging the question, which is just that: What IS first-rate craft and the relationship of craft to shoddiness? Thanks to everyone so far for may ideas on how to think about this.

Since I'm here, Margie McCarthy asked at the beginning  "could you say more about what you are trying to do?  Are
you thinking in terms of editions or unique books?  Text, images,
both?  Structures?"  Of course, the proper first question from an
artist is "Yes, but what has he done?"  I don't want to babble on
about myself too much -- my studio address is ocotilloarts.com and I invite gallery visits.

I'm a novelist with a background in photography and fine printing and
conservation who has been dragged kicking and screaming into artists
books because it's the only medium which can interlock the textual and
sensual without giving anything away to either. I write big books. I
want people to read them, but at the same time part of what I want to
say is bound to the visual and tactile and becomes impoverished without
it. This is an unstable mixture of conflicting aesthetics. A mass
audience means invoking the machine and with it the striving for
perfect reproduceability, while on the visual side the handmade
aesthetic requires seeking what is dynamic, unique, uncertain, process
rather than goal oriented, never finished. And I make a lot of mistakes
-- poor
work, bad craftsmanship, muddled thinking -- which I have to re-do,
so the thing becomes a family of objects: the imperfect original,
various reworkings, additions, reworked additions, working facsimiles,
bungled bits which nevertheless have some ineffable... 

This has raised a growing pile of knotty issues. What is it
about cumulative effect that you can have a pile of rough
unsatisfactory work which if it gets big enough can become achingly
overwhelming? (Think of the Watts Towers.)
Is it possible (legitimate) to make something that looks like a beat-up
lectern bible which has been left out in the rain, all shaggy and
stained and unloved? What
kinds of mistakes are fatal? Are there endearing mistakes? Can design
trump craft? What about materials -- if you start with 
parchment and gold leaf  it's going to be hard not to produce a
object but if you start with junk you're doomed. It seems as if some
digital reproduction is an important member of the family of objects
that make up the evolving, never-finished book. So what is "digital
rustic"? Can there be such a thing? Digital objects are machines --
either they work or they don't, and "ugly" is inseparable from

don't understand any of this. When I (rarely) get it right I can tell
it's right but I can't do it again on purpose. That's the essence of
the handmade, what separates the virtuoso performance from the
quotidian. From a zen point of view I shouldn't mind this -- maybe its my particular koan.

But when I look at the books for sale on the web, or displayed by
Vamp & Tramp, or pictured in surveys by Johanna Drucker and others, my stuff
doesn't look anything like that. My stuff looks, well... homemade. Not
exactly a nine-year-old working out of the five-and-dime, not as bad as
a mimeo manifesto either. Yet I can't believe I'm on the wrong path, and I can't help but wonder if all these
exquisitely-made masterpieces of sensibility and craft skill haven't
unnecessarily limited themselves in scope and power. How can I
pursue a program that seems to set itself against good work? Aren't I
just rationalizing my own klutzy fecklessness? Is there a synthesis


----- Original Message ----
From: Peter Verheyen <verheyen@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: BOOK_ARTS-L@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Sent: Wednesday, January 2, 2008 6:57:15 AM
Subject: Re: [BKARTS] craft standards, poor books

I think much of it very clearly depends on intent and what kind of
is being made. Eitherway, the craft needs to be first rate otherwise it
come across as shoddy - too much of that out there.


>the question is how to tell such a thing from a book which is just


Peter D. Verheyen
Bookbinder & Conservator, PA - AIC
The Book Arts Web & Book_Arts-L Listserv

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