Woodcut and letter press children's books on display at BAYarts
Wood block printing and movable type are medieval technologies. The techniques are more precise than potato printing, but it's the same basic idea: You roll ink onto something, and press that on something else.
That's what I'm bringing to show you, starting March 8 at BAYarts: "Cats, Mice, and Movable Type" is an exhibit of my children's books – stories and rhymes – printed by hand, with wood blocks and movable type.
I started making children's books when my kids were learning to read. I had written some stories based on characters they invented. I wanted to give my kids the stories as a gift, to them and their cousins. So I went looking for ways I could print my words. I began in my kitchen, with linoleum blocks from the craft store. I carved words and pictures into them, then pressed the paper onto the blocks, using the round side of a spoon as a barren.
Those first stories were about two superheroes, Clam Boy and Big Sister Kitty, who use their special powers to pick up litter – especially those blue plastic grocery bags that get caught up high in the trees. You've seen them on I-90, flying like flags day after day. Clam Boy and Big Sister Kitty get the job done by cooperating.
It wasn't long before I ended up at Zygote Press, where Bay Village resident Liz Maugans introduced me to their room full of flat-bed etching presses, and other machines.
This exhibit will show you the evolution of my work, from stories about Clam Boy and Big Sister Kitty to my most recent book, a collection of short poems illustrated with color woodcuts, "Common Household Rhymes for the Modern Child." Each book is entirely hand made, printed with one wooden block and one color of ink on one piece of paper at a time. They're hard-bound. I made an edition of 100. I did the binding, too. There are rhymes about cats, mice, an orange fish, and a workbench cluttered with tools. There's a bike ride through the city at night, and the fact that adults get to stay up much later than children do.
In addition to the books and individual prints, I'll also show you how they're made, with examples of wood blocks, and a few stanzas of movable type, set for printing. I'll hang some things low enough for your kids to see. You should come out and say hello. I love to talk.
"Cats, Mice, and Movable Type" opens with a reception Friday, March 8, 7 to 9 p.m., in the Sullivan Family Gallery at BAYarts. Michael Gill will give a Gallery Talk on Wednesday, March 13, at 7 p.m. Children and parents are invited to a reading with milk and cookies on Saturday, March 23, at 1 p.m.