25 May 2015

Wool at AISU

This school does a thing where at the end of the semester they plan several two week intensives--the students can choose from three, and middle school students from all the grades attend together. It combines the best of block classes and longer classes. 

Although I volunteered back in February, I just got the film developed from the photos I took there. I can't post them because they have students in them, but here's a shot of the interior.

It's in an old fun park in a strip mall, but it does actually feel like a school. I love, love the idea of reusing a space that could so easily be abandoned. 

21 May 2015

Making sketchbooks at home

I made a sketchbook like this for a drawing class last semester and I keep returning to the structure. I like it because it's pretty inexpensive, I can make it at home, it's durable, and depending on how much I line the spine, it can lay completely flat.

I start by sewing a textblock on a sufficient number of tapes -- this book is only 6" tall, so I only used two tapes.

I cut two holes in the cover and pull the tapes through. I try to make the holes on the small side for a snug fit. 

Then I fray the tapes out ...

... combing them with this tiny brush for eyelashes can be helpful.

I glue them down, and then put an extended muslin patch lining on the spine. The lining goes over onto the boards and is glued on top of them. For a sketchbook that lays open when flat, this is usually the only spine lining a book of ten sections needs.  If you wanted better throw up, you could also put on a paper lining. Then I PVA the sides of the boards, to keep them from splitting, and cover the spine and corners with book cloth. 

Sometimes I put a little matching "headband" on.

I also usually cover the inside of the joint with another piece of cloth, just for aesthetics. Plus, I think the frayed cords would be more vulnerable without it. 

This is a sketchbook structure that has performed well for me. The laced in tapes provide a super sturdy board connection, but the process doesn't have so many steps that it's an obstacle to making more sketchbooks when I need them. 

18 May 2015


Notes from this nuggety RadioWest podcast with social geographer Alastair Bonnett.

  • We seem to need to create places. When asked who we are, place is central. We imagine our personal narratives through space. "We are a placemaking species."
  • Topophiliacs = people who love place
  • Modernity treats place as confining, parochial, and merely local. Right now we're still stuck in that idea of forgetting about place and trying to imagine that we can live without it. We expect to be able to easily uproot and discard place.
  • We should stop "building places that don't speak to us, that don't seem to be rooted. We should be a bit careful about creating around mobility, shuffling around between non-space and non-space."
  • Blandscapes (shopping malls, shopping centers etc) are so pervasive because they appear to fully meet human needs: everything is under one climate controlled roof
  • Place isn't just about creating community. An example of this is "dark love" for extreme places: people who explore tunnels underneath the city, or are drawn to harsh and isolated landscapes.
  • Sometimes virtual places don't feel as authentic because they are manufactured. Perhaps this is the reason that the mall also feels less authentic than a shopping district with many small shops, street vendors, pedestrians, cyclists, public fountains, etc. which has probably grown organically. 

14 May 2015

Photography during the Mexican revolution

Lately I've been reading México: fotografía y revolución by Miguel Ángel Berumen, and Mexico at the Hour of Combat: Sabino Osuna's Photographs of the Mexican Revolution. The latter was brought to my attention by an exhibit at the Marriott Library by Artes de México en Utah.

In Fotografía y revolución, Laura González Flores says that the format preferred by most Mexican war photographers of the time was a 4 x 5 or 5 x 7 inch glass plate. Even though nitrocellulose film had become widely available at that time, the glass plates were better for commercial contact printing and had high enough image quality for photomechanical reproductions. By the early 20th century, exposure times were short enough and cameras were light enough that they could be used to capture action on the battlefield. Because it occurred so early in the 20th century, photos of the Mexican revolution are some of the first live-action photos of war (as opposed to images of dead soldiers). Although by this time photography was accessible to the middle class, most of those photographing the revolution were professionals, not amateurs.

Mexico City photographers, c. 1910.
Image from Fotografía y revolución.
Camera ad, from an early 20th century magazine for Mexican photographers.
Image from Fotografía y revolución.

I think the reason I've pored over these two books so much is that I love the peek into everyday life they give of civilians, especially women, and the photographers themselves. Osuna seems to have had a lot of access to the Madero family, especially his wife. I want all her outfits. Note that the rest of the images in this post are from Mexico at the Hour of Combat.

Do you peep that white dress? This is Madero's family.

Sra. Madero

Sra. Madero again

a nurse

A market by damaged buildings

When I saw this photo all I could think about was how jealous I am of the printer who
owned all that wood type, with accents. But, erhm, the important historical event documented here is in fact a prison break, not type.

Battalion of Yaquí Indians

Makeshift barber shop for soldiers

Compared to the other photographs detailed in Fotografía y revolución, Osuna's photos are technically better and I would say they go beyond documentary. The photography museum at UC Riverside holds the Osuna negatives and they have a great permanent history of photograph display too! And a little room that is a camera obscura! One of my favorite things about Mexico at the Hour of Combat is that it has an index of the entire collection, with thumbnails.

My favorite details are the little boy in the lower left hand corner and the brass band

Zapata eating dinner

11 May 2015

Infographics in 'Studies in Primitive Looms'

One time after work I wandered down the call numbers for Home Economics looking for a vegetarian cookbook and found Studies in Primitive Looms by H. Ling Roth. It is a survey of hand looms from around the world. Today hand-weaving isn't the primary way of producing textiles, but in some parts of the world these ages-old loom types are still widely used (e.g. the Andes). For craft weavers, I imagine non-western looms would have a lot of appeal because they would be easier to afford and store than traditional European looms.

The infographics in the book are clear and detailed. In the preface to my 1981 copy, it pays "grateful acknowledgement to ... the Council of the Royal Anthropological Institute for the gift of the [printing] blocks" but doesn't say who the illustrator (or printer) is. Now on to the pretty pictures.


This diagram illustrates the basics of how a loom works and is presented at the beginning of the book. It helps readers understand almost every other graphic in the book.

This diagram could just have been written, but how much less clear would it be without the pictures?

Love the 3/4 views going on here. 

There are a couple of gorgeous illustrations of warped looms with a woven pattern that aren't as informative as some of the warping diagrams below. But I think they're actually more informative than photos: if I were trying to reconstruct this loom, I'd prefer this drawing to a photo. Another reason these illustrations may have come into existence is that most of the looms they are based on are held in British museums--I doubt the museums are able to warp and display every loom. At the museum, this loom may only exist as a bundle of sticks (hopefully in archival storage). 

This map of Africa reminded me of Edward Tufte's insistence on the clarity black and white graphics.

These are my FAVORITE diagrams in the whole book. They show how the loom is warped and the resulting pattern. 

This image reminds me of a favorite Edward Curtis photo. One question that comes to mind when I see outdoor looms like this is 'and if it rains?' but perhaps people only weave outdoors in very dry climates.

04 May 2015

Visiting the University of Texas / Visita al museo Blanton de la Universidad de Tejas

Charles W. White, Awaken from the Unknowing, 1961

Elizabeth Catlett, Homage to My Young Black Sisters, 1968

Coincidentally, my two favorite works in this show at UT were both by artists who worked with the People's Printshop (Taller de Gráfica Popular). 

One of the reasons I love Robert Rauschenberg's work is because he frequently blurs the line between painting and printmaking. Next to the Rauschenberg in the exhibit was this quote--I include it here because it fits with the TGP's goals if not its methodology, which was more propagandistic. 

"I've never thought that problems were so simple politically that they could, by me anyway, be tackled directly. But every day by consistently doing what you do with the attitude that you do it ... if you feel strongly, it's going to show there." 


Ambos artistas de estas dos obras (vistas en esta exposición) trabajaron en el Taller de Gráfica Popular

También en la misma exposición se expuso una obra de Robert Rauschenberg, con esta cita al lado. Parece que Rauschenberg compartía algunas de las metas del TGP, aunque no seguía una metodología tan activista. 

"Nunca había creído que los problemas políticas eran tan sencillos que yo las podía tratar. Pero en hacer lo que haces, de tu manera, todos los días ... lo que opinas va a mostrarse." 

14 April 2015


Recently I saw the film From Up on Poppy Hill here. It takes place in the 60s in Japan, and the students in the movie publish their school gazette on what looks like a cyclostyle.

I'd really like to build something like this. Cyclostyles can be bought as antiques, but I imagine creating matrices that would work (perforated wax paper, written with a special pen) would be difficult. In the screen printing book I reviewed a few weeks ago, there's a section about the cyclostyle and other mimeograph machines. I've also discovered that there are facebook groups and forums for the mimeograph enthusiast. :)