art by Kristy Bowen

text | texture | textile | tech a book art & letterpress interview series | Kristy Bowen

a conversation with Wendy Vardaman 5/15/2016

This interview series talks to Wisconsin- and Midwest-based book and letterpress artists about their relation to the handmade, its appeal in our digitally centered culture, the significance in their print work of texture, textiles, and text, and their relation, positive or not, to tech.


Kristy Bowen

Kristy Bowen, artist/ printer/ poet, dancing girl press

I spoke to writer/artist Kristy Bowen, proprietor of dancing girl press & studio about her sources of inspiration and how she balances her pursuit of writing and visual art with publishing a prolific series of more than 300 chapbooks by women authors connected to the Midwest. I first met Bowen five or six years ago at a small press festival event – maybe in Milwaukee – she was sewing up books by hand, putting beautiful covers one at a time onto thin stacks of folded poems. She made an impression, as did the fact that she was creating the books, right there, at the festival.

The dancing girl website describes how she started:

The goal? To produce inexpensive, but still very stylish and beautiful, publications on a shoestring budget even if I had to assemble every single copy with my hands. To publish poets who were emerging in the morass of contemporary poetry, poets who fell through the cracks between the mainstream and avant-garde. Poets who wrote interesting and surprising work that varied from the mundane. Poets who employed hybridity and collage. Poets whose work was like nothing else.

I wanted to especially publish and promote the work of younger poets in my own generation. Also Chicago poets. Midwest poets. To publish projects that created their own worlds. Projects that were implicitly or explicitly feminist and women-centered. Projects that had an impact on readers both visceral and cerebral. To create lovely objects from paper, one of my biggest obsessions. To design interesting and gorgeous covers. To explore all the possibilities of what a “chapbook” can be.

Bowen answered questions about small press publishing, letterpress, and more in our conversation.

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page by Ann Engelman

text | texture | textile | tech a book art & letterpress interview series | Ann Engelman

a conversation with Wendy Vardaman 2/27/16

 

This interview series talks to Wisconsin and Midwest-based book and letterpress artists about their relation to the handmade, its appeal in our digitally centered culture, the significance in their print work of texture, textiles, and text, and their relation, positive or not, to tech.


Ann_Engelman

Ann Engelman – Photo by Carolyn Liedtke

I spoke to Ann Engelman from Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, about her interest in and knowledge of regional book arts communities. Engelman has also been active in the Friends of Lorine Niedecker Society and founded Fort Atkinson’s Lorine Niedecker Poetry Festival. She is the force behind the arresting poetry wall in Fort Atkinson, an impressive example of placemaking through word design. Fort Atkinson is a poetry destination because of Niedecker, and the poetry wall makes for one more reason to stop and to enjoy this small town.

Engelman says, “I have always, always loved books. My parents tell me my first words were, ‘Read da book.’ There is a quote from Eudora Welty that sums me up: ‘I can’t remember a time when I was not in love with them; with the books themselves, cover and binding and the paper they were printed on, with the smell and the weight and with their possession in my arms, captured and carried off to myself.’”

She generously answered my questions about Southern Wisconsin’s communities of book artists and her own interest in artist books.

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text | texture | textile | tech by wendy vardaman

My interest in graphic design comes from a deep desire to make poetry & words more expressive, accessible & comprehensible to non-poets. As a poet, I have returned & recommitted to the written word through design again and again–from illustrations of nursery rhymes and children’s poetry, to poems projected on screens in the classic 1980’s PBS series Voices and Visions, an early example of the video poem, to poetry in subway stations and buses, to projections of poems on walls and screens, to animated poetry and high tech 3-D visualizations like wordCake, to the floating letters of 20th c. Constructivists, to the use of text–word, number, notation, music, code–as texture in collage, and of course, the world of visual poetry, in which word and image come together with drama and purpose.

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