Today, MoonPath Press is announcing the publication of my new book: Why Horses. A few days ago, two boxes, filled to brim with books, were sitting in the shade on the front deck. Woohoo!! This book is exciting for me, not just because it found its way to my porch. But because there are a lot of poems in this book, over 200 pages of them, and many years of work, writing, editing, revising. Also because Lana Ayers of MoonPath Press, publisher of Pacific Northwest poets, has truly honored my work, and I will always feel awed by this gesture. Sorry the photos are a little blurry. I was so excited, I couldn’t focus. Neither could the camera in my phone.

The title, Why Horses, is a good one for this collection. Not because the poems are all about horses, because they aren’t, though a number of them are. The title asks a question as a statement, and there isn’t a single answer for it. Instead there are hundreds of answers. Some of them are direct, and some more abstract, but always the poems are a horse: the real, the surreal, the metaphorical; the unspoken, those in spirit only, those in absentia; the humor, the trickery, and the innocence, and those that may replace a horse, if that’s even possible. That’s why.

This collection of poems is dedicated to the two horses who shared their lives with mine for more than 20 years—Flicka and Moby. It’s kind of funny that they both came here with literary names—Flicka, whose name I always wanted to change, but never did because she was so full of spirit there wasn’t a name in the world that would fit her right; and Moby, named after Moby Dick by a prior owner because she was wildly unbroke when I got her, and was really freaked out by things like a loose cinch as it barely touched her belly, and even by my chickens. You could say she was chickener than chickens, but you’d be wrong. She was wary and smart. I took my time training her, and she turned out to be a very steady horse with a good sense of humor.

For most authors, the arrival of books on the porch is cause for celebration, and I am no exception in this. Fortunately, Jim was willing to celebrate, too, so we had this colorful salad along with a glass of wine.

I won’t be doing a regular book opening reading for awhile, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. But the book is currently available on the MoonPath Press website. In the near future, I will try to record a few poems aloud and post them in video form. I’m also thinking of doing small readings for six or less people here at Egress Studio. I hope to start during late August or September. If you’re interested, let me know, and I’ll see if I can set something up that is both safe and comfortable.

Here is a photo of the cover…. The saddle is one of my old ones. It’s heavy. Like a Cadillac. Usually, I like to use a light one, one that is the next best thing to bareback, because you can ever only go as far as the horse will take you, so it’s good to give them any breaks possible.

The Schack in Everett has a fabulous show—Northwest Designer Craftsmen 2020 Symposium— full of the artwork of over 100 NWDC members that has been hanging on their walls since early March, 2020. The Covid-19 Self-Quarantine, Stay-At-Home orders have been in effect since just a couple weeks after the opening, so hardly anyone has actually seen the show, except for during the opening on March 5. For more information about this show, check this link.

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Before the quarantine, I planned to make a blog post about the art-book much earlier than now, but I didn’t because this isolation period allowed me time to get a literal ton of work done here at my place that I’ve been wanting to do for years. I’ll make another post about that, since it is studio-space related, and exciting to me. This post will focus on my art-book currently on display at the Schack. You can see other Northwest Designer Craftsmen artworks on the NWDC website by clicking here.

The art-book is titled Story of a First Year Hive.

2019 was the first year I kept honeybees. They are fascinating, miraculous, and surprising creatures in more ways than I can say. The creation of this art-book was a way of honoring the bees who kept me company, and taught me many things while they were here. I regret to say that, though I did care for them, treated them for mites, and protected them from other hazards, the hive died in September. Varroa mites bring with them a variety of viruses to honeybees. In a way, they have been fighting viruses like our novel coronavirus for several years, and beekeepers are making some headway, but there is still no “cure.” Beekeepers currently protect their hives by testing and treating, in a similar way that we are doing for Covid-19. There is no vaccine for the virulent varroa mites or the infectious Covid-19, so it is seriously important that testings and treatments are effective and timely.

The book is hand-built using paper I made last year. The interior pages are made from retted iris and daylily leaves. These pages are divided into six signatures (or sections), each joined together with a strong sheet of paper I made from a tan cotton rug yarn, which can be seen along the spine.

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The cotton papers for the covers were embossed onto honeycomb foundation that was used inside a working hive. Some of the propolis the honeybees left behind is deposited onto the embossed papers, along with the honeycomb grid. The binding is made with a coptic stitch, and hand-sewn with waxed cotton thread. A coptic binding allows for the book to open up flat.

On each of the right-hand pages (recto side), I pasted a small paper made from cotton bed sheets. On each of these papers, I made a collage, that was created with a combination of all sorts of things, including sunflower and evergreen pollen; lichen; honeybee, hornet, and ladybug parts; birch and grass leaves; gold leaf, silk string and cloth electric tape, as well as ink diagrams. The ink drawings are detailed and minuscule, almost as though drawn by a bee. These collaged pages carry a story “as told” by honeybees and “translated” through the artist’s collages.

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As I continue to create assemblages and hand-bound books, I tend to experiment and stretch what I do as I go. In the near future, I’ll be making more books with collages and printmaking, often using items I find in the natural world, juxtaposed with those from our manmade ones. I love making paper because of the hands-on process, and the variety generated in the results. Through experimentation and curiosity, I’ve discovered that failure is not an error, but an education.

A few weeks ago, I decided to try making a rather small, two-color wood block print because I wanted to do two things. First thing: see if cheap-o plywood off an old pallet would make a decent print. (I wouldn’t recommend it.) Second thing: see how my daylily-iris-cotton paper would take a print. (Yes!)

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I started by cutting a clean piece of plywood “board” from a pallet into a couple of small, same-size, wood blocks on the table saw. Then I sanded the top, bottom, and all four sides of both blocks so there’d be a nicely flat area to print from, and no slivers for my hands. I was lucky to find a volunteer live ladybug model wandering around the studio. They are such calm and friendly, easy-to-draw insects. To transfer the drawing to the blocks I used graphite transfer paper. I drew the circle of the ladybug’s back onto the red-ink block. The other block would be the black-ink block. The transfer needed both sides of the “lines” drawn and filled in, so I could be sure where to cut, or more importantly, where not to cut.

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There’s something about a roller loaded with ink.

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This is when I just started to roll out the red ink, which needs to be rolled until it is uniform and velvety. I do that on a piece of plate glass, and in this photo, I can see that I have to add a bit more ink before I’m done. I tested the color on the block there. Looks like I kissed it, but you know me, I don’t wear lipstick, so that was the kiss of the roller on plywood.

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This is the small printing press I have in Egress Studio. It can be used for linoleum or wood block, as well as etchings, drypoints, and wood engravings. There are a few of the block prints with red ink only drying quietly in the background. The green paper is a template I made for registering one block’s print with the other block. It is the size of the handmade paper I made, so it would be easy to square up, and then set the block in the correct spot and orientation. Yes, you can actually print the red circle upside down from the black, so one needs to be pay attention to which way goes up. I wrote which side was “up” with an arrow onto the back of each block.

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Here is a red circle print waiting for the template to be lined up to the impression from the red-ink block, so the black-ink block can be placed on top of it before running it through the press. By the way, the table that this press is on was the kitchen worktable that my mom once kneaded bread and rolled out pie dough on. It is still a good table to work from, though I have repurposed it. I hang my rulers from it, and store print materials on the lower shelf.

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A rhythm of red. The handmade paper is uncut, showing its full deckle edges.

As you can imagine, making a wood block print is a lot of fun: the drawing, the cutting, the inking, the printing and the drying—all of it. I listen to music while I work, like Erik Satié and Django Reinhardt. The rhythms don’t necessarily go well with repetitive work, since printmaking is by starts and stops and on to the next, but they do go well with the thinking processes followed for such work.

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With the red circles dry, they are ready for the black ink. I don’t know if you can see this, but the red dot leans to the left, the black-ink block’s circle leans to the right. Upside down inside the carefully placed template, and the black will match the red.

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The black, black ink! Seems I could not wait to print the black, and I had forgotten that I ran out of the wood block ink during my last bunch of prints. I needed ink now! I decided to try the thicker, stickier etching type of ink. Not the best idea. But it worked well enough.

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This block is a black-ink block. Making progress. I must have removed the template before I remembered to take the photo. There is newsprint under and over the block and the handmade paper, which will help to keep the felts clean of ink.

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Black on red, only seven more left to print. The block and the roller are waiting for me to take this photo. The ink tube is there beside the plate glass full of ink. The empty wine glass sitting on the table? I can’t drink wine and print things at the same time, though if I were still a gum-chewer, I could to that. The glass may be empty now, but was once filled with sparkling water. Refreshing.

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This black is so lush and deep. I’m glad I had this ink handy.

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All done but the signing. If I remember and have some spare time, I’ll put a signed and matted photo here.