Monday, December 27, 2010

italy!

b had to go to italy (sicily) for a project for work. i got to go with him! it was an excellent adventure. we were gone for about ten days and we stayed at cambuca. i took some pictures. it was beautiful, the food was abundant and amazing, and it was really exciting to travel overseas for the first time with my best friend.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

it's that time of year again...


i love this program. love it love it love it.

i thought i would share an experiment i tried this year that came about as we were filling four boxes for the youngest age group (2-4 years old). b and i usually scour target and the dollar store(s) for well-priced goodies, but this year i've felt more scatter-brained (disorganized), we haven't been able to spend as much time shopping and we haven't been able to find as many goodies as in previous years. what these boxes in particular needed was a snuggly something, but stuffed animals aren't cheap (nor should they be, since they're probably sewn by hand by someone in cambodia). at target last week, b and i, totally unimpressed by the stuffed animals in the toy department, stumbled into the pet department, where there was a huge selection of rather adorable pet toys for about $5. we considered these options seriously, though there is definitely something incredibly embarrassing about admitting that- but really, if there was no difference between the doggy toys and the kiddy toys beside intended market, and really the dog toys were cute...then why not? but we concluded that the warnings on the tags "not intended for use by children" maybe referred to there being higher levels of lead or other toxins that are strongly regulated when the toys are for children, but not when they're for pets. anyway, we didn't get any. instead, we started tossing around the idea that i could MAKE some stuffed toys myself! so we meandered from target to joann fabrics and bought some brightly colored fleece- 1/2 yard each in orange and blue (and it was on sale!). when we got home, i created a simple pattern based on the size of the lid of our shoeboxes (so that i knew it would fit). i realized that i'd be able to make 1 stuffed toy per 1/8 yard of fabric, so i had twice as much as i needed, really. also, i happened to have a lot of scraps of batting lying around (when shipping some things here from NY, instead of using newspaper/peanuts as packing material, i used scraps of batting, because hey, you never know...which is proof for why you should never ever ever throw anything away---it really might come in handy someday!!) to use as stuffing. so, here're the first couple of steps:
for eight stuffies: 1 yard fleece, one pattern, pile o'batting
i made the shape i wanted for the form of the toy, and then added a half-inch or so around it for a seam allowance.
next, i pinned it to 2 pieces of fleece, cut it out, and re-pinned the two pieces together. then i sewed them together, leaving a few-inch-long gap (along the leg/side of the body) so that i could get the stuffing in. i'm not very good at making tutorials, so i neglected to thoroughly document my process. it's really not that difficult to figure out though.
 
i made the one on the left as a test, and then sewed the others- adding the ears was a good idea- they're fun :)
the trickiest part was adding faces. i should have done this before sewing the two pieces of fleece together because trying to sew only the top layer of the fleece was annoying. also, it was tedious trying to fill in shapes like the eyes and noses with thread (i didn't want to use buttons), but i didn't really know what other options i had. so here they are...
...and we only spent $5.50! and really, i only needed half that amount. granted, they did take a while (maybe six hours, start to finish?), but it was worth it. i am considering the idea of making some clothes for them...we'll see. i'm done for today.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

update!

1: The Religions in Conversations conference was so much fun- I sat in on the poetry readings for most of the day. It was so pleasant to sip ginger lemon tea (they had a vegan/raw foods caterer called Rawmazing Food- http://www.rawmazingfood.com/- very yummy) and sit in the auditorium listening to interesting words. The poems were displayed in the lobby of Garrison Theatre – they looked nice, all fancied-up in their frames. 



2: On October 2 B and I went to a lecture at Scripps (put on by the Scripps College Press, so of course we went) presented by artist Diane Samuels. She was AMAZING. Here’s her website, but unfortunately, you won’t get a very good idea of her work from it- http://dianesamuels.net/. Her work is incredibly thoughtful and detail-oriented. I told her afterward that, for me, she had really thrown open the doors to what it meant to be detail-oriented and meticulous. What also struck me about her work was her willingness to experiment with different ideas and not to worry about “wasting time” trying things that may not work. She had installations that were borne out of many, if not dozens, of experimental pieces that were themselves finished and beautiful, but that she felt just didn’t “work” perfectly.

I have had a lot more free time since the conference, and I’ve been experimenting with some drawing projects. Ms. Samuels has inspired me to just try things, and not to just try them for fifteen minutes, but to start and finish something even if I don’t know completely what I’m doing, or even if I think I don’t like what I’m doing after a couple hours of work. I went through a pile of unfinished projects about a week ago and found an idea I’d had for a drawing about the Fruit of the Spirit. I had an idea for what I thought I wanted to do, but couldn’t do that particular idea at the moment, so I decided to experiment with color and media in preparation for that idea. At first, I really didn’t like it. But I decided I’d finish it anyway, just because there were more things I could learn….and now that it’s done, I’ve really grown to love it (see below- 20x25 in, pens on paper). But that’s not all- last night I thought of another way I could to the same drawing, using a different medium, and I’m really excited to experiment with that. 



3: I’m now selling work at Belle’s Nest in Sierra Madre! It’s a lovely little shop- all local artists, run by two sisters, and they have great pieces. Those little owls on the blog arrived the same day I did my interview with Gloria (one of the sisters) and they are adorable- completely impractical, but adorable. Anyway, it’s a great opportunity to get some publicity and be a part of a little community (unlike etsy). We’ll see how it goes- I had some cards in a consignment shop in Potsdam once, and I think over a period of four years I sold $10-worth. ;)

4: One of my favorite contemporary artists just published her first book! I’ve only looked at the first few pages so far and it is…scrumptrulescent. Truly.

Monday, October 18, 2010

"the secret of kells"...

...was a sweet little film (and PRETTY). i recommend.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

If you want to purchase a poem...

I don’t know if anyone was planning to buy some of these poems online—the thing is, I don’t know if they will be available for purchase after the conference (tomorrow, 10/15). So, if you are someone I know personally, and you can’t go to the conference but you’d like to have a poem or two (they’re $10 each; $70 for the set- that’s like getting one free!), let me know and I’ll get what you want, and then you will pay me back and I’ll give them to you. :)

Three more poems

Prayer 1, George Herbert (Protestant poem)
I have to admit that I put a lot of pressure on myself when it came to designing this poem. It had to be awesome. Of course, pressure like this immediately sucks your creative abilities dry. My first thought was to have a praying figure in the shape of a P, like in Celtic manuscripts and such. Then I tried to unite ALL of the imagery into a single cohesive image- obviously this was impossible. Then I thought about picking out a single image to illustrate (the “sinner’s tow’r”, the “bird of Paradise”, the “plummet sounding heaven and earth”…). Nothing satisfied me, though. I did figure out three things- I wanted the paper to be white, the text to be black, and the image to be red (there was enough red imagery for it to make sense, plus red just makes sense in general, and the combination of the three colors can be found in some Bibles where Jesus’ words are printed in red). After talking with B* about it, I decided that the praying figure was actually quite appropriate. It seems obvious and derivative at first, but the simplicity of the figure balances beautifully with the rich images in the poem, which never really mentions getting on your knees.  

*Bart, you have been a life-saver throughout this whole project! From editing help to thoughtful and good advice about design and layout, as well as whole-hearted encouragement…I am so blessed :)

Kapparah, Ralph Angel (the Jewish poem)
This was a tricky one. I emailed the poet to get some direction, but he emailed me back saying that he trusted my instincts and I should just go with whatever the poem made me feel. I was flattered, but it wasn’t terribly helpful. So I did a bit of thinking and research. First, one of my biggest fears with this project in general is that I'll accidentally do something along the lines of putting a peace symbol on the Christian poems- so close, and yet so far (and also obviously un-researched). I felt that the image should reflect several different aspects of the poem- 1- definitely the Kapparah ritual; 2- the Temple; 3- a sense of dispersing/converging. So the image is actually an aerial map of Jerusalem, with the darker spot (right of center) being the location of the Temple. But the red ink also makes it look like streams of blood, which presumably there were during the Kapparah sacrifices (and sacrifices in general). Bart pointed out that it looks like a heart/blood veins, which I think also works. A lot of the language in the poem made me think of the passage of time and distance, which also sort of fits with the map idea- leaving and returning.

Printing this poem was a bit of a challenge- I felt I was taking some risks in the layout, and what if it didn’t turn out quite right? With the text off-center, and the text/image unit being slightly off-center (but still maintaining visual balance), and the image so red that it could easily overpower the text…I was nervous. But B thinks it works, and now I felt reassured, too.


After printing, I also emailed my dear Marli, who has some really cool thoughts that I want to share:
My thoughts are... well, to start with, Kapparah is a ritual which asks for atonement of sins. It's on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year. By its nature (being a part of the service) it is beautiful - Yom Kippur is one of, if not the most beautiful holiday, but it's also one of, if not the most, saddest. Yom Kippur is very grey in that respect... beautiful service, including the kol nidre (which you can hear as a cello solo here), and asking for mercy and blessings throughout the year on a personal as well as a humanity-wide level, and yet, being multifaceted, it's also very black and white. There are sins. We have committed them. We must ask forgiveness of the people we have wronged, and then we can put ourselves before God, as it is ordained, and we follow a specific service to ask for redemption.

My immediate reaction to the poem was (and is again now) that there's a lot of imagery, and it doesn't seem to line up to a specific thought. It's speaking both to specific events and to a vast, overall... something.

"we'd have to undo even the hours of this room" - it seems like he's saying we'd have to take away the time spent here, but usually that refers to regrets, and he says "to make ugly" as if to say the thing is currently beautiful. So, maybe he's not talking about the sins, so much as the life we live? To take that away, we'd have to actually remove the events which have created us. This is an idea that's very important to the Jewish people, as there have been so many times when another nation has tried to wipe them out, and it is only the stories and histories being passed down which has counteracted that.
"the unsaid will flop like a fish" - no absolutes. Another big theme in Judaism - everything is up for discussion. There are wrong and right answers, but those are for God to determine. For ourselves, we can only question.
"a view much like our own" - tying the past back into the present, into what we see and feel, and how much that is exactly what our ancestors saw and felt.
The second verse seems to be describing what actually is the case, though he uses the conditional, which seems to imply it isn't currently. More specifically, he's describing what religious Jews actually do: "fail, and study constantly, and know by heart the volumes of our mingled vast migrations." And then the last part "we were holy places there," I can only assume refers to the old temple.

So the overall impression I get is likening the old temple (destroyed back in BC) to the current way of life. When the old temple existed, atonement was sought there through animal sacrifices. Since the destruction of the old temple there are no more animal sacrifices, and it has changed everything about atonement - particularly Kapparah. So I get an image of likening our modern way of life (where we do not all "study constantly and know by heart the volumes of our mingled vast migrations") to the days of the temple and the Kapparah that was.

Truly the Sea was Divided, various – based on Exodus 15 (the Coptic poem)
The last poem! The imagery was pretty straight-forward to figure out, although originally I had wanted the text to be yellow-orange (because of the part about the sun shining on the hidden earth), but that was vetoed pretty early on. Burgundy/red was suggested instead, which also makes a lot of sense, since the Red Sea was the one Moses parted, and it’s never specifically mentioned. A bright, turquoise-y blue seemed appropriate for the image of stylized waves, with beams of light shining through.

Printing was the hard part, specifically, printing the image. It was so large that I had to constantly re-ink the press (after about every 4 prints, and then multiply that by 110+ pieces of paper) and the extra minutes needed to allow the ink to distribute evenly on the rollers and on and on. Plus the paper had just enough of a texture to not print perfectly evenly, which was extremely aggravating. Anyway, it took about six hours. But at last I finished and, exhausted, drove home. That evening I showed B, and he thought they looked great. And then he noticed a problem. At the bottom, where it was supposed to say “this poem is…based on Exodus 15”, I had typeset “this poem is…based on Exobus 15”. Ouch. One stinking little letter- and a b instead of a d on top of it all- and now I had to endure another day like that one, at my own expense. Ok, so I maybe hadn’t proofread that part as carefully as I should have, but couldn’t God give me a break? I mean, c’mon! I admit it, I was mad.

Feeling dejected, I bought new paper (with a smooth texture this time) fixed the typo and got set to do the whole thing over again. Just to be extra-safe, I went through the whole poem word by word- I felt paranoid, I guess. I paused at one word, which was unfamiliar to me and therefore should probably be double-checked on the computer: “Theokotos”, the Greek title of Mary. Turns out, the correct spelling is “Theotokos”- I had had another spelling error. Suddenly, I was feeling very blessed.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Untitled (#200)

well, i'm out of pre-written blogposts and i just don't feel like writing one at the moment, but i did want to post something...so...lucky for me this is the 200th post on this blog. yep, this right here. ain't she a beaut. 

also, summer has finally arrived (rudely ignoring the fact that it is now supposed to be AUTUMN), so i feel grouchy. but i get to have lunch with a friend in 45 minutes, and that's something to look forward to. :)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Adventures in letterpress printing

#5: “A Meditation”, Behram Deboo (the Zoroastrian poem)
Subtitle: trust your instincts

I am very proud of myself for now being able to pronounce and spell “Zoroastrian”, not that it’s been much of a source of personal humiliation over the past 26 years. Anyway, the design process was fairly simple for this one (it wasn’t that way for all of them – the next two poems I’ll talk about proved to be very challenging) – Elisa had included some images of the brass fire urns that are kept at Zoroastrians’ places of worship, which are called fire temples. I thought it would be neat to lay out the text in the shape of an urn, and carve a flame illustration to place above it. It seemed a little bit like an obvious design, so I thought I’d try doing something a bit more unusual for the paper and ink colors- dark grey paper and bright yellow-gold ink. It would be like a goblet of fire (but not the goblet of fire from H. Potter…and by the way, for the longest time I always wanted to call it "the globule of fire") shining in darkness. It was pretty striking. Here’s the draft I created in InDesign:
Challenge 1: Kelly paper didn’t have a really dark grey paper. The darkest was “pewter”, sort of a middle-grey, not very dark, not very light. I got it anyway.

Then I bought a little linoleum block and carved my flame, realizing, as I did so, that I didn’t have to carve away all the space around the flame, but could instead create a neato halo.
 
Challenge 2: Ink, my apparent nemesis. I picked the color I wanted, mixed it, put it on the press, ran a test on leftover paper from the Mormon poem, thought it looked gorgeous, decided to start printing on the pewter grey paper, printed my first sheet and…ACK!
The ink was transparent. The ink was invisible on my darkish paper. What in the world was I going to do now? Step one: clean off the press. Step two: add lots and lots of opaque white to the color I had mixed (which was made up of process yellow and rubine red- both transparent inks). I thought this would lighten the color of the ink and increase the contrast between the ink and paper. I put this revised ink on the press and printed this:

It was too yellow-green. I wanted more orange. Just a tiny, tiny bit more orange, since this was supposed to be a flame in a brass urn. And geez- it still needed to be more opaque. So I cleaned off the press again, added more red to the ink- actually, by this point I had mixed several different little pools of ink and had even tried resurrecting some old metallic inks I’d found in a box (the gold- the most likely candidate, was completely crusted over and unusable. Metallic inks don’t keep well). I had some scrap grey paper to test the colors on so that I wouldn’t have to get the whole press dirty. The problem was, none of my attempts at mixing brighter, more opaque inks were coming out bright or opaque enough. The color of the paper was too light. Even if I used white ink (the brightest and most opaque option), there wouldn’t have been quite enough contrast. This was a problem. But I did have a color that I thought just might work:
And then, reassuring myself that ink gets lighter and more opaque as it dries (in the same way I told myself in the previous post that it gets darker), I ignored the queasy feeling in my gut and printed the whole lot. (It should be noted that this is something you never want to tell yourself. The change in lightness/darkness and opacity from wet to dry is almost too subtle to notice.)

I actually felt pretty good about them by the time I was heading home. I’d told B all about the fiasco, and he promised to give me his opinion when I got home. His words were very encouraging- the prints were fairly light, yes, but they were also subtle, and the image was lovely. I really liked how the flame turned out. Ok, so it’s not very easy to read from far away, but still, it looks nice.
Next time I met with Elisa, I took her a copy so that she could see my progress and have something to show the other people involved in planning the conference. She hesitated, but said it was lovely. Later that day, she came and found me and told me that some bigwigs at the school had declared it too light and difficult to read, so I needed to redo it. :( I could see their point, but I was really bummed.

I revised the color choices and re-printed last week:
 and the little linoleum block, of which I am very fond:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Adventures in letterpress printing


#4: “Tree”, Sri Aurobindo (the Hindu poem)

The imagery for this one was fairly straightforward- hands, trees, the conflict between heavenly and earthly desires- a tree in the shape of two hands with one branching, growing and reaching up, and the other, firmly rooted, reaching down. I chose lovely Environment birch paper for this print, and green and greenish-yellow for the colors, which seemed appropriately symbolic according to Hindu color symbolism (or so I was told by ye olde internet).

The first challenge: INK. INK IS TRICKY. I chose a color from a booklet and prepared it according to the directions using the base colors in the specified proportions. The green text was easy. The greenish-yellow…not so much. You mix ink on a glass plate, but then you have to test it on a piece of scrap paper because your puddle of ink looks completely different from the color it will print. So you get a tiny amount of ink on the paper, smear it around vigorously with another piece of paper, and that gives you a better idea of the actual color you’ll be printing. However, if you look at the color on the paper, you should imagine it lighter and less saturated, and that will be even closer to how it’ll print. Once you put your ink on the press, you have to clean the whole press if you decide it’s a tad too light/bright/dark/purple/whatever. Also, as a general rule of thumb: less is more when you’re adding dark ink to light. If you’re making a color that calls for 12 parts yellow , 14 parts white and 1/4-part blue, you’d better make sure you don’t add 1/2-part blue. You’ll quickly end up with a pint of ink if you try to lighten a color that’s too dark (you usually need less than a tablespoon to print 100 copies of something). It’s better to take, say, half or even a quarter of the color that you accidentally mixed too dark, and then add white/yellow/whatever to that. It’s easy to add more dark ink.

So anyway, I should’ve added more green to my greenish-yellow, because what I got was nearly neon yellow. I told myself, “it’ll probably darken as it dries”. I have also told myself, “I think the ink gets lighter as it dries” as well as, “I think the ink gets more opaque as it dries” (more on that later, actually). In reality, I still don’t know which, if any, of those are true, but the change is minute. The way the ink prints is basically the way it will look when it’s dry. If you have any doubts (more on this later, too), just clean the press and fix the color. You’ll be glad you did.

Well, I went ahead with the neon yellow. And then I encountered…

The second challenge. Something was odd about the way the image was printing. The ink coverage was good, but…what is that? Thinking the block still had some black ink on it from when I’d printed a test in black a few days earlier, I got out the cleaner and cleaned the block, being careful to get into the little crevices where black ink might be hiding. Using such a light color, I knew that any leftover ink on the block or on the press rollers would be noticeable.
Well, the problem didn’t go away, but now I could tell what it was: the ink from the sharpie I’d used to draw the tree shape before carving it was somehow printing. I have never seen or heard of this happening before- and had used it on the illustrations for the three previous poems. I scrubbed the block again with very, very nasty chemicals, but couldn’t get the permanent ink off (darn them and their accurate advertising!). After a third scrubbing, I gave up and printed the rest of the broadsides. At this point there was only a faint outline on part of the image, but it still screamed “SHARPIE INK RESIDUE!” to me. But if no one else knows how it got there, they probably won’t think “sharpie residue”. I hope they don’t. But after that I haven’t used a sharpie, which has been a bit of a pain because graphite smears so easily on linoleum. And you still have to be sure to clean it off before printing. Ah well. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Adventures in letterpress printing

#3: “Pied Beauty”, Gerard Manley Hopkins (the Catholic poem)

This poem is about God’s Creation- so I went through a lot of ideas with spots for imagery (given the focus of the text), and eventually settled on this one, which I think looks pretty darn good. And silver on black is always very exciting. The spots represent the spotted things in the poem, but I also wanted them to look a little bit like stars or planets, so that it wouldn’t just be like “God created spotted horses” but also “God created the whole universe and beyond!” I like my pieces to work on multiple levels...even though it's maybe not all that clear.

Choosing paper was a bit of a challenge. I was reluctant to choose a flat black because flat colors look too much like copy paper or construction paper (in my opinion), but the laid paper incident was too fresh in my mind to attempt something with any, no matter how slight, texture (such as linen). So I went with the flat black. C’est la vie.

This poem was fairly easy to complete, but again, there were some image registration problems. Here’s the progression I went through with adding packing under the block:
You’ll notice that the left side had no trouble printing from the beginning. So instead of adding pieces of paper the size of the whole block, I added half- or quarter- sheets to raise only one side of it.The final result is at the top.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Adventures in letterpress printing

#2: “On the Mormon Trail, June 1868”, Elisa Pulido (the Mormon poem)

This poem’s author, Elisa, is the woman I’m working with to create these broadsides. She’s the Student Chair at the Claremont Graduate University and is organizing the conference this year. She’s been really great to work with.

My first idea for this poem was a trail in a field, with the trail following the curve of the right side of the text. It works, but it was, I admit, boring. I came up with another idea, just because it’s nice to have more than one. B really liked the second one, and so did Elisa. I thought it would be cool to have the poem nestled and even hidden down in the long grass of the prairie. That’s about as far as my thinking went, aside from “that grass will be really fun to carve in linoleum”. It was :)
(The thing to remember with linoleum carving, or any image-making for printing, is that you have to make a mirror image of whatever you want the image to be. This is hard to remember, but you learn, as I have, by doing it wrong several times...)

I had the paper picked out long in advance- camel hair laid cover (I’ve ordered all my paper for this project from Kelly Paper, which has stores here and near Claremont and is very convenient). It’s a beautiful, warm tan with slightly darker brown fibers sprinkled throughout and it has a great toothy texture (that's what "laid" means). So I set the poem, carved the linoleum, ordered the paper, picked up the paper, cut the paper (because the broadsides are 11x14, I order parent sheets- uncut sheets of paper that come in large sizes such as 23x35 in.), and printed the text. Then I cleaned the press, took the text off the bed of the press, set up the linoleum block in its place, applied green ink to the rollers (I maybe should've done tan-ish yellow for the grass, but that would have been too much brown), got all set to start test-printing my second run, tested it out first on leftover sheets from my previous printing (the Rumi poem):
...printed the first piece of the camel hair paper, and hit a wall. The registration of the image was terrible. Really inconsistent and patchy (fyi- you can click on the images to make them larger. You probably already knew that. I probably just insulted your intelligence. Sorry.):
I increased the pressure, added more ink, paced back and forth mumbling to myself while pangs of anxiety shot through my stomach- nothing helped. And then I remembered something.

Textured papers don’t print well because of all the bumps and crevices, which the rollers have a hard time squashing flat in order to print something with a lot of surface area. If textured papers must be used, they have to be dampened first (which is a monumental pain in the neck). It worked fine with the text because the text is very small and is made of metal. You’ll notice that part of the linoleum block did print well. I don’t know why- it’s possible that the linoleum wasn’t perfectly flat, which may account partly for the uneven printing, but mostly, it was the rough texture of my beautiful paper. It printed fine on the Rumi paper because it had a smooth texture. *SIGH*

I ended up buying new paper (what else could I do?) with a lovely smooth texture- Royal Fiber cream, which I think looks even better than the other stuff. I still had a hard time printing the linoleum, which seemed to provide more solid evidence toward the theory that the surface wasn’t completely level, but I managed to turn out 100 good copies, which is all that matters. So far, this is one of my favorites.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It Came!

It came! I received my copy of “Merry Sorrys, (Un)Happy Endings”!! After months and months of formatting, resizing, editing, tweaking, re-tweaking, and lots and lots of re-re-tweaking, it’s finally here in physical form. It’s all shiny and bright…yay. Now I have something real to show for all this – you all probably thought I was making this project up. :) I photographed some of my favorite pages:

Shiny…

Shiiiny…

Shiiiiiiny…

Yay!

Remember, you can order a copy of your own at http://www.merrysorrows.com/ :)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Adventures in letterpress printing

I was commissioned back in early summer to created 8 limited edition broadsides (posters, 11x14 in) using 8 poems from various religious traditions for an event in October hosted by the Religious Studies department at Claremont Graduate University. I would design the layout and create simple imagery, typeset the text, pick ink and paper, and print 100 copies each of the eight poems, which would be sold at the event as a fund-raiser. The eight religions are Islam, Mormon, Catholic, Protestant, Hindu, Zoroastrian, Jewish, and Coptic. I’ve printed 6 (except now only 5…more on that later) of the 8 poems so far, and it has been incredibly fun, not to mention a rich learning experience. I have run into numerous design and technical problems along the way, so much so that I feel the need to share them. Maybe someone out there will be able learn from my mistakes. :) I’ll organize the lessons around the specific poem I was working on when I learned them, in chronological order.
So, #1: “Birdsong from Inside the Egg”, Rumi (the Islamic poem)

This poem, being my first to design and print, was sort of the guinea pig. Here’s a bit of my decision making process: 1) I wanted to do one print run because it’s much faster that way (more on print runs later). 2) I wanted to use blue because of the egg (robin’s egg. I don’t know why. Artistic license, ok?) and river imagery. 3) There is also a lot of imagery with wind, spirit, river, song, breath, and dancing. I thought the best way to unite these themes would be with a spiral/wavy shape that flows upward, and mirrors the right edge of the text, which is itself very wavy.

The challenge: during printing, I had a hard time getting the image to print solid black. Often, linoleum blocks (which I use and love very much) are not “type-high”, meaning they sit lower (shorter) on the bed of the press than the metal type. If the image is lower, the paper won’t be pressed down hard enough on it and you’ll either get no image to print at all, or else it will be sort of faint, splotchy and yucky. You will have to add “packing” under the block- usually sheets of paper cut to the size of the block- to raise it to the height of the type. You have to experiment a bit (with scrap paper) to see how much paper you need- too little and you still have registration problems. Too much and you run the risk of damaging the block and the image will look like it’s been smashed into the paper. Not good. It’s all about finding the right amount of pressure. You can also increase pressure by lowering the rollers on the press, but since there was a good amount of impression on the text, it made more sense to raise the linoleum block. Here’s an example of too little pressure:
 
And of increased pressure: (you can also see that increasing the pressure may cause some of the linoleum block to appear- this, obviously, needs to be carved away)
Overall, I don’t think I got the pressure quite right on this one, but it still came out well (the image at top is an example of how they turned out).

I have a pretty good example of this process of building up enough sheets of paper with #3, the Catholic poem (stay tuned!!!).