Art is a Remix

Do you know about TED talks? They’re wonderful, informative presentations on a wide variety of topics that take about 20 minutes or less to watch. The website recently featured a talk by one of my favorite book artists, Brian Dettmer.

The video is only a little over six minutes long but it’s full of great points to ponder, especially the last half of Dettmer’s talk. While I was watching, the first point that struck me was when he said, “I think of my work as sort of a remix, in a way, because I’m working with somebody else’s material in the same way that a D.J. might be working with somebody else’s music.

When he mentioned the word remix it reminded me of the author Austin Kleon and his book Steal Like an Artist, which covers the idea of remixing, where you selectively “steal” ideas from other artists you admire and combine or remix them. The end product then becomes your work. If you have time watch Austin Kleon’s TEDxKC talk.

By remixing, Brian Dettmer is making something “more new, more contemporary.” He also goes on to say, “I’m thinking also about breaking out of the box of the traditional book and pushing that linear format, and try to push the structure of the book itself so that the book can become fully sculptural.

People learn by copying, then combining and remixing to create their own work. However, once you have been working on something for some time, you begin to evolve and your unique voice/perspective emerges. By pushing boundaries the artist again creates something new.

Old books
I’ve bought or have taken old, unwanted books for the sole purpose of tearing out its pages to make something. However, I haven’t quite “harmed” any of those books yet …

Would you ever destroy/rip/throw away a book? Dettmer explains that people generally are disturbed by the thought of destroying a book because “we think about books as living things, we think about them as a body, and they’re created to relate to our body, as far as scale, but they also have the potential to continue to grow and to continue to become new things. So books really are alive.

I’ve heard of the phrase “words come alive” but I’ve never thought of the book as alive. I’m still ruminating about the book as a living body.

My favorite part of Dettmer’s talk was during the last minute or so:

And I think of my work as almost an archaeology. I’m excavating and I’m trying to maximize the potential and discover as much as I possibly can and exposing it within my own work. But at the same time, I’m thinking about this idea of erasure, and what’s happening now that most of our information is intangible, and this idea of loss, and this idea that not only is the format constantly shifting within computers, but the information itself, now that we don’t have a physical backup, has to be constantly updated in order to not lose it. And I have several dictionaries in my own studio, and I do use a computer every day, and if I need to look up a word, I’ll go on the computer, because I can go directly and instantly to what I’m looking up. I think that the book was never really the right format for nonlinear information, which is why we’re seeing reference books becoming the first to be endangered or extinct.

So I don’t think that the book will ever really die.People think that now that we have digital technology,the book is going to die,and we are seeing things shifting and things evolving. I think that the book will evolve,and just like people said painting would die when photography and printmaking became everyday materials,but what it really allowed painting to do was it allowed painting to quit its day job. It allowed painting to not have to have that everyday chore of telling the story, and painting became free and was allowed to tell its own story,and that’s when we saw Modernism emerge, and we saw painting go into different branches. And I think that’s what’s happening with books now, now that most of our technology, most of our information, most of our personal and cultural records are in digital form, I think it’s really allowing the book to become something new. So I think it’s a very exciting time for an artist like me, and it’s very exciting to see what will happen with the book in the future.

When e-books first appeared I heard/read a lot about how the book may become obsolete. Dettmer’s analogy of what happened with painting after cameras and printmaking were introduced is a hopeful, exciting way of looking at the book’s future.

What do you think about the future of books?

Bonus: Here’s another video featuring a paper engineer and book artists respectively, Matthew Reinhart, Andrea Dezso, and Carole Kunstadt. Also, if you’re interested in seeing more book arts related material online have a peek at my Pinterest board. Thanks for reading!

Art is a Remix

Des Cowley’s wonderful synopsis on book arts

Came across this gem of a video which gives a short excellent overview of book arts and its history by Des Cowley at the State Library of Victoria in Australia; I was also amused by the background music. Enjoy!

Des Cowley’s wonderful synopsis on book arts

A Magical Day in my Tucson Odyssey

Today has been an AMAZING day! When I woke up I headed to our Airbnb host's backyard to do a bit of yoga. Staring at the crystal blue sky and hearing the soothing bubbling sounds from the small water fountain was very peaceful and helped me focus better on my poses. Also my upper back thanked me afterwards.

Later in the morning, while Nick and I headed to the University of Arizona's campus, a hummingbird hovered over my head and I stood still to watch it float against the azure sky. That was a magical moment.

Had the best fries I ever tasted at frog & firkin as our lunch appetizer. I am totally stealing the sinfully mouth-watering idea of topping fries with red sauce and melted mozzarella.

red fries at frog & firkin

After lunch Nick and I sat in a local café drinking the kind of iced chai we like. Then I left Nick to work and I headed to the university's Museum of Art, Poetry Center, and Special Collections.

U of A's Museum of Art

I forgot that most museums are closed on Mondays but I did get a campus map out of it. Since the Joseph Gross Gallery was only a few steps away I went in and was emotionally engaged by student Ben McKee's Matt & Ben (My Big Brother & Me) installation including 3 videos of various screen sizes. Still not quite sure exactly why I felt something so strongly in the pit of my stomach but it most likely has to do with my own relationships with my brothers; I miss them.

Ben McKee's installation

I wasn't sure if there were sensors but a light turned on in the room as I walked alongside the installation and a small video started up when I walked towards it in a separate section on the right (not pictured).

Next I walked over to the Poetry Center which is housed in a beautiful building (I should've taken a photo). They have a small exhibit of artists' books curated by Johanna Drucker. My favorites were works by Keith Smith and Tom Phillips.

Book by Tom Phillips
Out of Sight by Keith Smith

Out of Sight (Book Nr. 107) by Keith Smith

Continuing on my artist book hunt I headed to Special Collections. Thanks to the advice of one very helpful librarian at the Poetry Center I requested to see James Joyce's Ulysses designed by Philip Smith which is stowed away in the Collection's vault. When the librarian wheeled over the book I started feeling teary-eyed and my heart wanted to burst. This was probably the personal equivalent of beholding the holy grail. Every word that pops to mind does not do this treasure justice and the following pictures definitely are poor substitutes.

James Joyce's Ulysses
James Joyce's Ulysses (case)

A book love affair. See them kissing?

If you were wondering, the small slip of paper you see in the photos is a copyright requirement of Special Collections whenever a photo is taken. I am definitely returning to this library to check out more of their book arts collection. I'm still amazed that I actually got to touch the books and smell its pages.

The midday sun is brutal here but I am LOVING Tucson!

(I will still post about our time in Texas and Colorado but was overly excited about today and had to share.)


A Magical Day in my Tucson Odyssey

Splendiferous N’awlins (March 24 – April 6)

In New Orleans we stayed at an Airbnb property in the Muses Apartments only a couple of blocks away from the St. Charles streetcar line, which we could take right to the French Quarter (or get there on foot in about a half hour). The one downside to where we were staying was that there was no wi-fi service but thankfully there was Krewe du Brew, a new-ish cafe right on St. Charles Avenue where Nick spent his weekdays for work. Co-owners John and Eugene provides attentive service and friendly conversation. Stop in and say hi if you’re in the neighborhood. I enjoyed their chocolate chip banana bread and drank a lot of raspberry ice tea.

Fleur-de-lis mosaic at Palmer Park

Nick and I both adored New Orleans and would love to return for another visit. It also helped that Nick didn’t suffer allergies the entire time we were there.

A few highlights:

    • Visiting the art galleries of the Warehouse/Art District
Chihuly glass (white)

Chihuly’s white glass series is gorgeous

Michael Pajon, my new favorite artist

Michael Pajon’s collages rock! If I was rich I’d collect his work.

    • Unexpectedly finding this beautiful street art
    • Talking to artists at the Arts Market (held monthly on the last Saturday)

At the market I ran into Yuka Petz, who’s a local book artist I’ve been wanting to meet. I like her play on words and text in her work. I also spoke briefly with printmaker Pippin Frisbie-Calder from whom I got to learn about cypress trees and their knees.

Jimmy Descant
Tao Seeger

Tao Seeger is a great storyteller; I enjoyed hearing about the history of his instruments. One of the stories was about his hundred-year-old banjo!

    • Spending a beautiful day with Nick eating our way through the French Quarter
Cajun Cafe Market
Yummm ... Cafe du Monde's beignets

All the locals who I’ve spoken with says that Cafe du Monde beignets (pronounced “ben-yays”) are the best. We concur!


Additional photos:

New Orleans, LA



Splendiferous N’awlins (March 24 – April 6)

Chip Kidd: Book Designer Extraordinaire

Creating visual haikus for stories: Chip Kidd at TED2012.

I'm now a fan of Chip Kidd after watching his TEDtalk. I wholeheartedly agree with his view about books as object. Its sensuousness and smell — ahh, take a deep whiff! Feeeeeeeel that deckle …


Ahem … excuse me. I was having a moment …

So what do you think after watching the video?


Chip Kidd: Book Designer Extraordinaire

The continuing adventures with Jim

The Paper Museum wasn't the only place Jim and I visited. Far from it. After lunch we took a scenic route on our way to the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art. It was neat seeing the beautiful houses along Peachtree Battle Ave(?); each house was beautiful and architecturally unique. As an aside, Atlanta has anywhere from 26 to over 65 streets with Peachtree in its name depending on where I went on the internetz. I believe Jim told me a number in the upper 20s range. Whatever the actual number just know that there's ALOT. I know the street names confused me a bit when I first arrived in this city.

While I lived in NYC I was one of the volunteers helping out during the Rubin Museum's Red Book exhibit that ran from October 2009 to Februaury 2010. I had the chance to view Carl Jung's own art work and mandalas. Now I wanted to visit Oglethorpe to see the university museum's Sacred Round exhibit displaying mandalas by Carl Jung's patients. Feels like I've come full circle (no pun intended).

Visitors weren't allowed to take photos of patients' artwork but I was allowed to take a shot of a quote that I absolutely loved by Carl Jung. His advice to patients in regards to their artwork:

This thrills me to no end as an art therapist and an aspiring book artist!

The small campus was serene and charming. We happened to visit during the university's spring break.

Beautiful stone structures

We ended the day touring SCAD and looking at MANY works completed by skilled students. One of the best personal highlights was seeing Julie Chen's book shown at the library. I've admired her work since I first became interested in book arts. I also enjoyed seeing the library's new book arts acquisitions.

How Books Work by Julie Chen/Clifton Meador


This has been one very FULL day. Again, I cannot thank Jim enough for his companionship and generosity. My brain is overflowing with creative juice. This will be a good night for dreams.

Favorite quote of the day stated by an OUMA employee, “The answer is always 'No' until you ask.”


The continuing adventures with Jim

Reimagining Marbled Paper

Robert C. Williams Paper Museum's exhibit on marbled papers was an eye-opening experience. I did not realize the depth and breadth of this art form.

chicken leg detail of Karli Frigge's Alchemy Marble


I did try marbling paper once at New York's Center for Book Arts; I thought of marbled paper as pretty, even very beautiful at times, but did not give it much more consideration. The artists' works showcased in this exhibit completely changed my outlook. The pieces are amazing and some works remind me of contemporary art paintings.


I immediately wanted to marble some paper after seeing this show. The colors, lines, and shapes you could achieve made me drool with all the possibilities.

Oh, to own a copy of Josef Halfer's Progress of the Marbling Art (1885)


The exhibit also showcased some lovely miniature books.

I wouldn't have been able to see all that I did if it wasn't for my new friend Jim. Thank you Jim a million times over!

More photos:

Paper Museum Visit


Reimagining Marbled Paper