& heading back East in pursuit of time. Posting will be sporadic for the next few days.



This looks like a good, fun challenge, and an interesting project:




Prospectus/Postcard for What You Will
Letterpress printed from photopolymer plates
4” x 6”
600 or so were printed

It may not look like it on your screen, but there are actually three colors printed on this card: black, transparent gray, and opaque white. The white is really difficult to see on these scans, and you’ll never get to read the text sleeping inside it unless you sign up for the NewLights Press Analog Mailing List by emailing me (newlightspressATgmailDOTcom) your mailing address.

& a note about the books themselves: I will not be putting them on pre-sale, but I am currently taking “reservations.” So if you would like me to hold a copy for you (they will cost $20 by the way) send me an email at the address above.



Richard Artschwager.
Book. 1987. Multiple of formica and wood. object: 5 1/8 x 20 1/8 x 12 1/16" (13 x 51.1 x 30.7 cm).

A tremendous amount of thought/energy/force/potential goes into the production of books. An activated book is like a channel through which that force passes, and that force builds, becomes more productive, with every reader that it lodges in, passes through. If a book cannot be read, then its energy, its potential, expires in its pages.


Last week a call went out to various book artists inviting them to submit work to an open call (non-juried) gallery show. One of the lines describing what they wanted for the show and how it would work caught my eye—it said, essentially, that all work in the show was going to be available to be handled, and that artists should take that fact into consideration when submitting. A day or two later a second email went out, noting that due to a large amount of complaints about that policy, they were now giving artists the option to choose whether their work should be handled.

A few years ago I decided that whenever I show NewLights Press books, that they would be shown so that they can be handled. Even the unique books. Even the really fragile, really labor-intensive, really expensive, unique books. I would rather have them completely destroyed through use than preserved, untouched and unread, in a perpetual, pristine, vulgar state of undeath in a glass case or in a vault somewhere.

Many years ago I saw a lecture by the artist Richard Artschwager. During that lecture he stated one of his guiding principles: “painting is art that you look at like this:” (mimes standing in place and staring) and “sculpture is art that you look at like this:” (mimes walking around and looking at an object). Neither of those mimes, of those modes of looking/reading, works for books. Books are different from other forms of art because they function differently in the world.

I understand why the gallery went back on their initial impulse to have all the work available for perusal, and I don’t fault them for giving the artists the option to choose how their work is shown. But I do wish they held that line as a curatorial principle.



In both of my teaching lives (the Academy of Art University and the San Francisco Center for the Book) last week my classes and I discussed “how to plan a book.” In both of those discussions I used the actual examples from the current NewLights project What You Will. I also made a new handout (based on one from my previous professor, John Risseeuw) that lists and explains the different stages/mock-ups that go into planning a book. So what follows, in this extra-pedagogical “Production is Reception” post, is based on that handout and these discussions with my classes.

General sketches of ideas for the layout of the book. Can by physical or digital, often both.


A series of small drawings showing the individual page spreads, either with sketches or text labels to show which content goes where. Used to determine the sequence of the pages and the amount of pages necessary. Done in pencil for flexibility.

A simple, 3D sketch version of the book, usually on newsprint or bond paper. The content of the pages is indicated with sketches or labels. This mock-up follows the binding structure of the final book (same number of pages grouped into same number of signatures) but is not actually bound. This mock-up can later be used as a guide for composing your final pages.

A fairly precise mock-up showing the actual compositions of individual page spreads to scale. This may take the form of a working digital file, or could be done on flat or folded sheets of paper that are the actual size of the book. This mock-up is to get a sense of the actual composition of the pages and how they function in sequence. There can sometimes be several working mock-ups (or one that is changed many times) as the book develops.

A mock-up of the book at actual size with the actual materials that you are planning on using. This mock-up goes through all of the steps of the actual binding, from the initial cutting of the paper to the final trimming of the book. It is used to test the materials and to check measurements. If something is wrong or is not functioning properly, this mock-up is adjusted and redone until everything is right.

Three important notes about these stages: 1) they do not necessarily proceed one right after the other—there is often some back and forth (say between the storyboard and the rough mock-up) and sometimes several steps are done simultaneously. It’s important to let the book grow and change through the process, instead of locking it all in when still in the early, abstract plotting stages. 2) There may (and will probably be) other steps and mock-ups between these. 3) This is a condensation of my own practice; other artists have other processes that work better for them. So the best thing to do is to be attentive, both to what others do and what you need, and adapt & synthesize your own processes.



I had some trouble figuring out the design for the jacket of What You Will. I knew what size it was (roughly), I knew what color the paper was, and I knew, basically, how the design on the inside worked. But the cover wasn’t quite coming together.

I put it down. I digressed. I came back to it. I put it down again. I picked up another book, The Pink, a book of Kyle Schlesinger’s poems that was released in 2008 by Kenning Editions. The Pink has a striking cover, designed by Jeff Clark/Quemadura, a poet and graphic designer that lives in Michigan, that designs some of the nicest looking books out there.

While I was inspecting The Pink, looking closely at the printing (screenprinted, I think, with a glossy ink at such density that it becomes three-dimensional, the type coming up from the surface of the chipboard cover) and flipping it over and over again in my hands—

I came to a realization, probably a similar realization to what Jeff Clark had a while ago—the book does not need to have the title and author’s name on the front cover/jacket. That was the problem I was having with the design—getting all that info displayed appropriately and interestingly. But I just kept moving the type around, never questioning its necessity, never questioning the “rule” that was governing my actions. I flipped The Pink over and over, opening and closing it, feeling the paper and the ink. I re-realized the objecthood of books—it’s funny but not surprising that I would have to “remember” one my primary artistic concerns. I thought that if I could make an interesting cover, interesting enough to turn a viewer into a reader, seeking the information not there, getting them to investigate and realize the book as an object, then the design was successful.

And now I was free to follow and work through the design ideas already set forth in the pages. And the book begins to function as a total object, complete with missing parts. And its made-ness becomes part of the experience of the text-book-object.



If you would like to join the NewLights Press analog mailing list you should electronically mail your analog address to me at my electronic address: newlightspress[at]gmail[dot]com.

Why would you want to join the NewLights analog mailing list? Because you will get strange, wonderful ephemera in the mail—things having to do with larger NewLights publications and events, and things that are pieces in their own right.

I am going to start printing the prospectipostcard for What You Will tonight, and I would love to send you one.



Today is the first day of my Book Arts 1 class. I’ve been working on the syllabus for the past week, tweaking and refining. The current version is a strange patchwork of old and new, of professors and colleagues past, present, and future. It’s interesting, from a teaching theory perspective, to see which parts of the syllabus change and which remain the same, to observe how my approach as an educator, the goals of the class, its context in the overall curriculum, and the needs/concerns/culture of the institution affect the way that the thing is structured. Here’s the opening section, the “Course Description:”

This class is an introduction to books as an art form—both in concept and structure/design. The class is structured around learning a series of binding styles of increasing complexity and expressive possibilities. We will cover all of the foundational skills and concepts for bookmaking (folding, sewing, pros and cons of different types of adhesives, and paper and board grain) as well as some low-tech printing and image generation techniques. Class discussions will include the history of the book, and the unique conceptual problems presented by the form. Individual class periods will be made up of demos, hands-on exercises, discussions, critiques, and some work time for the homework assignments. Field trips and guest speakers (if arranged) are TBA.

This is an informal, experienced-based course. How much you get out of it depends on how much you put into it. Ideally the class will function like an “art laboratory” where everyone involved is working, sharing ideas and learning together. Beyond the concepts and skills essential to a committed bookmaking practice, it is hoped that this course will open a window towards self-expression and awareness.



Kyle Schlesinger, the author of the forthcoming NewLights book What You Will, will be in the Bay Area next week, and there will be some readings. The first, on Tuesday the 9th, is a reading by Kyle at Mills College. You can view the event details here.

The second event, on Wednesday Feb. 10th is the release reading for the new issue of ON: Contemporary Practice. The details for that:

ON: Contemporary Practice 2
edited by Michael Cross, Thom Donovan and Kyle Schlesinger
Wednesday February 10 at 7:30
Moe's Books
2476 Telegraph Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94704-2392

Both events should be great. Hope to see you there.