The Herbarium: a new investigation from found materials

People are often curious about how I come up with ideas and topics for my books. “What inspires the creation of a book? Where do your ideas come from?” I can say very simply that my ideas come from things I read or see or events that happen to me. Here is the latest example.

Front and back seat and trunk of my car filled with herbarium mounts.

In early 2014 I attended several monthly meetings of a local herbarium society in hopes of finding a botanist to help me with a book project. In the herbarium on a bench under a sunny window lay a pile of 250 or so plant mounts destined for the trash. An herbarium mount or plant mount is a rectangular sheet of paper with a dried and pressed plant specimen attached to it. The herbarium was moving to a smaller space so they needed to weed out the collection, sorry for the pun.

It became apparent sorting through the stack of plant mounts that this was real scientific data and had taken a considerable effort on the part of many separate collectors to track down, collect, prepare, and store these specimens. I was interested in what was in there and offered to take them.

 

 

A herbarium mount of pndweed, Potamogetan pectinatus L., 1948.

An herbarium mount of pondweed, Potamogetan pectinatus L., 1948.

Considering their age these plant mounts are in remarkably good condition. There are specimens from as far away as India and from as early as 1850. The mounts are 11.5 inches wide by 16.5 inches tall and have labels affixed with the genus species name of the plant, the collector, the herbarium, and notes and location where the plant was found. There is also a number of the plant for the collector’s tally with a few of the collections numbering close to 100,000 plants. On the early specimens all information is hand written and even the printed labels have some kind of hand lettering on them. Many of the early plant annotations have plant descriptions as simple as “sandy field” or as descriptive as “found in mud, wet thickets, fairly high on bank, gently sloping, semi-open-seepy calcareous shore below spring high water.” Modern labeling standards also include GPS coordinates.

Detail of plant label from 1887.

Detail of plant label from 1887.

I am curious about this collection. Currently the data from these plant mounts is being entered into a computer spreadsheet program. From it I will be able to compile lists of collectors, and collections which will form the basis for further research and writing ideas. One happy development in the project is that I have found a home for the entire collection. It will go to an institution who will catalog and care for it.

Stay tuned for more details of the herbarium book project. Thank you for reading this blog entry.

Nancy   http://www.nancyleavitt.com

Priscilla Juvelis, bookdealer   http://www.juvelisbooks.com

Posted in Books, Design | 4 Comments

Workshop, Exhibition, Summer, and MS 108

Upcoming workshop with papermaker Katie MacGregor and calligrapher Nancy Leavitt. Registration is now open for the New England Chapter of the Guild of Book Workers Mini-Conference: Exploring the Tip of Maine. Spend a weekend in downeast Maine with a community of local artists working in the field of bookbinding, papermaking, and calligraphy. For more information and registration click on this link: http://www.guildofbookworkers.org/civicrm/event/info?reset=1&id=43

Book exhibition: Geographies: New England Book Work, the New England Chapter of The Guild of Book Workers exhibition is now on view at The University of Southern Maine’s Wishcamper Center, 34 Bedford Street, Portland, Maine. Summer open hours are Monday through Friday 8:00 am – 4:30 pm, closed weekends and holidays. The show will remain on view through August 22, 2014. For more information on the exhibition and the complete schedule please go to the post on the chapter blog: http://negbw.wordpress.com/2014/03/12/geographies-new-england-book-work/

DSC00930 The garden: Once the snow melts and plants start to push up through the soil the garden becomes my work. As hard as I try to stay inside and work, I am pulled to the ever-changing green tapestry of my garden. Things happen fast in our short growing season and I confess that I don’t want to miss any of it. Early June is a flush of blue blossoms. Fragrant peonies arrive in mid to late June. July is delphiniums, roses, and lilies. 

DSC00933

New work, MS 108:

DSC00971Love Sonnets, 2014, size: 11 by 4.5 inches (h x w). Lettering and painting by artist. A book commission from one young lover to another, features a love poem realized in the favorite colors of the recipient, turquoise and earth tones. The hand lettered poetry travels from the foot to the head of the book with sewn in cut leave pages. The poem speaks of the innate feelings of love and the intertwining of thoughts and hearts.

DSC00967 The text was lettered in gouache on arches text wove paper. Painted and leaf images cut out of Katie MacGregor’s paper before sewing into the accordion fold book. Snippets of the lettering can be seen through the round holes and edges of the leaves. The binding is composed of two layers of MacGregor paper. The inner is a painted gold paper, which has a painted leaf cut cover wrapped around it. The book is held in a dark turquoise box lined with painted papers, which was made by Joelle Webber of Mermaid Bindery.

DSC00951

Thanks for reading this blog, Nancy

http://www.nancyleavitt.com

Priscilla Juvelis  http://www.juvelisbooks.com

Image | Posted on by | 4 Comments

PLANT CORRIDORS

Plant Corridors, MS 106

DSC00764

Introduction

Plants and animals find the path of least resistance in their quest for obtaining resources.  A plant seed may be carried by the wind or attach itself on a passing animal.  Our interstate highways have created a vast corridor system for plants to hitch rides and move easily through forest barriers that would have prevented their spread.

DSC00718

Vehicles travel fast and far over roads, which in turn transports plants more rapidly and over greater distances than previously. Vehicles are the biggest carrier of seeds, along with the humans that inhabit them.

Purple loosestrife, Lythrum salicaria

Research and writing

Research and writing

Through word and paintings, this book discusses the environmental conditions of plant life along the northern Maine Interstate-95 corridor and includes knowledge provided by weed ecologists, botanists, and the Maine Department of Transportation.

 

Seed distribution

Seed distribution

The book measures 12 by 9 inches (h x w), has 7 signatures with 55 pages. Nancy wrote the text for Plant Corridors and painted and lettered the book  in watercolor and gouache on Arches text wove paper. The handmade papers used in this book are made from a plant of the cotton genus, Gossypium.

DSC00723The book contains an alphabetical listing of common roadside plants and their genus species.

DSC00761Joelle Webber of Mermaid Bindery (http://www.mermaidbindery.com) bound this book in a sewn collage of MacGregor handmade papers and Nancy’s paste decorated papers.

Thanks for reading this blog, Nancy

http://www.nancyleavitt.com                       bookdealer: http://www.juvelisbooks.com

Stillwater, Maine, late winter 2014

Posted in Books | 2 Comments

Plaid

Plaid is any fabric woven of differently colored threads in a cross pattern which is repeated in both the length (the warp) and width (the weft) of the finished fabric. A true tartan plaid has the same pattern when the fabric is rotated 90 degrees in any direction. I am fond of plaids, for the interesting color combinations and especially for their geometric designs.

DSC00359Above is a remnant of my father’s plaid shirt with a drawing of the basic plaid motif. I started using plaid as a lining for a box project about my father who often wore green plaids. Over the past few years scouting out second hand clothing stores I found that men’s shirting fabric is finely woven, the collars and cuffs wear out but the shirt front, back, and sleeves are worth recycling. After collecting a nice selection of shirts (close to 300) shirts I cleaned and deconstructed them. Below are some examples of the things I have made with my stash of fabric.

DSC00360

Plaid box lining complete with shirt pocket and seed packet for box project about my father.

DSC08809

Abecedarium book sewn with in fabric and paper.

DSC06423

Shirting fabric makes splendid quilting fabric. Assembling the green and lavender quilt.

DSC07262

Completed red and gray quilt.

DSC06430     DSC06438 Plaid table napkins

DSC00362   Plaid shirt pillows

DSC00373

And finally, the plaid florets, for a hat or lapel.DSC00365 Like making collages, working with this fabric allows me to continue to work on proportion and color studies in between the larger book projects. In closing, I wish you a happy holiday season and encourage you to check out the darkly whimsical Rockydale Advent calendar. http://sharonhbryant.com/author/sharonhbryant/

Thank you for reading this blog, Nancy

my website          Priscilla Juvelis, bookdealer website

Aside | Posted on by | 2 Comments

Manuscript #105

Revolution, 50 Years Later, 2013, MS #105, 17.5 by 11.5 inches (h x w), 64 pages.

DSC09947Revolution, 50 Years Later, was inspired by the statistic that in 1960 half of the US population was aged 25 years or younger creating great sweeping social, cultural, and economic changes in the US and abroad. The book content includes a timeline of major events that occurred in the US, UK, and the rest of the world, illuminated song lyrics of 6 Beatles’ songs, and an alphabetical list of all of the their songs and albums.DSCF0816

DSCF0822

DSCF0825

DSCF0856DSC00008DSCF0859DSC09904DSCF0876

DSC09909

The artist lettered and painted with sumi ink, gouache, and watercolor on handmade paper by Katie MacGregor of Whiting, Maine. Joelle Webber of Mermaid Bindery, Westport Island, Maine, completed the binding and box. The book is covered with canvas painted to resemble the iconic 1965 Yves Saint Laurent ‘Mondrian’ day dress which, regretfully, the artist never owned.

DSC09952

Thank you for reading this blog, Nancy Leavitt

my website          bookdealer’s website         bookbinder’s website

Posted in Books | 1 Comment

Post reinforcement pause

After completing a substantial task a pause will follow. It is marked by a feeling of being “done” and a desire to do work or something that is completely different than the previous project.

DSC09789

Years ago I noticed a pattern of disquiet after finishing book projects. I felt spent, exhausted, and wondered if I could continue creating books – had I done it all? Should I get a job “flipping burgers” as one friend described the feeling. The more taxing the project the worse I felt after it was completed.  My goal was to complete a task but once it was completed I felt desolate.

DSC09784

When I shared this with my behavioral friend, Dr. N.K. Schilmoeller, she said that the experience is known as the “post reinforcement pause.” After completing a significant task, the mind and body needs time to recover. The feelings of confusion and lethargy are signs that it is time to take a break. So, I am honoring my accomplishment and taking time to recover by resting and focusing on different activities which will help the mind move through the discomfort. Next month I will show you the completed and bound book, Revolution, 50 Years Later. 

In the meantime, I am enjoying the last days of summer, working in the garden and eating lobster. Thanks for reading this blog, Nancy

my website            my bookdealer’s website

Posted in Design | 1 Comment

Using Proportion in book arts design

One of the many important considerations in creating a handmade book is what will be its shape? What scale and proportion of the book will make the story feel right in the hand? You may prefer to use your own intuitive sense of design in creating a page shape but you may want to explore historical forms and the application of systematic principles of proportion developed by mathematicians, artist/designers, and architects.

DSC09763“. . . In pre-modern science, observations of humankind, of our world, and of the universe were understood as relationships expressed in proportional degree rather than in today’s finite mathematical terms.  . . .Geometry provided a formal means for understanding the nature of relationships, whether expressed ultimately in numerical (arithmetic), tonal (music), organic (medicine) or spacial terms (mechanics, architecture, and astronomy).” (Zenner, 2004)

DSC09760In Robert D. Stevick’s, The earliest Irish and English Bookart, Visual and Poetic Forms Before A.D. 1000, the author looks at mathematical influences used in early poetry and manuscript design. Between 600 and 1000 A.D. hand lettered and painted Gospel Books were produced in small monastic communities in Ireland and Northumbria. The Irish adapted their own style of manuscript decoration from central European designs found on metalwork. These illuminations were characterized by complex interlacing designs. Stevick points out that similar geometrical patterns of decoration were produced in manuscripts over time, suggesting that a methodology of drawing these forms had been established.

DSC09763Much of design in the Middle Ages was based on proportion rather than accurate numbered measure. The early Gospel page illuminations are symmetrical rectangular designs, which begin as a square. Using measurements from inside the form the square may be enlarged. In this way, individual parts of the form are repeated throughout the whole geometrical construct, creating a spatial pattern, which produces a visual harmony. It is possible to create a wide variety of interesting forms using only a few geometric concepts and a compass and straight edge.

DSC09768According to Stevick “The two true measures of geometry” are the √2:1 rectangle and the golden rectangle Phi:1. Both forms are systematically derived from a square with lines and arcs. (Left: squaring the circle)

DSC09769Dividing a square in half diagonally produces a √2 rectangle and an arc is scribed from the arc of the diagonal. The √2 rectangle is the proportion of standardized paper sizes in Europe. (Right: √2 rectangle)

DSC09770A Golden Rectangle Phi:1 is derived from a square after first being equally divided into two rectan-gles with an arc drawn from one corner to the opposite side. Each of these structures gives a slightly different proportioned rectangle. (Left: Golden rectangle)

Interesting results may be achieved in exploring these forms without knowing their mathematical numbers and equations. With rudimentary knowledge of the use of a compass and straight edge one may create interesting design forms.

DSC09761For more reading:

Stevick, R. (1994). The Earliest Irish and English Bookart, Visual and Poetic Forms Before A.D. 1000. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. This is a fascinating and deep discussion of the mathematical proportions of early bookarts and poetry. Especially illuminating are the illustrated geometrical constructs with detailed but easy to follow derivations.

Zenner, M., ed. (2004). Villard’s Legacy, Studies in medieval technology, science and art in memory of Jean Gimpel, Volume 2. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company. This is a book of interesting inter-disciplinary essays on the history of medieval science and technology.

All of these geometrical constructs were completed by the artist with compass, straight edge, pencil, ink, and gouache. Thanks for reading this blog.

Nancy Leavitt website    bookdealer’s website

Posted in Design | 2 Comments