Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Mind Your P's and Q's

A Dawson Print Shop & Bindery Exhibition

Mind Your P's and Q's, a Dawson Print Shop and Bindery Exhibition, was recently held (Sept. 26 - Oct. 7, 2023) at the Port Loggia and Treaty Space Gallery. These bright, open, fully accessible galleries are located on the ground floor at NSCAD's Port Campus on the Halifax waterfront.

The letter "p" and the letter "q" are often confused when setting type. This exhibition takes its name from the expression, "mind your p's and q's," which was heard in print shops for generations, including the Dawson Print Shop.

As curator/organizer Odyssean Press offers, "This exhibition is a celebration of book arts and letterpress printing at NSCAD University, as well as the contributions of the Dawson Print Shop & Bindery within NSCAD and the wider arts community in Kjipuktuk (Halifax). It includes both "traditional and experimental book arts practices" including bookbinding, artist's books, letterpress printing, and tool making.

Mind Your P's and Q's features the work of 16 artists who are connected to the Dawson Print Shop, through material, techniques or training. Exhibitors include NSCAD instructors Joe Landry and Katherine Taylor and Centre for Craft instructor Rhonda Miller. NSCAD students and Dawson Print shop alumni (and their associates) include: Morgan Cruickshank, Emily Doucette, Nat:Shaw, Julie Rosvall, Ellen Timbre & Tina Arsenault, Charles Salmon, Shadow, Deirdre Sokolowska, Sush, Em Tremblay and Robin Wolfe. As well as the work of curator/organizer, Odyssean Press.

Examples of traditional bookbinding techniques with inspiring workmanship were many and included works by Robin Wolfe, Odyssean Press, and Katherine Victoria Taylor's book which was specially created for the Dawson Print Shop anniversary. The cover printed by Katherine is composed of over a thousand pieces of decorative metal type which creates optical blending to form a single letter "D."
Joe Landry holding guestbook bound by Katherine Victoria Taylor
Joe Landry with the guestbook
made by Katherine Victoria Taylor
       handbound books by Robin Wolfe
Half leather bindings by Robin Wolfe
Books by Odyssean Press  
Handbound books by Odyssean Press
Rhonda Miller's Springback Journal was bound using a traditional English springback binding technique in half leather with blind tooling. A springback binding gets its name from a spring action that is built into the spine. When the book is opened, it "springs open" and lays flat. This tricky binding is the mark of a seasoned bookbinder.
Springback journal by Rhonda Miller      hand-forged book knife by Shadow
Springback journal
by Rhonda Miller
     Wi'katikn Wa'qn
hand-forged book knife by Shadow
Unusual bookbinding examples included a rarely seen Dos-A-Dos binding, created by Joe Landry, in which two books are bound together, sharing the same back cover, but facing in opposite directions. Despite its French name, the structure originated in England with examples dating from Elizabethan times.
Dos-a-dos binding by Joe Landry
Dos-A-Dos binding by Joe Landry
One book's cover was made from apple twigs which are woven together using paper-covered wire. This book was made by the artist as part of a series of artist's books featuring related materials. One visitor commented, "probably the most inventive in terms of materials."
Apple twig binding by Charles Salmon
Cover as Metaphor, artist's book by Charles Salmon
The cover of another book - Interspace by Emily Doucette, "resembles an envelope." When opened, its accordion pages cascade "into a variety of different scanned envelopes." Ribbons are used to tie this case bound accordion binding shut.
Interspace by Emily Doucette
Interspace, artist's book by Emily Doucette
Popular with visitors was Odyssean Press' A Family History as seen through Tattoo Traditions. Bound within this artist's book were two miniature accordion books that spoke to the different tattoo traditions of the creator's ancestors. One book was dedicated to their mother's ancestors and the other to their father's ancestors, and both incorporated watercolour and ink drawings.
A Family History as seen through Tattoo Traditions by Odyssean Press
A Family History as seen through Tattoo Traditions, artist's book by Odyssean Press
Other miniature books included a book bound in a box by Morgan Cruickshank that was inspired by a larger version seen at the Dawson Print Shop, which in turn was inspired by the structure of the Kennicott Bible. A miniature accordion book with striking precision, created by Sush, was among many miniatures on display that they created at the Dawson using scraps.
Benjamin by Morgan Cruickshank       
by Morgan Cruickshank
scrap yard by Sush
scrap yard, a collection of miniature books by Sush
While some works were protected under Lucite, the majority weren't and allowed for gentle hand-held examination by visitors.

Deirdre Sokolowska's creation, William & I features a series of colour photos of the creator holding a dead bird which they found. Deirdre offers, "accompanying this visual narrative is a short story recounting a childhood misunderstanding related to Resurrection Sunday." Within Sokolowska's hardcover pamphlet, kozuke paper is used to hold each photo in place. The concept of finding a dead bird as a basis for a book is reminiscent of Margaret Wise Brown's children's book The Dead Bird.

The charcoal, graphite and ink drawings in Em Tremblay's journal is "an exploration of some of the darker parts of their mental health journey." The brown kraft-like pages are bound with a traditional Japanese stab binding.
Willian and I by Deirdre Sokolowska
William & I
by Deirdre Sokolowska

Handbound journal by Em Tremblay
Handbound journal
by Em Tremblay

The skill demonstrated in Joe Landry's full leather design binding was impressive. The cover featured abstract shapes of black, white and red leather onlays and inside featured ultra smooth black leather "doublure" - "an ornamental lining on the inside of the book." This book was Joe's final project for his design class at London College of Printing.
Design binding by Joe Landry
Design binding with custom box by Joe Landry
Superb and stunning craftmanship was in evidence with Rhonda Miller's Experiment with Embroidery, which uses stitching patterns inspired by traditional blackwork embroidery, supported by more traditional chain and link stitch binding techniques.

The Dawson Print Shop was formerly part of Dalhousie University where many Nova Scotians studied and practiced book arts including bookbinders Joe Landry, Rhonda Miller, Tracy Leal, Robin Muller and librarian Patricia Chalmers, to name a few. The Dawson became part of NSCAD in 2000.
Experiment with Embroidery by Rhonda Miller
Experiment with Embroidery
by Rhonda Miller

The bright and airy Port Loggia gallery (which runs the length of the Port Campus) allowed for up-close examination of Julie Rosvall's works with collaborators Ellen Timbre and Tina Arsenault.

This collaboration included textile relief prints, letterpress prints and bookbinding, featuring their artist's book - Contexture - knit print book collaboration. Previously shown at the Craig Gallery, Dartmouth, Julie's practice was inspired by the work of artist and printmaker Esther Goodwin. Read more about Julie's work here.
Julie Rosvall
Julie Rosvall
discussing Contexture

Other printed works on display included Circle Book (Embodiment of Cyclical Growth) by Odyssean Press, consisting of bookbinding, ink drawing and relief print.
Circle Book Embodiment of Cyclical Growth by Odyssean Press
Circle Book (Embodiment of Cyclical Growth) by Odyssean Press
Playful yet moving, was the grid of twelve letterpress prints by Nat:Shaw. The white, dark brown and medium brown papers were imprinted with the phrase "Not broken just spicy." Four different spices are referenced: Paprika, Cayenne, Cinnamon and Cardamom. During their artist talk, Nat:Shaw related that they are coming up to the second anniversary of a head concussion injury. Nat:Shaw offers, "The significance of the phrase ("Not broken just spicy") being a mantra of sorts for coming to peace with being neurodivergent or "Neuro-spicy."
Not broken just spicy by NatShaw
Nat:Shaw discussing their work, Various Neuro-spices
Seeing how artists Em Tremblay, Deirdre Sokolowska, Odyssean Press and Nat:Shaw incorporate their intimate personal experiences into their practice is both powerful and inspiring.

Equally inspiring was seeing all the thoughtfully and beautifully-made books brought together for display in Mind Your P's and Q's at NSCAD's Port Loggia and Treaty Space Gallery.

Submitted by Charles Salmon

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