by Cheyenne L. Black
Hedi Kyle is a German-American artist who specializes in folded book structures. Her work has become something of a mainstay in the book arts community as she has given artists such structures as the Flag Book, the Blizzard Book, the Spider Book, the Fishbone fold, and many, many more. Some have called Kyle the most influential book artist of her time.
Kyle’s generosity with her craft is perhaps the most endearing element of her work. The readiness with which she has made available instructions, offered of her time, and shared her most creative ideas is nothing short of remarkable.
In art school Kyle studied illustration and graphic design and in an interview with Alastair Johnston at the Fine Press Book Association, Kyle says that she learned book design such as covers and typography in this program but not book craft. From there, she went on to learn advertising and spent some time drawing advertisements as produced through the J. Walter Thompson agency. Her work at the time included such brands as Philadelphia cream cheese and Lux soap.
Also according to her interview with Johnson, Kyle first developed her craft and style with Laura Young in the 70’s in New York and eventually began teaching at the center for book arts in New York, a position she claims to have fallen into by accident.
Over time, she moved on to teach in the book arts program at Philadelphia Arts, but, she says to Johnson, she is prone to overwork as she gets excited about things and when she is teaching this pushes her to take on too much, frequently.
Kyle claims that giving away her work has been satisfying but she would prefer to see some more innovation as the tone in at least this interview implies she is worried for her structures becoming cliche’d.
This may be a valid concern as the Flag Book, created by Kyle in 1979, is referred to by the Guild of Book Workers as “the single most influential structure in the world of contemporary bookmaking.”
Though it may be tempting to focus on the structure of her books, to keep the folds and ingenious innovations center stage, Kyle says she doesn’t want blank books calling it a “missed opportunity.” The structure exists to support the art contained therein, and Kyle emphasizes the work of the book by using her structures to support and showcase the material contained inside.
Kyle is the cofounder of the Paper Book Intensive, the “annual working sabbatical in book arts, papermaking, and conservation” which is the largest gathering of it’s kind in the nation; a professor at the University of Arts in Philadelphia; and has lectured worldwide on her craft. Of her work, Mills College book arts professor Julie Chen says, “She is a rockstar in the book art world,” adding, “The whole book art community is indebted to her for her contributions and for what she has created.”
Hedi Kyle does not merely push the envelope. She folds it first, fills it, and gives it back to you as a book.
A few instruction sheets for her work can be found here:
More information on Kyle:
Information on the intensive mentioned herein:
The program for which Kyle teaches:
Information on ordering a catalog of an exhibit she held can be found here:
Several structures not seen here can also be seen at:
Papermaking Research on Artist John Babcock
As an emerging papermaker, I find inspiration the most in papermakers who are utilizing paper in a unique way. When looking at artists work online I was in particularly drawn to John Babcock’s work. John Babcock is a California based artist who focuses mainly on paper as his medium. Babcock has shown in over thirty museums in Europe, the US, and Japan.
Babcock uses large scale and small scale works to evoke emotional responses and focuses mainly on color. I was so intrigued by his work I sent him some questions about his technical process and his conceptual process. I’ve included some images from his website but all of the in process shots were photos he sent me in the interview. Anything in quotes are direct responses that I have included from the interview.
The above image is a work that caught my eye. I was particularly drawn to the cut out negative space within the paper because of it’s repeated pattern and mostly because of the cast shadows behind it.
This is what John Babcock had to say about it when I inquired how it was made.;
“Kozo pulp, beaten by hand, two masters, blue and green. made thin by massaging pulp into a water bath see photo below.”
finished kozo sheets ready to be adhered to mylar.
Below: spirit wave image cut on vinyl cutter.
Many of Johns concepts are really interesting to me. He focuses on a wide variety of ideas throughout his work- but still manages to keep his entire body of work cohesive visually. Some concepts he touches on are expressing ideas of love, commemorations, animals, spirituality, and many more.
I was interested in his process of executing ideas. I wanted to know if he went into his studio with a specific concept in mind or if he let the highly technical process of papermaking guide his inspiration.
This was his response;
“I am a builder. I work with the pulp as a sculptor manipulating the fiber into place. Since I have many techniques of working over a span of 40 years, it is difficult to generalize “this is how I work”.
Color Rules. Color is my first decision. Size is next. Sometimes I will sketch out patterns. For commissioned work I might even make up a maquette with collaged papers. Sometimes my concept isn’t clear at all. If it isn’t, I might start making pulp, pigment the pulp and start mixing the colors. In that process of getting involved with the material, usually ideas start to emerge and the ides of form evolve. If I want to make a work based on feeling, I will visualize the feeling with colors in mind.”
I then asked how his process has developed throughout his career;
“The process has developed because I have a lot more tools and techniques available. We didn’t know much about structure of paper fiber when I started. In the nineteen seventies my cotton came from linters mixed in a washing machine or very lightly beaten in a hollander. The pulp when spread out on a large plastic surface invited manipulation. In the archive click on “statement” in Faults and Fissures http://www.babcockart.com/faults-fissures/
When abaca was introduced to paper artists in the very early eighties I discovered a translucent shiny fiber that transmitted light differently. I was fascinated that by working cotton and abaca side by side I could make the abaca match or contrast with the cotton thus developing hidden images and color fields that changed as the viewer changed position or as the light changed during the day. http://www.babcockart.com/collage/”
John works with a lot of free casting. One of his bodies of work I am inspired by is his Ladder series.
“ The ladder has a special significance for me. It is a path to higher ground or a higher plain. I have climbed ladders all my life both physically and metaphysically, as perhaps you have. In this series I have enjoyed exploring the chemistry of color and the color of aspiration.” – John Babcock
“I mix 15 gallons of a master color pulp. I will make from 2-4 master batches. from 30 - 60 gallons. I intermix these pulps to make a gradation in 10-20 buckets five gallon buckets partially full. I call this building the color and it will take a few days to get the blending correct to my eye. I will then repeat the process for abaca.
Free Cast: I concentrate the pulp like cottage cheese and place it on a waxed plastic surface and manipulate the pulp about a ¼” thick to the desired shape. I can make sharp edges if I want. I work blind. Face side is down. 1991 late ladder series photo below.”
“April 2000 Soquel Studio
The cotton fiber is in place, abaca pulp will be placed in and over the top of the cotton to hold it all together, working blind.
So “free cast pulp” is casting without a mold.”
Some more of John Babcock’s free casted paper; (my favorite series)
Perceptor 1984 71” x 56”
Perceptor is a spirit piece that for me is an overlord of the gallery space it lives in. It was one of the first explorations of a changing color and fiber gradation, which creates a shifting pattern from different views.
free-cast cotton and abaca fiber pigmented in the pulp
Messenger 1984 44”x 112”
Secret messages within. The tiles are made from from varying combinations of abaca and cotton pulp creating subtle patterns that are only seen in a certain light.
free-cast cotton and abaca fiber paper
Lastly, a sculptural piece that I find very interesting – which was inspired by Arizona;
Faulted Arch 1979 16”x 16”x 32”
This is one of a series of sculptural works dealing with topography and landscape. It is about what we don’t see usually, but get to see for instance, when visiting an Arizona canyon where erosion gives us a glimpse of times past. Collection : International Paper Company. Exhibited in “Paper/Art – A Survey of the Work of Fifteen Northern California Paper Artists” at the Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento CA. January, 1981
sheets of laminated earth pigmented cotton fiber paper
by Erin Thomas
Although it is fascinating to learn about professional print makers, what they produce, and how they got to where they are, I find it interesting to understand how letterpress and other forms of print making are put into practice by those who do it as a hobby. These individuals have pursued careers in other fields that maybe allow for more substantial salaries capable of supporting families, or careers that simply fulfill a different interest of theirs.
I met Joe Mildenhall at church and came to learn that as a working professional in the education sector, he enjoys print making as a hobby.
“I was introduced to letterpress in high school. It was still an active form of printing for small jobs like business cards, menus, etc. back in the late 1960's. In college I usually took one "fun" class in addition to the required course work. One semester I took a class called industrial communication or something. It provided instruction on several printing techniques including silk screen, rubber stamps, lithograph and letterpress. Later I had a student job at the university press where they were still printing books using lead typesetting and printing equipment. I didn't operate that equipment but did operate other presses so I learned the fundamentals of printing.”
Although he has worked in software development and technology management his entire career, he has found a lot of enjoyment in art and design. He says “[he has] always enjoyed the intersection of mechanical devices and art.” Print making appeals to many who sit in the crosshairs of the more rigid right side of the brain, and the creative, loose left side.
“I dabbled in photography and silk screening so several years later when I saw that letterpress greeting cards, etc. were becoming popular I decided to see what was involved in producing them myself. My initial motivation was the idea of producing our own Christmas cards rather than buying them. I think I have reasonable design and layout skills and our oldest daughter has some really good drawing skills so I thought we could join forces.”
And this was how Joe became more involved in his practice. He started with a small table top press and, through buying and selling four different presses, has settled on his current Chandler and Price Pilot 6"x10" tabletop press. He has printed several Christmas cards and some miscellaneous Thank You and birthday cards.
His style shifts back and forth between vintage and modern styles, but mainly looking for opportunities to use crisp lines that will highlight the letterpress effect.
Where some may find the tedious intricacies of print making, and letter press in particular, to be exhausting, he really enjoys the manual process of layout and printing with letterpress. The physical part of the process gives him more personal satisfaction than running something out of a modern printer. However, Joe is not exempt from the frustration that comes with setting the press and printing—his experience is that “the only part of letterpress printing that can become taxing is when things like inking, roller height and positioning aren't quite dialed in. [He doesn’t] print frequently enough to quickly and easily resolve issues so it takes some trial and error.”
Ultimately, Joe has enjoyed having letterpress as an occasional outlet. He doesn’t have very much time to spend on it, but gets a lot of satisfaction when he does. I think these experiences and this perspective is such for many who practice as a hobby. Creating, in whatever form, grants substantial satisfaction and fulfillment. It is always exciting and interesting to me when I find characters like Joe who understand the importance and beauty of creating, and do so in a way that fits into their careers, lifestyles, and schedules.
Interview conducted personally with Joe Mildenhall
Vally Nomidou creates life-size figurative sculptures out of paper that may be haunting at first glance, and yet become gorgeous throughout the contemplation of her process and content. Nomidou is an artist from Athens, Greece and a Graduate of the Athens School of Fine Arts, and of the Saint Martin’s School of Art of London. The body of work I have researched centers on Nomidou’s exhibition “Let it Bleed” which occurred in 2010 at the Fizz Gallery in Athens, Greece as a part of Art Athina, a yearly international art fair hosted in Athens.
In this exhibition Nomidou presented seven sculptures of female figures including adult women and young girls. The sculptures offer an immediate sense of recognition given by their extremely life-like presence, attention to detail, and naturalistic gestures. To start her process Nomidou plaster casts body parts from her sitters and goes through an extensive method of documentation taking several photographs of her models. After this Nomidou sorts through her collection of substrates including printed materials, newspapers, paper towels, handmade paper, and cardboard while consciously deciding on a color palatte attributed to the natural materials. She starts with an internal framework made of cardboard as an armature and works from the inside out. After this, the artists attaches the plaster cast pieces and then builds layers of the paper material using wood glue, acrylic medium, and often sewing and stitching which then reflect a surface reminiscent of skin. Further some of the surface is rubbed, sanded, and polished to evoke sensuality and play with the viewer’s visual perception activating their sense of touch. Many of the sculptures make great use of negative space as they are exposed in areas where the figure is incomplete possibly creating a sense of emptiness, but also giving the figures a light quality. This openness is a direct invitation for the viewer to contemplate the relationship between exterior and interior surfaces.
The message I believe Nomidou suggests is that her material is used to venerate that which is vulnerable, available, and temporary. Because she chooses not to use anything else she fully exposes the viewer to her process and materials leaving almost nothing to the imagination. Although there is a grand sense of naturalistic illusion the transparent content of the piece is best reflected by the translucent layers of paper built up on the surface. It’s a strange mixture that prompts the viewer to struggle between the thought of witnessing something pleasant or possibly vile. Her methods may also suggest feelings of loss and possibly suffering as Nomidou is very fond of the haphazard assembly of the works in reference to the stitching and sewing which is indicative of wounds, and scars, and effects on the body. After all one of the main themes in her work is fragility as the artist states: “…I work out my figures spontaneously with the intention to show the mental state of ‘’between’. Between different trends, orientations, routes, decisions. The situation to be between and to do connections, fragile connections with a variety of possibilities, with uncertainty. Without a final decision. With tyranny. The difficulty, the sensitivity, the contrary emotions that coexist, the agony, the empathy, the cowardice, the fear. The game and the pleasure to express all these situations sometimes gently and sometimes hard...All these are a fragile world written on the female body which I build… People I know, anonymous people, simple people, children, (my son, a refugee girl, a lonely girl with a famous family) an abnormal dancer…All of them have something vulnerable. They are personalities under formation, defenseless against their fate.”
David Hockney is a Britain born artist who moved to Los Angeles and became famous shortly after…Proving that moving to Los Angeles will actually make you famous. Hockney fell in love with art at a young age and began exploring his artistic side all through college. He attended Bradford College of Art, then moved on to study at Royal College of Art in London. A short 2 year intermittence working at hospitals to complete national service requirements between 1957-1959 gave him some experiences and other grown up things to contemplate before diving back into his art. Once in graduate school, he began experimenting with different techniques and matters of subject. His main medium throughout his early career was painting, stating, “I prefer living in color.” his material was acrylic and his style was expressionism, similar to that of Francis Bacon. In 1962, the RCA would not let him graduate so he protested, refusing to write the required essay for the final exam. The school recognized his reputation and talent had a second thought over its regulations, awarding him the diploma. How rad is that!
Lithographic Water Made of Lines, Crayon and Two Blue Washes Without Green Wash. -David Hockney print from series of LA Pools
A visit to California revitalized his hopes and aspirations of his art. He fell in love with the style, architecture, and culture. His first series in LA involved paintings of swimming pools as the subject matter. These beauties are minimalistic and the color pallet is pleasing to the eye. He later began a series of paintings of living rooms in LA and whilst doing so, photographed them for reference. One living room was documented using a string of polaroids. Once taken, he put them all together for a reference but then realized that the photo collage itself was art. This would inevitably become his claim to fame. He called these pieces "Joiners".
Hockney was introduced to printmaking while he was attending Royal College of the Art. He gained recognition by the college for his work and they wanted to publish his Rakes Progress series as a book. He had to expand the collection from 8 to 16 by acid etching fifty plates. In 1976, Hockney created a portfolio of 20 etchings titled, The Blue Guitar: Etchings by David Hockney Who was Inspired By Wallace Stevens Who was Inspired by Pablo Picasso. In 1985 he was commissioned to design the cover of Vogue. After experimenting with Polaroids, they became his main medium of focus. Photo collage and lithography fueled his art for the next ten years. David Hockney has a vast collection of works, most of them being prints and multiples. mainly working through etching and lithography. His subjects range from portraits to architecture to abstract expressionism. He is an openly gay artist and he was never shy in displaying it within his works.
From left to right- Myself and My heroes. Two Boys Aged 23 or 24. Artist and Model