“On Paper” Gets a Makeover

After the 2013 publication of Nick Basbanes’s On Paper, book artist Tim Elycalled the author and requested the unbound sheets of the book, just as they appeared off the press. Basbanes’s editor kindly obliged, and off On Paperwent to Washington State to Ely’s art studio where he forges one-of-a-kind, handmade books that have been compared to illuminated manuscripts for their impeccable detail and expression. Photo credit: Nick Basbanes

Basbanes didn’t hear from Ely for five and a half years, but, considering that Ely’s work is found in private collections as well as the Library of Congress, Yale University, Smith College, The Victoria and Albert Museum, the Lilly Library, and the Boston Athenaeum, there was hardly any rush. Then, earlier this spring, the artist sent Basbanes a note saying the book was ready, and had it shipped to Massachusetts under the most careful of conditions.

Unwrapped, Basbanes came face-to-face with his book, now clad in a creamy off-white clamshell box with marbled borders. The book itself is now bound with strips of handmade Japanese paper, papyrus strips, and leather. Peppering the front and back boards are Ely’s own glyphs–symbols the artist calls “cribform” that take on different meanings depending on their placement and the tool used to create them. It is, said Basbanes, “a most exquisite piece of art.”

 

Ely, who had been doing what he called “a slow deep read of On Paper,” set himself a goal to “require every self-proclaimed book artist to read it and know it,” likening the use of paper to the “idea of drawing as a major expression,” finding inspiration in using paper as “a medium for telepathy.”

Spine of "On Paper." Photo credit: Nick Basbanes

“Beyond deep reading, I have found that the best way to become informed about an event or gather a bit of enlightenment is to make an expressive book,” Ely said a few years back. Indeed, his work is a kind of bookmaking alchemy, fusing the ancient art of monastic manuscript binding with contemporary expression.

PHOTO CREDITS: NICK BASBANES

Master bookbinder Tim Ely’s elaborate
art books are a sophisticated otherworldly mash-up of landscapes,
diagrams, and architecture meant to inspire and provoke. The Snohomish,
Washington, native has been making books for almost his entire life,
finding inspiration on heaven and in earth, fusing science and art with
paper and ink. Now, contemporary art bookbinding specialist Abby Schoolman Books is presenting eight of his recently completed art books for sale in a catalog entitled Timothy C. Ely 8 Books. 

 (via The Alchemy of Book Art: 8 Works by Tim Ely – The Fine Books Blog)

@thebrucemuseum Wild Reading: Animals in Children’s Book Art

From the Big Bad Wolf to the Frog Prince and Peter Rabbit, animals have long played central roles in children’s literature. Now the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut is exploring how and why artists highlight certain animal characteristics. Wild Reading: Animals in Children’s Book Art, which opened March 26, includes over thirty illustrations and original artwork by Lynne Cherry, Wendell Minor, Wendy Rasmussen, Maurice Sendak, Eric Carle, Fred Marcellino, and Brendan Wenzel. Taxidermy specimens from the Bruce’s natural history collection are paired with illustrated counterparts to demonstrate what makes each animal unique, and why artists choose to focus on one feature or another. A surprisingly alert raccoon, for example, is mounted next to a watercolor illustration by Brendan Wenzel, which emphasizes the creature’s large, inquisitive, eyes. A gray wolf, groundhog, chipmunks, three black bears, and other stuffed creatures offer plenty of opportunities to explore a range of artistic styles–Wendell Minor’s keen observation of animals in natural habitats contrasts nicely with Scott Nash’s swashbuckling, whimsical pirate, Captain Blue Jay. No matter the method, each illustrator engages children in the story at hand. The whole ensemble delightfully combines art and science.

Wild Reading: Animals in Children’s Book Art runs from March 26 through July 3, 2016 at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT. Visit the museum website for hours of operation and special activity days.