I’m delighted to be presenting at the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival in a couple of weeks. Festivals are one of my favorite bookish things because it means I get to meet readers—and let’s face it, in today’s online-driven world, that doesn’t happen all that often.
On September 9th and 10th, I’ll be presenting on an illustrators’ panel with two other artists, Ellie Kirby and Kevin Watson. This invitation took me a little by surprise, because lately I’ve been writing novels. Sure, I make artist books, but that’s a little out of place at a festival like this, right? It took me a while to connect my invitation with a book from way back in the vault. My children’s book, What Do Animals Do on the Weekend?, was published what feels like a lifetime ago (but really just in 2002). That book is out of print now, but you can still find it online through secondary sellers. (If you’re coming to the festival, it’s likely BYO-copy, but believe me, I’ll be thrilled to sign it for you! There were only 5,000 copies printed.)
I’ve been thinking for a while about doing a second printing of What Do Animals Do myself, and this festival has made me move it closer to the top of my to-do list. I have all of my original illustrations, and the perfectionist in me kind of always wished I’d used the original water-colored block prints instead of digitizing them for production. Now that creating a print-on-demand book has become so easy, it makes sense to do a second printing. (PLUS, I get to appease the perfectionist.)
In this panel I’m part of, I’ll be talking about how I create images through the process of block printing and how those kinds of images can be reproduced digitally. Don’t get me wrong: I love making artist books because every part of them is handmade: I’m carving wood blocks, printing by hand, coloring by hand, sewing books together, binding the traditional way, sometimes even making my own paper. But it takes a lot of time and materials to make books that way, and that means they aren’t priced like paperbacks. Artist books are expensive, and rightfully so. But if I want to make my books available to more readers, and make them more generally affordable, then I have to find a way to produce them in a less expensive way. As an experiment, I took two of my most popular artist books and redesigned them so I could print high-quality versions of them from my home printer. I chose a nice paper to print with, bound the books myself, and letterpress-printed the covers so they still had a couple of handmade elements. I Want a Crayfish’s Heart and Migration: A Field Guide to Love that Was and Might Have Been still exist as collectible artist books, but you can also get copies for less than $15 that are good quality and still have a handmade feel. (Both are available through this site.)
For now, I still create artist books because I am in love with the processes that go into making them by hand. But my love for books also means I’m creating in other formats that lend themselves to wider readership and better accessibility. In a field that is constantly changing, that means I’m always adapting my processes to make my books available to those who want them. And that means it’s time to stop procrastinating and redesign this ABC book so it comes alive in a second printing.
Fun Fact: Originally, What Do Animals Do on the Weekend? was created as an artist book. It was made from linoleum block prints, printed on luscious Rives BFK paper, hand-tinted with watercolor and printed with metal and wood type. I hand-bound those books too, sewing them in the traditional way. A few of those collectible copies are still available, and I still have some original, hand-colored block prints like the ones pictured in this post. They’re all in my Etsy shop, going to good homes, specially priced for a summer sale. For inquiries about purchasing multiple prints, or if you need one you don’t see pictured, email me. As of right now, I still have multiples of all 26.