Book Arts . . . from page 1
While students at the Book Arts Studio are encouraged to create works simple enough to produce multiple copies for their peers and teachers in the program, with the same precision employed in the prototype, the process is complex for the decisions it involves – paper, color, size, text placement, visual intent and iconic effect, to name a few. In fact, every course assignment hinges on the same precepts of how form fulfills function: “The folds must contribute to the communication of the idea,” or “the book format should be instrumental in the communication of your intent.”
The University of Utah’s book arts program, which includes the fine-press limited edition releases of Red Butte Press, has gained an excellent reputation since the press was established in 1984 and the course activities were initiated in 1995. Marnie Powers-Torrey, managing director and instructor, played a prominent role in the founding of the College Book Art Association in 2008, which now has 19 member institutions from around the country and will be holding a conference this month in San Francisco.
The state board of regents also is expected to approve the school’s book arts curriculum as an academic certificate program. Barely more than a handful of similarly accredited undergraduate programs in this discipline exist around the country.
“I am an educator and a printer who, along with my colleagues at the Book Arts Program and Red Butte Press, both impulsively and philosophically believe in the lasting power of the printed image and word,” Powers-Torrey says, adding that as the digital age continues to be immersed in our lives, the enrollment of students and community members in the program courses has increased steadily.
The scope of expression evidenced in the student projects should hearten anyone who worries about the side effects of total digital immersion. Passion and personal engagement underscore the hunger to become, as Powers-Torrey explains, a modern renaissance person who values the skills to analyze critically, distill context, and synthesize the elements of form, content, and design. The art of creating a book form parallels the writing process in every manner.
Perhaps, as Krozser has written, we’ll be able to distinguish which stories can be chronicled in every imaginable format, which stories lend themselves best to the digital media, and, finally, those which are best suited for the pace of turning the page in a beautifully crafted printed book.
Recently, Art Spiegelman, in an interview with Publisher’s Weekly, explained, “So, if I need a textbook that’s going to be out of date because of new technological inventions, you’re better off having it where you can download the supplements or the update. If you’re going to read a quick mystery novel to keep you amused when you’re traveling, it’s fine.”
In other words, it’s not a question of business viability. It is a question of lasting artistic value – for an individual who decides which books will be essential to his or her lifetime personal library. That is the impetus of the Red Butte Press, which has produced exceptional limited edition works that steadily increase in value. Many of these books, which often take two to three years to produce, start at $650 and some editions run upwards of $1,500. Many runs only include between 100 and 150 copies with a few running up to 400.
One of the most stunning examples is Samarkand and Other Markets I Have Known, a collection of poems by Nigerian poet and playwright Wole Solynka, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986. In this edition, the poems – originally published in 2002 – are set in an edition featuring a quartet of original color woodcuts by Utah artist Robert Kleinschmidt, an artist who has deeply inspired Powers-Torrey’s commitment to the art form. The book’s unusual wire edge binding also features boards covered in Japanese Kyosei-shi handmade paper. A small number of deluxe editions also were produced that are covered in suede.
Red Butte Press releases always bring together artists from around the nation as well as the globe. Victoria Hindley, who designed the Samarkand book, also led the project for an edition of Salman Rushdie’s The Firebird’s Nest which features four linoleum cuts designed by Alfredo Benavidez Bedoya, an Argentinean printmaker. Bound in yellow ostrich leather, the drop-spine box, designed by hand as well, is covered in black silk.
When Something Lived, Something Dreamed: Urban Design and The American West -- featuring an original essay about sustainable architectural design by William McDonough -- was released in 2004, the production involved more than 50 skilled artists from six states with Hindley once again serving as designer. The cotton paper came from an Italian mill while the book covers were made from a single sycamore tree that had been reclaimed from an urban construction site. Two Utah woodworkers fabricated the covers, which also featured recycled aluminum, while the text was printed on a handpress dating to the middle 19th century. The book, which came to 125 copies in the production run, included hand-inked letterpress monoprints by Chris Stern and hand binding.
The book was acknowledged with many awards including the American Institute of Graphic Arts 50/50 honors in 2006 as one of the 50 best designed books of the year. More significantly, McDonough’s essay, which has not been published elsewhere, has formed the foundation for many discussions around the country for gaining a seminal understanding of the form and function of sustainable urban design.
Red Butte Press selections always emphasize the extensive collaborative nature of the work. At the centenary of Wallace Stegner’s birth, the press released a book containing the author’s famed essay "To A Young Writer," as well as new text by Wendell Berry and Lynn Stegner. The book’s production was a prominent choice as the University holds Stegner’s archives and the project involved collaborators not only at the school but also from Indiana, New York, and California.
This was the second Stegner issue by the press, which released a 1995 edition of his ‘Wilderness Letter.’ The centenary edition run, which included three original engravings by Barry Moser and was bound in wood, cloth, and calfskin, was limited to 125 copies.
As for the students, the book arts studio provides an instructive change of pace from the now-conventional digital environment where pressing buttons and clicking cursors facilitate information gathering and distribution. Located on the fourth floor of the library, the studio invites students to calibrate and finesse their tactile and physical movement capabilities, working with equipment that demands a firm yet gentle lift, jerk, or press.
Depending upon the required skill level of the course, students set letterpress type, where each character is a unique piece of metal, by hand. The studio has gradually amassed a collection of rare fonts and styles that otherwise might have ended up in scrap heaps or in storage lockers to be forgotten. Students respect how old-school technology gains a new lease on life as a form of artistic expression.
The book arts program, which received one of the city’s Mayor’s Artist Awards at this year’s Utah Arts festival, has been a primary force in establishing a worthwhile presence for the hands-on printing enterprise in Salt Lake City and in the surrounding area. These include Sycamore Street Press, Birdbrain Press, Saltgrass Printmakers, and other numerous independent artists who’ve established their creative livelihood throughout the country. Staff members also have worked extensively with the Utah Humanities Council and other organizations on a variety of public festival programming.
Hints 'n' Tips: Legal
I Made It. Now What?
How and why to register copyrights in your work
Copyright is a legal right that gives the creator of a work an exclusive right to control how that work is used. Copyright only covers the tangible expression of an idea, not the idea itself, but copyright lasts a long time—until 70 years after you die, in most cases.
Under current U.S. law, you own a copyright in a work that you create at the moment it is created—the moment it is reduced to a tangible form (on a canvas, on a computer screen, or otherwise). But you also have the option of registering the copyright of your work with the U.S. government. Why would you do that, if you already have a copyright simply by virtue of creating something?
There are two traditional answers.
First, even though you own the copyright as soon as you create a work, you can’t enforce, or act upon, that copyright unless it is registered. By “enforce,” I mean that you can’t ask a federal court to take any action to protect your copyright until it is registered. Copyright registration is the “key to the courthouse.” Getting a copyright registered takes several months, so if someone is infringing your copyright, you won’t want to wait for the registration process before taking action (or pay $800 extra to have registration expedited by the U.S. Copyright Office).
Second, registering your copyright permits you to obtain statutory damages. When you sue someone for copyright infringement, you can either ask the court for your actual damages (the economic harm that you have suffered because of the infringement), which you have to prove in court, or you can ask for statutory damages. Statutory damages are an amount chosen by the judge based on the nature of the “wrong” committed by the other person, but without considering the actual economic harm you have suffered. For an artist who isn’t licensing works for thousands of dollars, statutory damages will usually yield more money and will also be easier to deal with in court.
Statutory damages normally range from $750 to $30,000 per copyrighted work. The maximum amount can be increased to $150,000 per copyrighted work if the infringement was “willful.” The actual amount awarded is determined by a judge based on all the facts of a case.
The trick is that statutory damages are only available for copyright infringements that occur after a work is registered. This means that if you discover an infringement of your work, then run to register the work with the Copyright Office, you’ll have to seek actual damages instead of statutory damages.
Despite the traditional answers above, it’s very rare that you would go to court to enforce a copyright. But registering your copyright also creates proof of your ownership of a work and shows that you are aware of your legal rights and are willing to take steps to protect them. Referring to your registration number and including a copy of your copyright registration certificate can make a real impact if you are sending letters to people who have infringed your works. You are more likely to get a favorable settlement without ever going to court.
Registering your copyright also creates a public record that others can search to verify that you are the owner of a work, and it permits you to record copyright licenses or transfers of copyright to help maintain a record of important business transactions.
Registering copyright in your work is not difficult. You can set up a free electronic account at www.copyright.gov. You enter all the data for your copyright application via a web browser, pay a $35 government fee using a credit card, and upload an electronic copy of the work you are registering. In most cases, each work must be registered separately; but a set of photographs can be registered as a group, saving quite a bit on the $35 per-work fees.
The Copyright Office has many publications and help screens to explain the process, but if you’re not comfortable going the Do-It-Yourself route, a copyright lawyer can file your application for $250-$500, depending on the nature of the work. Your registration will be dated as of the date you file the application, but it takes 2-4 months to receive the actual certificate of registration in the mail.