Monday, December 28, 2009

Begin Again in 2010

image courtesy of (and available for purchase) here

Last year's resolution to design in '09 proved be quite the self-fulfilling prophesy. When my magazine career came to a halt in July, not only was I launched into a new more hands-on creative designing motion, I was propelled to RE-design the plans I had for myself. I've not taken off the journalist hat, I've simply added another.

Before the close of this year, I pre-gamed a bit for 2010: The year of new beginnings. I do declare this will be the year of fear that has said it's prayers.* These will be days filled with looking, then leaping. This is the year of purposefully climbing stair steps to heavenly castle aspirations.

*This is how Anne Lammot defines COURAGE.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Another Domestic Thought

After reading this article (from the same source as that which inspired the last posting), I was thinking about my own creative pursuits, and what provokes me to them. While I do recognize myself to be extremely results-driven, I think I always learn something in the creative process of actually creating. There's just something about struggling through, messing up, scraping initial efforts to begin again. As much as I love having the end result, I often end up with a pile of things I don't love, but that I am proud to have made. It happened a lot at Penland that way. I would spend hours -- sometimes days--- with a project, and come out on the other end of it less-than-satisfied. But, I was glad the visible mistakes were my own. They were, they are tangible lessons learned.

I often feel the same way about writing. I trudge through the process of writing an article. I gather notes from interviews and highlight and circle. I wonder how on earth I will bring the information together to make sense of it, the way it makes sense in my own mind. I selfishly think I'd sometimes rather like to keep the treasures of my conversations to myself rather than packaging them to make sense for other people to read. But, then I remember the editor at Southern Living who gave me my first BIG break. He said he wrote to "introduce people to their neighbors." In sincerity, I'd like to do the same.

So, while I don't always love the act of writing, I love having written something. And I ALWAYS recognize what a didactic experience it is for me. Article finished, I emerge as a more (relatively speaking) polished interviewer, listener, note-taker, communicator...hopefully.

So, I suppose I'm saying I agree with the article in part. I think that there are a whole lot of Susie homemaker wannabees who would rather have the image and results than the actual identity. Am I one of them? I don't know.

Go figure, I've asked for a sewing machine for Christmas this year. Ask me next year to see if it has collected dust or been the means for the production of countless beautifully messy things occupying the electronic shelves of my own etsy shop. Here's hoping for the latter.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Woman's Place

I'm of the new wave of women that believe feminine domesticity doesn't mean male-domination. I park my desk in the school of thought that proclaims women's liberation can also mean choosing to submit. It's a hybrid set of values, but it is my own.

That said, when I read this article about men/women kitchen dynamics, it really resounded with me. I think, deep down, I fear that when/if I wed, I will be culinarily challenged by husband-- that he will rob my cooking-serving joy by usurping my skill and knowledge with his own. The truth is, I have some deep-running pride about my place in the kitchen, feminist that I am.

So does the writer of this feature. Read, chew, digest. What do you think it all means?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Everything to Look Forward To

If you've ever had a slumber party with me, you may have heard me mention that, back in college, I worked a summer at a girl's overnight camp in the much-beloved mountains of North Carolina. Every early camp morning brought with it a loud bell sound, chiming repeatedly to wake up hundreds slumbering girls. Very next thing, per tradition, the entire camp would sit up in bed, clap hands and ring out with a "It's going to be a great day!," followed by a fist pump and the exclamation of "And I feel terrific!"

That's the power of positive thinking for you.

The camp director was known for his -isms, another of which was that "We have everything to look forward to, and nothing to dread."

Every morning began this way. Rain. Shine. Come hell or high water.

While I don't quite think syrupy-sweet optimism is always appropriate, I do think there is some validity to the Pollyanna perspective. Not every season produces cheery smiles and fist pumps. Some days are made for mourning, while some for laughing.

They got it. So did he.

This season for me, however, is filled with anticipation, absolutely devoid of dread. I don't imagine every period of my life will feel this way. But, today does.

I adore my present.
I look forward to my future.
I long for His coming.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Back in the Swing?

I'm back.
I'm back in the swing, I suppose.
But, I'm mostly glad that this swing leaves my feet dangling
as I sway in the gingerly whistling winds
I'm as near to the treetops as I am to the ground.

Friday, December 4, 2009

I'm Pressed

If you walked in on me unawares while I was running the press, you'd likely see me lost in a strange machine-assisted rhythmic hip side-stepping hand-cranking press dance. The hum and click of the printing process is music, the repetition, a back beat. I get to going on it, feeding thousands of pages through the grippers, and I just can't help but move to the sounds. I dance with the printing press. Call me crazy.

And, thank the Lord in High Heavens, I got back on press this week! Thanks to a talented local shop-owner, I got to put on my dancing shoes and printing apron to help out with a few things. Arm sore from the motion, fingers blistered from the redundant turning, I am delightfully exhausted, and pleased as punch to be able to have my hand in this.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Room Enough

Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room enough for the books that would be written. -John 21: 25

I used to be can't-move-overwhelmed with the vastness of Jesus, the dialogues of Theology, the mysteries of Scripture. I am a simpleton, at best; I have a finite understanding. But, there's something about the above verse that enlivens me like one of C.S. Lewis' Narnian adventures. There's something about the expansive unknown alluded to here that ignites a desire for exploration into the world behind the wardrobe door. Sure, His thoughts are higher than mine and I will not come to understand the mind of the Lord, but what a joy and privilege we have to set our hearts on the pilgrimage.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Watching and Waiting

I sit and wait. I twiddle my thumbs and wait on God.

I ask and I seek and I rest in silence. I put my money in the bank of His faithfulness even when my actual bank account is meager and my circumstances are unchanging.

This season of advent marks the remembrance that God is back, looking to the needs of his people. During the next four weeks, join me to wait expectantly for the coming of Emmanuel.

As I find myself waiting on a great many things this year, I am reminded that my prayers should be less like a laundry list of requests and more like a simple call for more of His Spirit.

The truth is He has come, He is coming. The truth is that I am told there is a time both to work and to watch. I am told to:

Be still before the Lord, all people, because he has roused himself from his holy dwelling. (Zechariah 2:13)

An old adage suggest we put things in front of our eyes to remind our hearts of what is authentically lovely. Here are a few suggestions of easy handmade decorations for the Advent:
-paper chains (see above). Depending on your fancy, either add to it or take a piece away each day leading up to Christmas.
-patterned banners like this one here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Thankful Heart Prepares the Way

(lovely centerpiece, brought to you by design sponge)

The calendar has brought us to Thanksgiving once again, reminding all to stop and say a few words of thanks for things and people that bring our lives color and flavor. In keeping with a tradition, here is a list of some things I'm flowing-over-full glad for this year.

A: Abby, my roommate, friend and creative instigator.
B: Bici Bike Coop and the way that it's helped to bring a resurgence of cycling in the Magic City.
C: Cheerwine: North Carolina's most notable contribution to carbonation.
D: Dark Chocolate and Lavender: a exquisite combination that recently has won me over.
E: Enter the Worship Circle, and particularly this old favorite, that reminds me that giving thanks makes way for Him.
F: Free rent for two months. An unfortunate foreclosed rental property that turned out to be quite the financial blessing.
G: Greyhaven and the way it brings Birmingham's musical community together.
H: Hairbows, and the way this lovely girl has given them renaissance.
I: Ira Glass and his uncanny ability to find and tell a story.
J: Jamie: because she's got the softest bed covers this side of the Mason-Dixon (among some other reasons.)
K: Kennedy, Amos: A Gordo printer whose artistic abandon and wise words have blazed a trail for me.
L: Layoffs: My own, in particular, that has given me the energy and courage to follow a thrilling, meandering path.
M: Marriages that give me something to learn from.
N: Novels, and my recent revisitation to works of fiction. It had been too long.
O: Otium Sanctum: an inspiring group of women that push me to slow to see the cross in the clothespin, beauty in the quotidian.
P: Penland School of Crafts: The place where my inner artist was resurrected.
Q: Quilting, and the goals I have to learn the art.
R: Redeemer Community Church: The church both gathered and scattered.
S: Sisters, sisters. Mine, in particular.
T: Twitter, and the ways in which it has started conversation. (Though, ask me tomorrow, and I may have a different opinion, altogether.)
U: Urban Standard, for the way that it gives space and voice to the creative class of our great town.
V: Vampire Weekend, and the mix-it-up-ness that their music brought to my repertoire this year.
W: Wadsworth Longfellow, Henry, and his words that have been a mantra of sorts.
X: X-acto knives. I actually got a lot of use out of mine this year.
Y: You. Chances are, if you're reading this, you mean something to me.
Z: Zooey Deschanel. She's just so darn cute, and I adore her movies and music.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Know When to Walk Away

Maybe Kenny's right. When it comes to life's cards, you have to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold and walk away. From my experience, there aren't lightning bolts of confirmation or chastisement... just heavy-hearted hunches, out-of-the-blue thoughts, tiny inklings. Some call it intuition; some call it God.

I call it humble uncertainty.

I call it fear-and-trembling faith.

This week, I walked away from two things that have meant a great deal to me over the last few years. In doing so, it really feels as though I'm closing and shelving old books, opening blank pages to the haze of what's ahead. It serves reminding myself that I'm not just leaving beloved things and people. I'm approaching altogether new ones.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Resting with Purpose

Let every safe harbor be a a place to rest up, not rest on your laurels, before you set off again for unknown jeopardy and joy.
--Nikki Hardin

I'm home, sitting on the worn-in cushion of my favorite loveseat in my favorite spot in the house. Outside the front window, fall is stealing the leaves from trees' branches, making way for a vista of scraggly lines and outlines.

God, I've missed home. I don't think I realized how much I missed it until I drove up, saw my friends and roommates descend the front steps. I don't think I knew how heartsick I was until I joined together with my family of believers and let praise pour forth from my lips. It didn't quite hit me until I was curled up beside my roommate in her soft-as-butter bed talking into the night.

I'm home where being myself comes easy.

Don't get me wrong. I loved Penland. There was purpose for my time away. There were, there ARE things that I learned, things I am learning. These lessons may take months, years to seep into my consciousness. It was so good that I went. It was both restful and labor-intensive. It was a strange hybrid of retreat and get-ready.

I read the above words from Nikki Hardin (publisher of that old skirt! I used to wear) when I was still in North Carolina. I scribbled them down, hoping that in reading and re-reading, I would not fall into the temptation of resting on my laurels, rather than resting up for what is ahead for me.

Life back here in Birmingham beckons for me to fill it up to the overflowing. I have dreams to chase, now with more of the skills I'll need for the trek. I thank God for what the last two months put in my arsenal.

(If you'd care to, check out an almost-complete album of what I created while at Penland here. I'll be making the switch to etsy asap.)

A million thanks to the people who have encouraged me to follow this less-than-logical artistic path. Your votes of confidence in me have given me the courage to put flesh on the bones of my dreams. Thank you.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Love's Volume

At night, I fall asleep to the sound of metal cylinders rolling across the metal bed of the printing press; I dream in pantone colors. For two months, I've spent the bulk of my daily hours surrounded by this music of the print shop, the shuffle of feet sliding across the concrete floor as tired arms turn the crank over carefully carved blocks and handset type.

Crank, roll, whirrrrr, clank, click, click.

I've been introduced to new sounds and songs, added them to my library, developed a hunger for the cacophony.

When I return home, I hope to find much as I left it -- the work, friends and home I parted from with some hesitancy. But it's likely to be just as I feared. Life has undoubtedly changed without me in it.

But, time has changed me, too. I've been quieted; I've been slowed. I've been debased from pride I didn't know I had. My sins and shortcomings have been magnified under bright studio lights.

And while, I haven't digested all of my lessons, I have slowed my pace to lend ear to His sometimes-soft voice. He's here. God, is He ever here on this mountaintop, amidst the canvas of some of His best work.

He's here among the sinners who can't see the forest for the trees. He's here among the artists who fail to recognize the most creative work that is our habitat, that is ourselves. He's here whispering, He's here shouting. His voice is the sound of fog settling on mountaintops. His voice is like the sound of rushing waters.

I'll make a soundtrack of my time here. I'll burn a set of songs into my memory. And along with the metal scrapping and the obscene amounts of Hall & Oats, will be the soundless voices crying out for community and a God who speaks both soft and loud.

Monday, November 9, 2009

What I've Been Missing and What I'll Miss (in that order)

My family came to visit this weekend, and we stayed in the teensy town of Spruce Pine at this lovely bed and breakfast. The resident puppy clearly had us ladies wrapped round his little paws.

They don't make mountainous views like this one just anywhere.

Or cascading falls like this one here.

Peace has flowed like a river here in Appalachia. It is beautiful, no doubt. I've had the time of my life here at Penland, relished the time in this lush autumn landscape.

But, sweet Bama, I'm soon coming home.

Friday, November 6, 2009

All I Want for Christmas is a Vandercook SP 15

Do you have any way to get your hands on one of these bad boys? If so, please deliver to my stocking on Christmas morn.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Let Us Then

Henry's words have sunk down deep. Ever since I first read his Psalm of Life last winter, I've been stewing with the last stanza-- with the idea of working and watching; toiling AND taking time to sit.

A real tension exists for me, between taking grasp of my narrative and letting myself be worked into it. I love this idea of being able to be both active and idle before the Lord. We are to be participants in our own lives, while maintaining the humility to know that we are not our Maker.

Among Young Lifers in Athens, it was considered a goal to become BOTH/AND, rather than EITHER/OR people. We talked about going deep and wide in relationships with kids. One didn't have to be sacrificed for the sake of the other.

We also talked for years about prayer. "Prayer isn't preparation for the battle," Bart would say. "Prayer IS the battle."

Likewise, James chapter 4, verse 10 of the Message reads:

Get down on your knees before the Master. It's the only way you'll get on your feet.

I printed the words pictured above today as a lasting reminder to aim for the perfect blend of taking steps while trusting.

Let us, then, be up and doing/With a heart for any fate; /Still achieving, still pursuing, /Learn to labor and to wait.

Weather: Pristine.
What I'm listening to: "A Traveller Dreams of Home" by Birmingham's own The Great Book of John.
What I'm reading: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
What I'm working on: The misadventures of Little Liza -- a line of paper doll greeting cards.

Friday, October 30, 2009

We're in Business

So, folks. It's happening. I'm taking steps towards my own little printing enterprise. They are slow, careful steps. But they are steps, no less. Several months ago, after losing my job, I dove headfirst into writing the plans for my letterpress business. With the help of a talented designer, I crafted the logo for Four Hats Press, and articulated the story here. I had in mind to buy a press and get going right away. I even got several pages in on my business proposal. I was ankle-deep in things before I realized -- HOLD THE PHONE-- I don't have the foggiest idea what I'm doing.

And so, instead of buying a printing press,-- the one I conned the UAB Library Director to take out of the library and put up for sale-- I used the chunk of change I had in savings to come here to Penland. I figured a press would be of little use to someone who didn't have the rudimentary skills to operate it.

Thus, after having completed three-quarters of my program, I am moving toward the goal I set for myself almost four months ago. Granted, the realization of my business-owning dream is still off on the far-away horizon, I am making my way towards it, learning patience all the way.

Having said that, see above my logo, printed for the very first time on some scrap paper. I have big ideas in mind for packaging some of the things I've made here to sell on my etsy shop, for starters.

This here is my business card. The top portion is printed without color, producing a delicate de-bossed look, that I think is pretty boss. The lower part is printed in a sweet wintergreen hue with my favorite font. I think it delivers what the font creators aimed for it to do: "hit the right notes of forthrightness, credibility and charm."

Sidenote: I'm smitten with this color for several reasons. Number one: If ever, one day, I get to own my fantasy Vespa, it will be in this lovely shade of retro green. Secondly, when I see this color, I will forever be reminded of my grandfather's old car that was both painted this color on the outside and upholstered with it on the interior. It always smelled like the Doublement gum that he often chewed, and I thought that was such a funny, appropriate accompanying scent.

Here's the card again, this time printed fully with the green. My apologies for the sub-par photo quality.

Here is a "why, thank you" card that I've been working on for a few days now. This particular set is printed with navy ink on a thick cardstock.

Here, the same design is played out on a much softer, cottony paper, with that same green for the text.

Details. Details.

I'll post some pictures of other things I'm hoping to have for sale-sies in a bit, including but not limited to: gift tags, prints and other cards. There is a real tension here for creating art for art's sake versus making pieces to sell. The crazy thing is...I don't feel like art is cheapened by making commercial things. I quite fancy creating things that I would want to buy. And if no one does, that's just dandy, too.

Weather: Scarves are not just for fashion, anymore. They're also functionally necessary.
What I'm listening to: Cat Stevens' "Moonshadow."
What I'm reading: Back-logged issues of Real Simple and Ready Made, winding up to begin A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (again).
What I'm working on in class: A Wadsworth poem print and plans for a paperdoll.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Tis the Season

I find myself at a loss for words these days. Penland days go by slowly, but weeks are just racing. In just three of them, I'll find myself back home in Birmingham, after what will have been eight weeks here. I've been spending a lot of time journaling and talking with friends about my experience-how it's growing, changing and challenging me. Because of that, when I get to updating my blog, I'm plum out of things to say. Instead of giving a (perhaps redundant) wordy update, I'll paint the picture of what I've been up to with some visual aids.

This weekend marked the 3rd Annual celebration of the Day of Fall Fun, which actually turned into a whole darn weekend of fall fun. It began on Saturday with a trip to the local Amish market, where a classmate and I loaded her tiny little sedan with about 20 honkin' pumpkins, some of which are pictured here.

Here is the DOFF setup outside of the Pines on Penland's campus. It was so fun to celebrate with new friends here.

Here's the sweet Ellen Anne, designing her pumpkin. Artists have a special knack for carving. I must say, I was blown away with the ingenious approaches taken by some.

Me? I chose to carve a plaid pumpkin (see right).

Do you see us clad in plaid? It was required for participation. Also note that behind us is the full line-up o'lanterns.

On Sunday, I hopped in the car for a short trip to Asheville, where the autumnal beauty shone round about me.

I met with my sister and her husband, George, who are up here in the mountains. We moseyed into a bookstore, where we found a copy of this treasure. Oh, yeah, by the way. If you didn't know it, my parents wrote a book a while back about waterfalls to be found off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

And then! My deer friends, Deanna (pictured here) and Keri, arrived, bringing with them good cheer and belly laughs. We spent a good bit of time reading of this classic book of literature.

We walked our way to this park where we proceeded to make a ruckus and attract attention from every direction with our loud and crazy antics.

And rowdy card-playin. I lost. Lame.

We ended the day at the most delectable location with some thick dark hot chocolate. Nectar of the gods.

Friends forever.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

My Funny Valentine

Some October valentines for you.

What I'm listening to (not altogether by choice): "In Too Deep" by Phil Collins
What I'm snacking on: Delicious cookies baked by this fine trio.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

And Because I Forgot...

Weather: Clear light blue skies and a bone-chilling cold that melts to warm by afternoon.
What I'm listening to: "Kick Drum Heart" by the Avett Brothers
What I'm reading: The Learners by Chip Kidd.
What I'm working on in class: Pattern carvings and a 7-day greeting card

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Feet Firmly Planted

Big night out. My head is still spinning from the Contra dancing I participated in last night at the Grey Eagle in Asheville. Well...participate... I use the term loosely. I danced just twice before extreme dizziness deterred me. Middle school dance syndrome kicked in immediately once I crossed the threshold. When I was approached to dance, I gave a fair warning. Poor fella hadn't the foggiest idea what a mess he was getting into. He spun and we shuffled our way through the Celtic-bluegrassy-tuned number. When it was over, I thought I would keel over before making it back to my wall-hugging seat.

While I've danced a couple of times with these good folks in Birmingham, I was ill-prepared for the expertise of the Contra crowd up here in Appalachia. They danced circles around me.

The rest of the evening had me spectating from a safe distance: close enough to see, but not near enough to actually be beckoned back onto the floor where toe-stepping and spaziness would undoubtedly ensue.

I had a big old time, regardless. Once I regained my balance, I found the music to be just divine and the regular dancers, a real treat to watch. But, I'd be deceiving myself if I said I wasn't itching to be among them.

I find myself in a similar situation here at Penland. I skim the surface of an ocean filled with talented artisans. I'd love more than anything to plumb the depths of this art. But, I'm still wearing my floaties. The idea of diving deep is both intoxicating and dizzying. I suppose the only real way to learn if it's for me is to take a step, to let Him lead me onto the dance floor, and to trust that the whole discombobulating experience will guide me back to my bearings.

I'm just past midpoint here. I'm more than a little homesick after seeing my good friends over the weekend. Their company was refreshing in the moment as it was confirmation that I've got a real home to return to. So, I will soak up the last three and a half weeks here until this season is done.

I'm in the midst of planning and printing my last projects, or as we're calling them: "Ambitious Editions." I'm hesitant to post them here, as they may be stuffing some of your stockings this holiday season. So, for now, they'll be my little secrets. I'll be sure to let you know when the remnants go up in my Etsy shop.

Lastly, a word about the honest goodness of the mountain folk of North Carolina:

Thanks for the affordable pumpkin and the hopeful trust in humanity.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Art is Life's Blood (Part 2)

Art hurts.

I'm telling you. I haven't suffered so many consecutive minor injuries in my three and a half weeks here at Penland since I was a trike-riding girl. First it was the (non-art related) mop-bucket-toe-smashing incident, then it was the killer hand eating press. Just last week, I gouged myself with the wood carving tool. And then! Today, I roly-wheeled right into my blessed index finger.

Sure, I'm inexperienced, slowly and painfully learning safe practice. But, I'm not the only one. I join the ranks of countless others who have been so consumed by their focus that they've lost themselves to the jaws of the press shop.

I made the mistake of looking up cases of printing-induced injuries. Don't do it. And by all means, don't dig too deep for any information about the dangers of working in a type foundry. Last week, our visiting artist fellow had a few wary tales that'd make you never want to leave the safe confines of your cozy armchair.

In a quick reading of some literature on woodcarving technique, I happened upon this piece of wisdom:

Stand at the entrance to the workplace with a notepad and challenge yourself to think of all the ways you could be hurt in the space in front you, including the tools and equipment.

Oh boy. You better believe I got a kick out of playing this game everywhere I went last week. Walked into the kitchen, notepad in hand. Well, shoot, in the case of a rare North Carolina earthquake, those canned vegetables could plummet from their heights and knock innocent bystanders out. Stepped into the clay studio. By golly, if I'm not careful, I could be maimed by a piece of debris from the potter's wheel. Watch out. Take notes. Danger is everywhere.

I don't mean to make light of the inherent risk of injury around some of the tools and machinery here. I'm not engaging in anything that could harm me in any serious way. I just think it's rather amusing that in making art, I'm band-aid clad like I haven't been in years. Sheesh.

[Mama, don't worry. I'm fine, really.]

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Patience, My Dear

Good afternoon!

For all interested, below is detailed the slooooow process of composing and printing a simple poster. The whole rigmarole took me days bent over the table and press, thousands of wood-carving strokes, hundreds of hand cranks ... While it was a labor of love, done to prepare for the 3rd Annual Day of Fall Fun, I'm quite unsatisfied with the end result. Follow my steps to see just why:

It all begins with the hand carving of a wood block. Each tool here has to be sharpened on a "strop" of leather and/or a stone to achieve a shape and sharpness that is just-so. It can take hours to get it right.

My first block was this pattern. It doesn't look like anything fancy, but oh! just wait.

My second block is a nameplate written in Quiggley Wiggly. If you thought I was a typography nerd before... you'll scarcely recognize the girl who returns to you mid November. I. love. fonts.

My third and final block for this particular print. I like this guy.

And here is the end result. Not so fast. Allow me to let you in on the step by step. (If all of this gets too technical, scroll down, dear reader. The more introspective mush is to follow):

1. Carve blocks.
2. Print first layer of yellow.
3. Flip block in press and print the other layer of yellow to make a lovely argyle.
4. Print title in brown.
5. Print date.
6. Print pinecone.
7. Set each letter of the type by hand.
8. Print text.
9. Print"&" and stars (in two separate runs because of the multiple colors).
10. Cut down to size.
11. Proofread closely.
12. Notice TWO awesome typos: "festivites" and "donatoin."
13. Remember that step 12 should've happened after step 7.
14. Have a good laugh.

If I walk away with nothing else from this experience, I will have learned a great deal of patience. This lengthy multi-part process requires it. I'm being forced to take my foot off of the accelerator, to coast, to roll the windows down and notice the scenery. Boy, is it a real challenge for this infamous "lead foot."

This particular composition took a good long while to complete. While I don't even really like the end result, I am certain that I emerged from the whole thing a bit more confident in my printing abilities. I've got many miles to go.

Also notable from this week:
-My class was visited by Micah Currier of the Dale Guild Type Foundry in New Jersey. This guy is one of only three people in the country (world?) to know how to operate the machinery that makes new typefaces for usage in letterpress. Crazy impressive.
-I've been making special coffee drinks for my new friends here at mealtimes. I miss barista-ing.
-I got a chance to roam the streets of Asheville once again, this time with my dear friend, Faith. She's a wise and wonderful woman.

I suppose that's all for now. So, deebble deeble deep ....Reporting live from Penland, North Carolina. Until next time folks, may your days be colorful and your dreams, sweet.

* A NEW five feet small feature!
Weather: Sunny deep blue skies and falling leaves. Perfectly autumnal.
What I'm listening to: "She's Gone" by Hall and Oats (a current favorite).
What I'm reading: Cheese Monkeys by Chip Kidd.
What I'm working on in class: A seeing eye chart (in crazy fonts) and October valentines.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Another reason why English class beats Calculus.

I sometimes marvel that God chose to risk his revelation in the ambiguities of language. If he had wanted to make sure that the truth was absolutely clear, without any possibility of misunderstanding, he should have revealed his truth by means of mathematics. Mathematics is the most precise, unambiguous language that we have. But then, of course, you can’t say ‘I love you’ in algebra. --Eugene Peterson, Eat This Book

Me and math. We’re not friends.

I said my farewell as soon as I completed my final required course during the spring of my senior year of high school. I left that sorry sucker in the hallways behind as soon as my tassel was turned and didn’t look back.

I’ve had my share of ambivalent teachers over the years.* Added to that is the fact that I had/have an in-dwelling dislike for the formulas, the angles, the precision of a subject matter that has, for the most part, seemed rather impertinent to life I lead.

This week here at Penland has brought me to the stark realization that...I was wrong. Granted, I don’t believe I’ll ever hold a job where I’m required to recall the complexities of calculus. But, in the art of letterpress, there is a definite need for the geometry I’ve buried in the recesses of my mind. There is, indeed, real life application for exact line and angle measurements.

And quite frankly, I’ve forgotten how to be that accurate.

For years now, I’ve put my money in the bank of the English language. I was going to be a writer. Math smath. Who needs it?

Well, through a series of events and a little divergence from plan A, turns out I do. What I’m doing now requires the ability to slow and measure -- to get it right the first time. Because, there is a right answer. If a line of type is set into the bed of a press one pica from where it should be, it’ll throw an entire composition off when printed. If the ink rollers are set 1/8 inch too low, they can crush an alphabet of antique wooden type with one crank of the press.

So, this week, I’ve come up against my inadequacies and my need to reach back and remember. I pray that I will come away from this experience with a little more attention to the math that matters.

That said, I still hold tightly to the phantom power and mystery of our language. My belief in it is still the underlying reason thAT I’m here. My reading of ETB has impressed me again with a reverence for the intricacies of a system of letters and words that with which we’ve been given to speak, to write, to try and understand each other.

It is an untamable force. It’s endlessly perplexing.

And why God chose the written word to reign in His truth, I do not know. While it’s imperfect, it’s the best we have. If He had chosen to communicate through numbers, we might have a perfectly flat understanding, but without the enchantment.

We’d have an academic knowledge, but know not the poetry of His love.

*One particular instructor was so terrible, that her behaviors caused me to write her name into the quadratic formula in a not-so-nice fashion. I believe the particular doodle on the side of my notes said something to the effect of: the square root of -(attitude) +/- the square root of {(Mrs. X^2-(4*absolute cruelty)}/ 2(awful) = meaniehead. Yes, I was in eleventh grade. Imagine my embarrassment when I went in for some after school tutoring and forgot to erase my little formulaic insult.