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School of Art printer collaborates with NPR commentator on collectible handmade book

August 24, 2002

TEMPE, Ariz. – Dan Mayer, book arts printer and shop manager at the Pyracantha Press in ASU’s Herberger College School of Art, has collaborated with poet and National Public Radio commentator Andrei Codrescu to create a limited edition book. The book, Three Nearly New Poems, features three new poems by Codrescu. Mayer designed the book’s format, created the images within it, and led in its production.

Only 155 copies of the collectible book were made. Each was inked, printed, assembled, signed and numbered by hand.

Book collectors, book arts dealers and rare book rooms, including special collections at ASU, have already acquired copies of the work. It is on display at the ASU Art Museum through May 5 as part of the School of Art Faculty Exhibition.

The Southern Graphics Council, the largest printmaking organization in the United States, commissioned the book arts project to mark its 30th anniversary.

A movable text title page, achieved with a hand-operated text wheel, is among the most distinct features of the book’s design. According to Mayer, the choice was inspired by Codrescu’s literary publication, Exquisite Corpse, which takes its name from a parlor game originated by surrealist artists and writers in the early 1900s. In the game, each player wrote a phrase on a piece of paper, folded the paper to conceal the text, then passed the paper on to the next player for a contribution. By the end of the game, the poetic fragments had become a free flowing “verbal collage,” which was then read aloud, often to great amusement.

The book’s translucent, foldout interior pages are another design highlight.

Mayer produced the book by blending traditional and modern processes. After receiving Codrescu’s poems via e-mail, he digitized them and created films from his computer file. Mayer also digitally created the images used in the book and transferred them to film. The films then were exposed on photopolymer plates and hand-processed to reveal in relief Codrescu’s words and Mayer’s images. The finished plates ultimately were mounted for printing on a hand-operated letterpress. Handmade Japanese and French papers were used for the project.

The books were produced over an eight-day period last November while Mayer was in residence as a guest artist at Louisiana State University’s School of Art. LSU printmaking professor Leslie Koptcho and six graduate students assisted in the printing and assembly process. LSU co-hosted the Southern Graphics Council annual conference this spring in New Orleans. Codrescu, who is a professor of literature at LSU, was a keynote speaker at the conference.

Media Contact:
Jennifer Pringle