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Chesapeake Meander

a collaboration between Jill Cypher & Deborah Arnold

THIS ARTISTS BOOK CAME ABOUT as the result of a challenge to members of the Upper Chesapeake Book Artists Group (Elkton, Maryland) to do a collaborative project culminating in a members' exhibition in October 2017. Jill partnered with Deborah Arnold, book artist and writer of West of the Press, for their first ever joint venture.

At their initial brainstorming session, Jill stated her interest in doing some hand rolling and printing over some sort of preprinted imagery. Deborah was keen to focus more on writing and to try the meander format for a book. It was a match made in Lead Graffiti heaven. With the Chesapeake Bay as the subject, Jill dove into looking for suitable maps, and Deborah zeroed in on navigating the Chesapeake with meandering words.

The dictionary defines meander as a rambling, winding, indirect course or journey. The meander binding format for this book became the point of departure for the theme of the poem, as well as the arrangement of the words and illustrations.

Before you open the book, take in the sunshine-and-shadow watery surface of the paste paper cover. The opening compass initially orients you, while the textures of the materials and the visuals urge you to engage with nature. 

Large, hand-inked wood type spells out the poem's title and spills out over a digitally printed mariner's map of the Chesapeake Bay. Sewn within the paper valley of each spread, handmade Sekishu paper forms a virtual misty haze over the map of the Chesapeake, focusing your eyes on what is near at hand and visible: reeds, crab, oysters, fish, shark teeth, and various birds.

Letterforms hover, merge and wrap around edges. The surface of the water on the opening pages is transformed into birds on the wing by the close of the poem. And each time you amble through this watery journey, you see something new.

FYI : both artists lifted each other's bookmaking game and contributed amazingly equally to all aspects of the book—words, paste paper, printing and binding. Together, Jill and Deborah merged their interests and ideas to create a handsome book of visual and physical textures that is definitely touch-worthy. 

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BOOK : Chesapeake Meander

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  • Edition of 25 books, signed by both artists and numbered, printed in 2017
  • 30 pages, size 4" x 6," bound in a meander-fold-book format with additional handsewn pages
  • Designed and handset in Melior metal type, printers borders and ornaments, and various non-matching wood type
  • Printed via letterpress in blue, green, and metallic charcoal inks, plus 2 hand-rolled colors, on a Vandercook Universal III and SP15
  • Map printed digitally on acid-free Somerset white, 250 gsm, with hand-torn edges. Map was overprinted via letterpress from hand-rolled wood type
  • Poem and illustrations printed via letterpress on Japanese Sekishu paper with hand-torn foredges and sewn with linen thread
  • Hard cover wrapped in hand-painted paste paper and Canson Mi Tientes endsheets
  • Parchment spine lined with matching paste paper and stitched with gray linen thread

Next book : Abecedaritype