Electric Fire From the Clouds

a collaboration between Ray Nichols & Martha Carothers

THE SEQUENCE OF PAIRED IMAGES BELOW shows the complete copies of Artist Proof #1 and Artist Proof #2. The images illustrate how the book, while having a continuity from one page to the next, does not share the backgrounds of any of the other text pages nor does the text fall in the same position from one page to the next nor one book to the next.

Above : "Electric Fire From the Clouds," an artists book collaboration between Martha Carothers of The Post Press and Ray Nichols of Lead Graffiti, pays homage to Ben Franklin's discovery of electricity in 1752. The text pages are printed slowly & patiently via letterpress on "ink pulls"—the result of pulling sheets of paper through the inking rollers on Lead Graffiti's Vandercook Universal III. The text was linecast on an Intertype C4 and then positioned relative to the pulled image on the sheet. Therefore no 2 pages in any 2 books look alike because of the changing background and the placement of the type.

The page backgrounds started out as a way for us to remove ink from our Vandercook Universal III when starting to clean the press between colors. We would put a bit of solvent on the inked rollers and pull a sheet of paper through the rollers. After a while, we started liking what we were seeing and started pulling 2 sheets together which gave us 2 "ink pulls" for each step. Little by little we started being able to "control" (and we use that word very, very loosely) the look to a degree. Over time we had built up a couple of hundred sheets, sometimes overlaying different ink colors. You can see a second application of these ink pulls in our How Ink Writes Poetry. You can see the structure of the flutter book (pages printed as spreads and bound together by gluing the folio along the fore-edge) format in the opening photo of Jill's, Abecedaritype.

We are already starting to imagine how different our feel for the book and the layouts of the pages will be after we've completed the required 400+ text spreads. There were two of us working on the page layout of the text for each of the 10 text pages, averaging about an hour for each page (2 person-hours). It will take us a while to get them all done and may tend to do them in groupings of maybe 5 - 10 at a time.

This notion of not producing a standard edition of books will also be interesting as far as purchasers who may find it difficult to choose one book over another. One method we are considering is to do a short film of us just turning the pages which would give you a complete view of each book. We would put 5 of these on our website. You can then choose from those 5. We would then replace it with a new 5th book.

This variation between books provides another element to the decision making of the purchaser. Let's say you bought #5 and wanted to buy a second to have them for comparison. Do you buy one of the 5 that are available or do you wait? It isn't unreasonable to think we might be a couple of years doing the entire edition of 40 books, depending on how fast they would sell. Perhaps the collector would just declare that they want #40 on the condition that we would try to produce an extraordinarily creative copy. The desire for owning multiple copies could set up an exciting chess game and the need to think moves ahead.

Pawn to King's 4. Your move.

Below is a comparison of spreads from Artist Proof 1 and Artist Proof 2.

First text spreads of the first 2 books.

First text spreads of the first 2 books.

Second text spreads and so on.

Second text spreads and so on.