Tag Archives: Book Arts

Idaho iPods: A Tom Trusky legacy

(Note: The following story by Tom Trusky has been preserved on this site. The original is no longer in place at the school site. As a result, a number of the original links for the January 2011 story no longer worked and needed to be updated. It’s still a good story and record and I’m reprinting it here verbatim. A photo gallery has been inserted, which was not in the original story. Tom Trusky coined the word ‘creativity’ and his work will continue to be available on the Internet through sources such as this one.)

Recently, I was thinking of an intriguing project Tom Trusky assigned to his students in 2007. He was my poetry teacher at Boise State University in the early 1980s. Then, from 1984-86, I had the good fortune to be co-editor of cold-drill, an amazing literary magazine Tom founded and for which he was faculty editor. He later founded a poster series, centers and archives for book arts, western writing and rare films. He discovered artists hitherto unknown or long forgotten, wrote and edited books and traveled extensively on speaking tours. Click here to go to a site that has a podcast of an interview with him, just scroll down the page and boot up the Tom Trusky podcast. It’s a wonderful interview. The kingpin of pranks and puckish humor, Tom amused us all with daily e-mails, snail-mail postcards and packages. He was also the king of kitsch and I remember eating Chunky Monkey ice cream and curly hotdogs with him when he visited us in Montana. Some time later, we all met in Seattle to watch Nell Shipman movies and listen to him lecture. A number of years ago, he and his partner, Enver, visited us here in Canada, as they made their way through British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan (if I remember correctly!). The last project I worked on with Tom was a book published in 2007 called Michael b., about a good friend of his who lived in British Columbia. But, now, let’s switch to one of his many adventures. In reprinting his words below and posting links to his photos, I honor my friend and mentor who passed away three Decembers ago.

Tom Trusky next to the sunflowers he grew in his backyard in Boise Idaho in 2008. Photo by Enver Sulejman

Tom Trusky next to the sunflowers he grew in his backyard in Boise, Idaho in 2008. Photo by Enver Sulejman

October 22, 2007

IDAHO iPODS

by Tom Trusky

Introduction to Book Arts students are usually assigned to create one pre-book structure such as a scroll; however, fall of 2007 I decided inflict a new plot on students, a plot I had been considering for 25 years: utilizing Idaho clay to make a tablet. I had been galvanized to concoct this assignment by news that the Idaho State Historical Society (ISHS) in Boise had Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets over 4,000 years old-among the oldest examples of writing in the Gem State.

I called this assigned tablet an “Idaho iPod” and defined it as “a real-time, full-text, random-access, read-only information storage and retrieval device.”

The project began with field trip to ISHS where students learned of the tablets’ provenance from Director Linda Morton-Keithley and were allowed to inspect the ancient tablets “gloved-hands-on!” Students visited two pits to obtain clay for their tablets. The first site was on US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) property and is located between the small town of Grandview and C. J. Strike Reservoir in SW Idaho. BLM clay is white and very pure.

• BLM clayscape (photo by student Corrine Fuller)
• Instructor, retrieving BLM clay

The second site was located by Geo-Archeologist Jerry Jerrems and is found near Cartwright Road (CR) on soon-to-be developed private property in the northwest Boise foothills. (Both BLM and CR sites required permission from property owners, prior to removal of clay.) CR clay is dark grey and often contains sediments and artifacts.

• Jerry Jerrems, providing historical background about the site.
• Student digs in Cartwright Road pit.

Basic tablet construction advice was provided by Rick Jenkins of the Boise City Arts Center. Student lab fees purchased dowels and rolling pins used in the construction process which concluded with either air or sun-drying or kiln firing.

• iPod construction begins with hydrated, screened and 
kneaded clay, dowels, and rolling pin.

Clays from seven Idaho pits or sites had been obtained over the summer by the instructor and all were test fired by Jenkins-who also made city kilns available for student tablet firing. Results of test firings of Idaho clays, student (and instructor) iPods, and one deck of US Army “Heritage Resource Preservation” playing cards (which feature a cuneiform tablet on the back of each card-and tablets, seals, and other historical artifacts and structures in Iraq-ancient Mesopotamia-on the face side) were then placed on display at BSU.

• Display photos
• Deck of cards array
• ArtTalk: Lost in the Shuffle (163K PDF)
• Fact Sheet: Training for In-Theatre Cultural Resource Protection (50K PDF)

(Note: some of these photographs are no longer available. Instead of editing Tom’s article, I’ve just emboldened info for the ones for which photos are available. See gallery above.)

A selection of iPods by eight students (asterisked captions are followed by photographs taken by Carrie Quinney of BSU Photographic Services):

PAIGE WEBER: A “traditional” tablet made from Cartwright Road (Boise) clay. Tablet emulates the cuneiform markings of a Babylonian tablet. (2 ¾ x 4 ½”)*

 Paige’s tablet

FRANCES SUTTON: Round “tokens” have been created out of three Snake River Valley, Cartwright Road, and BLM clays. (Each approx.1 ¼ x 1 ½”)* Frances’s tablets

ISAAC GUNTHER: Tablet made from BLM clay simulates a real iPod. (3 ¾ x 2 ¼”)*

 Isaac’s tablet

JESSIE BEARD: A punning “eye” pod tablet (from BLM clay). (1 ½ x 2 ¼”)

 Jessie’s tablet

TABBY JOLLEY: Jolley’s punning, painted and decorated tablet is an Idaho spud-a plural iPod (eyes of the potato-get it?). (3 x 6″)

 Tabby’s tablet

AMBER TRENT: A Winco supermarket receipt tablet. Trent is emulating hundreds of thousands of Babylonian tablets which are receipts, receipts for sheep, honey, land sales, etc. She has used Cartwright Road clay. (2 ¾ x 2 ¼”)*

 Amber’s tablet

HOLLY GERE: Air or sun-dried tablets are far more fragile than fired tablets. Breakage has rendered Gere’s message (on BLM clay) ominous and/or ironic…. (4 ¼ x 7 ½”)

 Holly’s tablet

RANDY PURVIANCE: BLM and commercial clay have been mixed-much as the elements in Purviance’s cutting-edge tablet. It’s a “green” tablet (wind powered-note propeller?) that turns a spool on which have been affixed a 19th century ( Eadweard Muybridge) sequence of photos:

Photo 1

Photo 2

which may then be viewed on (through?) a 21st century screen (square hole?) in the clay:

Photo 3

Credits: Many individuals assisted in the Idaho iPod project. Many thanks (in alpha order) to: Gary Bettis, Scott Brown, Cort Conley, Virginia Gillerman, Felicia Burke Halter, Mark Hofflund, Sharon Hubler, Clinton Hughes, Rick Jenkins, Jerry Jerrems, Rick Just, Linda Morton-Keithley, Coyote Short, Paul Swiergosz, Mike Wardle.

 

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Book Arts: Writing on Stone(ware)

Monument for the Neolithic Tartaria tables, Tartaria, Romania

Monument for the Neolithic Tărtăria tablets, dated to 5500-5300 BC and discovered in 1961 at Tărtăria, Alba County, Romania by the archaeologist Nicolae Vlassa. The clay tables are associated with the Turdaş-Vinča culture and the Vinča symbols on them predate the proto-Sumerian pictographic script. The monument has been created near the discovery location. By Țetcu Mircea Rareș via Wikimedia Commons

We know the act of writing on clay tablets is an ancient practice. To date, the oldest that have been found are the unearthed at neolithic sites in modern-day Romania and Hungary. The three Tărtăria Tablets have been radio-carbon dated to 5500 BC and are thought to be evidence of proto-writing. For me, today’s post, is exciting to work on…for several reasons. Having been involved with Book Arts since the mid-1980s, it is high time I combined this art form with my favorite medium, clay. (If writing on clay interests you, check out Tom Trusky’s Idaho iPods, about a project based upon Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets.) For today’s post, though, I’d like to first unveil Forrest Snyder’s Ceramic Books, a beautifully designed and enticing site. He creates loose-leaf books which are presented as stacks, hangings, and objects. Pages overlap or drape over shelving and chunky cubes are stacked. Snyder’s pages are adorned with letters, words and images, and the ‘ink’ is a warm brown, which works well with the cream-colored clay. The pages may be stamped or printed; I’m not quite sure how it is done. Print appears on different portions of the page. “My books contain poetry, prose, and related images spanning many pages,” he states on his website. “I try to enhance my thoughts by the choice of materials and methods, the firing resulting in permanent artifacts, and the conditions of their existence – pages change over time,” he continues. These images of his ceramic books are breathtaking and it is such a pleasure to view his slide show. Another approach is shown on Chris Skinner’s Lestaret’s Blog. Here, you’ll find slipcast and slab-built book covers with very fine finish work. Skinner makes rubber moulds of old, embossed books, then replicates them in clay, highlighting textures, print, and designs with stains. The work must be painstaking and the results are

Plantin letterpress

Plantin letterpress type. By France3470 via Wikimedia Commons

perfection. Actually, I have a project I hope to begin working on in the near future: a porcelain book. The idea has been in the back of my mind for about a year and I’ve thought of it while I’ve made other things. I want to roll out thin sheets of porcelain, cut to size (maybe), tear a ‘deckle edge’ (definitely), dry very, very slowly (weighted), write with an underglaze pen, fire, then bind. The idea of writing on clay tablets thrills. The Book Arts field covers much terrain and there are many ideas to explore and projects to create using different clays and techniques. When I gave a workshop on bookbinding several years ago, I made a tiny book and I think I will also want to experiment with tiny clay books. If you would like to begin such projects using clay, too, you have many means available for writing on your ceramic pages. Underglaze pencils, pens, crayons and trailers are among the tools you could use. If you subscribe to Ceramics Daily, read this article by Robin Hopper to learn how to make your own. If you want to write or do detail work with gold, Kemper Tools sells a Gold Pen. The possibilities are endless and timeless.

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Filed under Ancient History, Articles and Interviews, Featured Artists, How-to-do-it, Videos/Photos/Slides

Book Arts: Writing on Stone(ware)

We know the act of writing on clay tablets is an ancient practice. To date, the oldest that have been found are the unearthed at neolithic sites in modern-day Romania and Hungary. The three Tărtăria Tablets have been radio-carbon dated to 5500 BC and are thought to be evidence of proto-writing. For me, today’s post, is exciting to work on…for several reasons. Having been involved with Book Arts since the mid-1980s, it is high time I combined this art form with my favorite medium, clay. (If writing on clay interests you, check out Idaho iPods, about a project based upon Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets.) For today’s post, though, I’d like to first unveil Forrest Snyder’s Ceramic Books, a beautifully designed and enticing site. He creates loose-leaf books which are presented as stacks, hangings, and objects. Pages overlap or drape over shelving and chunky cubes are stacked. Snyder’s pages are adorned with letters, words and images, and the ‘ink’ is a warm brown, which works well with the cream-colored clay. The pages may be stamped or printed; I’m not quite sure how it is done. Print appears on different portions of the page. “My books contain poetry, prose, and related images spanning many pages,” he states on his website. “I try to enhance my thoughts by the choice of materials and methods, the firing resulting in permanent artifacts, and the conditions of their existence – pages change over time,” he continues. These images of his ceramic books are breathtaking and it is such a pleasure to view his slide show. I was also happy to learn of his connection with Montana’s Archie Bray Foundation, our Northwest Mecca.  In addition, he is the founder of Critical Ceramics. Another approach is shown on Chris Skinner’s Lestaret’s Blog. Here, you’ll find slipcast and slab-built book covers with very fine finish work. Skinner makes rubber moulds of old, embossed books, then replicates them in clay, highlighting textures, print, and designs with stains. The work must be

Plantin letterpress

Plantin letterpress type. By France3470 via Wikimedia Commons

painstaking and the results are perfection. Actually, I have a project I hope to begin working on in the near future: a porcelain book. The idea has been in the back of my mind for about a year and I’ve thought of it while I’ve made other things. I want to roll out thin sheets of porcelain, cut to size (maybe), tear a ‘deckle edge’ (definitely), dry very, very slowly (weighted), write with an underglaze pen, fire, then bind. The idea of writing on clay tablets thrills. The Book Arts field covers much terrain and there are many ideas to explore and projects to create using different clays and techniques. When I gave a workshop on bookbinding several years ago, I made a tiny book and I think I will also want to experiment with tiny clay books. If you would like to begin such projects using clay, too, you have many means available for writing on your ceramic pages. Underglaze pencils, pens, crayons and trailers are among the tools you could use. If you subscribe to Ceramics Daily, read this article by Robin Hopper to learn how to make your own. If you want to write or do detail work with gold, Kemper Tools sells a Gold Pen. The possibilities are endless and timeless.

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Idaho iPods: Tom’s historical adventure with clay

(Note: The following story by Tom Trusky has been preserved on this site. The original is no longer in place at the school site. As a result, a number of the original links for the story no longer worked. It’s still a good story and I’m reprinting it here verbatim. A photo gallery has been inserted, which was not in the original story. Tom Trusky coined the word ‘creativity’ and his work will continue to be available on the Internet through sources such as this one.)

Recently, I was thinking of an intriguing project Tom Trusky assigned to his students in 2007. He was my poetry teacher at Boise State University in the early 1980s. Then, from 1984-86, I had the good fortune to be co-editor of cold-drill, an amazing literary magazine Tom founded and for which he was faculty editor. He later founded a poster series, centers and archives for book arts, western writing and rare films. He discovered artists hitherto unknown or long forgotten, wrote and edited books and traveled extensively on speaking tours. Click here to go to a site that has a podcast of an interview with him, just scroll down the page and boot up the Tom Trusky podcast. It’s a wonderful interview. The kingpin of pranks and puckish humor, Tom amused us all with daily e-mails, snail-mail postcards and packages. He was also the king of kitsch and I remember eating Chunky Monkey ice cream and curly hotdogs with him when he visited us in Montana. Some time later, we all met in Seattle to watch Nell Shipman movies and listen to him lecture. A number of years ago, he and his partner, Enver, visited us here in Canada, as they made their way through British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan (if I remember correctly!). The last project I worked on with Tom was a book published in 2007 called Michael b., about a good friend of his who lived in British Columbia. But, now, let’s switch to one of his many adventures. In reprinting his words below and posting links to his photos, I honor my friend and mentor who passed away three Decembers ago.

——————————————————

October 22, 2007

IDAHO iPODS

by Tom Trusky

Introduction to Book Arts students are usually assigned to create one pre-book structure such as a scroll; however, fall of 2007 I decided inflict a new plot on students, a plot I had been considering for 25 years: utilizing Idaho clay to make a tablet. I had been galvanized to concoct this assignment by news that the Idaho State Historical Society (ISHS) in Boise had Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets over 4,000 years old-among the oldest examples of writing in the Gem State.

I called this assigned tablet an “Idaho iPod” and defined it as “a real-time, full-text, random-access, read-only information storage and retrieval device.”

The project began with field trip to ISHS where students learned of the tablets’ provenance from Director Linda Morton-Keithley and were allowed to inspect the ancient tablets “gloved-hands-on!” Students visited two pits to obtain clay for their tablets. The first site was on US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) property and is located between the small town of Grandview and C. J. Strike Reservoir in SW Idaho. BLM clay is white and very pure.

•    BLM clayscape (photo by student Corrine Fuller)
•    Instructor, retrieving BLM clay

The second site was located by Geo-Archeologist Jerry Jerrems and is found near Cartwright Road (CR) on soon-to-be developed private property in the northwest Boise foothills. (Both BLM and CR sites required permission from property owners, prior to removal of clay.) CR clay is dark grey and often contains sediments and artifacts.

•    Jerry Jerrems, providing historical background about the site.
•    Student digs in Cartwright Road pit.

Basic tablet construction advice was provided by Rick Jenkins of the Boise City Arts Center. Student lab fees purchased dowels and rolling pins used in the construction process which concluded with either air or sun-drying or kiln firing.

•    iPod construction begins with hydrated, screened and 
kneaded clay, dowels, and rolling pin.

Clays from seven Idaho pits or sites had been obtained over the summer by the instructor and all were test fired by Jenkins-who also made city kilns available for student tablet firing. Results of test firings of Idaho clays, student (and instructor) iPods, and one deck of US Army “Heritage Resource Preservation” playing cards (which feature a cuneiform tablet on the back of each card-and tablets, seals, and other historical artifacts and structures in Iraq-ancient Mesopotamia-on the face side) were then placed on display at BSU.

•    Display photos
•    Deck of cards array
•    ArtTalk: Lost in the Shuffle (163K PDF)
•    Fact Sheet: Training for In-Theatre Cultural Resource Protection (50K PDF)

(Note: some of these photographs are no longer available. Instead of editing Tom’s article, I’ve just emboldened info for the ones for which photos are available. See gallery above.)  A selection of iPods by eight students (asterisked captions are followed by photographs taken by Carrie Quinney of BSU Photographic Services):

PAIGE WEBER: A “traditional” tablet made from Cartwright Road (Boise) clay. Tablet emulates the cuneiform markings of a Babylonian tablet. (2 ¾ x 4 ½”)*

       Paige’s tablet

FRANCES SUTTON: Round “tokens” have been created out of three Snake River Valley, Cartwright Road, and BLM clays. (Each approx.1 ¼ x 1 ½”)*     Frances’s tablets

ISAAC GUNTHER: Tablet made from BLM clay simulates a real iPod. (3 ¾ x 2 ¼”)*

      Isaac’s tablet

JESSIE BEARD: A punning “eye” pod tablet (from BLM clay). (1 ½ x 2 ¼”)

      Jessie’s tablet

TABBY JOLLEY: Jolley’s punning, painted and decorated tablet is an Idaho spud-a plural iPod (eyes of the potato-get it?). (3 x 6″)

     Tabby’s tablet

AMBER TRENT: A Winco supermarket receipt tablet. Trent is emulating hundreds of thousands of Babylonian tablets which are receipts, receipts for sheep, honey, land sales, etc. She has used Cartwright Road clay. (2 ¾ x 2 ¼”)*

     Amber’s tablet

HOLLY GERE: Air or sun-dried tablets are far more fragile than fired tablets. Breakage has rendered Gere’s message (on BLM clay) ominous and/or ironic…. (4 ¼ x 7 ½”)

    Holly’s tablet

RANDY PURVIANCE: BLM and commercial clay have been mixed-much as the elements in Purviance’s cutting-edge tablet. It’s a “green” tablet (wind powered-note propeller?) that turns a spool on which have been affixed a 19th century ( Eadweard Muybridge) sequence of photos:

Photo 1

Photo 2

which may then be viewed on (through?) a 21st century screen (square hole?) in the clay:

Photo 3

Credits: Many individuals assisted in the Idaho iPod project. Many thanks (in alpha order) to: Gary Bettis, Scott Brown, Cort Conley, Virginia Gillerman, Felicia Burke Halter, Mark Hofflund, Sharon Hubler, Clinton Hughes, Rick Jenkins, Jerry Jerrems, Rick Just, Linda Morton-Keithley, Coyote Short, Paul Swiergosz, Mike Wardle.

Tom Trusky obit.

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