Thursday, September 4, 2014

Countless cubes: How "Mise en place" came to be



In trying to summarize piles and pages of notes for my BookArtObject project, Mise en place,  I have been asking myself "where hasn't it been?" in the two+ years since I chose my title. I mean this conceptually, theme-wise and media-wise.

There have been "countless cubes" over the last couple of years, both for this project and others that popped up along the way. The photo above shows a selection of mockups, mostly from the later stages; the row of four cubes at the front comprises a full set. And here, at last, are some notes on this whole process, beginning with why I chose "Mise en place" as my title...

Most of the one-hundred titles had already been taken by the time I discovered Edition 4 of BookArtObject (BAO), but "Mise en place" was an easy choice for me. I am fascinated by the role that food
—and, in the context of my title, its preparation—plays in our daily lives, and in the last several years it seems the line between the studio and the kitchen has begun to blur for me. The kitchen can be such a creative space when you consider how many variations you can get from even the most basic set of ingredients simply by varying which herbs, spices and other enhancements you pair them with. And I enjoy the challenge, or "game," of seeing what I can come up with based on what's on hand at any given time.

Though I once considered myself a reluctant cook (I begrudged that cooking took me out of the studio and consumed so much time/had to be repeated day in, day out), I've come to see the appeal
—its immediacy/spontaneity, for one. In the studio, the work is often so painstakingly precise. There’s a lot of experimentation, which is accompanied by an equal measure of anxiety, because taking an idea from concept to completion is not usually a smooth process. In the kitchen, though, I don’t worry about whether a new soup, a spur-of-the-moment pasta sauce or my favorite pork roast will come out okay; it just about always does (and is quickly forgotten on the odd occasion that it does not). I find a certain satisfaction in organizing the ingredients, as well as doing the repetitive tasks entailed in mise en place—and the "presentation" of the completed mise en place can be as visually pleasing as the presentation of the meal itself. I like, too, that getting everything in place first allows me more freedom during the actual cooking part; the hands are busy, but somehow the mind is freer. Many a studio dilemma has been solved while chopping onions...

Just as in the studio, I have my favorite kitchen "tools" (a flat-ended wooden "spoon," the marble mortar & pestle, a rubber spatula, the rollicking mezzaluna). I also take pleasure from my collection of containers
—curvy white porcelain cups that are perfect for mise en place, a large yellow ceramic bowl I use for hand-mixing, a set of laboratory-inspired glass measuring containers. I believe that material, shape, size and color affect—and have the potential to enhanceexperiences, and am always conscious of such qualitiesI am the kind of person who would, for example, rather pour tonic water from a tiny glass bottle than a liter-sized plastic one (into a short glass the same shade as the rind of the sliver of lime!).

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Many of the actions that take place in the studio parallel those involved in mise en place, so my initial thought was to make comparisons between the studio and the kitchen. I considered a book with left-hand pages devoted to mise en place in the kitchen, with right-hand pages portraying similar actions in the studio (choosing ingredients versus choosing materials; organizing kitchen tools & equipment versus those for a studio project; measuring & cutting things to size). I collected bits and pieces with the idea creating a series of collages to portray the commonalities between work in the studio and kitchen; I played with abstract designs that derived from the creative process that occurs in both spaces; and I spent a lot of time photographing ingredients, crockery and other kitchen accoutrement.

As I went about exploring these and other ideas in the studio, I made a point of paying attention to what happened each time I went into the kitchen: I noticed the thoughts that floated through my head as I was preparing meals, the aesthetics of the experience—how the process engaged my senses.

I examined blossom-like artichokes and leathery pomegranates, heavy in my hand...noted the clinking of the shiny stainless steel bowls, cool to the touch...appreciated the reflections and light captured by the glass measuring containers. I breathed in the delicious smells when zesting an orange or grinding a handful of cardamom seeds with the mortar and pestle, discovered the star-shape that appeared when slicing an apple through its middle (then succumbed to the nostalgia for those back-to-school days of every childhood autumn while grating it for apple cake). I noticed how the tears that fell when slicing an onion refreshed my skin...listened to the rhythmic chop, chop, chop, then the sizzle, when I slipped them into the warm olive oil, enjoying how they instantly filled the house with that welcoming and familiar "nearly-dinner-time" feeling.

As I took time to appreciate the qualities of the ingredients, tools & containers, the content for my BAO title began to reflect my direct experience of doing the mise en place for our meals, and I found a new enthusiasm for spending time in the kitchen. Once I decided my artist's book would be primarily kitchen-based, I played with different ways to convey the concept of mise en place: taking the reader through the mise en place for a recipe step-by-step...writing a text about a specific kitchen experience...creating original designs/patterns printed with ingredients/items from the kitchen.


*


Ideas came and went, but 
Mise en place found its form fairly early in the process: four gradated cubes, ranging from 5x5x5 to 8x8x8 cm (just under two-inches-cubed to a bit over three-inches-cubed), which could "nest" within each other. The nesting idea was of course borrowed from the ubiquitous measuring cups, measuring spoons & sets of mise en place-type bowls that are stacked when not in use. Once I settled on the cube structure, I experimented with different nets (i.e. the organization of cube faces). These I printed onto A3 paper to serve as the basis for sketching out ideas and notes before trimming/folding them to see how they played out in three dimensions.








The imagery of "the voluptuous curves of a pear" was with me from the very beginning, as was the desire to use text creatively. When I came up with the idea to shape the text to follow the curves of a pear, everything finally started to fall in place.

Another image that I am quite fond of is the pomegranate, a fruit that has perhaps inspired more contemplation for me than any other ingredient. I love the leathery red skin, the little "crown" left behind by the blossom, the experience of removing the gem-like seeds, with their contrast of sweet and tart as they burst in my mouth. Deseeding a pomegranate must be one of the more intense mise en place tasks! From quite early on I wanted to somehow include a text about the process of extracting the seeds from a pomegranate, to explain how I consider it "a meditation of sorts—a reminder to pause and notice the beauty of everyday moments." The text wraps around the largest cube and can be read one long line at a time, by spinning the cube.


After exploring several media for conveying the content (drawing, collaging, printing from handmade stamps), I eventually gravitated toward designing on the computer. One reason was for the sake of practicality: this was my first experience creating an edition (as opposed to a one-of-a-kind piece), and being able to replicate everything seventeen times (the number I chose for my edition) was vastly simplified by being able to design and print digitally. In choosing this route I was able to avoid the scanning/reproducing step, which never seems to replicate an original painting/drawing as well as I would like. Another benefit was that computer-generated text allowed me to include more content on the relatively small "page" dimensions than hand-written text would have. I chose the streamlined Avenir Next Condensed for much of the text, and contrasted it with the more flowing, though still compact, Respective; the shaped text is Myanmar MN. The palette was inspired by the illustrations of the fruits & vegetables.



Working with Adobe Illustrator (most of the illustrations were complete by
this point, but some of the individual elements can be distinguished)...

I created the text/images in Adobe Illustrator (I must say I quite enjoy "drawing" with the "pens"), then printed the cubes with Epson UltraChrome K3 inks on Epson Radiant White Watercolor Paper. I tried many papers, of various weights and textures, but my Epson performs best with fine art papers that are coated. I needed something that could be scored & folded easily, but was sturdy enough to hold the form of a cube, and finally discovered the 192g Epson "watercolor" paper (though, oddly, the texture of the back/non-printable side is more similar to watercolor paper than the coated side).

In the spirit of the mise en place concept, I had (a bit cheekily) considered at one point simply letting each BAO recipient do the full assembly, but opted instead for fairly minimal "interaction" on their part. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, the cubes 
would have arrived already trimmed & scored, and packaged in one of the papers used for wrapping oranges (in any given crate of oranges a handful will be wrapped in colorful paper printed with the name of the fruit producer &/or address &/or logo/design). In keeping with the kitchen-theme, each paper-wrapped package was then tied with a length of kitchen string.



A reminder of the packaging up of Mise en place
...and of the contents of each package once opened

I arranged the cubes such that when the package is turned over to undo the paper the largest cube is on top (recognized by the title/definition of "mise en place"). Under Cube I are Cubes II, III & IV, respectively. I folded each cube into an accordion, for its initial "reading" (see photos below), but these are easily assembled into cubesone of the side faces has a flap with a strip of double-sided adhesive to join the tab to what becomes the adjacent side.





The top & bottom faces fold in to complete the cube; I suggested the recipients use a bit of glue on the edge of each flap to permanently close them, although if the top flap of each is left unattached the cubes can be nested. In the photo below you can see Cube III nested within Cube IV, with Cube III stacked on top of Cube IV (and earlier trials behind them).




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One thing is definitely true: I have come to enjoy and appreciate mise en placeand my time in the kitchen in general—considerably more since taking on my BAO title. And along the way, other things have become clearer to me...for example that, as much as I love the getting-my-hands-dirty kind of studio work, I have a great time designing on the computer too. I've also realized that I want to continue to pursue both my love affair with photographing food and a growing interest in experimenting with/developing recipes. These discoveries have guided me toward a couple of new long-term projects.

I am also thrilled about my growing collection of books from the other artists in my group; it’s always wonderful to see images on the web, but there is nothing like holding a piece and experiencing it with all of your senses. My thanks to all of the artists for the many months of inspiration as each book was completed and posted on the BAO blog—and to Sara Bowen for bringing us all together.








Sunday, July 27, 2014

#67 Mise en place (signed, sealed & delivered)




Countless cubes and months later, my BookArtObject title, Mise en place, has finally been designed, printed, scored, trimmed, folded, packaged up & sent into the world.

The process of creating a finished book from that first tiny seed of an idea is always quite an undertaking. I was grateful for the loose deadline afforded by BAO; though I somewhat abused it, the piece was able to take as long as it needed to find its natural conclusion. 

I finished production of the BAO edition just before leaving for the US in early June, and decided I might as well send them from there since the recipients in my group all live in North America. But I didn't actually manage to get them mailed until the day I flew back to Italy—too much going on, and too many people & places to see! Everyone should have received them by now, so here are some photos...







The image above shows what each artist in my group would have found once they loosened the kitchen string used to tie up the small package. (The wrapping is one of those papers encasing the odd orange here in Italy; these are always kind of special to find, so I collect them) I also included a note written on a flat card printed with the pomegranate that appears on the first/largest little booklet-cube in the set. Via email each artist received instructions on how to assemble the accordion-folded booklets into a set of four gradated cubes ranging from 5x5x5 to 8x8x8 centimeters (just under 2" to a little over 3").

I am continuing to sort through the notes I kept during the project, so more on the process/evolution/method/media—plus photos of the cubes assembled—yet to come...



Monday, June 23, 2014

#70: Intolerable Cruelty

Hello, BookArtObject! Some of you may know that I am a hand papermaker and that I'm currently in Buenos Aires apprenticing with master papermaker, Alejandro Geiler. It has taken me a while to settle in, which is why this post is so overdue. My apologies! I took on the title 'Intolerable Cruelty" for my second book in the Book Art Object Edition #4. Taking the title as a prompt, I wrote a poem.



Here is the poem:

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Cold Feet

I misplaced my hat, or someone
lifted it but swiftly, and with
intolerable cruelty.

Memories return
of me
me and hat,

and how it once sat
over head.

Overheard it's way out to
                                       -JukkasjÀrvi-
             positioned itself in the Icehotel.

40,000 tons all’s told, all
Torne River ice and
Torne River snow, and

hundreds of heads wanting warming.

My lovely.
Wooly.
Wasted.
Hat.                                        
           
            (My silly icy head.)

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Most of all, I wanted the book structure to communicate a feeling of loss and the drawn-out, frozen in time state that comes with mourning. I chose an accordion fold structure. It allowed me to glue the spine of the first and last parts of the story to give a sense of fixation and being stuck in a memory. The part where the hat is off on a new adventure is left expandable, with an unglued spine.



The whole book was screen-printed on Mohawk text weight paper and I printed the hat separately on a synthetic felt material. The cover paper is Cave Paper- Granite. The pages in the first part of the book had cut-outs, so the hat was part of the story on the page but when you turned the page it was gone.






Here is a photo of the expandable section of the book:



I lined the back of the pages with paste paper I made with my friend, Peter Verheyen. If you're curious about the process, I wrote a blog post about it here: Finger Painting, But Better. Much Better.


I hope that my little book has made it to all of my group members. I've enjoyed becoming part of this community and project! Looking forward to the next edition.

If you want to follow along with my Buenos Aires paper adventure, you can find me at The Fiber Wire: Plugged in and Turned On. All Paper. All the Time. 


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Hello, All! My second book for this edition went out in the mail yesterday. This one was based off of title #70 Intolerable Cruelty. I wrote a little poem and made a little book, well several little books. More soon once I know the books have arrived to the Group 12 members!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Who's making books for the Personal Histories exhibition ?




As I am struggling I thought I would ask if any of you are making artists books for this exhibition?
I would love to hear from you.?

How you have interpreted the theme and so on and what kind of approach you are taking with it.


hope you are all keeping well.


best regards

Aine

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Nearly there





I am a straggling Group 7 artistwho is much farther behind than she would likebut the finish line finally appears to be in sight. I thought I would motivate myself by posting a hint of what is shortly to come...it is only a composite test print, which does not reveal the final format or structure. There are a few more images in my latest Arzigogolare entry, but I will save the proper unveiling, both here & there, until the other artists in my group receive their copies. (I will be emailing Group 7 this week to double-check addresses.)

Many thanks for the opportunity (& patience, as I see my piece to its meandering conclusion)—but, most of all, for the inspiring work that has been created for BAO Edition #4.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Roni Gross - I See You Everywhere






















I don't like double posting but its been a bit quiet on here :-) Just thought I'd share a little about a lovely exhibiton I saw today.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Not the Great Library of Alexandria.....

If you followed or took part in Edition 3 of BAO, you will know that we were inspired by a piece of writing by Jeanette Winterson describing her vision of the Great Library of Alexandria.


"400,000 volumes in vertiginous glory.
The Alexandrians employed climbing boys much in the same way as the Victorians employed sweeps. Unnamed bipeds, light as dust, gripping with swollen fingers and toes, the nooks and juts of sheer-faced walls." 


Well, I could not resist sharing this link to Erik Kwakkel's wonderful blog post, showing the library at Sakya Monastery in Tibet. I'm amazed how closely it resembled the image I had in my mind after reading Winterson's words. Thankfully no climbing boys to be seen!