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Summer 2021

News from the Chapter Chair

I hope this newsletter finds you all heathy and safe and also feeling like
things are inching back to normal. One day at a time. What a year it has
been, though!
As you will read in this newsletter, some of our members used their
time in quarantine to do some interesting things. Like many of you, I had
to come up with a way to work from home. Fortunately, we were encour-
aged to work on research projects. This was very welcome news to me
since I was already struggling to meet a writing deadline for an essay that
will appear Suave Mechanicals: Essay on the History of Bookbinding,
Volume 7. I thought that I was nearly done writing about Philadelphia
bookbinder Joseph T. Altemus, but I was so wrong. With the sudden hap- In this issue
py thought that I could put more effort into it, I expanded the essay. It end-
ed up much longer and (hopefully) better than it would have had I not been p.2 My Favorite Tool
p.3 Six Questions
able to work on it uninterrupted. p.4 Valentine Exchange
The essay is based on p.5 Tara O’Brien workshop
an inventory that was tak- p.5-8 Member News
en of Altemus’ bindery
when he died suddenly in
1853. It is a fascinating
document that tells a great
deal about a Philadelphia
bindery in the mid-
nineteenth century. I tran- Chapter Officers
scribed the entire invento-
ry and wrote about the Jennifer Rosner
Chapter Chair
bindery. Todd Pattison Tara O’Brien
also wrote a companion Vice Chair & Workshop Coor-
piece about the bindings dinator
that the Altemus bindery Lisa Scarpello
produced. Treasurer
Rosae Reeder
I want to take this op- Secretary
portunity to give a plug for this wonderful series of books put out by Lega- Ruth Scott Blackson
cy Press. Edited by Julia Miller, the first six volumes contain fascinating Kristin Balmer
essays on many aspects of bookbinding history and I can’t recommend Exhibition Co-chairs
Valeria Kremser
them enough. Volume 7 should come out this year, and they have plans to Webmaster
do one more volume after that. Sophia Dahab
Newsletter Editor
Jennifer Rosner - Chapter Chair Karen Lightner
Newsletter Designer
Image: Cabinet of Modern Art. Philadelphia: E.H. Butler & Co., 1851.

Pressing Matter Summer 2021 p. 1

My Favorite Tool — Tara O’Brien
Five years ago at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival, I found something I’ve often longed for — offset
scissors. I’ve always felt that my cutting could be more precise if the rest of the scissors, along with my fin-
gers, were out of the way of the cutting line. I bought two pairs, 4” and 6”, thinking the 6” would change my
life. In fact, it was the 4”. I took them to work and came to rely on them for snipping everything from ends of
mends to threads. They make cutting difficult-to-reach spots a cinch, and they are perfect for trimming a
rounded tube with a paper-layered spine to the height of the boards.
I rely on them so much, I made
sure to bring the scissors home
when COVID shut us down. In
August when we returned to
work, I kept forgetting to bring
them back, even though I was
reaching for them constantly at
the bench. After a few weeks I
decided to purchase a set for the
conservation lab.
They have been a big hit!
Coworkers have declared that
when they leave they will have to
purchase their own pair.
The applique scissors are available from Famoré Cutlery. At $14.00 a pair, can you afford not to
have this tool?

The Guild of Book Workers promotes interest in and awareness of the tradition of the book and paper arts
by maintaining high standards of workmanship, hosting educational opportunities, and sponsoring exhibits.
The Delaware Valley Chapter–one of ten chapters in the US–is located in the Pennsylvania, New Jersey
and Delaware tri-state area with activities centered in Philadelphia. Our diverse membership includes book
artists, book conservators, fine binders, calligraphers, librarians, paper marblers, teachers, photographers,
printmakers, and graphic designers.
The Delaware Valley Chapter offers a newsletter, workshops, lectures, exhibition opportunities, tours, and
social events. Membership is open to all interested persons and includes professionals, amateurs, and stu-
Our website is:

Pressing Matter Summer 2021 p. 2

Six Questions — Kristin Balmer
1. How long have you been a member of the guild?
Since 2002, I think…

2. Where are you from originally?

New Cumberland, a small town near Harrisburg, PA.

3. When did you realize you wanted to learn bookbinding?

Andrea Krupp introduced me to the concept of artists’ books—that a book is a sculptural artwork, not just
a container for information. I have always loved reading. Books are an amazing escape for lonely children
everywhere. So, when Andrea asked if I wanted a job in a rare book library I said yes!
That job was at the Library Company of Philadelphia in 2000, and I had the extreme good fortune to learn
from Jennifer Rosner and Alice Austin. I moved out of state in 2003 but visited often and kept up with
workshops and collaboratives. What started out as a job of necessity evolved into a love of the form and a
real appreciation for book artists who balance structure with function and meaning. I love working with my
hands, and bookmaking satisfies a need for functionality in art that making paintings does not.

4. What is your favorite book structure these days?

I don’t know if I have a favorite structure, however I do love humorous books such as those with visual
puns, unusual materials, and surprise juxtapositions. I once made a book out of toilet paper, dental floss,
band-aids, and hotel miniature soaps.

5. What are you working on right now?

I am a painter and have been working on paintings of spring flowers. It has been a real race against time,
trying to capture the distinctive look of a type of bloom before they die out and the next type takes
over. This is the first year that I am exclusively painting flowers from my own garden. It’s so satisfying!

6. Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us.

I can do the tango—Argentine tango—and have visited Buenos Aires a dozen times to dance.

Pressing Matter Summer 2021 p. 3

Valentine Exchange 2021
Poem by Kristin Balmer

This year had its excess of doom.

The best way to meet up was through Zoom.
So let’s all do our part
And mail out some red hearts
To spread joy and break up winter’s gloom!

Pressing Matter Summer 2021 p. 4

Member News - Covid Activities
Our lives have been upended by the Covid-19 pandemic. Our usual schedules were drastically altered, the
passage of time took on new meaning, and now, as things are beginning to return to some semblance of
“normal” we wonder...what you have been doing this past year? Have you accomplished something you
would like to share? Did the pandemic create a situation that caused you to work in a different way? Here’s
what we heard.

I painted a series called Essential Work. This is

one of my favorite paintings, You only come to me
in my dreams now. Black Gesso and silver foil tool-
ing on Cheloniidae Rag handmade 100% Cotton
paper. (Cheloniidae is a family of large marine tur-
tles.) I could only manage painting in black and
white while asking myself, “What are my priori-
ties?” and “Have I loved well enough?”

-- Robin Brandes ►►►

Rosemary. You only come to me in my dreams now.

I have been painting miniature pet portraits in oils and experimenting with watercolors. I'm experimenting
with oil painting on paper with a clear ground, with the idea of making a small book of miniature oils. With
the pandemic, I've been stuck in my small apartment, so I've found it necessary to work small. My attention
span has been shorter, so I have lots of projects scattered about half finished.

--Emma Sovitch

Pressing Matter Summer 2021 p. 5

Member news, Covid Activities (cont.)

Gardening has always been one of my passions. Starting at lockdown in March through late October, I
took a few photos in my garden every day and posted just one on Facebook in the evening. Looking closely
at what I found around me helped to keep me grounded.

--Liz Gates, Lancaster, PA

Pressing Matter Summer 2021 p. 6

Member news, Covid Activities (cont.)

I enjoy sewing practical things like soup bowl

cozies (to use when microwaving) so I taught my-
self how to get my own fabric designs printed. and are two sites
that enable this process. This is a picture of sever-
al cozies made with fabrics patterns I made in the
last six months.
--Julie Stewart

2020 was scary, confusing, challenging, sad. But there was a bright spot last year: in response to the GBW
call for “Wildlife,” we made Swifts and Martins of Selborne, the 100th title completed since 1998 by Thomas
Parker Williams and Luminice Press (TPW and MAW). An edition of 15, it has 12 leaves combining text
hand-set by MAW and ten images by TPW that were etched, engraved, and hand-colored. Also, Tom re-
sponded to the former administration’s handling of the pandemic with a unique book “Pestilence.”

--Thomas Parker Williams and Mary Agnes Williams

Image: “Building the Nest” pull-out from Swifts and Martins of Selborne.

Pressing Matter Summer 2021 p. 7

Other Member News

CROSSROADS -Book Artists’ Impassioned Responses to Immigration, Human Rights and Our Envi-
ronment. Curated by Maria Pisano. Hunterdon Museum of Art, Clinton, NJ. May 8 - September 5, 2021

We are at a crossroads, our world is changing in myriad ways: refugees and migrants are being displaced,
our environment is visibly in peril, and there are constant conflicts/wars between countries and nations. These
changes are jarring, and artists are reacting, lending their voices and presenting book works that reflect our tu-
multuous times. The artists in this exhibit showcase and share personal stories, positive and reflective changes
that they observe, alongside concerns for our current policies towards immigration, climate change and equal

Exhibiting Artists: Aileen Bassis, Pam Cooper, Therese Swift-Hahn, Kathy T. Hettinga, Tana Kellner and
Ann Kalmbach, MaryAnn Miller and J. C. Todd, Sarah Nicholls, David Sellers, Thomas Parker Williams.

Let’s Eat Cake Collaborative Project and Exhibition.

In lieu of an in-person exhibition opening, participants from the Let's Eat Cake collaborative project met
in April for a virtual "show and tell" to share their creations, describe their process and inspiration, and cele-
brate the launch of the online exhibition. Check it out here:
Sampling of boxes/bindings/pages: (clockwise from upper left): Paige Billin Frye, Andrew Huot, Valeria Kremser, Dee Collins,
Lisa Scarpello, Rosae Reeder, Jennifer Rosner.

Pressing Matter Summer 2021 p. 8

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