23 February 2009

The Desk Set

We published Paul Headrick's first novel, That Tune Clutches My Heart, last fall. This week, we asked Paul to show us his desk and what he was working on.

I’m currently writing a novel set in a dreary Vancouver January. In ordinary circumstances I would be conveniently positioned to imbue the narrative with the telling details that give scenes strength and win belief. I would only need to glance out my window and describe what I see to get a perfectly accurate representation of a particular kind of drizzle, or of the particular colour of the North Shore mountains in the afternoon with a high overcast and a feeble sun setting.

My circumstances, however, are not quite ordinary for me, at the moment. I’m in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, for a two-month writing sojourn with my wife, Heather Burt. In the mornings I set up a small desk on our terrace, which is gracefully lined with blooming potted plants that attract a fine variety of hummingbirds. Through the day I shift my desk about to stay in the shade. It’s a challenge to enter the noirish mood of my narrative as the day grows warm and I sip on iced tea, and I hear in the distance the sounds of a mariachi band playing in the town square. The photo shows me at my desk, wearing my new Panama hat, which makes me feel like a minor character in a Graham Greene novel, perhaps one of those whose willful naiveté shades into evil. My expression suggests that I’ve hit my minimum five hundred words for the day and I’m contemplating moving from iced tea to tequila.

17 February 2009

Hillbilly Papermaking, with your host Gary Dunfield

Illustratively Speaking

About a year ago, Wolfville artist Jack McMaster spent some time under the sign of the g, creating illustrations for a 12-page limited edition accordion book, Tim Bowling’s Refrain for Rental Boat #4. Tim’s poem describes a frustrating day salmon fishing on the Fraser River Delta. We asked Jack to tell us a bit about “pochoir,” the stencilling technique he used to create the water motif that runs through the book. Here’s what he had to say:

“When Andrew first approached me about illustrating Rental he had an idea as to how it would be produced:

The finished book would be an accordion fold with each page being 8" x 8." It could be opened as you would any book to a two-page spread (8" x 16") or opened fully (8" x 96"). The illustrated portion consists of four two-page spreads which are 8" x 64" when fully opened.

He felt there should be an illustration of a handrail or boat that would be printed letterpress on the title page with a water motif that would follow (flow) through the remaining pages using a pochoir technique.

Pochoir is the French word for stencilling. It had its heyday in Paris in the 1920s. Books were also produced in London, New York and Florence.

Stencil sheets are placed over the page to be coloured. Using a brush of coarse, shortly cropped animal hair, paint is dabbed through the stencil. Traditional paints were watercolour (transparent) or gouache (opaque). I've used printing ink in the past with some success. However, drying time can be an issue here.

When colouring Rental I choose watercolour as I wanted to run some of the coloured lines through text. The more transparent the colour the more water you have to add. To give the colour more body so that it wouldn't seep under the stencil I added gum arabic to the mix. Calligraphic lines were used to represent flowing water, as I was worried that the paper would buckle if the areas to be coloured were too large. The stencils were cut from clear film, which allowed for better visibility and control of registration.

Fortunately I was able to produce the piece at Gaspereau Press which had space to accommodate the spread we were dealing with. As for the company …”

For more information about this title, or to obtain a copy, please visit the Gaspereau Press website.

06 February 2009

The Desk Set

We published Karen Houle's second poetry collection, During, last spring. This week, we asked Karen to show us her desk and what she was working on.

Here are three pictures of the walls of the cell (my little writing room) at Sage Hill Writer's retreat (in the metropolis of Lumsden, Sask)....where I wrote During over 11 frenzied days. If you make a 3-d picture, you will basically see the space in which I composed the poems but also, really, a fairly good rendition of the inside of my head. I hadn't really written poems for about five years and there was a veritable log-jam of material waiting to come out!

Currently working on a book of philosophy about abortion, responsibility and grief for Lexington Books. It's due the end of June but how the heck am I going to make THAT deadline?? Also, I'm co-editing an anthology with Jim Vernon (York U) on Hegel and Deleuze, called "Hegel and Deleuze: Together Again for the First Time." I'm writing an article on shame and faciality (based on the remarkable photography series "Rememory" by Susan Dobson), a paper which I think I'll present at a conference in Ottawa in May. I am also teaching two classes, two big, demanding second-year classes...so I'm spending a lot of my writing energy doing up lecture notes. On Bentham. And Aldo Leopold. And Kant. (gah) I know I should tell you about the amazing poems that I am ALSO writing, but that veers close to lying. One writerly bit: I realize that I'm actually starting to write a play...in my head of course...and the writer-in-residence here is Daniel McIvor (go Cape Breton!)...so I will maybe mosey on over to his office and get that project up and running.

Speaking of which, I'm late for class!