In the 1980s a woodblock artist called Mary Azarian went to work in a rural one-room schoolhouse in Vermont. Finding it bleak and uninspiring, she set strait to work making a set of alphabet posters for the walls depicting rural life and objects. The alphabets’ fame spread and later the Vermont Board of Education commissioned sets for every school in the state. After falling in love with her work and this story, I started to look around at my own sons pre-school and the other learning places in our lives. Despite many fancy alphabet sets on display at kids’ stores, I kept coming across playrooms and library corners without this most essential literary tool. I would guess this is a product of extensive budget cuts and a culture of teacher-out of pocket expenses for anything “extra”.
So I proposed (to the CityArtist grant committee at Seattle Office of Arts and Culture) to make an alphabet set using papercut technique and then transferring it to silkscreen to reproduce the copies by hand. The 20 set first printing would be donated to schools, libraries, and community centers in the greater Seattle area. 5 of these locations would be chosen to do an in-person “demonstration”. This visit will include me introducing the alphabet by reading through the letters, bringing in show and tell items related to the images, and describing creative process of making the posters from field sketches to long hours in the printshop. I would also bring a small silkscreen setup so each child/person can pull their own small print of a favorite letter. These demonstrations are going to be be kicked off with a family friendly presentation at my local Ballard library, ( October 13th 2pm) to explain the project and art making process to community, friends, and family. …. Watch out those Salmon specimens are slippery!
To my great delight this project has taken flight and will also be turned into a book to be published by Sasquatch press, still a year to go on that process but ill keep you posted on release dates. At the moment i’m busy silkscreening the last of the letters and compiling my list of childrens’ programs who will receive the handmade sets, if you have a worthy place in mind let me know with a comment, i need them to be spread out all around the city.
For those of you who have run off to Port Townsend for October, ill have a bunch of pieces in the “Black and White” show at the Simon Mace Gallery. See EVENTS page for details.