Monday, June 8, 2009

Peg & Awl

The great Toby Liebowitz had an opening for her project Peg & Awl at Cairo gallery in Seattle on May 29th.

Peg & Awl is the story of the rise and fall a Depression-era utopian community in Washington state, told through a series of black-and-white pencil illustrations. Toby's utopian community is fictional, but based on similar groups which abounded around the United States, especially in the Pacific Northwest, in the years following Roosevelt's New Deal. During the early 1930s, the WPA directly supported many of them and their pursuit of egalitarian agricultural production and communal lifestyles.

The show is lovely, and a lot of people turned up for the first night. (These pictures are from Cairo's flickr.)

We wove daisy chains for our hair and Feather & Folly played some songs on the street outside.

Max Liebowitz and Sean Pecknold collaborated with Toby on this sound installation nook in the back room. Six of us managed to squeeze in there. It was cozy. And smelled good.

This is not it for Peg & Awl...stay tuned, because something extra-special is in the works. There will be another announcement soon!

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Child's Garden of Verses

A Child's Garden of Verses, Robert Louis Stevenson & Virginia Tiffany

I found this book a long while ago, browsing a bookstore in Eugene, Oregon with my friend Tilke. I instantly loved the crooked exuberance of the "stitchery", as the illustrations by Virginia Tiffany are termed. I think the book was published in the 1970s, but I'm traveling right now on the West Coast and can't check 'til I'm home again.

I took these photos in my garden back in mid-May. It had rained that morning and the ground was still a little damp and dewy.

The book is too big for the scanner. It's bigger than my lap, even. Do you see the joints on the pink and orange elephant? They're so cute they made me squeal.

I would like the blonde boy's tunic & hood. Maybe I'll sew my own version sometime.

The chives had just opened their flowers that week, a pungent rush of little purple fireworks.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Jip and Janneke

At long last, as I promised, I'm doing a Jip and Janneke post.

Jip and Janneke are a pair of Dutch preschoolers invented and chronicled by the late, great Annie M.G. Schmidt. They were illustrated by the similarly brilliant Fiep Westendorp. In the Netherlands the two are everywhere––both as books and as merchandise--and everyone has read the short, funny, extremely Dutch stories about them at some point in childhood. A phrase derived from them has even entered the language-- "Jip-en-Janneketaal", or "Jip and Janneke language", means simple speech.

Despite their ubiquity in Holland, Jip and Janneke have barely made so much as a peep here in the States. At some point in the '60s and '70s a few translations came out in English, with Jip and Janneke appearing as "Mick and Mandy" (ugh) and then "Bob and Jilly" (double ugh. Sorry-- I just have a personal pet peeve about translations that seriously fail to preserve the names of characters). For better or worse, both the M & M and the B & J versions are now out of print.

But! On my last day in Amsterdam back in January, in a children's bookshop with J., I was psyched to discover that the Dutch publisher Querido had taken it upon itself to release a faithful English translation. I bought it and devoured it on the plane ride home. (It kept me calm and giggly on an otherwise terrifyingly turbulent flight.) So far it's not available in the States (not sure about England either). But eventually-- maybe-- I hope--!

Here's the back cover:

The first page of one of my favorite stories:

p.s.-- Wikipedia has a picture of the cover of the Finnish edition. :)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Summer Book

This is a meandering novel about grandmothers, islands, and parental death (...not Moomins...) by the great Tove Jansson. It's beloved to me.

In the woods, Grandmother collected a bit of tree moss, a piece of fern, and a dead moth. Sophia followed along silently, her nerves growing a little calmer with each item that Grandmother put in her pocket. The moon looked slightly red and was almost as bright as day.

I'm so grateful to The New York Review of Books for bringing it out in English after all these years. They're bringing out another non-Moomin, meant-for-grownups book by Jansson in the fall. It's called The True Deceiver. It has a great cover (also by Jansson):

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

East O' The Sun

This old and beautiful book was sitting in a pile of childhood relics at my friend D.V.'s house. It's a collection of Norwegian folktales published in the 1950s. I am so in love with the cover!

And the inside leaf paper:

The yellow spine is marvelous:

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Jaunā Gaita

Jaunā Gaita is a literary magazine that expatriate Latvian writers have been putting together for the last fifty-odd years. Its covers have been lovely and wild. The black and whites are the witchiest, most magical ones.

But also they did some lovely things with trees:

This one is special, too:

I found out about J.G. via Grain Edit. You can find all of the covers at the Jaunā Gaita archives. (It's all in Latvian, but it's easy enough to find the pictures-- just scroll down.)

P.S.––Apparently many of these covers were designed by a man called Ilmars Rumpeters. Google doesn't know much about him, but I think he was quite brilliant. Also he has a terribly fantastic name.