Monday, March 7, 2016

Pizza from Scratch – Part 4

January 28–February 9: 'Burning Weeds', a hand printed, five-color lino cut, 24 x 12 inches.  At this stage neither the logistics of printing and binding or the format of the book have been resolved, but a page size of 10 x 12 inches (landscape) would accommodate this image as a double-page spread if trimmed to bleed.

Red, on orange on yellow,  and orange on yellow, 'wet on wet ink' proofs.

'Wheat Field', early morning, lino cut with watercolor wash, 24 x 12 inches. These double-page spreads convey the breadth of the landscape but printing them presents a challenge. Perhaps single-page images would make more sense . . . .

How about 12 x 7.5 inches? Here a close-up of the key block for a three-color lino cut, 'Cultivating' with the Massey Ferguson tractor.

This print of the key block is offset onto two other blocks, one each for red and green.

Obviously the Massey is red and the leaves and grass are green, where the two colours overlap they will produce a brown, ideal for the soil and tree trunks.

A first color proof shows how the red/green makes a brown, but it still needs work.

The wheat seeds viewed close up. This shows how the lino cut progresses, first cuts are rough outlines, followed by detailed hatching to add light and shade.

The finished block. For the book I might add a color wash or print black on a colored background.

Ten pounds of Glenn organic Spring wheat from Johnny's Selected Seeds in Maine where broadcast by hand.

To cover the seeds and compress the soil around them I drove around the field on the Kawasaki Mule dragging a vintage spike-tooth harrow. Two scarecrows and a totem pole will keep watch over the crop. (Key block)

Three-color lino cut with hand coloring. Now I wait for the seed to germinate and turn to the tomatoes which were planted earlier and may appear first in the book . . . . Read more in Pizza from Scratch – Part  5

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Pizza from Scratch – Part 3

January 12, 2015: Making adobe clay involves 'puddling' – the mixing of clay, sand and water with your feet, hence this pencil study. Drawing is an important discipline for the artist – daily practice is worthwhile. This post includes detailed studies as well as sketches for the illustrations to the Pizza book.

One of the main goals is to grow wheat for flour to make dough for the pizza. Here is a pencil drawing of an ear of Glenn organic Spring wheat grown on our farm here in Iowa.

The first step in preparing the field for planting was to burn last years weeds, with the hope that many of the weed seeds were also incinerated. At this point I began to think the book should be landscape format and this subject will become a double page spread lino cut.


Mixing cement and building concrete-block walls is hard, thirsty work, especially in the heat of the summer and the builder deserves a well-earned beer at the end of the day, especially when an important stage is completed. These walls will support a concrete plinth on which the oven will be built.

Wire mesh and tubing in place to reinforce the concrete slab.

Firebricks in position on top of an insulation layer, ready to build the sand dome around which the oven will be formed.


Drawing the sand dome to achieve the desired lighting was tricky.

My clay-covered hands forming the Adobe bricks.


Sharp-eyed viewers will observe the sand dome is covered with the Wall Street Journal. The newspaper is dampened and the hand-formed Adobe clay bricks are placed around the dome to form the first layer of the oven wall.

Preferred fuel: well-seasoned oak.

After almost three weeks drawing, it is time to embark upon a lino cut. Read more in the next post: Pizza from Scratch – Part 4

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Pizza from Scratch – Part 2

January 2016: Return to Pizza . . . a year later . . . the wheat has been harvested, a new pizza oven built and pizzas cooked, so the time has come to make the book. Working with colored markers I make storyboards of three-inch-square thumbnail sketches charting the progression of events.

Weeds, burning, charred remains, and cultivating
Since I began with the notion of clearing a field of weeds, and weeds are the subject of the woodcuts already completed (see Pizza – a work in progress) this will be my starting point. In these thumbnails  I envision a portrait-format book, with tall narrow pages, that opens to form a square – a useful frame for pizza.

Sowing seed, seedlings, scarecrow, harrowing
The organic Glenn spring wheat came from Johnny's Select Seeds in Maine.  Next, I chart the cultivation of heirloom Amish Paste tomatoes. The tomato seeds were planted before the wheat, so if the book is to progress chronologically these images should be first.

How to build the adobe clay wood-fired pizza oven will be explained with scale drawings and illustrations of key stages starting with gathering of all the necessary materials. This is the second pizza oven I have built, the first is documented in a post on September 2011: 'Recycling the East Side School – in a wood-fired clay pizza oven' and again on May 2012: 'Disaster – Wood-fired oven burns down'. Consequently it's construction will be considerably more robust!

Loading Iowa sand into the Dodge Ram 1500

Finished oven, blueprints, digging clay, puddling clay
The oven is formed, brick by brick, around a dome of sand covered in dampened newspaper.

Now the ideas are coming together, it is time to make more detailed drawings and studies for the prints. Follow the progress in Pizza from Scratch – Part 3

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

"Making Books, Chilli and Curry"

An illustrated talk on Thursday 5 November, by David Esslemont to The Bewick Society: Newcastle City Library, Charles Avison Building, 33 New Bridge St W, Newcastle upon Tyne, England, at 6.30 p.m.

"There is much here in the Northeast that is relevant to what I want to talk about tonight. I have an interest in books. You have an interest in books. Actually, I find many people have an interest in books of some sort.
  I also have an interest in food – and I’ve found that everybody has an interest in food. I think chefs and book designers have a lot in common. We are designing, creating, directing – orchestrating – a wide range of different elements, and overseeing their production, often as multiples. Aren’t we both obsessed with detail, with the quality of the materials or ingredients, the production, the presentation . . .? Aren’t we looking for that perfect balance?
  Tonight I am going to talk about creativity, inspiration, and how our heritage, and our traditions, hindsight and insight help shape the work we create . . ."

To book a FREE ticket: Telephone 0191 277 4100 or book online

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Printing, Type and Typographical Design

Oxford Bibliographical Society, Taylor Institute
Monday, 2 November at 5.15 p.m.
An illustrated talk 'To my bibliographer: notes, observations & anecdotes about books I have printed (or intend to), pertaining to Bewick, Carlyle, Chili, Curry, Keats, Levista, War and Wordsworth.'

" . . . Minutiae are the bread and butter of both bookmaker and bibliographer. A myriad seemingly trivial and mundane details all need careful consideration. I’m interested those details, those decisions that ultimately coalesce into books, books that function, books that are not only a joy to read, but also a delight to all the senses and in Carlyle’s words “excite the reader to self activity”. I’m interested in publishing too, because a book without a reader is worthless, isn’t it? And, like Philip Gaskell I believe the techniques of printing are key to understanding how a text comes into existence.
  My bibliographer is compiling a descriptive catalogue, so let’s see if I can help with a few crumbs from the table, so to speak, by considering some of the books I’ve printed since first becoming acquainted with the caduceus of Hermes.
  To flesh out these mundane details I’m including some anecdotal evidence, which, I hope the bibliographer will find useful and you will find entertaining. . . . "

Taxi Driver Curry at the Oxford Fine Press Book Fair

On Saturday 31 October and Sunday 1 November 2015, at Oxford Brookes University, Headington Campus, Gipsy Lane, Oxford, England

Solmentes at the 2015 Oxford Book Fair 
Taxi Driver Curry is now published and available in regular and deluxe bindings (see above, displayed together with New York Revisited). The book is described in a previous post

The Oxford Fine Press Book Fair is organized by The Fine Press Book Association in collaboration with the Provincial Booksellers Association 
Saturday, 31 October 11am to 6pm, and Sunday, 1 November 10am to 5pm.

Featuring  98 exhibitors including private presses from the UK, the Americas, Russia, Asia, and continental Europe, as well as dealers in fine press books, suppliers of fine printing materials, and related societies:.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

InsideOut show in New York includes Esslemont binding

Bonhams, 580 Madison Ave., New York, NY, from Friday 10–19 April, 2015

My binding of New York Revisited by Kenneth Auchincloss is part of this touring exhibition organized by Designer Bookbinders UK. "InsideOUT celebrates the art and craft of contemporary bookbinding and private press printing. This ambitious project is a collaboration between thirty-four binders based in the United Kingdom and twenty-five based in North America."

 New York Revisited was designed, illustrated with colour wood engravings and printed by Gaylord Schanilec, and published in 2002 by The Grolier Club, New York. 7 x 12 inches. 44 pages. Edition of 250 copies (this copy ex-edition), 9 full-page color wood engravings and 2 vignettes by Gaylord Schanilec. Type composed in Emerson Monotype. Printed on Zerkall mould-made paper.

The binding uses white alum-tawed goatskin, inkjet, acrylic ink, blind and gold tooling, and is inset with diamonds and other gemstones. The main image on the cover is a detail of a view looking down Fifth Avenue – the view extends inside the front and back covers where it faces views of Lexington Avenue.

In these images we see a contrast between the rich and poor, exemplified by the stocking feet jutting out from a shop doorway, and the bustle of pedestrians. These are paste-grained and form the leather-jointed endpapers.

The polished leather on the front cover, embedded with real gemstones, again highlights this contrast.

The book is presented in a drop back box together with an extra set of Schanilec's engravings and prints from the original blocks engraved by Rudolph Ruzicka for the book New York, published by the Grolier Club in 1915.

This binding is for sale visit

Designer Bookbinders