September 13, 2013

No Small Measure: A collaboration between poet Karen Dodson and artist and printer Eleanor Annand

No Small Measure is a collaborative portfolio of letterpress printed broadsides, which was organized by artist Margot Ecke, curator Beth Sale and poet Ezekiel Black. Fifteen poets have been paired with fifteen artists and each group was asked to create a letterpress printed broadside. The project was made possible with funding from the University of North Georgia Art Galleries with a generous grant from the Forsyth County Arts Alliance. Over the next several weeks, each collaborative team will be interviewed and asked about their experience working on the project.

Our second interview features poet Karen Dodson and artist and printer Eleanor Annand.

A Conversation with poet Karen Dodson:

This poem is so alive. Your vivid descriptions and palpable imagery evoke such an active reading experience. What do you think about Ele's visual response? I was amazed by Ele’s interpretation of the poem because I wrote it as a turbulent search for peace, and she captured both.

How does this practice of having a poem designed and printed on a large piece of paper influence how you might approach the writing of future poems? I have incorporated poetry and watercolor for years; Ele’s representation of the texture and print adds resonance that other medium lacks. The piece has altered my mental images as I attempt to bring words to life.

The pressing of the polymer plate into the plush page results in such a beautiful impression. What are your thoughts about this particular aspect of letterpress printing and more specifically to this poem? Ele's letterpress design invites the peace that the speaker of the poem longs for while maintaining the integrity of moving water as an image. I feel as if Ele has become part poet and I part artist through this process.

A Conversation with artist and printer Eleanor Annand:

Your design is quite bold as an overall composition, but the marks themselves are so delicate. How did you create the marks? Can you tell us a bit about the very subtle layer of wood grain that sits behind the poem?
The blue swirling water started as a calligraphy pen and ink drawing. I wanted to create a mark that translated the feeling of being in turbulent water and not knowing if it might swallow you whole. I chose this technique for the fluidity of movement it allowed and for the contrast of thick and thin lines. Karen’s poem has so much movement and force in it. Every time I read it I feel like I am shouting. The wood grain in the back was intended to set the stage. It is subtle but the grain of the wood shows the direction the river flows.

This broadside is beautiful in photographs but quite stunning in person. The deep impression really creates a topographic sculptural element on the page- even the back of the print suggests the flow of water. Tell us a bit about the choices printers have when it comes to the level of impression and the importance of impression to the overall understanding of this particular piece.
A deep impression certainly has its place in the letterpess world, but it has been a controversial subject within the community. The purist will hoot and holler over deep impression, because traditionally it is a sign of someone who doesn’t know what they are doing. On the other hand there is a whole new generation of printers that enjoy the tactile nature of a deep impression. To many people that impression is the definition of letterpress. I myself think it has a time and place. With this print I used Lettra, aka  fluffy cotton paper, which was created to hold a deep impression. I also used polymer plates which I fear damaging much less than metal or wood type. I am constantly trying to harness the expressive qualities of different mark making techniques. To me the deep impression in this print reflects the turbulence and force that Karen has conveyed through her choice of words.

Waves can be conveyed in many ways. This print gives a nod to Asian art as well as zine/comic book work. How did you approach the rendering of these waves?
I knew I wanted to convey the movement of the rushing water but also I wanted to convey current patterns. I grew up on the coast of North Carolina and when I hear the word current, which Karen uses, I have a very visceral reaction. I remember being pulled down the shore by the current. I remember the fear of being pulled out to sea by the rip current. My challenge in making this print was to express this turbulent experience in an inviting way. Life is rough-and-tumble but through that there is a lot of beauty.

For more information about Eleanor, please visit her website:

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