Fall 2015 Outbound residency
at the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum
Following a snowy winter and a spring of heavy rain, record-breaking floods hit the state of Iowa in the summer of 2008. The Cedar River, which flows through the city of Cedar Rapids, crested at the height of 31.12 feet on June 13, 2008. The city was devastated with 480 blocks underwater, including houses, businesses, and government and cultural institutions. The National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library (NCSML), perched next to the Cedar River, was one of several institutions affected by the floods. The museum had been on my radar because of a personal interest in Czech culture and history, and because I lived in nearby Iowa City as the rivers were rising that spring. In addition, I worked for a team in Chicago that triaged the NCSML textile collections following the flood. Two months of assisting the textile conservator with the meticulous handling, cataloging, and photographing of these delicate, muddied textiles underscored the fragility and vulnerability of cultural artifacts; particularly ephemeral and “folk” objects.
This experience provided the basis for a project that I started in 2013 with a mock-up for an artist’s book about a set of embroidery patterns that were salvaged from the flood. Last summer, I wanted to move ahead with the project, but needed the dedicated time, space, and equipment to begin. The TRANSIT Outbound residency at the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum provided the perfect opportunity. Having visited the museum on several occasions, I was interested in this residency because it provides the opportunity to use the type and presses at the museum as well as a chance to engage with other artists, Hamilton staff, and members of the community.
My goal for the residency was to explore my topic and create a broadside (or small series of broadsides) that would provide an entry into the larger project. Ultimately, I intend to create a body of work about the floods and their affect on the NCSML, including but not limited to a series of prints and an artist’s book. When I arrived at the museum in December 2015, I spent the first few days researching, sketching, and exploring the spacious studio, complete with cabinets of type, two Vandercooks, and plenty of table space. I set out to create four separate prints, each with an edition size of ten, incorporating statistics about the flood. The most challenging task was narrowing down which type to use, but by day three, I had made some decisions through proofing and experimenting with color. And before the blink of an eye, week one was over.
As the second week progressed, I made more decisions about content, type, color, and composition; I worked on imagery for the artist’s book; and I printed, printed, and printed. During lunch breaks and downtime, I soaked in as much information as possible from the staff, volunteers, interns, and the museum itself. I listened in on group tours and printing demos, peeked in on the cataloging of blocks from the Globe Collection, watched Jim Moran interview Norb Brylski about working for The Hamilton Wood Type Manufacturing Company for Hamilton Stories: An Oral History, and helped proof type for the museum. By the end of week two, I had completed four prints, and just as importantly, refined and developed ideas for the larger body of work to come.
Many thanks to the TRANSIT Residency Program and everyone at the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum for their kindness and generosity.