Embodied Light

A singular experience awaits visitors to the Amon Carter. Dallas-based artist Gabriel Dawe has finished installing his piece Plexus no. 34—a work composed of eighty miles of multicolored sewing thread strung back and forth, west wall to east wall, across the museum’s Atrium space. Fastened to hooks high in the upper reaches of the room’s two western corners, the thread then descends across the Atrium’s expanse, cascading in broadening beams of variegated color to converge on the opposite wall.

The twin rays of thread shimmer as you move beneath them, they glow in the sun streaming through the windows fifty-five feet above the floor, they brighten and dim as light changes throughout the day. Plexus no. 34 is a wonder.

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Plexus no. 34 in the museum’s Atrium

I’m excited to announce that the Publications Department has been working with Dawe and the museum’s curator, Maggie Adler, to create a limited-edition, loose-leaf artist book featuring Plexus no. 34 from its inception to its final installation. The publications staff expanded their endeavors to create this unique publication, setting up a book-art workspace in their shared area to create what will be the only publication of its kind on Dawe’s sculptures in thread.

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Gabriel Dawe (center) visits the Publications Department with his assistant, Shelby Cunningham (left), and curator Maggie Adler

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Lorraine Bond, the portfolio’s designer, in the book-art workspace

Only 200 copies of the publication will be produced, each one numbered and signed by the artist. The book will have two archival reproductions tipped-in to its pages—one of the artist’s digital rendering of Plexus no. 34, the other of the final installed work. A special page with the artist’s actual thread stitched into it is also included, and the portfolio is enveloped in a folded case bound with a removable band adorned with a tassel of thread.

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The mockup of the museum’s forthcoming limited-edition portfolio Embodied Light, featuring Gabriel Dawe’s Plexus no. 34; only 200 copies are being produced

Those interested in purchasing a copy of Embodied Light should email The 28-page portfolio is available in September and retails for $125 (plus tax and shipping/handling); members enjoy a twenty percent discount.

A Good Day to Stay in and Make Books

It was a sloshy wintry day in Tieton today, one degree above freezing, which made the walk to and from the book arts studio messier but less treacherous. Tieton is situated fifteen miles west of Yakima near the confluence of the Tieton and Naches Rivers, and it was a typical agricultural town into the 1970s, when it slid into economic depression with the decline of its fruit warehouses.

IMG_0369.JPG A sloshy wintry day in Tieton

A Seattle resident, Ed Marquand founded Paper Hammer Studios in Tieton in 2007, and since that time he has launched seven other artisanal businesses that huddle close to the town square. His goal is to revitalize the regional economy by "combining creative and professional skills, connecting with local resources to build successful businesses involving art, design, hospitality, and recreation." These business all fall under the umbrella company Mighty Tieton, which includes Paper Hammer Studios.

Paper Hammer is where the 250 copies of the Collector's Edition of the Amon Carter's landmark publication on the watercolors of Charles M. Russell are getting their covers and slipcases.

IMG_0370.JPG A stack of handmade slipcases weighted down to dry in the book-arts studio; the weights are bricks thickly wrapped in heavy packing paper.

IMG_0375.JPG One of the first hand-assembled covers for the Collector's Edition is pressed under bricks while drying.

IMG_0377.JPG Two leather covers, out from under their bricks.

IMG_0379.JPG Book artist Melanie Brauner glues the first cover to a book block. The glue is polyvinyl adhesive, or PVA, an archival glue that is relatively new in the art of bookmaking. For centuries, bookmakers used glues made from animal hide and wheat paste, both of which have Achilles heels: Hide glue crystallizes as it ages, becoming increasingly stiff; it is acidic as well, so it eventually burns into a book's pages. Wheat paste remains flexible and is great with paper--but many a book held together with this adhesive has been destroyed by hungry bugs with a taste for paste.

IMG_0380.JPG A fresh union of book block and cover!

IMG_0382.JPG Brauner places the freshly glued book into a "standing press," where it will stay for six hours to dry. PVA dries quickly, but not so much between leather covers, which retain a significant amount of moisture. This copy is a prototype--before full-line assembly of the books begins, the leather covers will be transported to another location, where the title, authors' names, and museum logo will be stamped in gold foil on their spines.

Both editions of Charles M. Russell: Watercolors, 1887-1926 are going to be truly special. But this Collector's Edition is in a class of its own. The retail price is guaranteed through December 31, 2015, so the wise book lover will preorder a copy now! Come 2016, the book's price will be driven by market demand. If you have any questions, email; to order either edition of the book, email or call 817.989.5007.

Giving a Book Its Cover

I arrived under steel-gray skies in Seattle this past Sunday afternoon and hustled from the airport straight to the Seattle Art Museum, which I'd never visited before and which would close a scant two hours after my arrival. It was that afternoon or nothing since I was scheduled to leave the next morning for Tieton, a small town on a small square on the other side of the very unsmall Cascades. SAM's Bierstadt is to die for. It was a brief but rewarding visit, and as the doors locked behind me and I stepped out to the corner of 5th and Union with my suitcase, the rain began to fall. It rains 158 days a year in the Emerald City. I knew this, and still I left my Gore-Tex at home.

IMG_0254.JPGAlbert Bierstadt, Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast, 1870, Seattle Art Museum

My destination the next morning was the offices of Lucia/Marquand, the venerable book production company engaged with designing and managing production of the Amon Carter's landmark book on the watercolors of Charles M. Russell. It was great to put faces with the names and voices of the staff there I'd been working with for months on end. After lunch, Jeff Wincapaw (the books' designer), Melanie Brauner (a book artist), and I piled into Jeff's truck to traverse the Snoqualmie Pass east to Tieton--a trek that at the summit was a bit of a nail biter!

IMG_0262.JPGInterior of the Lucia/Marquand offices in Seattle

IMG_0274.JPGSnoqualmie Pass is the largest of the three east-west mountain routes across Washington State that are kept open year-round

The Russell book will be available in two editions: a Limited Edition (500 copies) and a Collector's Edition (250 copies). Both editions printed last month, and we received an advance copy of the Limited Edition in Seattle this week--fully bound and finished and gorgeous! (The full shipment will arrive in the Amon Carter's warehouse next month.) Advance copies of the Collector's Edition arrived, too--only they arrived unbound and unfinished, and they arrived in Tieton. All as planned.

IMG_0341.JPGAn advanced copy of the Limited Edition with its designer, Jeff Wincapaw

Besides being located in the heart of Washington's apple country, Tieton (pop. 1,232) is home to the book-arts building, Paper Hammer Studios, established by Ed Marquand in 2007. This is where the Collector's Edition will come into its own gorgeously finished state. Over the course of the next three weeks, it's here that each of these 250 copies will be hand-bound in Zaragoza goat skin, blind-stamped with Russell's signature on the front, the title stamped in gold on the spine, and each copy fitted with a custom-made linen slipcase.

IMG_0331.JPGIMG_0351.JPGPaper Hammer Studios, Tieton, Washington

Along with these fully printed but coverless copies, known as book blocks, all the materials that will go into their finishing arrived in Tieton as well: the board stock for the hard back, the endsheets, the tanned leathers that will complete the two-toned cover, and the linen cloth for the slipcases--all in their raw uncut conditions.

IMG_0314.JPGThe unbound book blocks arrived in Tieton late last week

IMG_0284.JPGMelanie Brauner, book artist, inspects the darker of the two leathers that will cover the Collector's Edition

IMG_0292.JPGThese boards will be cut down to 12 x 12 inches, then wrapped in leather to form the hardcover books

IMG_0296.JPGA roll of linen cloth that will be tailored down to cover the custom slipcases

IMG_0304.JPGMaria Solorio and Melanie Brauner cut down the endsheets on a board sheer

IMG_0328.JPGBrauner prepares to cut out a piece of leather for a board

I'll be posting pics (with fewer words!) of the Collector's Edition as it comes together. And I'll likely post some extraneous things, too, because, well, I'm in a book-arts studio after all, and there's a lot of cool stuff around.

If you have any questions about either Russell edition, feel free to email me at To order your copy of either edition, email or call 817.989.5007.

The price for the Collector's Edition is guaranteed only through December 31, so order today!

Plotting the Way Forward


It’s been about three months since my last post. This isn’t because I’ve been waiting around for something to write about, though now that I think about it, that’s kind of what it’s been. I’ve been busy for sure; but more to the point, I’ve been holding off for the approaching landmark stage of sending our big Russell book to press. Yup, more than 400 of Charlie’s watercolors are soon to be replicated with ink onto paper, then bound between two covers into a real book with real pages to turn, stories to read, and beautiful reproductions to study and savor.

As I write this, we’re reviewing what are called “plotters,” or the final page proofs of our book, output by the printer in Shenzhen, China. Put another way: we are in the final stage of review before we green light the printing, and the presses start rolling.

You’ve been here before. Think back to preparing your resume for a big job search. You read and reread the document over and over again, and you employ the eyes of trusted friends and associates to read it as well. You scour it for any mistakes, oversights, or inconsistencies. And finally, having taken due diligence to new extremes, you release it into the world. No going back then. It’s out there.

We’re on the cusp of “no going back” with our Russell book, and we’re super excited about it getting “out there” and into your hands. The plotters look great, which means that if all goes as it should, the finished product is going to look spectacular.


If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know there are two editions of this book forthcoming, both of them short-run publications. The Limited Edition run is only 500 copies; the Collector’s Edition run is only 250 copies, and each of these rare copies will be signed by the authors and numbered, then bound in leather and sheathed in a slipcase.

For more information, or if you have questions, you can email me at And you can follow the project on #CMRussellBook. In the meantime, I’m going to get back to the plotters!

Editing Illustrations

Most people understand the editing and proofreading part of making books. But what about the illustrations in a book, including the art on the jacket?

Many readers of art books will never see the actual objects in the pages they turn, or they’ll see them once and buy the catalogue so they can see them again whenever they wish. For this reason, at the Amon Carter our paramount goal in reproducing art is to hew as closely as possible to the object itself, warts and all.

Enter Steve Watson, senior photographer at the Amon Carter. Whether he photographs art objects himself or receives files for reproduction from other institutions, it is Steve’s task to make certain a native file will generate a reproduction as true as possible to the art it represents.


In this photo, Steve is working his way through the stack of 492 image proofs for our monumental book Charles M. Russell, Watercolors: 1887−1926. At this stage, he’s already deep into the process of making sure the art is printed accurately. He’s spent many hours photographing objects and calibrating files to get to this point.

To accurately assess the colors on a printed proof, Steve is working in the museum’s color-viewing booth, which emits full-spectrum light in a viewing environment that is standard in the printing industry. The exact same lighting conditions will be used when the book is on press to compare approved color proofs with printed sheets coming off the press. If the printed reproductions match the approved proof, then all is good. If not, then adjustments are made on press, or new plates are made that can achieve what the proof shows.

In the photograph, Steve is either approving proofs or marking them with corrections; when he’s done, all the proofs will be returned to the proofing company, called a “color separator.” Any proofs Steve has marked for correction will be revisited and fine-tuned with color, contrast, or lightness corrections as noted, then a second round of proofs will be produced to show the updated state of the image. This continues until every proof is approved. All the approved files will then be used by the printing company to make the plates for the press, and as printed sheets come off the press, the approved proofs will be used by the pressman as a standard to match.


I’m posting about every two weeks on the process, so come back to Booktalk for the latest updates. You can follow the project on #CMRussellBook as well.

Don’t wait too late to preorder your copy—only a total of 750 are being produced, and only 250 of those will be hand-assembled with leather binding, signed and numbered by the authors. If you have any questions about the book or its production, email If you want to preorder, contact Melody Caban at

Crawling through the Pages


“Tom got into a book, crawled and groveled between the covers, tunneled like a mole among the thoughts, and came up with the book all over his face and hands.” –John Steinbeck, East of Eden


Anyone who’s into reading can relate to Steinbeck’s character Tom Hamilton. I recently became so immersed in East of Eden, where Tom exists, that daylight dimmed into evening every day without my realizing it, things needing done piled up around me. Hours after I had set the book aside, I carried its narrative around under my skin.

Reading is how most of us get books all over ourselves. But here at the museum, we get covered in books by making them as much as by reading them. We’re into production now, in fact, on a beauty that is big enough to cover us all, Charles M. Russell: Watercolors, 1887−1926 by Dr. Rick Stewart and Jodie Utter.

The editing has long been done on the book—months of parsing through the prose, making sure it reads clearly, that facts square up from chapter to chapter, that references are accurate. This exercise in molding the words of a book hinges on an intimate working relationship, built on trust, between editor and author, both of whom tunnel together like moles through page after page of manuscript.

Now, though, we’re just finishing proofreading the typeset pages, all 496 of them! These marked pages, all designed and laid out as they will appear in the finished publication, go back to Seattle this week, where Marquand Editions is designing the tome. Marquand’s team will key our changes and corrections into the master files and issue us a new, clean set of pages to review again, making certain all the changes were input correctly. Proofreading a book of this size involves a lot of crawling and groveling for sure, even if the pages aren’t yet between covers!

If you have any questions about the book or its production, email If you want to preorder, contact Melody Caban at
--Will Gillham

Russell Fans Everywhere, Rejoice!

The books in the image are mockups and subject to change.

The long-anticipated book on the Cowboy Artist’s expansive body of watercolors is in production! More than four dozen of you have already preordered your copies. If you’re not among them, no worries. The museum is publishing two editions: a Limited Edition of 500 copies; and a hand-assembled, leather-bound Collector’s Edition of 250 copies.

You may not know that Charles M. Russell (1864–1926) always considered himself a better watercolorist than a painter in oils, and some of his family members and friends agreed with him. Even today, experts who have studied his art in detail believe that his watercolors represent some of his finest efforts.

Dr. Rick Stewart is among these experts. Many of you know him as the longtime curator of western art at the Amon Carter, and its director for a decade. Rick, who retired in 2010, has published too many books to detail here; but if you follow Russell, you know Rick authored the definitive book on the artist’s sculpture (Charles M. Russell, Sculptor: Abrams, 1995). You know, too, how accessible his writing is.

Rick’s essay is accompanied by one on Russell’s technique and materials, written by Jodie Utter, conservator at the Amon Carter. To date, this is the only scientific study of this sort executed on these objects. Utter reveals some amazing insights, and her illustrations are unprecedented in Russell studies.

3379 Russell - Spreads [4-16] 177.jpg

3379 Russell - Spreads [4-16] 180.jpg

3379 Russell - Spreads [4-16] 223.jpg

These two editions are being closely managed by the museum’s Publications Department. We’ve partnered with Marquand Books in Seattle to design and package both editions. The Collector’s Edition will be assembled by Marquand Editions in Tieton, Washington.

Where are we? We are near to finishing proofreading of the typeset pages, which will go back to our book packager in Seattle this month. This month, too, the first round of color proofs for the more than 400 illustrations will arrive at the museum for our review.

I’ll be posting pictures and updates from now until the book delivers in January 2016! Follow the production here, and on social media at #CMRussellBook.

If you have any questions about the book or its production, email If you want to preorder, contact Melody Caban at

--Will Gillham