SEQ CHAPTER \h \r 1UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON ARCHIVES ORAL HISTORY PROGRAMInterview #1763 TETENBAUM, BARBARA TETENBAUM, BARBARA (1957) Book Artist At UW: 1975-1980; 1987-1994 Interviewed: 2018 Interviewer: Sarah Lange Index by: Sarah Lange Transcribed by: Teresa Bergen Length: 2 hours, 36 minutes First Interview Session (June 18, 2018): Digital File SL: Today is Monday, June 18, 2018. I'm Sarah Lange with the oral history program at UW Madison. I'm talking with Barb Tetenbaum, book artist, UW alum, and founder of Triangular Press. Barbara is in Portland, Oregon, and I'm at the University Archives at Steenbock Library. Barbara, you were born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and raised in the Chicago area. Can you talk a little bit about growing up there? BT: Sure. Yeah, my dad, well, he just passed away so now I have to say was. But he was a scientist and worked, I think, first at GE in Cincinnati and then secured a position at Argonne National Lab, which he had until pretty much the day he died, back in January. So we moved to the Chicago area. And my mom had already had three kids, all three of us in Cincinnati. And then we grew up just west of the city in a suburb called Clarendon Hills. And growing up in a family of scientists, my mom was also a scientist, but had put it on the back burner to have her family, it was, you know, art wasn't necessarily a big part of our lives. But my parents really loved taking us to museums. We went often to the Art Institute of Chicago. And we also spent a year in England. And I think that year, being in England and using every weekend to go visit different places and look at art. Or we traveled to Europe also, and we looked at a lot of museums, and I think they saw that I was really interested. Also, I was not a stellar student. (laughs) My sister and brother were the ones who always got straight As and did really well. And I was the one who had my head doodling in a book instead of really reading it. So I think encouraging me to do art was also a way of finding what my strengths were, since they were not academic at that time. My mom eventually became the science teacher at the junior high. And I don't think I took any real art classes in junior high. I think I waited till high school. And then when I realized I could take art classes, I did so enthusiastically. I took ceramics. I took metals. There was a very good metalsmithing teacher there. And just design and drawing and things like that. And I did pretty well. I mean, I wasn't the most stellar person. But I was really enthusiastic. And I drew a lot outside of class as well. What else? I don't know if I can, I think in terms of early exposure to art, it was just mostly going to the Art Institute of Chicago and all and those museums in Europe that really ignited my fascination. When I was thinking about applying to college, I did not think about being an art major. I didn't think it was possible. And I don't think my parents would have encouraged me, or wanted to finance my getting a degree in art. I was really interested in psychology. And I do think that my interest in psychology is also clearly evident in my artist books and all the artwork I make. My interest in psychology, I 1:00 think, even though I only stayed a psych major for a year and then switched to art, once I was in sophomore, really shows up in the content of my work. So that interest found its place, as I think all of our interests do. So I chose Madison not so intentionally. I really wanted to go to a small school, not be absorbed into some giant experience. And I applied to a tiny little school in the northern part of Illinois called Shimer College, which I don't think is even open still. And it had something like a hundred students. And I just thought that would be fantastic. And my parents said, "No, we're not paying for that." (laughs) But my mom had talked to somebody who had gone to the UW and was in the integrated liberal studies program. I don't know if they still have that. It was called ILS. And she talked to me about ILS, which was basically like a little college within the big university. You took what 2:00 they called your breadth requirements together with a group of incoming freshmen and sophomores. So you had 200 students, I think it was capped at. And so you took--I think, unless it was half that. It might have been half that. But basically you took a lot of your general ed, science, math classes, together with the same group of students. And then you still had time for electives outside of that particular breadth requirement. And so I decided to go to Madison. Luckily, I got in. Partly to do ILS, which is what I did. And that was wonderful. I actually only stuck with it for a year, but I got out of it a lot and I really liked that program. And like I say, I don't know if they still have that going. I realized pretty quickly that I did not like the psychology department at the UW. I know that it's famous for its research, but I was not enamored of my first experiences. And I just decided I'm going to switch to art. And I don't think my parents were very happy. But they weren't there overseeing me at that point. Lange: Barb, can I ask you, what was it about the 3:00 psychology department or your classes that kind of rubbed you the wrong way? Tetenbaum: Well in high school, I had a really good high school psych teacher. And you know, back then it was the late '60s, early '70s. Or actually just early '70s, back then. And there was a lot of sort of pop psychology going on in general culture and counterculture and things like that. And I was really interested in trying to figure out who I was, as all teenagers are at that point. And that particular professor in high school really encouraged kind of a hands-on approach to thinking about psychology. We obviously read some books. But he did a lot of in-class exercises that for me were really exciting, and gave me a lot to think about. And I think in general, I just, I have always wanted to mirror back people's own assumptions of how they are in the world. We all are on this planet. We all have these senses. I think I was just really 4:00 interested in the way the human mind works, and how we see ourselves, and how the world basically reflects how we see ourselves. And I think that first semester, and those first two semesters of psychology, first of all, the textbook is all terminology. It's like every third word is italicized, and then you're meant to just learn the terms. And I was excited. I really wanted to go to college and learn something about psychology. And I felt like all I was doing was spinning my wheels. It's basically like practicing scales. If you really want to play music and your teacher only gives you scales, and doesn't let you at least like scratch that itch (laughs) of wanting to play a tune. It felt like that. And I don't know, I just, the classes were huge. I didn't really like the professors that I had. And so, I don't know, I think it was just a lazy gut feeling that maybe I would take some more psychology classes, but I was going to change my major. And so I started taking art classes. I think I might have started taking art classes even in the second semester. And then realized that I liked it a lot. And just switched then officially. Maybe by the time I was a sophomore. So I 5:00 think I got at least some of those basic drawing and design classes in early on. Lange: Mm hmm. And do you remember who your teachers were? Tetenbaum: Well they were always TAs at that point. One of them was a guy by the name of Jim Linehan. And I might have forgotten his name, except that my friend Walter Tisdale, who I don't know if you've interviewed yet-- Lange: I did. Tetenbaum: --is friends with him up in Bangor. I think he might teach up in Orono or something like that. So he reminded me of Jim. And the other one, what was her name? Janice? Oh, God, something like that. She was kind of wild. And mostly sat back. I don't know if they allowed smoking in the classroom, but I almost think she smoked in the classroom. (SL laughs) You know, and just kind of say these things. And of course, these people make huge impressions on you, because they're your first, you know, real live artists, in a way, depending on where you've grown up. But Jim, I thought, was a really good teacher. This other 6:00 woman, I liked her only that she was very freeing. She taught without saying very much. And I don't know, I just felt like gave me a lot of space to explore. I know that there's definitely much more hardcore TAs out there. One of my other friends who I collaborated with, Phyllis McGibbon, I know when she was a TA in basic drawing or design, that some of those students said that that to this day is still the best class that they ever had. I wouldn't say that necessarily about my experiences, but I do appreciate them anyhow. And then I think I just followed mostly a 2D track. I did a lot of drawing with, was his name Butor? Mel Butor? I'm trying to remember his first name. I took life drawing from him. And he was really experimental, so I took a number of his classes. And I think through the figure really learned a lot about drawing. Really got my hand to try a lot of different moves, experiment with the page, different mediums. Yeah, I would say I didn't necessarily learn anatomy from him. There was other life drawing teachers that really focused on learning that perfect anatomy. But he 7:00 really got one to kind of free up their eye and their hand just through the model. So I really liked him. And I took painting from also a variety of instructors, and enjoyed that a lot. And I thought this was what I was going to do. And yeah, and did pretty well. I think, I'm trying to remember if it was before I graduated, but I got a couple of awards in one of the juried student shows. And got an award in another juried student show. So my parents paid attention to that and thought well, this can't be all bad, even though, I was sending them home bits of my artwork. But I don't know, maybe parents are parents, but they didn't really pay attention until somebody else validated my work somehow. I started taking metals with Fred Fenster, who I absolutely adored. And really loved metals. I loved how precious they were and I liked working small. But I did not like having everything melt if you held your torch too long, and 8:00 then you had to start over again. And it was around that time that I decided to go do a semester abroad. So in that time I went, I think it was the fall semester of my junior year, I went with a group of art students through the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. It was Robert Burkert and his wife, Nancy, Nancy Ekholm Burkert who's a pretty famous children's illustrator, children's book illustrator. They took six students to London in connection with a group of architects that were already going. So we kind of piggybacked on their experience and on the format of their experience. And during that time, because of their interests, we visited the Barcham Green paper mill down in Kent. When I was down there and we were signing in, Simon Green noticed that I said University of Wisconsin-Madison, and said, "Oh, you must be a student of Hamady's." And I didn't even know if Hamady was a woman or man. And I think I said something like, "No, I haven't studied with her yet." (laughs) But the name stuck in my head that this man who obviously was very admirable, 9:00 was very enthusiastic about the idea that I could be a student of Walter Hamady's. And then we also visited a book printer, Natalie d'Arbeloff. And I ended up doing some work for her, just volunteering and sort of hanging out in her studio and talking to her about her book work. And I was really fascinated with books. We also visited a paper conservator. And I think there was just something about, maybe the containment of it, and all of these possibilities, and the different worlds that these all connected to. You know, that you'd have writers, you'd have book conservators, you'd have paper makers. All these things that when you're a painter, you don't really talk about. It's not even on your radar. And so when I got back from that semester abroad, I decided to enroll in one of Walter's classes, since everybody had, feeling like more than one person had mentioned him. Lange: And Barb, I just want to set this in time. Was it in '78 that you were in London? Is that right? Tetenbaum: Yeah, so it would have been, was it the, I'm trying to remember if it was the spring or the fall. I felt like it must have been the spring of '78, actually, that's what it was. Yeah, because I remember then we had the summer and I was traveling in Europe after. Lange: Okay. Tetenbaum: So then, yeah, so it must have been the spring. And then in the fall, I enrolled in Walter Hamady's class. It was just called lettering. And it was one of those classes that I think that the university just made Walter teach. And Walter being Walter, as we found out from the first day, 10:00 just simply said, "Well, if you're here to learn lettering, you can drop, here's your drop/add form. And go down the hall and take this with Professor Anderson. But if you want to learn how to make books, then you can stay here with me." So I was one of those students that wanted to stay there with him. And that class just really was probably one of the most important classes I've ever taken. First of all, Walter was in really good form. He was happy. He was really productive. I mean, not like he's never not been productive. But he was doing, it felt like almost like a book a month. And his books were selling widely. He was married to Mary at the time, and they had just had twins. And they had Laura, and she was adorable. She still is, I'm sure, adorable. And he was just a happy camper, which from what 11:00 I'd heard from other students who had him in previous years, and in later years, that he was more of the sort of difficult character that I think many people unfortunately experienced. But there were a number of us that got him in what was the really sweet, I don't know how many years it was, but I would just say five years, five-year period where he was really happy and felt very appreciated. So kind of passed that along to his students. And anyway, so I was doing his lettering class, which was basically making one-of-a-kind books. And the class was meant to meet two days a week. And this was typical for Walter. He would show up for one of the days, and then not show up for the other. And on the day that he did show up, he would critique the work and then give you the next assignment. Maybe show you a little, you know, some slides to illuminate the assignment. And I don't know what it was, but I just, the work that I made, he was really happy about. So much that some of my fellow students would start 12:00 to say, you know, they would start to sneer at me. (laughs) They were jealous. Because you know, pleasing Walter was not easy. And to have him get excited about your work in front of other students was probably the biggest affirmation one could ever have in life. Because he was, you know, I mean, you wouldn't be doing this interview, I'm sure, if he didn't have a legacy. He was just a very, very charismatic person. Very smart. Very funny. And just seemed to have the life that we all wanted to lead. So I was making these books. And what I loved about them was that, as opposed to making a drawing or a painting where you've just got that one surface, and you've got to do whatever masterpiece idea on this single plane, often beginning with just plain paper or canvas, the idea of choosing different kinds of paper, of having a sequence of pages that would, in the end, the sum of which would become this masterpiece, and I use that in italics, that word, because I didn't think of my work as masterpieces. But you know what I mean. Lange: Mm hmm. Tetenbaum: So you know, 13:00 you could have a page spread and just have one red dot on it. And then turn the page and put a ton of information. And then turn the page and have another red dot. You didn't have to worry about each page spread, as long as the culmination of everything felt like it was bringing together what you wanted it to bring together. And I just remember, yeah, just having so many things open up to me at that time. The idea of, yeah, just, of that turning of pages of the relationship between the book and the reader, and the play, the kind of playfulness, which Walter did a lot in his own work. His colophons are very playful. I think they're unexpected for people who have never read a book like that before and then come to the colophon and they get this crazy autobiographical moment from Walter. So there's something about his own playing with the expectations of the reader that was, you know, translated to the rest of us. At least, those of us that were paying attention. So when I got to the end of that class, 14:00 Walter was very encouraging. And he said he really wanted me to take his typography class. And I had no interest in text whatsoever. I mean, I'd been raised in a family fairly oppressed by the written word, in a way, because I wasn't a great student. And I didn't know any writers. I wasn't a poet myself. I wasn't really a writer myself. And so the idea of taking a class where we had, you know, the focus was having to set words and print them on pages using machinery that I had no interest in, was really antithetical to my nature, which was much more, as I tell people, had I been a smoker, which I was not a smoker, is much more spontaneous. Like I'm the kind of reactive artist where I put a mark on a piece of paper and step back and look at it and then make something in response to that mark. So the idea of planning books and having to set type and having everything be so rigid, and to have this edition, they all had to look the same, just seemed really in antithesis to my nature. So I took papermaking. And then I did eventually take Walter's typography class. And that class, I mean, I liked it. I struggled with it a little bit. We did what 15:00 we called a folded broadside as the first project. And that's where my press name came, because we all had to go around the room and say what our press names were. And so I'll tell you that right now. That was (laughs) a misheard word by Jim Escalante, who was a graduate student at the time and was just sitting in on the class. And I had been doing a lot of drawing and painting again, still. And been working with repetitive triangular forms. I just really liked triangles. In friendships, I've always liked triangles. I like the dynamic of a triangle. And so I said out loud when it was my turn, I said, "Triangle Press." And Jim Escalante said, "Triangular Press?" And I just said yes. (laughter) I immediately liked it way better than Triangle Press. Triangular Press. So it just without my planning became Triangular Press in that moment. Lange: That's interesting. Tetenbaum: Yeah. And I've never looked back. I like it. Even though it's an odd name for a press in a way, doesn't really describe a press, I like still having to explain it. It's got a good story. So, let's see, where were we? Right. So you made a folded broadside. And so I made one. In fact, I was just staring at it the other day. And then we had to do a book project. And that's where I felt really stymied. Because I had no interest in text, as I said. I wasn't interested in poetry. And to be honest, when I was looking at the books that Walter would bring out from his office to put on the table and get us all interested, I noticed that nobody read the books. They would look 16:00 at the books. They would ooh and ah over the illustrations and the paper. They would look at the colophon and read these crazy colophons. Everyone was emulating Walter's style. And then they'd put it back down and say how wonderful it was. So I was thinking, well nobody's reading these books anyway, and I have nothing I really want to say. (laughs) So why don't I just make a book that's unreadable? And so I wrote my dad, who's a nuclear physicist. And he didn't know what I was up to. But I just asked him if he had any papers that he could send me, one of his scholarly papers. So he sent me a bunch of papers. And one of them had a diagram of a triangle that looked a lot like the broadside that I'd printed. It was almost exactly the image of the way that I'd folded the edges of the triangle in to make the broadside. And so I just chose this text. It was something like "Phased 17:00 Transformations in the Uranium Oxide Carbide via High Temperature Potentials and Systems." Or something like that. Anyway, it was a paper that he'd written. And I made a bunch of paper. Tore up a textbook, a physics textbook, and floated it in a vat and formed these sheets of paper for the end sheets that would have these inadvertent little pieces of, or happenstance pieces of textbook floating amongst the sheet. And then you know, started setting the type. Which of course was kind of ridiculous, because it's full of equations. It's really, really, really dense. But Walter wanted to know what everyone was up to. When he did grace us with his presence. He would always want to see our dummies in progress. And I didn't really have a dummy, but I just showed him this text I wanted to print. (laughs) And he looked at me like I was crazy and said, "What the hell is this? Why would you want to print this?" And I basically was kind of saying like I don't really know what to do. Because I don't have any friends that are writers. And he said, "Well, there's a whole creative writing department just down the street. Why don't you go over there and just get a graduate student or somebody. We'll give you a 18:00 text to work with." And I thought, I'm not going to do that. This is so not for me. I'm just going to finish this project, and that will be my swan song out of there. (laughs) So I worked on the project. I set the whole introduction. I had some plates made to illustrate the book. And then the whole guts of it, I was trying to think what am I going to do? Because this is not, I can't set all of this type. There wasn't enough type, and I didn't have all these equations. So I just photocopied it onto Kitakata paper. Which back then, photocopy machines were really not friendly to odd paper. So I'd end up with these accordion folded sheets coming out one end. But I managed to make enough copies for my edition of 25. And didn't show Walter any more of my dummies. And put my book on the table during the final critique, assuming that he would point and just send me out of the room and I would never come back again. And he picked up the book and started thumbing through it and then just 19:00 started laughing. I mean, I'd done a bunch of things. It wasn't just the text. I had played around with different papers. I'd done some things with masking tape. It had a foldout. It had those inclusions in the handmade paper. And he just put it down and he just said, "You can do whatever you want. You never need to show me a dummy. This is brilliant." Which you know, for Walter to say that is huge, as anybody knows. Because he's not always that enamored of other people's work. And you know, here I thought I was going to be scolded and sent out of the room. And instead I was being told that this was, you know, it really lit up this teacher who I thought had seen and could do everything. And a couple of things happened to also reinforce that affirmation. So that was the fall of 1979. And then my sister was studying at Wellesley College in Boston. I went out to visit her. And I took, of course, my little book with me. And she had a friend who was doing an internship at the Houghton Library at Harvard in the rare book room. And so we went over to visit with her friend. And we went down into the offices of the rare book library. And Eleanor Geary, I think her name was, she's the curator. And we were all introduced to her. And then when she heard I was 20:00 a student of Walter Hamady's, she just said, "Do you have any of your work with you?" So I pulled out this little book. And she starts looking at it. And then she just said, "How much?" And I was just bowled away. I hadn't even thought about a price or anything like that. And here the Harvard library wanted to buy my book that I thought was going to be the last thing that I ever printed in my life. (laughs) So I just gave her some quirky number like $37.50 or something like that. (laughs) And that was my first order was from Harvard. Lange: Wow. Tetenbaum: And then Walter also entered it in a show. There was some show at a college, I think Webster College, he knew somebody there. So he sent a bunch of student work down without even telling us. And my book got a prize as well. And so all of those things, obviously, if this happened to anybody, would be like the flashing neon sign with the giant pointing fingers showing you that this is the way. And also that, not only printed books and 21:00 books, but also that my bad attitude could be valid. And actually be something that would light people up and make them laugh. So this is, you know, when I was talking about my interest in psychology, this completely connects to that, that I had somehow managed to get people to notice something about themselves as they thumbed through this really precious book. And instead of getting beautiful literature, got this piece of basically unreadable physics text. Lange: How did your fellow students react? Tetenbaum: I think they, well, I don't know how they necessarily reacted in that moment. I mean, I'm going to see Kathy Kuehn, actually, this evening. So I can ask her if she remembers that critique. I can ask Tisdale if he remembers. But he had helped me make the paper, I think. Maybe not. It might have been this guy Kevin Kennedy. I don't know. They were probably delighted that I wasn't being scolded and probably curious about something that would make Walter so happy. And the fact that I now had carte 22:00 blanche to do whatever I wanted to do and didn't have to show him a dummy. So I felt pretty good myself. I don't think I rubbed it in their face in any way. But, yeah. And then, I mean to follow on the footsteps of that was kind of hard to do. But I continued to make books that I thought kept challenging something. Like every book I made, I thought well now I'm going to do this in order to make people think about this. And so my imagery and texts and choices of materials and all those sorts of things really were secondary to some way that I wanted the book to be a mirror back to the reader, if that makes sense. Lange: Mm hmm. Could you talk a little bit more about that? Tetenbaum: Sure. Just that idea? Or what the next books looked like? Lange: Well, I guess the idea first, and then maybe the next books. Tetenbaum: Well I think, yeah. So the book is this object that we all grow up with. At least, until recently. I don't know. Maybe kids don't grow up with them anymore. And it has this incredible history and authority that goes with it. We learn about the world through it. It's often a connecting experience between ourselves and our parents, or our babysitters. We 23:00 fear them in many ways. Textbooks in high school and junior high and all of that are sometimes too much to deal with, especially for certain people like myself. So I think a book is this incredible authoritative object. And we perform it, at least when I was growing up, we performed it every day. We would turn the pages, we would at its spine and we would contemplate it. It would be sitting around. We'd dog ear it. We'd take it back and forth to the library or inscribe in it. And so to think about taking that space and presenting something that was unexpected was really new at that time. I know that there were artists that were doing this. Artists like Dieter Roth and some of the Fluxus artists and other kinds of print artists. But I didn't know of them. So for me, I felt like I was sort of doing my own experiments in cognitive theory, or something like that, by making these books. Like okay, here's this thing. I'm going to hand it to you. And then you're going to open it and then you're going to be surprised. The surprise, though, is going to tell you not so much about me, but the surprise is going to tell you about yourself. You're going to be a witness 24:00 to your own assumptions. So that's kind of what I wanted to do. I didn't want to necessarily bowl people over with outlandish content or something that was so visually stunning that they would sit passively in front of the book. But I wanted them to have something that would draw them in and make them realize how complicit they were in creating content. Or at least, you know, questioning content, questioning the structure. So does that sound-- Lange: Yeah. Thank you for elaborating. I do want to follow up on some other things that you mentioned, too. You said that you took papermaking. Did you take papermaking with Walter Hamady? Tetenbaum: Yeah. Lange: Okay, you did. I know he taught that, but I didn't know if you took that with him or with somebody else. Tetenbaum: Right. But I have to say, he barely taught it. (laughs) I mean, I could probably count on three fingers the number of demos that he gave us. And that's even true for typography. What made Walter inspiring to so many of us, and make so many of us want to follow in his footsteps, was just him. It was just the force 25:00 of his personality and his clear love for books and all of their parts. But we learn from each other. I learned how to print probably from Jim Escalante, Kathy Kuehn, watching Walter Tisdale, Jim Lee, people like that. They were the ones that actually taught me how to print. And actually the printing press itself teaches you how to print. But Walter taught me, at least, and I'm assuming other people feel this way, he taught us how to see and what to look at and what was important. And so we might not have known how to get a good impression with the paper and the ink and the press, but we knew what one looked like. So we just figured out what not to do and what to do in order to get closer to that. He didn't just tell us, okay, you know, do this, do that. He showed us examples of good work, and obviously a lot of his own work. And to me that's, I think seeing is more important than being taught something step by step. 26:00 And it's sort of rubbed off on me as well. I know that I am more of a teacher than Walter was. But I know that my collection of artist books is easily as important as anything that comes out of my mouth, as what I can show my students and have them get excited and see what a good impression is. But I know that some people will never see that. And there's just some people that no matter how many times they're around, you know, well-printed books, well-bound books, they actually, that's not where their radar takes them. They're looking at other things. And so they might not have gotten to the same place that a bunch of us did. So, let's see. Where should I follow on that thought? Lange: Well, I was curious to know if, you said that you learned from other students, and I've heard that from others as well. Tetenbaum: Mm hmm. Lange: Was there a teaching assistant that was available? Or were you just really working with classmates? Tetenbaum: Yeah, there was no TA that I knew about. I think Kathy, Kathy had some kind of privilege stature. Walter really adored her and 27:00 really trusted her. Lange: I know she was an assistant of his. Tetenbaum: Right. I don't know, I don't think that she ever wore that badge in her own mind. I think she just thought okay, I'll hang out and I'll help people. Because that's just Kathy's nature is to help everybody make amazing things. And so in my mind, it wasn't so much that I was going to any particular assistant, more than I was just asking anybody around me. And because we had access to the studio 24/7, there were a bunch of us that always were doing the graveyard shift together. So the Walter Tisdale/Jim Lee/Tetenbaum trio was often the late night group. And we just, I don't know, we just kind of got it. You know, if you're making your own handmade paper, it's really forgiving. (laughs) And so in a way, you don't even need to learn how to print if you're printing on handmade paper, as long as you don't completely put way too much ink on there, or way too little ink. Because that soft paper 28:00 loves printing and loves ink. So I think I was lucky. Like looking back on those books and looking at the impression that I got, I think I was lucky to have made those books. Because I really didn't know what I was doing. But I don't know if it was Kathy Kuehn so much, but a number of years ago, there was, the Southern Graphics Conference came to Madison. And one of the projects that somebody did as a group project was something called Mitochondria which, if I can remember my biology, mitochondria's where certain RNA is sort of filtered, and often through the female. Something like that, anyway. You can leave this in, my bad science. But anyway, I decided for that project to copy out all of the colophons in the books that I had collected and traded from those years of making books, and just the years following, of all of the fellow students, and I think even Walter Hamady's books, too, that were made in that time. And what I did was I didn't copy out the entire colophon, but I 29:00 copied out all the bits of sentences in which somebody was thanks for having helped make this or help bound, you know, "Thank you to so and so for their illustration," or, "The hands of so and so and so and so came together to make the paper on a wintry," you know, night, or whatever all those colophons said. So there were a lot of them. There was easily like 70 little pamphlets. Or maybe not quite 70, but maybe 50 little pamphlets that I had gone through that all had these indications of names. And then I decided to assign colors to different people's names as they were, as they came up. Because often, at least in the time that I was there, you know, Walter Tisdale's name would appear more than once, or Pati Scobey name would appear more than once. But what was amazing was that Kathy Kuehn, who I just gave her this pink color, was like throughout everybody's project. And it felt like DNA. It felt like Kathy was the driving force behind so many of our projects. She contributed her time either just helping set type, she helped make paper, or made all the paper for a lot of projects. She would illustrate people's projects. I know for me, she helped me bind at least one of my books, if not more. You know, so looking back I realize more and more how much she created this culture of enthusiasm and kind of can-do. That she would just say, "Let's just do that. And I'll help you." And I had never had 30:00 anybody in art school ever say that. (laughs) And I think we all maybe took it for granted. We got used to it and we all started to help each other. I think it created an energy that continued beyond Kathy's time. And I don't know. It would be interesting to talk to people that graduated maybe in the later years of Walter's time there, to see if they had that same collaborative atmosphere. Have you had, I'm trying to think who you might have talked to. Lange: Well I talked to Christopher Wilde. And I think that they also collaborated. I think, you know, I don't know if it's like certain people, like you are saying with Kathy, kind of getting people to kind of partner up. Or if it's just the nature of making books, but it seems like, yeah, people do kind of come together and help each other out, which is really interesting. Tetenbaum: Yeah. It is a naturally collaborative medium. You're right. But I think having someone like Kathy, who first of all had so many talents, and then would just effortlessly say, you know, like, "Yeah, drive on up and let's bind that together." And next thing you'd know, you'd have your book bound. Lange: I am a little curious, too, about, you must have been one of the 31:00 younger people at that time. Because did you go straight from high school to college? Tetenbaum: Right. Lange: And then you were an undergraduate, and there were a lot of-- Tetenbaum: Right. Lange: --graduate students in the program as well. How did you, I know that you're saying that it was very collaborative and that people helped each other out. But did you have any, how did you feel being one of the younger people in the group, I guess? Tetenbaum: I mean, I think it gave me permission to be a punk, in a way. (SL laughs) Which I've been kind of a punk all my life. Even now that I'm 61, I'm still kind of the bad one in the back of the classroom, like writing notes and passing them in faculty meetings. But I think it just gave me a position that I didn't have to worry about feeling respected. I gave respect to all of these people, and assumed that I would have to then earn their respect. You know, whereas I 32:00 think if I was a graduate student, though knowing me, I may not have been this way, but there is that feeling of like you kind of strut around thinking, I'm the graduate student. (laughter) You're the class of undergrads that I have to now interact with. So I think it, yeah. I mean, Kathy was an undergrad, too, but she was a little bit older than me. And Walter also, I think, was a little bit older, even though he was an undergrad. Lange: That's right. Mm hmm. Tetenbaum: Yeah. But we're really similar in age, in general. Yeah. I don't know if I've answered your question, but I can't think of a better answer for that. Lange: Yeah, no, I just was curious. So I guess you were talking about your first book. And then you were talking about your approach in making books. And that you wanted to kind of invite the reader to participate more in the reading of the book, and not be so passive. Did you want to talk about other books that you made as a student? Is that kind of where you were headed? Tetenbaum: Yeah. Just like where the next two ones were. Because they were all important in their own way. I do think that first one pointed at so many things. And you can't make something like that again. But what I did do again, what I did do was I made a book that I thought well, the text is just going to be a way to guide your eye 33:00 through this book. And it's going to activate certain places that you're going to be force to look at, basically. (laughs) If I'm saying, I want you now to look at the gutter, the text is going to force you in a way to look at the gutter. If I'm saying I want you to open this tiny little triangle of paper, the text is in a way forcing you to do that. I mean, "forcing" is a strong word. So I made a book that I called Oabecedarian. Abecedarians are ABC books. And there's lots of those around. But I thought, what if I made an Oabecedarian. Because O, I think, is the only letter in our English language, at least as far as I know, that you can then follow with every other letter of the alphabet, including A, again, and find a work. I'm sorry, not A, O. (laughs) I was thinking of "aardvark" for a moment there. So, 34:00 "oogamous" being a double O in there. So what I did was I just had an alphabetical listing of those words. And they just simply dotted and bounced around the page. And so as you were turning the pages, they'd be in different locations. And then I made some little illustrations that were based on what I'd been doing in my drawing practice. And played with those in the gutter, doing a typical Hamady move of printing across the gutter so that things would be cut off by the binding itself and then emerge again on another side. Had a little thing in the middle that you had to open, and you got a bunch of other words. Yeah, I really had fun making that. And it was really freeing to have a teacher say I could do whatever I wanted to do, and not have to show a dummy, and just kind of go at it and not even know where I was going. Because that was clear. That's how I make books is I just start, and I don't even know what the binding is going to be, or the format. I just kind of go and I trust and I've only a couple of times ever worked my way into a corner I couldn't get 35:00 out of. So that was that book. And that went over well as well. And put me on the radar of Kathryn Clark from Twinrocker. She had come up to jury a show and saw that book and really liked it. So we traded that book for some paper. And then that became a conversation that led to an invitation for me to go down there and set up their press for them. And then the third book I made, I made with a visiting papermaker who was working with alternative fibers. All these grasses and Asian fibers that she had cooked and made using different kinds of techniques than I had ever learned. Her name was Ann Carroll. And she, I just thought instantly like I wanted to collaborate with her. And so she made me some paper than then I built a whole visual book around. And I just called that book Sequential Picture Plane. So it was a book without any text, and had all these little elements that were connected again to my drawing practice. And because I had plates made of them, I could use them like movable type. So if this certain thing was printed here, I could ink it up in a different color, position it in a different way, and print it on another page. So things were moving around in a way like movable type. And I was really enjoying that part of the puzzle of making books. Of reusing things, and getting things to have a new life, and creating vocabulary of shapes. And so yeah, 36:00 so that was my third book that I made before I left UW. I think the fourth book was my first book of poetry, then. And that was while I was at Twinrocker. We had met a poet named Willis Barnstone. And he, like all poets (laughs), wanted his book, his words to be printed in letterpress, of course. And I was looking to finally pay my dues and try my hand at printing poetry. So he was my first poet I ever worked with. But that's kind of jumping ahead, possibly. Should I back up? Lange: Could you tell me a little bit more about Twinrocker? Where was that again? Tetenbaum: In time or in place? Lange: I guess both. Tetenbaum: Okay. So Twinrocker is a hand paper mill in the middle of the Orville Redenbacher corn fields of Indiana, about maybe an hour north of Indianapolis, and about 15 minutes north of Lafayette, Indiana. And Howard and Kathryn Clark with 37:00 Kathryn's twin sister Peggy, had moved out from San Francisco to basically see this vision through of starting an American paper mill. Because hand mills had died out. People were still teaching a little bit of hand papermaking. But nobody was doing it as production anymore. And somebody had said to them, "You need to go do this. America needs you," basically. (laughs) And so they went back to Howard's family farm in Indiana and built this mill and started this amazing business that's still vital today. And so Kathryn had come up to jury one of the student shows. And she had seen my books. And like I said, really was enamored of them. And then wanted to trade for them. And I was just really enamored of her, and of course loved making paper, too. So the idea of possibly going to Twinrocker and making paper was really exciting. But she, taking one look at me in my five foot-one persona knew that I was not going to be going there to make paper. (laughs) Because she's really tall and has these long arms, and they make these giant, 30 by 40 sheets that they dip. And you have to be really tall and have long arms in order to do that. But she really wanted somebody to come down and establish their press for them. To get it all set up and to start making books and to do some things for Twinrocker. So when I was done, yeah, done with my studies, I went there. Did a little European thing first. You know, just biked around Europe. And then came back and took off for Indiana. And yeah, learned a lot. Learned I really wasn't ready, in many ways, to be my own business. I didn't know anything about anything. But fortunately Twinrocker was very generous, and didn't charge me 38:00 in any way for being there using the press. I guess because I was establishing the press for them, setting it up. And then I did a lot of job work for them personally and helped them with papermaking, just doing the dryer and things like that, laying sheets. All of that, which I really loved doing. I got to meet a lot of artists. Yeah, just really important people. And they took me seriously because I was connected with Twinrocker. So it gave me this, yeah, this feeling of authority that I didn't have any other way in my life. To be their printer in residence was sort of a big deal. Lange: And when was this, did you say? Tetenbaum: Oh this was, what would it be? I think I started in the winter of 1981. And then I stayed there for two and a half years, until I went to grad school. Yeah. And, yeah, I learned a lot. I learned a lot about papermaking. I mean, Walter had taught us papermaking and we'd all made decent sheets. But Twinrocker is really the best. They're the ones that do it to absolute perfection, and have 39:00 trained all the other. They're kind of like the Walter Hamadys of the papermaking world. You can basically look at everybody making paper, or teaching it, and you can trace them back to Kathryn and Howard Clark. So I feel really fortunate. We're about to have a reunion, actually, in October, of all the people who went through there. Lange: Oh, nice. Tetenbaum: Yeah. So let's see. So, yeah, that was really important. And I would say one other thing was that, and this goes back to Kathy Kuehn, is that she would write me these letters, send me little care packages when I was in Indiana. And she and Walter would say things like, "Well, what are you working on? What's your next book project? And when you're ready, come bring it up here and we'll help you bind it." And I didn't know if I was really a printer. I'd made those three books. And obviously Twinrocker wanted me to come print some stuff for them. But I didn't really, I hadn't self-identified completely as a book maker. But having them kind of talk to me as though that was just what I was, was 40:00 incredibly empowering. And I was like, oh, okay. I guess I should have a book under my belt. You know, it's like, again, back to music. Like if you happened to write a little ditty one day, and then didn't think to write another one, but somebody came up to you and just said, "I want to hear your next, where's that next ditty?" And you sort of feel empowered like oh, I guess the music that I made before said something. Maybe I have a voice. So it's hard to say whether I would not still be making books if Kathy hadn't written those letters. I don't know. But it really gave me a lot of courage, and made me feel instantly like I had an audience. And I think that's one of the most important things about artist books, is that your audience is at any moment. You don't have to wait for the show that 41:00 your gallery puts on their calendar every two or three years for you as a painter or sculptor. When you have a book finished, there's your exhibition. You can hand it to anybody and get that feedback that we all need as artists, to know whether our voice is being heard. Just, whatever. So, does that make sense? Lange: Yeah. It does. What did Kathy send you in the care packages? Do you remember? Tetenbaum: I do. And what's so funny, this is so Kathy. She doesn't remember any of it. But let's see. She sent me this green plaid Pendleton woman's jacket. Which is so funny, now that I'm in Portland. I wore it here when I first came. Then I gave it to somebody, because it fit them better. Then it had on there some old badges, too, like an old bowling badge and like a Girl Scout badge. It was really cool. Oh, and this is amazing. So there was the jacket. And then wrapped up in the jacket, she had printed me a letterhead, my own letterhead, with my press name on it and my Twinrocker post office 42:00 box. And that blew me away. Because I hadn't even made any branding for myself, or made a letterhead for myself. And the idea that she would go out of her way to print this beautiful little stack of letterhead. It just sealed the deal. Lange: That's a very thoughtful gift. Tetenbaum: Yeah. Lange: And then, what about, when did you work at the Silver Buckle Press, then? Tetenbaum: Yeah, so that, the Silver Buckle was, in a way, in line with this, almost like a hand off of jobs between Kathy and myself. So when I, let's see, how did this work? So after Twinrocker, I went to grad school. And then Kathy was also in grad school around then, too. And then I went off to Europe. And when I came back from Europe, I was going to move to Madison just temporarily before I went back to Germany to be with somebody who I thought I was going to marry. And in that time, Kathy was working at the Silver Buckle. But she was also working in the conservation department with Jim Dast, binding books. And she was thinking about making 43:00 this shift and moving to New York to take a job at Pace Editions. Or at least help out there. Maybe be an assistant or something like that. And I had just moved to town. And I got, first of all, a little job with Walter, which was good. I started making paper for him full-time. And then Kathy said, "You should take the Silver Buckle job." And I said, "Why would I want that job?" (laughs) You know, like why would I want to work at what felt like a stuffy, bored, overseen press with all sorts of historic equipment that I was going to have to--I mean, I didn't have to wear a costume or anything (SL laughs), but I thought this is going to be boring, and I'm not really that kind of printer. And so I told her, I'd rather have the job with Jim Dast and be in the bindery, that would be really wonderful. That would have been cool. I think I would have been happy in life with either of them. But since I thought I was only going to be in Madison for maybe a year while I got my act together to move back to Germany, I went ahead and applied for the job at the Silver Buckle. And so this is important. Because if I didn't think that I was going to be there longer than a year, I would not have been so bold to have said in my interview what I said. But I think because I did say it, and because they did give me the job, it actually made the job way better. And it gave me a reason to stay for the seven years that I ended up saying. So what I said to them was, because they were asking me, they said, "Well how can you move the Silver Buckle forward?" You know, give it more of a national, 44:00 put it on the national radar. And I said, "Well, you know, unless you let the printer do what they want to do, the projects are never going to reflect their enthusiasm. So you should just let the printer do whatever they want to do." That's what I said. (laughs) Which normally you would never say something so bold in an interview. But I didn't care if I got the job or not. And so when I did get the job, they said to me, "We're giving you the job. And we're also going to disband the advisory board." Which had been, I mean, it's sort of not the bane of Kathy's existence necessarily, but they had just micromanaged so many of these projects that weren't sellable. If you're going to put all that time and effort into setting type and binding and printing etcetera, you need to have something that's going to be worthy of the price tag and the time, and also is going to excite the printer. And so disbanding the advisory board was wonderful news. And then 45:00 she went on to say, "And we want to give you some extra money to go to Germany," and basically try to sell some of the stock that they had of all of these, you know, the books that were not moving in any other way. So they funded one of my first trips to the Frankfurt Book Fair, which was fantastic. And then that was really important, because that started to shift a lot of other things in my life. So the Silver Buckle was so wonderful. I mean, I just feel like even to this day, there's probably not a better job that one could have to be--and we were in the corner of Helen White, on the first floor. It was a little, what do you say? Carpeted room with big windows with curtains. And just this beautiful equipment. And privacy. So we could be there. I could hire graduate students. And I hired this really wonderful graduate student that I'm still close with today. And we could do whatever we wanted to do. We had to obviously make certificates, print certificates for the chancellor's office, do special posters and other kinds of tours and things like that. But the projects that I then did really showed my enthusiasm for the collection. I was able to 46:00 do this ornamental calendar that I'm really proud of to this day. Using, of course, all the ornaments, which everybody wants to do anyway. And I had developed a friendship with a wonderful poet named Michael Donaghy. And printed a number of his things at the press that did really well. And then also did this exquisite corpse that became pretty popular as well, where I got, I started to notice that there were a lot more people like myself using the Vandercook, or just letterpress printing, as a more painterly expression, rather than just playing around with kind of the classic ways of designing on the press. And so I wanted to capture in the moment what was going on around the country. So I invited 35 other printers to create one body part of a four-part exquisite corpse. So all they had to do was make one part of a body that I assigned them to a certain dimensions. I didn't give them the paper, but I gave them the dimensions. And then gave them little marks as to where parts should line up. And then had these beautiful boxes made by Book Lab in Texas. And when that project came together, it just 47:00 really did, I think, put the Silver Buckle Press on the map. A lot of people paid attention. And yeah, it was a really fun project. So I think, you know, I could have stayed there for a long, long time. I think just something in me, though, knew that if I didn't change my horizon, that other things in my life wouldn't shift. And I was really looking for some other things in my life to shift. So that was when I got this kind of tap on the shoulder to apply for the job out in Portland. And even though it was like half the amount of pay that I was getting at the Silver Buckle, it was a chance to completely revamp four years of a bookmaking program. And I thought, when does anyone ever get a chance to do that? So, yeah. I'm trying to think what I might have skipped over there in all that. (laughs) Lange: Well, I would like to get back to, and we can do this in the next session, if you like. But I would like to get back to your MFA at the Art Institute of Chicago. Tetenbaum: Oh, yeah. Mm hmm. Lange: But 48:00 I'm also curious. Would you be able to elaborate on like the kind of shifts that you were looking, what do you mean by that? Tetenbaum: In what way are we, I think I mentioned it in a few moments. Lange: Sure. You said that you enjoyed working at the Silver Buckle Press, but you were kind of looking for some other shift in your life. Tetenbaum: Oh, right. Lange: And I know you said then you got the offer, or you were told about the opportunity in Portland. Tetenbaum: Right. Lange: And I was just curious if you could elaborate on what you meant by that. Tetenbaum: Yes. So that, I think, well, I was frustrated in Madison, probably romantically. Madison seems to be, maybe it has changed, but it always had seemed to me as an undergrad, and then living there again, as a place for really helping women find strengths. So the place is full of amazing, strong women. And I had never found men to be as exciting as other women. And I was looking for a man. So I just kept thinking, I'm stagnant here, I know my routine. Every day I bike in, I stop at the Union, I get my bagel, I get my coffee, do 49:00 this thing, walk up State Street. And even though I was playing music and doing a bunch of other things, and had some really great friends, it just felt like I needed to leave town in order for something more to happen, that would be more exciting in my life. And I did get a Fulbright to teach in Leipzig in the former East Germany, right at the same time that I accepted the job for the Oregon College of Art and Crafts. I think I found out almost in the same week that I got both those things. So it seemed like, you know, adventure was on my horizon. And I'm sure that when you work at a press, when you live in a place like Madison, which is a major university, there's adventure, really, around every corner. It was more a reflection on me and my own, the boxes that I'd kind of built around my life that was keeping me feeling stagnant. And sure enough, when I moved to Portland, within the first summer I met somebody who I was then with for quite a while. But, my salary (laughs) was never as good. Definitely working at the Silver Buckle was way better for salary and perks and all of that. But back to graduate school. So when I was at Twinrocker, I was, you know, I'm not somebody who 50:00 really, I think, would ever make a living on my own as an artist or as a printer. I need--well, I probably need a paycheck. But I also need goals. I need somebody to be asking me to do things. That's when I work best. There always has to be something in front of me, a little bit of a carrot. And so having that kind of freedom at Twinrocker wasn't really getting me to produce very exciting work. I mean, I'm glad of the work I produced, but I didn't really jump in and start making all sorts of crazy books. But I began to think I really should go to graduate school and try to grow my artist brain a bit more. And so I applied to a bunch of schools. In fact, I applied to UW. And then just decided not to go. I thought, you know, if I go back to UW, I'll be right back under this lovely umbrella of Walter. But Walter had sort of changed. He'd divorced his wife and had become kind of bitter. And I wasn't 51:00 hearing very good stories. And you can keep that on the tape. (laughs) It's just part of the record. So I just decided to go to the Art Institute. That seemed to be the one that I felt like would challenge me the most. And I really wasn't that interested in pursuing letterpress printing there. What I wanted to do was try some other ways of making books. Try offset books, try other kinds of printed books or one of a kind books. And so when I was in grad school there, I would say an important thing happened in my first semester. My parents were living in Germany. My dad was doing some research abroad in Karlsruhe. And all of us kids went over to visit them over the Christmas break. And I had decided to go up to Berlin, to see Berlin. Which at that time, it was 1983, so we still had the wall. And so I had to take the train and go through all of that strangeness. And then got into Berlin, and stayed at the youth hostel there. And met this guy there who was going over to East Berlin the next day. And 52:00 said if I wanted to, I could go with him. So I thought well, that would be interesting. I wouldn't have done it on my own. So I went with him. And it's a longer story than we really have time to tell. But it really shifted some things in me as well. I think seeing so dramatically the difference between a culture that is rife with capitalism, and all of the things that we think are privileged, but are all tied to buying and selling constantly at every moment. And then the complete, like just 180 degree shift in a world where people are only themselves. That's all they have is themselves. And I didn't speak German, so I couldn't necessarily know that. But we did visit a family that was a little mortified that I was there. I think they were not happy with this guy for bringing me. Lange: Why was that? Tetenbaum: Because of the Stasi. He was somebody who already was tolerated to be allowed to be a minister in 53:00 some way. I think he had a small congregation. Which you know, religion was pretty much banned in communism. But they tolerated bits of it. So he, I think having an American come to their home would you know, put them on a list. And clearly we were being followed. It was really, it was so bizarre. We went to museums, we were followed all through the museums. I don't know if they followed us all the way to this guy's apartment. But the guy was nervous. But they were so sweet to us. And there was just some moment of their humanity that I felt larger than anything I'd felt. And coming back then to West Germany, and then back to the States, I don't know, there was just something in my work that really shifted. I think it has a connection, again, to this interest in psychology. And I started making books that were ugly but 54:00 really challenged the notion of what made sense. So I started making books that were pure collage, where I would just cut up magazines and combine the pages together so that it was really up to you to make any sense about them. Which of course doesn't feel like a very Avant Garde idea. But back then, it was a little Avant Garde. (laughs) And I made a book that I'm really proud of called the old lady book, where every page on the left is an image of a woman leaning up against a stone fence, [catting?] lace. It's like an old black and white photograph. So she's always on the left. And then on the right is a sequence of pages that changes. And they start off as pages that seem very related to her. Here she is on the left, and then on the right there might be an image that looks like this could be her son. Or this is her husband doing something. But then it starts to shift even more, and you start to get things like a poodle, or a prizefighter, or upside down pair of shoes, or something like that. So what I was trying to do was to make people really aware of their own assumption that this book made sense, when in fact there was no relationship at all from any of these pictures to her. And so 55:00 I started working more in that way. And I really was enjoying and finding a different kind of success in accessing this other part of who I was. It's like I gave up all the preciousness of beautiful paper, beautiful printing, beautiful binding, and instead focused on these really raw attempts to show something very specific about the reader and the book. Did I explain that okay? Lange: Yes, thank you. Tetenbaum: So graduate school was really bad, I would say. I don't love the Art Institute of Chicago. Sorry, Art Institute of Chicago. I'm one of many who would say that. It's a school that really, especially for graduate students, really leaves you completely alone to figure everything out. I did have a good advisor. And I met Buzz Spector there. I met Felipe Ehrenberg there, and some other people that are in my field. Audrey Niffenegger was my student. David Sedaris was my student and friend. There's a whole bunch of people that are still out there doing other sorts of things that are powerful that I'm glad that I knew back in the day. But in terms of education, it really was up to us to piece together some sort of life. And some sort of education. And when I came 56:00 out of there, I thought this is not the life I want. I do not want to be an artist that has to chase down a curator. And pose as important at an opening. You know, and thing like that. Yeah, so in a way graduate school was really important for me to know what I didn't want in the world. And what my tolerances were. But also then, as I said, to introduce me to some really important people. Like Buzz Spector is still a really important character in my life. In fact, I got an email from him today. And, yeah. I'm trying to think where to go with this thought. Lange: Well I think, if you don't mind, I think we should wrap up for today. Tetenbaum: Sure. End of First Interview Session Second Interview Session (June 25, 2018): Digital File Lange: So today is June 25, 2018. I'm Sarah Lange with the Oral History Program at UW Madison. I'm talking with Barb Tetenbaum, book artist, UW alum, and professor at Oregon 57:00 College of Art & Craft. I'm at the UW Archives in Steenbock Library, and Barb is in Portland, Oregon. Barb, I wanted to start this session with a little bit of wrap-up from the last one. You mentioned that you met at the school of the Art Institute of Chicago Buzz Spector and Felipe Ehrenberg. And I wondered if you could talk a little bit about what you learned from them while you were in school. Tetenbaum: Sure. I took Buzz's class, he had an artist book history class, my first or second semester there at the school. And I had never met Buzz before. But I really liked him. He's very charming. He's really articulate. And I knew his work already. He lived not that far from me, so he would give me a ride home. I think it was twice a week I got rides home in the evening from him. And the conversations in the car were really what I value the most. He's good at fielding all kinds of, I think, young, you know, impressionable ideas about the world. And especially when you're in graduate school and you're at a place like the Art Institute, there's a lot of impulses and ideas that you're thinking are unique or that are challenging. And he was really 58:00 good at fielding them and mirroring back to me some things that he thought were interesting, and some things that he just challenged me to follow up on. So he also introduced me to more of the world of offset books. I was really more caught up in the fine press world of artist books. And he opened up the doors of looking at all kinds of people whose work I didn't know. So, yeah, he was really important to me, and we've stayed friends ever since. And then Felipe was only there for a semester. And I actually didn't even have his class. But he was somebody who I hung out with a little bit. And I showed him some of my early conceptual books. And I remember he took one of them that I was working on. And it was a really, it was an important one for me because it was one of those conceptual ones that I think I was telling you about before. And he kissed it. He just took it, he said, "This is great." And I thought, wow. That was sort of one of those other affirmations. Like to have Felipe really feel excited about what you'd done. And I stayed in touch with him over the years. So that was more difficult. He was often very hard to find on the planet. He was off doing things. Yeah, so that pretty much wraps up what I have to say about them. Lange: Sure. 59:00 And you also went to the paper and book intensive in Michigan before graduate school, which we didn't get to talk about last time. Could you tell us a little bit about that experience? Tetenbaum: Yeah, that also, I would say it was a huge life, career-changing experience. I was just invited by Tim Barrett to be an assistant, because Tim had invited Walter Hamady to come to that, what was the first paper and book intensive. Tim had already run a paper intensive at Ox-Bow. And this was the first paper and book intensive. And he was inviting the Clarks from Twinrocker, and I was working there at the time. And he'd also invited Walter Hamady. So he thought I'd make a good assistant. So I went, and what was really amazing about PDI was that it was this strange concoction of individuals that normally would never cross paths, necessarily. I 60:00 mean, it's not like book conservators don't cross paths with book binders. But I would say there were a lot of crazy artist types. You know, papermakers that were throwing pulp around, people like myself who were very experimental and didn't know anything about historic bindings, or even that much of the history of the book. And then bringing them together with people like Bill Anthony. I'm trying to remember, Gary Frost, Hedi Kyle, Keith Smith, all kinds of people like that were there either that first year or in the next years. And because I was an assistant, I had a lot of one-on-one time with people like Gary Frost and Hedi Kyle. And we were all partying together. Because you're kind of off in the woods, in the dunes, and in this kind of crazy location. Just partying together, and then studying and making work together. And I think that that sort of concoction, that recipe, produced a lot of shift in the 61:00 book arts, as far as I can see. I mean, it produced a lot of shift in my own career meeting all of those people. They became my friends and colleagues. They gave me invitations. I brought them places. Collaborations happened. And just kind of a sense of, again, affirmation that my little wee voice was actually interesting and important to them. But, what was I going to say? I think the special alchemy of having all of these odd, these people from these different disciplines play volleyball together and eat dinner together and study together, meant that there was cross-communication about materials, structures, just different kinds of approaches. Adhesives, things like that. So we were all influencing each other. And you can see almost from that point on a shift in book arts where there's now all of this really nice flax hand papermaking covers and historic structures being incorporated into more experimental artist books. And then certain unusual techniques being incorporated into conservation practices. And other sorts of things as well. And just collaborations and friendships. So a lot of the friends that I made in that first summer, in that second summer, at Ox-Bow PDI, I am still really, really close friends with and consider them my closest friends. So it was 62:00 a really important thing. And anyone listening to this podcast or interview should definitely have a summer of PDI if they can. That includes you, Sarah. Lange: (laughs) Thanks. Can you talk a little bit more about how you see the relationship between the book arts and conservation? Because I know last time you also mentioned your interest in working with Jim Dast here. Tetenbaum: Mm hmm. Lange: Can you talk a little bit about that? Tetenbaum: Well I think if you love making books then you also would love taking them apart and doing anything with them. I think that a book conservator is really one of the more interesting people, probably, around. You know, they study chemistry, they study history. Obviously they study binding. They also have to have a really strong philosophical grounding in order to know what the best treatment is. And so as people, they interest me. But I think also, we're all, so thinking about books in all of these hybrid ways and integrated ways, maybe as opposed to somebody who's just a conservator of works on paper, I think a book conservator is really thinking about mechanics of books, and even the impact of the reader. Because works on paper, they 63:00 might have a legacy of moving from one place to the next. But a book is really performed and read and often contains unexpected things. You know, you can open a book and find another artifact in there, or evidence of something that I don't think shows up so much in other sorts of area of conservation. I don't know if that answers what you were thinking. Lange: Yeah, it does. Thank you. I know also you were invited to teach at Artist Book Works. What was that like? Tetenbaum: Well I think, one thing I wanted to say about that offer was that I think, we had talked last time about how when I went to Twinrocker I didn't have a sense of myself continuing in the field. I didn't think of myself as having any authority. All I knew was I was going to this place and I was going to try to make another step. And so when I was in graduate school, I got an invitation sort of out of the blue from Barbara Myers. Let's see. No, that 64:00 wasn't her name. Sorry, I'm being really bad. But the head of Artist Book Works contacted me and asked me if I would teach an evening class there. And I had never talked before. And so the idea that she would track me down when I was just a freshman in graduate school, and then ask me to do something that to me seemed like a big responsibility, also made an impact on me. That, you know, for me to sort of reflect on an idea that I actually had something to offer. And so teaching there was a little frustrating. They didn't have their letterpress shop that well set up at that time. So my students had to set type out of cans of type. (laughs) And so I'd been pretty spoiled by all of my letterpress experiences up to then. But I had some really gung ho students anyway. I enjoyed it. And then I did teach a little bit. I was a TA at the Art Institute. And I started to teach here and there. So I think it was important for me, only that it introduced, to me, the idea that I had something to offer this growing 65:00 field. Lange: Thanks, Barb. I was going to ask you this later, but maybe because we're talking about teaching now, I read that you said, and this is a quote, you witnessed bad behavior of professors as an art student. And I wondered if you could talk a little bit about what you meant by that? Tetenbaum: (laughs) Oh, God! Well, I think anyone who went to the University of Wisconsin, or probably any university anywhere from like the '60s to maybe the late '80s, saw, unfortunately, a kind of a privileged, you know, sort of community of, I just have to say it, white men. Who used, who were given tenure early on in order to establish these departments, and didn't necessarily take their job that seriously. I would say there were many exceptions that fortunately I met. Fred Fenster being one of them. He was a fantastic teacher, and very, very dedicated to his students. And Walter, to a certain extent, was dedicated as a teacher. But he also would badmouth other professors to us all the time, in front of 66:00 them or in front of us, whatever. Or just in class. And we also witnessed attempts to hire women faculty fail, mostly because the women were asked to make coffee and do things that showed that the men didn't really consider them as equals. So I just remember thinking, why would I ever want to put myself in that position and become a faculty member? So I actually had no intention of going on to grad school to become a professor in any way. So I guess you can fill in the rest of the blanks on that. (laughs) I won't have to tell more stories. Lange: So I guess the other thing I was wondering is did they end up hiring a female faculty member while you were here, or in school? Tetenbaum: Well I know they tried. They had actually some pretty well known painters come through. But I think they left. I'm trying to remember. One of them is, I'm going to forget her name. I know that they hired Carol Pylant, but she might have been hired when I was at the art, sorry, when I was working at the Silver Buckle, maybe not when I was a student there. There was Eleanor Moty, who had, I think, a pretty good situation in the metals department. But there really weren't very many women faculty. There were more women TAs. And obviously a lot of women art students. But, you know, and back then, a lot of the professors married their students. I mean, Walter married his student Mary. And Warrington married his student. And I 67:00 don't know if Bill Weege married his student or not, but I mean, there was just a lot of probably behavior that would not be tolerated now. So it was just hard, I think, if you came from outside to really find a really welcoming audience, a welcoming faculty. So, yeah, I can't remember who they would have hired while I was there. Lange: You started to mention that you've collaborated with some of the people that you met at the paper and book intensive, and you also have collaborated with people who went to UW Madison. Could you talk a little bit about some of those books? And your collaborations and your process? Tetenbaum: Yeah. Yeah, I think one of my favorite collaborations was with Walter Tisdale. And that happened after we had both graduated, but when I was working at the Silver Buckle. And it was during the time when I was really using the letterpress more and more as what I call like a painting tool. And I had discovered pressure printing and was just playing around with all of those sorts of things. And in fact, the first Gymnopaedia, that we'll talk about later, came just around that time, too. So Walter and I wanted to make a book together. And it took a bunch of conversations, but eventually we landed on making a kind of an exquisite corpse that was using an accordion structure where each of us would just make single folio designs, that we would print in our own studios. He was in Bangor, Maine. And obviously I was in Madison. And we made guides so that our images would lock in together. And the image was of a big fish. It was the landlocked salmon. And we were thinking about the 68:00 book metaphorically as well. I mean, not about the book, sorry, about the salmon metaphorically. And Walter's been very interested in the landlocked salmon because it's a fish that swims in the river near where he lives. And he thinks about it also metaphorically, too. You know, this fish that's adapted to some of its limitations. So we made that book together. And it was pretty successful. It actually got a prize in Germany, an experimental book prize. And sold pretty well. It was, I think, a really beautiful book. It's one of my favorite books that I've ever made. And I think it showed me that I like collaborating. I think I hadn't done so much true collaboration. I might have like helped somebody bind a book, or do some little bit. But what it showed me was that when you collaborate with people that you admire, that it gives you a chance to imagine what they would do. So rather than me just thinking oh, I'm collaborating and here's a space for me to strut my stuff, 69:00 it's more, my attitude is more I'm collaborating with somebody, and it's a chance for me to kind of pretend that I'm them. (laughs) And do all the things that I would imagine that they would do. Because you know, when you admire somebody else's books, you can't necessarily just emulate them. But when you collaborate with them, you kind of have a chance to really think about, what would Walter do, or what would Julie do? Something like that. So I really loved the way that that collaboration came out. We also worked with Daniel Kelm to bind the book. And seeing that kind of high quality binding made a big difference. I also had done a very favorite collaboration with Phyllis McGibbon before that. Which was another accordion book. It's called, oh my goodness. It's a history of the world. And it came from a text that I found at the Silver Buckle, in one of those books that was on the 70:00 shelf. It was like these important dates that any educated businessperson should know. And of course the dates were all connected with famous men, or men doing things. No women. And everything very western. So we wanted to, Phyllis and I wanted to make a book where we illustrated it new, using this old text. But in a way inserting our ideas about how history truly is formed. And that book did really well. That one we designed all the pages together. Phyllis is an incredible, incredible lithographer and drawer. And she transferred all the collage images that we had selected for the pages, she transferred those to stones, and then kind of doctored them with this beautiful hand that she has. And then I did all the letterpress printing and binding to the book. And that was really great and fun. So it led, yeah, it led to other sorts of things. I think it was just like, you know, it's like a dating thing. (laughs) You find somebody you admire, and then you trade books with them for a little bit. And then maybe one day one of them 71:00 suggests that maybe you should collaborate. And then it's just interesting to see where things go. Because it opens up territory that you yourself have never explored, and also ways that you work. Like it made me see ways that I could work that I otherwise hadn't maybe given myself permission. Especially working with Julie Chen. Julie is a really very different bookmaker than me. I totally admire and love her work and love her as well. And she's very methodical, very planned. She really runs her texts past editors. She never makes a decision without making a new dummy. And she never makes her dummies without using actual materials that she will use in the final project. Whereas I am cheap and lazy and I kind of make things as I go. So the idea of making a dummy is like a joke. (laughter) And the idea of knowing even where I'm going is kind of a joke. So I think for the two of us to collaborate, she told me, was a way for her to be more spontaneous and for me to be more planned. But that really taught me a lot. You know, to have to slow down and work with Julie and wait for these very specific 72:00 dummies to be made. Which she was always really happy to throw together. But it's gotten me to think differently about some of my book making. And of course as a teacher, I encourage people to be more like Julie than like myself. (laughs) Lange: I know one of the books that you worked on together was Ode to a Grand Staircase. Tetenbaum: Uh huh. Lange: Could you talk a little bit more about the concept behind that one? Tetenbaum: Yeah. So that book, you know, we had thought about collaborating. And we didn't really know what would be the basis for our collaboration, because Julie was really used to either collaborating with somebody who didn't know book making at all, she'd done a few collaborations with sculptors and painters. But the idea of working with another book artist, I think was a little daunting. And for us to find common ground that would allow us each to be inspired to do our own thing was a little 73:00 bit, not difficult, but it took a while. And we realized we were both musicians. So she studied piano and I studied flute. And I had been really interested in Erik Satie because of the books that, you know, the Gymnopaedia that I'd been doing before. And I'm just interested in him as a character as well as kind of as an artist. And she had played the Gymnopedies as well as most piano students have to. So we thought, well, why don't we both listen to some of his recordings and we'll choose one and we'll make sort of sound pictures based on that. Because I at that time had been working with listening to music and making images based on music, and then making books that kind of played out that arc of that music. And so, but after we were thinking about that, we realized that what we really needed was text. Because that really grounds both people. It's like music is so open to interpretation, but text is a little bit more, you can lock into it more. So when we looked into Satie's music, we remembered that he wrote these crazy, you can't really even call them librettos, 74:00 but these texts that are inside the music. And if you know anything about Satie, he forbade anybody to sing them or to say them aloud. They were only for the musicians to read as they played. In a way to sort of light them up or to give them some kind of attitude. So he had two kinds of text. He had story texts, that would go through a whole piece of music that had a theme. And then he had little texts that were sort of like the traditional musical directions, like molto obbligato, or andante or pianissimo, or something like that. But he had his own little things that he would insert, that were things like, basically saying kind of like watch out, there's a priest behind you or some--(laughter) I don't think they were smoking pot back then, but he would have been. But he's just such an interesting character. And so we chose, mostly because of the text, we chose The March of the Grand Staircase, which is a very unknown, for a reason. It's not that interesting a piece of music. And we didn't even 75:00 really listen to the piece of music. What we did was we just used the text. And so we got together and we worked out a dummy. And the dummy was based on a structure that Julie had been playing around with, that was sort of like an itch that she needed to scratch, or however you'd say that. So we settled on this structure. And then we came up with a way of working. So I thought well, what if I just begin by printing on these pages, and then I send them to you, and then you print on them and you send them to me. And in the meantime, we had worked out generally how the text would be interacting with the structure. And it was up to me to print the text and to print the colophon and the notes and the title page and some labels. So that was up to me. And then Julie was going to also do the binding and the box making. And so she didn't know what I was up to. But obviously when she received her pages she felt like oh, what should she even do on top of these? I think she really liked the way they looked. To me, they had nothing on them. They just had polka dots, mostly. And some shapes. And then 76:00 she did all this amazing stuff on there that to this day, I cannot believe. And it's almost, I mean, I look at it and I almost don't see myself in it as much as I see her. Because I see what she did is so beautiful. But it is a good collaboration. And as people who collected Julie's work have pointed out, it's definitely a book that Julie would not have made herself. That it really does show the influence of working with somebody like me. And it's definitely not a book that I would have made myself. It's way more polished and structured. But I do love it. Lange: Thanks. That's really interesting. So you mentioned the Gymnopaedia series. Could you talk a little bit about that? Tetenbaum: Yeah, so that came out of, probably just a little frustration. I was working at the Silver Buckle, which was such a great job. But you know, when you work at the Silver Buckle, you need to do projects that the school, the university, in a way are going to at least nod at. I think I told you in the 77:00 other interview that they had disbanded the board, the little advisory board, which was a blessing that it was disbanded. But still I felt just an internal pressure that what I was going to work on was going to be of interest to the sort of scholarly nature of the university, or to the press. And, but I could still use the equipment for my own projects. So I just remember thinking, what if I just start printing, and I just don't watch where I'm going? I stick something in the press, cut up a bunch of paper, and just go at it. And I cut up all different stacks of paper. Like I cut up handmade paper that I'd made. I cut up old ledger paper, I cut up tissue paper. And old, I disbanded an old book. And so I had stacks of all of these things. And I had learned this technique of printing from tye pye wire from my German boyfriend, Elmar. And so I was using that in this project, I think for the first time as well. And I 78:00 really liked it. I liked just sending things through the press and editioning them. And not even knowing where they were going to go. And just reacting to whatever was on that page with another action. So you know, it meant that I was often printing many, many, many color runs. Because I wasn't strategizing. I was just kind of reacting. And then because I was printing on different kinds of paper, even though I was printing a certain shape that was interacting with another shape, that paper would affect it also differently. So I learned a lot about paper. In fact, you know, this would be a good assignment to give my students, now that I'm thinking about it. Because you do sort of learn things at different levels when you cut up different paper and you send it through. And so, the word Gymnopedies came to me not so much because of Erik Satie's music at that time, but because I had learned it as a, as its original definition, which is that it's a kind of athletic child's play. Or like a Greek athletic sporting play. And I liked the idea of it being play, because that's what it felt like. It was definitely not work when I was doing it. And yeah, I sent it to my dealer and he sold a bunch of them. So even though there was like just crazy mark making all through it, they had a place out there in the world. And then I ended up, not really at all trying to emulate Walter Hamady, who has his Gabberjab series, but I realized that this idea of Gymnopedies gave me permission to do a series of projects, 79:00 anything whenever I felt like it. So I continued to create books under that name. And did one just this last year as well. The number five. Lange: Can you talk a little bit about, well, first, I guess, I know the Kohler Art Library has some of the early ones. And there's, you used wallpaper and the handmade paper, and also pages from a novel. And I was just curious, I noticed that in those pages from the novel, the name Barbara came up. Is that partly why you chose that? Or how did you choose the pages from the novel that you were going to use for the book? Tetenbaum: Oh. You know, I don't even know if I saw that. (laughter) You know, I remember taking apart this novel. But it's funny, I don't own a copy that has Barbara in it. So I totally forgot if that was the reason. My copy that I kept has all these advertisements at the end, which are really, like they have all of this imagery. So I kept that one. Lange: Okay. Tetenbaum: So who knows? Maybe I was thinking that it said something to me because of 80:00 the word Barbara. Lange: Okay. I was just curious. Well what about some of the other ones? Like your most recent one that you worked on. Can you talk a little bit about that one? Tetenbaum: Yeah. That one came out of a couple of impulses. And so the two impulses were to make a book that was a refuge for just me personally. I wanted to make a book that was so not necessarily beautiful, but had all the things that I would like to look at, as a way of being a salve or a refuge for all the, just the nonsense that was going on during the campaigns. It wasn't even what's happened since. But just even during the campaign period. Just listening to the radio and hearing all of just what was going on. It just made me so depressed and distraught. So I felt like I needed a refuge. And I wanted to make a book that when I opened it I could just lose myself in it. It didn't matter if it was for anybody else. But I knew I would edition it. And I wanted to work with pressure printing and plaid designs. Like using tape to make different kinds of plaids. And I was even going to call the book Plaid Therapy. Because 81:00 I do think there's something about plaid that's just very friendly. Especially out here in the Pacific Northwest. So I was kind of working on that idea. But then I had written a text when I was living in Leipzig last. I was healing, I was trying to heal from a broken heart. And I thought that be being in Germany, that certain things that I was thinking about, certain things that were said during the time of this breakup, would somehow be lost because I'd be in this foreign country, and there'd be German being spoken all around me, and I wouldn't--but actually the opposite happened. The English words had, in a way, more of a loudness because they weren't, you know, there was no other English to interfere with them. And so while I was there, I remember thinking about what would it be like to have a day without words? You know, no words spoken, read, thought. Just completely beyond language. And you know, even if it's just for one day, you can kind of allow the scab to begin to form over the wound. Because that's the problem with heartbreak is that there's just too many things that reopen the wound every day. And so I had written this text while I was living in Leipzig that was going to go into its own book. And then I had abandoned it. I just got busy, really. And so when I was working on this Plaid Therapy book, I realized again it needed text. And I just thought, well why not put this text about heartbreak, in a way, it kind of was saying something about the same reason. I'm just trying to 82:00 escape from the words of the day. For me, the words of today was all this political discussion that was so, just completely wounding in its own way. And so it brought those two things together in this book. And then I decided, also, to make it a new Gymnopaedia. So, yeah, so the conceit on that book is just really making something that the images were really meant to be a soother for me. And then the text came from this moment of heartbreak, probably ten years ago. (laughs) Lange: Thanks for sharing that story. Tetenbaum: Sure. Lange: I also, oh, I wanted to ask you about A Powerfully Exciting Short Story, which we have here at the Kohler, too. Can you talk about, can you first describe that book and talk a little bit about how that came to be? Tetenbaum: Sure. So, it came to be, in a way, almost like, it's funny, because it's almost like I wanted to do another Gymnopaedia project. And I was ready to just birth 83:00 something. So I went into my shop and I put out all this collage material all over the table. All these things that I loved. So in a way, like all the things that are soothing. And it was overwhelming. It was like just too much. And for some reason, in that moment, I had this lightning flash in my brain of the entire Powerfully Exciting Short Story. For some reason, I once in a while get these really conceptual project ideas. And they come not by handling paper and materials, which is usually how my other books are birthed. They come completely, almost in negation of materials. And I just for some reason got this idea. And it is connected to work that I'd done before, but usually little framed pieces. But I got the idea, and I had to leave the studio. And I came in the house, and I sat down on the computer and wrote the entire story in that moment. I mean, it's not a very long text. But, and then I did run it past an editor who gave me some good advice. But that project in a way really needed the chaos 84:00 in order to find its moment. Like I do think that a lot of things are not birthed through a natural process. They're often birthed in, what is it, almost like in conflict. You know, I like to say nothing new comes from perfection. You kind of need like friction and conflict in order for anything new to appear. So in a way like I was dealing with the conflict of just having too much color and pattern and everything. So what came out of it was Powerfully Exciting Short Story. But that book, obviously, is tied to a lot of that psychology I was talking about last time. About what does it mean to be a reader in the presence of a book? How does the book present a certain level of expectation? So when you pick up a book and it's telling you that it's illustrated as well with little woodcuts. And then every time the illustrations, they're in parentheses, and they're just describe without even really telling 85:00 you much about them. It will just say, you know, "This illustration now perfectly illustrates the end of the book," or something like that. So I tried to make something that would have as little information as possible. That would get you the reader to realize that you were still creating a story in your mind. So just a funny aside is that a couple of years ago, I was invited to teach at a place called Fishtrap, which is a big, kind of like the PBI of the writing world except just out here in Oregon. And I was the only visual arts person. Usually they only have writers. So you have to read. Everybody has to read as part of a presentation. All these people come from far and wide to those events. So it was a packed audience of people. And I'm thinking, what am I going to read? I said, "Is it okay if I read a Michael Donaghy poem that I published, or something like that?" And they said, "Yeah, that's fine. But don't you have anything that you've written?" I said, well--and I had that little book. So I read it to this audience. And they were roaring with laughter. I mean, I could almost not finish the book. And I had never had that experience of really reading it out loud myself and then hearing a reaction. Like I've sat there while people read it and they smiled and laughed a little bit. But 86:00 this was a whole literary audience, and they just thought it was really brilliant. So there's another affirmation for you, Sarah. Chalking up all the affirmations in life, that was a good one. Lange: Well I think that was a perfect audience for that book as well. What about, I don't know if I'm skipping over anything that you want to talk about. But more recently, you worked on Mining My Antonia. Could you talk about that book? Tetenbaum: Sure. So it's a longer conversation. I'll try to summarize it. So that book came out of a long process (laughs) of trying to repackage, in book form, an installation that I'd done at Reed College from reading a book. So the book was My Antonia, or as I just say, My Antonia, [accenting the second syllable] because I listened to it on an audio book, and the reader called it My Antonia. 87:00 [accenting the second syllable] And I used the space of the gallery to try to map out my understanding as I listened to it. Almost like you're a child in the lap of your mother or babysitter, trying to construct the stories that are being read to you. So I used a lot of tape on the floor, mapping, assigning each character a different color of tape. And then using the whole space, thought that I would draw in space, and kind of doodle in a way. But what I didn't know, because I'd chosen a book I'd never read, was that the book, her writing was so incredible. I had absolutely no idea. I'd never read Cather. And I just found myself not wanting to draw, but instead wanting to type out all of these sentences and paragraphs that I was listening to and thinking, if anyone's going to come in this gallery, they're going to have to read this. Like nobody's escaping this room without reading this sentence. And so the whole gallery became, just basically like an exploded view of the novel. Like you were just wandering and there was text everywhere in all these different forms. And then the floor was this map. Anyway, it was unlike anything I'd done. And it wasn't 88:00 even clear whether it was art. (laughter) It's like I had done a really good research project. But the person who had invited me to do that project is also the person who has established and built the artist book collection at Reed. And she had said to me, "Wouldn't it be nice if you made an artist book now that repackaged, somehow, this? It would be great for us to have it in our collection." So I thought about that. And I kind of put it on the back burner. But then I had an invitation to go to Hartford and do the, a little like in-depth fellowship thing that they have there. And also, what was included was an invitation to do a print with their, they're like a print, I forget what they call it. They sponsor different artists to come, and then they publish a print. And so they said that they were going to have Kathy Kuehn be my printer, and I would go and do a print. And they didn't say, they didn't know what I was up to. They just thought that I would do this as part of my being there. And I thought well wouldn't it be fun to make an etching that re-drew the floor of the gallery, but in some kind of new way. So I could have a big image of 89:00 that. And I just thought that could be a nice project. So I went to Hartford and worked on that etching with Kathy. And while I was, while we were in New York printing the etching, well, Kathy printing the etching (laughs) me helping her a little bit, Kathy said, "You know, you're really taking to etching. Why don't, while you're here, why don't I just prep you some little plates and you can work on them while I'm printing?" So she prepped me five little plates. And the thing is, there's five books in the novel. My Antonia is broken into five books. So I thought well why don't I do what I originally thought I would do with that installation? And I'll listen to the book again and I'll assign each plate one of those books. And every time I return to etch on this plate, I'll listen to only that part of the book. But I'll just again do automatic drawing. I'm not going 90:00 to be illustrating. So I made these five plates. And Kathy printed them. So when we went back to Hartford, we showed them to Jim Lee and the people that had invited me. And the guy said, "Well, we consider this part of your being here." If you did this in New York with Kathy, then in a sense, this also belongs to us. Which is fine. But then they wanted it somehow packaged together. And if you've got this map, which, you know, was a beautiful map, and on its own would have been a nice piece to frame. But then you have these etchings that nobody really knows what the two things are about. I thought well we're going to need to make a book to join the two together. And so that became my own challenge, and actually my own burden as well. Because I mean, they supported it to a certain extent, but it really was then my own doing. But I worked solidly a year on creating the book that went with that. Because I felt like nobody would understand otherwise those etchings and that map without the book. And so what the 91:00 book did was it led you through a series of excerpts, the same ones that I was fixated on, that I used in the installation. And then gave space for the map to be folded down and put in. Anyway, I'm very proud of that project because it was really hard to wrangle. You know, when you have two things that just do not want to fit together, and then you figure out a way to make them fit together, and elegantly. And actually, Julie Chen was visiting me when I was trying to come up with a solution for the binding. And she gave me one of the little moves that really makes it so beautiful. So, yeah. And then that led to the project I'm working on now, which is the slow read. Which we can talk about at the end of our interview, if you want. Or now. Lange: You can talk about it now, if you like. Tetenbaum: Okay. Lange: I do have one quick follow-up question, though. Since you really liked Cather's work so much, I'm curious if 92:00 you read any other books by her. Tetenbaum: Yeah, I have. I haven't read them all, though. I'm a pretty slow reader. I've read Death Comes for the Archbishop and Oh, Pioneers and Anderson's Bridge, is that what it's called? Yeah. And then A Lost Lady. Lost Lady, I think, is really--it's like very much characters that are in the background of My Antonia that you can see this is really related to so many things that Cather's talking about. But for some reason, you know, it's like, I can only compare it to something like the Bible. Like you have a text that's so good. It's so, first of all, beautifully written. Beautifully structured. In a way that's even not--it's dynamic. Like it defies time. And then the characters are so real, because they are real. They're all based on real people. And then of course the issues are really, of course, very timely right now. Immigration and women kind of struggling with male domination. Yeah. Friendship. Things like that. 93:00 There's a lot that you can go back to. And I think it's a book that I will never get tired of. So it's been a book that I've returned to for two other projects, in fact, besides the one I'm about to talk about. Because it continues to serve other interests. You know what I mean? Like it considers to be a muse for my own ideas. It's not that I, you know, I didn't intend to be kidnaped by this book. But it just works. And I have yet another project now in the works, too, that, yeah. I'll talk about at the end. Lange: So you'd rather talk about them at the end, do you think? Tetenbaum: Or, what would be a better way to follow right now? Lange: I think if you want to talk about them now, you're welcome to. Or we could also move on. Kind of the next thing that I wanted to ask you was why you continue to make artist books all these years. Tetenbaum: Yeah. Well I think, you know, if you're at all interested in your field, then the work of other people inspires you. And as Walter Tisdale used to say, one good book, like the best thing that a good book can elicit is another good book. And that's usually even from another person. So you know, if you 94:00 see something that really inspires you, then you're going to make something in response, and vice versa. Other people are going to respond to your work and make something in response. So I think that you know, as long as there's good work out there, I'm always going to have--it's not even a competitive streak. It's just, I'm inspired. I really think, it's like, here's an itch I need to scratch as well. And so, and obviously, sometimes it's collaborations come into being. Things are offered. Or I think a lot of us also rise to the occasion of being invited to do something based on a theme. So I know like Peter Koch has an extraction project going on right now that he's invited a whole bunch of people to do something for. And so I said yes. And so it gives me a chance to, and that's just actually a print, but it still gives me a chance to think about something from a 95:00 different point of view, and maybe try something I didn't have lined up already. And also, I'm still really kind of militant and on a mission about the book. I want to keep the book alive as a viable form of communication. And I think that all of us that are in the book arts doing our work in a way are pointing constantly to things that are important. Like the turning of a page, the unfolding of pages, the importance of materials, that Haptic knowledge of just even the packaging of content. The idea that you know, I mean, right now, you know, we have many files on our computer, and there's things that we can link, we can click on. But there's something about having that discrete object that you know you can reach for, that tells you something about the way that our minds work and the ways that our cultures work. So I think as long as I'm worried about the future of the book, I will continue to make books as a way to reinforce what's still really valid about them and needs to be maybe 96:00 explored even more. Lange: Thank you, Barb. I think that's also a good segue into talking about your teaching, and how is it for you teaching now. You've been teaching for a while, and things are different today. What is it like to be a teacher of book arts today? Tetenbaum: I'd say right now it's really exciting. You know, I think for a while when I first started teaching, you know, the internet hadn't taken off as much. There's definitely a reaction right now with young people. There are so many people that come to at least the Oregon College of Art & Craft in a way in direct response to growing up now with swiping and poking with one finger, of having their whole existence be based on that. So I'm getting students that are extremely passionate about wanting to make things with their hands, and love letterpress for the first time. (laughs) Whereas I would say maybe 20 years ago when I was teaching, you had 97:00 to really still try to convince people. Because there wasn't quite an urgency. Now there's much more of an urgency about it. And the idea of people, like all these kids now have Facebook pages. They have Instagram sites. They can so do much. But the idea of having something physical becomes even more powerful right now. So they're very enthusiastic, and I'm so delighted. Also, more and more the teaching of book arts has trickled into the high schools, and even grade school. So I'm getting students more and more that I am not their first book person. You know, it used to be that they'd come to college and they had never stitched anything together. And now they come and they show me all these things that they made with their teachers. And I just love teaching right now. I feel like it's the golden spot to be in. It's a refuge, for sure. It's a place to really be inspired as a person. Like every time I go in, I know I'm there to sort of inspire them. But boy, I feel like I get more 98:00 from them. And also, because it's an art school, it's very free. We can talk about all kinds of issues. So it's a place to be able to say anything I want to say. It's also a place to do kind of what I'm doing now with you, is that I get to tell my stories. And I never thought that they were valid until recently. And they eat them up. Like I can tell them like one Walter Hamady story after the next. And I think for them it's like a connection to a legacy that they don't get through the internet so much. So they love it when I tell the stories. And the stories are informative. They're instructive in their own way. They're not indulgent. A little bit indulgent. But it's really, it's fun. And I just right now have a great group of students. I think about them a lot. Lange: What kinds of things are they most interested, would you say? I don't know if it's really that there would 99:00 be a trend, but like what kinds of things are they interested in? Tetenbaum: Well, I think, you know, it's pretty all over the map. Just thinking about who graduated this year and kind of the work that came out of my advanced class, it really was all over the place. Like there was one person who, they just want to make functional objects. And they're making incredible stuff, incredibly well-crafted. But so fine-tuned to their own needs. Like you know, what does it mean to make your own day planner? What does it mean to make your own toolbox? But doing it at such a high level that it blows the rest of us away. I have another student who made, he's from France, and he made a really funny book kind of poking fun at the EU. But it really has a lot to do with his own feeling about the EU being this kind of faceless conglomeration of all of these people that are really in charge, but who are they? So you know, some of them I would say focus on politics. A lot of them are still, you know, they're undergrads, mostly, so they're figuring out who they are for the first time, many of them. Finding their voice. And so doing very personal work. And because, you know, I don't focus only on letterpress in my teaching, they work in all different mediums. You know, some of them make zines on the computer or with rubber stamps. Some of them are doing fine press work. Others are trying different things. So in a way, like I 100:00 wouldn't say that there's a cookie cutter either of them or as my, I don't think of my students as looking like me in any way. Lange: So it sounds like they're really playing with all different options in terms of whatever we want to call a book. Tetenbaum: Yeah. Yeah. They love binding. That's something that's clear. (laughs) And what I really am wishing for is for them really to get turned on to letterpress. I'm just finding that a little bit hard. I don't think we have enough of a, you know, like we don't have really the graduate programs like Iowa or Alabama. Places where you've got so many people all setting type all around you. Or even like Wisconsin. And when you're just relying on undergrads to inspire each other, and to kind of show each other what's possible, it's a little bit hard when there isn't just that bulk of people really dedicated to it every day. Once in 101:00 a while we get an artist in residence who will come in and do it. You know, focus on letterpress or on papermaking, something like that. And then you see a shift in the students right then and there. But it's always been one of the sad, sort of strange things is that they've had me, they've had Kathy Kuehn, they had Inge Bruggeman. And they also have Isabel Duffy right now. Really stellar, involved letterpress printers. And yet we're not cranking out really that many alumni that are putting themselves on the map of letterpress at all. So it may be that, you know, down the road if we have more of a graduate program, we'll see that. Lange: And Barb, can you tell me in your own words, like what do you see as the real benefits of letterpress printing? Tetenbaum: Oh, well just control. And knowledge. You know, I think you can, obviously you can do a lot on the computer. And there's tons of people doing amazing work on the computer. But lots of those people first set type by hand. So 102:00 even if they never became letterpress printers, they at least set type by hand. They learned about ink and ink on paper, and about what does it mean to have an object that has two sides, and thinking about what happens on both those sides. Because I think that the technology teaches and trains us to know what is best for it. And when you bypass--and actually I mean, what's sad is that we don't really teach calligraphy anymore. Our school used to be a big calligraphy school. And that's a long conversation about what changed. And I'm partly to blame for that. But you could say also that if you don't really learn to draw letterforms by hand, then you really don't ever learn anything. And I definitely probably don't know as much as I could about really good typography, because I never learned to draw letters. But letterpress also gives people so much control. Like one of the downsides I think of, you 103:00 know, being dependent on the Adobe Suite and all of these other things is that they're constantly changing. Either your computer no longer, you know, either as a physical object can support the new programs, they won't connect. Or that your printer somehow doesn't really print out what you think you're seeing. Or that, yeah, I mean, you're basically dependent on the program being able to do what you want it to do. But you end up doing what it tells you it can do. You know, your eye really defaults to its defaults, instead of really giving you the chance to just stick that tiny piece of National Geographic paper between the cap A and the cap W, which is what Walter Hamady would do. You know, like just cut up all these different kinds of paper. And then sometimes it would just be that one piece of National Geographic paper that was perfect for this thing. So it was up to you to really say this is the right spacing, and not whether you could get the computer to do it. So I think there's just learning control, learning about the history, learning about, like I do think also 104:00 that you learn more with constraints. And there's just such beautiful constraints in letterpress. Yeah. Lange: Thank you. That makes a lot of sense. I know that you also, I want to talk about some other opportunities that you've had in your career. You had a fellowship at the Center for the Book Arts in New York. Tetenbaum: Mm hmm. Lange: And you also have taught abroad. Could you tell us about those experiences? Tetenbaum: Yeah. The fellowship at the Center for the Book was only just a few days, really. It wasn't like a long creative time. But it gave me a chance to have a solo show there. I taught what they called a master class. And actually I did it on sort of music and the book arts, which was fun. And I also, what else did it do? Well, it just got me to New York, which I hadn't been there in a long time. So, yeah. It was an honor and yeah, fun to do in the end. The teaching abroad has had a big impact on my life. And definitely going to Germany, meeting Elmar originally, and then going to the Frankfurt Book Fair and meeting all of these colleagues, many of whom were teaching, or are now teaching if they weren't teaching then. And then meeting Christiane Baumgartner and 105:00 Sabine Golde when the wall came down, at the Frankfurt Book Fair. That led to this invitation to Leipzig that then I got this first Fulbright to teach there. And that, I think seeing, you know, different scenarios of how people think and how they work and their materials and their equipment. And then, of course, being influenced by their, you know, the disciplines. The different kind of discipline that they have, and just then as people, was a huge, huge thing for me. I mean, I think I now have a real like known connection to Germany. And if I go to Germany, people know my name, which is kind of crazy. But it just comes from this really nice meeting of the minds. And so, because I had the Fulbright in the early '90s, it led, I think, to other sorts of invitations. It led to more collaborations. I eventually went, I had another Fulbright in Czech Republic. And during that time, I went up to Germany and did, met, like 106:00 reconnected with everybody up there, and did a bunch of like talks and stuff like that. And just really admired the work of the Germans. I think there's just this beauty that comes from this unbroken tradition since Guttenberg of book design. And so, yeah, then I did my sabbatical back in Leipzig. And I was both a student and a teacher in Halle, which is a town nearby, at a school called the Burg Giebichenstein that my friend Sabine teaches at. And so that was really wonderful. I had a great time and worked with wonderful students. And also took a class and made something that I like. And it just keeps leading to more and more things. Including this summer I'm going to go to China with Sabine and another friend from Germany. We all three got invited to speak at the opening of a Chinese book designer, book artist, Lu Jingren. He's considered China's most famous book designer. So we all got invited to speak at his opening, 107:00 which is kind of daunting. But it all came from this connection, these people. And yeah, they continue to be a really important part of my life. Lange: That sounds pretty exciting, to go to China. What's all involved in that? Tetenbaum: Well, right now, getting a visa. And finding a good pair of shoes. (laughter) Because it's going to be I think like 100 degrees and 100 percent humidity is what I hear. It's Shanghai. Lange: Oh, wow. Tetenbaum: It's this August. And I'm only going for a week. So, yeah. Just figuring out. I have to get a talk together that will be relevant and interesting to them. So it's not just a talk about my work. I think they want to hear about the artist book scene in America, United States. But I'm going to focus more on the sort of realm that I fit into. I can't really speak about everything. Yeah. So that's exciting. Yeah, I periodically get visitors from Germany coming over here that want to come, either be at my school for a semester, or come give talks. And so I get to see people from there over here as well, and share them with my 108:00 students. Lange: And I know that you were going to talk about your most recent book project. Would you like to do that now? Tetenbaum: Sure. That's a good time. So, I'm working on--well, the project I'm working on right now is related to my book arts projects, but it's not a book. But it is my first web-based public art project. It's called The Slow Read. And it's an idea that came to me, you know, because of everything that's going on in my head. It came to me after I took a one-day workshop on video projection. I wasn't necessarily certain why I went to this workshop, but it was free. And I was looking at all the sort of crazy animated stuff going on in buildings that they were talking about and thinking well, what would I ever do with this technology? And so I of course imagined having like a big projection of a piece of text. And I thought about people standing there and reading. Which of 109:00 course people do anyway at memorials and other sorts of public sites. But then I thought, well what would it be like if pages turned? Like so the projection was of a book and the pages were turning. And you had to stand there and actually read pages. Or you read an entire book. And what if that book just kept turning its pages. And so I thought, well that's kind of actually a cool idea. And then it dawned on me that you know, the 100-year anniversary of publication of My Antonia was coming up in three years. And I thought whoa, what if I did something like this in honor of that novel, which I've been so connected to. And I feel like I should do something for the centenary. And so I started talking to some people and they all thought it was a great idea and wanted it at their institution. It wasn't like they just thought that's a good idea, go do that somewhere else. But they were like, "No, we want this at our institution." And so then I thought well, I'm going to need to do it differently. Because I can't have projections, something that was difficult enough to do once, at a bunch of different places. So what it's evolved into is a website-driven simulcast of six pages a day. They don't turn; there's no hand turning the page. But they shift. So it's a two-minute rotation of page spreads. The page spreads were scanned by the Cather archive for us 110:00 from a first edition copy of My Antonia. And then the website was designed by the same person who did my 25-year catalog, Adam McIsaac. It's so beautiful. And then he also oversaw the website engineering and design. And it launched on May 30th at the 63rd Cather spring conference, which of course is dedicated to My Antonia. And I got to present, I got to do a big outdoor projection there on one of the walls in Red Cloud, which is the town that she grew up in. And then present to all of these Cather scholars about my projects that I did in the past and then this project. So now it's running. It's running currently through August eleventh. And you can log on to the website, www.slowread.org and read along. When the pages are done, we're going to 111:00 keep the website alive. So you can go back and continue to read six pages a day, but you can do them in whatever order you want. And then the site also has visual concordance of all the projects that I did in relationship to the novel, and the blog that I'm posting to. So that's the craziest, biggest project I'll probably ever do. Definitely required the most funds and the most wearing of new hats and stress and fear. But now that it's going, I'm in love. I really love it. And then out of that, (laughs) just when I thought like okay, I'm done with you, Willa Cather, this project came to me from a friend who lives in Belfast who's been channeling John Cage a bit. He's really interested in John Cage's mesostics, which are these, kind of like a core sample of a novel through using the title of the book to grab certain words in the novel. So you always align, so Cage had taken Finnegan's Wake and positioned the title vertically, so F-i-n-n vertically stacked above each other. And then he went through that novel. And the first instance of a word that came up with an F, he records. And then the next one with an I, and the next one with an N, etcetera, etcetera. So you're kind of grabbing these words however they come to create a new 112:00 text. And obviously, in order to get through the end of Finnegan's Wake, it would require hundreds and hundreds of more pages than--well, I don't know, it depends. I mean, it just depends on the title and what that grabs. But it can require way many more pages than the original novel. But it is like a core sample of that. So somebody sent me a mesostic that they had done of the introduction to My Antonia, and said would I consider publishing this. (laughs) So now we're working together with some local printers. And we're going to do a linotype version of the mesostic, but of the whole book as a way of honoring her in both, you know, her century that the novel kind of came out of, which is the early, what, sort of the 1800s. The linotype is there and she comes out of that and the novel comes out of that. And then the 20th century was more John Cage. And then us being of the 21st century. We'll try to figure out how the materials or the structure somehow belong in the 21st century. So that's going 113:00 to be the next project now, which I did not expect. But there it is. Lange: Thanks for sharing what you're up to now. I think really, I just wanted to ask if you had any final thoughts? If there was anything we didn't get to. And then like how you see your time at the UW as impacting your career? Tetenbaum: I don't know if there's anything that I didn't talk about that I need to talk about. You asked really good questions. I mean, definitely I would just say meeting Walter Hamady and taking those classes with him and with fellow students. You know, I think when you are fortunate enough to study with a cohort, that really is supportive and also continues to be in your lives from then on, you can't pay for that. There's no way to make that happen. And I just feel, you know, that--so yeah, that's actually the cohort. It's not so much the UW I'm talking about. But definitely, the UW just being a place that had so many resources. So many interesting people that you could go to lectures or go watch movies, or bump into so many interesting people. And then, of course, the libraries. So much of just hanging around the Memorial Library, and going through those card catalogs and randomly picking, you know, books to go look up, and all that kind of stuff. That kind of freedom of intellectual inquiry, I think. I don't know if I've ever had a situation that emulated that again. So I feel very fortunate to have gone to Madison, UW. Rah. (laughter) Lange: Well, thank you, Barb. I 114:00 appreciate your time. Tetenbaum: Thanks. This was fun. End of Second Interview Session Total time = 155 minutes End of Oral History # 115:00 116:00 117:00 118:00 119:00 120:00 121:00 122:00 123:00 124:00 125:00 126:00 127:00 128:00 129:00 130:00 131:00 132:00 133:00 134:00 135:00 136:00 137:00 138:00 139:00 140:00 141:00 142:00 143:00 144:00 145:00 146:00 147:00 148:00 149:00 150:00 151:00 152:00 153:00
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Partial Transcript: Barbara, you were born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and raised in the
Chicago area. Can you talk a little bit about growing up
Segment Synopsis: Barb Tetenbaum (BT) was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and grew up in the Chicago area, in Clarendon Hills. Her father was a scientist for General Electric and then Argonne National Laboratory. Her mom was also a scientist who then raised three children and eventually became a science teacher. They went to the Art Institute of Chicago and spent a year in England and traveled to museums throughout Europe. In high school, BT took ceramics, metals, design and drawing. In college, BT planned to focus on psychology, which is evident in her artists' books.
Keywords: Art Institute of Chicago; Clarendon Hills; England
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Partial Transcript: So I chose Madison not so intentionally. I really wanted to go
to a small school, not be absorbed into some giant experience.
Segment Synopsis: BT wanted to go to a small college, but her mom talked to her about UW-Madison's Integrated Liberal Studies program, which was like a little college within the big university. She really liked the ILS program but not the Psychology Department, so she decided to switch her major to art.
Keywords: Integrated Liberal Studies Program; Psychology Department
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Partial Transcript: And do you remember who your teachers were?
Segment Synopsis: Jim Linehan was a teaching assistant who taught BT one of her first college art classes. She took a number of 2D courses, including painting. Her parents weren't happy that she switched her major, but they paid more attention to her artwork after she won student awards for her work. She took metals with Fred Fenster and went to London with a group of art students from UW-Milwaukee. The semester abroad trip was organized by Robert Burkert and Nancy Ekholm Burkert. On the trip, BT became interested in making books. When she got back to Madison, she took lettering with Walter Hamady.
Keywords: Art Classes; Study Abroad; Teaching Assistants
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Partial Transcript: And that class just really was probably one of the most
important classes I’ve ever taken. First of all, Walter was in really good form.
He was happy. He was really productive.
Segment Synopsis: Hamady's lettering class focused on making books. He was smart, funny and charismatic. Hamady was happy with BT's work and wanted her to take his typography class. She took papermaking first and then typography, which dealt with setting type. Her press name became Triangular Press.
Keywords: Papermaking; Triangular Press; Typography; Walter Hamady
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Partial Transcript: Right. So you made a folded broadside. And so I made one. In
fact, I was just staring at it the other day.
Segment Synopsis: She wasn't interested in working with text and felt that people weren't reading the artists' books Hamady brought to class, so she decided to make a book that was "unreadable" for an assignment. She asked her nuclear physicist father to send her one of his academic papers and used it as the text of her book. Hamady was delighted with it and told her she could do whatever she wanted from then on. She sold Phase Transformations in the U-C and U-C-o Systems via Controlled Oxygen and Carbon Potentials to Harvard Library.
Keywords: "Phase Transformations"; Academic papers
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Partial Transcript: And then, I mean to follow on the footsteps of that was kind of
hard to do. But I continued to make books that I thought kept challenging
something. Like every book I made, I thought well now I’m going to do this in
order to make people think about this.
Segment Synopsis: BT wanted her books to be a mirror back to the readers. She saw books traditionally as an authoritative object, and she was doing her own experiments in cognitive theory by created unexpected books. She wanted readers to feel complicit in the book experience. She took papermaking with Hamady, who taught her how to see. The students helped each other out, and handmade paper is very forgiving when it comes to printing.
Keywords: Cognitive thoery; Handmade paper
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Partial Transcript: But I don't know if it was Kathy Kuehn so much, but a number of
years ago, there was, the Southern Graphics Conference came to Madison.
Segment Synopsis: The Southern Graphics Conference came to Madison, and BT analyzed the colophons of books by Hamady and UW alums. Kathy Kuehn was "the driving force" behind many of the book projects and was mentioned in numerous colophons for her help.
Keywords: Colophons; Kathy Kuehn; Southern Graphics Conference
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Partial Transcript: It would be interesting to talk to people that graduated maybe
in the later years of Walter’s time there, to see if they had that same
collaborative atmosphere. Have you had, I’m trying to think who you might have
Segment Synopsis: BT reflections on the ways in which different people worked together within the art program. Being one of the younger students studying book arts gave BT "permission to be a punk."
Keywords: Collaborations; Graduate students
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Partial Transcript: So I guess you were talking about your first book. And then you
were talking about your approach in making books. And that you wanted to kind of
invite the reader to participate more in the reading of the book, and not be so
passive. Did you want to talk about other books that you made as a student? Is
that kind of where you were headed?
Segment Synopsis: Also while a student, BT made Oabecedarium, directing the readers' gaze to different locations on the pages. Kathryn Clark of Twinrocker admired that book and invited BT to set up their press. BT collaborated on Sequential Picture Plane with fiber artist Ann Caroll.
Keywords: Drawing; Fiber artist
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Partial Transcript: Could you tell me a little bit more about Twinrocker? Where was
Segment Synopsis: After graduating, BT helped establish the press at Twinrocker Handmade Paper in Indiana. Being their printer-in-residence gave BT a sense of authority, and she learned even more about papermaking.
Keywords: Handmade paper; Indiana; Twinrocker
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Partial Transcript: Yeah. So let’s see. So, yeah, that was really
Segment Synopsis: Kathy Keuhn and Walter Tisdale encouraged BT to think of herself as a book artist by asking about her next projects. Artists' books give you an audience: "When you have a book finished, there's your exhibition." Kuehn sent BT care packages.
Keywords: Book artist; Care packages; Kathy Kuehn
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Partial Transcript: And then, what about, when did you work at the Silver Buckle
Segment Synopsis: BT worked for seven years at the Silver Buckle Press after Kuehn. Silver Buckle funded BT's trip to the Frankfurt Book Fair. BT had more autonomy and hired student help. She coordinated A Printer's Exquisite Corpse and later left the Silver Buckle Press to teach book arts in Portland, Oregon.
Keywords: Europe; Frankfurt Book Fair; Silver Buckle Press
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Partial Transcript: I think, you know, I could have stayed [The Silver Buckle] for a
long, long time.
Segment Synopsis: Madison was full of strong women, but BT was frustrated romantically because she was looking for a relationship with a man. She found out she got the job at the Oregon College of Art and Craft as well as a Fulbright Scholarship to teach in Leipzig, Germany.
Keywords: Oregon College of Arts & Crafts
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Partial Transcript: But back to graduate school. So when I was at Twinrocker, I was,
you know, I’m not somebody who really, I think, would ever make a living on my
own as an artist or as a printer.
Segment Synopsis: In graduate school at the Art Institute of Chicago, BT wanted to make books using methods other than letterpress. During her first semester, she want to Germany and East Berlin. After her trip, she started making books that were "ugly but challenged the notion of what made sense." She made Old Lady Book to challenge readers' expectations.
Keywords: Art Institute of Chicago; East Germany; Letterpress
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Partial Transcript: So graduate school was really bad, I would say. I don’t love the
Art Institute of Chicago. Sorry, Art Institute of Chicago. I’m one of many who
would say that.
Segment Synopsis: The Art Institute didn't give much guidance, although BT met important artists and people there. Graduate school helped her understand what she didn't want.
Keywords: Art Institute of Chicago
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Partial Transcript: Barb, I wanted to start this session with a little bit of
wrap-up from the last one. You mentioned that you met at the school of the Art
Institute of Chicago Buzz Spector and Felipe Ehrenberg. And I wondered if you
could talk a little bit about what you learned from them while you were in
Segment Synopsis: As a graduate student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Barb Tetenbaum (BT) studied with Buzz Spector, who taught her about offset-printed books. She also met Felipe Ehrenberg, who was at the Art Institute for a semester.
Keywords: Art Institute of Chicago; Buzz Spector; Felipe Ehrenberg
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Partial Transcript: And you also went to the paper and book intensive in Michigan
before graduate school, which we didn’t get to talk about last time. Could you
tell us a little bit about that experience?
Segment Synopsis: Before graduate school, Tim Barrett invited BT to work as an assistant at the Paper and Book Intensive (PBI) in Michigan, a "career-changing experience." Walter Hamady, Hedi Kyle and Gary Frost were also at the first PBI. It led to a shift in the book arts and conservation practices.
Keywords: Book Conservators; Paper and Book Intensive; Paper-making; PBI
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Partial Transcript: Can you talk a little bit more about how you see the
relationship between the book arts and conservation? Because I know last time
you also mentioned your interest in working with Jim Dast here.
Segment Synopsis: Book conservators study history, chemistry and bookbinding. They think of the mechanics of books and the impact on readers.
Keywords: Book Conservation; Book Mechanics
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Partial Transcript: I know also you were invited to teach at Artist Books Works.
What was that like?
Segment Synopsis: BT taught at Artist Bookworks and then at the Art Institute as a TA. In the 1960s through the 1980s, some professors with tenure didn't take their responsibilities seriously, and some professors didn't accept female faculty members as equal. So BT didn't intend to teach.
Keywords: Teaching; Women faculty
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Partial Transcript: You started to mention that you’ve collaborated with some of the
people that you met at the paper and book intensive, and you also have
collaborated with people who went to UW Madison. Could you talk a little bit
about some of those books? And your collaborations and your
Segment Synopsis: BT collaborated with artists, including Walter Tisdale on Fishtales, Phyllis McGibbon on A Chronology of Events, and Julie Chen.
Keywords: Accordion structure; Letterpress; Lithography; Walter Tisdale
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Partial Transcript: I know one of the books that you worked on together was Ode to a
Segment Synopsis: BT discusses the origin of Ode to a Grand Staircase, a collaboration with Julie Chen. Both artists are also musicians, and they decided to make a work inspired by composer Erik Satie. They came up with a structure, and then BT began printing. The book became something that neither artist would have come up with on her own.
Keywords: Colophon; Erik Satie; Music
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Partial Transcript: So you mentioned the Gymnopedies series. Could you talk a little
bit about that?
Segment Synopsis: Gymnopaedia series was originally born out of frustration and full of play. In Gymnopaedia No. 5: A Day Without Words, BT paired soothing images with text from a heartbreak.
Keywords: Erik Satie; Germany; Heartbreak; Plaid; Tye Pye wire
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Partial Transcript: I wanted to ask you about A Powerfully Exciting Short Story,
which we have here at the Kohler, too. Can you talk about, can you first
describe that book and talk a little bit about how that came to
Segment Synopsis: A Powerfully Exciting Short Story asks "What does it mean to be a reader?" BT was invited to teach at Fishtrap's annual summer gathering, where she read from this book to an audience of writers, who were roaring with laughter.
Keywords: Psychology; Readers; Stories
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Partial Transcript: What about, I don't know if I’m skipping over anything that you
want to talk about. But more recently, you worked on Mining My Antonia. Could
you talk about that book?
Segment Synopsis: Mining My Antonia repackaged the experience of BT's installation inspired by the Willa Cather novel. Separately, BT received an invitation to Hartford to print with Kathy Kuehn. BT made plates of five automatic drawings turned etchings, each inspired by a section of My Antonia. The etchings became part of Mining My Antonia, which also includes excerpts from the novel used in the installation. BT has read more works by Cather, and Cather's work continues to inspire BT.
Keywords: Etchings; My Antonia; Willa Cather
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Partial Transcript: Kind of the next thing that I wanted to ask you was why you
continue to make artist books all these years.
Segment Synopsis: BT continues to make artists' books because she's inspired by the work of other book artists. She wants to keep the book alive as a form of communication and preserve the haptic experience of interacting with a book as an object.
Keywords: Future of books; Inspiration
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Partial Transcript: I think that’s also a good segue into talking about your
teaching, and how is it for you teaching now. You’ve been teaching for a while,
and things are different today. What is it like to be a teacher of book arts
Segment Synopsis: BT says in 2018 it's an exciting time to teach book arts. Students want to create books as a contrast to a world of swiping on digital devices. More students have had experience with book arts before they get to college. She shares stories about Walter Hamady and connects them to a legacy of making books. She mostly teaches undergraduates at the Oregon College of Art and Craft.
Keywords: Book binding; Digital; Letterpress; Oregon College of Art & Craft; Students; Teaching
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Partial Transcript: And Barb, can you tell me in your own words, like what do you
see as the real benefits of letterpress printing?
Segment Synopsis: The benefits of letterpress include control and knowledge. BT says working with computer software means the computer controls the typography, but you learn more with the constraints of letterpress. She says writing letter forms by hand is helpful experience when it comes to setting type.
Keywords: Computers; Letterpress
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Partial Transcript: You had a fellowship at the Center for the Book Arts in New
York. And you also have taught abroad. Could you tell us about those
Segment Synopsis: Teaching abroad had a big impact on BT's life. She was influenced by the people she met and continues to have connections in Germany.
Keywords: China; Germany; New York
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Partial Transcript: And I know that you were going to talk about your most recent
book project. Would you like to do that now?
Segment Synopsis: BT created The Slow Read project with collaborators to honor the centenary of the publication of Willa Cather's My Antonia.
Keywords: Public Art Project; Willa Cather
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Partial Transcript: I think really, I just wanted to ask if you had any final
thoughts? If there was anything we didn't get to. And then like how you see your
time at the UW as impacting your career?
Segment Synopsis: The UW had a lot of resources, and BT feels fortunate to have met the people in her cohort.
Keywords: Libraries; Walter Hamady