Johanna Drucker's Artist Books
An online repository of facsimiles, metadata, and commentary

As No Storm or The Any Port Party

1975



Project Statement


The nautical motif in images and binding combine with the stippled ink drawings to produce an effect that suggests a children's book, at first glance. The text is dense, rhymed, complex, almost unreadable in any straightforward sense. Thick with double entendres, allusions, puns, it is the story of a failed New Year's party I attended with my parents in what must have been the winter 1974-75. Betsy Davids had applied for and received funds from the NEA for a series of book projects, and she had invited me to be one of the artists. That invitation literally changed my life, since I moved back to the Bay Area from Santa Cruz, where I'd been living since 1973, in order to print the book with her in summer 1975. The result was that I got to know the emerging, vital book arts community, found my way to the West Coast Print Center, became part of a literary publishing and poetry scene, and in a very formative period of my life, was able to be in contact with a group of peers whose work and ideas pushed my own. As for this book, it remains one of the best produced of my works, particularly in that early period, thanks to Betsy's expertise, patience, and experience. The is somewhat baffling, impenetrable, an opaque textual object. The writing is shifted into a more fantastic register by the images than it might have been on its own, but unrelieved, the text would have been unreadable. Still, it was quite typical of the writing I did at the time, heavily knotted and turned inward on itself, but tightly structured, highly rhythmical, intricate. Likewise, the drawings have that obsessive naivete that was characteristic of my ink drawings in the early 1970s.


Production Narrative


The text and images were produced while I was still living in Santa Cruz. The drawings were pen and ink, carefully stippled, as were the initial caps. The drawings were translated into zinc plates (this was pre-digital and pre-polymer). The typographic decision took some time and we finally arrived at Van Dijk, a Dutch transitional face with humanistic features. A good choice, sturdy, robust, open, though now that I know more I might opt for Caslon, the Dutch face had a prettiness to it and slightly, just slightly, eccentric distinctiveness that were right. The actual printing was a considerable undertaking. The length of the run, 350 copies to get 325, I think, and the fact that we used damped paper, meant prep, set-up, and printing for every page was considerable. The type had been set in monotype, and the first two or perhaps three pages were composed by machine. Some slight modifications had to be made, such as the introduction of the dingbat for color in the text. The type wasn't strong enough to hold up to the illustrations without some kind of accent mark, even with the paragraph breaks, majuscules, and drop caps. The images were just so strong, graphically. The type was broken down, distributed, and reset for the rest of the book. I can't recall if we did all the text in sequence, and then all the images, or varied according to whim and mood. The entire production took most of the summer of 1975, with me and Betsy working in her garage. I had unemployment from my previous job in Santa Cruz (as a waitress) and so could manage to live in the apartment I shared with two other women in Oakland. Still, it was exhausting, and the stamina required to print every day, day in and day out, was considerable. Betsy and I got to know each other extremely well, a powerful bonding experience. I was reading Simone de Beauvoir memoirs and novels, all autobiographically based, about herself, Sartre, and a young woman with whom they triangulated their partnership. All odd parallels to my relation to Betsy and Jim Petrillo, her partner at the time. Our daily routine involved storytelling, life tales and reading tales, gossips, and spells of silence. All very positive. But at the end of the summer we found, to our dismay, that the combination of ink and damped paper had produced pages that did not dry. A skin formed on the surface, but pockets of ink remained trapped, and the effect was that each page rubbed off on its facing sheet. We were devastated. The solution we devised involved spraying each page with a dilute mixture of water and matte acrylic. That added another several weeks of laying out pages in the print studios at CCAC, spraying pages, waiting for them to dry, and so on. We drew maps of the United States from memory on the boards and devised all kinds of games to keep ourselves from going crazy, especially as all this came at the end of the summer and we were already tired, already thinking we had finished. Binding posed its own challenges, searching for grommets and canvas. We had adventures in the industrial zones of San Francisco, south of Market, trying to find information on grommetting. The men in the shops always said, "what do you girls want?" which made us laugh, since we thought of ourselves as being women, not girls in the least. I was 23 and Betsy was 36, but with her pre-Raphaelite delicacy, beauty, and slimnness and my sturdy, curly-headed youth, we must have been odd presences indeed in the machine shops. Lacing, knotting, and sewing the edges of the canvas were all tasks that I think fell largely to me, though Betsy may have a different recollection of this. I developed an allergy to the canvas, and sneezed hideously throughout the binding. How one suffers for one's art, I thought, finding the experience tedious and dull.


Critical Analysis

Design Features

typographic: The typeface was Van Dijk, with dingbats added for color, and the design of the layout was intended to break up the heavy text blocks into readable chunks.

imagery: The stipple drawings have a repleteness to them that is odd, almost grotesque, and the caricatured sensibility in the images reinforces the obsessive quality of the style.

graphical: The long lines imposed by the horizontal format benefit from the white space and chunks in the layout, and the generous margins stabilize the text blocks on the page.

openings: Each opening juxtaposes a page of text and an image. Each are very full and they complement each other in tone and density of matter as well as treatment.

turnings: The main feature of the turnings is the effect of the folded sheets on which the images are printed. These turn more stiffly.

development: SNothing except the story, and that is difficult to follow.

textual: Dense and highly metaphoric, tightly written.

Critical Discussion

As a book work, As No Storm has a clear design integrity. The visual and physical form of the book work in concert with its themes. The relationship between the images and texts gives a fantasy tone to the work overall, though the writing was grounded in observation. Perhaps the character of the images, with their odd stippled and slightly naive feel, reveals more about the work than not.

Work

Agents

Johanna Drucker

type: initiating

role:
artist
author


Betsy Davids

type: other

role:
production help
grommeting

nationality:
citizenship: American

dates:
other: 00/00/1970 Met.

note: Betsy Davids did the grommeting for the binding of this work. [A. Schutte]

note: Betsy was responsible for the production decisions in this work on many levels, and the quality of the printing and production reflect her involvement.

Publication Information

publisher: Rebis Press

dates:
publication: 1975-00-00

Aesthetic Profile

subject:
artists' books (LCSH)

themes: Party life, decadence, the monstrous strangeness of human social behaviors, the usual.

content form:
narrative (local)
experimental text (local)

publication tradition:
artists' book (local)

title note: The title translates as "A Snow Storm" followed by a twist on "Any Port in a Storm" combined with the word "Party" indicating the event on which the text was based.

inspiration: A New Year's Party, friends of my parents, and the mordant satiric precision of 18th and 19th century British novelists -- Fielding, Thackeray, Trollope, Eliot, with a hint of James.

related works: Among my books, nothing is really like this, except, oddly enough, the Fruit and Vegetable books for children I was working on at the same period, Tomato's Rescue has similarly drawn images, and Pupa House and Oh Oh, two draft manuscripts, are textually similar. Amazing to realize that the next published books were Fragile and 26 76, both of which have very different linguistic qualities. Abstract as they are, they are grappling with "the real" in some way, while As No Storm is trapped in a looped self-referentiality.

other influences: Hard to say what else played a role, maybe illustrated books of various kinds, nothing in particular was a direct influence.

community: none Though the writing and drawings were done outside of any community of practice, the book production brought me into contact with artists, printers, and poets. This really explains, in part, the difference between this book and later ones, even those produced within a year of this one's appearance.

Related Documents

manuscript type: texts

location: other

note: None remain, as far as I know, unless Betsy Davids has some.


Edition

Publication Information

edition type: editioned

publisher: Rebis Press

place: Oakland, California

edition size: 326 copies of which 26 are signed and alphabeted.

note: It would be interesting to know if all those copies actually sold. Now (2006) that seems like an outrageously high number of copies for such a project.

Measurements

horizontal: 9.75 inches closed

vertical: 8.25 inches closed

depth: .5 inches closed

Production Information

production means:
letterpress (local)

binding: grommets (local) grommeting, laced through with thin cotton rope.

substrate:
bookBlock: paper Rives rag
endsheets: paper Rives rag

media:
ink (local)

other materials: rope, canvas, grommets

Appearance

general description: As No Storm looks as if it was made from pieces of a sailboat. The covers are a thick, hard canvas with one delicate blue vertical stripe. The binding has been done by putting five grommets in the left side and then lacing rope through it, and tying it off at the top in an intricate knot. Inside, the text is punctuated with the use of drop caps, small caps, and all caps, and the page spreads each contain at least one full page illustration. The sheets on which the illustrations were printed are double, so the fore-edge has a fold, and the open end is bound into the spine.

format: codex (AAT)

cover: Stiff natural ivory colored canvas with a blue line of stitching down it.

color: no

Content

pagination: unpaginated 30 pages

numbered?: numbered

signed?: unsigned

Colophon

ONCE OR TWICE TRIPPED / HAND FED VANDERCOOKED ON MOISTY RIVES ALL RAG AT / REBIS from VAN DIJCK much monotyped and much hand-set then sewn and / grommeted and twined and all hard-canvassed on 326 copies of which 26 / are signed and alphabeted. All but the grommeting by BETSY DAVIDS / and JOHANNA DRUCKER now all done. / THIS PROJECT WAS SUPPORTED by a grant from the NATIONAL ENDOW- / MENT FOR THE ARTS, a federal aagency. Copyright 1975 JOHANNA / DRUCKER.