Feel the Fell. Unique artist’s book of letterpress and offset letterpress ink on Chinese roll paper with handsewn whirlwind binding. Text by Gerard Manley Hopkins. Design and production by Ampersand Duck.
Held in the Artspace Mackay Collection, Queensland, Australia.
Feel the Fell was made for my solo show, Pressings, at Megalo in 2009. I often run pieces of paper through my press rollers at the end of the day to remove the excess ink before cleaning, and I keep every piece of paper, because I love the random and beautiful results. They speak to me of the process of printing (especially when I have used packing sheets, and there is overprinted embossed text that is picked up by the ink) and the process is a primary part of the experience of using letterpress, because the final printed product is often so similar to something that can be produced more easily by other printing methods.
Anyway, this piece came together when I was browsing through my high school copy of Norton’s Anthology and my eyes were caught by some lines I’d read years ago and had underlined, and then forgotten:
I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day.
What hours, O what black hours we have spent
This night! what sights you, heart, saw; ways you went!
And more must, in yet longer light’s delay.
With witness I speak this. But where I say
Hours I mean years, mean life. And my lament
Is cries countless, cries like dead letters sent
To dearest him that lives alas! away.
I am gall, I am heartburn. God’s most deep decree
Bitter would have me taste: my taste was me;
Bones built in me, flesh filled, blood brimmed the curse.
Selfyeast of spirit a dull dough sours. I see
The lost are like this, and their scourge to be
As I am mine, their sweating selves; but worse.
Gerard Manley Hopkins
And the first lines seemed all I needed to unlock an emotional darkness that the ink seemed perfectly eloquent enough to convey. It’s a very specific poem, but the despair is universal, and so I let the marks do their work.
It’s a lovely piece to look through, and until Artspace Mackay bought it, I encouraged people to use their hands without white gloves to flick through it (and now it is doomed to white-glove-dom forever!). You can see white gloves peeping through some of the images here… After a day or two of having them there, I decided they weren’t necessary, because most of the beauty is in the way the soft paper feels in your hands.
I made a box for it to live in, in which it rolls up like a scroll. The box is covered with a black slubbed bookcloth called Cannapetta, and has hand-stitched detail and ties in black waxed linen thread.
It was also exhibited at the 2010 Libris Awards in Mackay.
I also made a smaller version of this book for a friend who loved it but couldn’t buy the original. That one is also unique, and lives in Melbourne, hopefully being loved and handled. It’s box is recycled from an old bible.