Writing, Printing, Typing

Emily Dickinson The Gorgeous Nothings contains images of fifty-two of Emily Dickinson’s envelope writings just as she wrote them: on the backsides of opened envelopes.

Penciled thoughts on irregular shapes, translucent and delicate, the hand scribed pieces are quietly powerful. Turning the pages, the images reminded me about the physicality of writing itself – the choices of tools and materials, a record of time and place. Not always linear, but sometimes sideways and upside down, the hand accommodating the mind in the moment of thought.

©Janis Stemmermann

One summer, immersed in reading Jeanette Winterson’s The Passion and loving her potent prose, I began experimenting with inscribing selected excerpts on the surfaces of objects I was making from tree trunks from the backyard. I would write, carve, and print the passages onto paper. Wrapping the words around the surface, the text became fragmented. From first look its meaning suggested, then in time pulling your eye around, moving to discover its full content.

Planning this new store, I had to do some thinking and writing. To sort my thoughts, I pulled out Odette’s 1940’s vintage typewriter and started typing on index cards at the kitchen table.

The snap of the strike, smell of the ribbon, the letter “i” getting stuck and the “o” always filling in black, “x”’s used for mistakes and uneven spacing began to fill up the cards. Thoughts came out and the stack of cards grew. The typed words on the small cards compacted ideas, made them easy to move, and tack up on the board.

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