On a rainy Sunday (no, not all Sundays are rainy these days, but many), we headed for the Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair at the Seattle Center. We rode the ferry from Bainbridge and walked up the hill to the monorail – a Sunday morning city – quiet.
And it was hushed in the Exhibition Hall – a huge room full of aisles of booths manned by book people of all stripes – independent bookstores, dealers with first editions, collectors of posters, individual pages of manuscripts, and author correspondence.
My main goal was to visit Vamp and Tramp Booksellers. I don’t know how or if they assign those titles to each other, but Vicky Stewart is pretty with southern honey-tones in her voice, and her husband Bill is professorial and kind. Both are gracious. Together, they cross the country in a van with their goods aboard – handmade books consigned by the artists that Vamp and Tramp, with enthusiasm and care, represent.
They have a great web site (vampandtramp.com), but with artists’ books there is no substitute to seeing, holding, and opening pages. Vamp and Tramp make this possible by visiting book fairs and special collections at libraries and universities on their rounds.
Artists’ books are hard for galleries to exhibit, but they are comfortable owned by individuals or in special collections. Housed in custom made boxes in closed stacks, these often one-of-a-kind books are brought out by request for students and interested visitors, and for exhibitions organized around individual artists – or particular subjects.
To visit Vamp and Tramp at this book fair is a little like a visit to a collection. In a setting with many faded (but valuable) books, their books are colorful and inventive in shape and content – popup books (handmade and amazingly intricate), accordion folded books, elaborate hand bound books, and books of unexpected materials. I asked particularly to see books that contained text beyond letterpress (many book artists are printmakers, and they produce exquisitely beautiful volumes with large text blocks).
I’m curious because I want to make more books, and wonder now about beyond the year of the blog. Combining words and pictures is joy for me. The mechanics of constructing a book by hand is at the other end of the spectrum from sending out the blog with a push of a button. Paper pages or pixels – both a chance for expression.
On this visit I delivered my set of foldbooks, newly bound and housed in a red portfolio. On their circuit to Canada, back home to Alabama, and up the East Coast, Vamp and Tramp will show these books where they might be of interest – all before Christmas.
While I stay home and work – that’s inspiring – and I’m very grateful!