Thursday, June 5, 2014

Day 4 - A Flight of Tiny Creatures

I have begun printing and have 7 started thus far. I work on my prints in large groups and allow them to evolve together.  I have not yet gone to get the extra supplies I need in Chiang Mai, so I am working with what I have for now.

Across the floor of the studio, up the concrete pillar, through the bamboo branches, and occasionally, on my own skin infinite ants march in varying degrees of manic patterns.  There are more varieties than I can count - or even distinguish completely. There are the tiny black ants that have a treacherous highway with ever oncoming traffic along the bamboo trees. The slightly larger ants on the backsides of the climbing vines that work together building some sort of nest with fine white threads. There are the massive red ones I saw eating the remains of a scorpion that was killed along the road, and the tiny ones that bite, and are always squished before I remember to get a better look at them.

The geckos are not interested in this endless supply of protein on parade, but watch for the mid sided black bugs with large wings. They lay in wait on one side of the concrete pillar, or tree limb, until the winged thing buzzes just a little too close and snap! The gecko retrieves it on its tongue, leaving the wings outside its mouth while it chews. These little things are our house mates also, and since the bugs get in no matter how careful you are with the door, they are welcome houseguests.

Only for a minute, there was a bright red dragonfly the other day, so beautiful and vibrant, but as I moved to try to photograph it, the dragonfly darted off again and I haven't seen it since.

Butterflies are everywhere around the gardens and along the roadsides. Every color and size imaginable has danced through the garden and some, even swirling around one another as they dart from plant to plant. Eva and Maureen swear they saw a colorful butterfly that must have been a foot across a few days ago a the temple. I will have to take a walk over there one day and see if there are any more to be seen.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Day 2 - At Daybreak

I awoke to the roosters somewhere nearby crowing as the sun rose over the horizon. I ignored the first calls, but the sun peering through the skylights alerted me to rise when the second call came. It was 7am and the day had begun and I was missing the coolest part of it. As I sat before breakfast, the birds, lizards, and multitude of insects were already well into their daily doings.

I found my way to Doi Saket with Eva's instructions - it's a game of interpretation with the roads outside of the town center are winding and meet one another organically. I had already waited a bit too long into the day to make the journey on foot, so I quickly found what I needed, and checking the hardware store for some plywood I had foolishly hoped might be there.  Looks like I will need to travel into Chiang Mai to get a few things.

 As the heat of the day flared,  we dragged along at our labors. At lunch, it was decided that we would go swimming at a secret spot Ong and Maureen knew about at a reservoir. We packed up on two motorbikes, two on each with Lotion, one of the dogs, standing on Ong's handlebars; and made the journey past the dam and along pot-holed roads to the swimming spot. Although the water was significantly lower than it had been previously, the water was glorious - almost hot from baking in the sun. It was only cold about four feet down, where our toes dipped into the chilled water, and we stirred and kicked as we treaded water to bring the cold water up to us.

All around us, the jungle plants enveloped the ground, even though just a few months ago there had been a forest fire through some of this area; vines and large leafed plants had taken hold.  The milky green of the water and the burnt orange of the rocky ground was a world away from the place I had been just two days ago - stuck in the swamp of concrete and glass high rises - and now, the sky stretched out above us and the air clean and clear, and the birds calling back and forth to each other from somewhere amongst the green.

I will get to work tomorrow.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Day 1 - The Distance of the Moon

The night train from Bangkok barreled onward through the night. By the sun finally woke me from my tumultuous sleep, it was already cresting the low mountains and throwing light down onto the clouds of mist, hanging low to the vegetation. The rains last night and the night before had left things vibrant and alive.

With my 87 pounds worth of gear strapped and hung all around my body, I tumbled off the train at into the city of Chiang Mai. Ong met me at the train station and we made our way the 20km to the town of Doi Saket and the short drive up the road to ComPeung. We parked in the drive and unloaded the luggage into the white washed earthen house, made with fish food packaging, that will be my home for the next 4 weeks. Two friendly little dogs greeted us, Lotion and Luna.

After a quick settle in and a much needed shower, the coffee was ready and I met the living mates at ComPeung. Ong, the one who picked me up at the train, has built all three of the earthen houses over the past 10 years. His houses is the main gathering area for meals and holds the library.  Helen is the other half of ComPeung and was born in Thailand to diplomats and has lived here on and off. Eva is a Dutch painter who has been living at ComPeung for 6 weeks already, with 2 weeks left. She lives in the house across from mine. And last but not least, Maureen is Ong's girlfriend and teaches at a local school and writes freelance. All in all, the group is a good one.

I headed off for a walk around the lake in the afternoon, which brought many ideas to mind which will be fleshed out in the coming days. The rest of the day was filled with sketching, writing, and meals with the group, which Ong skillfully cooked for us.

I started reading Italio Calvino's Cosmicomics. The first story is called "The Distance of the Moon", which I borrowed for the title of this post, after reading how "There was always a flight of tiny creatures". Looking around my humble little abode, there is certainly an appreciation curve to the array of life that shares this space with me. I keep remembering the butterflies I saw along my walk and outside on the porch earlier in the day. Each of those little butterflies started as a caterpillar, built themselves a chrysalis and disappeared inside there. We call this process Metamorphosis and to those unknowing this sounds like we as upright standing human beings have figured it out. The truth is, those caterpillars go in, disintegrate into a mucus like goo and somehow come out the other side as a butterfly. I cannot stop thinking about that - there is nothing identifiable inside that chrysalis. The caterpillar is not sprouting wings and simply turning into a butterfly, it becomes an amalgam of cells floating freely in the chrysalis. And somehow - these cells reorganize themselves into a completely new outward appearing creature who, through this whole rebirth, still retains memories from its life before its ability to fly.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

One year in Bangkok, and now a shift North

It has been a fast year here in Bangkok, and I have been working on greeting cards, printed maps, and freelance projects. I started a part time job that turned full time without my realizing, but I am on my last day of work before I depart Bangkok for the month of June.

Several months ago, my proposal was selected for a Professional Development Fellowship. The Fellowship will fund a one-month Artist-in-Residence program at ComPeung, in Doi Saket, Chiang Mai Province.  I depart June 1st on the night train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.

Here goes!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Press A Card II

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting with Press A Card for an informal interview. Khun Nirut, owner, designer, and printer of Press A Card gave me the tour.

Trained as a Graphic Designer at Pratt, Nirut has worked for various design firms, including CNN. Alongside his work at Press A Card, Nirut teaches visual communication at Rangsit University in Bangkok. His wife, Khun Aum, is the managing director.

Press A Card is located off of Sukhumvit Soi 71. The building has two letterpress shops side by side; one belongs to his aunt's family, the second to his family. The family businesses continue to print receipt paper, invoices, and business cards; which is the largest market for letterpress printing in Thailand.
The Thai built press that started the shop is seated on the right. The press seated on the left is a Chinese model.

Nirut's family shop as seen from the 2nd floor

Left over jobs in movable type. Nirut jokes that each shelf is a computer folder containing various jobs for a business.

Like many people who grew up in family printshops, Nirut learned about movable type from redistributing spacing material before moving on to letter forms. After studying and working in the States, Nirut now turns to the press operators in his family's shops to learn how to use the machinery. Some of these men have been employed here for 20 years or more. 
Along with Thai type, there is also some Chinese type.
An employee of his aunt's business readies the Heidelberg.

The original cases from Charoen Aksorn Type foundry.

Two Thai founderies were RAS and Charoen Aksorn Type Foundry. Both of these foundries have since closed.

Most of the plates that are currently used zinc plates. There are several family run shops in Bangkok and around Thailand that produce these plates.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Current Locations : Bangkok Studio

I am working hard on my Press redesign, a variety of greeting cards, as well as several fine art projects. I cannot believe 5 months have come and gone in Bangkok already! I thought I would share with you an overview of my studio here. It has been working out quite nicely, actually. I am constantly amazed at how productive I can be once things are in their right place.

Tomorrow's task is to score and fold the Buddha cards and prepare for the next round of prints. Get ready!

Also, if you will notice outside the window, on the balcony, is Nick blissfully napping on our 9'x9' slice of something nice!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Press A Card

Today I took a little trip over to see the Press A Card letterpress shop. I met Khun Nirut, designer and founder of Press A Card. He has graciously agreed to have an interview with me in the near future, so stay tuned for that!

In the meantime, here's a few Thai Letterpress teasers .

There are still quite a few letterpress shops around Thailand, however, they are mostly producing invoice pages and things of that nature. The Thai foundry producing Thai letters has permanently closed its doors, so a lot of the work Press A Card makes uses custom made plates. They do, however, have some Thai faces in lead.