Current food events

I have been posting more art stuff and less food stuff lately, but the food stuff is still happening. Here’s a quick run down:

-A dear friend and I have decided to conduct a study on the archaeological evidence on my property of foodways past. My yard has the remains of lots of former buildings, as well as the remains of many past pig roasts, etc., so I’m gathering and labeling bones in the bit of landscaping I’m doing, and then we’ll do a more comprehensive exploration later.

-I’m still plugging away at my next book, due to be published by Rowman and Littlefield next year. As with any research project, there are a million rabbit holes I want to go down that I just don’t have the space for–once I get a second to come up for air from writing the book I’ll get back to blogging about all the cool stuff I’m finding

-I’m bringing this 1615 wafer recipe to the holiday celebration for the prison classroom next month, which is a great opportunity to connect food history to some of the early modern lit and history they’ve been working with. Added bonus: If you click the link you can enjoy my neglected old food blog I made for my first book.

-In totally random news, I was interviewed for Mel Magazine.  I appear at the very end, but the sources I pointed to in my interview are scattered throughout. It also made an appearance in the Dollar Shave Club newsletter, so same story, two different pubs (but owned by the same folks). Enjoy!

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Calligraphy class with incarcerated scholars

Week One:

I just got back from teaching my first calligraphy class at the prison, and since so many colleagues have expressed interest in hearing how it goes, I wanted to put down a few quick thoughts:

-Applications: There are a lot of useful applications for teaching calligraphy in a college-level class (either within a prison or not). The main one for me in today’s discussions was using it as an additional way to help the men contextualize and find relevancy in historical documents and time periods. By gaining skills to understand how the letters were made, they are able to think about the process of sharing and creating information, and in so doing think about the impact that has on society.

-Tools: We used an affordable starter set of items, including graph paper pads for practice, plastic rulers, no. 2 pencils, and chisel-edged markers (much easier to bring in than a pile of nibs and pens. Cheaper, too). The men get to keep their supplies so that they can practice. For next week, we’ll be using slightly heavier-weight paper (we’re using sketch paper) to do projects.
N.B.: bring your calligraphy inks to class in plastic jars, not glass, if you do want to do a demo with nibs and ink. I’ll be doing a demo with ink next week…

-I structured today’s class to focus on learning the basics of calligraphy (pen angle/pen width, using ductus, etc.) so the men could focus on getting started with practicing right away and have lots of time to experiment and ask me questions. This seemed like a good approach, since everyone wanted to try all three hands I hoped to teach them, and having so many questions and answers helped everyone learn and improve more quickly than they may have if I just talked at them. You can find the materials I’m using for these classes in the ‘art instruction’ folder, which has the handouts and three ductus sheets I made.

-The handouts I made cover two main areas: the history of calligraphy, and how to do calligraphy. Next week, we’ll be discussing the history stuff while we work on creative projects using the letterforms we’ve learned, which will be helpful for contextualizing what they’ve been practicing.

-Today’s class reiterated some critical points about this kind of instructional work, which I mentioned in an earlier blog post: namely, keep the format loose (I bring in the ‘bones’ of the class and we build on those bones together based on students’ needs and interests), be flexible, have a sense of humor, and leave a lot of space for informal discussion and brainstorming.

-One thing I’ll add is to be encouraging (without being overwhelming) as well as encouraging experimentation and making mistakes. Calligraphy is a skill that no one learns overnight, and all our first attempts at new letterforms look sloppy. That can be defeating if you’re on your own, but in a supportive and curiosity-focused classroom space, that can be a fun challenge (at least for a lot of folks!)

-For designing these classes, one of my focal points is simple basic techniques and low-cost materials. That makes the class scaleable for me if I decide to do more such classes later, keeps it fun and engaging (and challenging, but not defeating) for students, and offers ideas for creative skill sets that are accessible. Calligraphy is great because the tools can be flexible (markers instead of nibs, etc) and once you have the skill down for making letterforms, there is a lot you can do with it. We’re brainstorming about future classes next time, but my suggestion will be something to do with zine making and collage.

Week Two:

-I had an amazing second week working with the guys–they practiced the letterforms quite a bit and came back with fantastic examples and great questions. We spend the second session as another work session, where we talked more in depth about materials and where I helped them troubleshoot their letterform construction. I brought them each a piece of Arches hot press paper (which is the standard in a lot of my calligraphy classes for either final projects or for solid draft pieces) so they could use it for an art project, if they so desired, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what they come up with.

-One of my big goals for the second session was to incorporate a brainstorming session where we would decide what to cover in our next session(s) together. I had the idea for a zine making and collage session, as I mentioned above, but prior to doing that they wanted some grounding in composition and design. So our next class together will probably be a design fundamentals + composition course, which will be great both for them as artists and to give them a good head start on a marketable skill to bring to employers when they are released.

Thanks as always to Common Good for bringing me in to teach–it is consistently a joy and an honor. And thanks to my mentor and friend Cheryl Jacobsen for endless hours of calligraphy instruction, as well as support and advice as I designed this class. To close, I’ll point you to this Instagram post, which may be one of my favorite teaching moments ever.

Calligraphy instruction resources

I’m referring to November as ‘calligraphy month’ this year, thanks to a very strong theme of making pretty letters in various settings.

If you missed it last week, I did a calligraphy demonstration at work, but you still have a chance to catch me doing calligraphy demos (and to try it yourself, if you so desire) at this month’s Curiosity Club.

The next two weeks I also will be heading back to work with Common Good, this time doing a couple calligraphy classes for the incarcerated scholars in the prison classroom. I’ll post interesting take-aways that might help other instructors once I do the sessions, but for now wanted to make a note that I added the handouts I’ll be using to my Dropbox folder of instructional resources. I’ve also organized it by subfolder for different audiences and types of outreach activities.
You’ll notice that the handout has a space for the ductus for three calligraphic hands, but does not  have the ductus (yet!) That’s because I’m redoing those worksheets this weekend, and will be scanning and adding them to the folder next week. But, if you do use the handout (or an iteration of it) you will at least have a sense of where I plan to put them. These are among my first publicly-shared ductus sheets, so if you have feedback I would be interested to hear it!

Interview up on Hack Library School!

I’m so excited to have the chance to go back to Hack Library School for a minute to talk with Stefanie about my experiences bringing rare books to the prison classroom, advocating for work with underserved communities, and what I’m hoping for the future.

You can read the article here!

Art updates

Recently I set a goal to work towards gallery representation for my art (if I say it publicly, then I’m committed to doing the work, right?) and one of my first steps in that is to update my art page with some more recent (and organized!) samples, plus create a publicly-accessible artist’s CV.  I am still in the early stages of my two current projects (Magic/k and Southern Wilds, which doesn’t have any completed pieces yet), so the boundaries around what those are and how I describe them will evolve as time goes on. I’ll also be adding more images to my portfolio soon as I get everything photographed, so check back regularly for updates!

Citation milestone!

Do you know when you don’t look at your paper citations for a while, then you do, and think ‘wow I had no idea I had reached this huge milestone at some point this year?’

I hadn’t checked my Google Scholar profile for a few months, and during that time my citations shot up to over 100 (as of this writing, I’m cited in 104 places).

I’m cracking open a bottle of champagne (ok, sparkling wine) this evening to celebrate.

Dark Arts Gallery

I was asked to include my work in an online-only exhibition–which is my first show done in a digital, rather than physical, space. There are some other great pieces in there, and the gallery owners are encouraging visitors to vote for their favorites. You can check out the gallery here!