Friday, December 4, 2015

Vending Distractions

Hi folks!

It's a lovely time of year--the rush to the end of the semester! Keep in mind, though, that there are bits of enjoyment and encouragement all around you to help you combat the stress that accompanies finals week. Two things in particular might be of interest to you:

First, a series of "poetry puzzles"--decoratively written classics of modern poetry, chopped into individual word fragments. Can you piece the poem back together without "cheating" (aka looking the poem up on the internet)? Or can you make your own poem out of the pieces? Try it and find out!!

Next, and perhaps more exciting: the first set of offerings from XU's own In the Loop crochet club! Check out these adorable amigurumi figurines for sale in the machine now. But hurry--they're bound to sell out quickly!

Hang in there--and keep making!


Friday, November 13, 2015


Hi folks!

It's been a busy Fall semester here at XU (so--nothing new!), but I wanted to give you all a heads-up on some of the cool new items featured in our vending machine!

First up, we have an awesome brochure entitled The History and Effects of I-71 & I-75, produced through the collective efforts of Xavier University Future of Justice students from Spring 2015. Check out their cool community engaged project work, which draws from archival research, interviews with community members, and philosophical study.

There's also been some additional work added to the vending machine from our own university professors--check out the chapbooks now on display written by English department faculty member (and amazing poet) Tyrone Williams!

XU's very own Art Society has been hard at work at producing a collectively-created print zine based on the work of Mark Mothersbaugh. A retrospective of Mothersbaugh's work is now on display at Cincinnati's Contemporary Arts Center; the Art Society's zine, entitled "Mark Mothersbaugh Print Zine," gives this show a run for it's money. But this is a limited edition product: only 5 zines were made! Come purchase yours soon!

Finally, in response to a recent E/RS lecture series event on campus, Ross Gay's talk and poetry reading of October 29th, the students of ENGL 121 Studies in Poetry have been hard at work creating their own books of inspiration. Gay's most recent collection of poetry, Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, has been shortlisted for a National Book Award; check out his book, and then check out your classmates' own "Catalogs of Unabashed Gratitude" that they've created for you. It's easy to get bogged down in all the work and stress of the end of the year: let them help you to take some time to stop, relax, and appreciate all the awesomeness that surrounds us on a daily basis!

a few of the MANY individual catalogues--all unique!--made by ENGL 121 on the lookout for the awesome handicrafts from newly formed Xavier University crochet club In The Loop: they've made some mini amigurumi figures that will be placed for vending in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, though, check out the club's website, if you would like to join in and get crafty with them!

Till soon--keep creating!

Dr. R

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Welcome to Fall 2015--inspiration and update!

Hi XU!

Welcome to what I hope will be another exciting school year, filled with lots of laughter, learning, and cool items to put into the book/art vending machine! Stay tuned for the latest additions I'll be putting in the machine shortly (some collectively-written zines about the newly-updated Mermaid Tavern group on campus; some collaboratively-produced pamphlets on The History and Effects of I-71 and I-75). In the meantime, though, I wanted to draw your attention to this cool round-up of zines about mental health and self-care--important topics for any human (and college students are no exception!). Perhaps you, like me, will find these not only intriguing but also inspiring--and perhaps I'll soon get some of your own takes on these for our machine. One can hope...

All best for an awesome September 2015--and keep creating!!

Dr. Renzi

Monday, March 23, 2015


Alright, everyone! The time is finally here--the vending machine has been stocked with its first community contributions (some of which you can see pictured below). Featured in this first round of materials are lino-cut patches, photography triptychs, LEGO creations, rainbow loom creations, and a poetry chapbook entitled "Ten Portraits of Enya". Once upon a time (fifteen minutes ago), there were crocheted cacti--but they have, in the time it took me to purchase a soda in the CLC, been bought!

an assortment of the first for-purchase vending machine offerings!

So come on, XU--you know what to do!!! Get creating, so that you and your peers have awesome, unique, one-of-a-kind objects to purchase! And, of course, check out the machine to see what you'd like to take home with you!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Artist's Books I've Made (post 3 of 3)

another heart for a colophon image; this
one, though, is being repaired after rupture
Though I object strongly to the characterization that artists are inhumane, in that they aestheticize painful emotions like heartbreak, grief, shame, etc., I can sometimes understand the perspective. This is particularly so when I look at the second artist book I created, + 10 - (you can articulate this as 10, plus or minus). This book is by far the most labor-intensive of my creations to date (and probably will maintain that status for a while); it is also the most personal of my works. I only created three copies of this book, all of which I still own. And that will probably be the case for a good long while. For as much as I like to make my books/artwork for others, sometimes the creations I explore in my art and writing are really, mostly, for me.

+ 10 - is about many things--but one of the prominent things that it deals with are the twinned concepts of poetic revision and bodily healing/scarring. I had this book project in mind long before it came into fruition as the artist book I'll write about here; indeed, the "ten" of the title refers to a number of years. As an undergraduate student in my early 20s, I wrote a series of poems entitled "Drafting Days" that were about the dissolution of a romantic relationship. These poems, part of my larger honors thesis project, were very much invested in thinking through the relationship between words and embodiment, between poetry and fine arts: thus, I chose to photograph these poems as I wrote them, one by one, on my own body. It struck me at the time (and still does strike me, if I'm honest) that skin was a particularly apt vehicle for expressions of the kind of intimacy, pain, and loss that these poems meant to archive--and that allowing a reader to view these poems on a body rather than on a piece of paper would communicate a kind of embodied language that I was struggling to express more traditionally.

as you can see, the techniques I used to bind and affix
images in the book, as well as to put the book together,
are takes on anatomical suturing techniques. 
I'm not sure how well any of that worked (I'm still not); however, I remain fascinated with alternative reading/writing/presentation practices. A few years later, working on my MFA in poetry, I was exploring a poetics that engaged with revision and rewriting. And I thought--wouldn't it be cool to return to "Drafting Days" ten years later and rewrite these pieces, to see what still felt relevant to me from the old language? Thus, + 10 - was (conceptually) born, though I waited several more years till the 10 year timeframe had elapsed to put the project into action.

this spine binding (as noted above) uses the technique
that doctors use to bind tendons together

digital photo/ poem/ manual photo sandwich
For the artist book revisiting of "Drafting Days," I decided to both rewrite the poems (sticking as closely as possible to the original poetic language and just redacting/ rewording/ reordering sections) and to rephotograph the images: rather than writing and photographing the entire poem on my body, however, I chose to include only a word or two as a kind of "scar" that I wrote on the same body part in the updated photos. You can see (above) how I eventually presented these pieces: a digital print of the updated photo on the left, the revised poem printed on translucent paper in the middle, and the original photo on the right. While the original photos had been taken with a manual camera and then hand developed/printed, I wanted them, in the book format, to have a more ghostly quality. Thus, I chose to print copies of these old photos on cloth and sew the cloth images into the book by hand. I used anatomical stitching techniques for the "sutures," which you can see in close-up below:

if I ever use this process again, I will pick a MUCH
less slippery thread!

I was interested in the idea, in the capturing of these revisions/scars, that there would be a lot of text visible that wouldn't necessarily be legible. For instance, in many of the photos (particularly when printed on cloth), the text is fuzzy and hard to make out. To me, this seemed a crucial expression of the essentially private, idiosyncratic nature of the loss of love. In keeping with this theme, I chose to include all of the words from the original poems but to divest them of their poetic structure. Instead, I printed them in alphabetical order at the front and the close of the book: words I used multiple times were printed in red, and ones I used only once were printed in black.

these words are printed on translucent paper, allowing for
the above effect
This book's interest in marking injury and repair, but in showing the seams and scars in this process, was also materialized in the book's cover itself. I tore an abstract hole in the cover, then sutured some of the gaping parts together. Underneath, you can see a sheet of translucent handmade paper (which I think of as a film of scar tissue) and then, below that, you can begin to discern a photograph. This kind of layering, of looking through and around and most of all at "wounds"--linguistic, bodily, artistic--was the central organizing principle of the book.

of course, this suturing is more aesthetic than practical...such a wound
would not, it seems, be closed via this thread!
In many ways, this project still feels undone to me. Perhaps this is why, more than its personal nature, I've kept all the copies of this work. I wonder, though, what the project would look like 15 years out. Or 20. Maybe there are more iterations of this to come...and in a way, I think that kind of openness to the unfinished nature of the book seems its most fitting conclusion.

Here's to the incomplete work we are all doing/being!

Dr. Renzi

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Artist's Books I've Made (post 2 of 3)

I'm doing these posts slightly out of chronological order, in part because of laziness (as it's what I photographed most recently) but also in part because the third artist book I created is actually a better segueway from book 1 than is the 2nd. Book three, then--entitled Fairytale for the Littlest Girls--uses many of the same techniques as did Gestures of a Rose...albeit with some modifications/additions.

another pen-and-ink cover!
The binding (which you can see on the left-hand side of the image above) is once again the very basic japanese stab-binding; however, as I made this book long and skinny, I also wanted to somehow add a kind of closure to the other side of the book. Thus, as you can see here, I crocheted a cord, using the red and blue colors I worked with throughout, that could be wrapped around the base of the book to keep the book closed.

The major themes of this book were both mechanical and anatomical: the heart is a motif throughout, as well as the motorcycle! This is not only where the title page imagery came from (pictured below), but it also helps to explain the gear I added to the crocheted closure, as well as the sleeve in which the whole book was encased. The sleeve is composed of half red, half blue cardstock, which I stitched together in the back in a very visible way as a very abstract rendering of a human heart (in its pre-oxygenated and post-oxygenated blood stages, or course!) that was in need of mending. This heart motif also played out in the closing "fact" I included in the book's back cover, as well as in the colophon design on the sleeve.

as you can see here, I made only 7 of these books--they were significantly
more labor intensive than artist book one!
 The pages themselves were each done individually--I hand-drew, colored, and wrote each of the individual pages in each of the books. In order to facilitate the dream-like quality of the images, I chose to do the outlines of the drawings and the lettering in pen-and-ink with a calligraphy pen. The drawings I did in watercolors and watercolor pencils, so that they would have both a painterly wash to them as well as moments of precise color/texture. The individual pages each tell a piece of a poem/story, as well as depict one of the "girls" that the littlest girl of the book's title can claim as a family member (at least in terms of the way in which she conceives of love. Below, I've included some snippets of images from the book, to give you a sense of the aesthetic.

As with my previous artist book, the copies of this one were given away to good friends. It pleases me to think of these small fairytales in the homes of my loved ones; hopefully they can open them from time to time and enjoy some of the love in looking at them that I threw into making them.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

First Vending Machine Offering... now available!


These small zines--which both give you instructions on how to make them and serve as an example of said making--are now ready for you to go ahead and get from the Vending Machine (they are in two of the slots designated as free, too--so you don't even have to shell out cash for them!). Anyone looking for an easy, low-cost way to put together a small zine can easily adopt this "book"'s methodology. Want more than 8 pages in your zine? Go ahead and fold up two (three, four), nest them inside one another, and bind the spine with a couple staples!

I'm working on packaging up a few of the submitted items; hopefully by the end of this upcoming week, they'll be for sale! Keep working on your own creations and get them to me--I'm looking forward to seeing what you come up with!

Dr. R