23 Sandy Gallery

In my last blog post, I commented on the subject of responsible galleries. I communicated with Laura Russell from 23 Sandy Gallery in Portland, a fantastic place to do business. A gallery and owner that respect the work and the artist.

Here are Laura’s responses from our exchange on the subject of damaged or stolen work, which continues to extend my last two posts “Amoché” and “The 6 Foot Drop”.


Louise — Have you ever had an artists' book damaged or stolen while on display in an exhibition (as an artist yourself or as the owner of the gallery)? 

Laura — Sadly, yes. But, in 10 years only twice, which I think is a pretty good record! One book was stolen during an off-site letterpress printers fair here in Portland. Luckily that one came back a few weeks later in an unmarked package with a very apologetic note. That book is now a favorite in my personal collection as I had already paid the artist for it by the time it arrived back home. Another book was dropped and had a corner of its wooden box broken. Luckily, the customer loved the book and was happy to buy it, anyway. 


Louise — Lessons learned through the years have jaded me from exhibiting my artists’ books. One never knows what happens on the premises of a gallery. Can you explain the secret life of a book during the month-long display on the premises at 23 Sandy Gallery?

Laura — All books are treated as fine art, not just books. Every customer who visits the gallery gets a friendly lecture about how to handle books and is asked to clean their hands if they want to handle the books. Not every book can be handled by the general public. If the book is delicate or expensive, we post a “Do Not Touch” sign on the book but are happy to show off the book ourselves if anyone is interested in viewing.
© 2017 Laura Russell, 23 Sandy Gallery

© 2017 Laura Russell, 23 Sandy Gallery

Louise — What is the unpacking/re-packing policy for books at 23 Sandy Gallery?

Laura — All books are inspected for any shipping damage, or existing flaws, or other concerns upon unpacking. Any problems are documented, with photos, and a note is immediately sent to the artist to document condition upon arrival. Upon re-packing, all books are again inspected to make sure no damage was incurred during the exhibition. We keep extensive notes about the condition for documentation purposes. If there is damage, the gallery would automatically pay the artist for the book.


Louise — Are the descriptive directions for unpacking and re-packing artwork for shipping, if any included in the box, read by staff.

Laura — Yes. Always, of course.


Louise — What’s the gallery’s work ethic for tracking the original packaging for the return of books?

Laura — The gallery does not have time to track every single package that ships out of here. We ship many, many packages every week. We recommend artists activate “shipping notifications” with their respective shipping company to get automatic email notification of shipment, delivery exceptions, and delivery.
© 2017 Laura Russell, 23 Sandy Gallery

© 2017 Laura Russell, 23 Sandy Gallery


Louise — Do the gallery/staff have best practices for the proper care and handling of books?

Laura — Yes. Full training is provided to every gallery staff or volunteer on proper book handling.


Louise — Does the 23 Sandy Gallery carry insurance for work while in their possession, i.e., is the gallery responsible for the artwork on display? How does 23 Sandy Gallery approach reimbursing artists for a damaged piece?

Laura — All books while in 23 Sandy’s possession are indeed insured. In the case of damage, our insurance policy would reimburse the artist for the “wholesale” cost of the book, which is the amount the artist would have received if the book had sold, which is 60% of the retail value.


Louise — What does the 23 Sandy Gallery think of “foreign” stickers adhered to books for any reason, i.e., inventory numbers or tracking numbers? 

Laura — We would never attach any sticker to any book for any reason. 
© 2017 Laura Russell, 23 Sandy Gallery

© 2017 Laura Russell, 23 Sandy Gallery

Louise — Are there any security measures (vitrines, staffing, location, etc.) on the premises for artists who prefer their work to be under glass?

Laura — We have a glass bookcase for any books that the artist requests not be handled. Or, we use a “Do Not Touch” sign as noted above.


Louise — How does the gallery deal with maintaining proper environmental conditions for books while on display?

Laura — Gallery conditions are not controlled in the same way museums control environmental conditions. Not possible in a retail storefront environment.


As with most of us, change is in the air and if you read the last newsletter of 23 Sandy Gallery you know that Laura has made a big decision. Laura is closing the operation side of the gallery and taking a year sabbatical from exhibitions. She is looking forward to finding studio time for her own books.

I wish Laura good times in her studio at Simply Books. I will miss the opportunities of showing my artists' books at 23 Sandy Gallery, especially working directly with Laura.

Many thanks, Laura and enjoy your new world!

The 6 Foot Drop

“I always assume that the person unpacking/re-packing has never worked in a gallery before, that they are an 18-year-old trainee and it's their first day on the job.” 

An artist’s response to my query on packing and re-packing works of art for an exhibition.

In the recent past, I received an artists' book back from a show. It was in its original box, bravo! for matching the box to the artist’s work. Here, the problem was inside the box. The book sat atop a very thin sheet of bubble pack with no protection for its top or sides. I have no qualms in mentioning that the bottom had no protection either. I phoned the gallery and their response was “The gallery ships the books the same way they arrive! 

Of course, for security measures, I pack my books with no protection to survive USPS or UPS delivery. SURE!

Who oversees the procedures for return shipping? Anyone?

© 2017 Louise Levergneux

© 2017 Louise Levergneux

I don’t believe my book would have survived the six-foot drop the Saskatchewan Craft Council recommends for shipping artwork. If damage had occurred to my artists’ book, who would have been responsible?

© 2017 Louise Levergneux

“Do you feel a gallery should have insurance for damage, theft, and return shipping conditions”?

In my opinion, the gallery is also responsible for how it takes care of books/work while in their possession.

An experienced binder like Monique Lallier insists on having her bindings and boxes exhibited under glass. Even with her demand one of her gorgeous boxes got a corner banged up. How do we limit these type of accidents or carelessness from happening?

Artists, librarian, curators, and staff should read the article Proper Care and Handling of Books by the Library of Congress.

This brings us to insurances! “Who should pay the insurance costs?

This year I made a conscious decision to no longer exhibit my work in galleries without the artists work insured for the duration of a show. According to a Boise gallery, an invited artist should not refuse to exhibit hundreds of dollars worth of work for lack of insurance on the gallery’s part. Most galleries make sure with their contract that they are not responsible for any stolen/damaged artwork. I realize we always take a chance when exhibiting, but the galleries/curators need to take responsibility. How, would galleries survive without us?

One can’t place all galleries in the “I will never exhibit there again” category. 

A few galleries are superb at taking responsibilities, I have found 23 Sandy Gallery in Portland and the MCBA in Minnesota, both respectful of book artists and their work.

© 23 Sandy Gallery

© 23 Sandy Gallery

Food for thought! Make sure you are content with the understanding between the gallery and the artist. Read the contract carefully; if you don’t like what’s written, say no to the invitation. Better not to exhibit than to be sorry. 

“Don’t forget during your decision-making that there is a tendency for the artist to be the last person considered when people are thinking about money and art”—Cathryn Miller

Be aware and make good decisions... Enjoy your exhibitions without regrets!


The Hunt for Manhole Covers

WOW! another week flew by, a repetitive occurrence nowadays. The hours come and go without warning. Busy is good; but life is fleeting. Did you carry out what you intended to do this week?

I went hunting for more manhole covers in the town of Emmett, northwest of Boise on Wednesday. A quaint region at an elevation of 2,362 feet (720 m) above sea level and below Freezeout Hill—a steep terrain overlooking Emmett. Following the winding road constructed in 1919, we noticed a welcome sign to Gem County. The only gems we saw were dark red, soft and round, juicy and sweet. Cherry Festival! 

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, descending Freezeout Hill

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, descending Freezeout Hill

We drove around the streets till we came upon a manhole cover that might be the oldest manhole cover in Emmett. Most are run-of-the-mill, I call them ersatz. The hunt is part of the experience and we had a lovely afternoon. 

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, manhole cover at N McKinley Ave & E Main St, Emmett

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, manhole cover at N McKinley Ave & E Main St, Emmett

On our way back home passing trough Meridian, we found two manhole covers with stunning designs.

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, manhole covers designed for The Village Mall in Meridian

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, manhole covers designed for The Village Mall in Meridian

Friends viewing the volumes of City Shields often ask questions about the designs of the manhole covers and the reason for so many? Where or how I find the covers?  A manhole is used for many types of utilities: cable, sewer, telephone, sanitation...  So each design of the covers differentiates the use of the manhole. I find the covers wherever my life brings me. They are part of the city I live in or visit; and I’m obsessed with finding the most striking designs. I’m interested in bringing these entryways to the world beneath our feet to the forefront of city dwellers as art. At this point as an artist, I am more interested in the visual designs of the covers.

I had to stop my printing process till the delivery of more ink cartridges. Two printers are expensive to keep. Now, I buy separate ink cartridges when needed. My delivery arrived today, now I have no excuses. 

Except, I’m entertaining another excuse, I would like to photograph and document my book Finding Home in ample detail. Finding Home is part of the Wanderlust exhibition at 23 Sandy Gallery in Portland. Laura Russell, the owner, sold two copies last week. What wonderful news!

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, artists' book Finding Home

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, artists' book Finding Home

I took numerous photographs before mailing my last copy to 23 Sandy Gallery. The number of an edition is tricky. Will every copy sell or will my closet of inventory get bigger? I remember contemplating on the question and thought I may need to create one-of-a-kind books soon if my studio gets smaller and smaller. Well, I was wrong and should have made a bigger edition according to Laura.

It’s a crap·shoot!! Publishing and editions are an uncertain matter.

Download, copy, Photoshop, prepare, templates, print—it’s all waiting for me to publish more volumes.

Finding Home

Being alone.

Finding Home. 

I moved many times since 2004, my last move was last July to Boise, Idaho. I love our little house, It's cozy and simple, so simple we have no sofa. Why not you ask? Because someone miscalculated the moving truck's cubic feet!

I’m always reluctant to move and our new place still doesn’t feel like home. Though I have a sense of belonging in my half measure studio.

I can no longer ignore the challenges of this move. I compare the aspects of my life to the years before Idaho. Heck! let's face it before 30 years ago.

I dread the future and transitions are difficult. Right now as we say in Canada, “slow as molasses in January” but it’s March! 

I have not found myself or the essence of our home/city, I’m uncomfortable. With time and age, my way of life is different. What I want is different and how I want to express myself is different.

What’s next? Who knows! It’s getting to the other side that’s bumpy! Driving over a cliff, bumpy! How do you cope with change?

“Masquerading as a normal person day after day is exhausting”—my motto for this month. While my husband goes by “Sometimes you just have to leap, and build your wings on the way down.”—Kobi Yamada

Michael has always built his wings as he travels. I hate that!!

Before the molasses came, I took my creativity and published an artists’ book that speaks of being alone, missing my country and missing my culture. I present to you Finding Home.

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Finding Home

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Finding Home

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Finding Home

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Finding Home

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Finding Home

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Finding Home

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Finding Home

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Finding Home

After taking a writing workshop with Paulann Petersen last summer, I wrote the poem for Finding Home.


At home, the sun kisses the foothills 

and transforms 

the horizon with vivid colours. 


Finding home...

Where do I belong?


Longing to be back home, 

where the maple leaf 

soars above the hills 


la langue Française

de la belle province 

is recognized,


Dreaming of home, 

I wake to the sounds 

of coyotes 


live where the light shines till late

—the days are long, 

the country wild and free,


A sense of place, 

a sense of belonging, 

je me souviens

de la fleur de lys

my roots are deep, 

back and forth 

as a butterfly flitting 

across the miles. 


Finding home...

Where do I belong?—© 2016 Louise Levergneux

I have made two explosion boxes with the help of Susan Bonthron. I discovered Susan’s Adam’s Error, Only One Bite the day I was exploring 23 Sandy Gallery’s website. Soon after I emailed Susan to guide me to a tutorial. To my amazement, Susan emailed me her instructions. I made an 8 inches square box for my first explosion box. Never start big!!

© 2014 Louise Levergneux, Equinox,Time

© 2014 Louise Levergneux, Equinox,Time

Susan’s artist book Adam’s Error, Only One Bite is about the myth of Adam in Eden, the intersection of belief and reason, and the mathematical discoveries that represent the ‘bites’ each scientist or mathematician tastes of the whole mythical fruit that represents what can be known of our universe. Susan’s choice of mathematicians was inspired by Michael Guillen’s book, Five Equations that Changed the World: the Power and Poetry of Mathematics (New York: Hyperion, 1995).

© 2012 Susan Bonthron, Adam’s Error, Only One Bite

© 2012 Susan Bonthron, Adam’s Error, Only One Bite

© 2012 Susan Bonthron, Adam’s Error, Only One Bite

© 2012 Susan Bonthron, Adam’s Error, Only One Bite

© 2012 Susan Bonthron, Adam’s Error, Only One Bite

© 2012 Susan Bonthron, Adam’s Error, Only One Bite

Susan works under the imprint Otter Pond Bindery.

Does your art decode the passage of time?