Hail Minnesota!

I was downtown Ottawa, to deliver my volumes of City Shields to the National Gallery of Canada this summer when I noticed a manhole cover with a toilet in its design on Sussex Drive.

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, this photo is an Ottawa maintenance frame S25 and toilet logo cover S24

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, this photo is an Ottawa maintenance frame S25 and toilet logo cover S24

Ever wonder what or why sewer covers have certain designs like a toilet? I wonder as well! 

The city of Ottawa, Ontario, has several manhole covers with a fish design. Evan Thornton in his article The Sign Of The Fish: Ottawa Sewer Grates of December 2009 found that Ottawa, lets its residents figure out the significance of the decorated storm sewer drains for themselves.

I guess we will not easily have an answer to our question.


When one has access to the artist who designs the covers for a city, we can get an answer to the reason behind the designs?

Kate Burke designed manhole covers for the City of Minneapolis back in 1992. These manhole covers were part of 75 cast iron manhole covers created as one of seven other art projects for the Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Kate explains the development of Hail Minnesota installed before computers and digital cameras!  

I worked with Craig Amundson from BRW Architects to evolve the ideas and designs.  As the first ones he chose not only had a natural theme but were, also, state symbols. I evolved further designs from there. I designed for the state bird, tree, flower, grain, etc. In the end I titled the project with the state motto, “Hail Minnesota”.
It took at least a month to create each hand cut pattern. I evolved a unique technique of layering chip board to create detail and to guarantee a flat surface for a safe footfall. There are eleven different designs with each pattern cast seven times.

The City of Minneapolis is redeveloping Nicollet Mall, the location of Kate Burke’s designed manhole covers. Architect James Corner hired for the redesign, is the architec who designed the High Line, a beloved project in NYC. To prepare for this complete redevelopment the city assessed and archived the eight artworks originally installed. The manhole covers rated well and people enjoy them. Their condition and maintenance care are easy.

To view these fantastic cover designs in person, one will have to wait for the covers to be removed from storage and reinstalled when the Mall is rededicated in the future. Millions of people pass over Nicollet Mall yearly, but ME, Louise, never knew of them when I visited Minneapolis, two years ago. It is worthwhile to call a city before visiting and asking questions on the project you might be doing.

Take a look at these stupéfiant (amazing) manhole covers!

© 2016 photos by Will Crain, graphics by Michelle Ward,  Hail Minnesota  design by Kate Burke—image 1 APPLES and detail; image 2 NORWAY PINE and detail; image 3 TIMBER WOLF and detail; image 4 LOON and detail

© 2016 photos by Will Crain, graphics by Michelle Ward, Hail Minnesota design by Kate Burke—image 1 APPLES and detail; image 2 NORWAY PINE and detail; image 3 TIMBER WOLF and detail; image 4 LOON and detail

© 2016 photos by Will Crain, graphics by Michelle Ward,  Hail Minnesota  design by Kate Burke—image 1 WILD RICE and detail; image 2 WHEAT and detail; image 3 CORN and detail; image 4 LADY SLIPPER and detail

© 2016 photos by Will Crain, graphics by Michelle Ward, Hail Minnesota design by Kate Burke—image 1 WILD RICE and detail; image 2 WHEAT and detail; image 3 CORN and detail; image 4 LADY SLIPPER and detail

© 2016 photos by Will Crain, graphics by Michelle Ward,  Hail Minnesota  design by Kate Burke—image 1 OATS and detail; image 2 WALLEYE and detail; 4 NORTHERN PIKE and detail

© 2016 photos by Will Crain, graphics by Michelle Ward, Hail Minnesota design by Kate Burke—image 1 OATS and detail; image 2 WALLEYE and detail; 4 NORTHERN PIKE and detail


Last April, I introduced large sized artists’ books, included in these posts was Alex Appella’s book, The János Book

This year, Alex had a lovely experience publishing her book as a Spanish independent trade edition in Argentina. The János Letter / Después la carta sells for the low price of $39.99. The János Book is available on Amazon, with good reviews. Enjoy a free PDF of this book!


Are you getting ready for Christmas? Are you looking for beautiful and unique decorative boxes to offer someone special? Look no further. My decorative boxes are a great gift for anyone who loves to store small items, special trinkets, keepsakes or jewelry.

For the purchase of my hand made boxes visit my website or email me directly.

Have a great week!

More Large Format Artists' Books

Artists work on their own most of the time and wear many hats. Being queen and king of our domain we are free or are we? This freedom comes at a price—loneliness. As artists no matter what medium we work in, the solitary state of the studio comes into play. We are tough, it may take a while but in the end we get inspired by the world around us.

Look what I found in Boise! What will I do with this? Have I found home?

© 2016 Louise Levergneux

© 2016 Louise Levergneux

Last week I introduced Christopher Kardambikis’ large format accordion book Mundus Subterraneus. The first time we communicated I mentioned I had recently relocated from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Boise, Idaho. My blog post was a way to communicate with other artists. Christopher responded he had recently made a move himself to New York City from Los Angeles in a similar attempt to get to know more people making books and zines and such he started up a radio program. His program is at Clocktower.org. Paper Cuts is an exploration of the contemporary world of zines and DIY publishing. Hosted by Christopher Kardambikis himself, each program features writers, performers, and artists who have shared their work in print, on paper, and in small editions. This experience of reaching out and talking to many people has really been one of the best things he has ever done. So please listen to his program and find out how Christopher finds artists and writers discussing their practice, studio, daily rituals, and their work fascinating.


After communicating with Christopher I decided to send a call through the BOOK_ARTS-L mailing list by Peter D Verheyen to find other artists who create artists’ books in large format. The response was wild I could not keep up with the emails popping in my inbox.

I enjoy hearing the ideas behind books, and the stories that inspire them. Let me present to you Alex Appella’s, The János Book. Alex writes on the reasoning behind her large book that took 12 years in the making.

© 2006 Alex Appella, The János Book, 8.5 inches x 25 inches x 1.5 inches closed and over 4 feet opened

© 2006 Alex Appella, The János Book, 8.5 inches x 25 inches x 1.5 inches closed and over 4 feet opened

« How long is 90 years?
From the silence of its long black cover, The János Book opens, and explodes with what had been unspeakable for over 70 years.
“90 years is long enough to be a child in World War One, a man in World War Two…”
“90 years is long enough for secrets to last 70…”

My Hungarian grandparents emigrated to California in 1931. They passed away before I was born, but left a legacy of questions that began to surface in our home in the 1980s. By then, the only remaining family member who could answer those questions was János (pronounced Ya-noash), my grandfather’s youngest brother, who had emigrated from Transylvania to Argentina in 1949. The questions were innocent enough. My mother always believed she had only two uncles—János and Imre. But then a photo of four young men was found among my grandfather’s things. Three faces were familiar. Who was the fourth man?

In 1994 I traveled to Argentina to meet János, to ask the questions. The answers—the secrets—revealed our identity, and revealed the pain of lying, even to protect those you love. The János Book not only encompasses a family’s history, it reveals the man who, at the age of 90, decided to tell it. The reader is taken on a journey from Oregon to Argentina, to Transylvania, and beyond. Original letters, photographs and paintings entwine János’ testimony with my poetry to reveal a family’s identity whispered away two generations prior. »

© 2006 Alex Appella, The János Book

© 2006 Alex Appella, The János Book

© 2006 Alex Appella, The János Book

© 2006 Alex Appella, The János Book

And then Alex brought to us a second book of identical size The János Letter, an interwoven volume, a continuation of events.

© 2006, 2012 Alex Appella, The János Book and The János Letter

© 2006, 2012 Alex Appella, The János Book and The János Letter

© 2012 Alex Appella, The János Letter

© 2012 Alex Appella, The János Letter

Alex explains... « I worked for many years researching, writing, and creating The János Book. Over a decade. It's the project that brought me to Argentina originally in 1994, to speak with János, my grandfather's brother. János was the only elder living who could answer questions that arose in our home in the US after going through my deceased grandfather's things.

After nearly 20 years of accompanying this project, I was rather certain I had written and produced all that could be written and produced. But then, in May of 2014, I received a letter in the mail. From János.

He wrote it to me in 1983, and due to a string of incredible events, as only real life can offer us, it showed up on my doorstep last May. János passed away in 2003.

The letter from János, both its arrival and its content, was too incredible to not bring to the readers of The János Book. As a writer, and a book artist, it was a new challenge to revisit a work I believed to be finished, and create a book that is...a prologue? ...an epilogue? I leave it to the reader to decide. However it is labeled, both books are now inseparable. One depends entirely on the other. Not only did the new book design need to mesh with the very large János Book in English, it needed to mesh with the much smaller trade edition in Spanish. It was a unique challenge. »

© 2006, 2012 Alex Appella, The János Book and The János Letter

© 2006, 2012 Alex Appella, The János Book and The János Letter

© 2006, 2012 Alex Appella, The János Book and The János Letter

© 2006, 2012 Alex Appella, The János Book and The János Letter

© 2006, 2012 Alex Appella, The János Book and The János Letter

© 2006, 2012 Alex Appella, The János Book and The János Letter

It takes courage to make two books of this size. I have decided—small books and small editions are the way to go. What do you think?

What creates your history/herstory? We all have interesting backgrounds, how do you portray yours?