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!

Congratulations!

This week, I’m sending my congratulations to Cathryn Miller and Thomas Parker Williams for their participation in the Pop-Up Now II exhibition on view through December 17 at 23 Sandy Gallery. 

Pop-Up Now II, is a juried exhibition of pop-up and movable artists’ books that pop-up, move, slide, twirl, whirl, and even light up.

Cathryn submitted her book entitled I Love My Love. The book is just beautiful!!

© 2016 Cathry Miller

© 2016 Cathry Miller

Thomas, surprises us all with a fantastic sculpture in paper and steel, entitled Spiral Dome. This is worth a closer view online.

© 2016 Thomas Parker Williams

© 2016 Thomas Parker Williams


It’s so easy to go down the rabbit hole when researching “stuff” on the internet! Obsessed with the Incessant Journey lately—for the last 16 years. I found articles on the web that conveyed information on the manhole cover I thought would be of interest to those of you whom have never looked down to the streets.

A fun article by Andrew Emond who has explored the underground systems of Montréal and Toronto, Canada. Andrew put together a guide for the most common manhole covers in Montréal in his article "Everything You Probably Never Cared To Know About Manhole Covers."

Another article that caught my eye was by Andrew Guilbert entitled “The Art of Calgary's Manholes.”  Andrew gives us a glimpse of history, new manhole covers and call to artists. Calgary's manhole covers are some of the most prevalent artworks in the city, says Andrew.

Abraham Piper’s article “Misplaced manhole covers to drive you crazy”, might be disturbing for all obsessive compulsive driven people. The photos were a good laugh for me, I often wonder—”Why, two more minutes!” It only takes two more minutes to reposition the manhole covers properly. Do these photographs force you to cringe?


Now, I’m pump-up to create eight new volumes of manhole covers I photographed on my trip across Canada...

Discovering!

I’m in a conundrum these days! Do I continue my art work or prepare the next 10 years of my life. In, the meantime, my project The incessant Journey is as you have noticed taken over my life. Just like an obsession that won’t let go. Manhole covers are up and down and all around me. 

I’m discovering more and more artists who create using manhole covers as their muse. I received an email from Will Karp who occupies most of his time photographing and creating art with photographs of manhole covers.

Similar to my preocupation, Will has collected hundreds of images of manhole covers on his travels from the American Southwest to the Middle East. 

Awarded first prize at the Santa Fe Arts Commission in 2011, his composition of "Manhole Covers of Santa Fe” heightened his passion for manhole cover art.

I continue to wonder who’s behind the designs of manhole covers with intricate three dimensional motifs comprising of grids, concentric arcs and circles, cross hatching, insignias, and other geometric shapes. The multitude and variety of designs produced is staggering. Not only do the covers themselves offer an eyeful, but the colors and textures of the surrounding pavement whether pebbles, bricks, cobblestones, grass, dirt or asphalt, create a unique canvas for each cover.

Different mediums including book arts, printmaking, magnets, posters, and large installations are used in Will’s work. His latest creation is a book entitled Manhole Mania, A Tribute To Ground Art

Will, hopes that each set of pages that unfolds reveal a refreshing way to appreciate and see the artfulness of utility covers that are right under our feet for us to enjoy, if only we knew it.

© 2016 Will Karp, compositions using 16 photos of New Mexico

© 2016 Will Karp, compositions using 16 photos of New Mexico


Searching through the internet for others with a penchant towards the ground, I have found other artists who design intricate manhole covers for their cities.

Nancy Blum designed the City Light, City Bright manhole cover in 2001, in which the flowers represent the city and the electric pattern in the background represent the utility side of manhole covers.

© 2016 Nancy Blum, City Light, City Bright

© 2016 Nancy Blum, City Light, City Bright


In 1990 The City of Minneapolis reached out in the artist community to create artwork for Nicollet Mall in Downtown Minneapolis. 

Kate Burke commissioned by the city to create manhole covers designs to replace the covers over 13 city blocks around the Nicollet Mall. There are 11 different designs which commemorate the state designations and other icons of the state. Included are the state flower, fish, tree, bird, grain, fruit; and the grains. These manhole covers are absolutely gorgeous. They are a must see. I hope I can go trough Minneapolis again and add these to a second volume of Minnesota.

An in-depth dialogue with Kate will be part of another post later in the year.


Continuing with my conundrum, I need to figure out what to do with my life—an incessant journey on its own. Time goes by fast and work is slow these days, I need to get back to what is important. The first issue is to get my printers working after 3 months off. Wish me luck and hope you find your own purpose in life, go DO.

'jamais deux sans trois'

I’ve been busy getting my family prepared for our annual trip across the country to my home town of Gatineau, Québec, Canada. We are leaving next week and for the first time in eight years, we will travel the Trans-Canada Highway from Alberta to Québec.

This is the snail way across the country. The slow driving gives me the opportunity to photograph manhole covers along my journey. With the intention of publishing an artists’ book of Canadian anecdotes, I will collect photographs that catch my eye along this 10-day trip.

In between preparations, I’m trying to finish phase seven and eight of City Shields by printing and cutting inserts, collating and packaging.

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, front and back of inserts ready to cut

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, front and back of inserts ready to cut

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, phase seven, cutting the inserts

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, phase seven, cutting the inserts

©2016 Louise Levergneux, probably the last 10 pack of Iomega Zip disks jewel cases in the world!

©2016 Louise Levergneux, probably the last 10 pack of Iomega Zip disks jewel cases in the world!

If any of you know where I can purchase more of these Iomega Zip Disks Jewel Cases, please email me. They have been discontinued by the manufacturer.

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, fresh off the press Vol US 26 : No 1 Dakota

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, fresh off the press Vol US 26 : No 1 Dakota


Last week, I posed the question “Has the manhole cover become a point of interest for other artists?”

I received a link to Raubdruckerin Printers’ website. They print t-shirts, hoodies, tote and gym bags inspired by banal urban street manhole covers. People who buy the garments and bags become themselves a part of their project. So, the project is a refinement of the everyday culture as well as a permanent consciousness-changing connection with our surroundings. 

The video below demonstrates Raubdruckerin using a manhole cover at the Centre Pompidou in Paris to print a t-shirt. 

Raubdruckerin continue their journey to Berlin. The t-shirt prints are taken directly from a manhole cover using water based ink without solvent, flexibilizer, PVC or heavy metals. 

What a fabulous idea! What I found even more interesting, believing in the French expression—'jamais deux sans trois' ("never twice without a third [time]"), is that I received not two but three emails with the same link. Three of my regular blog readers are thinking alike! Peggy Seeger and Cathryn Miller must hang out in the same places on the web. Betty Mallorca, a friend and painter based in Nampa, Idaho, seem to frequent the same circles as Peggy and Cathryn since she sent me the same link to this project.

How should I respond to this phenomenon? The never twice without a third is a sign, I’m sure! Do I contact this group based in Berlin? Do I start a dialogue of my project City Shields with Raubdruckerin? Do any of you know the group? 

Back to packing!

The Tiny Book Show

This week I was preoccupied with cutting and collating manhole covers.

© 2016 Louise Levergneux

© 2016 Louise Levergneux

My garbage bin is overflowing with paper. Sheet after sheet filled with negative space. It piles up by the hour.

© 2016 Louise Levergneux

© 2016 Louise Levergneux

© 2016 Louise Levergneux

© 2016 Louise Levergneux

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, one of my favorite covers today

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, one of my favorite covers today

Did you ever foresee an action in advance? While carrying many die-cut manhole covers from a drawer of my printer cabinet to my work table, I dropped the whole stack. I have five steps to go from my printer table to the other side of my half measure studio!! It took hours and hours to collate the manholes to fit each volume. My eyes crossed a few times while trying to recover the sequnces of the manhole covers; but now, the manhole covers are collated by each volume. My next phase in publishing City Shields is to print 28 double sided inserts.

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, manhole covers on the work table ready to collate, AGAIN!

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, manhole covers on the work table ready to collate, AGAIN!

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, manhole covers finally collated

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, manhole covers finally collated

In 2012 when I was creating my flip book project Outside the studio, I dropped sheets of unnumbered pages of my first flip book. It never dawned on me to number the pages, it appeared simple enough to collate. Each page (frame) of a flip book portrays a fraction of a second. This means each image is very, very, very similar! This mistake taught me to number my pages. With City Shields there’s no way to number the covers. I have two sheets of templates to print for each volume. The second template has a variety of covers. I prefer not to waste paper, it’s too expensive! The lesson here is not to drop the sheets, butterfingers!!


I took a break from these wonderful die-cut photographs that brought me back to my travels. So, I drove to Nampa and visited The Tiny Book Show hosted by the Nampa Public Library

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Amy Tingle at the Nampa Public Library getting ready for the workshop

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Amy Tingle at the Nampa Public Library getting ready for the workshop

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, The Tiny Book Show, awesome!

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, The Tiny Book Show, awesome!

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, I enjoyed reading this wonderful blue book "Cooper" by Harold Wilson

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, I enjoyed reading this wonderful blue book "Cooper" by Harold Wilson

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, This is a Goldendoodle story!

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, This is a Goldendoodle story!

Amy Tingle and Maya Stein are a mobile creativity company based in northern New Jersey. They travel in a vintage caravan, named MAUDE (Mobile Art Unit Designed for Everyone). The caravan allows them to deliver unique experiences and inspire communities everywhere. 

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, MAUDE

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, MAUDE

Amy Nack, a local printmaker who goes under the imprint Wingtip Press was on hand to help with the tiny book-making workshop. Everyone is invited to The Tiny Book Show. Amy and Maya stop at select locations around the country to display tiny books made by artists and writers from around the world. Check out their next venue here.


Back at my studio, I cut binders boards for different projects. The days are going by fast and my summer time back home in Canada is approaching.

For entertainment, I watch Garip Ay create Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry night and Self-portrait with ink marbling animation. Enjoy!

Manhoru

Back to work, I realise my studio is a mess. I’m in full production of City Shields.

© 2016 Louise Levergneux

© 2016 Louise Levergneux

© 2016 Louise Levergneux

© 2016 Louise Levergneux

© 2016 Louise Levergneux

© 2016 Louise Levergneux

My curiosity grows with the pile of manhole covers. Has the manhole cover become a point of interest for other artists? I continue my search on the internet after communicating with Lucinda Ziesing featured on my blog post dated June 26th. Artists and graphic designers all over the world have noticed and are inspired by these works of urban design on our city streets.

My latest find is a wonderful fluoro colour publication entitled Overlooked, the 45th publication produced by design studio Pentagram in the UK. This colourful book celebrates the “gatekeepers” to the subterranean world beneath London’s streets.

© 2016 Pentagram Paper

© 2016 Pentagram Paper

After many hours of searching, I discover Remo Camerota, a dedicated manhole cover photographer. Camerota’s new book, Drainspotting, is dedicated to the his fans or the ‘manhoru’ maniacs. Manhoru is the Japanese word for ‘manhole’. A trip to Japan is worthwhile just to photograph the brightly painted manhoru covers.

Remo Camerota, Cherry Blossoms by Tokyo Five

Remo Camerota, Cherry Blossoms by Tokyo Five

Going down the rabbit hole, I come across Russell Muits, a graphic designer who embarked on a coast-to-coast odyssey. Muits travelled from Camden, New Jersey, to Seattle, Washington, and back. Russell searched out unusual manhole covers and, through hands-on application of ink and canvas, transformed the covers into prints. We share the same goal of finding every interesting manhole cover across the US. Of course my goal is to add the cities of the Canadian provinces.

Aaron Windhorst, Philadelphia Daily News/TNS

Aaron Windhorst, Philadelphia Daily News/TNS

How can I finance City Shields and the travel to attain my goal? Any ideas?

 

Dilemmas!

Surprise! Surprise! My new refurbished refurbished Epson R3000 arrived early. Astonished, I was able to unpack the printer, set it up, and print. Oh my God! Epson is finally getting it together—hopefully they have. This R3000 is working well at the moment. Touch wood! It has only been a few hours! 

I printed my manhole covers sheet after sheet. The printer is not noisy and spits out printed sheets with no blotches of ink! I’m back in business!

I haven’t given up printing my own artists’ books; but still thinking of a printing service in the future, will see what this refurbished printer brings.

© 2016 Louise Levergneux

© 2016 Louise Levergneux

I printed 30 sheets of manhole covers in one day with no problem. Alléluia!! 

© 2016 Louise Levergneux

© 2016 Louise Levergneux

I leave the printed sheets twenty four hours to settle and dry before phase six of the project. This step entails die-cutting the printed manhole covers and collating them.

Throughout my project, and time passing, I’ve had to go with the flow on how to cut, print and present City Shields.

For the first time in sixteen years I’m running short of my packaging of choice for City Shields. My dilemma is finding Iomega Disk Jewel Cases. They are no longer manufactured. If you know of a place I can buy jewel cases for Zip disks, please let me know.  

I had ordered thousands of Iomega jewel cases back in 2000 when they were popular for the original seven volumes of City Shields. The first volumes included a volume of Scotland; three volumes of Ottawa, one volume of Toronto, Ontario; and three volumes of Hull, Québec. Doculink International printed the original volumes and were die-cut by Capitol Box in Ottawa, Ontario.

In 2006, with new camera and new printer, I printed the volumes of the series myself with an Epson 2200. Capitol Box created a cutting jig to cut one manhole cover at a time. Unable to create the correct assembly to use the jig, it caused the paper to tear every time. I bought a Fiskars Circle Cutter from Michaels Arts and Crafts Store. This tool is super easy to use, it only cost $19.99 and works well. The clear plastic base makes alignment easy with no guessing games. Where do you find your tools?

© 2016 Louise Levergneux

© 2016 Louise Levergneux

This year, I needed to replace a discontinued Aspen paper for the insert. I chose an Inkpress Plus paper. I can still order the Generations G-Chrome Lustre paper to print the manhole covers. How do you cope with discontinued favorite papers? Do you enjoy trying lots of papers? Maybe you print on different paper for your projects and the brand doesn’t matter.

My goal was to collect manhole covers from each Canadian province and the 50 states in the US. Changes and finances are making it impossible to achieve! My project is at its end!

 

Printing and Hiking

Spit and spitting more ink! I tried to ignore the problem since the ink was only touching the sides of the sheets I was printing. How many more sheets can I print? Five to be exact.

© 2016 Louise Levergneux

© 2016 Louise Levergneux

The next print had gobs of ink right in the middle of a manhole cover image. This problem is not going away! Printing is always stressful.

© 2016 Louise Levergneux

© 2016 Louise Levergneux

My Epson R3000 is a refurbished printer replacing the first R3000 that died over a year ago. I rubbed my worry stones together, gathered my nerves and called Epson AGAIN! 

My printer situation is an ink cartridge gone bad or a print head problem, I was told. 350 dollars of my hard earned bucks is needed to revive this printer. “No way will I spend another cent on this one!” was my answer to Epson. Miracles of miracles, Epson felt my pain and will replace my refurbished R3000 with another refurbished R3000. If it lasts a year, great! Optimistic I will stay. Hopeful the printer won’t fall on its head in shipping? I might go with a print service in the future to publish my artists’ books. The thought of getting another Epson lemon, aye! &@!$#!!

Do you resort to a printing service or do you want control over your prints? My preference is being in charge of my own prints. No need to go back and forth to review prints. You can choose your paper of choice and not depend on the current inventory. No need to email inadvertently forgotten fonts. You can stay in the comfort of your studio and print to your heart’s content. Are the frustrations of the newer printers worth that comfort? What are your thoughts?

My production has stopped, waiting for said printer. I’m thinking of using my Epson Stylus Pro 2200 while I wait. 


To quiet the mind, we hiked the foothills. Time has circled back in Avimor, it’s grasshopper season. Hundreds of Differential Grasshoppers jump in and out of the tall grass on both sides of the narrow Baun’s Eye Trail. It was amazing to see how high they jumped. Topaz annoyed by the sight focused on the thin path. 

Taking a photo or video of a grasshopper with 999... other Attention Deficit Disorder grasshoppers is difficult. I took this picture of one who had the nerves to stop and stare at us. Then it jumped in my face! What a surprise!

© 2016 Louise Levergneux

© 2016 Louise Levergneux

At the summit we paused for the view, then watching the sunset we made our descent carrying Topaz who could no longer stand the grasshoppers.


During a conversation on my project City Shields, an associate suggested biking as a way to cover a lot of ground for photographing the covers. Handles, peddles, brakes, camera and dog I don’t know! Flyboard seems like a lot of fun, same problem though and I can’t carry my pooch. And again, few manhole covers on water.

I might as well stick to walking the streets or driving around town. Next weekend if you see me on the streets of Boise with camera in hand and my head down, I'm taking photographs of manhole covers, please say hello.

What do your city's manhole covers look like?