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.

Back Home

I’m back!

Winter is just around the corner—I know, I know Ottawa, Ontario, Canada has it worse—I have the impression that Fall is colder than last year in Idaho. When I left Ottawa, the leaves were in full colour and the rain kept on coming. Here in Idaho the colours of the leaves are still stunning and has extended my Autumn experience.

I spent time with my dear friend Vera Greenwood, a fantastic writer who captivates your interest. Vera has successful exhibition installations under her belt.

Vera’s art practice is subjectively personal with an emphasis on storytelling, while observing the world. Her work is highly autobiographical, revealing a keen interest in recordkeeping and investigative research. Because her installations have always incorporated text—sometimes large amounts—bookworks have become a logical extension of Vera’s art practice. 

© 2011 Vera Greenwood, cover of her book "The Whole Enchilada, My Madcap Mexican Adventure," a terrific read

© 2011 Vera Greenwood, cover of her book "The Whole Enchilada, My Madcap Mexican Adventure," a terrific read


I visited the small studio of Mary Kritz, an Ottawa based artist who works with paper products to construct hand bound books and boxes. Inspired by nature, architecture, and art, Mary creates personal moments with rules and omissions, exploration and play.

© 2016 Mary Kritz

© 2016 Mary Kritz

Her book arts are notable for their unique finishes and tactile nature. This is of great importance and bears witness to well-developed artistic craftsmanship. Mary focuses on learned techniques and a wide range of materials to create her books.

© 2016 Mary Kritz

© 2016 Mary Kritz

© 2016 Mary Kritz

© 2016 Mary Kritz

© 2016 Mary Kritz

© 2016 Mary Kritz


I vacationed at my brother’s cottage with our new T@B trailer. I was eager to visit more studios but playing Bocce Ball and drinking wine enticed me to stay in the country with no worries to disturb happy hour.

I walked the streets of Ottawa and photographed new manhole covers. I discovered new cover designs while delivering 14 new volumes of City Shields to my contact at the National Gallery of Canada library. Here are my new volumes ready for cataloguing and join the other 52 volumes collected by the library.

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, new volumes of City Shields

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, new volumes of City Shields

In 2008, Gatineau launched a manhole cover design contest called Reg'art d'égout (artful covers) that involved designing two manhole cover models for the city's streets. These two manhole covers are part of Vol 3: No 10 Gatineau, Québec (secteur Gatineau) volume of City Shields published in 2009. To purchase this volume, please visit my website.

It is difficult to choose a favourite they are both a delight to view. These decorative manhole covers adorn most streets of Gatineau.

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Une vie, Une ville (A life, A city)

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Une vie, Une ville (A life, A city)

© 2016 Louise Levergneux

© 2016 Louise Levergneux

Topaz, my studio resident dog needs a walk, I need to finish the laundry, carry out maintenance on our T@B, and make supper—the only imaginative activity today except for this blog post.

Talk to you next week and in the meantime check out the manhole covers of your city...

Fun, Fun, Fun

Still on holiday and time is going by fast. Friends and family to visit, shopping and of course searching for new manhole covers of home. Work never stops!

Ottawa has changed and has new manhole covers. I’m looking forward to walk the streets and photograph manhole covers of the city. I hope I can collect enough to create another province of Québec and Ontario volume. Will see! 

During our trip, between the rain and fog, this older Cranbrook City, BC, manhole cover did not miss on type size.

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, BC manhole cover

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, BC manhole cover

The best manhole cover design of our trip is the “Chinook” sewer manhole cover in the City of Calgary, AL. Yes, it comes close in rating to the Rodeo Cowboy! This “stupéfiant” amazing manhole cover was designed by the late artist Garry Williams in 2002.

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Alberta manhole cover

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Alberta manhole cover

Drumheller, Alberta, is the heart of the Canadian Badlands and is widely recognized as “Dinosaur Capital of the World." The World's Largest Dinosaur (86 ft/25 meters) built as a Millennium Project by the Drumheller & District Chamber of Commerce. Look at the photo and check out the size of our small camper. Drumheller also has a pleasing manhole cover.

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Dinosaur Valley

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Dinosaur Valley

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Alberta manhole cover

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Alberta manhole cover

Before leaving Saskatchewan, I asked Cathryn Miller to show me how to create a Chinese Lucky tar. This star will be added to the thousands of stars waiting to be part of her next project—an installation of wishing stars in the form of a walking contemplation labyrinth. Please help Cathryn by making wishes. Click here to leave her a wish.

Our next stop the City of Regina had quite the excellent manhole cover design.

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Saskatchewan manhole cover

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Saskatchewan manhole cover

I’m interested in plain designed manhole covers like this one in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Manitoba manhole cover

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Manitoba manhole cover

What an asymmetric design in Terrance Bay, Ontario.

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Ontario manhole cover

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Ontario manhole cover

Having fun, fun, fun, talk soon!

The Journey Back Home

Wondered where I was, getting lonely? Traveling has it’s challenges and finding good connections to the internet isn’t easy. I enjoyed going across the country via the Trans-Canada Highway for the first time.

We left home in Boise, Idaho, on a sunny day, traversed mountains and valleys where the rain and cold started.

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, driving in the northern parts of Idaho

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, driving in the northern parts of Idaho

When we traversed into Canada I felt my feet planted firmly home. 

This is our first experience RV’ing, and it has its own challenges. Gas, electricity, battery, hooked up or not... What to do when parking the first night...  What’s the last step before departing in the morning? We did not see the sun often on this trip. It’s been pouring rain almost every day. The countryside is amazing, and each province has its own beauty. 

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, travelling in our T@B Camper

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, travelling in our T@B Camper

The second morning we woke up to the views of the fog-filled mountains in British Columbia. It was cold and damp. I collected enough manhole covers throughout the province to create the first volume of BC. I would love to make a trip to Vancouver to place it on my map of City Shields.

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, wonderful British Columbia

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, wonderful British Columbia

The week before my departure, I communicated with the City of Calgary to find the location of the “Chinook” designed manhole cover. Randy Niessen at the Public Art Program in Calgary gave me streets and intersections where I could find the manhole covers I was looking for. I visited the office of Ivan Ostapenko, an architect who is designing a new manhole cover for the City of Calgary. While walking the grounds of the Calgary Stampede, a security attendant gave me a golf cart ride to find the manhole cover I was so excited to find. He drove me around till we found the rodeo cowboy! What a day!

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Calgary, manhole cover found on the grounds of the Calgary Stampede

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Calgary, manhole cover found on the grounds of the Calgary Stampede

In Saskatchewan we were plagued with mosquitoes! I visited Cathryn Miller’s studio. 

© 2016 Louise Levergneux in Cathryn's studio, love the equipment!

© 2016 Louise Levergneux in Cathryn's studio, love the equipment!

Cathryn is the only professional artists’ book maker in Saskatoon. Cathryn and her husband David were generous with their time and stories. This was a fantastic visit. We talked about artists’ books, our past, our work, and where we have lived. Cathryn gifted me her Thank Your Lucky Stars multiple which I have been admiring from afar.

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Cathryn has folder over 60,000 of these wonderful stars over the past 3 years. Her studio had three bins of these wonderful stars.

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Cathryn has folder over 60,000 of these wonderful stars over the past 3 years. Her studio had three bins of these wonderful stars.

I always wondered why Cathryn had recipes as part of her blog posts. The reason is the biggest vegetable garden I have ever seen. They shared tomatoes, cucumbers, corn and the juiciest plums, yum! We dry camped on their 19 acres of land, it was the best night sleep of the whole trip. The last morning we drive through Saskatoon and found approximetly 28 manhole covers. One more volume to the series.

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Cathryn's vegetables and plums were delicious!

© 2016 Louise Levergneux, Cathryn's vegetables and plums were delicious!

Manitoba produced flatness, more rain and lightning. The rain lifted enough for me to run out of the car street after street to photograph more manhole covers.

The Incessant Journey continues throughout Ontario! It’s humid! I had forgotten how humid Ontario gets in August when the rain starts. We don’t have monsoons but we have a wave of humidity. Topaz fluffed up like a fur ball.

Home and camera full of wonderful photos of new manhole covers. Now the work begins again. I will take a few weeks to visit with friends and family. My posts might be erratic but will communicate my journey.

Enjoy your week. What’s your story? Where do you come from? Where are you going? Who has helped you find something lately?

En Route

Life inspires art, life interrupts the flow of creativity! 

With a list of tasks getting longer, I wondered if I could finish my new volumes of City Shields before I left. I finally published three copies of my last 14 artists’ books of different US states.

© 2016 Louise Levergneux

© 2016 Louise Levergneux

These copies will be part of my installation at MING Studios next March 2017.


I’m leaving tomorrow on a 10 day journey back home. This excites me, I need to be reunited and reconnected to my roots. Living away from my home-home is difficult. Assimilated into the English language at a young age, I never thought being French was SO apparent. Here in the US, my cultural background seems more and more unmistakable.

I’m nervous to leave my home here in Idaho, since this séjour in Canada will stop production.

My husband, Michael, our little Sheltie, Topaz and I have traversed the US states to reach home in Gatineau, Québec for the last seven years. This year we are taking the Trans Canada Highway across to the Eastern part of the country. This will give me the opportunity to add Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and other cities in Ontario to my list of volumes for City Shields. I’m looking forward to these additions.

I contacted the City of Calgary and received the list of areas where I will find wonderful manhole cover designs.

Any of you live or travelled though these provinces? Please let me know where the fabulous manhole covers are located. I will photograph from August 10th to August 19th

Cathryn Miller is searching for me in Saskatoon. If you find a “must have” manhole cover in your neighbourhood, please let me know.

Here is what I will miss of my home in Idaho:

  • MING Studios
  • my small comfy studio
  • the freedom my equipment gives me
  • creating books, and
  • Michael, as he returns to Idaho the last week of August

What I have missed of back home in Québec:

  • French family and friends
  • French language
  • French fries
  • French desert...

You noticed from my ridiculous list my roots are on my mind!

Even our profanity is pure and made up of everyday Catholic terminology. My bro is really good at it, so was my father. Most people don’t believe my explanation of how the Québecois swear. They often use sacres in their sentences, it’s part of the content. Here is a link to an article explaining a funny part of my culture. Dan Nosowitz writes on Québec's swearing vocabulary being one of the most entertaining in the entire world in his article “The Delightful Perversity of Québec's Catholic Swears." The Canadian province has expletives like no other”.

You’ll love and be amused by this article. It might help understand us a little better or not!

A mailbox with Québec French that roughly translates to "No fucking admail". (Photo:  Gates of Ale/CC BY-SA 3.0 )

A mailbox with Québec French that roughly translates to "No fucking admail". (Photo: Gates of Ale/CC BY-SA 3.0)

What is not to love about Québec? Les maudites taxes!! Hey, it’s home. I miss the colourful French Canadians. 

I’m on my way back.

'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?