Jean Buescher Bartlett

Bookbinder/Artist/Designer
Founder/Owner, Bloodroot Press
Ann Arbor, Michigan
www.bloodrootpress.com

Jean Buescher Bartlett is the founder and owner of Bloodroot Press, an Ann Arbor-based studio and bindery.  For the past 25 years Jean has published and produced a range of limited edition, letterpress printed, illustrated books, including The Day the World Began by Fay Weldon, Porch Swing by Alison Swan, and An Alphabet Book that contains 26 original gouache paintings. She hand bound the 175 copy deluxe edition of Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon: Stories of Pork Bellies, Hush Puppies, Rock ‘n’ Roll Music and Bacon Fat Mayonnaise by Ari Weinzweig. Jean’s work is housed in major collections worldwide, including the New York Public Library, Dutch Royal Library, Stanford University Special Collections, and the Victoria & Albert Museum. The University of Michigan Special Collections houses a complete collection of all of the books and broadsides produced by Bloodroot Press. Jean has been teaching Book Arts and the History of Modern Design at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit since 2006.  She resides in Ann Arbor with her husband, Tom.

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Sean Carter

FAVORITES

Book: A Childhood: The Biography of a Place by Harry Crews, Eucalyptus by Murray Bail, and Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson.

Sanctuary: My bed and my garden.

Museum: The Asian Art Museum in Seattle, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Cooper Hewitt and The Cloisters in New York City, and Sir John Soane’s Museum in London.

THE QUERY

How did you get your start as a book artist?

I saw an exhibition of the Guild of Bookworkers at the Boston Athenaeum in the mid 1980s. I was captivated by the idea of the handmade book — by its profundity, compactness, intimacy, and completeness. I then enrolled in the MFA Program in Book Arts at the University of Alabama — still one of the finest programs of its kind in the country — and immersed myself in acquiring the very best binding and letterpress skills I could. I went on to apprentice at the Yolla Bolly Press in Northern California before moving to Ann Arbor and establishing Bloodroot Press.  

Why does this form of artistic expression suit you?

It combines my love of reading, writing, handwork, repetition, and mindfulness. It’s rather slow and deliberate work, which is my preferred mode of operation. 

What led to the creation of Bloodroot Press in 1990?

Wanting to focus on producing limited edition, letterpress printed, illustrated, and hand bound books with quality and integrity.

Do you have a particular approach [or process] as you begin a book?

There is usually an anchor, often the text. After that, it’s just one decision at a time until everything falls into place. Doing a mock-up that changes and evolves is essential. 

What materials do you typically work with?

Handmade papers, Japanese and German bookcloth, oil-based letterpress inks, and linen sewing thread.

Whom do you collaborate with on your projects?

Writers, poets, calligraphers, and papermakers.

Which three tools of the trade can’t you live without?

Press boards, blotters, and weights. Just the right bone folder. Surgical scissors.

How do you define creativity?

Unbridled and unabashed curiosity.

What types of projects are you working on these days? 

Renovating our 1927 Dutch Colonial home and studio next to Eberwhite Woods. Collages inspired by Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons that have spilled over into one-of-a-kind artist books. A series of conceptual works on paper entitled Small Acts of Violence.

What are your artistic influences?

Joseph Beuys. Japanese and German art and design. Karl Blossfeldt’s photographs. Contemporary architecture and crafts. Walter Hamady’s bookwork. Signage and typography.

Is there a book or a film that has changed you?

Vincent Ward’s film, Vigil.

What’s the best advice you ever received?

To have faith in what I’m doing and to stick with it.

What’s right with the world?

The tenacity of human creativity.