Categories
Print Writing & Editing

From the Sands of the Arena

Rich Field is a local high school history teacher.

His interest in the ancient world is maybe only matched by his passion for drawing students into it. Rich came to me in mid-2015 with an untitled manuscript he’d been developing a long time, a book of Greek, Roman, and Hellenic trivia.

He had a series of questions and answers, organized in three sections. I copyedited them thoroughly, removed duplicate questions and answers, and placed the answers at the bottom of each page, making the book easy to pull out at a party. (Admittedly, a nerdy party.) I decided on a type treatment that would reference the material with Roman numerals and titles, but which otherwise felt modern. This is not stale trivia. Most of it was fresh even to me, a guy who spent four years slogging his way through Latin II.

We met just west of downtown Albuquerque to photograph several of Rich’s Greek and Roman sword and shield reproductions. With an eye to the sun’s location for appropriate shadow placement, and intentional editing choices, these became the front and back covers. We then drove back into downtown to shoot a bio photo.

When we were done, From the Sands of the Arena was available on Amazon.

After rich signed off on the final design and edit, I oversaw the production process through CreateSpace. I managed color, chose a creamy off-white paper for the book’s body, and a matte paper for the cover, and made all final corrections, before sending the book to press. Rich received his first batch a week before his first speaking engagement for them, a huge smile on his face.

What began with many years’ work came to me in a Word document, becoming an object as classy, inviting, and charmingly hard to classify as Rich’s text. A handsome book, well worth pulling out in any gathering of history lovers.

Categories
Print Writing & Editing

The LAND an art gallery

My path to The LAND an art gallery was through my boss at La Montañita Co-op.

I worked with Edite Cates, co-owner of The LAND, in the Marketing department. Our conversations always drifted into the conceptual, so I was thrilled when she asked me to contribute a work for a show about localism.

The show grew from an art project by Marshall Kovitz*, during his morning bike rides. As he rode, he took photographs of strangers’ lawn art. Where other artists responded to themes of topography, literal/aerial perspective, and hyper-localized growth, I was taken with the essence of Marshall’s project.

Simmering under the photography, I saw questions of right and privilege. These gave rise to questions of assumptions and unintended oppression.

I interpreted them in an absurd conversation between a local woman and a local police officer. They talked about (how to talk about) the theft of the woman’s lawn.

“‘He stole your lawn?’ she said.” was born.

I retyped the poem 12 times and cut it into strips of varying lengths, so different portions of the conversation would be visible. I placed the strips out of order at the base of the the complete conversation. Gallery visitors could then each take home a small portion of the conversation—without context. What they took from the gallery might make some sense there, then, but in a few days—or months, or years—they might find it again, and try to make sense of it.

I felt this mirrored the trouble with these photographs. Homes, and lawns, are intimate, semi-private places. Photographing them, as a person who doesn’t live there, or in those communities, raises complex, important questions. And of course, my response comes from the perspective of someone also not in one of the pictured homes.

The show ran at The LAND an art gallery May–June, 2013.

*When I wrote this update, I learned that Marshall passed in early 2016. I was very sorry to hear this, and my heart still goes out to his loved ones. Whatever his complexities, he was a very sincere man, and a committed peace activist.

Categories
Print Writing & Editing

SWEAR, poems by Hakim Bellamy

The first Poet Laureate of Albuquerque, New Mexico, Hakim Bellamy writes loudly.

West End Press, a publisher with deep pockets in the personal, political, and postmodern, published his first collection in 2012. It was the second in their New Series. They wanted a fresh design, distinct from their general catalog (which stretches back 40+ years). They wanted to begin new traditions, while standing shoulder-to-shoulder with others.

Hakim’s verse is built on tight rhyme schemes, hairpin turns, and blunt truths. Even as it opens possibilities, this book does not equivocate. These are poems steeped in the liberation traditions of the 20th century.

So I chose a sharp, un-equivocating 20th century typeface, and pushed that typeface further, through experimental design, while always keeping the book readable. After all, this is a work to be read (from the rooftops), and its design shouldn’t distract from the literary study it deserves.

For the cover, Hakim wanted to reference a specific photograph of Jay-Z.

Hakim and the publisher went to Albuquerque’s Civic Plaza and shot the poet, now, with his hand to the camera.* I used the same hard-edged typeface from the book’s body, blurred the edges, and placed it on the poet’s hand, in the style of a worn tattoo.

I matched the hue of the tattoo to the hue of the sky. Azure is a jarring color to see below the horizon. It doesn’t sit well on the skin. And here, on the poet’s hand, it looked imposing, blunt, barely organic, and unnaturally sharp. All of which can be said about Hakim Bellamy’s poems.

The result is a book whose design is tightly correlated with its words.

There’s no room to hide in Hakim’s poems. There should be no room for this poems to hide in his book.

*In 2012 I was not yet working as a photographer. Had this book been produced in 2015, I would have offered to do the shoot.

Categories
Digital Photography Print Writing & Editing

Vital Foods

In 2015 I co-owned Vital Foods, a small organic grocery, and vegan cafe, with a team of five. Though hired to implement and maintain their website, I quickly began designing identity and marketing materials.

The logo was the first step in a rebranding effort. I kept several elements of the original logo: sun rays, and two of the colors. The goal was to evoke a fresh taste, full of energy. I chose the type to imply both structure and verve, and the V quickly became a standalone design element.

Categories
Print Writing & Editing

Coach, Coach, Look at Me!

Jim came to me with his memoir, a manuscript of about 500 pages. About four months later, I returned him a full-fledged book, of about 300 pages. I edited substantially, for content, tone, grammar and cleanliness; photographed, retouched and prepared more than 100 archival photos for black-and-white publication; and designed the book from cover to cover. Jim was an absolute joy to work with, and I cried every time I finished a draft.

Jim’s Original

As if I did not have enough on my plate, Agnes Redmond, principal at Whittier, called me into the office in 2002 and said, “Coach Ciccarello, you are going to spend part of your teaching day at Bandelier Elementary.” What? – Was my reaction to that statement.

How could that be? I was just developing the track and field program at La Cueva High School and the jump rope team was getting better at Whittier. Agnes said, “Bandelier has 300 more students than we do, and you need to go and help the physical education teacher there so he can have a break. You will teach eight classes here and then drive over to Bandelier and teach two more PE classes.” All I could think of at the moment was the fact that APS was adding more to my work load and I would have a hard time fitting it all in. I knew the budget was tight but could they give me a break and find someone else to do this?

The next week I went over to Bandelier and met the principal, Mrs. Dennis, and they gave me a tour of the campus. Bandelier, like Whittier was located in the Southeast heights and it was an older school having been built in the 1940’s. The two schools were a mile apart and, as I will describe later, many more miles apart in school population makeup. People were very friendly and they welcomed me with a great attitude. When we went over to the new gym, built just a couple years earlier, I met Chris Jarvis. Chris was the current PE teacher and he was in his second year at Bandelier. He had formerly been a classroom teacher and decided to go into the gym and try his hand at physical education. His schedule was such that he needed a break just to eat lunch as he had nonstop PE classes from 9:00am till 3:45pm. The idea was that I would provide that break and I also would contribute to working a couple of extra PE classes that we might team teach. Mrs. Redmond would allow me to leave Whittier at 12:30 pm each day and being as Bandelier was only a few minutes away I could be ready to teach by 12:45 pm.

After meeting with Chris Jarvis, I was struck by how professional and easy going he was. I could sense that we would get along and cooperate. Many times when teachers work in close proximity to each other there is a friction that disrupts the educational process. He was in a learning mode and I could tell he would pick my brain and experience. I would rely on his self-contained classroom experience and youth. Chris was in his early 30’s, and was entering the physical education field for the first time. I was more than 30 years older than Chris. The age gap was no hindrance. By the way, I have always said, “you can teach old dogs new tricks.” In reality I was the “old dog” and he was the young puppy!

Chris had heard of our jump rope team at Whittier and wanted something similar at his school. My first reaction was to balk at another extra job to do. But, with further thought, I figured maybe we can enhance the program by joining them together. I agreed to do it as long as we called it a dual team effort. We would be the Whittier/Bandelier jump rope team. At times, Bandelier would perform alone and at times Whittier would also perform alone. We designed new shirts with each school’s own name on the front and both names on the back. This sounded like a great idea. Now all we had to do was train the Bandelier kids to jump!

My Edit

As if I did not have enough on my plate, Agnes Redmond, principal at Whittier, called me into the office in 2002 and said, “Coach Ciccarello, you are going to spend part of your teaching day at Bandelier Elementary.”

How could that be? I was just developing the track and field program at La Cueva, and the jump-rope team was getting better at Whittier! “But,” Agnes said, “Bandelier has 300 more students than we do, and you need to go and help the PE teacher there so he can have a break. You will teach eight classes here and then drive over to Bandelier and teach two more.” All I could think was that APS was adding more work, and I would have a hard time fitting it all in. I knew the budget was tight, but couldn’t they find someone else to do this?

The next week Bandelier’s principal, Mrs. Dennis, gave me a tour of the campus. Like Whittier, it was located in the Southeast Heights, and an older school, built in the 1940s. The two were a mile apart, and many more in demographics. People were very friendly and they welcomed me with a great attitude.

We went into the new gym, built just a few years earlier, where I met Chris Jarvis. Chris was the current PE teacher and in his second year at Bandelier. He had formerly been a classroom teacher and was trying his hand at physical education. He had nonstop classes from 9:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m., and he needed a break to eat lunch, which I would provide, and team-teach a few classes with him. I had a 15-minute window to get from Whittier to Bandelier.
Chris struck me with his professionalism and easy-going attitude. I knew we would get along. Many times when teachers work closely, some friction can disrupt the educating. But Chris was in a learning mode. I would rely on his youth and classroom experience, and he would rely on my years of coaching experience. You can teach old dogs new tricks, but old dogs can teach the young pups, too!

Chris had heard of our jump-rope team and wanted to try something similar. I balked at first, but with further thought, I figured we could join our groups. I agreed to it explicitly as a team effort: the Whittier/Bandelier Jump-Rope Team. At times, each team would perform alone, but more often, together. We designed new shirts with each school’s name on the front, and both names on the back. Now all we had to do was train the Bandelier kids to jump!

Categories
Digital Print Writing & Editing

An Underground Guide to Alburquerque

Since co-founding it in 2005, I have edited, written for, designed and directed production of the Guide, and directed art in all but 2010. I’ve tried both traditional and experimental production, in 2009, using 15 different paper stocks for the inside, and three cover colors, leaving the paper order to the printer. As Publisher, I’ve lead the group, organized and lead regular meetings, hired and let go of staff, and worked closely with each group member to get the book out attractive and on-time.

In the 2012 (#6) issue, I introduced a second color to the design. With the release of An Arrival Guide in late 2013, the project has been in hibernation.

Categories
Print Writing & Editing

Swamp Yankee

Christopher Jones and I worked together two years, refining his poems for their content, sharpening his voice, and zeroing in on his vision. Jones’s styles are muscular, clear, hard-won and hilarious. Though his became the last book published by Destructible Heart before its current hiatus, I designed it as a blueprint for all future D. Heart releases.

I chose earthy and contrasting colors, type with classic lines and iconoclastic flair, and the French flap cover to achieve a mockingly Victorian treatment, reflecting the book’s funny, dark self-assurance. Jones loved the book, and it has since become a collector’s item.

Categories
Print Writing & Editing

Egress the Labyrinth Proper

Aaron Enskat wanted a hand-bound book. We discussed variations on traditional formats – including pivoting pages at 90° angles to indicate a progression through a labyrinth – and settled on the standard, with flourishes. The book’s specs:

I printed all front cover type and imagery in varnish to establish and reflect the book’s themes of elusiveness and disappearance, and wove labyrinthine graphical elements throughout the text. I also edited the poems heavily, cleaning line breaks, grammar, establishing punctuation consistency, and helping Aaron choose the sequence.

Categories
Digital Photography Print Writing & Editing

La Montañita Co-op Market

In September 2009 I began writing and designing for my local Co-op market. Though I was hired as a Marketing Assistant, my skills grew so much during my time there that my position was renamed Senior Designer.

I wrote, edited, and maintained their blog and Facebook presence. I edited 4–6 posts per month, and whittled from 1000+ words to 400–600, and varying the depth from light punctuation to full-scale rearrangement and rewriting. I more than tripled their Facebook fans and substantially increased fan participation on the page. I wrote articles for the center-spread of the monthly newsletter, ranging from layman’s clarifications of worldwide Cooperative statistics to marketing copy, and drove in-store participation. I also wrote and edited innumerable marketing posters and small signs used around the stores.

Meanwhile, I planned and designed many in-store signs, for materials ranging from magnets to steel. I often oversaw installation and maintained relationships with store-level managers, helping to grease communication between the stores and the Administrative Offices. I was instrumental in the formation and iconography of the “We Love…” campaign, which has increased sales and customer loyalty, and which the Marketing Dept. still uses today (“We Love Food,” “We Love Our Customers,” etc.).