Kate Barber
~ Indiana

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Kate Barber: "While much of my work utilizes the traditional practices of letterpress printing and hand bookbinding, my process from sketching to design largely centers on the digital. It is between these worlds that I find a temporal balance between the slowness of fine craft and the speed and spontaneity of technology. Conceptually, my work aims to process complex ideas and data into a digestible, visual language, where text and image overlap to create a narrative that invites both intellectual and emotional responses."
By Kate barber
Tuscaloosa, Alabama: Kate Barber, 2014. Edition of 50.

4.75 x 7"; 8 panel double-sided accordion with 3 pamphlet insets. Letterpress printed with photopolymer plates and linoleum on handmade cotton/abaca paper. Paper covered boards. Laid in cloth covered chemise. Housed in slipcase. Numbered on the colophon.

Kate Barber: "Tracing the interrelated co-evolution of earth and life, this project explores the connection between the enormity of the universe and the microscopic details of life. Three pamphlet insets explore the development of Earth, molecules, and life. They are structured to hide and reveal text and images, which allows the reading to unfold organically. The text continues onto the back of the accordion where it delves into humanity. The imagery is comprised of contrasting organic circles and graphic lines. These polar aesthetics work in tandem with the text and play off each other to create their own unique narrative."

Thesis, excerpt: "When I originally settled on the accordion/pamphlet structure, I imagined two narratives. Not competing narratives, but rather two sides that could be read together or stand alone – one textual, one visual. So as I worked on the imagery, it was important to focus on developing a cohesive narrative that would both connect the front and back in a visual narrative loop and enhance the reading of the text. I took my visual and color inspiration from a variety of sources ranging from human and plant details and fossils to cosmic maps and cityscapes .... I poured over the internet for images that captured both the micro- and macroscopic details of life, looking for the common threads and ways to simplify and unify.

"My challenge was to create a visual narrative that would capture both splitting and growth. I began sketching circles, arranging them to increase exponentially from one page to the next. This resulted in a sequence that increased from one circle on the front cover to two then four then eight then sixteen, all the way up to 128 with the back cover completely covered in a chaos of layered circles. The pattern then works its way back down to two circles on the back side. In addition to adjusting the quantity and size of the circles, I played with color to emphasize the duality of the sides. I selected a warm palette for the front and a cool palette for the back using a neutral gray as an unifying element. To create cohesion between the two sides, I overlapped each palette to the opposite side to create a mingling effect.

"... To counter the organic linoleum circles printed on the accordion, I started sketching with thin, graphic lines and played with how to evolve the lines across the book. I ended up transitioning the lines from straight in the first pamphlet to straight insinuating curves in the second and then finally to fully curved orbitals in the third....I chose to print lines on only one side of the sheets to leave plenty of white space for the words to breathe."


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The Bear Story
By Kate Barber
Tuscaloosa, Alabama: Kate Barber, 2012. Edition of 40.

2.75 x 3"; 20 pages. Miniature. Letterpress printed with photopolymer plates on Somerset paper. Built-in groove case binding with cover inset. Numbered.

Kate Barber: "Believed to be based on an actual bear sighting, this story is thought to have started in the small mining town of Blackstar, Kentucky, and has since been passed down through the generations as a children's bedtime story."

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Letters to a Young Poet
By Raine Maria Rilke
translated by Reginald Snell
Tuscaloosa, Alabama: Kate Kotan [Barber], 2012. Edition of 35.

4.25 x 6 " case with pamphlet and letter. Letterpress printed with photopolymer plates on Somerset paper. Bound in a flat black case with removable double pamphlet book in vellum pocket and letter in vellum envelope. Pamphlet: 4 x 5.75", 12 pages; in wraps; pamphlet stitch binding. Designed, printed, and bound by Kate Kotan.

Kate Barber: "Letter One from Raine Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet (1903), drawings based on early mathematical drawings by Alice Boole Scott (1900).

"I was drawn to Alice's drawings because she originally made them by hand and was fascinated that she was able to create such precise objects by hand using only math. When I read more about her, her passion for math was inspiring especially given the time period. For me I saw a strong connection between her passion to do what lay inside her and the message of Rilke's Letters. Additionally, the shapes I chose and manipulated are mostly skeletal and result in shapes hidden within shapes, which I used as a metaphor for the talents that lie hidden in each of us. I think the final image makes this connection clearest as the two shapes are nested. I chose to feature this nested shape in a small 'letter' in the envelope opposite the book as a way to make tangible one’s inner passion."


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Whale Fall
By Kate Kotan [Barber]
Tuscaloosa, Alabama: Tiny Furniture Press, 2012. Edition of 40.

3.25 x 5.25"; 22 pages including pastedowns. Letterpress printed with photopolymer plates on Johannot paper. Drum-leaf binding. Cloth over boards. Edition of 40 with 10 deluxe clamshell boxes. Numbered.

Kate Barber: "Based on the research of Dr. Craig Smith, a biological oceanographer at the University of Hawaii, as heard on the Loops episode of Radiolab, this project aims to capture a gray whale's death cycle placed in a global context. Organized from a macro to micro, the narrative is structured to convey a sense of beauty and awe in the unseen details of life and death by which we are surrounded."

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Kate Barber Out of Print Title:  
By Kate Barber
Chicago, Illinois: Kate Barber, 2011. Edition of 10.

5.5 x 8"; 26 leaves. Handset metal type and polymer plate imagery letterpress printed on Japanese paper. Concertina binding. Cloth over boards.

Kate Barber: "This project is an exploration of the relationships and emotions surrounding the experience of caring for my grandmother with Alzheimer's. The narrative is created through the interaction of two narrative voices – the fleeting voice of my grandmother, which is printed on semi-transparent paper, and the more stable rational voice of myself and mother, which is printed on more opaque paper. The interaction between these two voices creates a fluid and shifting dialogue that is evocative of our lived experience. The imagery on the concertina binding piece and end sheets is composed of scribbled handwritten notes and lists made by my grandmother, which serve as an indicator of her mental decline and corresponding confusion."

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Experiments in Paper
A Curated Exploration of Invasive Plants in Alabama
As Based on Early Botanicals

By Kate Barber
Tuscaloosa, Alabama: Kate Barber, 2013. Edition of 15.

6 x 9 x .75" hard case with four-flap paper wrapper interior containing 12 individual sheets (5.5 x 8.5" closed, 11 x 8.5" open). Typography is a combination of handset metal and wood type with digitally set polymer type. Imagery is a combination of carved linoleum and scratch-negative polymer plate drawings. Both letterpress printed on a variety of handmade paper.

Kate Barber: "This project began as an experiment to test the impact of handmade paper variables – fiber mixture, internal sizing, and calendaring [calendaring is a process in which damp paper is pressed through a heat roller to give it a smooth and shiny finish] – on print quality using a wide range of printing techniques. I chose to base the text and imagery for this exploration on a selection of Alabamian weeds, a subject linked to ideas of pattern and texture."

Each of the 12 examples includes the source information of the plant. Information on the interior wrapper includes materials, process, and conclusions.

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Page last update: 10.09.17

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