Category Archives: Book of Days Calendar

Get Out There, it’s Your August Book of Days

You’d think I’ve been on summer vacation, what with your Convivio Book of Days calendar for August coming so late, but no. Life has just been hectic, nonstop, go go go, which is not the way August is supposed to be. August is supposed to be sandwiches at the picnic table out back and trips here and there, big trips or maybe just little excursions. And so that’s the August we’re giving you this month on the calendar. Cover stars include my mom, Millie, and my Aunt Anne, when they were little girls. The year is 1930 or so and they are sitting in the backyard with Grandma, eating sandwiches, just as August beckons us to do.

It is the month of Lammas, which has passed, but still to come are Obon, the traditional summer holiday of Japan, which in some prefectures comes in July and in others in August, but I have always been more of an August Obon kind of guy, for that is the time we celebrated it here (though even that has changed). And still to come as well is Ferragosto, the holiday of Italy that comes with the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, the Fifteenth of August. It is the day that same grandma of mine was born, back in 1898. Each year for the Assumption we would eat the traditional cucuzza longa, the odd long squash that actually is a gourd. So far this month I’ve had no luck finding it in the markets but my hopes are high, for there are still a good many days to go before the 15th.

And later this month, the Bartlemas Wayzgoose, a day of great importance to all of us book artists. Whether we be papermakers, letterpress printers, or bookbinders, St. Bartholomew is relevant to us all, and so his feast day is one we have been known to honor and honor well. Locally, here in South Florida, the place to do this this year is at the Jaffe Center for Book Arts in Boca Raton, at Florida Atlantic University’s Wimberly Library. We’ll be part of the big Library Wayzgoose Festival that is taking place there on Saturday, August 25, from 10:30 to 5:30. One of my favorite printers, Ben Blount from Evanston, Illinois, will be featured with print shop demos and a gallery talk, and there will be live music all day (I know, libraries are supposed to be quiet… but not on Wayzgoose day) and we’ll be making printers caps from paper and there will be games and fresh baked artisan breads for sale from Louie Bossi’s in support of the Jaffe, and the works of about 20 local makers and small creative companies like ours will be on display, too, for your small-shopping pleasure. It’s going to be a lot of fun, which is only natural: “Wayzgoose” is a fun word to say, so what else would it be but fun? The St. Bartholomew’s Day Wayzgoose connection to book artists goes back many centuries… something I’ll certainly tell you about on the blog later this month. For now, get out there and enjoy what’s left of summer. It won’t be long before we start thinking thoughts suited to cooler months.


Floating Worlds, or Your July Book of Days

Here’s a sentence no one has uttered for a solid couple of centuries: Tensions are high right now between Canada and the United States. Be that as it may, I have nothing but admiration and goodwill for Canada, perhaps because I have only known really wonderful people from Canada or perhaps because an awful lot of my favorite music comes from Canada. Then again, maybe it’s because Canada Day, the national holiday of Canada, typically falls on my birthday. This year, though, since the First of July is a Sunday, Canada Day falls on July 2nd. Here below the 49th Parallel, Independence Day in the States is on Wednesday, and so for a lot of folks it’s going to be a weeklong celebration. (Why work Monday and Tuesday if we’ll be off on Wednesday? And then the weekend is right after, so why work Thursday and Friday?) As for me, I’ll be working most all week, preparing for a few events happening at the end of the week––events that maybe you’d like to come to, if you are local. More on that later.

But first: Here’s your Convivio Book of Days calendar for July. It’s a printable PDF as usual, and a fine companion to the blog. This month’s calendar is designed over a sheet of suminagashi marbled paper I made back in 1995 at the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina, just about the time that Seth and I first met. Suminagashi is a marbling process where sumi inks are floated on the surface of water and where patterns are created by your breath: by blowing gently on the water, the ink on the surface moves accordingly. By setting a piece of paper atop it, the ink pattern is printed on the paper. It’s a most lovely and organic approach to paper decoration, and one of the traditional ancient crafts of Japan.

I’ll be teaching a suminagashi workshop at the Armory in West Palm Beach on Saturday, July 7, which, as luck would have it, also happens to be the Japanese Star Festival of Tanabata. That fact, like suminagashi itself, is a happy accident… when we scheduled it, months ago, it didn’t even cross my mind that it would fall on the seventh day of the seventh month, but it has. Tanabata is celebrated by writing wishes on strips of paper and tying them to the trees… so we’ll be doing some of that at Saturday’s workshop (not to mention a little letterpress, too). It’s a morning workshop, just three hours, so you can learn a craft, make a few wishes, and be on your way by midday, leaving you an entire long summery afternoon to enjoy other things besides suminagashi. If it sounds like something you’d like to do, register here (you do have to register ahead of time, and probably the sooner the better).

The month continues through many saints’ days and at the end of the month, we come to Lammas Eve, another of the cross quarter days that usher us, by traditional reckoning of time, into a new season. Summer, though, was so late in coming this year, perhaps it’s best to say that Lammas is not so much a seasonal shift as a gentle reminder that summer is waning. Indeed, the days have been getting shorter and shorter each day since the Midsummer solstice of June… six weeks later, with Lammas, we are fast approaching the halfway point to the autumnal equinox of September. William Shakespeare, for good metaphoric reasons, chose Lammas Eve as the night that his Juliet was born, reasons we will discuss in the blog once Lammas comes. But we have a whole month of summer before that, so for now, let’s just enjoy it. To that end, here are all the events I’m involved in this coming weekend… I hope you locals might attend one or two (or three):

Real Mail Fridays: Campfire Social
Friday July 6, 2018, from 2 to 6 PM (an open house; come and go as you please)
This monthly letter writing social is at the Jaffe Center for Book Arts at Florida Atlantic University Libraries in Boca Raton. Donation: $10 at the door. This month we’re enjoying campfire-inspired foods, and we’re asking each person who comes to write a short letter of welcome to summer campers attending the two sessions of letter writing camps hosted by the Delray Beach Historical Society. Here are two info links: this one for the event’s webpage, and this one for the Facebook event page, where you can say, “Hey, I’ll be there!”

Cason Cottage Snail Mail Revolution Event
Friday July 6, 2018, 6 to 9 PM
The links above will provide information, too, for this event, a sort of After Party for the Real Mail Fridays Campfire Social. I’ll be speaking beginning at about 7 PM at the Delray Beach Historical Society’s Cason Cottage about the Jaffe Center’s Real Mail Fridays letter writing socials and showing some artists’ books… and you’ll get a chance to write a letter or two yourself. It’s a pot luck but you shouldn’t feel obligated to bring food. Just come.

Workshop: Floating Worlds (Suminagashi Paper Marbling)
Saturday July 7, 2018, 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM
And I’d love to teach you about suminagashi and Tanabata at the Armory Art Center in West Palm Beach, Florida. Advance registration is required; please register here.


The Sensual World, or Your June Book of Days

Once again from the Better Late Than Never Department, here is our monthly gift to you: Your printable Convivio Book of Days calendar, this one for June. It was a hectic close to May and it’s been a hectic start to June, and since there’s not much happening at the start of the month, I figured all right then, we would ease into this month’s calendar. In fact, the first red letter day of the month isn’t until the 13th, when we celebrate the Feast of St. Anthony of Padua.

Now my grandmother, Assunta, she would have been celebrating St. Anthony in her way from the start of the month. St. Anthony was her guy, and Grandma would offer thirteen days of novenas in his honor beginning on the First of June. She would sit there in her upright beach chair in front of the statue of St. Anthony, the one that Dad painted by hand, and mumble her prayers, prayers she would read from books sent to her by the children at the orphanage in Padua named for St. Anthony, the one she supported for years with gifts. They were good friends, in a way, my grandma and St. Anthony, but this is how we Italians are, talking to the saints that guide us, as if they are right there in the room with us.

My mom remembers as a girl coming in from outside on warm June days just like this and wandering through the house, wondering, “Where’s my mother?” and there she would be, with Mamam, the neighbor, the one who delivered my mom soon after the doctor had left the house because he didn’t think the baby would be coming any time soon. She was like a second mother to my mom, Mamam was, and she and Grandma would be in the house, these June days, reading and reciting before the statue of St. Anthony, saying their novena. Grandma would read the prayers out loud in Italian, and Mamam, who didn’t know how to read, would say the response. She’d catch a glimpse of my mom, little girl that she was at the time, and wave her in. “Come on, Millie, come pray with us.” Just what a little girl wants to do on a warm June day. But she was seen, and now she was stuck there. It was too late to turn away. And so my Mom would sit there, too, with Grandma and Mamam, saying “Pray for us” in Italian after each petition to St. Anthony. There was no turning away from the old friend.

This would go on each day through to St. Anthony’s Day on the 13th. I imagine not many people do this anymore. For me, a little boy watching my Grandma sit and pray on her beach chair by the statue in the yard, it was always a Grandma thing, something that all the grandmothers I knew did. Then again, all the grandmothers I knew as a child were Italian. I remember the first time I met the grandmother of another boy I knew, a grandmother who was tall and who spoke proper English. I was a little taken aback. It was just plain weird. Like the time in 1970 when my grandparents went back to Italy and came home again with photographs in color. Color? Italy, to me at 6-years old, was sepia-toned.

But I digress. Back to the calendar. June is the month of Old Midsummer, of William Shakespeare and his Midsummer Night’s Dream. It is, as well, the month of Bloomsday and Juneteenth, all days that have some literary connection. It was Ralph Ellison who titled a novel Juneteenth, a name taken from the obscure June holiday that commemorates the formal and official end of slavery in Texas, and Bloomsday is of course based on the work of James Joyce, who wrote about the day’s adventures through Dublin of a character named Leopold Bloom in his novel Ulysses, and now, each 16th of June, people all over the world call down his memory. If there is a cover star of sorts on this month’s calendar, it would be Kate Bush, who recorded a song in 1989 titled “The Sensual World,” a song that is steeped, too, in James Joyce’s Ulysses and in Bloomsday, based as it is on the closing passage of the book, a soliloquy by Molly Bloom, Leopold’s wife.

So many words on our lips––prayers and plays, novels and soliloquies–– in a month of beauty. With June we welcome summer by the almanac. We embrace the gentle time of year, the sensual world. Go, enjoy it.