Balance, & the Ember Months

I go through all the months of the year, content enough and present and engaged, but once we reach September, I perk up a bit more and grow really excited. These are the months I’ve long called The Ember Months, for they end that way in English: September, of course, and November and December. October counts, too; it’s not quite an “-ember” but still concludes in “-ber” and that’s close enough for me. Anyway, October may just be my favorite month of them all. These are the months that bring ripening pumpkins and apples, chestnuts and pomegranates; the months that hold my favorite days: these are the months of autumn. And in these earliest dark night hours of the 23rd of September, at 3:50 AM Eastern Daylight Time, autumn officially arrives by the almanac, as our planet reaches its moment of equinox, bringing autumn to the Northern Hemisphere and spring to the Southern Hemisphere.

It is, as well, a time of balance, bringing pretty much equal lengths of day and night to the entire globe for a few days. These are auspicious days for someone like me, who strives for balance but can never quite attain it. My problems attaining balance are based, I’m sure, on an inherent flaw within me: a seeming inability to say “no.” But I envision this great big earth we live upon, spinning on its axis on its elliptical orbit around the sun, and it is a great inspiration: if this great celestial being can attain balance, perhaps so can I. And certainly there is no harm in the striving. And even for Earth, the balance is fleeting: by tomorrow, night will be longer than day in our hemisphere above the equator. Soon, old friends will emerge in that longer night sky, like the constellation Orion, harbinger of winter. It’s always good to see him. And so I say welcome, old friends. Welcome, autumn. Welcome, Ember Months.

We begin popping up a lot throughout South Florida these last few months of the year. Here’s where you’ll find us next month. More possibilities are in the works for October… to be kept apprised, follow us on Instagram or Facebook: @conviviobookworks

Sunday October 6 from 11 AM to 3 PM
History Fort Lauderdale (inside the historic New River Inn)
231 SW 2nd Ave, Fort Lauderdale
We’ll be there with a mini pop up of our traditional Dia de Muertos artisan goods.

Sunday October 20 from 10 AM to 4 PM
Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton
Live music, family fun, and lots of great local makers. We’ll be there with a big boutique of traditional Dia de Muertos artisan goods, Shaker herbs & teas, Seth Thompson’s Royal River pottery, and maybe even a little advent calendar preview.

Friday October 25 from 2 to 6 PM
Jaffe Center for Book Arts at Florida Atlantic University Libraries, Boca Raton
It’s a special edition of the Jaffe’s popular Real Mail Fridays letter writing socials, this one with an All Hallow’s Eve theme. Expect good old fashioned autumnal fun plus a mini Makers Marketplace. We’ll be there with a selection of our traditional Dia de Muertos artisan goods.


Image: A depiction of the constellation Orion from the Prodromus Astronomia, volume III: Firmamentum Sobiescianum, sive Uranographia by Johannes Hevelius, 1690.



Drive Down Day, or Your September Book of Days

Hurricane Dorian kicked us a bit out of sync as we transitioned from August to September, but here, finally, is your printable Convivio Book of Days calendar for September. We are fine here in Lake Worth, though that is not the case with our neighbors in the Bahamas. Just 75 miles east of us is the western point of Grand Bahama Island, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve scanned the horizon at the coast when I was a boy, looking for the Bahamas because they’re right there, but 75 miles is a distance sometimes. Enough of a distance to see no sign of land from here, and enough of a distance for us to emerge unharmed by Dorian’s course.

That’s how I got to Maine the first time I went to that fair state. I was going to Penland, North Carolina, but I had some artwork to bring to a gallery in Vermont––my first non-academic art show––and, on the map, at least, Vermont seemed to be just a little further away. Why not bring the artwork there myself? And if I was going to Vermont, I figured, certainly I should go to Maine. This is the way my mind works. You can see how someone like me would be looking out over the Atlantic, hoping to see Grand Bahama from my tiny strand of sand.

Way over in Switzerland, it’s the time of year the cows come home from the Alpine meadows. They were there last July when Seth and I were driving along the Splügen Pass on the way from Austria to Italy, high in Alps, their bells ringing through the mountain air as we drove, and now that winter is setting in, it’s time for them to come down to the valleys. Typically this happens now, in early September, and especially on the 8th of September, which is the day we celebrate the Nativity of Mary, which is known as Drive Down Day in some parts of Switzerland. The return of the cows is not without some pomp and ceremony: they’re dressed up and decorated and so are their human companions. It’s a sight, I’m sure, but it’s the bells I love best. If you’ve never heard them, well… it’s the most peaceful sound. One of those bell-wearing Swiss bovines is the cover star of your September Book of Days… and while we’re at it, here’s a video we took when we were in Switzerland of the cows and their bells, not long before we reached the top of the Splügen Pass:

Across the border in Italy the folks like to eat blueberries today: blue, the color of Mary’s cloak, at least in Italian Renaissance paintings. Lights are illuminated in windows, and bonfires blaze. In France, Mary is celebrated today, in the midst of the grapes ripening on the vine, as Our Lady of the Grape Harvest. Bunches of grapes are brought to churches for the priests to bless and you’ll find lots of grapes this day in the hands of statues of Mary, placed there by Marian devotees and by lovers of wine and by traditionalists like me. This is September, the first of the “Ember” months. Seth and I, we wish you a fine one.


We’re popping up at Hatch 1121 in Lake Worth on Saturday for the big “Catrinas: The Festival” event and I’m teaching a workshop at the Armory later this month.

Saturday September 14 from 4 to 9 PM
Hatch 1121 (the old Lake Worth Shuffle Board Courts)
at 1121 Lucerne Ave in Downtown Lake Worth’s West Village
Our favorite time of year is fast approaching! Here, to kick things off, Lake Worth meets L.A. in a unique festival that revolves around an exhibition featuring works by Lake Worth artist José R. Mendez and Los Angeles photographer Gus Mejia. Admission is free and plentiful parking is nearby. In the Hatch courtyard, live mariachi, food, crafts, and low riders… and we’ll be there in our usual spot with a preview of this year’s Convivio Bookworks Dia de Muertos collection. You’ll find your old favorites plus lots of new items not yet in our online catalog, all of them made by hand by artisans in Mexico. It’s all about authenticity.

Saturday September 21 from 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM
The Armory
at 811 Park Place in West Palm Beach
Printing and bookbinding are at the core of the Book Arts, and in this one day workshop, you’ll get a foundation in both. Learn a bit of letterpress plus the techniques behind a range of handmade book structures that you can create anywhere on your own without special bindery equipment. We’ll print one of our book covers from handset type, and you won’t just leave with blank books: one of the books you’ll bind is a letterpress limited edition story that was printed by your Convivio Bookworks boys in years past, and you’ll get to bind your very own copy.


Huzzah & Cheers!

Fast on the heels of the Bartlemas Wayzgoose on this 28th of August comes the feast day of St. Augustine, a patron saint of printers and of brewers. Two celebrations in one week? That’s a lot for anyone, but we printers have been managing this lot cast upon us for centuries now. Good old St. Augustine of Hippo was born in Northern Africa, in what is now Tunisia, in 354. He became a patron saint of printers thanks to his prolific writing. Books like his Confessions probably kept a lot of early printers in business. The confessions were easy to come by for Augustine: he was a fellow who liked a good time, at least early on in life, and this is the root of his patronage for brewers. His mother, who is also canonized as a saint (St. Monica) prayed for his conversion. Eventually he did convert and when he did, he began to write. He was canonized at the turn of the 14th century, about 150 years before Johannes Gutenberg perfected the idea of moveable type. He is also a patron saint of people with sore eyes… which perhaps comes from reading too many books. Be that as it may, today we lift our glasses and toast a hearty Huzzah and Cheers! to the brewers and the printers.

Image: “Typesetter at Enschede Haarlem” by Charles Frederick Ulrich. Oil on panel. 1884 [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons. We don’t know what’s in the typesetter’s cup… but back then, beer was probably safer than water.