Side Effects of Codex

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I’m back from the Bay Area and had a lovely time. I was quite anxious about Codex, wondering whether it would be “worth my time, effort and expense”. I find myself wondering how to evaluate this question; it would be interesting if the organizers had an evaluation form for venders and attendees. And what does “worth it” mean anyways? More on that in a minute.

View of the SF skyline from Mt. Davidson, near where I stayed

View of the SF skyline from Mt. Davidson, near where I stayed


This was my second Codex (the event has taken place four times biannually since 2007. The format of the event includes the book fair on Sunday, speakers on Monday and Tuesday mornings, followed by the book fair each day, and then a final day for the fair. Phew! The new venue at the Craneway Pavillion in Richmond was incredible. The building was an old Ford plant, filled with windows and high ceilings.
The Craneway Pavillion (shown empty here)

The Craneway Pavillion (shown empty here)


I was delighted to have a buddy to ride Bart with (Mary Hark); we were both staying near the same station in San Francisco and chatting made the ride home that much faster!
Mary Hark with Chip Shilling behind a stack of Mary's flax/linen/abaca papers

Mary Hark with Chip Shilling behind a stack of Mary’s flax/linen/abaca papers


I enjoyed the morning talks, especially the one by papermaker and research scientist Tim Barrett, who showed a great video of a team at the University of Iowa making handmade papers at 100 sheets an hour (like they did in Europe in the old days). He had some interesting ideas about using handmade paper for custom books as digital books become the norm. He also talked about applying gelatin sizing to papers after printing in an attempt to make the best letterpress paper; it appears that this may have been the case in early papers, and the sizing then allowed the reader to interact with the book by writing in the margins.
Tim Barrett, students and customers at the UICB table

Tim Barrett, a student and customers at the University of Iowa Center for the Book table


I was quite busy for the first two days and am so thankful that Daria Wilber helped out at my table. Strategically speaking, I think it was good that I had a diverse group of products: I sold copies of all three of my new artists’ books (Cosmology, the Pop-Up Hand Shadow Book and Handle With Care) as well as a few older works (like The Way It Is broadside). Playing With Paper was handled by hundreds, and I sold almost all of the copies I had shipped to the fair. I also sold handmade papers, paper rings and paper bags.
IMG_0381I met interesting people as well. There were customers that I met at the last Codex event; I spoke with a new customer about a potential commission; I sat next to a librarian on the bus over to the fair, which led to her visiting my table (her library has a collection of books that feature paper, so hopefully she’ll place an order); I met a book and video distributor, who seems interested in distributing The Papermaker’s Studio Guide; I met the producer of Between the Folds, a model for a movie I would like to produce about hand papermakers, and more! It was exhilarating and exhausting!
The fog of San Francisco, view across the water from the Craneway Pavillion

The fog of San Francisco, view across the water from the Craneway Pavillion


I had a chance to wind down after the fair during a two-day visit with a childhood friend who lives in Palo Alto. I found these two days incredible stimulating, as I began to think about what is next, especially in relation to two new installations I’ve been thinking about for awhile. My friend even had an amazing idea to incorporate geocaching into one of them. Stay tuned!
WIth Sharon at Fort Funston Beach

WIth Sharon at Fort Funston Beach


Kicking back at the Moss Beach distillery. It was warm enough to dine on the terrace!

Kicking back at the Moss Beach distillery. It was warm enough to dine on the terrace!


All in all, I’d say it was worth the trek. I had fun with friends, sold products, networked, saw old friends and made new ones, and I even had time to read a memoir, The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls.
Tell us your trade fair secrets by sharing in the comment section below!

3 comments to Side Effects of Codex

  • no secrets, but thank you for the report from codex. i love hearing how it went for you, i’ve had friends go in the past who have barely broken even and found it as you said stimulating and exhausting.

  • Codex was wonderful for me. I tried to dedicate my time to seeing other work and finding inspiration. I definitely came away with new ideas and structures. It was challenging to stay focused though. I realized that I will have to use handmade paper for my next book (and will be testing a sheet of Tim Barrett’s)- that an arches or hahnemuhle just isn’t going to cut it. I like how you find so many ways to create possibilities for your work. It isn’t just about sales that happen at the fair but about the conversations and future possibilities. Some of my best and continuing clients were established at Codex in previous years.

  • Betty Kjelson

    I can see that I’m missing a lot in the field of handmade paper but guess that I should be happy that I’ve been doing it since 1979 and am still going strong. Always learning new things and meeting new challenges. I just don’t make money!. Betty KJ

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