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Cari Ferraro ~ California


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Artist statement: " “The deep past, recorded or intuited, is the source for contemporary explorations of spirit, manifesting as books, texts, amulets, grimoires. Special interests include the origins of writing, medieval illumination, the natural world, simple magic encoded in nursery rhymes, fairy tales, folkways. I draw from ancient scribal methods and sacred practice in the making of my books, to reach backward and forward in time and consciousness. Narrative creates structure. I play with poems, primal symbols, color, and pages marked entirely by hand. Painting, hand writing, stitching and binding combine to create a journey, often using natural materials, pocketed charms, extra content in marginalia. Occasionally my books are reproduced as limited editions by means never dreamed of by my scribal forebears. Handmade books as bearers of enlightening, secret, and sometimes subversive knowledge have been and will continue to be a most intimate and complex form.”

Morning Prayer / Evening Prayer
Poems by Mary Hunter Austin
San Jose, California: Cari Ferraro, 2016. Edition of 12.

Custom cloth-covered lidded box (12.1.75 x 10.5 x 1.175") containing two books. Each book: 1.5 x 11.175"; 28 pages. Calligraphy and watercolor paintings by Cari Ferraro. Created digitally and produced on an Epson 3880 on Arches Text Wove paper. Archival prints in handsewn signatures. Bound on grosgrain ribbon in soft covers of painted Rives BFK, with painted endpapers of translucent vellum paper. Signed and numbered by the artist. Colophon and signature on separate piece of paper (11 x 4") folded in three and laid in.

Two poems written by Mary Hunter Austin, published in her 1928 book The Children Sing in the Far West, but written many years earlier when she taught in the Owens Valley in the eastern Sierra of California.

Colophon: "The poems in Morning Prayer / Evening Prayer were created by Mary Hunter Austin in the late 19th century. As a young schoolteacher in the eastern California desert, she wrote them for children; thus they are informed by a childlike wonder we feel in the presence of the numinous.

"The poet often felt the land speaking to her; and her work answering.… Her sensitivity to the shape of the land informed the silhouette of [the book's] paintings. These horizons asked for space to be seen and entered. Most of the design decisions, from page width to paper for the prints, were made in keeping with the tender feeling of sunset and sunrise, and a quiet interior sense of prayer." (accessed 1/26/2017): "Mary Hunter Austin (September 9, 1868 – August 13, 1934) was an American writer. One of the early nature writers of the American Southwest, her classic The Land of Little Rain (1903) describes the fauna, flora and people – as well as evoking the mysticism and spirituality – of the region between the High Sierras and the Mojave Desert of Southern California."

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Bequeathe Love
By Walt Whitman
San Jose, California: Cari Ferraro, 2011. Open Edition.

9 x 3 x .25"; 8 pages. Concertina-folded. Reproduced from original watercolor painting and calligraphy. Printed two-sided with archival pigment inks on Arches Text Wove paper. Wrapped in heavyweight handpainted paper. Ribbon closure.

This is the open edition of Ferraro's book Bequeathe Love, which had original watercolor paintings and calligraphy.

Cari Ferraro: "The book is of a size which may be held in the hands and read while turning pages, or displayed out of its wrapper for the full painting. The pages make interesting use of the writing in the landscape, for instance, the fold breaks 'bequeathe love' into 'the love' on one page spread. The landscape writing was made in the wet paper before paint was applied, allowing it to become the land, sky and wind of the earth."

I depart as air . . . I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,
I effuse my flesh in eddies and drift it in lacy jags.
I bequeathe myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your bootsoles.
You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.
Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop some where waiting for you.


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Star Spell
By Cari Ferraro
San Jose, California: Prose and Letters, 2007. Edition of 53.

4.625 x 3.625"; 16 pages. French fold accordion book, printed and bound by artist. Pages digitally printed on both sides of Zerkall book paper with archival pigment inks. Background reproduced from a watercolor painting, on which the words STAR SPELL were lettered large in resist, and the paper then painted in layers of watercolor to reveal the words in the twilight sky background. Stars handpainted in iridescent ink on front cover and two interior pages. Text lettering reproduced from original calligraphy. Flyleaves of sheer Japanese unryu "cloud dragon paper" with silver and gold flecks. Book sewn into hand painted paper cover which wraps around, the front flap decorated with a star shape in the form of a fire invoking pentacle.

Edition of 53, signed and numbered.
Deluxe edition (1 - 13): stars on front cover. Title and final pages laid with palladium leaf. Housed in a hand-painted slipcase.
Standard (14 - 53): Stars handpainted in iridescent ink on front cover and title page.

Cari Ferraro: "This book structure can be gently unfolded to see the large lettering on the painting in the background, and to find hidden words on the reverse near the binding. The last three images show the book in the beginning stages of unfolding; the next shows the entire flat page as it looks before cutting, folding and sewing, and the last shows the deluxe edition, with star gilded and silver painted white slipcase.

"A small magical book, using the familiar nursery rhyme, which fulfills the basic definition of a spell. The last page offers a haiku-like 17 syllable verse on the art of making magic, written by the artist. The old ways are often hidden in children’s fairy tales and rhymes, passed along in the manner of 'old wives’ tales.' Many such examples exist: see the books The Tao and Mother Goose by Robert Carter for an interesting examination of this theme, as well as The Uses of Enchantment by Bruno Bettelheim, and much of Joseph Campbell’s writing about mythology."

Star light

Star bright…

$125 standard
$ 188 deluxe

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The First Writing
By Cari Ferraro
San Jose, California: Prose and Letters, 2004. Edition of 50.

5.25 x 6.75" closed, 49" open; 8 pages. Handmade accordion book in Lokta paper-covered case with bead and leather closure, gold painted accents. Reproduced from an original hand lettered and painted book.

Cari Ferraro: "I was inspired to create this book by the work of archeologist Marija Gimbutas, whose theory was that the first writing actually predated Sumerian businessmen by a few thousand years, and instead grew out of symbolic marks on ritual objects made to venerate the Great Mother in Old Europe. The idea that writing came out of a spiritual place rather than a commercial one appeals to me as a calligrapher. I invented an alphabet style based on Marija's catalog of marks, and in the background of the paste paper used symbols found in the 5000-year-old passage grave Newgrange in Ireland, whose meaning has never been fully understood.

“ Though I wanted the book to open out to give a feeling of a cave wall, I also wanted to close, preferably by wrapping, so I made a case for it so that it opens like a regular codex, but with an accordion structure that can open out completely to see all the pages at once."



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Cari Ferraro SOLD / Out of Print titles:  

A poem by Alice Walker
San Jose, California: Cari Ferraro, 2010. One-of-a-Kind.

32 x 16 x 1 cm. (12.5 x 6.25 x .5 in); 38 pages. The book's shape is a circular codex when stood on end with its covers meeting. Signatures sewn onto front and back covers with exposed stitched binding, between white mulberry paper flyleaves. Circular title label hand lettered in acrylic ink. Pages, covers and slipcase are paste painted with acrylic inks. Texts lettered in gouache and iridescent inks with broad-edged and folded calligraphy pens. Titles lettered in acrylic and gouache. Enclosed in a painted and alphabetically marked blue and white slipcase, evoking the sky as we see it from our side of space.

Cari Ferraro: "A Beautiful Round Mother features the poem "We Have a Beautiful Mother" by Alice Walker. Poetic stanzas are lettered in a loose humanist bookhand, alternating with pages inscribed with a spoken chant invoking the elements of earth, written in uncials in a mandorla form. Underneath the other texts, landscape lettering repeats "a beautiful mother" with large gestural strokes of the pen. Images evoke oceans, buffaloes, grasses, and the Earth from outer space.

"A colorful book of praise for our planet in all its variations."

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By Cari Ferraro
San Jose, California: Cari Ferraro, 2008. Series of three variants.

9.75 x 7.25"; 20 pages. Texts written in black ink on Arches Text Laid paper in calligraphy and handwriting using steel broad edged and monoline nibs, ruling pen, folded pen, and brush. Page design and decoration created using ink and graphite with stencils, masks, and gestural marks. Uses tête-bêche structure. Bound in the drum-leaf style with a cloth-covered spine. Boards covered with hand lettered paper, spine covered in black silk. Both titles gilded in platinum leaf. Includes 14-page booklet called "Backstory". Bound pamphlet stitched into black paper cover with gilt glyph on lower right front cover. Book and booklet housed in a cloth-covered box made by Don Drake of Dreaming Mind Bindery, Castro Valley, California.

Cari Ferraro: "'Spelling Words' is a calligraphic manuscript book made in three variants, each unique, with similar content exploring the roots of the English word 'spell' and its intersection with letter magic. This book is number 2 in the series and is the 'reader's variant,' its primary visual effect achieved with the use of black and grey hand-lettered content on a white page.

"The book has two beginnings which meet in the center spread where the book may be turned over and read again from the other direction. Thus the book has two beginnings and no ending; this type of binding is referred to as tête-bêche, a French term meaning 'head to tail'. Each side of the book begins with dictionary definitions of the verb and noun 'spell.” ‘Alphabets, symbols, spelling rules and various examples of spelling fill the other pages."

"An encounter with this book is a magical experience, rewarding the reader with layers of meaning and secrets encoded in marginalia and the contrast between the two sides of the book, creating an enchantment not unlike the illuminated books of medieval times.”

A separate 14-page booklet called "Backstory" includes an artist's statement, acknowledgments, a bibliography listing the books consulted for the extensive etymological research, and the colophon.

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Whisper of the Wind
Poem by Mary Hunter Austin
San Jose, California: Cari Ferraro, 2013. One-of-a-Kind.

8.75 x 7.75 x .25 inches; 20 pages. Pamphlet binding with painted paper-covered boards and painted silk spine cloth. Gestural marks throughout gilded with 23K gold leaf. Partial title on front cover freely lettered in white acrylic with a ruling pen. Housed in a fourfold wrapper made of white rustic paper secured with blue leather strap. Poem title hand lettered in white ink on blue paper along spine.

Cari Ferraro: "’Whisper of the Wind’ illustrates a poem by Mary Hunter Austin, from her 1928 collection ‘The Children Sing in the Far West.’ In her preface to this gathering of poems from nearly forty years of writing, Mary Austin writes, ‘I made most of the poems in this collection with the help of the children in my school. . . in this manner I was led into the secret of how the great Southwest feels to those who have never known any other country.’ Her early career as a schoolteacher in the newly settled Owens Valley of California gave her an extraordinary voice to invite those "who wish to come into touch with the great West by the children's road. …

“The pages are torn to form a faux-deckle edge from Zerkall smooth book paper and inscribed with hand calligraphy in gray gouache. An illustrative lettered landscape drawn with watercolor pencils served as a prototype for the cursive script employed to represent the horizon in another book created by the artist of Mary Austin's poems, ‘Morning Prayer / Evening Prayer’, a limited edition made in 2016.”

Whisper of the Wind book
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Page last update: 04.07.2024


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