Primrose Press ~ California
(Tia Blassingame)


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Tia Blassingame: "Through my work I am interested in engaging what I call the reader/viewer in a conversation about historical and contemporary racism in the United States using printmaking techniques in the book form, so artists' books. I kind of try to seduce the reader through materials, color, tactility, pacing to kind of slow their initial impulse to sort of avoid or flee a conversation about race."
Broadside by Tia Blassingame  

A Love Story
By Tia Blassingame
New Haven, Conn & Claremont, Calif: Primrose Press, 2018.
Edition of 30.

8.5 x 11"; 30 pages including covers. Color digital print. Printed in Avenir, Cinzel, and Cinzel Decorative typefaces. Background images of artist's collages. Saddle stich binding (stapled). Signed and numbered by the artist.

Tia Blassingame: "Conceived of at the Paper & Book Intensive (PBI) at Oxbow School of Art in Saugatuck, Michigan May 2017, the book is about love of craft and the book arts field. Related to making artists' books with a social justice focus, it presents the artist's creative process including printing, editioning, and presenting. Between criss crossing the country, the artist employed the collage making process to de-stress while maintaining focus on simultaneous projects focused on issues of race and racism."

Colophon: "For just over a year, I had been working on a project about love, or trying to at least. Then I accepted that I was not in love with any person. there was no man with whom I wanted to connect, but there was love of craft, of practice, of field. with that realization, this project quickly came together. I hope this book speaks more eloquently that I on my process of creating an artist's book from conception to the last stitch and beyond.

"Many magazines and newsletters were torn up to create a dozen collages. The collage-making process was used as a way to de-stress and simultaneously maintain progress and focus on this and other projects that dealt with issues of race and racism. Flown between the two coasts repeatedly, many notebooks and hotel writing pads as well as a laptop are filled with notes, drafts, and diagrams for this book."

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Primrose Press Out of Print Title:  
By ia Blassingame
[Silver Spring, Maryland]: Primrose Press, 2011. Edition of 7.

3.25 x 7.25" closed, extends to 9"; 8 pages. Flutter book construction. Sumi-e ink and linoleum block prints. Printed on Japanese washi paper. Handbound in cherry red Japanese cloth over boards. Title label on front board handset letterpress on Primrose Press handmade paper. Signed and numbered by the artist.

Tia Blassingame: "Commonplace is a flutter book. It consists of original poetry letterpress printed with sumi-e ink and linoleum block prints that emulate cherry blossoms flowing in the breeze."
(Out of Print)

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Grunion Run
By Tia Blassingame
Silver Spring, Maryland: Primrose Press, 2011. Edition of 5.

8.25 x 8" closed, opens to 32"; 4 pages. Accordion structure extending from both boards. Handset type (Erhardt) letterpress printed on paper handmade by Blassingame. Boards covered with navy Japanese bookcloth. Paper title label on front cover.

Grunion are sardine-sized fish found off the coast of California and Baja California. Grunion Runs occur usually at night during very high tides when female grunions swim as far up the beach as they can and use their tails to bury eggs in the sand; males wrap themselves around females to deposit sperm. The eggs remain buried until the next very high tide 10 or more days later, when young grunions are washed out to sea.

Tia Blassingame: "The paper references the shoreline and the activity of the grunion run."
(Out of Print)

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By ia Blassingame
Los Angeles: Primrose Press, 2018. Edition of 25.

9.5 x 12"; 38 pages (free end leaf, title leaf, introduction leaf, separation leaf, 12 image leaves, colophon leaf). Images and title printed on recto only. Printed on kozo and lokta papers. Pressure printing. Handset letterpress printing. Stab binding in paper covers. Signed and numbered on the colophon.

Tia Blassingame: "The artist places herself as a stand-in for African American victims of police brutality, violence, and humiliation. Unlike the victims and their families, the artist controls which images are shared and how. She can delete information: background, people. She can alter color, scale, orientation. Accompanying letterpress text serves as captions and shows incredible racial profiling and post-mortem media portrayals of African American victims. Personal and family photographs as well as those that the artist shared on social media were digitally manipulated, then hand-cut, and assembled as paper matrices.

"With each photograph and subsequent turn of the page, I AM represents both the abrupt end of a life. A baby does not become the toddler standing unsteady with her hand patting an ottoman as her father watches television in the background. The toddler does not spend her tenth summer swimming in the pool and making friends at camp. And so on. Being black means I am a baby. I am a child. I am a teenager. I am an adult. I am a woman. I am a person. Too often suspect."

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An Abecedarian
By Tia Blassingame
Newport, Rhode Island: Primrose Press, 2016. Edition of 26.

8.5 x 11"; 32 pages including wrappers. Digitally printed in Josefin Sans typeface. Saddle stitch binding. Signed and numbered.

Tia Blassingame: "Stripping the maritime alphabet of its primary colors and replacing them with muted browns and blacks, Mourning/Warning highlights the relationship of Americans of the African diaspora to water, maritime trade, and the need for an alternate means of communication in times of emergency and duress. How do you send a warning call that hatred comes constantly in waves?

"M/W serves as a method of honoring, mourning, and remembering the slain and wronged as well as teaching our children and ourselves to be vigilant and wary in hostile terrain, where your skin color makes you an easy target."

Proceeds will be donated to non-profits including NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Innocence Project.

This is a simple but shrewdly designed presentation of disturbing information. It transforms mere documentation into a lament and call for change. From the Alfa flag (in its muted version representing Marissa Alexander, sentenced for firing a warning shot at her husband when he attacked her) to the Zulu flag (representing Ousmane Zongo, unarmed but killed by a NYC officer during a 2003 warehouse raid), this list of mostly unremembered casualties represents part of the everyday reality for people of color.
(Out of Print)

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Past Present: DC
ByTia Blassingame
Washington DC: Primrose Press, 2012. Edition of 3.

Set of two books and two wall hangings. Two volumes (Past DC; Present DC): 9 x 17 x 1.75"; 22 pages, 20 pages. Text was printed with handset and polymer letterpress on handmade paper made of the artist's clothing and Rives paper. Typefaces employed included Archer, Century Schoolbook, Helvetica, Janson, Old Claude, Optima, and Univers. Poster TGothic and Devinne wood typefaces formerly of the Government Printing Office were also used. Laid in clamshell box covered in matching handmade paper with cloth spine. Two wall hangings: 30 x 132".

Tia Blassingame, Past DC Colophon: "Surveying historical segregation in the District of Columbia, Past Present: DC posits the idea that we are as segregated today as yesterday. We are separated by the same fears, hat, ignorance, and silence. As the nation's capital and as an American city, D.C. is layered with sites of humiliation, trauma, and racial violence that do not need to be within the city's physical borders to become part of the urban grid and \psyche. Conveyors of information, outrage, and sentiment within African American communities across the nation.

"In Past Present: DC, text from historic Jim Crow signs of the DC metro area and other American cities aware printed with handset wood and metal type. Text was position to allow the page to act as a reconstituted sign. Listings of area establishments that accepted African American customers came from mid-twentieth century issues of The Negro Motorists Green Book and Travelguide.

"The lyrics of popular American songs portray the journey of African American and white residents across the city where The Star-Spangled Banner seems symbolic of independence, songs of significance to the African American community and of prominence in the Civil Rights movement represent the African American citizen's restricted journey. From 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot' by Wallis Willis to James Weldon Johnson's 'Lift Every Voice and Sing' to 'A Change is Gonna' Come' written by Sam Cooke, the songs change in step with the African American citizen's struggles for equity, enfranchisement, and recognition as an American and a human being' as the white citizen's position or primacy as an American has never been in doubt, the representative song 'The Star Spangled Banner' remains static."

Tia Blassingame, Present DC Colophon: "Text from popular bumper stickers, the news cycle, and contemporary political rhetoric replace historic Jim Crow era signs. Mirroring the rhetoric and prejudices of the past: African Americans as primates, promiscuous, and un-American, terms overrun the page and compete for attention, page spreads turn into billboards or monitors.

"A shift in residents' journeys presents as a reversal of lyric placement. While The Star Spangled Banner still represents the white resident, original text running fluidly across the book picks up where Negro spiritual and popular song lyrics left off in Past Present: DC."
(Out of Print)

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Settled (prints)
ByTia Blassingame
N.p.: Primrose Press, 2015. Edition of 4.

6 x 12"; 3 single sheets letterpress printed on both sides. Paper handmade from artist's clothing. Laid in letterfold wrapper with titles on front cover. Initialed and dated by artist on the wrapper.

Three prints from the artist's book project "Settled: African American Sediment, or Constant Middle Passage". Each print features a different slain African American citizen: Trayvon Martin (a 17-year-old from Miami Gardens, Florida, fatally shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer in 2012); Relisha Rudd (an 8-year-old girl who vanished from a D.C. homeless shelter in 2014); and Eric Garner (a 44-year-old male who died after a NYPD officer put him in a chokehold.)

Original concrete poetry printed on both sides while spotlighting the situations of these individuals.

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Slavery's Historic House Signs: in harvest II
By Tia Blassingame
[Providence, Rhode Island]]: Primrose Press, 2015. One-of-a-kind (Series variant).

5.5 x 31" scarf of organza. Screen printed.

Design Indaba Conference 2015, Tia Blassingame on the texture of racism in the United States: "When Tia Blassingame arrived in Rhode Island she began collecting autumn leaves and imaging the many slaves who might have seen the leaves from those same trees changing colour many years ago. Feeling moved by the thought that these leaves were perhaps not all she had in common with the slaves of early modern America, Blassingame began a project that would engage readers in a conversation about race through playing with their senses.

"Blassingame screen-printed receipts and accounts from slave ships onto the leaves.

“Brown inks that represented the colours of the autumn leaves and the skin colour of the slaves,” says Blassingame.

"She then made a golden headscarf that was printed with images of these leaves and words, to investigate how the wearer might carry herself, knowing that she was wearing words from a slave receipt."

Tia Blassingame: "Every city and history holds invisible populations. Walking past the historic homes along Benefit Street in Providence, Rhode Island, one passes house markers that distinguish a population of white males and their achievements. The scarf-artists' book considers the African slaves that resided and worked in the homes of the Brown and Hopkins families. While their owners are remembered as the founders of Brown University, businessmen or as the state Governor, signer of the Declaration of Independence, the slaves have been forgotten. This piece is part of a larger project, that began as a way of cataloguing names and facts as I conducted research on the role of Rhode Island in the Atlantic slave trade at the John Carter Brown Library of Brown University.

"Each fabric piece represents the content of an artists' book, a journey down a street and through history and family trees. How it is bound, covered, paced, draped is up to you, the reader/wearer. Also up to you is how, if at all the reader/viewers that you will encounter will be able access or read this artists' book that you activate by how you arrange and wear it."

For example, the notation Yarrow Brown House ¼ free represents Yarrow who was a slave owned by the four Brown Brothers of Rhode Island. When the brother Moses Brown freed his slaves Yarrow then was only a quarter free; that is, ¼ free or ¾ slave.

Link to video "Tia Blassingame on the texture of racism in the United States"

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Yuvette's Purse
ByTia Blassingame
Primrose Press, 2015. Edition of 5.

7 x 9" closed; one opening. Handmade paper. Letterpress printed. Numbered and initialed by the artist.

Tia Blassingame: "On February 3, 2015, [Yuvette Henderson] 38 year-old mother of two was shot and killed by Emeryville, California police officers near Extra Space Storage at the Oakland-Emeryville line.

"This piece consists of an original concrete poem in the shape of a handbag printed on paper handmade by the artist."
(Out of Print)

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Page last update: 11.13.18


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