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Julie Chen

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Bon Bon Mots

Bon Bon Mots is a fine assortment of books with text and images by Julie Chen. The set of five delectable bookworks was letterpress printed and hand-bound, and is presented in a sumptuous cloth-covered, satin-lined candy box with a Plexiglas-covered lid. The books reflect the artist’s love of all things chocolate. The set of books includes the following structures: Either/Or, a magic lantern structure; Social Graces, an accordion fold with pop-out purple flowers; Elegy, a single row flag book in the shape of a mint green leaf; Life Cycle, a three-sided flexagon; and Labyrinth, a small game box with five brass pellets. 

Press: Flying Fish Press
Date: 1998
Number and Edition: 96 of 100
Size: 10” x 7”


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Evidence of Compression

Evidence of Compression, affectionately known as “the shell book,” was designed and produced by Julie Chen. The nearly 60 layers of board used in its creation were formed using a laser cutter in a digital book arts lab. The lab was part of an exhibition at the San Jose Tech Museum of Innovation entitled “Experiments in the Future of Reading” in the Spring and Summer of 2000.

The handmade paper that covers the many layers of the shell shape was custom-made by Bonnie Cohen. Fabriano Roma and Okawara papers were also used. A brass hinge holds the two sides of the main shell together, while two smaller pod-shaped books are housed in the main shell.

Press: Flying Fish Press
Date: 2001
Number and Edition: 23 of 25
Size: 9.25” x 8.25"


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Full Circle

Laser-cut with intricate designs and details, Full Circle opens to reveal a spinning wheel that the reader controls and rotates. To reveal the contents of the book, the reader must turn the wheel and pause when the text and image are centered in four windows. At three intervals, a drawer lines up with the opening in the front of the box. Pulling a tab reveals a three-dimensional diagram of the mind and heart in relation to each other.

Artist Julie Chen said: “The text is purposefully ambiguous about whether the main reference is religion or relationship. It’s not exactly about either, but more about the daily cycles of belief that we go through all the time without even realizing it, but that make it bearable.”

Press: Flying Fish Press
Date: 2006
Number and Edition: 18 of 100
Size: 15” x 15”


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Leavings, a bookwork about memory and attachment, features a two-sided accordion fold with pockets, removable tags and many collage elements. The text deals with the ephemera that accumulate in the course of daily life and the intense meaning these objects can take on over time.

The folds of the accordion are pockets labeled: “Silent Reminders,” “Tokens,” “Vestiges,” “Traces,” “Suggestions” and “Scars.” As readers remove the tags, certain elements on both sides of the book are revealed, while others are concealed. “Tokens” reveals the words “of memory,” while “Vestiges” reveals “dreams.” Various texts and images can be experienced separately or in a context for a multi-level reading.

Press: Flying Fish Press
Date: 1997
Number and Edition: Unnumbered of 100
Size: 4.25” x 6.25”


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Life Time

Life Time is a small tunnel book produced as a personal reflection on the nature of time and how one becomes overwhelmed by it. The seven cut-out circles gradually decrease in size from 1.75 inches to a quarter of an inch. Each circle is printed with numbers resembling the face of a clock, and the text is overprinted around each circle. First seen through the tunnel, the unidentifiable image on the inside back cover is eventually revealed to be a swimmer diving into a pool of water. The book is housed in a 3-inch square box with a clear circle of acrylic to make the book visible from the outside.

Press: Flying Fish Press
Date: 1996
Number and Edition: 70 of 100
Size: 2.75” Diameter


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Octopus is a large-format accordion fold tunnel book with text by ElizabethMcDevitt. When opened for display, layers of blue and green pages printed in subtle collographic textures feature wave-shaped windows that evoke the depths of the sea. An irregularly shaped piece of blue paper with blue-green lines is pasted on the outside of the piece, and the title is printed vertically on a piece of blue paper attached to the clamshell box made by Sandy Tilcock. Octopus was letterpress printed on Magnani Pescia and Crescent papers in Cochin bold italic type. The text on the interior of the clamshell box is printed in wavy lines to mimic the swirling shape of an octopus.

Press: Flying Fish Press
Date: 1992
Number and Edition: 84 of 100
Size: 10.5” x 13.5”


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Ode to a Grand Staircase (for Four Hands)

For their first collaboration, Julie Chen and Barbara Tetenbaum chose the music and words of French composer Erik Satie (1888–1925) as a creative springboard. Satie had the curious habit of writing odd texts for his musical compositions that were neither meant to be performed nor provide any specific directive to the musicians.

The book is a whimsical piece filled with vibrant color and playful shapes. Ode to a Grand Staircase was letterpress printed on Stonehenge paper and bound in a French-door structure with printed paper covers. The right and left-hand pages can be turned at varying rates, so each spread can be viewed as a whole or as an array of half-large combinations.

Artists: Julie Chen and Barbara Tetenbaum
Press: Flying Fish Press
Date: 2001
Number and Edition: 76 of 100
Size: 5.75” x 7.75”


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Personal Paradigms: A Game of Human Experience

Personal Paradigms presents a truly interactive experience for the reader, who can play a game and then record the results in a collaborative ledger book. The object of the game (book) focuses on the player’s own life experiences and perceptions at the moment that the game is being played. Presented in an elegant cloth-covered box, the set includes a letterpress printed board and various laser-cut game pieces. Also included is a book of instructions titled, “Rules of Play;” 18 marker shapes; 36 text strips for “Self Esteem,” “Joyful Occurrences,” “Fear,” etc.; colored pencils; metal arrows and plastic templates.

Press: Flying Fish Press
Date: 2003
Number and Edition: 11 of 100
Size: 15.5” x 11.25”


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Radio Silence

This accordion fold book is composed of five layers of paper sewn at the fore edge. The front-most layer is a band of text, a poem about maintaining metaphoric “radio silence” to avoid detection while trying to escape a relationship. Subsequent layers include embossed and printed papers and aeronautical charts, all in varied and complementary shapes against a black background page. A gold starburst adorns the green textured cover. Radio Silence is housed in a cloth-covered box with Plexiglas covers. The inside of the box is decorated with charts and a gold feather.

Artist Julie Chen said: “In Radio Silence I wanted to go beyond the book as a mere metaphor for journey by presenting the viewer with a chance to take an actual journey as they read the book.”

Press: Flying Fish Press
Date: 1995
Number and Edition: 67 of 75
Size: 10.75” x 3.5”


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True to Life

In the form of a tablet with sliding pages, True to Life is housed in a tray and includes a prop to showcase it. The hinged floor lifts to support the book in an upright position at an angle. The book was letterpress printed using a combination of pressure plates, woodblocks and photopolymer plates. The image that appears on each page shows through a Plexiglas window, and is one section of a long, continuous visual timeline that can never be viewed at once. Twelve views of the “page” can be accessed by pushing upward on wooden handles, which causes sections of the next page to slowly slide into view over the previous page.

Artist Julie Chen said: “Personal history, while seemingly rooted in fact, may contain more meaning as narrative than it does as documentation of truth.”

Press: Flying Fish Press
Date: 2004
Number and Edition: 18 of 100
Size: 9.75” x 15”


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The Veil

The story in The Veil unfolds in a carousel book format with shaped and intricate laser-cut pages. Resembling a tunnel book, the covers house imbedded magnets to allow The Veil to be displayed in a circular, sculptural format.

Julie Chen, an internationally recognized book artist, letterpress printer, teacher and proprietor of Flying Fish Press in Berkeley, California, creates and publishes many sculptural, limited-edition artists’ books. She also teaches bookmaking workshops around the country and is on the faculty at Mills College, where she received her master’s degree in Book Arts.

Press: Flying Fish Press
Date: 2002
Number and Edition: 23 of 100
Size: 4.25” x 10.5”

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