Thawt is the full documentation of the spontaneous 60-day collaboration between Mister Koppa and eleven other artists around the world—virtual friends invited to participate in the creation of a physical book.
212 pages (70 in full color), 24.75 x 18 cm, digitally printed on 80 lb. coated acid free paper, and case-bound with printed end sheets and dust jacket, in a signed and numbered limited edition of 40 copies, published by The Heavy Duty Press. Each copy includes a signed print of the photograph by Mike Koppa, taken 20 February 2013, which inspired the project. 5 copies remain for sale. $375
(collage collaboration by Mister Koppa and Nikki Soppelsa)
Thawt: noun, A period of simultaneous reflection and new growth following a freeze or hibernation, generally occurring between mid-February and mid-April in the northern hemisphere. His productive year began with a good thawt.
Thawt: book, A chronological collage of content, telling the story of a 60-day collaboration, between Mike Koppa and eleven artists and friends from around the world, during the thawing months of 2013. Thawt is a book about creativity, spontaneity, impulse, and action. The narrative is largely told through the correspondence between the contributing artists and the designer/publisher, interspersed with contributed prose, poetry, photography, and collage.
Collaborators include: (in order of appearance):
Nikki Soppelsa (U.S.A.)
Bill Phillips (U.S.A.)
Flore Kunst (France)
Susan Legind (Italy)
Helene de Winter (The Netherlands)
Gary Ortman (U.S.A.)
Brandon Graham (U.S.A.)
Lisa Chun (U.S.A.)
Sammy Slabbinck (Belgium)
Filipa Sottomayor (Portugal)
Barbara Minch (U.S.A.)
3 February 2014
Here in the northern latitudes, during the months of December and January, we experience the freezing of our world as we move through a period when Earth’s axis tips us away from the direct light of our life-giving star, the Sun. We learn about our planet’s revolution when we are children, and experience it year after year for the rest of our lives, without giving it much thought. After this period of hibernation our world thaws, and we begin to grow, again and again.
This story begins nearly one full revolution ago, on a 0° day, when I gazed upon a bright blue sky through the skeletal ribs of the sleeping woods from the top of a hollow, about one mile east of the Liberty Town Hall, in southwest Wisconsin. This was shortly after the uneventful passing of the winter solstice in 2012—the much-publicized end of the Mayan calendar, and the world as we know, or knew it. To some, the end of the world marked the dawn of a new age—an “ascension” into a new collective awareness of who and what we are.
At the top of that hill in Liberty, I took a photograph. This is something people do every day. That’s what cameras do. That’s why we have them. But why do we take them? And more specifically, why did I take that one?
It was at this same time in early 2013 that I was lamenting my tendency to generate more ideas and more “stuff” than I will ever be able to address or use. I had to ask myself why I was taking photographs of those frozen woods. Sure, the moment moved me, and I wanted to have a record of being moved, but was that it? What was the real value of saving so many digital images on my hard drive for the rest of my life? Was there any value? Or was it just a growing, silent burden?
At that moment, I decided that if I was going to continue taking photographs that day, I needed to do something with them.
Earlier that week, I was at the post office to send an international letter to a collage artist in New Zealand. I met her through Facebook. The woman behind the counter held up a sheet of seven airmail stamps and asked if I sent international mail regularly. On a whim, I answered, “No, but I could.” And I bought them.
I also had recently made a decision to leave the world of social media (albeit temporarily), and instead make an attempt to engage in more personal correspondence. I wanted to satisfy a need for something more physical, and a method of communication not so off-hand and fleeting as the “status updates” I had been reading for the previous two years.
This is where it all comes together.
One valuable thing that came out of those two years of facebooking was an awareness of other collage artists around the world. Before Facebook, I never knew so many people shared a fascination with the same medium I practice. Nor had I ever had the opportunity to nurture an appreciation for the work of other contemporary collage artists, or have any kind of relationship with any other like-minded artists. I worked alone. I thought alone. Eventually, some of those artists became my new virtual friends.
“Hmm…” I thought, at the top of that hill, looking down over the frigid hollow, “What would happen if I engage with my new virtual friends in the physical realm by sharing some photographs of my experience in envelopes mailed with those seven stamps?”
And at that moment a little snowball began to roll down the hill.
A small group of collage artists I met through Facebook each received a series of photographs and an invitation to respond to them. I promised that if I received enough response from this spontaneous act to take the project further, it might become a book. Ultimately, I was able to enlist a handful of collagists from around the world, a few friends I had met through the internet in the days preceding my engagement with Facebook, and one friend from the earliest book-making ventures of this enterprise in 1996, to participate in the thawing of my frozen world—my world of isolation.
For next two months, between 20 February and 20 April 2013, my priority was communicating with a group of international artists, orchestrating and designing a book documenting this very unplanned creative effort.
At the close of 2013, I opened the files to review the unpublished book as I had left it. Here it was, cold again, as we were all preparing for the deep freeze, which we received in full as the Great Polar Vortex of 2014. And now, as the vortex leaves us, and we are moving into another highly anticipated thawing of our world, I am happy to announce the publication of Thawt, a chronological collage of correspondence, prose, poetry, and collage art, telling the story of precisely what can happen when we act on our creative impulses.
31 December 2013
9:58 a.m. Done, more or less. A working proof is posted here for review. Upon approval of all contributors, this book will be sent to press. A full prospectus will be posted in the coming days.
19 April 2013
5:55 a.m. Most of the book is laid out. This morning I added the weather forecasts captured in the past. They were mostly very accurate. It has been quite the sustained thawing process this past sixty days and it feels good to be completing this project just two months after its conception and inception, one sixth of a year ago, on a 0° day in February.
It began in a moment after taking a few photographs on a morning walk, when I asked myself, in light of a few months spent cleansing my studio of unnecessary things:
“What am I going to do with these?”
I resolved within a minute that I would use the photographs to invite other collage artists to collaborate with me on a new book project, which would be focussed on the idea of thawing—moving from winter into spring, darkness to light, frozen to fluid.
Invitations to participate were sent to potential contributors by postal mail. Most were well received, with an appreciation for the touch of humanity in a world where we have grown used to living without things as simple and beautiful as personally addressed envelopes and letters. Through the experience, I have gained a few new international friends and exposed myself to new thoughts and ideas, and ultimately will have created a new book documenting the experience.
It was fun to navigate the metaphorical snowball as it rolled down the hill. As of right now, about 75% of the 200+ page book is comprised of the text from correspondence and journal entries documenting this project during the long thaw of 2013. Today I am thinking of adding a table of contents and/or index. Then write the colophon. Next I will print it and review, and send to the contributors for their approval. Edit. Write and design a prospectus, and send the book off to the printer/bindery. Maybe a design a jacket, too. How about a goal to publish the book on the summer solstice, in late June?
Icy precipitation last night. Maybe this will be the last day we dip into the 30s. Looks like we’ll be hovering around 50 over here for another ten days or so. But I believe there will be light at the end of this tunnel.
26 March 2013
Received a contribution from Flore Kunst yesterday. Weather forecast is for above-freezing temps by next week.
20 March 2013, First day of Spring
9° at 9:15 a.m. with a stiff wind out of the northwest. Contributions received from Susan Legind (Rome, Italy), Gary Ortman (Morton, IL, USA), Lisa Chun (Los Angeles, CA, USA), and Brandon Graham (Downers Grove, IL, USA). More expected, some remain uncertain. It has been a long and sustained thaw or lack of it with steady wet snow and temps in the 20s. This final blow of winter is a doozy with a good dropping of snow a few days ago and now single-digit temps. Today is the deadline for postmark of contributions, given in a letter to all invitees with another photo from the neighborhood park a few weeks ago. When the thaw finally comes it will have been one long-earned.
20 February 2013
This morning I took a walk in Liberty, on a south-facing hill along Old 56 Road, around the perimeter of our four acre plat. It was 0°. I took some photographs.
When I got home I had another one of those moments when I think about how I could try to start a new project with no defined goal, like rolling a snowball down a hill. It gets bigger, but then what? That’s creation for you.
Two days ago I was at the post office to mail a letter to an artist friend in New Zealand. When asked, by the post office clerk holding up a sheet of 8 international stamps, if I send international mail often, I responded, “Not really. But I could.” Now I have seven stamps to use.
A few months ago I deactivated my Facebook account. Before leaving, I asked all my Facebook friends, new and old, to send me their address if they would like to keep in touch. I have addresses for a few new artist friends.
I decided I will send seven of my artist friends each one of the photos I took this morning, asking them to add to it or alter it in some way, and return it. Maybe it could turn into a book. Maybe Brandon could write something for it…he asked me to contact him if I ever need text for something. I think I will call it Thawing.