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Melissa Wagner-Lawler ~ Wisconsin

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Melissa Wagner-Lawler: " My current line of work focuses on destruction. Using repetitive and geometric forms, the space becomes abstracted through this destruction. The text used represents the attempt to make sense of the destruction and to reassure the viewer that everything will be okay, but does so from a place where they are unable to do anything about it. What or who is being destroyed is not clear. The destruction of the text and imagery on the page tells the story of the breakdown of this information through digital means."


By Melissa Wagner-Lawler Milwaukee, Wisconsin: redthreadletterpress, 2021. Edition of 13.

7.5 x 9"; 12 pages including covers. Bound in the Sing Weaving structure from "Woven and Interlocking Book Structures" by Claire Van Vliet and Elizabeth Steiner. Photopolymer letterpress printed on handmade paper using 18 put Cochin. Laid in custom enclosure which houses the book along with a capsule containing burnt objects. Signed and numbered.

Colophon: "In an attempt to seek perspective, words and images are assembled to abstractly define a specific point in time of modern relationships."

Melissa Wagner-Lawler: "Exploring the perception of landscape and place, my work manifests moments before change and destruction. The work draws attention to the notion of quiet unpredictability right before impending chaos. The landscapes, while subtle and layered, upend our sense of place and security. The image making properties of printmaking create the illusion of depth and allow for experimentation with surface treatments, including texture, matte, and glossy finishes. ...

“All of my work is completed as series or multiples. The nature of the bound book structure allows me to work sequentially and I can control the order in which the viewer discovers the information, but only to a point. This is the inherent beauty of artist books - the provided structure allows the audience to alter or add to the meaning of the work through the viewing process."

Encapsulated book
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On Fragile Land
By Melissa Wagner-Lawler
Milwaukee, Wisconsin: redthreadletterpress, 2019. Edition of 30.

5 x 4.5" closed. Fishbone fold structure. Relief and letterpress printing on Rives Heavyweight paper. Signed and numbered by the artist.

redthreadletterpress: "This bookwork uses a fishbone fold structure from 'The Art of the Fold' by Hedi Kyle & Ulla Warchol. It is a response to my previous artist's book titled 'In the event of Moon Disaster' and shows the perspective of moon landing deniers."

On Fragile Land book
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By Melissa Wagner-Lawler
Spruce Pine, North Carolina: redthreadletterpress, 2019. Edition of 15.

3.5 x 6" closed. Letterpress on Johannot paper. Bound in a Hedi Kyle panorama fold structure. Cover and colophon foil stamped on French paper. Signed and numbered by the artist.

redthreadletterpress: "This book explores the experience of being at Penland School of Craft and being immersed in the beautiful natural environment. Many that come to Penland are visitors and only spend a brief amount of time there, much like the wind exploring the natural elements of the landscape."

Transitory book
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The Proposition of Landscape
By Melissa Wagner-Lawler
Milwaukee, Wisconsin: redthreadletterpress, 2018. Edition of 30.

5.5 x 8" closed; Letterpress on Lenox 100 using photopolymer plates and hand-set type. Hinged accordion fold book. Bound in cloth boards. In matching slipcase. Signed, dated, and numbered by the artist.

redthreadletterpress: "In this project, Wagner-Lawler uses a work held in UWM's Special Collections entitled 'The Grammar of Ornament' by Owen Jones published in 1856 and also the American Geographical Society Library Digital Map collections. By researching map images of the land boundaries of the areas and ornamentation covered in 'The Grammar of Ornament,' new visual landscapes are created using the decorative ornaments from the text.

"The artist book takes a small sampling of ornaments from each of the twenty sections of the text and places them into a landscape created out of the reinterpreted boundaries of each country or region. In addition to using the ornamentation from 'The Grammar of Ornament,' the artist book also incorporates some of Jones’ thirty-seven design propositions set forth in his book. These propositions dictate Jones’ suggested best methods for using color and composition in relation to the ornamentation. In the artist book, twenty of these propositions are used to dictate and manipulate the composition of each page. The numbers on each page of the artist book reference the Jones’ propositions.

"In addition to the artist book, Wagner-Lawler created larger re-interpretations of three pages to further explore the notion of fictional space and landscape."

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By Melissa Wagner-Lawler
Milwaukee, Wisconsin: redthreadletterpress, 2016. Edition of 10.

5 x 6" custom container with two books. Screen printing. Toner transfer. Digital Printing. Pamphlet: 4.4 x 5.5", 32 pages; paper-covered wraps; pamphlet stitch. Signed and numbered on the colophon by the artist. One sheet book: 4 x 5.5" closed, 16.75 x 11" open. Each book slips into a slot with finger hold. Container cloth-covered with magnet closure.

Melissa Wagner-Lawler: "danven0701 is an artists' book that tells the story of two people searching for something. One is on a quest to find love, the other's search isn't as direct - as least initially.

"This book explores romantic communication in the digital environment. Although online dating is not a new phenomenon, in recent years, online dating has been co-opted by individuals who portray themselves as others. This is known as 'catfishing,' while the person portraying someone else is referred to as a 'catfish.'

"Based on a true story.

"This artists' book contains two books in one! The first is a single sheet fold book using screen printing and toner transfer to represent the romantic aspects of the relationship. The second book is a double pamphlet stitch digitally printed book th
at shows the email exchange over the course of several months. "

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Everything's Okay
By Melissa Wagner-Lawler
Milwaukee, Wisconsin: redthreadletter, 2013. Edition of 5.

10 x 11"; 18 pages. Drumleaf binding. Printed in letterpress, relief, and monotype. Bound in paper over bookboard with matching pastedowns and cloth spine. Signed and numbered by the artist.

Deluxe version includes copy of book laid in sectioned clamshell box with 3D printed 'moon rock' laid in. Cloth covered clamshell box with paper title label.Melissa Wagner-Lawler: "Using language as a primary visual element, the text in my work becomes abstracted through various digital processes. Cutting, masking, and layering techniques in Illustrator are used to destroy and manipulate it digitally. Printing, overprinting, and subtleties in ink are used to create a visceral, delicate surface on the page enticing the viewer to decipher the message. Is the language or message within the text important – and if it is important, why obscure it or make it difficult to read?

"In our current technologies, nothing created can ever be permanently erased – fragments of the information will always remain."

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In the event of a moon disaster
By Melissa Wagner-Lawler
Milwaukee, Wisconsin: redthreadletterpress, 2013. Edition of 20.

5" x 5.5"; 16 pages. Screenprinting, letterpress, and laser cutting. Rives BFK paper. Double-sided accordion. Ends slip into pastedown pockets of the boards. Bound in blue cloth with paper title label on front board. Signed and numbered by the artist.

Deluxe version (Out of print) includes copy of book laid in sectioned clamshell box with 3D printed 'moon rock' laid in. Cloth covered clamshell box with paper title label.

Melissa Wagner-Lawler: "In the event of moon disaster was a speech written by William Safire in 1969 for the President to read if the Apollo 11 mission was not successful and the astronauts were lost. This artist book uses segments of this text combined with maps from the landing site, traverse patterns of the moon, and star patterns of the night sky in July, 1969. The speech text is on the 'front' side of the book and the interior/'back' side of the book contains interpretive images of space and the destruction of the space craft."

More from Wagner-Lawler: "The maps and images in the book are taken from NASA images and maps and reinterpreted and deconstructed by me... I try to not be so literal in this way, but perhaps more referential since I personally find this a more interesting way to use reference material in my work. The star pattern from the sky is actually the laser cut holes throughout the book. Using a night sky generator, the star pattern is the night sky from the launch site the night of the Apollo 11 launch. The back side of the accordion is an abstract representation of space from the perspective of an astronaut lost in space. The shapes represent the destroyed space craft."
$450 Standard (Last 3 copies)

Standard Version

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Deluxe Version (Out of print)

A Weak Sense of Direction
By Melissa Wagner-Lawler
Milwaukee, Wisconsin: redthreadletterpress, 2013. Edition of 5.

Book 9.75 x 10.5"; 16 pages with four foldout pages. Printed using letterpress, monotype, and relief on Mulberry paper. Bound using pamphlet stitch to gray Rives BFK cover. Cover embossed with relief plates and letterpress printed. Laid in 10.75 x 11.5" cloth covered case. Paper title label on front of case. Colophon adhered to interior of case. Signed and numbered by the artist.

Melissa Wagner-Lawler: "A Weak Sense of Direction is an abstract exploration of the journey of traveling by bicycle. There exist several similarities in riding a bike and experiencing art in a book format. While both can be experienced in a distinctly linear manner, one can also backtrack, slow pace, skim (speed up), follow pathways, or make one's own. For this reason, artist books are a natural format for my work.

"The specific event referenced in this work is the Riverwest 24, a 24-hour bike race that I participated in during July 2012. As a solo participant, it was sometimes difficult to motivate myself to keep going, especially after being on the saddle for many hours. This book explores the thought process of staying engaged and continuing to push yourself beyond your perceived abilities."

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Everything You Hear
By Melissa Wagner-Lawler
Milwaukee, Wisconsin: redthreadletter, 2012. Edition of 25.

9.25 x 10.5". Drumleaf binding. Letterpress printed using handset type and photopolymer plates. Signed and numbered by the artist.

Melissa Wagner-Lawler: "This book investigates our society’s ability to communicate using popular communication methods. The clarity of our thoughts in the digital environment has taken a backseat to the speed at which the information is received. Text messages, blog entries, and status updates are the preferred method of communication. Often times, it takes longer to decipher these quick, poorly written messages than it does to understand a well-written sentence with obscure or seldom used words."

Artist’s Books Unshelved:How We See and What We Hear

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Melissa Wagner-Lawler SOLD/Out of Print Titles:  
The Familiar Space
By Melissa Wagner-Lawler
Milwaukee, Wisconsin: redthreadletterpress, 2015. Edition of 4.

10 x 9.5"; 9 folds. Processes: pressure printing, screen printing, and laser cutting. Text is laser cut into the paper pages, which are printed on both sides, folded, and inserted into an accordion pocket binding. Hence, the pages are removable. Bound in cloth-covered boards. Signed and numbered by the artist.

Melissa Wagner-Lawler: "Based on the ideation card set, the book focuses on the destruction of space and trying to find comfort in unfamiliar situations."

Colophon: "This book was produced using prompts from the Artist's Book Ideation Cards [developed by Julie Chen and Barbara Tetenbaum]: paper - neutral, technique - unfamiliar, structure - unbound, image - self-generated, layout - across folds, colors - monochromatic, text - process of erasure; adjectives: personal, textured, surreal, whimsical, screen."
(SOLD/Out of print)
The familiar Space book
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The House of Death on The White Road
Poetry by William Stanley Braithwaite
Book design by Melissa Wagner-Lawler Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Melissa Wagner-Lawler, 2017. Edition of 8.

A single-sheet foldbook, folded into 12 panels. 12 x 7.5" closed, 42 x 22" unfolded. Processes: CNC [Computer Numerical Control] Relief, monotype, and screen-print. Laid in a cloth-covered wraparound. Poems by William Stanley Braithwaite from "House of Falling Leaves" (1908). Signed and numbered by the artist.

Melissa Wagner-Lawler: "The House of Death on The White Road uses the text of two poems by William Stanley Braithwaite published in 1908 to examine the duality of the chaotic and the calm.

"The main imagery of the book was produced using a digitally-designed relief block carved on a CNC router."

William Stanley Braithwaite (1878 -1962) was a poet, writer, literary critic, and anthologist. His father was of mixed racial heritage, originally from British Guiana; his mother was the daughter of a mulatto ex-slave. He self-published his first book "Lyrics of Life and Love" in 1904. His second book, "House of Falling Leaves," was published in 1908. Subsequently Braithwaite compiled anthologies of work published in periodicals, helping launch the careers of other American poets. (accessed 3/8/2018): "In 1918, Braithwaite received the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Spingarn Medal for outstanding achievement by an African-American. He also received honorary degrees from Atlanta University and Talladega College in Alabama. Between the years of 1935 and 1945, Braithwaite taught creative literature at Atlanta University."

Lo, a house untenanted
Stands beside the road of Time;
They who lived there once, have fled
To some other house and clime …
                            (excerpt The House of Death)

A white road between sea and land,
Night and silence on either hand
Pointing to some unknown gate
A white forefinger of fate.
                      (verse from The White Road)

(SOLD/Out of Print)

The House of Death on The White Road book
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Page last update: 05.12.2022

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