49. Maxims by the Yard – Some in Meter: Spools of Knowledge Vol. I

Edition of 100 copies
Diameter 5″, ¾ “x 144” fully extended

This volume of 36 original maxims mimics a spool of ribbon from a sewing shop. The maxims, one for every inch in a yard, are woven, not printed, on a computerized loom. The letters are red on a white ground, with reverse tones on the verso. The ribbon scroll has two joins, sewn on a sewing machine, with ironed folds to evoke the folds of banners or scrolls with titles or mottos, often with latin text, found in paintings, crests and seals.

The typeface is san-serif to increase the legibility of the woven letters, but the upper-case initial letter of the first word in each phrase is in a Roman type approaching Palatino. The titling on the cardboard spool itself is genuine Palatino, designed by Hermann Zapf. It was based on Renaissance letterforms which in turn reflected Ancient Roman chiseled lettering, when both serifs and maxims were very popular. One of the maxims on this roll, “Good messages bear repeating, not plagiarizing” relates both to the Palatino typeface and Hermann Zapf’s career. Good messages, verbal and visual, have always appeared in history. The existing record of human creativity makes it impossible to be entirely original. But every epoch needs its bards and good ideas bear repeating. Zapf, a highly gifted, self-taught calligrapher and type designer was greatly disheartened to see his influence deteriorate into plagiarism: Palatino is known by many different names in type catalogs and computer programs all over the world, with no royalties or recognition to the man who created it.

The initial letters are not only distinguished by being a different typeface, they are also larger than the letters that follow, and are woven in bold type. This is to convey the idea of a rubric, which is a distinctive initial letter or heading usually in red lettering. A rubric is also a rule or instruction in religious texts and law codes. Maxims are similar, in that they attempt to express fundamental principals, as well as rules of conduct, in a concise manner.

The maxims here are heartfelt opinions, autobiographical musings and human observations. Some are intended purely to amuse, but all spring from truth. A number of the maxims are composed in rhyming couplets or metric verse, which is why “meter” figures in the title. That is also why there are precisely one hundred copies in this edition; one for every centimeter in a meter.

Spool title printed at Stamperia Valdonega of Verona on acid-free cardstock manufactured by Cartiere Fedrigoni. Spool die-cuts created and executed in Bologna’s industrial quarter. Ribbon woven in Carpi, Italy. Sewing, ironing and cylindrical forms carried out by the artist.

The volume is stored in a non-adhesive cardstock clamshell box, with one woven maxim, visible on the spine, used to bind the clamshell together.


Whether art will ever be surveyed 
may depend on whom by which it is purveyed.

I have a very rational mind,
and I use it to rationalize much.

If everyone in history doubted their original thoughts,
we would not have any.

The only possession taken to the grave is knowledge; 
pass it on before you do.

Who would fear fame, not famine,
might not publish, but won’t perish.

I am a conscientious observer.

It is difficult to prove something 
other than a hypocrite.

I often feel the great divide
between my potential and what I provide

Ideas are often stronger
than the will to carry them out.

Be big: don’t belittle.

If you must attack, be prepared to defend,
for the injured will be armed with license to offend.

Eat fire and swords and forge words,
not wars.

Not everyone is made to be a leader; 
some are forced.

It’s better to go when your mind is in its prime,
than to be at hand and out of mind.

I wish for wisdom 
before my visage wizens.

Nothing in my life was planned,
myself included.

I was born in a car, 
but I’d rather not die in one.

The driven should be grateful for distraction, 
except while driving.

Writers create their own sentences.

Good messages bear repeating,
not plagiarizing.

Everyone is deserving,
but no more deserving than any other.

Sometimes the best things in life are free,
but not the best people.

My religion is tolerance; 
I try to be faithful.

Many find categories useful,
except to define themselves.

To remain forever young is to die,
unless you are only young inside.

There is one freedom we often fail to exercise: 
the freedom to exercise.

The elixir of youth
is the active octogenarian.

It is not what you do at the pith;
it’s what you imbue it with.

Save the world: improve yourself.

Perhaps an artist or writer should fear bathos
more than public apathy.

I like going back in time; 
I wake up earlier.

Inaccuracy is a fixed fare of journalism,
which in time becomes history.

Most manufacturers are wary of producing something that never wears out;
our creator must have felt the same way.

My works are the fruit of serious study,
but not my own.

In the track meet of art and literature,
I would be on the relay team.

Whether the message is received
depends on the delivery.


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