Counting Down To Saturday Morning: ‘Escape’ To The 44th Annual Friends Book Sale, July 13-17
“Oohs” and “ahhs” were actually heard in one of Reed Intermediate School’s classrooms late Tuesday morning, when the 44th Annual Friends of the C.H. Booth Library (Friends) Book Sale 2019 T-shirt was unveiled to volunteers.
This year’s design by Newtown resident Tracy Van Buskirk — featuring a girl lying in a striped hammock, one leg dangling over the side, an open book in one hand — now graces the backs of the T-shirts that will be worn by the dozens of people who will be helping during the annual five-day event that raises funds for the town’s library. The work, titled “Escape,” also depicts a small stack of books on the ground nearby, topped by a glass of lemonade.
Prior to the unveiling, Book Sale Chair Denise Kaiser and Publicity Chair Toni Earnshaw reminded those gathered that the T-shirt designs are unique each year. The illustrations are done by “generous graphic artists, who work with the quote we select — and us — to create a design,” according to Ms Kaiser.
The inspiration for this year’s design was the familiar quote, “When I’ve had too much reality, I open a book.”
Ms Van Buskirk was contacted at the beginning of the year, she said, with the invitation to create the art for the 2019 shirts.
“Denise asked me way back in January, after the Friends had chosen the quote,” she said. “I was very honored to be asked and very appreciative to have lots of time.”
Ms Van Buskirk said she “let the quote bounce around in my brain for a while and see what images came to mind.”
Her initial thoughts for the book sale design was a far cry from what went onto the shirts, she said.
“My first idea was an image of fanciful creatures climbing out of a book,” she said. A similar image had been used in the past, however, so the Friends reportedly nixed that idea.
Next came the idea of someone escaping reality by diving into a book.
“The idea of someone relaxing in a hammock just said ‘escape’ to me, and that fit so well with the quote,” Ms Van Buskirk said.
Ms Van Buskirk continued her project by drawing the image. Once that was done, the image was scanned into her computer and then reversed.
“I printed it out and then transferred it onto a block of artist linoleum using carbon paper, then carved the image using special gouges,” she explained. “Denise knew that I am a relief print artist and felt that the graphic quality of my work would do well on a T-shirt because there is no shading of colors, which is very hard to reproduce.”
It was that ease of image recreation that led, in part, to the selection of Tracy Van Buskirk designs for the Newtown Arts Festival in 2012 and again in 2015. Ms Van Buskirk has also worked in polymer clay and has had that work included in public exhibitions. While not a professional artist, she has reportedly always made time for the avocation.
“I just love making art in my spare time,” she said recently.
The next step in her process, she said, “is to roll black ink onto the carved surface using a brayer,” referring to the hand tool historically used in printing to break up and spread ink. She then presses a piece of paper onto the inked block, rubs the back of the paper, and then peels the paper off.
“It creates a simple black and white image,” said Ms Van Buskirk, who can make multiple prints now that she has the block.
To incorporate the quote itself into the design, Ms Van Buskirk reached out for help.
“I am not skilled in any graphics program,” she said. Fortunately, she found an ally in Krista Benson at Leverage Marketing, who agreed to put the words and image together pro bono.
“I am very appreciative,” Ms Van Buskirk said.
After a session during which Ms Van Buskirk and a few Friends of the Booth Library selected what color this year’s T-shirt would be, the project was shifted to Jane Hellman. The owner of Pudelz, a screen printing and gift business in Newtown, Ms Hellman has printed the shirts for the sale for at least 15 years, she said this week.
Toni Earnshaw this week said each year’s design is “a big, top secret thing” that is kept under wraps until just a few days before the sale opens.
“It’s also a fun thing for the volunteers to look forward to, and then shoppers can easily identify the volunteers during the sale,” she added.
Volunteers are the only ones who will be wearing the 2019 shirts during the run of the sale. The public can order shirts with this year’s design, for $15, but they will not be available for pick-up until after July 17.
A limited supply of T-shirts from previous years can be purchased during the sale, for $10 each.
A New Offering
In addition to featuring her design on the volunteer shirts, Ms Van Buskirk agreed to create one print of “Escape” for the Friends to sell.
A framed, signed print (#2/25) of the design was also shown to the volunteers on July 9. The public will be invited to view the print and bid by way of a silent auction during the run of the July 13-17 event.
Hundreds Of Hours For Setup
Within minutes of the unveiling of their T-shirts on July 9, many volunteers were already donning them. Most stopped for a lunch break, while others went right back to work setting up the massive event that fills Reed School’s cafetorium, gymnasium, the school’s lobby, and even one of the classrooms off the lobby with 120,000 items, according to organizers.
Volunteers have been sorting books into 90 different categories, as well as puzzles, movies, sheet music, recorded music, and other items, for months. That methodical work is done in the Friends’ sorting room at C.H. Booth Library. Those charged with checking game and puzzle donations make sure each one includes every piece, among other quality checks.
As boxes are filled with books or other items in the months before the sale, they are shipped to storage facilities in town.
Setup for the sale itself begins more than a week before opening day, according to the event chair. That’s when those boxes are pulled out of storage and delivered to the school, where they are again organized by category.
“We began setup on July 3,” Denise Kaiser said. Walking into the gymnasium with Ms Earnshaw, Ms Kaiser motioned toward volunteers who continued to sort books.
“They’ve already put the books onto the tables where they’ll be sold, and they’re already organized, but these folks keep checking, right up until we open, to make sure everything is in its place,” Ms Kaiser said. “And after we open, they’ll continue to put things back into place.”
Claudia Depp was among those in the gymnasium Tuesday, moving between and fine-tuning offerings in her specialty areas. She and Friends President Kay Brix work, she said, in Classic Fiction, Drama, English & Grammar, Literature, Reference, and Short Stories.
Volunteers often find themselves spending time in areas they hold interest in, which leads to better help for shoppers.
Jane Hellman, the screen printer, also volunteers during the book sale. She laughed this week, recalling her early attempts at helping someone seeking information in the history section.
“I had someone ask me about the Civil War, and I couldn’t even tell them when it ended,” she admitted, adding, “I didn’t last very long in history.”
Spotting Juan Mendez, Toni Earnshaw said the 15-year-old was able to step right in to the history section. “Volunteers often find specialty areas they can focus on,” she said.
The young man smiled and admitted to being something of a history buff. “I enjoy it,” he said.
Outside the school, a line was already forming. Cardboard boxes of varying shapes, sizes, and strengths; milk crates; and even a plant container all marked the locations for those who will be at the front of the line when doors open to the public on Saturday morning. Hundreds of people have lined up in previous years, eager to be among the first through the doors when the sale begins.
Rocks had been placed in some of the containers, bricks in others, to hold the vessels in place. One person had even driven a stake into the ground to make sure their box didn’t move.
Toni Earnshaw was amazed at the tenacity of the early birds.
“We put a sign out there last week,” she said, “telling people that boxes couldn’t be left until after July 4. We got here Friday morning, and there were 20 boxes already in place.”
By Tuesday morning, that number had increased to 30 place holders.
The 44th Annual Friends of Booth Library Book Sale is scheduled for July 13-17, inside Reed Intermediate School, 3 Trades Lane. Hours on Saturday will be from 9 am to 5 pm, and includes a $5 admission (those 18 and under are free); admission is free for the remainder of the event.
The sale will continue on Sunday, 9 am to 5 pm, with items sold as marked; Monday, 9 am to 7 pm, with everything half price; Tuesday is 9 am to 7 pm, with $5 to fill bags provided by the Friends; and Wednesday is 9 am to noon, when everything is free.
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