SATYRUS JEERING’S “THE NITCH”: IN SEARCH OF…YOURSELF
“This illustrated prose is an adventure tail that travels far beyond its binding. The Nitch is a story about discovering your passion and purpose, with the help of a few very curious friends.”
By Adrian Cross
The Nitch (above), an Illustrated Talisman
Getting children excited about the process is critical to a successful and creative education environment. Critical thinking is just as important to the learning process as memorization. Role playing and character development are important for cultivating healthy interactions with others. Through educational fiction and play we learn many of life’s lessons, with rhyme, song or faerie tales. Parents, teachers and students alike all enjoy the mindful mayhem and cerebral sabotage delivered by Hairbrain and his comical cronies.
A successful Kickstarter campaign has enabled The Nitch to go into limited edition production. Each verse in this illustrated talisman contains nuances from scores of imaginary journeys from the author’s past and worked into a quest; a journey to find the enigmatic Nitch.
The Nitch is a hand tooled leather bound journal that stitches together an Odyssey of imagery and verse, from the mind of artist and entrepreneur Ian Miller. It entails a quest. From journal to book, to riddles that lead to a website that lead to buried treasure. The interactive process incorporates old world craftsmanship, story telling and “riddlery” and transforms itself through the digital looking glass of metamodernism.
THE BOOKMAKING AND BINDING PROCESS
Artist and story teller Ian Miller has incorporated his creative and marketing talents into the concept design, fabrication and manufacturing of The Nitch. With the advent of the digital age and devices such as Kindle E-Readers, the techniques of bookmaking are all but lost arts. Assumed to have originated in India by the first century BC, bookbinding combines a variety of trades from paper making, leather-working and textile arts.
Rarely do you have the opportunity see a genuine, hand-stitched, tooled leather journal with parchment of this caliber unless it’s a piece from antiquity or a work of art. A great deal of love and craftsmanship has gone into the production of this timeless keepsake. In the disposable age of instant gratification, it’s refreshing to see craftsmanship and critical thinking once again engaging young people in our education system. Please visit the Gallery to see a slideshow of the various stages of the book making and binding process.
We had a rare opportunity to engage Mr. Miller and ask him a few questions. Here’s what he had to say:
Q: As an artist and a performer you relate quite well with children. You’re a guy who seems to have a very cognizant connection to his own childhood. What is it about that connection that feeds the inspiration for the Nitch?
A: While I cannot speak to the intricacies of Mr. Jeering’s process, I can share with you one of the most important disciplines Jeering has encouraged me to explore. A daily journal. Through the practice of daily reflections, I am able to tap into and explore my earliest accessible memories and experiences, which has allowed me to capture the mindset of my childhood perspectives. I find my greatest source of inspiration in the reciprocation of joy which happens during interactions with an audience. Though I would say, the energy it takes to create the works we perform, comes directly through the insights I experience in my daily practices of writing, reading, meditation and exercise.
Q: Who is Satyrus Jeering and how did you come to know him?
A: Satyrus Jeering is a legendary Face-maker and Storyteller. I first met Jeering in passing when I was 11 years old. My parents had afforded my brother and I a day at the local Renaissance festival. Upon crossing the bridge of entry, I saw a tallish, slender man wearing the mask of a troll. I was made curiouser by the mans strange walk and antic behavior. Excited further by his foreign tongue and accent, I was encouraged to look deeper into the man’s eyes. I wanted nothing more than to pull the mask from his face, to reveal the reality which I imagined lurking behind. The simplest of mysteries. Drawn into his leering glare, I had not taken notice of the crude stick which he wielded as a staff, and it was only when he lead my eyes with a turn of his head towards his staff that I noticed his offering. Upon the staff was a catalogue of masks, which I had sworn did not exist the moment before. He spun the staff in hand revealing many faces attached to this wondrous prop. I stared at each one, amazed by the fashioning of each individual persona. That was my first, unbelievable encounter with Satyrus Jeering.
Q: Please, if you would give us a little background and brief synopsis of the Nitch Saga?
A: The Nitch is a 62 page illustrated account, copyrighted upon it’s original completion by Mr. Jeering himself in 1357. In 2011, several years after joining Mr. Jeering in the efforts of his handiwork, I began a recounting of his original findings to a version suitable for modern audiences. Upon the stories completion, 55 fine patrons graciously supported an Author’s Edition of 111 hand bound copies. This small success lead to an official First Edition of 1,111 copies, and aided the creation of Satyrus Jeering’s performing Cohort, which has staged The Nitch “reading” events at multiple schools, festivals and theaters since it’s formation in 2015. This year we plan to launch a digital and audio edition along with a second print edition; to aid in sharing The Nitch with wider audiences.
Q: Why was it important for you to craft the journals as you did? The parchment pages and tooled leather binding?
A: Jeering’s foremost condition in allowing me to bind his story to the physical world, came in the form which we have presented. In a world of synthesis, and a clamoring for evolution via technology, the tactile has become rare and critical. Therefor the method of our first edition binding arose from the intent to reflect that which manifests organically, with the purpose of present authenticity and care in delivery of the oral traditions. There really was no choice. It was a destined decree.
Q: Education is a major concern for parents when it comes to their children getting a good head start. More than just a “fairy tail”, the Nitch has an agenda.
A: If we have any agenda at all, it is to provide a greater degree of joy in the world. Instead of an old man, feebly reading a lifeless book to a room full of nodding toddlers, we prefer to wrap the story with experiential theater filled with flying pies and exploding confetti canons; because let’s face it, nothing gets the grins growing like a good pie to the face! Our performances aim to give rise to imagination through a playful examination of the notions we love. I learn through my desire to understand something, and so my aim is to create a desirable experience for the audience, so they might be encouraged to explore the written word of their own volition. We present the story throughout the act, but we do not press it’s importance. Jeering would rather the individual decide whether or not the story is for them to examine closer.
The learning model in the US is changing. Educators are realizing the system that is in place is calcified, not allowing for engagement on an individual basis. Technology is aiding modern educators in the dialogue and source materials needed to aid in a shift towards personalized learning methods, and we are proud to support this changing perspective in the small role we play as arts integrators.
Q: Is the Nitch part of a bigger vision or has it culminated through its process? Where will this “tail” lead – Entirely new adventures for Taxus, Vulpus and Hairbrain?
A: This is just the beginning, and there is much to come; for the end of one tail always leads to another, and in the case of The Nitch, the tail is longer than a monkey’s uncles.
Q: Let’s talk a little about metamodernism in publishing and literature. The metamodern era has expanded access to digital technology and communications like never before. The digital realm has impacted our lives significantly in terms of access and exposure to the world of art and literature. As an artist, craftsman and publishing writer, what impressions, or impact has it had on your process and direction as an artist? Do you feel the new digital aesthetic brings multiple disciplines of expression together, making compartmentalization of style and genre more obsolete?
A: More than anything else, I find technology to be a distraction. Don’t get me wrong, I respect the digital age; after all, I was a child of the eight bit revolution, pacified with a Nintendo controller. However, I also had a sign painter as a father, who instilled in me a greater appreciation for the tactile world of hand made craftsmanship. Through the years of my youth, as apprentice to my father in the mural arts, I watched as the vinyl graphics industry destroyed his passion and desire to create, as it stripped the human factor from the direct application of the artistry. It was terribly defeating and had a resonate impact on my future work. In my opinion, the most positive aspect of digital technology is the potential to bridge communication gaps throughout the world, which is already beginning to reshape the human paradigm, aiding in the evolution of our consciousness. And in understanding the reality of our digital age, I have worked to integrate an interactive, online component into Mr. Jeering’s story, which provides a mechanism by which readers can take part in a game of riddles with the author. As I stated before, there is much to come.
Mr. Kanamori, a teacher of a 4th grade class, teaches his students not only how to be students, but how to live. He gives them lessons on teamwork, community, the importance of openness, how to cope, and the harm caused by bullying. In the award-winning documentary Children Full of Life, a fourth-grade class in a primary school in Kanazawa, northwest of Tokyo, learn lessons about compassion from their homeroom teacher, Toshiro Kanamori.
He instructs each to write their true inner feelings in a letter, and read it aloud in front of the class. By sharing their lives, the children begin to realize the importance of caring for their classmates. Toshiro is an amazing example of what all teachers across the world should be like. He truly understands what teaching children is all about and certainly made a positive difference in the lives of these 10 year olds.