Ian Huebert, “Beans”

Exterior view of can.

Side view of cans stacked in a pyramid.

Title page / beginning of scroll.

View of panels midway through the scroll

Video link: http://engineandwell.com/beans-video   Opening a can of Beans.


Ian Huebert
Iowa City, Iowa

Letterpress, woodcuts, airbrush
edition of 100
2 pages
4 x 109 in. (Scroll)
4.5 x 3.375 in. (Can)

Artist Statement

Beans is a tall tale about a wolf who howls at the moon and plays music on his squeezebox. One night he is swindled out of his cart (that contains a barrel of potion) and his mule by a witch who offers him some magic beans in exchange. Watered by tears of remorse, the beans grow into a stalk that reaches up into the clouds where the one-eyed giant lives. The wolf takes to the clouds to find his mule (and barrel of potion) and ends up making off with the giant’s singing cigar box banjo instead. When the giant gives chase, the wolf hacks down the beanstalk and the giant falls to his end. Shacking up in the giant’s boot, the wolf ends up with plenty of beans to eat and a cigar box banjo that sings funny songs

The story is told in a sequence of fifty woodcuts, letterpress printed on a scroll consisting of five sheets of paper joined together, measuring 4 x 109 inches long. The woodcuts are imposed vertically, printed in alternating red and blue ink, running down one side and up the other side of the paper. Finished maple dowels attached to both ends serve as winding spools. It is printed in an edition of one hundred, each one hand colored with two additional ink colors applied with an airbrush. The scroll is housed in a cotton muslin drawstring bag that has red dots printed on it. The scroll and bag are housed in a food grade tin can and sealed with pull tab lids using a canning machine. A clear plastic lid covers the top of the can. The can has a printed label that includes the title and description, as well as an image of a beanstalk that can grow taller when the cans are stacked.

The act of scrolling is a combination of ancient and modern technologies. In practice, the scroll is unrolled and rolled simultaneously and one reads the section of paper spanning the two rolls, though there’s no correct way to go about it. If unfurled altogether, it becomes a pile of Beans and can be read in the same manner one reads a loose ribbon of paper.   The woodcuts are imposed so it is possible to end up at the beginning of the story after reaching the end, without having to rewind the scroll.