Rebecca Chamlee, “At Low Water”

At Low Water, book within slipcase and chemise

At Low Water, book cover

At Low Water, spread with poem printed on kozo overlay

At Low Water, Ochre sea star specimen spread with Rev. J.G. Wood excerpt

At Low Water, Green anemone specimen with memoir text

Rebecca Chamlee
Simi Valley, California

At Low Water
letterpress, handbound book
edition size of 65
64 pages
8 x 10 x 1
8 x 5 x 1


As a self-taught naturalist, my work examines the intersection of my artistic and scientific interests by collecting and cataloging the natural world. I am inspired to record, interpret and celebrate nature.

My artist’s book, At Low Water, looks back to the beginnings of my passion for exploration and observation of native species to a time when I collected sea animals gathered at low tide to bring home and live in an aquarium in my girlhood bedroom.

The main text recalls the story of filling the tank with mollusks, fish, crustaceans, echinoderms and invertebrates—anything unlucky enough to be captured by my bare hands—and the life-and-death drama that took place among the captive inhabitants. A poem, told from the viewpoint of the child in the moment of discovery, runs through the book on translucent leaves that overlay closeup images of the intertidal habitat. Field notes contain data from the year spent in the tide pools of Southern California researching and collecting images for the fourteen detailed plates of marine specimens and twelve habitat images found throughout the book.

At Low Water was made fifty years after the events documented by Rebecca Chamlee of Pie In The Sky Press. the 10 and 12 point Deepdene and the California Old Style figures were cast by M & H Typefounders, while the 14 and 36 point Deepdene italic were cast by Swamp Press. A Nikon 7100 dslr equipped with a 60mm macro lens and a polarizing filter mounted on a monopod captured the images. The specimen images, created using photopolymer plates made by Boxcar Press, habitat spreads and handset type were letterpress printed on thick Awagami Kozo with Niyodo Kozo overlays using a Vandercook Universal iii abp Press.

The standard edition, numbered 1-60, is a drum leaf sewn-board style binding, its unique gloved spine is Ginga backcloth with printed St-Armand Old Master paper covering the boards. A printed paper chemise and slipcase protect the book.
The deluxe edition lettered A-E has a goat vellum spine, includes a suite of eight prints enclosed in a St-Armand handmade paper folder and a Chestnut Cowrie shell, all housed in a cloth covered clamshell box.