Jes Lee

Moving right along

This week I get to share with you that my #Mississippi book is now also included in the permanent collection at the Minnesota Historical Society! It is so exciting to have that book travel so many places, and be seen by so many people. I never dreamed that would happen!

I have been busy the last few days editing film scans of photos from our trip last month, and working on a new series of artwork. I have more plans for this year, though it is a bit too early to share them now. It is an exciting and full year, in all the best ways!

If you follow me on Instagram, I’ll be sharing many film photos from our trip this week, as well as a couple of work-in-progress photos from the artwork series I am working on.

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Art-a-Whirl already

Wow, a post about Art-a-Whirl already? We haven’t even made it to March, though it has felt like spring around here this week. Yes, for many of us, plans for the huge art weekend in Minneapolis are already being made. I have begun planning what new work I will have to bring, and what new demos I can do at FK Art Glass this year. But the biggest news I have so far is that one of my images will be on the cover of the Art-a-Whirl directory as well as the posters and many other advertisements. I am so thrilled, and honored that they picked my artwork out of the large number of submissions they received! Apparently, this is the first time in 11 years that photography work has been chosen for the cover as well. Here is a sneak peek of what the cover will look like:


So save the date! Art-a-Whirl is always the 3rd weekend in May. This year it will be May 20th 5-10pm, May 21st 12-8pm, and May 22nd 12-5pm.


A list of sorts

Things I have learned:

  1. I am enjoying listening to the audio book ‘The Art of Asking’ by Amanda Palmer much more than I ever thought I would. I have enjoyed her music for a long time, gone to her concerts when I could, and followed along on Twitter and everything else. For many insignificant reasons, I stopped following not very long ago. This book came through a list of suggested audio books available through my library’s website, and I decided to give it a try. It has been amazing to listen to, and today, I find myself following her again on social media.
  2. Meditation is really good for me. It has taught me a lot about myself already. I do very well with guided meditation in my yoga classes, but I am working on meditating alone as well.
  3. I love traveling.
  4. The act of traveling, being sick, going back to work without feeling 100%, and still trying to be creative, makes me more of an introvert than I usually am. Which is why I do not have more photos from our last amazing trip up here yet…but they will be coming soon.
  5. My favorite thing currently is when John and I have both gotten sucked into really good books, and go to bed a little earlier on the weekends just so we can lay in bed together and read.
  6. I successfully developed three rolls of slide film at home and did not blow anything up and I’m pretty sure I could try this again with the same results.
  7. John and I have started planning a pretty major house project together and it has become this wonderful blend of his ideas and my ideas and we are both excited to start it. We have done projects together in the past, but this somehow feels like the most collaborative one yet. I have learned a lot already from it, and I am paying close attention, knowing I will learn so much more by the time it is done.

It will be a busy week, filled with a few art related things happening, as well as work and home things. I will have much more to blog about next week!

My new photo-a-day project is still happening – I have not missed a day yet! I will share photos from that soon. I just developed the first roll of film from it today (see list item #6)!

I will leave you with this:

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2016 goals and photos

I have no resolutions this year, except to keep up what I figured out best last year.

I have goals though.

  1. Yesterday I started a new photo 365 (366 technically) project. This one using my FIL’s old Nikon F20 camera, with my cell phone for back up and documentation. Once I get the first roll developed, I will begin posting both images here.
  2. To post more often here.
  3. To put together the best series of images I can for my show at Banfill this summer. Basically, to do my best.
  4. To read/listen to 52 books this year. I love reading, I always have. It is so easy to let that go when there are other things to be done. Last year I started listening to audio books during my commute to work. Between the books I listen to, and those I read, this should be a reasonable goal.

Once again John and I were fortunate enough to start this year in a different county, visiting friends again in Okinawa, Japan. Today, I am slowly inching my way towards completing developing all the film I took over our week-long visit, and the task of scanning all of those images into my computer. It isn’t a bad way to spend a frigid cold day! I will slowly be sharing these photos here as well as my normal social media haunts, as I get them sorted through and edited.

Oh, but what I would trade to be back there.



I have been working on this little book for quite some time….

And while I still have some work to do in the edition, this little book is making its way out into the world. Currently it is on display at Minnesota Center for Book Arts in the ‘Parts of a Whole’ exhibition, and will be included in the ‘Fine Wine Fine Books’ night coming up in October.

I just learned yesterday that one copy of this little book is heading to Chicago! It will be part of the ‘Words|Matter’ book arts library, where anyone can go and have a chance to see, and touch, and read a collection of artists books! I love this idea – this was a topic that comes up quite often among the book artists I know…many of us want our books to be touched, and looked at, and read. Books are made to be held. I’m so excited that this little book is traveling out of the city and will be included in this show!

And, because a few friends have asked nicely for more photos, here are a few that are a bit nicer than the cell phone photos I usually take when I am working on it…


Open – view of the front cover, back cover, and the spine. The front and back covers are instant film photos – created with Impossible Project film and their Instant Lab.



Inside page spread – this book is a collection of the photos I took of the Mississippi river during my time as an intern in the preservation department at the Hennepin County Library in downtown Minneapolis. Each image is paired with a hashtag, the date and time the photo was taken, the temperature and general weather of the day, and the exact latitude and longitude of where the photo was taken.


As the photos continue through the book, another hashtag is added to the ones from before. As I was taking these photos, I would post them on Instagram. The more hashtags you use on a photo in Instagram, the more ways it can be searched for and found by others. (You can also be very creative, or very obnoxious with hashtags, but that is a topic for a different post.)



Towards the end of the book, the pages fill with hashtags. Each tag was letterpress printed using photo polymer plates, and the Universal III Vandercook in the basement of Minnesota Center for Book Arts.


The pages with the images and hashtags open up to reveal part of the binding, and a map of where the photos were taken. All of the photos were taken from the Hennepin Avenue bridge, walking towards downtown. The binding was invented by Claire VanVliet for her book titled ‘Bone Songs’. It is a woven binding, meaning each page of the book is bound to one another with a strip of paper, woven through the page and itself.


Closed it measures 4 1/4″ tall, 3 1/2″ wide, and 2 3/4″ deep at the thickest part of the spine.


Because the binding is so flexible, it can be displayed completely open…something I really like a lot about this book.

It has definitely been a labor of love! And of course has taken me quite a bit longer than I originally anticipated, but I have learned so much, and I’m not sick of it yet!

There is still a bit of work to be done on the edition, but I am getting close. When everything is finished, it will be an edition of 25. This little book can be purchased for $75, should someone be interested (though #23 is already spoken for, and a couple other numbers from the beginning of the edition are currently out for show at MCBA, and one on its way to Chicago).

Thank you for all of the kind words on Facebook when I announced my books acceptance to the show in Chicago! It makes me so happy!

Summers that are everything

I have not been letting my days of my break from work slip by unnoticed. Each day I have been steadily working towards two goals: getting the rooms in our house painted (I hit the halfway point last week!) and most importantly, creating new artwork. I have slowly been creating and editing new compilation images using some of the photos I took during our trip to Okinawa last winter.


This image is one of about 6 new pieces I have been working with. Everything is still a work-in-progress. Some of these images end up on my Instagram account if I feel like they are close to being complete.

Last week I had the idea to pick up some screen printing equipment. Thanks to a conversation over beers and dinner with a very awesome, smart friend, I heard of a technique I had not thought of (this happens quite often when I am around certain friends). I started playing with it, and have been pleasantly surprised with the results.

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I am able to create colored backgrounds, and then ink jet print images over them.



It needs a lot of tweaking, and many new decisions to be made on colors, and color density, and how it works with each image, but I am thrilled that it worked!! I’m excited to keep experimenting with this throughout the summer.

Last week I was thinking about how many of the images I take don’t get printed, don’t end up in any compilation images, and basically aren’t seen by anyone but me. After recently teaching a class on creating a one-sheet book, I decided to play with that medium, and created this little book.


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This one was so much fun to make, and I plan on making many more. I see them more as ‘zines’ than fine-books. Zines are something I have wanted to make for quite a while, but was struggling with an idea for. I think these making these simple little books will help with that craving.

Each day I have off of my day job, I try to savor. I know all too well that the summer can go by in an instant. So far, it has felt like a wonderful, long break, and I still have many days left to come. I have already done more creating that I ever hoped to, and I have no intention to stop.

May you all enjoy the summer and warm weather as much as you can, whether you are working or not!

My images for Made Here are up!

It actually happened! My work for the Made Here MN installation is up! If you are near 10th and Hennepin in downtown Minneapolis, check out the old National Camera building (930 Hennepin Ave). My images are on the 10th Ave side of the building! There will be more installations going up very soon by some other amazing artists, so keep checking back.

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My images were printed by a local company called Color Space. They were so great to work with! I never print my images this large, and I almost always print everything myself. But I am so happy with how these prints turned out! I’m planning on having Color Space print more for me in the future. Maybe nothing quite this big though…I don’t find myself with four windows to fill up very often!

This truly has been an amazing spring with the opportunities I have been given.

The reception for Made Here is on June 3rd, from 6-9pm.

In between now and then is Art-a-Whirl! I hope a few of you will have a chance to find me there! I will have prints of all four of the images I have up in my Made Here exhibit, including this brand new one titled Escapes! This is truly the most site-specific piece I have made, and I am pretty happy with how it turned out.


I will have my new Mississippi book at Art-a-Whirl as well, though I may not have enough copies completed to actually have it for sale. I will be doing a little demo of how I’m binding it throughout the weekend though, so stop by!

Hopefully, now that I am actually getting caught up on deadlines, I will get back into blogging a bit more as well!

Thanks for stopping by and reading!


The last of the mind-numbing editing is done for my Made Here work. Next step is more test printing, and sending the images on their way to the printer. I’m excited to see how the prints turn out. This will be the largest I have ever had anything printed!


5 new boxes of pottery were priced, and packaged, ready for Craftstravaganza in a couple of weeks.

And I have already packed my breakfast and lunch for tomorrow’s early work day. I am celebrating every minor accomplishment this morning!

John has been amazing at getting the house ready for weekend guests. I don’t know what I would do without him! I managed to get just a little more laundry done. Somehow, everything around here that needs to happen, does.

I will make it to yoga today as well. Possibly, one of the kindest things I will do for myself today.

I hope you find something kind to do for yourself as well.


Everything worth prepping for

This weekend I have been in crazy-get-it-done mode. The contents of my studio are encroaching on our tv-room space, and there is a definite blanket-nest and butt-print where I have been parked on the couch with my laptop working for hours on end.

It was a good weekend! John and I did manage to get out for a walk last night, now that he is finally feeling better. But the rest of the time we sat together, watched movies, and I worked.

I am not only working on the images for Made Here. That is just the first of many deadlines! Saturday, May 9th, from 10am-5pm is Craftstravaganza! Dad and Kiddo Pottery will have a booth there, with many new glaze colors and pretty new things you can use in your home. I have helped my dad as much as I can with creating and glazing, and soon to be pricing and wrapping up new things.

May 15th, 16th, and 17th is Art-a-Whirl. I think this is my favorite weekend of the year, and I know I have mentioned it a million times already. I’m super lucky that the 15th happens to be my last day at work and that I can leave and head to Art-a-Whirl and begin my summer vacation. I plan to have new images created just for that weekend.

I’m sure there will be even more coming in June and July. Or maybe it will be quiet, with a few more calm days in there.

And just now as I am typing this, I received a text message from my uncle, that spring flowers will be popping up soon in this place he knows of, and I am invited to tag a long with my camera. One more thing worth prepping for…

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Back to working on artwork for Made Here! This image might make the cut for my four window spaces. I haven’t quite decided yet…


Things I have learned

I had a chance to take a workshop with Wing Young Huie a few years back. To any fellow photographers that might be reading this, if you have a chance to do the same, take it. Do it. You won’t regret it. I could gush about him for awhile. One piece of wisdom he told us is to give yourself time when photographing a place. Stay longer than 1/2 and hour. Stay longer than an hour. Stay two hours. Or three. But be there, be present, and give yourself time. You will like the images you get more, the longer you are there, because you are seeing past the surface of the place, and into the details. When life gets busy, and I feel like I am just “squeezing” in time for my artwork, it is hard to feel I have the luxury of time. But I often think back to that workshop, and somehow make time. I did that on Sunday when I was photographing. I stayed out there, walking around, taking photos. I stayed out for over 2 hours, I think…really, I lost track of time. But I stayed. And I got images I really like. And I will make something cool out of them.

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I currently work at a community college, as most of you probably already know. I am often surprised at what I learn at work, not just from the department faculty, but from the students as well. One student, whom happens to be wise beyond his years, said to me to not think about more time than you can handle. He said there was a time in his life that he was working on just making things work in 5 minute increments. He then proudly stated that currently, he is up to about a week at a time. And he is right. Currently, I think I am at 10 minute increments. Maybe tomorrow will be longer, maybe shorter. But I can handle 10 minutes, and that’s pretty good right now.