A while back I came across a blog thread that was, more or less, about girls and boys and bookmaking (unfortunately, I lost the link). The artist had shown some pictures of a gift set she’d made for a little girl’s birthday present. It included a customized journal/book and some other customized things to go along with it. The women commenting on the site oowed and ahhed, and said what a lucky little girl the recipient was. And then someone chimed in (the way I remember it) that it was a shame that little boys only cared about things like legos and super-heroes. She’d sure like to make gifts like that too, but only had little boys in her life. They wouldn’t like gifts like that. I felt sad for the little boys in her life.
Two of the biggest artists’ books fans I know are twin 7 year old boys, the sons of a friend. They are normal, lego-loving boys. And they are completely fascinated by book structures. One year (6th birthday? I’m losing track…) I made them each a flag book with blank tabs surrounding the name of each boy, with the idea that they should decorate and customize the books themselves. To my surprise, those flag books seemed to be the hit of the party. One of the twins called it his “magic book.” Another time, I gave them personalized little pamphlet-style books, and they, apparently, are still pasting things into them and using them. At the moment, they’re waiting to hold me to a promise to come over to make books with them. When their mom had mentioned something about my studio, last time I saw them, little 7 year old D.’s eyes grew huge with excitement. “You have a studio! A real art studio!” You might as well have announced that I had my own train in the backyard. He wants to come see the studio.
I used to be afraid that they’d be disappointed if I were to give them homemade gifts, rather than some perhaps more cool or coveted thing from the toy store. It turned out that they have genuinely liked their handcrafted cards and gifts. I always let them know that they can learn to make the same kinds of things themselves, too. It had never occurred to me that because they are boys I was supposed to assume they wouldn’t be interested in handmade books and art-related activities. Boys deserve better than that.