Almost a Book Artist Before I Knew It

I find it interesting that badges (or buttons, where I come from) are seen by many as having a kindred relationship to book art. For instance, there is a research project going on at the Centre for Fine Print Research at the University of the West of England, What will be the Canon for the Artists’ Book in the 21st Century?They “aim to extend and sustain critical debate of what constitutes an artist’s book in the 21st Century.” To go along with this, there is a genealogical-type tree diagram available at the web site. Here, an attempt is made to illustrate how the book arts and related art forms are linked to each other. People who want to participate in the research project are encouraged to download the diagram and, if so desired, rearrange or rewrite parts of it to suit their own understandings of how these things fit together. As currently assembled, badges, postcards, cards, posters, and bookmarks are considered sibling offshoots to artists’ books. These are all things I’ve been involved with for many years.

The badges, though, almost make me giggle. I was the weird girl at my small high school on the Central Coast of California. I mean, the really weird girl. Come to think of it, in Jr. High as well. I remember giving speeches in 8th grade English class on topics such as “the Joy of Nonconformity” and “How to Make People Stare at You.” To give you an idea what life was like there, one of the great moments of pride for my alma mater was when our Future Farmers of America cattle judging team won a big trophy at a competition in the Midwest. This was the early 80s. Needless to say, I did not judge cattle. Nor did I fit in.

As part of my campaign of nonconformity and goading the locals, I saved up and bought something special for myself by mail order. I didn’t know anyone else at the time who had one of these miraculous gizmos. It was….a button machine. Oh, did I have fun.

I just came across some of my old buttons, now mostly rusted. If I’d only known then what I know now. When they looked at me askance, I could’ve told them I was a book artist practicing my craft.

2 thoughts on “Almost a Book Artist Before I Knew It”

  1. I still have those buttons you made. The Greyhound in the crosshairs, and a few others. Ah, those were the days.

    Honestly? Even though our town was so…. like that, I'd be more worried these days about expressing ourselves like that. Today people haul off and slug you in a way they never did before.

  2. Indeed. In retrospect, it wasn't all that bad a time to be an odd kid in school. Now, it’s hard to imagine life before our current hypervigilent state against anything out of the ordinary, and the fear that seems to pervade everywhere, and in the schools especially. I feel sorry for odd loner kids now. It helped us stay sane to have a steam-letting outlet in that way. Nowadays, it would probably be a police matter.

    I have to admit, I myself had a visceral reaction at your mention of that school mascot button. It's such a different time now, it's hard to comprehend that was once something that nobody in their right mind, even the irony challenged, would've thought was anything other than the joke it was intended to be. It’s depressing, how violent and fear-soaked everything is now.

    PS Still have them? I'm impressed! My old buttons survived the Great Possession Cull before moving aboard.


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