Are We Our Own Worst Enemies?

Earlier this year, I decided to send something to the We Love Your Booksshow that was to take place, this time around, in Milton Keynes. I’d already been in two previous ones. Each year a theme is set (last year’s turned out to be a bit problematic—I will write about that in another post). The set topic this time was “Closure.” For a long while I’d had a line running in my head that I knew needed to be turned into a book, and this was the time. A friend had said to me, after I’d told him about a traumatic part of my life, that “That’s the sort of thing…it’s like, closure is for books. It’s not for a situation like that.”

Unfortunately, by the time I started acting on my impulse, the deadline was growing close, and I was in the middle of getting ready to fly out of town for a medical appointment (not a sign that things are going well…). Other deadlines were looming, mayhem was erupting (but when doesn’t it?)… But I decided I just had to do this. So, in a burst of inspiration, I laid out the pages for a case-bound book in InDesign, did up the covers, bound it…The thing was, I wasn’t intending for it to actually be read. What I like about We Love Your Books is the emphasis on “altered and experimental.” I glued and sculpted my book so that it never closes. The pages are permanently pushed up and glued into place. But in the midst of figuring this all out and gluing and sculpting, the end pages wound up crooked and not evenly placed. I could sort of fudge it—it was, after all, meant to look like an open book, and so the pages weren’t going to look straight. But I was mortified. If I’d had the time, I would’ve done it over. I anguished over it. Maybe I shouldn’t send it….but I want to be in the show… I packed it up and sent it. The book itself had been somewhat therapeutic to make, in its way. I decided, given the topic of “closure,” I was going to let this one go. And so it went into the mail. If the curators gasped in disgust when they unpacked it, they just wouldn’t show it. But then I’d had sender’s remorse. It just wasn’t good enough. I’m embarrassing myself….
And so imagine my surprise when I got an email the other day from one of the curators. A bookbinding supply place had sponsored an award for the show, and here were the two winners plus six shortlisted pieces. And I was on the shortlist.
Are we our own worst enemies?
Pictures of the show and opening were posted online.

Fairy Tales and Paper Cuttings

I’ve long had a soft spot for Hans Christian Andersen. He was a depressive who lived with very bad teeth at a time when dentistry wasn’t exactly what it is now. He lived in constant pain. He never really fit in wherever he was, and didn’t particularly care much for his home town. This wasn’t someone who wrote cheery stories, by and large. He was also something of a visionary. He once wrote about how he imagined the world in the year 2000, when Americans will fly to Europe in great airships with wings. They will telegraph their hotel reservations ahead, and come with guide books that will tell them what to see. And flying will be such a fast mode of transportation that the airships will be crowded and the people will be able to come see all the sights in a week before flying home again. He wrote this in the mid 19th C.

But in addition to writing, he was an obsessive paper cutter. He also made collages out of scraps, some of which look as modern as a Schwitters. According to the Odense City Museum:
To Hans Christian Andersen paper was not meant to be media for the written word only. Paper—it seems—represented the basis for his imaginative expressing. Throughout his life Hans Christian Andersen was an addict to paper. He wrote on it, he drew on it—and he used it

to cut in. Like the ancient expression that the form and art was hidden in the stone, only to be revealed by the sculptor, the poet used his material—the paper—to engrave, or rather to carve out his ideas with ink. And more radically he used his unexpected monstrous scissors to cut out the most elegant figures. (Odense City Museum)

The museum site has some pictures of his scherrenschnitte-style papercuttings, as well as his famous collage/decoupage screen. I also found this charming little paper rocking chair. Delightful, no?
And just to end on an appropriately surreal note, during my searches I discovered that the Irish Museum of Modern Art once had an exhibit called Cut-outs and Cut-ups: Hans Christian Andersen and William Seward Burroughs (yes, that William Burroughs).

Life from a Pill Bottle

I feel as if I am returning back to the land of the living. My original intention for this blog had been to focus on paper and book art to the exclusion of more mundane personal stuff, but I’ve been finding that hard to do. There is just too much overlap between what goes on with me and what I wind up doing (or not doing) in my work space.

Actually, when I set this thing up, I hadn’t planned to let anyone even know that I was doing it. I’d thought I’d just create a little anonymous spot on the web where I could motivate myself by writing about projects I was thinking about and about miscellaneous paper-related discoveries I’d made online. If anyone actually stumbled upon it and kept reading, swell. But I wasn’t aiming to share my life. Unbloggerly of me, I know, but that was my thinking.

 

Then, a funny thing happened. When I was doing the bookmarks recently, I had to put my info on the back of them. And, to my surprise, I found myself putting this blog address on the back. I’ve been using the Paper Chipmunk name as the imprint for my book work. I guess I’m embracing my inner chipmunk. And sharing my life…

 

In spite of a show coming up soon with the book arts guild I belong to, I haven’t been able to do much of anything for months. My health matters have been getting worse and worse.  The scariest part was nobody could really offer much of an opinion what was wrong. Some major endocrine stuff, among other things, was happening, but of a sort that should be controlled by taking artificial replacements from pill bottles. However, it didn’t seem to be working very well. And doctors’ patience runs out when answers don’t come easily. I felt like I was slowly dying, quite literally. My MD was probably hoping I’d be sucked up by aliens on my way home, never to reappear.

 

Then an amazing thing happened. My pharmacy was going to switch my hormone replacement with another generic brand. I have allergies to some ingredients in pills, and this new one had some questionable things in it. So, feeling annoyed that I was now going to have to pay a lot more for my meds, I grudgingly went on the name brand version of my rather common drug, hydrocortisone. Within half a day of switching brands, I felt better than I’d felt in a long time. People I hardly know have been stopping me to tell me how much better I look. Even the constant pain I live with, something that’s not supposed to be related, became a bit more controllable. The change has been remarkable.

 

I’m sharing my rather personal medical saga as a sort of public service. If your medication doesn’t seem to be properly controlling your problem as well as you think it should be, it might be the brand of your pills. This is actually not the first outrageous generic medication incident my family has suffered from. I’m discovering it’s a common occurrence. The ever-expanding generic drug industry seems to be largely a racket.

 

However, in celebration of feeling alive again, and in honor of pills, I have made a bottle of a pharmaceutical I am calling Codex. Why read when you can take your books in pill form? Each capsule contains a miniature perfect bound book. If things remain controlled, over the next year I plan to make an edition of 5 bottles of Codex. Or, rather, Paper Chipmunk Press will be issuing bottles of Codex…
As an aside, I digitally designed several of the miniature book covers. Although I knew they were going to be shrunk down too small to be legible, I had great fun coming up with faux titles. A few: Iatrogenic Horror: a Novel; Arts and Crafts for Phlebotomists; Doctors Kill… I think you get the idea.

Changing Mores

I have been going through my stamp collection. I’ve even, God help me, been adding to it. Aside from admiring them and making a few cards for friends with them, I haven’t a clue what I’m going to do with all these stamps. But I do so like them.

This Darwin commemorative arrived the other day from someone in Scotland. By coincidence, not days before, my husband had been sharing with me some passages from Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle. They were rather startling. Darwin, great man of science, gleefully writes in his diary how he pulled the tail of a Galapagos lizard and teased it just for fun, like a naughty school boy.

He also described the dining habits of those traveling on His Majesty’s Ship Beagle as they passed through the Galapagos Archipelago in 1835: “While staying in this upper region, we lived entirely upon tortoise-meat: the breast-plate roasted (as the Gauchos do carne con cuero), with the flesh on it, is very good; and the young tortoises make excellent soup; but otherwise the meat to my taste is indifferent.”

Oh dear.

Pro Re Nata (I Was Warned)

I’ve posted links to other people’s books on Flickr. Today I thought I’d add something of my own. I don’t have many photos of my book and other non-cut paper work on the web. Some things I need to photograph, but others I’ve simply parted with before making a record of them. At the moment I’ve been feeling desperate to get back into the studio to do some work, but I’ve been so unwell and exhausted that it’s almost impossible for me to do anything. It’s frustrating.

I’ve made books for many years, largely in the background to other things, mostly to be given as gifts. I’d always thought of them as not my “real work,” whatever that is. But then I began making books and objects as, partly, a way of dealing with the frustrations of living with chronic health issues. It was a way, sometimes, of making laughter out of pain. Book art just seemed like a perfect medium, for me, for such explorations.

This is my tribute to my medications and to the words of wisdom printed graphically on the sides of the bottles. Be warned.

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.

Bookmarks VII

For the third year, I’m taking part in the Bookmarks project run through the Centre for Fine Print Research at the University of the West of England in Bristol. Book artists around the world sign up and agree to contribute an edition of 100 bookmarks each. These are then distributed to venues around the world, where they are given out free. It’s been fascinating, and, I must say, I’ll never look at a bookmark the same way again.

My current submission is due in Bristol soon, so I’m working on them now. They are designed to plant nagging neurotic thoughts in peoples’ minds as they settle down to their books. Did you remember to turn off the oven? Is that iron still on? Door really locked?

 

A while ago I mentioned my design idea to my acupuncturist. She was horrified and accused me of being not very nice to people with OCD. In reality, I was thinking of my own tendencies.

 

This reminds me of a story. One day as I was leaving the house and had just locked up, I had to go back in to double check that I’d really, really remembered to turn off the iron. As I unlocked the door and walked back to the room where I’d been earlier, I silently chided myself for my compulsive neuroticism. Of course I’d turned it off. And as I entered, there it sat. The iron was turned on and steaming away….

 

All of the previous years’ Bookmarks projects are archived online. I was involved with Bookmarks 5 and Bookmarks 6. Links to previous years are available from those sites.

Internet Woes

No email for a day (thank you, incompetent rural ISP). Domain host shuffle (my other site, the “Picture Factory” link to the right). Deleting the latest version of my old web site that I was still needing for a while off my hard drive, after I lost access to it online. My horoscope probably said to avoid technology this week, but I missed seeing it. Just wanted to poke my head in. I haven’t given up on my poor little new blog.

Now back to cursing at my ISP and my stupidity for not backing things up more often. It really is true. You should back up your files. Often.

Cleaning and Organizing

Much to my amazement, we didn’t find many black widows in the studio the other day, but instead found all kinds of other things that had fallen behind furniture and storage boxes.

Cleaning my work space feels as futile as going down to the beach and attempting to bail and organize the Pacific, but I guess one has to start somewhere. Part of the problem is that I sometimes do use things like leftover packaging and scraps of paper, so I can rationalize having things like that around. But one needs limits.      

I discovered a while ago that those 3-tiered plastic bin organizing things designed for kids’ bedrooms are useful for messy, visually-minded artists. I’ve had one for a while and have grown fond of it. I keep rulers, inks, glues, small toys (for assemblages, of course), etc in it, and it works great. I like having things out in the open where I can grab at them.