Sunday, November 24, 2013

Week 47: The Topiary Ballet

Two parts of The Topiary Ballet
    The book-of-the-week, Topiary Ballet, consists of two parts... a stiff leaf book and a tunnel book. It is a brief story about some dancing shrubbery. Most of the time, a book is the information contained wholly on the pages bound between the two covers. But sometimes, a book has elements that are separate. They may be a selection of letters and postcards nested within (and removable from) page envelopes... such as Nick Bantock's Griffin and Sabine Trilogy Or, they may consist of a variety of pamphlets, newspapers, broadsides, and clothbound books stashed inside a book-shaped box... like Chris Ware's NYTimes 2012 Notable book, Building Stories. Another fantastic example is Personal Paradigms: A Game of Human Experience by book artist Julie Chen of Flying Fish Press. Just knowing that there are so many options in creating book content opens up the imagination to unlimited ways of telling a story and making a book!

The cased-in tunnel book and it's stiff leaf book partner
   Pastepaper covers are the first hint of what's inside The Topiary Ballet.  Lively red flowers seem to burst off the paper... and a net-like grid alludes to both ephemeral alchemy and structured floriculture. Shades of green, gray, and terra cotta refer to nature and the earth elements. ...And the sizes are meant to fit comfortably within the hand or on a tabletop. The tunnel book is about 7 inches tall and 8 inches wide. The little stiff leaf book that accompanies it is about 5 inches tall by 4 inches wide and has a letterpress title-plate inset atop it's pastepaper cover. 

real and imagined

pastepaper art on the cover...
   Open the tunnel book cover and 5 panels depict the stately topiaries in a sun-lit glow. When creating tunnel books, it helps to have an idea of the rules of perspective. It's also useful to remember that things in the back need to be seen, so don't cover them totally with images in the forward panels... Cutting out sections of the panels so one can see through is a necessity. There are many on-line resources for how to make tunnel books. Examples of many fascinating tunnel books can be seen on Carol Barton's webpage,

The topiaries... tall and stately (during the day)
   The little letterpress stiff leaf book of the dancing topiaries has a hard cover and silk bookcloth spine pieces which bind the pages. The pages of the stiff leaf book and the tunnel book accordion side pieces are made of Pop-Tone cover weight French Paper  ( in the lemon drop shade. The panels of the tunnel book are cover weight Stonehenge paper which was painted with acrylic paints. This is the story...

The Topiary Ballet

There stands in formation

In the land of Pin

eight silent and stately

tall green men.
They stand in two rows

that lead to the gate

and the moat and chapel

of the great estate.
Over the frogs in the lily ponds

they keep a watchful eye

for pesky lads and treacherous hawks

swooping from the sky.
Like chessmen they stand there

along the terrace to the Keep.

But come nighttime they get up and

dance while we sleep!
They shake their long limbs,

do some boogie-woogie voodoo!

They sway in the moonlight

and sing Abba’s “Voulez Vous...”
If you asked them they’d tell you

the monotony of their days...

but their nights are a curiosity

of arboreal ballets!

The collophon: printing information
   The inspiration for the book is seen in the black and white photo attached to the back of the tunnel book. The real topiaries were planted sometime after the year 1920 by a young husband along the entryway to his wife's and his new home... a 300-year old chateau in the Loire Valley of France. The topiaries have been maintained for many years by one of his granddaughters and her staff at Chateau du Pin, Champtoce-sur-Loire, France ( As far as this visitor knows, the topiaries do not dance nor sing at night, but magic is definitely happening in this lovely place.

through the topiaries, past the chapel, through the gate, over the moat, 
to the 700-year-old chestnut grove