Sunday, July 27, 2014

Week 30: Dear Paulus...

   Letters are gates of communication. Thoughts, feelings and information flow from one person to another as if they are talking side-by-side. When time and distance make it too difficult for a personal visit, a letter is a lovely way to reach out to someone. Just as gates are a physical representation of that point of change between two areas, letters are a physical representation of communication between two people. The book-of-the-week for Week 30, Dear Paulus, is based on the concept of the letter as a gate. 

an etui box for the case...
   The book is actually a number of items that are housed inside a four-sided (etui) drop-side box. The pastepaper and chiyogami covered box measures 2.5 by 2.5 inches square by 3 inches tall. When the lid is lifted, all four sides fall and the contents are revealed. Inside is a bottle of india ink, a pen and box of nibs, and a palm-sized coptic book with the letter Dear Paulus written inside.

inside the box...

the coptic book with it's pastepaper cover

Dear Paulus,
I meant to write
3 days ago
3 weeks ago
3 months ago
3 years ago
to thank you
to tell you
how much it meant
how good it was
to have you visit
to walk
into the studio at Penland
into my classroom
into my life
and show me
all of us
a new way
your gentle way
that molds clay
and dances up the earth
that speaks 
of that redbird
and your cup of tea
and tiny glass
of whiskey.
Love, Kathy

the box as a gate... and all it's contents

   Not all artist's books are autobiographical, but the Paulus in this letter is a real person. Paulus Berensohn is a writer, a book artist, a painter, a dancer, a poet, a clay artist, a steward for the earth, and a teacher. Recently a documentary was made of his life...To Spring from the Hand; the life and work of Paulus Berensohn. Paulus' approach to art and to life are a valuable guide for living a meaningful creative and generous life... for appreciating the tiny insignificant beauties in life and for including poetry and play in our life.  If you love artistry and poetry, take the time to view the documentary and it's associated films. They can be found online at the link:  

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Week 29: The Station

  The book-of-the-week for week 29 is titled The Station. The book is an etui drop-sided box that is covered with a print of a scene from Central Park in New York City and part of a New York city map. Inside it holds a stack of tiny pebbles that resemble an ancient cairn. 

the box, lidded and closed
inside, a map of New York City and a tiny piled rock cairn.

The Station signifies the point where urban and rural meet... where the natural world and man-made cultures exist side-by-side... the point where we come to terms with who we are as a civilization in relationship with the earth. Written on the stones in black magic marker... as a sort of graffiti... is the poem, The Station... 

The Station 
between two roads
a pile of stones 
with gray rock pate
bears witness to the travelers all
who pass through 
it's sacred gate.

The lines of the poem, written on the stones

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Week 28: The Dressing Room

   Life has many stages... and each stage has it's own point of transition.. or gate. Whether that gate  stands apart from the norm, such as a rite-of-passage, a move, an achievement, a life change; or whether it simply slips in unobserved... life's gates are always there. This week's book-of-the-week, The Dressing Room, uses the idea of a performance dressing room as a metaphor for life and some of its less obvious gates. 

wood, recycled ballet shoes, paper and tulle form the book...
The accordion-hinged pages are 15 inches tall by 6 inches wide, framed with white wood over painted bookboard, and crafted to resemble a tiny dressing screen. The title piece and text were letterpress-printed on handmade Japanese mulberry paper with antique 36-point Bookman type and the Pearl press. Each piece of printed paper was tipped on one end with silk kimono fabric, then attached with a pink satin ribbon to a second printed strip of paper. The paper pairs were slung across the screen as if they were garments.. or in this case ballet pointe shoes. Glued to the four central screen sections are real ballet pointe shoes. These shoes (and their laces) illustrate the text printed on the paper strips.

Joy, Love, and Creativity... life experiences expressed as shoe laces
The satin laces of each tattered ballet shoe have been painted with gesso, then formed to express the life experience expressed for that page. In the case of SUCCESS, the laces have been raised over the heel of the shoe and crossed to form a "V"... as if giving the sign for Victory.

The ballet shoe pages on the front side of the dressing screen accordion book indicate positive life experiences: JOY, LOVE, CREATIVITY, and SUCCESS.  The back side of the accordion has the counterbalance to each of those four words... and the ballet-shoe illustration, as well. The words and their counterparts are as follows:





As the language of the ballet slipper laces was being formulated, a combination of symbolic meaning and common visual cues was utilized. In the case of the word Failure, the laces were cut short so they could not complete the function of tying on shoes. So they failed. Even without an exact translation, the viewer is welcome to construct their own meaning of each word... Sometimes, when no words can adequately express an experience wholly, that is the best option.

scissors cut the ribbons to illustrate FAILURE

final view of FAILURE
CREATIVITY was illustrated as if the laces were ideas twirling around in one's head, then ending in an unexpected curlycue. And that's what happens sometimes... we end up someplace totally unexpected... and it's all because we're in The Dressing Room of that ballet called life

Creativity as a moment of transition

Monday, July 7, 2014

Week 27: Lyon Street

  Think back to that first house you called home. Maybe your family lived there when you were born, or maybe you moved there a few years later.. but it's usually the house you lived in when you first became aware of your surroundings. Remember the neighborhood? It was your whole world... and as you soaked up new things daily, it was a source of constant information. It was a place where you thought you would always be. And for those years... it became your identity. No matter how far we travel, the dialect, the memories, and the mindset of that place, during that moment in time, are always stored somewhere within us. That is the basis of this week's book-of-the-week... a gate into memory titled Lyon Street.
A magic box of memories
   The book is actually a three-chamber opposing hinge box with a short poem written on the top and vintage photos stored inside. The cover is a combination of pastepaper, shellac paper, and a collograph print. All three signify the rich reds and browns of the rows of red brick duplexes that lined the original Lyon Street in 1950.. The collograph print is a map of the street and surrounding neighborhood. A raised board attached to the top cover has a handprinted poem about the little street. It reads 
Lyon Street... A small town lane. Moves to the rhythm of a '50's beat. Rows of little houses, trim and neat... Lyon Street

stairsteps... Doug, MaryAnn, and Kathy
   Inside, the three hinge straps are lined on one side with a rich red tapestry paper referring to the trellises of wild red roses that bordered each duplex... or a green circle-stamp paper, depicting the rows of tiny green-grass lawns that crammed the newly transformed post-WW2 farmland. In each of the three box sections is a collection of black and white photographs from the era. There is no question that photographs are a gate to memory and Lyon Street is the perfect place for storing that photographic narrative.
photos from 1955- 1960
   Below is a current photograph of the little house that was a whole world of friends, family, and experience from 1952 to 1964. The big oak tree with the evil crook that caught little feet is gone, the pyracantha bush of the many Redberry Wars is gone, the Four-O'clock bush that filled so many flower-girl baskets is gone, the trellis of red roses by the front door is gone, and the big hill we rolled down to the street is oddly barely a slope. Thomas Wolfe  was correct in his assessment, you can't go home again... but just as the mind has it's own perspective, memory can have a very definite reality, especially when it's collected as a bunch of photographs and housed in it's own magic box called Lyon Street.
The Duplex (to the left of the telephone pole) on Lyon Street, 2014