Wildflower Identification

From the Lovely and Amazing series, this limited edition book uses images, artifacts and writings from the archive of my great aunt, Ruth Wheeler. Ruth led a rich and varied life, passionate about both nature and teaching (she was a biologist with a teaching certificate). She had a big impact on how my views of the world were shaped. Creating my own works from that which she left me has brought me moments of joy and a bit of sadness too.

The general parameters of Wildflower Identification were partially set using the Ideation Deck (developed by Julie Chen and Barb Tetenbaum).

Cards I drew from the Ideation Deck were the starting point for this book.
Cards I drew from the Ideation Deck were the starting point for this book.

Based on Hedi Kyle’s Blizzard Book (so called because Hedi developed the folded paper structure when a blizzard in Philadelphia kept her studio bound for a day), Wildflower Identification has 14 envelope pages created from one long sheet of Batik paper (imported from India).

I chose to work with this structure for a variety of reasons. The most obvious is my wish to present material non-linearly, allowing pages be removed and re-arranged. The content of the pages peeks out from that which contains them, reminiscent of plants peeking out, enticing a closer look. More obscurely, I chose this structure because it was developed by Hedi Kyle. I’m convinced that Hedi and Ruth would have enjoyed one another’s company had they ever met. Both have been role models for me. I am inspired by their excitement, curiosity and passion about their worlds, their lifelong willingness to share, educate and support those of us fortunate enough to have spent time with them.

Alicia Bailey and Hedi Kyle
Here I am with Hedi Kyle in Philly, 2013

The contents of the envelopes are cards, photographs or seed specimens adapted from Ruth’s archive. The three photographs are of teenage girls out on a seed and plant gathering adventure (taken on November 13, 1948),  scanned, cropped and re-printed.

Original photo and reprints
Original photo and reprints

The cards duplicate Ruth’s handwriting and are taken from her many teaching files – these specific to teaching ‘her girls’ about plant identification and cultivation.

Tracing from original writings (right), finished cards (left).
Tracing from original writings (right), finished cards (left).

Each book also contains three laminated seed and flower collections

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and an original page from Chester A. Reed’s Flower Guide published in 1916, also laminated.

Page ready for laminating. Each book has a different original page from the 1916 book.
Page ready for laminating. Each book has a different original page from the 1916 book.

These, along with a title card (colophon on reverse) make up the contents of the book.

Some of the joys of designing and creating this book include time spent going through Ruth’s collections of photographs and writings, teaching my studio assistant Stefanie how to fold the pages (this is now one of her favorite activities and she has her own project in development utilizing the Blizzard Book), working with a rich, purple Nigerian goat (from Harmatan), a luscious and tactilely rewarding material, and making pastepaper for the project while listening to Western Bird Calls.

I used pastepapers inspired by Lucinda Carr for the text cards.
I used pastepapers inspired by Lucinda Carr for the text cards.

Note: several years ago, Lucinda Carr (invited me to her studio for a day of pastepaper production. Lucinda was producing and selling some fabulous paste papers and I was eager to learn her work methods. We set up and when it was time to go to work she said “This is my secret for making great paste papers – I listen to bird call identification recordings while I work”.

As I’ve worked with these materials, I’ve had not unpleasant moments of wistful sadness (sentimental nostalgia?). Some of this is related to missing Ruth but there is something else this material stirs up I me.

I’ve developed quite an attachment, crushes of a sort, to these girls (a few of whom are pictured again and again, on other outdoor, educational adventures, in Ruth’s photo albums), my emotional response based solely on impressions of who they may have been, these girls who so appreciated nature, whose curiosity and willingness to explore was endlessly nurtured by Ruth. I feel envious sometimes that I wasn’t one of “Ruthie’s girls” – many of them remained lifelong friends of Ruth’s and went on to nurture other young women throughout their own lives.

This picture of Ruth was taken in 1981 (she was 82). She is with two of her former Camp Fire Girls
This picture of Ruth was taken in 1981 (she was 82). She is with two of her former Camp Fire Girls

As I ruminate on the adventures Ruth’s archives document I feel a yearning to connect to my younger, more able-bodied, less educated self. I long to experience once again lovely stretches of time when activities such as of going out, alone or with others, to identify wildflowers the only mission aside from eating a picnic lunch in a wooded grove, perhaps near a running stream.

An archive of process materials is housed at University of Denver, Penrose Library, Special Collections.

Process materials for Wildflower Identification
Process materials for Wildflower Identification

 

Click here to purchase online.

Theia Mania

Alicia-Bailey-TheiaMania13I’ve been slow to blog about this piece, which was conceived several years ago, with the edition completed in 2010 under the Ravenpress imprint. It seems to me that the only way to manage saying all there is to say about Theia Mania is to write first about the project concept and origins. I’ll write about the design and fabrication of the components in another post.
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Theia Mania is a multi-layered project, fed by inspiration and experiences rooted in my childhood. The working title of the early stages was Magnetic Attraction. It began with the intention to create a book with text, imagery, sound and smell. I wanted to generate content from a broader point of view than my own, so used contributions from friends and strangers alike, along with what drives much of my studio work; a longing to become familiar with experiences outside my own.

Theia Mania was a term used by ancient Greeks to describe the cauldron of emotions rooted in eros, romantic love, a passionate longing and desire. The phrase translates to divine madness or madness of the Gods. This project was inspired by and presents stories of contemporary connections in both audio and written form, including the story of my parents’ meeting, marrying and raising a family.

Unsure of what the final form would be, my longtime collaborative partner, Heidi Zednik, and I invited those who had felt the prick of one of these darts or arrows to tell their story. The request was very broad; we asked those who had ever been dumbstruck by the gaze or attention of another to participate. Whether or not the connection was mutual, whether it lasted merely moments or evolved into a long-term connection, we were interested in that first current of connection and the awareness that something momentous was taking place.

Of the dozens who expressed interest, only 12 individuals completed the process. Their stories were collected as audio files and are the basis for both the text and audio portions of this piece. Some called my home phone and told their story to a machine (which lent some interesting pops and beeps to the recording), others met either Heidi or I in person and we recorded their story on a digital recorder, some created their own digital recording and transmitted it to me electronically, and one anonymous individual sent an email with the request that I read it if it were chosen for selection. Although outside the original parameters for the project, I did include this story. Alicia-Bailey-TheiaMania04

The stories were transcribed and edited by Heidi. The edited text versions are presented as poems, each coupled with photographs selected for this project. The audio tracks were used as the basis for a musical composition, written and performed by sound producer Scott Waknin with guest saxophonist Bill Janssen. Also on the CD are two full-length narratives; the story of my parents (mentioned above) and the story of Emily and Brit, whose story I heard when Emily visited my gallery to buy gifts for Brit. In neither case was it possible to record their versions so I wrote the narratives and had each read and recorded (Wayne Gilbert and Mare Travathan performed the readings).

The piece includes a woven binding structure based on a Claire van Vliet design, Alicia-Bailey-TheiaMania06a small recipe book made with a piano hinge, Alicia-Bailey-TheiaMania03a sachet of herbs with a love potion recipe, Alicia-Bailey-TheiaMania02an accordion book in a round aluminum tin Alicia-Bailey-TheiaMania01and an audio compact disk & wrapper. Alicia-Bailey-TheiaMania05All are contained in a rectangular aluminum hinged tin that is held closed with a handprinted sleeve. Alicia-Bailey-TheiaMania07Page imaging includes laser etching, color laser prints, color inkjet prints, black and white laser prints, paste papers, laser printed metal foil and relief printing. The main text is woven with tinted tyvek.

There are 35 signed and numbered copies of the entire set. An additional set of compact discs was created and gifted to each contributor. Those who contributed stories were also given an unbound copy of their story page.

You can watch a video about the piece on you tube.

To purchase a copy please contact Abecedarian Gallery, , 23 Sandy Gallery, or Vamp and Tramp Booksellers.

Burning Me Open

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I have had such a wonderful time working on this book. The project uses materials that are visually and texturally so rich they were a joy to work with.

 

There are 18 copies in the edition, plus one A/P. It measures 5 x 3 x 2 3/4 inches (closed) and weighs 24 ounces. It is priced at $540.

 

 

It takes the text and imagery from my 2009 artists’ book of the same title. I wrote the original text; the original illustrations were oil-paintings, re-created as line illustrations for this project.

 

The book pages are transparent, and thus allow sections of several pages to be viewed at once. The pages are rigid and thick, designed to display well both flat or upright. When displayed upright, lighting can be adjusted for increased interplay between the line illustrations and the shadows they cast.

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text selection from the book:


there is one who touches me so it burns

my hands open

at their feeling of

the length of me

 

The materials:

 

Peltogyne (Purpleheart) is a tree native to Central and South America, growing in the tropical rainforests, This beautiful wood is a light brown when freshly cut that then shifts towards a deep reddish-violet as it is exposed more to UV rays. As a hardwood, it sands down to a smooth hard surface and once waxed feels wonderful to touch. Purpleheart is an exotic lumber, this batch acquired from a US company that insists its suppliers follow Responsible Forestry Practices.

 

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Copper is one of my favorite metals and this book uses both copper leaf and thin copper tape of the sort used in stained glass. When the book is closed, it is possible to see down through several layers. A reality of working with transparent materials and text is that portions of the text will inevitably be reversed. This I find distracting so my solution for this book was to block the bottom inch or so of each page with an opaque (in this case copper leaf) material. I also needed something to help hold the pages together. I had first tried drilling holes in all 4 corners of each page and using copper wire as rivets but the task was fussy, time consuming with the end result visually dissatisfying.

 

The solution I settled on was creating shapes of copper leaf with PMA mounted on each side. The PMA faces the acrylic pages and holds them in place until the copper tape can be wrapped around the outer perimeter of each page.

 

How we did it:

 

The rigid pages that make up the text block are constructed of  several layers, a sandwich (from the bottom up) of etched cast acrylic, copper leaf with PMA on both sides facing outward and a second piece of etched acrylic. This creates pages that are 3/16 inch thick, their edges are sealed with copper tape.

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The covers were planed to 3/8 inch thick, the cover image laser etched in, the title area chiseled out, then sanded and waxed.

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The recessed title label is laser printed copper leaf mounted on museum board.  The book is coptic sewn across the spine with dyed and waxed 4 ply linen thread, using yet another variation from Keith Smith’s well worn Sewing Single Sheets (Non-Adhesive Binding Volume IV).


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My thanks go to Shannon Perry, who created the illustrator files from a series of oil paintings I produced in 2007 and my studio assistants Stefanie Cornish and Jonathan Wiley. Without their help this project might still be in the idea stage

 

Copies of this book are available for purchase from Abecedarian Gallery.

Shedding – a limited edition artists’ book, © 2010

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This edition of 21 is about specimen collection and presentation, combined with journal type entries about the specimens presented (in this case, things shed by my body). Each day for 21 days I rescued something my body was shedding (eyelash off my cheek) or helped something detach from my body (plucked hair). The specimen was scanned at a magnification of 500%, those scans printed and included in the book pages. The cover of each book holds the specimen itself, sandwiched in between glass for a variable edition of 21 copies.

The concept:

Called upon to participate in an exhibition featuring works created by artists in a regular unit (hourly/weekly/monthly) as part of an ongoing
practice, and realizing that I’m simply not good at keeping up these sorts of regimented projects, I hoped to come up with something I could actually do, without fail, for a sequence of days. I thought, well, aside from what my body does to survive, the only thing I seem able to commit to daily, as on optional and chosen act is drinking coffee. I then considered just what my body does all on its own? Breathes, heart pumps, sleeps, wakes and so forth. I decided to take advantage of my bodies ongoing commitment to regular action in a way that would result in something with physical substance (as opposed to documenting an act, such as breathing).
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The process:

I determined a set of rules to govern the project. for 21 days I would collect something created by my body, a little piece of me that was ready to be shed. Those little bits of detritus that flake off when we are sleeping, or are scrubbed off in the shower, or are removed with intent as part of routines rooted in comfort, appearance or hygiene. I did have to help some things along (the hang-nail that needed to be cut, the recurring hair on my jaw that seemingly springs up overnight) but it was more a matter of collection than anything.

Each morning I chose and retrieved my daily specimen, then scanned it at 500% magnification on my flatbed scanner. I had to be careful with some of these very small specimens; I knew an ill timed sneeze could result in an eyelash disappearing without hope of recovery. Happily, I didn’t lose any original specimens. Immediately after the scanning, I placed the specimen between 2 pieces of glass in a glass mounted slide and there they remain.

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Then I would write a little something about that day’s specimen. Not yet sure about how the book would be produced, I opted to keep these daily observations pithy. I later settled on the laser etching process for both cutting the pages and ‘printing’ the text and was glad I’d chosen a pithy path.

The production:

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In keeping with the idea of cataloging a set of specimens, I labeled each specimen date with a label simulating the typewritten labels I associate with cataloging. They weren’t actually produced on a typewriter though. Mindful of this being an edition work, they were instead laserprinted on rag paper, that I then overcoated with tinted microcrystalline wax. The wax prevents the laser toner from flaking off or ghosting on to another page, the pigment added to the wax ages the paper a bit.

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The inkjet printed images I wanted to protect so they were mounted behind a window cut out in each page (similar to older photo album pages). They are labeled by text printed on mylar; the mylar placed over each image before mounting to each page, giving further protection to the photographic images.

Ever interested in using up materials already on hand in the studio, I used a variety of papers (Canson Mi Tiente ‘honeysuckle’ which is close to my own flesh color and maroon unryu for the back side of the pages) leftover from earlier projects. The unryu is a nice choice I think. Its function is to provide a backing to the Canson and prevent text bits with holes in the letters (such as an O, or the round part of a P or D) becoming cut out shapes rather than letter forms.

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The text block is bound as a board book, each page consisting of several layers. The unryu makes up the interior of each page ’package’. So the outside, visible, part of each page is a color similar to my own flesh, and the inside, mostly hidden but for the endges and through the cuts on the outside, part of each page is this blood colored paper.

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The cover is thick as it needs to accommodate the glass mount slide with specimen.

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It is made from 2 layers of Perma-dur corrugated board plus two museum boards cut to hold the slide mount. This ‘package’ is covered with a piece of tanned deerhide suede that has an image of handprint etched into it. The outside edges of the cover are wrapped with this odd bookcloth/paper product that I know little about. It too is maroon in color.

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Several copies of this book have are in private collections. Copy #2 (Blood) was purchased by University of Washington Special Collections. Contact me at aliciabailey@mac.com for information about ordering a copy.

Tongue Tied

Tongue Tied_0175This post comes at the request of a special collections librarian, curious about the use of wax (problematic in its stickiness and fragility) on the lid and base of this book’s container. The material use of Tongue Tied is an excellent example of material selection bearing close relationship to project content/concept.

Tongue Tied is based on a poem by Patricia Beers, a disturbing poem describing the almost unbearable results of a lifetime of keeping silent.

The subject matter is a painful one. One reaction to pain is what I think of as ‘fear biting’ – holding others at bay because to allow closeness invites pain. To get physically close to this text isn’t impossible but does require caution as it, and the box it is housed in, have the sharp end of nails sticking out.
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When one is silent, others have to to dig and pry to find out more. Some of the text is hidden beneath images that need to be lifted to be read, other texts have incomplete letter forms (accomplished by using an asian lace paper), making passages difficult, but not impossible to read.

Tongue Tied_0174Another panel lifts to hold part of a broken and smashed thimble. This obvious use of artifact links to the text line ‘whatever silenced me when young has put a thimble on my tongue’. Tongue Tied detailAnother panel lifts to expose the narrow shape I use to depict a scar, this one has stitching implying the wound is held closed, but barely.

A less obvious relationship of material to content is the use of a plasticized Wyndstone paper that reminds me of commercial floor linoleum. Here is the back story behind that selection:Tongue Tied_0177

When I was in elementary school, one of my favorite classes was science. The teacher, Miss Koury, was big boned and focused, quite often the butt of jokes I didn’t then understand. She brooked no nonsense. Typically there would be a lecture, a demonstration and then we would line up to gather materials for our assignments. I was a well-behaved child for the most part, and didn’t get in trouble for talking in other classes. But in Miss Koury’s class, wild with enthusiasm, I was frequently reprimanded for talking while waiting in line.

My punishment was to be locked in the storage closet during the best part of the class. The closet had a commercial linoleum much like the Wyndstone paper. I was silenced. My love of learning had to live side by side with a fear of being punished for displaying joy at the process. I spent the rest of my school life avoiding science classes. When I saw this Wyndstone paper at an art supply store, I was stricken by something I couldn’t then identify or articulate. I bought it not knowing why soon after I brought the paper to the studio I found this poem and began designing this book.

Tongue Tied_0173The book is contained in a black mesh box, the mesh walls held in place with galvanized nails, at the same time the mesh wraps around the outside of the nails; additional stitching helps hold everything in place. The use of ‘galvanized’ material is relevant. One definition is to shock or excite someone into taking action, the other to coat iron or steel with a protective layer of zinc. I leave you to reason why I chose these particular nails for the box.

Tongue Tied_0171Both the base and lid to the box are painted black, and then overcoated with a beeswax/damar mix that has been pigmented with dry charcoal. The result it a semi-hard surface that remains sticky, attracting bits of dirt and dust, adding another layer of the fear-biting concept to this work. Emphasizing duality by enticing one to come closer and then imposing risk of harm when one does come closer is a hallmark of some of my more succesful pieces.

Tongue Tied is held in several public and special collections including University of Colorado, Norlin Library, University of Utah Marriot Library, University of Denver Penrose Library, University of Idaho, Savannah College of Art and Design and Oberline University. A few copies remain and can be purchased by contacting any of my dealers: Abecedarian Gallery, 23 Sandy Gallery, Vamp and Tramp Booksellers.
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Cosmeceutical Collection

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This collection was designed in 2006, and the first copies produced that year. It is in the Alan Chasanoff collection, and in Special Collections at the Topeka County Public Library, Emory University, Scripps College, University of Washington, University of Miami and University of Denver. The archives are also held at University of Denver.  It was reviewed as part of Emory University’s Artists Book Showcase; read that review here.

Rather than completing the production all at once, I produced copies in response to orders, and this is one instance where procrastination was of tremendous value. Knowing more now than I did when the boxed set was designed and having access to different tools has benefitted the production process and end quality of the piece.

The set combines three of my miniature books (Belladonna, Compact Beauty and Lashlure), books that use cosmetic cases as containers, in a custom made box.

Production of the miniatures may be the focus of another blog entry – here I am concentrating on the box itself. Here is what the individual books look like:

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The box tray has 3 recessed areas, each of different size, shape and depth, for each of the miniature books.

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I considered using wood and having the recessions routed out, and also considered laminating individually cut pieces of thinner material, such as Davy board to make the base. I eventually settled on a product called Balsa Foam.

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Starting with sheets of 9x12x1 inch Balsa Foam, I cut them each in half using 2 partial cuts with a power miter saw.

 

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I then used a drawing template to mark the surface for the interior cut outs.

 

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These were then cut out with a power scroll saw, after first drilling holes in the cut out areas for insertion of saw blade. Balsa Foam is a handy product but I don’t plan to use it again. The dust generated by manipulating it is no doubt toxic and, even though I used the denser of the two grades it is subject to cracking and breaking.

Each recessed area requires a different depth so platforms for Belladonna and Lashlure are cut from museum board and inserted them into the appropriate area, holding them to the correct height by shimmng them from underneath with built up pieces of foam core. Compact Beauty does not require a platform.

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After the tray is shaped, it is sealed on all sides with acrylic polymer. This helps contain the dust and lessens the absorption rate. Pared down leather is used to line each recess sides and bottom. The top surface gets a second coat of thicker polymer (a gel medium) that shows texture, then is painted with two layered colors of acrylic paint. The top layer is an ‘interference’ pigment so has a subtle sparkle to it, similar to that of many cosmetic products.

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Pink leather (from Harmatan) is laminated to 2 play museum board, then trimmed to strips the length of the box sides by the tray height plus 1/8 inch. After the edges are painted with liquid acrylic ink, they are attached to the tray box sides.

There isn’t anything out of the ordinary in the production of the box’s outer shell. Prior to gluing the tray into the shell, a ribbon is run across the underside of the case between the recesses for Belladonna and Compact Beauty – the ribbon comes up into the tray and makes removing the books from the recesses much easier. Lashlure doesn’t require a ribbon.

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The case has a pink leather spine, the paper coverings are Mohawk Superfine Text laserprinted and then overpainted with a mixture of acrylic (pink again!) and methylcellulose. This is a necessary step to seal the transfer toner, which otherwise will flake off. Prior to this step, laser foil is affixed to the title portion of the text on the container lid.