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.

Testudines – a Lovely and Amazing box

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Testudines is the order of reptile more commonly known as turtles, tortoises and terrapins. In addition to it being a great word (I have a fondness for multi-syllabic words with hard consonants in the middle), it is representative of a creature I was fascinated by as a child Alicia and turtle. I love this picture of me watching a snapping turtle in my aunt’s back yard.

 

Turtles appear in my dreams often; I rejoice when they do as I then wake refreshed and excited to face the day. 

Testudines are some of the most ancient reptiles alive. The ones my aunt kept in the back yard for a time were most likely snapping turtles, big, slow and a little big scary because of the hissing sound they made. They seemed to spend more time napping then snapping and feeding them was not nearly as exciting as feeding the snakes was.

 

I’ve been working on an assemblage with specimens from Ruth’s archives – Testudines Box. This box assemblage is the 3rd I’ve made using hardwood boxes that measure 12x6x7, two of the four corners curved rather than square.The two previous are Lepideptura Box and Bird Box.

L&A Lepideptura boxL&A Bird Box

To combat what I call ‘analysis paralysis’ when working with such a wealth of materials, I tend to develop a set of parameters for each series. For these boxes the parameters are:

 

1) specimen(s) from Ruth’s collection

2) photograph(s) of the lovely and amazing young women Ruth photographed

3) magnifying lens(es)

4) reproduction(s) of Ruth’s handwriting from her journals or teaching lessons

5) reproduction(s) of published materials used in her teaching

 

Testudines Box includes the shell of a Red Slider turtle along with the skull and jawbone of another Red Slider (this placed in a wooden box and magnified).

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These artifacts are arranged in front of a color scan reproduction of the same turtle shell overlaid with mica.
Alicia Bailey testidunes WIP 002The interior box walls are lined with a repetition of an Emily Dickinson poem written out by Ruth in her journal, the exterior walls with instructions for digging out a laying of turtle eggs from one of Ruth’s many nature education books, an encyclopedia entry and images of turtle anatomy from various published nature studies.

Rocky Mountain Creeper

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Today I learn that the song of the Creeper is weak, colorless and sibilant. That  it consists of 4-8 notes, generally beginning with a long high-pitched note, followed by two short lower-pitched ones. The remaining notes vary somewhat, but are often a repitition of the first notes.

Creeper 

A common call note is a long, high-pitched “shreeeeee” with a rolling r-sound throughout. The bird also calls a rather faint ‘tsit’ over and over. These latter notes maya be heard at any season.

 

I also learn that the bird is easily identified by its habit have creeping continually up the rough bark of a tree in a spiral, then flying to the base of another tree to begin again.

 

I read nesting notes written by a W. C. Bradbury in 1918 (thanks to the folks at internetarchive.org) describing a foray in Gilpin County while on a White-tailed Ptarmigan and Brown-Capped Rosy Finch nest seeking mission. Their trip had the happy result of taking the first set of eggs of the Rocky Mountain Creeper taken in Colorado.

 

Armed with the vision of a small brown bird diving at the base of tree trunks, I begin to build an environment for the Creeper on a stick I have in my collection. I decide on a small shadow box.
 

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I can’t decide which side of my creeper I want all to see, a mirror box helps resolve that questions.

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I am charmed by Bradbury’s 1918 anecdote so decide to include it in the box.


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Conveying the feeling of lightness that birds so well express, is one thing I strive for.

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Here we go – all assembled, but hard to photograph with so many layers of reflective surfaces. 

Bliss

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Each year the Morgan Conservatory in Cleveland, Ohio, sponsors a fundraising event called the Snail Mail Paper Trail. Artists are sent two sheets of handmade paper, made at the Morgan, and asked to create an artwork from one or both of the sheets. The artworks are then auctioned at the October Gala. I’ve been participating since 2009 (see Snail) and Yearning for Morgan.

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My two sheets of paper (one sheet each of white and dark gray cotton abaca blend) arrived at the studio on the same day I opened a set of Julie Chen and Barbara Tetenbaum’s Ideation Deck
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(if you don’t know about this wonderful tool for book related projects, you should . . . click here). I dealt the following cards, eliminating the paper category:
layout: in the form of a diagram, chart, or map
technique: high-tech (letterpress, offset, printmaking, etc
text: collaborate with writer or poet
image: none
Paper: provided
structure: innovative (tunnel book, magic wallet, carousel, flag book, etc.
color:single color
adjectives:
dissonant, traditional or historical, sculptural, impressionistic, poetic
Morgan 2013

The result is Bliss – an accordion fold book using a quote from Portia Masterson’s Bicycling Bliss.

Bliss is an enduring form of contentment derived from being fully present and practicing simplicity, moderation, self-nurture, reflection & conscious breathing.

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Granted the structure isn’t particularly innovative; I had originally thought this would be a tunnel book but had to redesign because the cut paper pages were too delicate.

After designing the pages in Adobe Illustrator,

Alicia Bailey WIP Bliss2the pages were lasercut

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and mounted between two translucent sheets of Japanese kozo paper, folded up as an accordion and cased in to a hard cover. Only one edge is attached, so the accordion will unfold to display the entire quote.

The book will be auctioned off at this years’ Annual Benefit and Silent Auction: Opposites Attract on October 5. There will be nearly 200 works from local, national and international artists; its worth a trip to Cleveland!

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.

Hearts for Marcia – October 2, 2011

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My dad loved to make things. My dad loved my mom. He liked making things to tell her how much he loved her. Every year for many years, on Valentine’s Day, he made her a piece of jewelry with a heart motif.

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I made a book that holds many of the hearts he made her.

 

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Most of the pages are made with wood I saved from his wood shop after he died. He used both cherry and poplar for instrument soundboards (his making of harpsichords as a vocation was started when he made another love gift for my mother – a harpsichord. That story is expanded on in my project Theia Mania). He planed down wooden planks to about 1/8 inch and edge joined them for the soundboards. He saved even the smallest bits of leftover materials, so when he died there were several lengths of soundboard scrap.

 

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The wooden hearts he made from alderwood and ebony, again byproducts from the harpsichords. Many instrument makers buy pre-made keys but my dad made them himself. He shaped ebony, poplar and basswood for the keys; he also routed out the rosettes (of rosewood) that appear on the front edge of the keys. Some of the keyboards were reversed – the main keyboard (white keys) of ebony, the sharps and flats poplar.

 

To accommodate the thickness of the hearts, I suspended each heart with a length of thread in between two layers of wood with identical windows cut out (yes, I used the laser cutter for this, and to create the sewing holes in one step).

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He wasn’t a particularly innovative jewelry designer but had silversmithing skills and tools and often made simple pieces of jewelry, again for my mother. Committed to principles of re-purposing long before those principles reached the trendy status they now how, he melted down silver coins to create jewelry. Most of wood hearts were also wrapped with a silver braided wire, or had metal embedded into them.

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Later he started messing around more with epoxy resins and one of the last hearts he made is a swirl of color shaped into a heart.

 

I always enjoy these times of working with the same materials he used, often using the very tools he used. This book exemplifies the negative aspect of my  allegiance to finishing a book each week in that the level of craft is not up to the standard set by my father.


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This book measures 3 1/4 x 3 1/2 x 3 5/8 deep and has 9 pages, plus 2 covers

Hair 2001

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A couple weeks ago I got my hair cut at a small salon in Grand County, Colorado.  On impulse i asked the owner if she would save me the hair clippings for a few days, which she did. So I thought I’d make a book called Grand Hair. Instead I made a book called Hair 2001.


Materials: Hair, obviously. Laseretched plexiglass, waxed Cocobolo wood, linen twine, copper foil, mica. Leftover shapes of copper leaf:

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the last edition book, Burning Me Open, uses shapes of copper leaf applied with PMA to plexiglass. I mis-calculated and for every book an extra shape was cut out. I saved those extra shapes – eighteen 3×1 inch shapes of copper leaf all ready to put into a plexiglass page sandwich. Now what . . .

Mia Semingson Memorabilia

I decided to combine these two elements, copper foil & hair. Why? Copper is so beautiful and easy to work with. Hair is so creepy but tantalizing. A couple of years ago I saw a piece by Mia Semingson called Memorabilia” –  a fixed lid of clear plexiglass covers a box stuffed with her own hair; the box then case bound into a cover, the sides of the box covered with suede. This book of mine is quite different, but the thing Mia’s work inspired is the creation of a queasy feeling that comes with handling a box of human hair, even when the actual tactile experience is that of touching a very different feeling material – plexiglass.  So it is the thought of touching all that hair that is disturbing. On a strictly visual level, the hair in Memorobilia, made of countless layers of rich protein strands, is interesting and worthy of lengthy appaisal. In short, I appreciate both the visual effect and the queasy feeling interacting with her books creates.

 

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The method of assembly and binding  I used with the Burning Me Open is a good fit. Using the PMA that is on the copper leaf to hold each of 2 plexiglass pieces together. Pictured right the foil is affixed to one side of the plexiglass. Bits of hair were put onto that surface, the release paper pulled off and the other piece of plexi placed on top. The edges are then taped together with copper foil.

 

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I have had this silly book –  The History of Hair . . . An Illustrated Review of Hair Fashions for Men Throughout the Ages –  for many years. Published in 1960 it includes a chapter called Look Into My Crystal Ball (The Twentieth Century). The text for my book Hair 2001, is taken directly from that chapter.

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Here are some predictions (paraphrased), the authors made for the year 2001:

According to Coiffure Masculine, by 2001 75% of the male population will be wearing wigs.

Not, however, to conceal baldness, but as fashion accessories.

These wigs will not be a camouflage for natural hair.

On the contrary, they will be worn with great personal pride.

Wigs for different occasions will appear on the fashion scene

Wigs for work. Wigs for dancing. Wigs for dress.

It is predicted that by the year 2001, baldness will be obsolete.

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These predictions I’ve prefaced with the questions, also paraphrased from the book:

By the year 2001, will a lunar hippie protest by means of a closely-shaved scalp?

A balding Astro flash a pair of false eyebrows to offset a full magnetic wig?

 

 

 

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The 6 rigid pages consist of laseretch plexiglass, hair, copper foil and copper tape, bound in a variation of an across the spine coptic style first introduced to me by Keith Smith and found in his book Smith’s Sewing Single Sheets. They are sewn with heavyweight linen twine. The covers are of Cocobolo wood that I get from Bell Forest Products. This is a wood that is too oily to glue well, but for sewn on covers it works very well. Those same oily properties means this wood polishes beautifully. The covers of Hair 2001 are waxed – smooth and silky to the touch.

As an aside, Cocobolo wood also has a strong odor, a very pleasant tangy floral order, sort of like my shampoo. The front cover has a window cut out, into which a sandwich of mica, plexiglass and hair is inset.

I am well pleased with this book. The size (The book measures 3 1/2 x 3 1/4 x 1 5/8 closed) and weight of it feel good in the hands. It is visually enticing and well constructed. The content makes me chuckle.

Yearning for Morgan

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Coming up in October is the fourth Annual Fundraising Auction at the  Morgan Paper Conservatory in Cleveland, OH. Each year they invite artists to create a piece using paper made at the Morgan. This year is the second time I’ve participated in this fundraiser – The Snail Mail Paper Trail. Snail Mail because they mail sheets of paper to any artist who wants to participate. Paper from the Morgan is a treat to work with – they know how to make paper at the Morgan! This year I received 3 sheets, in two different tones.

 

The first one I sent, last year, is blogged about here.

 

This year I created a book utilizing an alphabet I created several years ago – the alphabet is pictograph based, rather than phonetic. I like to think of it as a good general purpose alphabet and is  always expanding in that I’m always creating new elements for this alphabet. So it is an unfinished alphabet, or rather a work in progress.

 

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The title, Yearning for Morgan, operates on more than one level. It is literal – a selection of yearning alphabet symbols presented in a book created for the Morgan. But also, when I think about places like the Morgan, places I imagine to be rich with ongoing projects, like-minded artists working during residencies, workshops and exhibitions, I am filled with a yearning to be in one of those places. Denver doesn’t have such a place. This goes even deeper; at times, I yearn for a different life.

 

And, buried even more deeply, is my yearning for my old Morgan mare, Reba. Reba was the last horse I owned and I sold her several years ago. She was a great horse, and I always assumed I’d get another Morgan mare sometime but I haven’t yet and now that I’m living in a city again, I probably won’t. Recently I decided to sell my old saddle and tack, but haven’t gotten around to it. I still have tack, and old gymkhana ribbons dating back to my very first horse, the horse I got in 1969 – 42 years ago. Maybe I’m just yearning for my life to be a little bit different. To be filled with a promise and excitement that is a little elusive in middle-age.


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Back to Yearning for Morgan, this book was made by cutting the characters out of one of the cooler toned sheets of paper (using a laseretcher) and mounting those pages to folios made from the warmer toned sheets of paper. Underneath each character is the name I’ve linked to the character. The book is bound in a millimeter style binding with paper covered board covers and calfskin spine. The cover title, title page and colophon are laser transfer. It measurers 5 1/2 inches by 4 1/8 by 3/8 inches. And I also want to mention that the characters I use for laseretching were converted to EPS so they can be read by the laseretcher by my friend & Adobe Illustrator genius Shannon Perry.


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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.

Someone Like You and Education of Girls

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I’ve been working on these two books simultaneously. They are part of the Lovely and Amazing series of works inspired by and created from an archive I inherited from Ruth Wheeler, who was my great-aunt. Both completed in 2010, they have been exhibited at Bookopolis in Asheville, NC and in at Vivo Contemporary in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The covers were begun in a workshop held at my studio in 2008, taught by Boston artist Peter Madden. That workshop was held only a few days after my mother died; Peter’s mother had died only weeks before. We both decided to go ahead with the workshop but I confess here that I remember little of the workshop, the creation of these wood panels or what my intention was. I think I was just working to be working. Shelved for a time, I then created some triptych wall pieces that ultimately I deemed unsuccessful when nearly complete. Once again, shelved for a time. I mention all this because it addresses one of my theories about an ingredient in mixed media construction that I believe adds to their richness in an essential albeit non-visual way. The best I can do to explain this is that a construction made from ‘store bought’ materials (i.e. materials without a previous, rich history), even though in composition, arrangement and general selection of objects may exactly mimic, for example, a Joseph Cornell construction, it cannot speak in the same way, isn’t imbued with the richness that history gives to objects.
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These panels, although constructed from newly milled pieces of birch plywood, have a short history but in that time have been altered and handled repeatedly. Many of the objects now embedded in or attached to their surfaces come from an old archive. The process of shelving and continuing work at a later date adds to these final pieces in way impossible to achieve otherwise.

Both books are coptic bound with rigid pages but they were constructed differently from one another.

The first I completed is Someone Like You. This book takes as its title a handwritten poem transcribed in Ruth’s journal:

Someone like you makes the heart seem the lighter Someone like you makes the day’s work worthwhile Someone like you makes the sunshine the brighter Someone like you makes a sigh half a smile

 

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This text appears split in two on the inner front and back covers in a scan of Ruth’s original handwriting and is then repeated on individual pages throughout the book.


The pages are each made of a layering of photographs (scanned and reproduced via inkjet) taken by Ruth on her camping and picnicking outings with her Camp Fire Girl troops over a span of many years. Also included are pages from her teaching notebooks detailing nature games, pages from her biology notebooks with sketches of specimens and plates from her nature books.

Each page is constructed by treating the front and back as separate pages that are hinged with book cloth around a thin metal rod. So, although the pages are rigid, they can be stitched without the cord intruding on the page surface as the metal rod holds the thread in place, as the fold in a signature book would do.

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These pages are rather inelegantly bound with linen cords, the front and back covers have round recessed areas that for a title label (front cover) and image (back cover) with brass pins holding the labels in place. In order to prevent the weight of the book resting on these pins when the book is lying flat, I also added pins and brass beads to each corner. These double as a mechanical means to hold the larger mica pieces on the cover.

The covers were drilled halfway through outside to inside after the mica is in place, those holes met with secondary holes drilled in from the spine edge. This allows the thick cord to wrap around the outside of the cover but not be inside of the cover. The book closes without the additional bulk the cord would create on the inside.
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Education of Girls takes its title from a teaching pamphlet Ruth used. As the junior high biology teacher, Ruth’s job included teaching sex education and this pamphlet was from a multi-piece set of she used.

WIP-Education-of-Girls-10 In addition to scans and print outs from her teaching notebooks, the pages include small bones/feathers/seeds/plants and film positives recessed into the pages and scans of artifacts too bulky to be included in the book (such as taxidermied songbirds).
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The pages of this book were constructed with a museum board core, the text and images built up on each side. The thickness of the rigid pages meant I could embed the objects mentioned above and could use the more intrusive rigid page binding technique as described in Keith Smith’s book Sewing Single Sheets. This technique also doesn’t require each page be of uniform thickness.


So on two of the pages strips of film positive were sewn into the pages in a way that makes the positives visible from both sides. Those pages were then wrapped with handprinted book cloth on the edges to both protect the positives, hold the protective layer and add enough material to the pages to hold the intrusive coptic thread in place.
The text is primarily transcriptions for audio recordings I made of conversations I had with Ruth during her 97th year about some of her teaching accomplishments and adventures. Also included are pages from the original Education of Girls pamphlet, and a photograph of Ruth’s mother and aunt, with whom she travelled to Columbia College in 1928 so Ruth could take a summer course in sex education.

 

Both the front and back covers have mica recessed over paper artifacts. This recessing of the mica meant I could avoid having pins protrude from the covers. Each cover also has a hold drilled entirely through it. These cavities hold artifacts (one shell each front and back) suspended between layers of mica.

I wanted Education of Girls to be more elegant than Someone Like You so I bound it with much thinner cord, 4-ply waxed cord.
In this case I did wrap the cord through to the inside, which makes the cover hold tighter to the text block and not be quite so floppy.

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