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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.

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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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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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Snail – class Gastropoda

IMG_1343To celebrate their upcoming one-year anniversary the Morgan Conservatory, a paper and book arts center in Cleveland, OH sent me two sheets of their handmade paper with the request that I make a piece — the instruction was simply to ‘to as you like incorporating the paper provided.’
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Each sheet of the 12×22 inch paper is gray but of slightly different values. The fundraiser is called the Snail Mail Paper Trail so I made a book called Snail class Gastropoda, and decided on a meander book structure. Meander books are easily made from one sheet of paper, but I opted to create panels and stitch the panels together rather than using a fold.

 

 

 

Using a large punch with a spiral pattern, I cut some spirals out of the lighter toned paper, then hand cut some freeform shapes resembling snail trails keeping the cut outs to use in the box. I then laminated the sheets together, and cut the laminated sheets into 8 square panels, each about six inches square.

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To minimize the problem of thread tearing the pages at the joints, I cut some mica washers in half, glued them to the paper edges and sewed through both the mica and the paper at each sewing station. I used lightly waxed linen thread and opted to leave the tails of each thread dangling. The text, a piece I wrote using found poetry techniques with Wikipedia as the original source, is laser transfer.

 

Snail class Gastropoda

 

found in ditches, deserts, the abyssal depths of the sea.

 

snails with a gill can be found on land

 

snails with a lung found in water

 

 

gliding along on a muscular foot

 

 

covered with epithelial cilia

 

 

waves of contractions

 

 

move down the ventral.

 

 

they walk over razors

 

 

a layer of tissue covers the visceral mass

 

 

snails need calcium

 

 

(the operculum of some has a pleasant scent when burned = incense)

 

 

most bear tentacles on their heads

 

eyes carried on the upper stalks

 

lower set olfactory

 

 

a snail breaks food using radula

 

chitinous structure microscopic hooks cuticulae

 

 

in a quiet setting, a snail can be heard crunching

 

radula tearing, eating.

 

 

the snail grows, so does its shell

 

secreted material added to the edge

 

the center of the shell’s spiral made when the snail was young

 

 

hermaphrodites

 

snails perform a ritual courtship

 

inseminate each other

 

each brood +/- 100

 

 

snails need calcium

 

eat the egg from which they hatched

 

 

cannibalization by babies of other eggs (even unhatched) has been recorded

 

 

 

 

 

The paintings of snails are watercolor/gouache. Each page was coated with conservator’s wax after transferring/imaging.IMG_1334
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As much as possible I like for my work to include artifacts that have a relationship to the piece, in this case snails. I used a wooden frame with recessed plastic glazing for the box walls. I filled the recessed area with sand and snail shells, covered the plastic with a layer of very thin and translucent Japanese paper, laid in the cut shell and snail trail shapes I’d earlier cut out from the handmade paper, then added another layer of the thin Japanese paper.
IMG_1338The inside of the box walls are covered with gray moriki paper, the outside and top edge of the box walls with multiple layers of Thai unryu. The tray was then affixed to fabric and paper covered book board. A ribbon pull makes it easy to pull the book out of the tray without damage. The box label is laser-transfer.

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A Little Book of Drawings

 

A Little Book of Drawings

I have, in my adult life, moved literally tons of objects from place to place. The decision of whether to keep or discard is ongoing and I fear my elder life will be ruled by objects, much in the way of my parents. This I find disturbing and I continuously work to rid myself of objects using criteria that varies hugely from year to year.

Some collections, such as art books, don’t come under scrutiny too often. The music collection morphs into another version of itself (records replaced by audio cassettes, those replaced by CDs and those transformed into MP3 recordings). It makes sense to keep studio materials even though my emphasis in the studio and thus material use has shifted course many times over the years.

One area I haven’t figured out how to manage is the mass of unfinished, unsold, unframed artworks. Somehow simply throwing them away doesn’t seem an option, and I don’t really consider giving them away either. Re-purposing is a favorite strategy; a project with a layer already rich with pigment and potential a rewarding way to spend some time.

 

This week I made A Little Book of Drawings (measures about 3x3x.5 inches). I started with old figure drawings on mulberry paper, cut them up and ordered them into signatures. Both before and after sewing the text block, I further worked the drawings with ink and some transfers. The signatures were sewn with a supported link stitch and hollow back cased in with a variation of a split board (or tongue and groove) technique. The book has a leather spine and handwritten title.

Above are some photos that show the various binding steps: the brown paper is a moriki that is attached to the hollow tube and then extends, creating the tabs (tongues) used to attach the covers. The white material with blue edges is 2 ply museum board used for the inner board (rather than actually splitting a board, 2 boards create the ‘groove’ where the tongue is glued in). The end sheets are then pasted down leaving a hint of the blue exposed. And, as you can see from the leather spine, I didn’t get it right the first time, had to detach and re-attach the leather. Fortunately I use paste with leather so re-doing the spine didn’t ruin the book.  I am pleased with this book. It has a richness last week’s project did not; has evidence of my history as a mark maker, evidence of passable skills at binding small books. As I ponder this book, I decide that part of its success lies in the various qualities inherent in the materials themselves. Mulberry paper, graphite, ink, thread and leather.

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From This Place

I unabashedly join the ranks of mixed-media artists who hoard. My studio building is twice the size of my house and about 30% of that space is devoted to storage. Time spent rummaging in the ‘ingredient archives’ can bring on bouts of contented assessing and re-arranging, frustration at not finding what I seek and glee when something clicks into place as the obvious choice of object to solve a problem.


For book of the week projects I avoid purchase of new materials, and thus far have found what I need in the archives. This week’s project re-uses the unbound pages from a previous limited edition miniature book that I wasn’t pleased with and abandoned. Why I assume I can take these failed pages and rework them into something more successful is a mystery but that was the intent of From this Place.

IMG_1157The text of the book touches on containment versus abandon, with hints of discretion and privacy. A screen structure seems a good fit here. I have had in my studio for a long time an object whose intended use is eludes me – it could be a prototype for a full size screen, or something intended to block a portion of a desk from view. I am imaginative and still cannot come up with a function for this object. I would assume it a wall hanging but there is no way to hang it.

It is a simple construction, hinged plastic panels are bound at top and bottom with strips of continuous cloth.

For my project, I cut out and re-ordered the failed image pages (which are color laserprints, each about 2.5 x1.5), laserprinted the text on transparent sheets, and using double-sided PMA adhered the text to the image. Another layer of PMA, this time extending beyond the image, then a layer of mica. With an image on either side of each panel the layer, top to bottom is this: mica, PMA, transparency, PMA, image/glue/image, PMA, transparency, PMA, mica. These panels are ‘bound’ with a strip of acrylic tinted tyvek along the top and bottom edge. Another strip of tyvek is at either edge more as a visual than a structural device. IMG_1163

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Euxoa Auxiliaris

Its one of those summer seasons when the Miller moths are abundant. It makes me think of the 2002 exhibition “The Miller Family Story” by Sandy Lane (see photo). For her series Lane used the aggravating presence of Miller moths in her home and studio as a catalyst to a body of work that included painstakingly painted and mounted months recessed into cut away areas of her paintings.

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My project was triggered by a moth who landed on the wide expanse of PVA in an open gluepot and become mired but not submerged. I removed it and slid it onto a circle of mica. The combination of moth/mica/circle became the dominant element in the book Euxoa Auxiliaris.

To begin, I collected death moths from around my studio, some with wings folded, others with wings more outspread. I stuck them with insect pins to a piece of foam core and coated them liberally with Rhoplex (which is similar to an acrylic gloss medium). I scanned and printed an antique sheet of various types of moths onto a lightweight textweight paper and found some two inch clear circular boxes. After determining a page size, I cut 4 pieces of poplar wood to the final page dimension and drilled a 2 inch hole in each. IMG_1089

Each wooden page is covered with some scrap from Cave Paper. On one side of each page the circle cut out is left exposed, on the other side it is covered with a lightweight board to which the inkjet moth images are laminated. Before mounting onto the wooden page, the inkjet print is protected with a sheet of mica. Using wet adhesives with mica doesn’t work well because it isn’t porous; contact adhesives aren’t transparent enough. So I use a PMA two-sided film to laminate the mica to the inkjet prints.

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The moths are arranged and glued with PVA to the mica, the clear box placed over them and glued into place. A paste made of ebony sawdust and Rhoplex is used to fill the gap between the wood and plastic. The text block is held together with a variation of what I call the Mongolian Binding, a rigid page binding technique that works well with thick pages. I saw a variation of this used on a book by Jana Sim at Abecedarian Gallery called My Doors (see picture). my_doors_1.jpg

The tapes for Jana’s book are leather; I used laminated bookcloth instead as I wanted less bulky tapes.

WIP Euxoa Auxiliaris 9WIP Euxoa Auxiliaris 10 The covers are book board covered with lightweight Nepalese paper on which on image of a swarm of Miller moths is printed. The circular title label is recessed into the front cover board, printed on paper and protected with a sheet of mica. The text is laserprint transferred to each page. On the outside pages, black and white laser printed images are transferred to the top, bottom and fore-edge pages of the text block.

Above details the structure and handling of materials. Now here is a bit about how the text and other content of the book was developed. I started reading about the moths that I’ve always referred to as Miller moths. Using the information I found about these predictably fascinating pests I wrote a snippet less scientific than the sources I used, along with a second snippet consisting only of a string of words, the two writings kept separate by use of different typefaces and placement. The text for the book follows:

Like the dusty flour covering a miller’s garb, wings covered with fine scales easily displaced, eyes, pale colored, reflect light, appear to glow.

In army-like groups they crawl across fields or highways, migrating towards the mountains.

Sleeping by day, they awake at dusk. Thinking all light is the moonlight they use to guide their nocturnal journeys westward, artificial lights confuse their insect response.

During this moist year, they have lingered here, flapping about in my cold coffee, or taking a fatal dip in an open glue pot.

Spiraling to the source a moth to flame

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The book measures 3.5×2.5×2.25 inches and was finished on July 5, 2009

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That Milksnake Story

Alicia Bailey -That Milksnake Story
Alicia Baliey-That Milksnake Story

I have some beautiful papers from Cave Paper that they call “skins” – it is translucent and crackly, a good fit for the inclusion of snakeskins, which I also have a supply of and a fondness for. There is a single sheet structure that I have seen referred to as a maze or a meander book but the reference I like most (and that I can’t find now that I’m looking) is a snake book (I think Scott McCarney calls it this). An obvious structure choice for this book. –

Another trigger was a book I had in the studio Reptile Medicine and Surgery by Douglas R. Mader with beautiful reproductions of reptile anatomy.

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After folding and cutting the paper, I painted with gouache on both front and backsides. I have lately been using a writing technique similar to those used for found poetry. My texts do not necessarily conform to poetic form but the guidelines are similar. Text on the frontside was created from an article published in the July 3, 1930 Walnut Grove Tribune – a bit of folklore (what might today be called an urban myth) about the milksnake.

 

That Milk Snake Story In the pine barrens I caught a large snake black-and-white serpent immune to the bite of any The sight started a line of snake stories. A cow that suddenly went dry watched, she would go to the far pasture low invitingly A snake would creep out of the grass milk her. When the snake was killed quarts of milk gushed out. The cow pined away and died. A sad story; true as most.

On the backside is a text written from various encyclopedia entries, again, using found poetry methods. I digitally formated my writings to fit this book then laser transferred it to the bookpages.

The oviparous milksnake whose clutches average ten starts with three, or four or even twenty more in humus or under rot eight weeks later the precocial young need precious little more (brightly born they dull with maturity) even the largest of milk snakes could no more milk a cow than could a bird

For the cover I sandwiched some snakeskin bits in between 2 circles of mica and, because the mica is transparent, it is possible to see through the mica to the image painted on the first page of the book.

 

The book when closed measures 7x6x3/4 inches, and extends open to 7×22 inches.

This final images shows the page orientation etc. of the book, and that it remains really, a one sheet structure.

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