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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.’
WIP Snail 5
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.


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





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

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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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.

Alicia Bailey - That Milksnake Story 3

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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