I stumbled into my career as a book artist after years of working as an exhibiting printmaker and, later as a graphic designer/art director. When I started making artist books I didn’t even know the genre existed. I’d been juggling my interests in verbal and visual art forms when I realized that the most important ingredient in my work is the power of story. I also realized that words on their own aren’t enough to get across what I want to tell. Images alone aren’t enough either. So, a number of years ago I combined the two in ways that, even among book artists, are considered unique.
I do a HUGE amount of research for my books. My husband jokes that my pile of library books is measured by the yard not the foot. At the beginning of each project I throw a very wide net while exploring my subject. I never know where I’ll find the connections. By throwing that wide net I’m able to make such connections as: using the structure of the Bayeux Tapestry to examine the historic attitudes toward PTSD; and how the history of architectural styles forms windows to explore our current themes on homelessness issues.
I never regard the research that doesn’t find its way into my final product as wasted effort. Not only is it a natural bi-product of the process but, eventually, everything gets used. Even my false starts and mistakes serve a purpose. Accepting my mistakes allows me the freedom to dig deep enough to allow unexpected connections to evolve. It also takes a bit of the fear out of taking risks.
I believe that tapping into the creative process is important in all fields, not just the arts. I’m a big advocate for crossing genre boundaries. For example, a biology student might gain new insights by taking a close look at architecture, or an engineering student can learn a lot from soil biology, or a chemist could benefit from closer examination of musical harmonics, etc. I strive in my books to present some of those boundary crossings in ways that will engage and intrigue my audience and to, perhaps, encourage them to look at issues from new perspectives