ProcessThe process for making an edition of artist’s books varies from project to project. Initial inspiration may come from a particular book structure or material, or from a cogent theme or topic. While the exact procedure for every book is different, research always plays a key role. In this section Julie explains some of the steps involved in making Invented Landscape, an artist’s book from 2010.
Invented Landscape was developed in response to an invitation to participate in the fourth Artist Book Biennial sponsored by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria, Egypt. 13 artists from around the world were invited to come to Alexandria to make and then exhibit an artist’s book on the chosen theme of nomadism. The project I ended up working on focused on the nomadic tradition in Mongolia, where a significant portion of the people retain their nomadic way of life into the present day.
Once I make the decision to work on a project, one of the first things I do is research. In the case of Invented Landscape, I read several books on nomadism before narrowing down my scope of interest to the grasslands of Mongolia. I have no personal connection to Mongolia, nor have I ever visited that part of the world. But I was intrigued by images of the vast open landscape and stories of the kind of lifestyle that was developed there. I started to do further research on the nomadic culture of Mongolia, including historical art and artifacts, textiles,and other traditional arts. I took visual inspiration from both the textile and jewelry design of the region.
I also looked at numerous images of the region on the internet, as one does these days. I knew that I wanted to use an image of grass as one element of the book, so I visited to several local botanical gardens in order to photograph the type of grass that might be found in the Mongolian grasslands.
I decided early on that the main image contained in the book would be done using the monoprint process. Long strips of torn paper were inked up in various shades of green and placed on an etching press. The resulting image gives an impressionistic sense of the space rather than a photographic one.
A companion element to the monoprinted landscape was a close-up image of grass that was letterpress printed from a photopolymer plate and repeated in the background of all the page panels. The structure I chose for this book is one that was designed by Heidi Kyle called the floating panel book or panorama book. In order to make an edition of this complex structure, I created a digital template of the cut and score lines for each section, and then used a laser cutter to make all the cuts. This allows me to have each panel cut precisely and identically. The paper is also laser scored to show where I need to place all the folds.
The box and binding design for the book were inspired by the Mongolian tradition in which a stack of loose pages is wrapped in fabric. The angled shapes of the box and cover boards mimic the asymmetrical folds of loose fabric, giving the reader the sense of unwrapping the book from its container.
While I was happy with the visual design of the book, I was not happy with the first iteration of the text. I ended up rewriting the whole book to reflect my own struggle with my attempts to articulate ideas about a time and place that I had no direct experience of. The structure itself presents a visual landscape that add up to a continuous image, but only in pieces. This supports the experience I wanted to give the reader, which is about the process we all go through in one way or another to create a sense of understanding about the world around us even though we are often piecing this understanding together from fragmented or incomplete information.