May I – new artist book

This summer, I participated for the first time in Focus on Book Arts (FOBA) Challenge Book Project to create a new artist book! FOBA’s guidelines for the 2021 Virtual Conference challenge book project were integral in helping me to form my book:

  • must incorporate at least 3 words
  • must include a created color or texture
  • encouraged to try a new form or structure

And, of course, the book should respond to the stated theme “Where We Live: Where does your heart reside?” See full details and guidelines at FOBA’s site.

This summer was also (still!) of course defined by our ongoing pandemic, and I decided to stick close to home in determining my materials; I gave myself the extra constraint of using only materials that I had around the house and could access easily.

I’m often inspired by color and texture, so I used a page from a Burpee seed catalogue that came in the mail and yellow cardstock that I hand-printed with mint leaves from my garden, using some old poster paint. I tried a new form, the “Guest Book” from Alisa Golden’s excellent resource, Making Handmade Books, which uses a single piece of paper to create a small book that can stand upright in a sort of star shape.

May I, standing upright

One lesson I learned: catalogue paper is flimsy! I tried some tests to make sure the form would work with the paper I’d chosen. Once I decided on the yellow squash page for my book, I had to be really careful in my folding and construction process so the paper wouldn’t tear.

Burpee seed catalog cover with test text

Inside the book is a short poem (or maybe an excerpt from a poem, or a poem draft, since I seem to keep on writing this one) titled “May I” that investigates what I experience in my own garden: a tentative entry into the outdoor spaces, sounds of the bees and their “admitted projected happiness,” wishes for “you” to “join me here.” I let the yellow–of the squash from the catalogue page, of the cardstock–guide some of my writing choices, so I decided to emphasize the bees in the language I chose to include.

front cover of May I
May I, top view

It was really fun to participate in this challenge book project! I enjoyed the process of making this book, and I also found it to be great fun to see how others responded to the challenge! You can see all the 2021 responses to this prompt in the FOBA 2021 Challenge Book Gallery online, and you can watch the recording of the Challenge Book Roundtable that took place over Zoom this summer.

Maybe next year you’ll join the Challenge Book Project, too?

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