Never one to hesitate long about my next project… currently I have four waiting patiently in the back of my mind. And yet I decided to tackle right now, this week, this day… an altered book homage to my late parents.
I knew instantly which book to use for the base and that was my mother’s treasured book of etiquette. It was also the bane of my childhood existence for never was any question of impropriety ever answered without referring to what ‘Amy Vanderbilt has to say about that!’ A large part of my decision to do this now is to seek closure on several sad events of last year. What better way to honor my parents and their life together than to gel medium it all into one sparkly volume?!
As if I did not have enough materials of my own last summer my sister graciously brought me a grocery bag full of photos of Dad. Yikes! Many were duplicates of what I already had. Photos of my youth, and his, as he was just 24 when I was born. Photos of my daughter’s youth which had been shared with the grandparents and had now returned home to their twin in my closet. As I began to fill up empty drawers (out of sight, out of mind) with various photographs, paperwork, memorabilia it was easier and easier to pretend it was not there. Until I opened the drawers looking for something else and yikes… this deluge of paper does not agree with my feng shui sensibility!
The first step was to sort the photos by family, Dad, Mom, his siblings and parents, her siblings and parents, me, my sisters, our spouses and my daughter the token grandchild. This felt like an awesome accomplishment for maybe 24 hours. The next time I opened the drawer I still found photos but separated into manila envelopes by family. Big fat, bulging manila envelopes. OK, so not a super solution. The idea of doing the altered book came to me recently and in the past week I determined I need to do this now so I can clear the unused materials out of my office and my psyche.
Today I prepped two pieces of work to ship tomorrow and then cleared off my design table. Hubby brought me a 3 ft stool from the basement so I could sit while tackling this awesome task. I got out all my tools, small cutting mat (which is odd since I am already working on a 4′ x 8′ mat!) exacto knife, gel medium, brushes, wax paper and heavy books to weigh down drying, glued objects. Then I hauled all the ingredients into the studio, photos, papers, etc.
I further sorted as to timeline. I was all set to start but nothing was happening. How could I start at the beginning? Why can’t I start in the middle? I was overwhelmed by beginning. So I turned on the TV as distraction and found endless Oprah wisdom on spirituality on the OWN channel. I especially loved the ‘man of God’ saying we need not be in church on Sunday morning. We may indeed be involved in spiritual growth elsewhere. Well yes as a matter of fact I am…
I cut, glued, pressed, stitched, glued and weighted. I started at the beginning and then skipped some pages. Eventually I leaned into it and while other pages were drying I made individual collages which later when dry and flat can be cut and glued in place. Ah yes, this really got the juices flowing because there is no structure, no order, no perfect arrangement just cut and paste. After several hours that just zipped by the piles were now well enmeshed into each other. The timeline was becoming more muted and I decided to take a short break at the computer. And then the strangest thing happened. I lost the TV remote.
Under piles of countless black and white photos of me with my chubby legs and sunbonnet, Dad in his Army uniform and Mom walking the dog, handwritten notes and biographies, negatives and positives, postcards, wedding announcements, photos on Santa’s knee, buttons, snaps, yarn and conference pins I had misplaced the remote. I don’t know why but this gave me the greatest chuckle as if the remote were to be a part of the collage.
Let alone the irony of creating chaos in pursuit of orderliness. Hmmm…wonder what Amy Vanderbilt would say about that?