Wednesday, March 22, 2017

"Home" - a Book Arts Project

My final semester of college (Spring 2016), I was lucky enough to be able to take a studio art class on Book Arts and Typography. The class was incredible, and that's a whole other story, but right now I want to tell you about one of my favorite projects that I did in that class. It involved this very blog!

The only specification of the project was that we were supposed to use one of two very simple bindings that don't require any sewing. The details aren't important, but I chose to make an accordion fold book (also known as a leporello binding). All of the other parts of the project, including materials and content, were totally up to us.

Being a computer science major, I thought it would be fun to use technology in my project in some way. I thought about this project for a long time, and I finally decided I wanted to do something relating to my months in Ireland. I remembered all the blog posts I wrote about my time in Ireland, and my idea was born.

To start, here is the short explanation that I put into the book itself:

"I studied abroad at Trinity College Dublin in Spring 2015. The words in this book were chosen from a list of the most common words that I used in my blog during the month that I was abroad, and the pages of the book are constructed from an old calendar containing pictures of Ireland.
Leah Ferguson
February 2016"

front cover
back cover
As I mention in that short description, the main material that I used in the book was pictures of Ireland that I cut out of an old calendar I had lying around. The front and back covers of the book are made of binders board (which all hard cover books are made of) covered in old paper maps that we had in the book arts lab.

The front cover is a picture of Minnesota, my home state, and the back cover is a picture of Massachusetts, where I went to college. With the main topic of the book being Ireland, it seemed fitting to have these two other places that have been so important to me involved in the project as well. (Also, we didn't have any maps of Ireland available...)

The way I developed the main content of the book (the words from my blog) was by using a website I found which, given a bunch of text, counts the words and gives you a list of the ones that occur most often (minus common words like "the", "of", "and", etc.) The text that I entered into the site was the text of all of the blog posts I wrote about my time abroad. I decided to rearrange the words and not keep them in exact order of frequency, because I wanted to tell more of a story. I used those words to create concepts that made sense to me and summarized some aspects of my time in Ireland.

Every good story also has a meaningful title. One of the words, "Home", seemed like the perfect choice to serve as a title for my book. The longer I live and the more I travel, the more I realize how complicated of a concept home really is. When I was in Ireland, I became so fond of it that it felt almost like home, and now that I'm gone I miss it a lot. But while I was there, especially near the beginning of my trip, I was also terribly homesick for Minnesota, for my family and friends, for what I knew. There was a tension between the joy of exploration, of being surprised every day, of learning to love a new place, while also longing for the known and the familiar.

Here are a few of my other favorite pages in the book. These pages are roughly from the beginning, middle, and end of the book and show a little bit of its overall arc.

find | different

Near the beginning of my time abroad, everything was different than what I was used to and I found new things every day, both good and bad.

time | went

Just when I was starting to get more comfortable and fall in love with my new home, I realized that time is a strange thing and that what had once seemed like forever (5 months) went by in a flash.

realize | remember

I may no longer be in Ireland, but I remember it often very fondly, and through my journey and my return home I have realized so many new things about myself and about the world.

Now as I look back, the main themes of the book seem to be transition and change. Going to Ireland for 5 months certainly involved a lot of change. Even now as I am in a season of transition in my life, the words and themes resonate with me in a new way. I guess that's one of my favorite things about art - it isn't static. It can mean different things to different people, and even to the same person during different periods of their life. When I came up with the idea for this book I was excited because I thought it could be a really beautiful reminder of my semester abroad. The more time has passed the more meaningful it has become to me, not just as a reminder of a fun few months, but as a benchmark in this journey that I'm on and is nowhere near finished yet. I guess I can remember the past while still looking forward to finding new and wonderful things in my future, and its good to be reminded of that.