Hit the Ground Running

This project was exactly as the name says, we hit the ground running, starting into this project in the first week of classes.  It was pretty open ended, we could do whatever we wanted.  I proposed to make a book centered around self-discovery and used photographs from a local lake as source material.  It was great to make a book again after almost two years, and rekindled my love for book arts.

Artist Statement

For as long as I can remember, I have always grounded myself in nature.  Be it simply playing outside or escaping to somewhere desolate to clear my head, nature is at the core of my being.  One of my favorite things to do is go somewhere alone and hike, resisting the temptation to take my headphones but instead listening to nature and to myself.  I will either go somewhere new, photographing all of the unique things that I see, or I will go somewhere I have been to before just to ground myself in that familiarity.

 

As I begin my senior year at App State, I have been thinking back on my journey as an artist and a non-traditional student, at all of the choices I have made and how they have led me to where I am today.  I also think ahead, to where my journey could lead and what I will uncover as I continue down this path of self-discovery.  I tread these paths in the shadow of those who have come before me while carving out my own path at the same time.  I absorb the mistakes, successes, and lessons of those trailblazers – I digest their breadcrumbs – in order to create my own, unique experience.

 

I have chosen to present “here by myself, away from the clank of the world” in book form because of the narrative aspect of the subject; I want the reader to physically turn each page as an act of engagement and discovery.  Using photographs taken at Bass Lake in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, I invite the reader to join me on a visual excursion to discover this solitude and my self-exploration.

Process

In the beginning I wrestled with what to do.  I could not decide on a concrete topic, but I knew that I wanted to present it in book form.  I ultimately decided that I wanted to do a project centered around self-discovery.  Starting over and going back to school at my age has made me think a lot about this, though it is not something that I had really explored in a project before.  One of my favorite things to do, especially if I'm in a fog and need to clear my head, is to go for a hike, especially if it is to somewhere I have never been before.  I wanted to go to Arborcrest Gardens, a 25-acre ornamental garden here in Boone, but given their limited hours I thought that might be too challenging.  Instead, I settled on Bass Lake, part of the old Moses Cone estate along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  With paths around the lake and through the woods, there was plenty to discover.

Now that I had a concrete idea, I had to find just the right book form.  Looking through my old Book Arts text book, I ended up settling on the stick binding for two reasons: the use of a stick on its spine, and the window cut into the cover, giving you a peek as to the contents inside.  The biggest catch is that for the amount of content I wanted to include, the stick binding would not quite work.  I then decided to combine the stick binding with a Japanese side-stitch, using a cattail from Bass Lake in lieu of a stick.  Unfortunately, a cold snap came through before I was ready for the cattail, killing them off, so I ultimately had to forego the stick aspect.

Bass Lake is a beautiful area to explore, even if it is man-made.  The site was originally a cattle pasture during the time of Moses Cone's ownership, with a smaller lake closer to the house.  The pasture was damed and flooded to create Bass Lake once the Park Service took ownership.  A circular path borders the lake, with an off-shoot that goes up into woods and winds through a maze, which is really a series of switchbacks that goes up and back down a hill.  This path also takes you past the old apple barn, which is a cool structure in and of itself, before making its way back to the lake.

After going through all of the photos I took, I selected the ones that were the most visually appealing, not just documentarian in nature.  I selected photos that had a defined vanishing point and were filled with little moments to explore, taking the reader on a visual journey with me. 

Once I had the photos and book form selected, I set about putting hand to craft.  It was not without its hiccups, mistakes, and false starts - it had been over a year since I last made a book.  But, muscle memory soon kicked in and it all came back to me pretty quickly.

This was a fun book form to make and worked really well with what I was trying to accomplish.  Because the content of the book was so nature oriented, I chose papers for the inside and outside covers that reflected this.  In fact, the green cover paper has a really nice subtle texture to it.  The trickiest part was cutting out the window on the cover, and cutting the papers to fit in and around it.

The end result came out beautifully, and worked exceptionally well.  I added text to accompany the photos, though I realized afterwards that the amount of text I added was a bit excessive.  I plan on remaking the book with the suggestions I received during our critique.  I will probably make the cover window a little larger, and place only a minimal amount of text more strategically throughout the book.

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© 2020 by Michael Gaines.
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