A HANDMADE ART-BOOK—
“Story of a First Year Hive” is currently part of a virtual display titled NWCRAFT20, which is coordinated by, and in support of, the Bellevue Arts Museum and the artists of the Northwest Designer Craftsmen. You can visit this show at your leisure, or even right this minute, by clicking here.
I refer to this book as an art-book for two reasons:
- The book is handbound with papers made by the artist.
- The book is illustrated with collages of natural materials, lightly inked.
DETAILS ABOUT MAKING THE ART-BOOK
All the papers in this art-book are made by the artist from both natural and manmade materials. The interior pages are made from the fibers of retted iris and daylily leaves. The cover papers are made from cotton rags, and embossed onto the frame of foundation that was once inside a working hive. Some of the propolis the honeybees left behind is deposited onto the embossed papers, along with the honeycomb grid. The binding is made with a coptic stitch, and hand-sewn using waxed cotton thread. A coptic binding allows for the book to be flexible and to open up flat.
The pages are divided into six signatures (or sections), each joined together with a strip of strong paper made from a tan cotton rug yarn, which can be seen along the spine. This paper is actually made from the remnants cut from the looms of a local rug weaving company.
On each of the right-hand pages (recto side), I pasted a small paper made from cotton bed sheets using the archival glue most often used for binding books. On each of these papers, I made a collage, that was created with a combination of all sorts of things, including sunflower and evergreen pollen; lichen; honeybee, hornet, and ladybug parts; birch and grass leaves; gold leaf, silk string, and old cloth electric-tape, as well as ink diagrams. The ink drawings are detailed and minuscule, perhaps as drawn by a honey bee. These collaged pages carry a story “as told” by honeybees, which has been “translated” through the artist’s collages.
INSPIRATION FOR THE ART-BOOK
2019 was the first year I kept honeybees. They are fascinating, miraculous, and surprising creatures in more ways than I can say. The creation of this art-book is a way of honoring the bees who kept me company, and taught me many things while they were here. I regret to say that, though I did care for them, treated them for mites, and protected them from other hazards, the hive died that September. Varroa mites bring with them a variety of viruses to honeybees. In a way, they have been fighting viruses like our novel coronavirus for several years, and beekeepers are making some headway, but there is still no real “cure” for this invasive species. Beekeepers currently protect their hives from the varroa mites and their viruses by testing often and treating with care and a thoughtful schedule in a similar way that we are approaching the Covid-19. There is no vaccine for the virulent varroa mites or the infectious Covid-19, so it is seriously important that testings and treatments are effective and timely.
In early March, 2020, this art-book had its debut at The Schack in Everett as part of a fabulous show called Northwest Designer Craftsmen 2020 Symposium. The exhibition was full of the artwork of over 100 NWDC members that hung from the walls and stood on pedestals on both floors of beautiful and spacious gallery space. The Covid-19 safety precautions were put in place not too long after the opening on March 5, so the show closed down after about ten days, leaving hardly anyone with the opportunity to see the show, and causing some hardship for The Schack and the artists. For a quick run-through of this show, follow this link to a YouTube video.
As I continue to create assemblages and hand-bound books, I tend to experiment and stretch what I do as I go. In the near future, I’ll be making more books with collages and printmaking, often using items I find in the natural world, juxtaposed with those from our manmade ones. I love making paper because of the hands-on process, and the variety generated in the results. Through experimentation and curiosity, I’ve discovered that failure is not an error, but an education.
—Anita K. Boyle