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January: Jacob’s Ladder

The third week of January, I finished a book that is part of a new activity I started with my friend, Kristen, of Space Paste Press. Kristin and I live far away from one another; I live in Indiana and she lives in Pennsylvania.  In order to spark new projects and to eliminated the inspiration lacking periods, we came up with a monthly “assignment.” The first week of each month, we would give ourselves a book assignment that would have to be completed before the month is out.  With the help of modern technology, we use video chatting which allows us to “meet” and discuss our projects along the way. (In these meetings, we can express frustrations or think through ideas we have had about the books.) These books will act as exercises in book design and content. Once you leave the classroom (or start to work on your own) , it is rare that the opportunity for peer review and critique comes along. This is our way of simulating that constructive environment.

January’s assignment included these parameters: beginnings, white, and Jacob’s ladder structure. No other rules were laid down.  The book could include image, text, or both so long as the previous three qualities were included.

It may not seem so just by looking at it but the Jacob’s ladder structure is very challenging! If you’ve never tried to work content into one, you should try. It is a big brain exercise. I have never changed my mind about content so much as I did with this book.  I wanted a purely image based book. However, the more I played with the structure, mock-up after mock-up made my ideas seem impossible for my brain to execute.  So I visited the Lilly Library for inspiration. While I was there, I saw a book done by a former IU student. It was here that one asset of the structure was revealed.  The ribbons that hold the boards together could be used to hide or show text.  Aha! From there, my approach found new footing.

Lately, I have been perusing the Gutenberg Project website for potential projects.  I have hiked every morning this winter (except the rainy ones) with my two dogs in the woods. I stumbled upon a Robert Frost poem that was the right length and the right fit for content.

Dust of Snow

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued

Below is the book that resulted.

Notice that my book is intended to be read like a traditional codex instead of using it like the toy…it functions like the toy, but the text doesn’t make much sense otherwise.