Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Book for Michelle Carter's Play

When Michelle Carter asked if I (or someone I knew) could make a scrapbook prop for her latest play Patience Worth, I was delighted and said I'd do it. I don't ordinarily make scrapbooks, I'm not close to being a scrapbooker, but I do make things periodically for friends. In this case, the scrapbook is integral to the play: it is only through these clippings that a young girl knows her spirit mother. Michelle only knew she wanted something nice and something different, but she couldn't tell me anything specific. The only constraints she gave me were that the book had to look real because the front row of the audience would be able to see it up close, and it had to be able to be refilled. Commissioned projects can be satisfying or alarming: the person can love whatever it is that you do, or s/he already has something in mind but can't describe it. It is always frustrating when the person sees it and says, "Oh, but I really wanted ______."

It was hard to know where to begin. I needed a context, a reason. What should the book feel and look like? How big? What kinds of materials? I asked to read the script; she sent a scene where the girl is reading snippets of the clippings aloud. The time was the early 1920s in St. Louis, so I researched scrapbooks of that time and based a design on those images. The hinged hard cover has two holes with eyelets: the wire-edged ribbon runs through them. The endpapers are acrylic ink painted Tyvek, the cover is a handcut stencil with gold gesso. For the articles, I took some of Michelle's written words, created titles, filled them out with lorem ipsum, and laserprinted them. Stonehenge is a thick paper with a manufactured deckle edge so I cut the paper to make use of the deckle and adhered the articles to the pages with photo corners and/or glue stick. All this paper gives the book a solid feeling.

So much trust goes into this kind of project. It is a relief when it works.

The play opens Friday, September 9, 2011 at Thick House in San Francisco (1695 18th Street), and runs through Sunday, October 2.

No comments: