Thirty-Word Stories on Your Sleeve

After reading an article in the Los Angeles Times about the literary magazine Safety Pin Review, I became inspired by the concept of wearing one's writing and art, not in the form of handcrafted sweaters or scarves, but as patches. For SPR, you submit a 30-word story, see if the "curator" Simon Jacobs is tickled by it, and if your work is chosen, he paints it onto a large piece of black cloth that is worn (safety-pinned to the back of a jacket, usually) by an "operative" for a week. The operative documents the week, sometimes by writing down the comments s/he receives, but always in photos of the story on the move and in different venues. How cool to have your story worn by someone else, walking around town, read by people in line at the bank, the store, the park!

Thirty-word stories (or slightly fewer words) turn out to be the perfect size for a smaller patch as well. I couldn't help it. I had to make an artist's book. I cut cotton muslin into 2 1/2" squares (64 mm), made a smaller square stencil, and stenciled white squares onto the muslin with watercolor ground (you could probably use gesso, but the watercolor ground might give you more options for painting. See this post). Not sure I could write thirty stories—which seemed a natural number for the project—I settled on twenty 30-word stories. 20/30. Sounded like eyesight that hadn't quite been corrected. My stories were about things that were slightly askew, so there was my overall theme: seeing, art, life. All the usual suspects. I cut and stenciled the eyes with gold gesso on red bookcloth, on black bookcloth, and on the muslin.

I made the box to resemble an eyeglass case (clamshell box instructions, p. 235 of Making Handmade Books). You can see one crossed-structure book and the stack of patches inside. The book contains all of the stories. The patches may be worn or pinned together and displayed. (I made a version of the crossed-structure binding, p. 150. I covered Rives BFK, a soft, heavyweight paper, with bookcloth for the covers.) I wrote out the stories by hand with a crow quill nib dipped in acrylic ink. A Pigma Micron pen probably would have worked, also. The interior lining of the box is Tyvek (cut from large envelopes found in an office-supply store) painted with FW acrylic ink (antelope brown).

Writing a thirty-word story poses an interesting challenge. You have to come up with the larger story or scene, then figure out how to distill it. Choose words that have double and triple meanings. Use fragments for strength. No time for long descriptions. Make that one comment on the human condition and walk away.



"It shouldn't be the man in the moon, "
she told me, and I thought, "That's my girl!"
She said, "It should be the
Dude in the moon."


Velma said…
alisa, this is brilliant! i love the idea and hoe you made it so rich...excellent way to make something meaningful on MANY levels. wow!
What a splendid way to tell a story!