A Symbolic Book: Cultural and Social Identity

My colleague Tomoko Murakami is teaching a 2D First Year class and invited me to demonstrate bookbinding to her students in preparation for an assignment she is giving:
Create a mixed media book that tells a symbolic story of your cultural/social identity with the emphasis on rhythm, pattern and color. Any materials (photos, drawings, paintings, fabric, etc.) can be used but sewing technique must be incorporated into your book.

Select one particular topic (gender, race, ethnicity, religion, family traditions, or stereotypes), which you value, to explore as a subject of your visual presentation. Think about the influence exerted by the topic and represent that influence symbolically in your book.
It seemed only fair that I try her assignment before I visit her class.  I've never been good with assignments, though; they make me thrash about. For the past ten years, when I sit and dig deep I inevitably come back to loss and grief. Grief lies at low tide, always there, but suddenly becomes a tidal wave, then recedes. Tomoko had told me of some memorial traditions in Japan, which made me face my own culture. Her assignment specified sewing, so I incorporated the use of cloth in Jewish mourning customs: covering the mirrors, tearing the clothes, covering the headstone for up to one year before unveiling it. The narrative revolves around the phone call I received from the cemetery "about my property." The caller asked if there was anything they could do? What? Host a tea dance? I posted a story about this here.

The book, called Mourning Tears, (intended as wordplay: either rips or those wet things that roll down your face) is made of canvas and muslin with the Slot and Tab binding (pp. 55-56 in Making Handmade Books, pp. 37-39 in Creating Handmade Books, also shown here). I used an iron to scorch and treat the muslin before I stenciled words and people and sewed faces onto it. The canvas is more like a portfolio or wrapper, not connected to the book block. I think I used rhythm and pattern, as specified in the assignment. While I prefer bright colors, the book wanted to be simply black, white, natural, and scorched. Black thread, white bobbin, so the backs look ghostly.

The assignment is tricky. But, like what assignments are supposed to do, it started a process. Here are a few sample pages.


Fantastic! I love your thoughtful interpretation of the assignment, and those stitched faces are wonderful.
Alisa said…
Continued thanks for your comments, Sharmon. And to you, Anna, as well!
Velma Bolyard said…
maybe you know how much i love this binding. and where you took this is really good. i like so much the interplay here, very successful (for an assignment piece!)
Alisa said…
Thanks, Velma! And I love your woven shifu version and the loom you made to make it.