HOUSEWORK: Handmade Books & Boxes

Way back in November, on an airplane coming home from a family Thanksgiving celebration, I said to myself, "Now, what am I going to do?" I was not assigned a class for the first time in ten years for spring semester, so my time was open. I knew I could fill it, that wasn't the problem. First I thought: I should do housework. But I don't really do housework. I make art instead. Art is my housework. Which is how this project was born.

I've seen the house shape so many times in artwork that it is almost a cliché. How could I tackle it and make it fresh (at least to me)? I imagined house-shaped boxes that cracked open like eggs.

 Each box would be different, with a different look at house and home. I would print on muslin and make my own book cloth to wrap them. And I would make a house-shaped quilt as well. I had signed up to show work in the glass display case at our local library, so I would size the quilt to fit on one side of the case.

I made nine boxes. At this writing, I have finished six, with one near completion, two still cooking. More photos are on my website.

They Must Agree is about lichen and its habitat. The cutouts of lichen are glued to an accordion that is attached to the box and pulls out. The book is a Coptic stitch that sews an accordion together.

Fragile is how we can remain friends or live together. The book is a Crossed-Structure Binding with each of the one-page signatures glued together for strength. Then I cut out the windows, which are reminiscent of an altered book. The cutout pieces live in a little drawer on the bottom on the right.

 Sea Light is about the neighborhood miles under the sea on the Juan de Fuca volcanic ridge. The box holds a long tunnel book and a platform with a small scroll.

Green House Not on the Corner is about how the demolition of a house turned into a garden. A little tableau on the right, a palm leaf-style structure on the left.

The Divide is about housing in the city: who has what. A long scroll like a street.

Dandelion Roam is about how nomadic dandelions find their home. This is the flower fold structure, sewn together rather than glued. The sewing suggests the seeds.

Albany, still in progress, is about housing in the four points, North, South, East, West of the one-square-mile of Albany, California, my home town. Each of four little booklets is a map fold, which miraculously looks like a house.

I'll be installing at the Albany Library on Sunday, April 3, somewhere between 1-5pm. If you are a local, come say hi, and I'll show you in person.


I love the idea of home and Houses. And yours are especially lovely in all their manifestations.Thank you!
Alisa said…
Hi Martha,
Thank you so much for writing!
Melinda said…
Alisa, these are just magical! The concept of 'home' conjures so many emotions, like the secrets hidden in each of the boxes. Wonderful!
Unknown said…
What wonderful handiwork! Homes here are truly built with heart!