Please Touch and D.I.Y. Collage Books

Sitting at a table at the SF Zine Fest last Sunday was a learning experience and a surreal one, too. What was most fascinating to me, aside from talking with the people who stopped by, was watching how people looked at and handled my books. Eighteen bookworks or objects, in addition to every issue of Star 82 Review, were on my table, but there was an almost identical triangulation between three particular things.

First, the visitor touched "Ear" of Ear. Egg. Yam. Coconut.. Maybe picked it up and read it. Smiled. Next, they scanned and found a title, A Fight for Chocolate. Flipped through it. Finally, noticed the bags of D.I.Y. Collage Books and thumbed through those. What was going on?

I mentioned this to the graduate students in the Letterpress Writing class I am teaching this semester, and one immediately plucked out this explanation that now seems obvious.: Touch. Reading. Then colors. The senses. Tactility, content, visuals. Of course. These are what we are looking at as we make books, and so, it seems, what people are looking for when they confront them.

At one point I was frustrated that people weren't handling the work, so I made a sign, "The books are sturdy! Please pick them up and read them!" A man pointed to it and said it was a good reminder. I felt a little silly, though. Every time I thought of something, I would make a sign. I began to wonder if I just needed a table of signs. Except that's exactly what I had in the books themselves. Each book signaled something. Only a few were successful at a distance.

Meanwhile, after selling some of the books, I still have many more left. Check them out at nevermindtheart on Etsy. Here's what a sample of the do-it-yourself collage book looks like. Instructions for a pamphlet stitch, a pre-punched, two-page booklet of cardstock, some colorful waxed linen thread, scraps of painted paper, ephemera, and old stamps are all included along with some random words that can all by cut, torn, arranged and glued to the booklet. Might make an interesting party favor.

Ear. Egg. Yam. Coconut., an older set of tiny bookettes from 1987, is coming to Etsy soon. They are aging a bit, but still readable, and definitely touchable.


Monica said…
"Look don't touch" was drilled into me as I kid(it is a very long time ago) but this rule has never left me. It terrifies me to see someone sitting or standing before or behind their work. To touch or not to touch; will a hand reach out from the heavens and slap me!
Alisa said…
Hi Monica,
And it doesn't help that we see similar signs about not touching in art museums and other venues where art is displayed. I guess we have to make it crystal clear that this type of event is closer to a book store than a museum. Some places have "reading rooms." I imagine that makes it more comfortable to handle the wares. Another sign I didn't make, but thought about was, "reading copies, fresh copies available for purchase."
Thanks for writing.