New Collaboration: Letters of Transit: Bird Passports

I met Dianne Ayres through the chat group that accompanies the Golden Gate Audubon Society's Osprey nest camera at We met in person at a chalk art event where she was drawing a Red-tailed Hawk, and we got to talking. Our love for the Ospreys and our mutual interest in textiles propelled us on to weekly walks by San Francisco Bay, where we scanned the sky, slough, and bay for birds to watch and photograph.

Richmond and Rosie, March 27, 2019

A book art call for entries that suggested both stitching and collaboration was the catalyst for long talks about how we might do a project together. She suggested a kind of typewriter; I suggested a kind of cage; we tried on ideas about art and life, the chat group and Ospreys, until we finally ended up with the mutual idea of passports for birds.

On our walks we began noticing migration patterns, how some birds were here for a specific period of time, how others were here year-round. We wondered where the birds came from and where they went. At the same time, U.S. borders were becoming tougher for human beings to cross, so migration was on our minds from all angles and emotions. Migration is a mixed bag as it is, carrying the risk of an arduous journey in the hopes of finding a home and freedom. Birds as a group have that freedom of crossing (unless humans mess it up). Bird passports evoke a record of their life paths. We researched some of the birds we had seen and designed visa stamps. How could we also portray their individual natures? Eggs could represent individual beings. Consulting the nest and egg books I got last year for my birthday: Nests, Eggs, and Nestlings of North American Birds and A Field Guide to Western Birds' Nests,  I painted wooden eggs.

Top (L to R): Osprey, Black Oystercatcher, Mallard
Bottom (L to R): Green Heron, White-tailed Kite, Anna's Hummingbird, American Coot

We read that certain bird behaviors are embedded, but certain human actions can adversely impact the birds, confusing or changing the environment on which they rely: water, air, and earth. Our respect for the birds, a sense of responsibility, and a desire to connect human nature and animal nature deepened this collaborative project.

During the Arts & Crafts era (Dianne's specialty), embroiderers made bags for myriad items: playing cards, shoes, a powder puff, men's collars, and one's next embroidery project; the bags brought attention and beauty to everyday items. We imagined that passports, too, would have had stitched bags. Our bag binds together the passports and painted eggs. It opens into a nest: a nurturing and beautiful place of life and renewal, and a symbol of our responsibility to the environment, and to all creatures.

Dianne and I hadn't known each other long, but as we had input, each to the other, we were able to respect each other's creative process. We looked to our strengths and also valued new ways of seeing. The end result: something neither one of us would have conceived of or been able to make without the other.

Seven handset, letterpress printed, pamphlet-stitched books with book cloth, photos, a collagraph, and seven acrylic-painted wooden eggs nest in a linen satchel, hand-embroidered with silk thread.

The eighth, brown "About" booklet contains a little of the process described above and the Colophon.

Edition of 10.

This project will be on display at the Albany Library from May 2 - May 30, 2019 in my show there: Bird Art.

never mind handset Copperplate and Caslon 471 metal type roosting on Canson Mi-Teintes and Canson Ingres with Japanese book cloth covers. never mind the linen nest satchel hand embroidered in silk and photos by Dianne, letterpress printing and nest collagraph by Alisa, or that the stamps and this project were incubated by both.

The Osprey couple, Rosie and Richie, are incubating three eggs now! Watch for hatch dates between May 6 and May 18.