The Messy Process of Art

“This is not going to work.” That’s what I said to myself in the middle of my latest bookbinding project.

It was a commissioned piece… a wedding guest book for a friend of mine… and I was giving it my whole heart. I was also trying out some new techniques. Mid way, it seemed like a very bad idea.

I’ve written about creativity as a bell curve here and this week, I realized that the visual is slightly mis represented. Not a smooth curve at all. It’s messier than that. More like an EKG graph with erratic ups and downs… odd spacing… then the flat, silent place of completion where the heart stops beating. Sobering.

I experienced both exhilaration and defeat during this project. The theme was rustic and so I wanted the covers to be made from wood with a “live edge”… some bark or roughness to it. Finding that wood offered an adventure to the town of Edison, Washington where Smith and Vallee sells their scraps. I found one inspirational piece, but the owner advised me that paring it down to my thickness would be tricky. Seeing my dismay, he offered to go look for something in his stash. A few minutes later he emerged with a 5 foot long board that was 3/8″ thick, perfect for my project.

Cutting it down to size was a tricky matter. The board was split in places and wider than the blade on my compound miter saw. Out of that whole board, there were two pieces that would work, and one of them was slightly warped. OK… well, rustic could allow room for that. Once I finally cut them to size, I put them over the pages  that I had already torn. Oops, the pages were too long.

And on it went. Yes, it’s working, no, it’s not working. Up, down, up, down. Forward.

I developed a whole new respect for creativity and began to simply allow the movement, whichever direction it was going. And this served me well until I finished, photographed and delivered it. Silence. Straight line. The void again.

Though I had another project in the works (the “Lucky Town” assemblage I mentioned last week), I felt like I needed to honor the book’s completion. But I couldn’t figure out what to do. I was restless. I wanted distraction from the emptiness. I wanted comfort. I wanted chocolate.

I edited the photos instead:

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