Today we drive far up north to meet Jennifer Bass in Saskatchewan, Canada. She is the crafter who made the Harlequin Boxes for your carnival challenge earlier this year.
If you would rather meet her from the comfortness behind your computer screen than to drive there yourself, go to redpumpkinstudio.blogspot.com where she is blogging about her everyday works including the exciting bits of work (that means the part where you struggle to turn a terrifying mistake into an even better object.) I am glad that I have the opportunity to ask her some questions.
Hi Jennifer! Thanks for taking your time to talk with me. Tell us, how and when did crafting and bookmaking come into your life?
Crafting is an off-shoot of my artistic practice. I’m a trained oil painter, but I also enjoy calligraphy and literature. In my first year of art school I had a project to make an artist book based anything in the book of essays we’d been set as a text. It was pretty terrible, but I enjoyed making it and it was always in the back of my mind. Then for my Senior Studio project I did a huge project , an illuminated Gospel of John. And later still, on vacation, I was looking for something to keep me occupied and thought back to all of that, and decided to make some books.
I saw on your blog that you are in the middle of a big project at the moment...
I’m currently working on a big project based on Poe’s short story ‘The Tell-Tale Heart.’ I’m doing the entire text in book form, right from cutting shapes in the paper, painting a background, inventing a font, copying it by hand, and finally binding it together.
How did you choose your text, and why did you finally choose The Tell-Tale Heart?
I was looking at a whole bunch of older texts that are public domain, but so many 'short' stories are still very long, and when you're writing it out by hand it's even longer. I choose Poe because of the rich imagery and Gothic feel, which is easy to illustrate and I like very much. I choose the Tell-Tale Heart because it's short.
Can you describe some of the design process? How did you choose your font for example? It seems hard to read – is this just me or intentional?
It’s kind of supposed to be: the words are in funny spots and whatnot. After all, the guy is supposed to be crazy.
The font is sort of half-Victorian, half-Gothic, and a little bit me. It’s supposed to look a little crazy and haunted. The design process was mostly reading the text, finding images, reading the wikipedia article for more theme and imagery ideas, then looking them all up on google.
That went into a sketchbook and I played around until I found the look I wanted.
Do you seek a specific connection between the cut-outs and the text on a page?
No, the story mentions beetles and ticking watches, so I just ran with that. The page that mentions those things have a little bit more illustration, but that's about it.
Do you already have plans for the binding of the finished book?
Yes, I was working on it this weekend because we were travelling and I could do it in the car. It is going to be bound in leather with 'The Tell-Tale Heart’ embroidered on it, matching the inside cover. Parts will be open so the binding is visible. There will be more beetles and watch gears cut outs fastened under the leather on the front and back covers. This will show through the leather as embossed images.
Apparently you will be finished soon. Any chance you are going to make another one, with a different text, maybe?
This is the second time I’ve turned a piece of literature into a book, after the Gospel of John. I like making these, and I may start making smaller ones based on poems I like, but in fancier styles of books. This one is still a pretty straightforward, one page after another, book, despite the amount of art on the pages.
Do you have a day job in addition to being an artist and Etsy seller?
I have a couple of jobs. I work at a swanky but boring jewellery store, and at a clothing store. And I spend a good deal of time renovating and decorating my house. Selling things on Etsy is nice, but doesn’t contribute much to getting my bills paid.
I have a B.A. in Art, concentrating in painting. I try to keep that up as much as possible, and work on my sketchbook fairly regularly to hone my skills. I constantly say I’m going to take some time to apply for shows, but so far haven’t managed many. I have traded paintings for eye glasses, though, so its not completely useless. I have a goal to one day travel across Canada, stopping to sketch along the way and putting the entire journey into a big coffee table style book.
Do you still paint or only make book nowadays? And what kind of books do you make?
I paint very regularly, although don’t sell them very often. All the books I make are unique, and I try to come up with very different ideas for each one. Most of them have a theme, or a special technique I want to try out. Not many of them are straightforward, plain books. I usually use leather, silk, and some of the large collection of fancy papers I have. I also like making decorative paper by layering calligraphy on watercolour paper until the words become indistinct, simply forming a pattern.
Do you have other plans for your crafting and your shop for the future?
I’m developing an artist portfolio for travelling. I’m trying to work in a pocket for loose pages, a surface to be an easel, a way to display the finished paintings, and someplace to carry supplies. I think I’ve got about half of it worked out, now I just need to figure out how put it together in a single book.
That sounds interesting. I am especially curious to see how you fit in the easel! Thanks for your time! And if you are now curious to see more, visit redpumkin studio on Etsy and visit her blog!