Store of happiness

August 19, 2010

This week, instead of the proposed risky attempt to call back the heatwave – after all, we don’t want a hosepipe ban – I’ve decided to focus on a very desirable seasonal effect, in the hope that the weather will take a gentle hint, and do a bit more of what we like to see in August. Store of happiness is a one-elephant artist’s book made from a sheet of handmade paper, torn and folded into a book form, which you read by opening and turning the pages, following the spiral form of the book.

The text is by from La Possession du Monde by Duhamel, quoted in one of my favourite books, M. Minnaert’s Light and Colour in the Open Air, and like the text in The lovely blue, it’s characteristically brimming with an infectious enthusiasm for the delights of nature, while being rather formally expressed; the lettering reflects this combination of firmness and pleasure. I’ll show it to you page by page.

This way of looking at nature – Do not depart before you have understood – reminds me of Margaret Tait’s penetrative investigating gaze, as described in her text ‘On seeing’ in Subjects and Sequences: A Margaret Tait Reader. She calls it ‘peering’ through the camera lens, a combination of studying and contemplating that allows her to see the thing more deeply, to ‘follow’ it. This in turn reminds me of Van Gogh’s opinion (in an 1888 letter to Theo) that ‘It’s not enough to have a certain dexterity. It is looking at things for a long time that ripens you and gives you a deeper understanding.’

Margaret Tait suggests further that ‘treating everything equally’ is also important – that ‘the woman standing here, and the leaf on the wall, it’s all got equal significance.’ This is another echo of Minnaert’s inspiring philosophy. Some obedient close observation of birch trees against the February sky this year proved that it’s absolutely true about the ‘delicate glow’ – a pleasure to look forward too, but not just yet.

The Summer hath her joyes,

And Winter her delights.

(Thomas Campian)

Perhaps I should repeat the first line of that couplet.

2 Responses to “Store of happiness”

  1. shmooz Says:

    Margaret Tait- I love this little book from one paper, so spare and elegant. I have tried to fold paper, and almost have it. Any possibility of more detailed folding instructions? Thank you. Lauren


    • You’ll find a lot more detailed information on the bookworks page, with photos of the folding and tearing process. As a starting point you could try folding a test sheet of A4 into a 6-page book by following these steps: set the sheet of paper portrait orientation, and fold in half across, then fold each half in half again, giving 3 horizontal fold-lines and four horizontal quarters. Then turn the sheet to landscape orientation so that the 3 fold-lines are vertical, then fold it into thirds across. To judge this by eye easily, fold the bottom third upwards first, aligning the vertical lines, until the amount folded equals the amount remaining in the top third. Then you can fold the top third down into the new fold line.

      Now you have a sheet with a grid of fold lines, 3 vertical and 2 horizontal, making 12 squares. Now number each square, starting top left with 1, progressing clockwise round the spiral until you reach 11 and 12 in the middle.

      Next mark a pencil-line on the fold-line between squares 1/2/3 and 10/11/12, then between 12 and 5, then between 11/12 and 8/7. If you tear along this line you have marked, you will be able to fold the sheet into a little book of 6 double pages: 1/2, 3/4, 5/6, 7/8, 9/10, 11/12, with a front and back cover, ready for setting the text.

      It works best if you fold firmly, pressing each fold line as you go, and tear the paper along a ruler or straight edge for a clean tear.
      Best of luck! Liz


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