When I’m in the United States (as I am now) I spend an awful lot of time dealing with basements and storage facilities. Like this one, for example:
A few of these boxes contain personal photos, yearbooks and old paperbacks, some of them contain tools and supplies that haven’t made the crossing to my home in the UK. The rest? My Big Jump Press archive. I have always found it difficult to part with the debris field that is the inevitable by-product of printing a book, especially during my time as a grad student at the University of Alabama. Each of these well-used Big Jump boxes looks something like this:
I always visit them when I come home, usually with the intention of separating the wheat from the chaff. But when I look inside, I freeze, unable to decide what should stay and what should go. In fact, I can’t bear even to think about it, so instead let’s postpone all those tough decisions and take a look at some book flotsam. Picking a box at random yields the history of this book, The Index, from 2006:
Of course I’ve got the mockups. Only a maniac would throw those away.
But these boxes are HEAVY and mockups are just the beginning. You’ll also find early notes for other skeleton projects,
notebooks full of structural plotting and planning,
xeroxes of Pantone books and notes on color choices,
newsprint sketches held together with scotch tape,
refined drawings on mohawk paper,
and even the lino blocks.
What do I save? What has value and what does not? It all takes up so much space, and these days every inch of space I take up in Delaware belongs to someone else. And it is clear to me that the moment I part with my last box, the moment my last tool or beloved and heavy art book makes the trip over the Atlantic, is likely to be the day that I move back to the US and start the whole process all over again. I’m rolling the rock up the hill, everyone. I’ll keep it all. I always keep it all.
More soon! This week I reunite with Shift-lab in North Carolina, and then to Penland School of Craft!
The special collections/archives that will hold your papers in many years will thank you. That said, start thinking about a home for your legacy NOW, a place that will provide intellectual and physical access, with a demographic that will want to use it, or at least a critical mass of related type collections.
Thanks Peter! I am keeping it allllllll. Thanks for the advice.
Instead of sweating over what to keep, you here have the opportunity to establish the Sarah H. Bryant Museum of Book Arts. The British love museums, and this would provide an exquisite special interest for them. The museum could have some rooms which display your works and that of other recognized artists. Other rooms would be dedicated to crafting machines and materials, which, from time to time, would be in operation so the public could see wondrous works of art in the making. And you would hold forth there to teach and to oversee the museum’s operation… and to count the money from admissions.
Please, do not, I repeat do NOT throw any of this away! It is so interesting to see what is involved in the making of one of your books, and not just the technical side of it, but the creative process as well. And your drawings are wonderful.
I thoroughly enjoyed your post. I have been trying to clean up my storage space and my studio these last few days and feeling guilty about wanting to keep my notes, sketches, and all the “bits” that go into the making of my projects. Now I can see how precious it all is.
Thank you very much for sharing!
Thank you! I am so glad you enjoyed this post, It is like a confessional to post photos of all of this online. Thanks so much for making this comment, it cheered me up!
Oh, gosh. Reading this makes me feel SO much better about all the stuff I decided to keep (or neglected to sort through and simply packed) in my current move. I probably wouldn’t keep it all (I have started parting with things like blocks), but I would never judge you for keeping it all, by any means. But yeah, it’s a quandary.
Thanks Laura! I’m keeping it. Blocks, plates, those are the kinds of things I really struggle with. The plates are so small, so why not. But those blocks. They’ve survived this round! I think for another book I might not care, but I loved that skeleton book, and the blocks all lay out to the shape of my body. ugh. decisions. Hope you are well!