Artist Book – Family Photos

art, bookmaking, embroidery, Prints, work in progress

One year ago today, I defended my honors thesis–a series of handmade artist books that included text, embroidery, collage, and printmaking. The underlying theme was one of interpersonal relationships.

The pivotal book in the series was both the first one I started and the last one to be completed–Family Photos, a series of embroidered outlines of figures that I had plucked from my collection of antique photographs.


Family Photos, page spread

Here’s the official statement for the piece, from the written portion of my thesis:

This series is a study of context, exploring the idea of familial relationships by combining portraits and allowing viewers to form their own assumptions about the people portrayed. They have been reduced to simple outlines, removing them from the original context, and placed together. Seeing them side by side, we instinctively create connections where there are none.

The images were taken from old photographs spanning the 1930’s-1950’s–photos that were plucked from dumpsters, purchased from thrift shops, and rescued from discarded family photo albums. The driving idea behind the piece was that these photos are in no way connected–they didn’t come from the same source or the same people, and the people they show have no connection to one another whatsoever. Yet there they are, all together in a cardboard box in a thrift store, combined as though they belong that way. If the same photos were arranged in an album we’d automatically assume they were related–but what do we base that assumption on? The fact that they’re cataloged together in a single album–which does, in a way, force a connection between the images. The human brain seeks to make connections even when there aren’t connections to make.

Embroidery on Arches BFK rag paper. 11 pages, stab stitch binding. App. 6”x8”.

Unfortunately, though I was really pleased with the book’s content, the binding absolutely sucked. I won’t even show a picture of it here, because seriously you guys, it was terrible.

So, post-graduation, I decided that it would be fitting to reboot this piece with a new, better, editioned series. I’ve been working on re-sewing the images, printing a letterpress introduction and colophon, and getting fabric ready to cover the cover boards.

Photo May 09, 8 52 30 PM

The printed bits are my first solo letterpress project–not perfect by any means, but that rough not-quite-perfect aesthetic sort of works for me.

Photo May 09, 8 52 16 PM

They aren’t nearly ready yet, but since I’ve been working on them for several months already I figured I should share. The letterpress parts are completely finished, but the sewing takes forever and a half. I have a purple folder that I’ve been carrying with me everywhere, full of thread and half-sewn page spreads, and it’s a wonder that they’re not completely destroyed from riding around in my backpack for weeks on end.

Photo May 10, 6 22 17 PM

Page spread in progress.

I’m hoping to finish the covers next week, so expect updates to come.

leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s