Such a gift: 24 years with WeatherGrrrl

One of Sue's cool art books
One of Sue’s cool art books

…a commodity has value and a gift does not. A gift has worth. – Lewis Hyde

Tomorrow (24 June) marks the 24th anniversary of our marriage!

There are so many things I’m grateful for, and no way to enumerate them or document them here, so I’ll settle for an example.

Among her many “strangely inventive” artistic talents, Sue makes books. Wonderful, handmade books, where she cuts and folds all the paper, sews together the signatures, builds the cover, and glues it all together. Some of these are displayed in galleries, while others (such as the one pictured here) are notebooks or journals filled with blank pages inviting us to share our thoughts in word or sketch.

For the past several years, Sue has made such journals as high school graduation gifts for our and, more substantially, Tom’s friends in that year’s graduating class. As he moves on to college, the numbers are beginning to contract, but over the years she’s made many dozens of these books, often for people we didn’t actually know terribly well. That’s a lot of work, constructing by hand an object whose future is far from certain. She is, after all, making blank books, in an age where the future of books is at best unclear, an age where most are far more likely to send a text message or post on a blog [I’M LOOKING AT ME!] than to write a letter or keep a journal on paper.

Thus these are, in the true sense that Hyde means in the opening quote, gifts. As handcrafted pieces of art, they have clear worth, but their value (and how they are valued by the recipients) is quite uncertain.

Yet she keeps making them. In a flurry of activity every May between the end of the University school year and the high school graduation she cuts and folds and glues and frets. She picks out different papers to use as covers, and has Tom give her feedback on which covers would make the most sense for which graduate. She increases the worth of the world (if not its value) through these gifts, each of which is in fact a multiple gift. It is obviously a gift to the graduate, but this effort is also a gift to our son, and a thank-you to the families of these students who have been important to him.

And, to the point of all this, these are also a gift to me. For while each of these books is made by her and is officially a gift from Thomas, her work enriches us all and the glow it casts as it goes out into the world reflects back on our whole family even if it was her hands that did all the sewing.

So I say “Thank You”, for this and the untold gifts large and small that she has shared with me. It has been a truly splendid 24 years together, and I look forward to many more decades to come!

With all my love,

     – Nic

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More cool art from WeatherGrrrl

A collection of photos of the pieces that WeatherGrrrl is submitting to this year’s UMM Annual Juried Student Art Exhibition.

My wonderful wife blogs even less often than me(!), but with good reason: She’s making some super cool art. Part of this weekend was spent taking photos of her work. She’s preparing her submissions to the UMM Annual Juried Student Art Exhibition, and needed photos for the submissions.

3 photos of Sue's handmade book, "30 days of November"
30 days of November

A lot of her work these days is sculpture, but she is submitting one art book: “30 days of November”. The pages are all “tea sheets”, one from each day in November, 2008. For 2.5 years she’s been documenting every time she’s had a cuppa in a variety of ways, one of which is tipping out the leaves onto a 4×3 inch sheet of paper, which then leaves a stain. The “front” side of each page is the “stain” side, and she then embellished the backs in a number of different ways.

I’ve taken some other photos of the process (10.10am, The aftermath, and Pekoe), and it’s really cool to see a book made out of these. The “triptych” above is what she’s actually submitted for consideration. The shot below didn’t end up in the submission shot, but I liked the way the light worked so I posted it on Flickr anyway.

Photo of Sue's handmade book "30 days of November"
Archeology (Layers of time)
Photo of lost wax aluminum sculture
Solid as (h)air

The other pieces she’s submitting are all metal sculpture, three in aluminum, and one in bronze. One of the cool things about the one to the right is that the top part is made using hair. Sue’s been collecting her hair for quite a while, and she finds that it naturally balls up in interesting ways. Here she’s packed a ball of hair in damp sand and poured in molten aluminum to capture the texture.

The other aluminum pieces were made by carving polystyrene foam, which the molten aluminum replaces. The bronze piece at the bottom was made using a silica mold, and then treated in all kinds of crazy ways to get a patina she was happy with.

Photo of lost wax aluminum sculpture: "Mother and child"
Mother and child
Photo of lost wax aluminum sculpture: "Polar bear"
Polar bear
Photo of bronze sculpture: "Jousting"

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