From ugly to touching: The evolution of my prototypes

I am often asked how I end up with unique solutions for my books. My answer is simple and complex at once but the secret resides in making a lot of ugly prototypes.

I make a first prototype to train my brain and hands to think seriously about the goal I am pursuing. It’s often the most silly, sad piece to come out of this experiment. The first step is always hesitant so there is no expectation but to move forward. In the image above my first try was about color and shape and it was ridiculous, Nonetheless now I was thinking of my color palette. This combination was weak but I kept the blue and white and I modified the shape. 

The second and third prototypes were about the heartbreak expressed in the poem (below). I tried a form of kintsugi. I was not too worried about the outcome or the technique. I wanted to have an idea of what it could look like. Well, I thought: “let’s toss this idea.”

What about pebbles with two different backgrounds, black and blue? Definitely not but I liked the uneven edge. It looked rough and maybe I could use it in another color. 

“Let’s change the shape”! I ventured. So I made a fun little book still with “breaking” parts. It was such a bad idea. 

Next, I explored the end of the poem and decided to go for a “pool” of water keeping the ragged border of the fourth prototype. I liked the shape. The text in gold didn’t fit with the poem and there was a lot of empty space. “What about black letters?” “What about creating some “water” in the middle since the last sentence of the poem referred to it?” But not with gold letters. 

Once I was done building my prototypes I realized I couldn’t write the entire poem on one “pool”. So I created four spaces and the water in the center was reduced with each one so the last sentence was written on a pool with very little water left. I added some texture and micro beads to smooth the transition between the water and the pool as well as creating a reference to the sand on a beach. I put some color dots that were seen on both sides. On the back I created a universe and the dots were suspended planets. 

This ties the two poems together. One expressing death as an “aimless flight” (the back) and the front for Edna St Vincent Millay’s poem of grief:

I know what my heart is like
Since your love died:
It is like a hollow ledge
Holding a little pool
Left there by the tide,
A little tepid pool,
Drying inward from the edge.

This poem is part of a bigger project called The Last Breath. 

My new book will be in San Francisco at Codex from April 10 to 13. Come visit me !!!