Although the artist’s books produced by Byopia Press usually contain original images and/or text, occasionally I use material from other sources. The Elephant’s Child is one example of this.
One of the tales from Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling, The Elephant’s Child is possibly my favourite piece of short prose. It has everything a short story (or a longer one) requires: a sympathetic protagonist, character development, conflict, retribution, and a happily ever after ending.
I decided that I would do a palm leaf binding. This binding structure was not traditional in Africa where the story is set, but had the right ‘feel’ for the book. Since I don’t have access to palm leaves, I made paper and card stock which included cattail leaf fibre — a reference to the recurring mention of the Limpopo River.
Choosing to write out the text by hand, I used a personal (more easily readable) variant of uncial script. I was concerned that I would not be able to write the entire text without at least a few mistakes, so I did the lettering on regular paper, scanned it, reduced it, printed it on transparent label sheets, then cut and pasted the text onto the book pages.
I did consider doing more illustrations but because the paper itself is rather busy, I limited myself to two drawings: the elephant’s child at the beginning of the story with his “blackish, bulgy nose, as big as a boot” and the elephant’s child at the end of the story with “a really truly trunk”.
The book was completed with a hand-braided linen cord and a found elephant button. It was finding a set of elephant buttons on some cheap chopsticks that started the whole train of thought that led to the edition.