You Can’t See The Forest … Part One

Since I have been enjoying the autumn leaves, it seems an appropriate time to write about You Can’t See The Forest… an altered book/installation piece that was, at least in part, inspired by leaves. I thought I would write about the work in two posts: this week, the leaves.

The leaves started with a scanned image of some autumn cottonwood leaves

and a discarded copy of the Webster’s New Students Dictionary.

I wanted a more generic shape than the cottonwood’s triangular form, so I altered the images in Illustrator, creating these three leaves.

From these I produced cutting patterns in three sizes and cut leaves from all the definition pages of the dictionary. I could only get one of the largest shapes per page (half a finished leaf), but a single page was enough for four of the smallest ones.

I have done a lot of cutting by hand, but for a repetitive project like this (765 leaves altogether, so 1,530 parts), it seemed wiser to use available technology! Even using my Craft ROBO Pro the cutting still took the better part of a week.

Next I made the stems. I started by cutting fine florist’s wire to length, then bent one end to form the slightly wider base. I cut triangular strips of paper from the offcuts of the dictionary pages, brushed them with paste, and twisted them around the wires. (I can here you muttering “She’s mad!”)

Next I pasted pairs of leaf cutouts together with a stem centred between. Here are the parts laid out with the leaf shapes wrong side up, ready for pasting.

Making the stems had been moderately boring, but sufficiently mindless to permit me to  look out the kitchen window, or just let my mind wander. Assembling the leaves was more difficult. I wanted them to be distinct individuals, each one slightly different in the way that each fallen leaf  is shaped differently. A range of influences —from original location on the tree to what the weather was like as it grew to where and when it fell— all affect a fallen leaf’s final form.

It is challenging to make 765 leaves with no two alike.

I had to concentrate quite hard to make each leaf different. My hands just wanted to do the same things over and over again. If I had let that happen, the leaves would not have all been identical but they would have been a lot alike. It didn’t quite qualify as a learning experience, so I didn’t hate it, but it felt a lot more like work than making the stems had.

Here are the first few leaves completed

and a peek at some in the installation.

You will have to come back next Sunday to read the rest, including a bit about the why as well as the how.

About Byopia Press

I have been working in the book arts field for more than twenty years, and operating Byopia Press with my husband David since the late 1990s. I began producing artist's books and altered books in 2004.
This entry was posted in altered books, art, installation and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to You Can’t See The Forest … Part One

  1. dinahmow says:

    You’ve just pushed my flashback button…making a “flower for Mummy on Mothers’ Day.Mummy will be so pleased!” After that disaster, I never made another flower for almost 20 years! I’m looking forward to part 2.


    • Byopia Press says:

      I don’t think I ever did that kind of project as a child: perhaps that’s why I do them now?! The stems weren’t as fiddley as you might expect. If the paper ripped while I was twisting and wrapping (and it did), I just slopped on more paste and smoothed things down. The trickiest part with the leaves was making sure the two parts matched. I put paste on both halves so that they stretched equally which made fitting them together properly easier. Since the parts were cut by a machine, there was a high level of accuracy. I did have quite wrinkly finger tips for a while from my hands being continually covered in paste. ; ]


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