I became interested in making books in a very roundabout way. I was an art major in college, and I was mainly interested in painting. Eventually printmaking became my focus, and at that point I decided to round out my education with a bookmaking course. I remember entering the typography room on the first day of class with anxiety. This was always a place I had seen as foreign, a place for others. What was I getting into?
I was in for a surprise. Bookmaking opened up a new world for me. We studied the form of the book by making one-of-a-kind books with no words, pieces that dealt with the “sequential picture plane,” a term my professor Walter Hamady had coined. Two new elements entered my visual vocabulary, the third dimension and the element of time. I had always thought of the third dimension, or sculpture, as big, technical, and noisy. Now I could be sculptural with paper through the use of pop-out structures. The time element, present by the simple act of turning a page, was akin to film, only slower and controlled by the viewer. I had experimented with filmmaking in college, and it had intrigued me, but I missed the tactile sensation of working with my hands. Making these strange books with no words satisfied my desires.
Typography and the printed word were not what drew me to books. What intrigued me was the moving picture plane. I became interested in fourteenth-century Japanese scrolls. As I studied them, they revealed themselves as a moving narrative. As the scroll was unrolled different events were shown, telling a story. The artwork was not arbitrarily separated from the calligraphy and confined to a rectangle, as in Western illustrated books. Rather, word and image were seamlessly integrated. To me, it was more like the flow of time itself.
Although my earliest books contained no words, I soon introduced poetry into my work. My inspiration was fired by collaborating with poets, working off of another person’s ideas. In these books I also incorporate many media, depending on the content of the poems. As I am working on the books, which is usually over a two-year period, new ideas come up and are integrated as I go along. As a result, the final book has many layers of visual ideas supporting the text, most of which do not reveal themselves to the reader on the first pass. When I make books in this format, I want the reader to be in a continual process of discovery, as I am when making the book.
Statement courtesy of Debra Weier
Grant, New Jersey State Council on the Arts, Trenton, NJ, USA (1993, 1987)
Pyramid Atlantic Grant, Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, Washington, DC, USA (1988)
Women's Studio Workshop Grant, National Endowment for the Arts, Washington, DC, USA (1985)