Insecta – the starting history of a small book

I sold a handmade book to a gentleman in the States. I posted it last weekend and presumably it is now floating, or flying, somewhere between here and America. I miss it slightly as I miss all my carefully crafted works. It was also a difficult piece to create. Why, you might ask, did I make by hand a book about insects? Because they are great is the answer. Yet it didn’t start as a book about insects.

It started with me making a simple accordion style book with handmade paper. I’d made a lot of books before but not many with handmade paper. Once made I had no idea what to put in it. I mean that’s the thing with making books, once you’ve made them something needs to go in them.

I took it around with me as a sketchbook, but it didn’t really work as that, it felt like a book that needed a purpose. I tried it as a snake like sculpture, but that wasn’t very interesting. Then a friend asked me to do a reading of a folk spell at one of her art exhibitions. I needed somewhere to write the spell down where it would be easy for me to read in dim light. At a loss as to what to put in this book I decided to write the spell in that. It looked old and kind of magical so it seemed appropriate.

It worked well for the performance but afterwards the book just sat again, without purpose. It didn’t seem to want the spell, the spell was empty and didn’t belong. The book came with me from grotti little art studio to grotti little art studio like a faithful pet but nothing seemed to suit its pages.

Then I ended up visiting the natural history museum every Thursday evening after hours to draw insects. It was great! Such delicate beautiful creatures.

I hallucinate insects a lot. It’s part of the rare brain disease I have. It’s not that I have overdosed or taken too much of anything. I think it’s just something that is easy to hallucinate. Tiny creatures crawling across the floor, the table, the bed, up my arms. Lots of them. The initial reaction is “Yuk” with a very slight panic , but then I usually realise it is just a hallucination and will go if I don’t panic. Panicking is the worst thing, then they will crawl over me and I will start scratching. But my hallucinated insects never look as fascinating as real insects. Real insects can have a movement to them that reminds me of old stop-motion animation, and there colours can be incredible. Even the humble dug beetle (the name says it all) has a bright purple underbelly) I could tell you stories about the dung beetle, but not now, maybe later.

So I covered each page of the book with fine semi-see-through Japanese print paper, meaning bits of the original spell can be seen underneath, and drew real life insects, sketched at the natural history museum, on top.

For insects help the cycle of life continue. Although I don’t want them crawling up me or floating in my soup (real or imaginary), they are amazing and fascinating and necessary.

So is there significance to a witches spell in a handmade book covered in pictures of insects? This thought crawls across my brain in search of a purpose.

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