I was hesitant to begin this book. It seemed such a difficult start! Not least because the brief included the words Jewish Educator. I know nothing about Jewish Education! I'm sure to get this wrong! Then throw me out my normal stride with a book in fabric, not leather. (Rush to V&A to swot up on textile art.) And in pink, please. Not my natural colour. Give me my natural incline, deep-breathe Victorian Gothic, black and brown. But pink! Pinkety-pinky-pink-pink!
I thought about this. I have learned a thing or two about humanity. So I started there. And this is where I've arrived.
Cloth! I looked hard for the right cloth to cover this book. At first I wanted an embroidered cloth, reminiscent of a ceremonial covering; the sort of cloth that matters, whatever the religion or ceremony, people, or custom. Cloth that is worn would be better; passed from generation on, handed through the ages; a remnant of a different time and place.
I quickly changed my mind. I found a simple plain canvas-style pink. Textured, with enough of a weave to see, but one that does not dominate. Heavy and dutiful, purposeful and functional. No baby pink, no girly pink, a practical, smooth, firm, cloth. A cloth that says, don't treasure me, but use me, handle me, pin things to me. Bring the colour of your hand from outdoors, a wound from rough handling, a memory of marks where pins have been casually used. A true background, a new beginning, but an echo too of practices and customs in a different place and time.
I wrapped it double, then double again to catch that echo of cloth used in ceremonies which move, which are required wherever you are, a cloth that encloses many objects, rolls and clips and stows away fond handling, for use in private and public moments, for memory in a telling.
And I have a straightforward design need too. The items passed to me to work with, they're intricate, three dimensional, curious. I wanted them to stand against the background. A simple frame for a complex piece.
The weight. The book shifts slightly unsteadily in my hand; the weight of the given objects, the cloth which responds not like leather is slightly novel to me. At first I tried to eliminate that mis-weight, that slight shifting clumsiness.
Then I thought again. I thought, this is perfect handling of a book, when the story is of a culture which must change in handling changing communities. A different balance of people and place will bring new independent tellings of stories; new creations. Then I sought to introduce strange weights, unusual foldings, a heavy card on a lightweight textured paper, multiple tucks and pockets for new objects. And there are pockets, oh how many? I've lost count. Put your hand this way, find a closed place. Put your hand that way, another layer to collect a paper before you move it on, elsewhere, making new balances again and, each time, a new created book.
The roughness of the edges; the textured paper. The hanging threads, I kept. And paper edges, torn. You can clip them away if you like, or neaten everything up. But the uneven edges, they're intentional. I thought about customs, beliefs, songs, music, dance, symbols, foods, memories, humour, and story of any culture. Some threads will be bound up, put in the past, and lost, thought of as archaic, things we once did. But some will hang, like a thread, waiting to be picked up again and woven somewhere else. It seems a perfect way to make a book of that: an edge that has no clear definition, but offers strands to take up and connect again.