Imagination Bodies Forth

Eastern repousse front cover of a one of a kind, long stitch book with calligraphic hand lettering over a printed digital montage of original collages, and an acid etched copper back cover

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Comment by Victoria Lansford on August 27, 2013 at 9:44pm

This one of a kind book took 14 months to complete. It encompasses not only my most involved Eastern repousse piece to date but also hours and hours of time to create all the collages behind the hand lettering on the inside. The calligraphic lettering itself took 2 weeks.

The copper front cover portrait is of my son, Skyler.  I snuck the photograph on which it's based when he was 11-1/2 in 2011while he was gazing out the ferry window on a trip up Puget Sound.  I first drew the portrait with Prismacolor pencils on goatskin vellum.  Before it was complete I knew that I also needed to  hammer it in metal, and that instead of being a framed piece, it needed to be something rather more intimate.

Skyler had recently become a Shakespeare fan (no one does bawdy humor like The Bard), so I began researching passages that would fit my perspective of his thoughts and dreams as he stood on the edge of childhood, looking toward his teens. My husband and I joked that Hamlet (my personal favorite) was too obvious, and The Tempest was tempting, but when I found Theseus' speech from Midsummer Nights Dream, I knew it was perfect even if I did rip it out of context just a bit.

The speech was taken from the 1600 First Folio held by the Bodleian Library with contemporary English spelling applied. The breaking of the lines into this layout was inspired by the Bard but was, alas, subject to the whims of the artist. The calligraphic lettering is a broad edged hand that began developing in 2012 and is inspired by a particular style of Arabic writing from antiquity.
The Eastern repousse process on the copper sheet front cover involves hammering 24 gauge sheet metal alternately from the front and back with specialized tools that I produce for metalsmiths.  When hammering from the back to puff the metal out I supported it with plasticine.  When hammering from the front to countersink areas or create the details of the features I supported it with pitch.  Eastern repousse dates back to the ancient Egyptians (think Tutankhamun's mask) and is a technique I've revived for contemporary use.
The images in the book block are original collages and drawings and a few NASA photos that I digitally manipulated to form a continuous thread printed on matte photo paper by Inkpress.  I used Dr. Martins India ink and a pointed nib to draw the pattern on the copper back cover then etched it with ferric chloride and patinated the etched areas to make the raised design stand out.  I wanted the back cover to be as tactile as the front yet be structurally flat so the book would open well.  I bound the book in the long stitch style with copper leaf paper on the spine.
My hope is that the collages and style of lettering create a sense of visual depth equal to that of the text and of the literal height of the Eastern repousse and that together these elements reflect the depth of my love for my son as I watch awestruck, his metamorphosis from child to teen to adult.

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