On the covers of my December – January sketchbook are sketches of the Haller Lake Baptist Church and one of the ladies making delectable chocolates at Fran’s Chocolates. You can see that the first signature is made of black paper containing my sketch of the Christmas ship at Ballard Locks and a few others. I didn’t fill the signature, so I have a few blank pages in there, too.
Jan. 23 was National Handwriting Day, and I had intended to say something about it but didn’t have a story in mind. I’m a week late, but I finally thought of a relevant hook. I’ve mentioned previously that I use bits of torn-up letters, school work and other old papers with handwriting on them as the collage background for my sketchbook covers. In this close-up below, you can see the Japanese writing of a letter my uncle had written to my mother years ago.
|The Japanese writing in the background is a letter my uncle|
wrote to my mother.
She had saved everything, especially handwritten letters, and I found all of it when I cleaned out my parents’ house after she died. I was left with this dilemma: Store it all for the next several decades, just as she had? I didn’t want that burden; it turns out that I had inherited her penchant for saving handwritten letters, so I had my own stash of stuff to store. And yet I didn’t have the heart to throw it all out, either.
I eventually made a body of work of collages incorporating old handwritten papers (the artist statement is on my website), so that took care of my dilemma. I could get rid of the stash (hers and my own), but the handwritten papers would be reused in a creative way. I now use the same process for the sketchbook covers.
So here’s the “secret” about the covers: After I had moved out on my own, my mom had written me many letters, and I store them all in a box separate from the rest of the stash. Sometimes when I miss her, I randomly pick one from the box to read. She was also famous for sending out very brief postcards even to local friends – almost like texting! – when she had only a bit of information to convey, because she didn’t like making phone calls. I have a number of postcards like this also, containing nothing more than a confirmation of an appointment or an address I had asked for.
|Above the sketch is a fragment of a postcard from my mom.|
Although anything with her handwriting feels precious to me, these brief, perfunctory postcards seem more dispensable than actual letters. Lately I’ve been scanning their contents and then tearing them up for use only in my sketchbook cover collages – one piece per cover (close-up at left). I like the thought of a tiny piece of my mom’s handwriting being a part of each sketchbook. A pragmatic woman, she would have applauded my reuse of the paper.