I made my first ‘artist book’ when I was about 6 years old. I had become deaf when I was about 4 or 5. It happened in summer and my birthday is in the summer so was I still 4 years old when it happened, or had I turned 5? At any rate the world became silent. This was not a problem for me. It was just my normal life before I got my first set of hearing aids. I lived with my grandmother and life was good. Except for the brief times when I was taken to visit my biological parents. During the weekends at their house an angry yelling adult frequently appeared in my field of vision shouting “BE QUIET!”
This was a mystery to me. What did the phrase “be quiet” mean? I had already learned to read, write and draw. I already knew that the public library was a place full of wonderful magical books full of mysterious things that other people knew. Books were how people collected and kept what they learned and how they made it available for kids like me to see! (Wow!) So after a few weekends of two adults taking turns shouting “BE QUIET” I began my investigation.
I gathered several sheets of paper together and stapled them along one edge. I began to record, mostly in drawings, what I had just been doing when the “BE QUIET” message was delivered at the top of grownup lungs. Between these weekends I went with my grandmother to the library. There I asked a librarian how I would find out what the phrase “be quiet” meant and how someone did that ‘be quiet’ thing.
I don’t recall the exact encounter with the librarian, I mostly remember having a lot of trouble explaining what exactly it was that I wanted to learn. I remember eventually being introduced to the Dictionary and other books containing information about ears, hearing and sound. I wrote and drew, in fat-first-grade pencil, everything I learned into my stapled handmade book. When I was done, and back at home with grandmother again, I created a yellow colored construction paper cover for my book, glued one edge of the construction paper to the staples and titled it, in red crayon, “The Be Quietness Book”.
Long story short I had created my first entry into what, as an adult, I’ve learned is a genre within the Book Arts world: “Books that help you think about and make sense of your experience in the world”
And I’ve been making artist books ever since. You can see some of them on my artist book page here: https://sueclancy.com/artist-books/