The Origin. The clam shell book was conceived during a walk on an ocean shore in March, 2011. The view: A roughly pebbled beach laced with sea lettuce and bull kelp, a scattering of pearlesque clam shells and the soft curling of storm blue waves. In my mind: the tragedy of the Japanese tsunami and the probability of toxicity in waters across the Pacific. How to negotiate the seemingly healthy waters on this side of the ocean with the nuclear tragedy in Japan was strongly riding the waves of my thoughts (and still is). To me, the ocean and the life within is a giantess mother— nurturing, powerful, healing and deeply moving. I hope to give something in return. My response is the clam shell book— an ode to the Pacific.
The Meaning. The act of sewing the broken halves of the clam shell into a book embodies a return to wholeness and relationship: two shells connected by a moving body of paper; two lands connected by the waves of the sea. I believe those who reside on the other side of the Pacific are not so distant or different from us. We really are one breathing, thinking, loving body of people who depend on the health of our waters for sustenance.
The Beholder. Like the ocean, the clam shell book adapts itself to the beholder. It shifts its storyline from person to person. For some it is a tale of love lost or a memento for the passing of a loved one. For one French storyteller it holds magic and the weaving of words. For lovers it is a gift to their beloved on their wedding day, symbolizing the joining of two paths. For writers and artists, it morphs into a small library of quotes or a gallery of pigmented compositions, and for me– a totemic vessel. I lovingly cup it in my hands, breath in its faint saltiness painting the blank pages with my mind, offering up my prayer for a future of clean, pure water.
The Process. The idea of making a book with clam shell covers came to me during a walk on the beach, and at first I dismissed it. The idea of a literal clam shell book seemed obvious to me as a bookbinder, because the similarly titled 'clam shell' box is something most binders learn to make during their training. I was sure someone else had already done it. Besides, I didn’t think I had the proper tools for drilling, and what if it didn’t turn out? So there arrived a merciless slew of nonsensical fear and doubt of my ability.
A few months later, I was invited to exhibit in a local art gallery and I needed another piece to round out my submission. Over two grueling experimental days, I took a chance and the clam shell book came to be. Slowly I picked it up, held it in my hands, and it felt alive and (gasp!) maybe even authentic!? It was part of me, yet very much part of nature.
After the gallery show concluded, I researched and didn’t find anyone else making anything like it (though surely someone has– it’s so obvious). I posted one in my shop, and it sold. That sale was followed by others, and now I spend my time in the fresh, salty air on the beach gathering the obvious.