September 25th

After doing a little research and taking a trip to the library, here is my current project-inspired reading list:

1) Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox
2) I Could Tell You Stories: Sojourns in the Land of Memory by Patricia Hampl
3) Aging with Grace: The Nun Study by David Snowden
4) The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks
5) Art and the Performance of Memory edited by Richard Candida-Smith
6) Making Memory Matter by Lisa Saltzman
7) Open 7: (No) Memory

I also researched places in the area to contact for volunteers:

1) Ann Arbor Senior Center
2) Ypsilanti Senior Center
(the rest are either retirement or assisted-living communities)
3) American House
4) Brookhaven Manor
5) Glacier Hills
6) Hillside Terrace
7) Lexington Club
8) Lurie Terrace
9) Sanctuary at St. Joe's
10) University Commons
11) University Senior Living

I decided to stay away from anything related to the U-M Health System and also pick places that seemed like they would have central offices or notice boards - this way I can provide a form-type letter that explains my project and ask for those interested in participating to contact me.

September 24th


Kara Walker is known for her room-size black cut-paper silhouettes that depict very confrontational images related to race, gender, sexuality, violence and identity in the pre-war south. She began working with cut-paper silhouettes in 1993 as a graduate student at RISD.

The history of paper-cut portraits dates back to late 16th century in France. Beginning in the 1700s, silhouette-cutting became an art form in the US because of its popularity among the aristocracy and haute bourgeoisie. But by the mid-1800s, “shadow portraits” were deemed a craft for "good ladies" rather than an art form. During the early 20th-century, silhouettes gained favor as sentimental keepsakes and souvenirs at fairs. Kara wrote “I was really searching for a format to sort of encapsulate, to simplify complicated things...And some of it spoke to me as: ‘it's a medium...historically, it's a craft...and it's very middle-class.’

While I am not specifically interested in just silhouettes, I relate to Kara’s words. I knew that the medium of cut-paper was, until more recently, considered a more archaic craft and I think that is part of what draws me to it. I like the thought of working with a people’s stories in a very modest, very handmade type of material and creating “fine art” from something that is more typically considered a craft. I also like the historical aspect of papercutting – it is a practice commonly found in the histories of various cultures all over the world.

Kara Walker describes her work as both visual and literary. Her storytelling is influenced by literature like southern romance novels, historical fiction, slave narratives, and contemporary novels and some texts are directly referenced in her pieces. In her pieces, Walker employs characters, setting and action to convey a story. These narratives are not always linear, however, and don’t necessarily include a clear plot line. In the Kara's words, “There is always a beginning and there’s never a conclusion.” Walker is interested in the stories we tell about ourselves, and specifically, a desire for a narrative about “African America” that engages the past, present, and future.

While our topics and themes are not related, I also hope to make my illustrations both visual and literary, by becoming a storyteller for the people I speak with. My vision for my illustrations is also not linear, but instead more collage-like with all the elements of a memory coming together for an overall picture. For me, my project has been fueled by an interest in the stories people tell about themselves and the way those stories and memories are shaped.

September 17th

What are the outside influences that lead me to this project?
How did this idea come about?

I have always been fascinated with memories, especially those of my parents and grandparents. I've been diligent in trying to preserve my own memories through photos, scrapbooks, and journals. I love seeing my friends from high school, spending hours saying "remember that one time?" and each providing our point of view on a specific event.
I also love people. I love anthropology; I love trying to understand why people do the things they do. I like knowing other people's stories. Since I often struggle with making deeply personal art, I'd much rather help someone else tell their story with my visual skills.
I want to be a graphic designer. It's what I love doing the most and I plan on getting a job at a design firm after graduation. However, aside from that, I've always had some sort of desire to be an illustrator, but my drawing skills are rather sub-par. Last year, I discovered paper cuts and realized this was a way I could illustrate without a pen or pencil. I think my previous post about paper-cuts does a good job of showing the artists who have influenced me in this medium.

I came into this year looking at it as an opportunity to do a project that I might not have done otherwise. Therefore, I decided to explore some type of illustration, instead of trying to develop a graphic design project (although I think in my style of illustration, the designer in me will still show through).

September 15th

Out of my three potential ideas for IP, the following is the one I am most passionate about doing:

I want to interview a number of people (6 to 10?) in a senior home/center/retirement community about their memories: recording the most rememberable, the most significant, the one they most want to preserve for their families, or something small and silly, maybe even mundane. I want to explore questions and themes tied to the idea of memories; what makes one memory more significant that others, how do we continually edit our memories, why do we try so hard to preserve them (journals, photographs, videos, etc)? 

I would like to interpret those memories and illustrate them with multi-layered paper cutouts, including fragments of text. I would make full size cut posters for the show, in addition to small prints that would be given back to the owners of the memories to keep and share with their families. I currently am envisioning the layers hung slightly separated to emphasize the parts that make the whole. Another possible component of the project would be a small booklet that combined the directly transcribed text of these memories with the imagery I create. I would like to eventually sell the end project (posters, prints, books, whatever) to raise money for Alzheimer’s research.

I think that because cutouts use what is absent to create an image, it is a fitting and poetic way to capture memories, which do not exist in a physical form. Through this project I want to work developing my own stylized illustrations in this medium and want to try to portray the emotions of the memory in each piece. I'm looking forward to being able to connect and communicate with others about their own lives and using my own art to help them tell their stories. Along with the gathering of the text and creation of the illustrations, I would like to continually research ideas about memories and their cultural significance and incorporate my findings into the project.

Things I Need to Work On/Think About:
- How/where can I go to find people? Research places in Ann Arbor to contact. Need to write a brief letter/explanation that would address large groups and ask for people interested in participating to contact me. Is only speaking to "elderly" people limiting? Should I talk to a larger variety of ages?
- Continue to develop a personal style and improve my technical craft with material studies and practice pieces. Am I committed to hand cutting each piece? Or should I consider laser cutting the posters? Do I have a set number of layers to each piece? What sort of color palettes am I considering? What types of paper work best?
- What is the participant meant to get out of this project? What type of document do I need to draw up in order to professionally/legally create a book with their words? Should I try and collect a variety of types of memories? Should I have prompts for the people I'm speaking to? (ie. Tell me about .. an everyday memory, childhood memory, life-changing memory, hard to talk about memory, etc).

September 7th

Paper cut-outs.

I mentioned this form of art in my list of more serious interests because aside from working on the computer, paper is my favorite medium. Put an x-acto knife in my hand and I'm a happy camper. Here are some works by my favorite paper artists that really inspire me:

His works are absolutely stunning because he creates the 3-D items from the images cut out in 2-D, relating the two realms to each other and sometimes leaving them connected.

Thomas Allen is technically a photographer, but since he composes his pictures with modified vintage pulp fiction book covers, I think he falls under the category of paper artist. I love the narratives he creates with the characters.

Yulia is another artist who does stunning pieces, I don't know how she does it. I love the vibrancy and movement she creates and the integration of the typography with the abstract swirls, as well as the texture and depth that using paper adds.

He creates these images from only a plain white piece of paper and folds, showing an incredible knowledge of line and shadow. I love the starkness of the solid white and the linear depictions of architecture.

Julene does commissioned paper cuts, mostly featuring text. I love the way she connects everything together and her distinct style of type and illustration. This is an example of my preferred way of working with paper.

While these are actually all images of prints, it's clear that Rob Ryan is also a talented paper cutter. I love how recognizably "his" every piece is and the delicacy of the suspended items. I also like the use of two layered tones and would like to experiment more with the idea of layered paper cuts myself.

Bovey Lee's papercuts are incredibly intricate and full of details, creating a refined sort of chaos. Beyond the sheer amount of amazingly fine and tiny cuts, all her pieces are done on rice paper, adding to the fragility.

I love the way she uses a repetitive cut and bright colors to create these dynamic paper sculptures. They have such a presence and explosive quality.

The art of cut paper is making a comeback as a popular medium, branching out from its traditional "craft" roots according to an article titled "Running with Scissors" in the latest issue of Print magazine.

I took a BookArts studio last semester and in several of my projects I used paper cuts, here are some images from a set of three ethnic cookbooks, each image is cut from the white paper with a layer of colored paper behind it:

September 1st

Senior year of college has finally arrived which means so has IP. I have a little journal I've been keeping fragmented thoughts and ideas in, but a blog makes including links and images so much easier. Since I love making lists ... there's no better way to start out.

Random Things I Like

Peanut butter
Salsa Dancing
Building forts
The beach
Looking at Stars
Chai lattes
Board games
Children's books
Ultimate frisbee
Trail mix and granola
Picnics and road trips
Theme parties

So that reads all right as a list of interests on Facebook ... but I think most of those things are pretty inconsequential when it comes to thinking about a thesis project.

Important Interests

Textures, patterns, vintage graphics, simplicity, nature.
Typography and illustration.
Sociocultural anthropology.
Packaging design (and graphic design in general).
Paper cut-outs.
The environment.
Poster series.
People, memories, traditions.
Cooking, food, nutrition.

Better. I could delve into these topics at a much greater length.
One thing we're supposed to do in preparation for this project is start collecting ideas and images, our own and others - I've more or less been doing this for about a year, just for my own personal benefit and here are the top ten (although there are plenty more) things I'm inspired by.

1) Frank Chimero

One of my all-time favorite designers/illustrators, partially because he successfully is both a designer and illustrator and seamlessly combines the two. I especially like his process of illustrating on the computer, but using textures and hand-drawn lines and type to keep his pieces from looking vector-y. He incorporates humor into his work and keeps everything simple. I appreciate the words of wisdom he puts on his website, like " Does it have heart? If it does, make it. If it doesn't, why spend the time on something that doesn't have spirit?"

2) The Arts & Crafts Movement (and Art Nouveau and Art Deco)

I like that this movement has a focus on handcrafting and was a collaboration of architecture, decorative arts, and furniture. I like the intricate textile and wallpaper patterns of the period, the emphasis on nature and the use of rich, earth tones - especially in William Morris's designs. I also love Gustav Stickley's furniture and Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture. (In Art Nouveau, I love Alfons Mucha's work.)

3) Charley Harper

One of my favorite illustrators, his work is so highly stylized. I love his use of geometric shapes, patterns, lines, and texture to simplify figures while maintaining an interesting and overall complex image. I also am always drawn to illustrators who work from nature.

4) Great Packaging Design

While I want to pursue graphic design in general, packaging design is something I'm particularly interested in. I especially like unique designs, packaging with bold colors and type, clear concepts and styles, and designs that are clever without being cheesy.

5) Vintage 50's, 60's, and 70's Children's Books (and mid-century design in general)

I love the combination of flat graphics with screenprint-like textures and line details. I like the relatively subdued color palettes, the variety of typography, and the simplicity, geometry and playfulness of the settings, people, animals, etc.

I especially admire the work of Paul Rand, Alain Gree, Alexander Girard, Saul Bass, Richard Erdoes, Fiep Westendorp, and more. Many of my favorite current illustrators work in a similar style to these vintage graphics (Lab Partners, Jen Corace, Jim Datz, Jenn Ski, Adrian Johnson, Tad Carpenter, Sanna Paananen, s.Britt, Richard Perez, Ward Jenkins, and more).

6) Sociocultural Anthropology

This is my minor and I’m fascinated with different cultures and why people do the things they do – specifically in regards to consumption, advertising, social relations, middle-class existence, the environment/nature, media and pop culture, public vs. private spaces, food practices, and traditions.

7) Handwritten Type

I like the originality, imperfections, and roughness that comes from handcrafting type. I like the retro or vintage feel of it and the way it can be incorporated into patterns or illustrations. Some of my favorite artists/illustrator's that create handwritten type are Darren Booth, Linzie Hunter, Jeff Canham, Sarah Watts, Jessica Hische, and Marian Bantjes.

8) The Small Stakes (and gig posters in general)

Jason Munn is the man behind poster shop, The Small Stakes. I like his use of found imagery, silhouettes and hand drawn elements. I also like the way he transforms the band’s personalities and music styles into a simple graphic form. I like the overall sense that each piece seems to have a narrative. Other excellent poster shops: Aesthetic Apparatus and Spike Press.

9) Saul Bass Movie Posters

I like the use of black, white, and often red, the use of minimalist symbols like silhouettes, and the way in which he incorporated text into the images.

10) Marimekko Fabrics
I like the repetition of large, bold patterns on these textiles as well as the frequent theme of using objects from nature and other environments.

Long enough for one entry? I think so.