December 4th, 2003
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the smell of books

I’ve been into the synonym finder again. I purchased it a year ago because I was looking to expand my use of descriptive words. But what I really like about it is it’s size, there is such a sense of satisfaction in pulling out this chunky reference volume and flipping through the thin onion-like paper. I like pretending I’m doing research for a really important legal trial or I’ve found an overlooked clue to a murder mystery. Once you open it’s pages it is hard to put it down. So many variations, you can get lost in the possiblities. I like how it feels to hold a really well bound book in your hands, the smell of the ink, the ability to lie it flat, the feel of the paper. Working in bookstores for most of my life (before illustrating) I acquired a really strange skill. At one point I was able to identify a publisher by smelling a book (at that time most publishers used the same printing houses, I don’t think this is the case now). It became kind of a party trick we would do for fun in the stock room and I got pretty good at it. Kind of like wine tasting, only instead of fruit bouquets the books have smells like wood, plastic and solvent. Have you ever noticed that the smell of a favourite book becomes a perfume that soothes and energizes you at the same time? Pulp fiction has an aroma all it’s own, cheap newsprint and ink, but inticing all the same. It reminds me of the beach, sleuthing, and vampires. I quite enjoy the smell of my moleskine journals (glue and paper sizing), it’s the smell of new ideas , jotted quotes and line drawings. Or sometimes it smells of late night brainstorming and insomnia. Penguin books always smelled of time past and school. J.I. Rodales Synonym Finder smells strongly of the plastercine we used as kids. Do you have any book smell associations?
prospectus, n. 2. plan, outline, design, sketch, draft, roughout; syllabus, synopsis, digest, brief, summary.
As promised an excerpt from the show:

Random Quilt Series
As an artist I am drawn to paper as a medium because it is such a natural and overlooked part of our daily existence. We are surrounded by a variety of popular media in the form of magazines, ads, mail, newspapers, ticket stubs, flyers, etc. Most are eventually discarded or dismissed as garbage. I am compelled to take some of these elements and recreate the context by using them purely as a textural element or a spot of colour (transforming the mundane into a thing of beauty). What emerges is akin to the old fashioned method of quilting, taking used, discarded pieces of clothing, cutting them up, and arranging them into various patterns.
This quilting influence was inspired by my Grandmother who came from Newfoundland to Toronto sometime in the 1940′s. With her she brought a variety of skills including sewing, baking, rug hooking, knitting. All based in using materials that were readily available. I can recall being amazed as a child when a pair of old nylons were transformed into the brown stripe of a colourful rug. On another occasion several outgrown dresses became material for a large, colourful quilt.

anecdote: My Dad was perusing my amazon wishlist looking for gift ideas. He phoned me and asked, “Do you REALLY want Harry Potter 5 en francais, and the latest Rod Stewart?” Ack! Definitely not. It seems that my wish list was linked incorrectly and some other nasty (read: commercially motivated) list put in it’s place. I decided to inlclude the list on my site not as a way to ask for gifts but because it is a way of gaining insight into a person’s world/interests. Good thing my Dad knows my taste or I might have gotten a big shock on X-mas morning!

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