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Book Artist of the Month: Mary Uthuppuru

January 6, 2014 by Erin Fletcher

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Can books save the world? Can artist books raise consciousness, create awareness or change thinking? These were the questions that EcoEditions aimed to answer through a collection of artist books that could raise awareness on the state of our environment. For her submission, Mary Uthuppuru, created Destiny of Choice in a small unique edition of three. Each book is bound in the Ethopian style with a tab closure on the fore edge. The title is hand stenciled on three unique covers sourced from boxes that were headed to the recycling bin.

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The text block is made from trash entirely sourced from Mary’s house. Which is also the major influence for creating this book. Most of us assume our trash is going straight to a landfill, but we lose sight of the fact that it may not. Mary’s concern with reducing the amount of waste that comes out of her household is an attitude that more people need to obtain.

The books were sewn with dental floss (which Mary notes was unused for hygienic purposes). The illustrations and text have been inkjet printed onto packaging material. Other bits of trash including plastic bags and plastic netting were scattered throughout the text block.

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This artist book is brilliant; once again you successfully bring together humor and interactive elements. Destiny of Choice was part of EcoEditions, an exhibition at 23Sandy Gallery. Did you create this artist book specifically for the exhibition?
This book was created for the EcoEditions exhibit. It was also a part of the hoped for quarterly project with Kristin of Space Paste Press. As mentioned earlier, we hoped to create more advanced projects than the one book per month endeavor. At the time, we were both thinking of environmental themes so it sounded like a really good goal, create a book that can also be submitted to an exhibit.

I was really happy with the way the book turned out. Since I was already thinking of the theme, it was great timing. The theme asks artists to illicit change through the content of their artwork.  When trying to get people to change or realize that what they might be doing is harmful, I don’t think it is best to begin by ordering them around. I don’t listen this way, so I wanted to avoid a book full of preaching. The Choose Your Own Adventure format seemed really appropriate to me because the arrangement is playful, inviting the reader in. As a kid, I used to read choose your own adventure books all the time and I always approached them with a sense of reserve. I was choosing what would happen to the characters in the story, which hit home for me. So I wanted that same feeling to translate through this book.

A favored story-telling method of mine is to anthropomorphize sometimes unexpected objects. In this case, a plastic bag is the main character of the story and while the reader decides what happens, the bag is doing the action. The reader chooses between recycling and throwing it away then how the bag gets from the garbage can or recycling bin at home to its final destination. Many people have heard about the gyres (islands of garbage) in the middle of the ocean. We all know about landfills. It is a very contemporary concern all over the world, and one that I have on my mind daily.


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  • Visit My Bindery
    My name is Erin Fletcher and I live in Boston working as a Bookbinder.  This blog is an extension of Herringbone Bindery where I can share my inspirations with you.
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