In preparation for their 2013 Annual Open House and Silent Auction, the Morgan Conservatory presented participants with two sheets of paper made at the Morgan and asked them to create a piece of art to be auctioned off during the event. Mary Uthuppuru was given one sheet of charcoal grey and the other of bright white.
Mary found inspiration from the recent drop Pluto experienced from its rank as a planet and the heated discussions that followed. As the sole character in this artist book, Mary personifies the now dwarf planet in the form of a letter, where Pluto freely express himself after hearing this news of rejection. You can read more about Mary’s process in her blog post, Poor Pluto.
And Then There Were Eight is bound as an accordion with a removable spine piece, when fully opened the viewer can experience the vast and expanding qualities of outer space. The covers are most appropriately wrapped in beautiful handmade Moon Paper from Hook Pottery Paper. The paper appears to be a 3-dimensional print of the moon, but it is actually smooth (like paper). The interior pages were given an airbrush look by using a mouth atomizer and drawing inks.
I really enjoyed reading about your thought process behind this book. Not only did you find inspiration in a literary influence, but also in your own sense of humor. The application of pigment really captures the atmosphere and depth of space. Can you talk about the challenges and benefits to using a mouth atomizer?
The mouth atomizer was a really fun thing to use. I actually had it for over ten years before I discovered its use during this project. It looks a lot like a compass, but without the pencil. One end goes into whatever liquid you are using (in the case of the Pluto book it was India ink and Winsor & Newton drawing ink) and then you blow on the other tube.
The benefit in its use is also its challenge. So long as you have the lung capacity, this tool is very simple. Blow in the horizontal tube, and the ink is sprayed from the vertical tube. The difficulty is in style. If you are trying to get consistent coverage, then you have to be consistent with the pressure behind your breath. But it is easy to get used to with a practice piece of paper. Also, beware your work space. Cover anything surrounding the piece you are working on with newsprint or other waste unless you want a speckled work space.
There is more than one way to use it too. In this book, for example, I cut stencils from transparency sheets to create the planetary bodies. This allowed for a clean, shaded shape that is much faster and reads truer than a traditional stippling stenciled technique. It is also easy to clean by running it under water then drying.
I first met Mary in Chicago for the One Book, Many Interpretations exhibit at the Chicago Public Library, where both Mary and I had work in the show. I’ll be featuring her binding of Interpreter of Maladies from that show later this month. From the beginning, I noted Mary’s impeccable skill and her exceptional eye for detail, but I can’t forget to mention her infectious personality. Her humor mixed with kindness and generosity makes her a delightful person to engage with and learn from.
Like myself, Mary, is just beginning her career in the field of bookbinding. Her ambition and creativity are inspiring, as is the interview (after the jump). Mary discusses her love for bookbinding and how she caught “the book bug”. Later in the interview, Mary talks about setting up her own home studio and how being self-employed has its ups and downs. But it’s quite clear to see that Mary tackles her obstacles with smarts and humor.
Come back each Monday during the month of January for more on Mary Uthuppuru and her work, which will bounce between bookbinding and book arts.