Wow. I’m actually done with this project. It’s been a part of my life since starting on it in 2014. I can hardly believe it’s really been that long!
Let us begin with a brief summary from the publisher’s website, FoolscapPress.com/books. There are still copies available at the time of this writing.
The Story of the Fisherman is part of a much larger collection of folklore and literature popularly known as the Arabian Nights or The One Thousand and One Nights. The stories originated from ancient Persian, Indian, Egyptian and Mesopotamian sources collected over hundreds of years during the Islamic Golden Age, that is, from the eighth to the thirteenth centuries. These stories reflect the enormous, highly civilized Islamic world that existed at the time. And it was a time when a traveler could wander through an extensive portion of the known world speaking Arabic, studying and praying in mosques, and being a stranger yet sharing a familiar culture.
For this edition, illustrator Brian Bowes (brianbowesillustration.com) has transformed the narration into a panorama of imposing images setting before the reader a visual extravagance of place and time and character. Once printed, the illustrations are hand colored in a French method called pochoir where paint is applied with a brush through cut-out stencils. This edition of The Story of the Fisherman has evolved both as a story of words and, at the same time, a story told in graphic art form. Due to the accordion nature of the binding, the book can be opened to display the story in images and the reader will discover visual connections between the linked illustrations.
The Story of the Fisherman is published in an edition limited to 117 numbered copies and is signed by the artist Brian Bowes. The book is 80 pages with 18 illustrations including the illustrated title page and measures 9 7/8 tall x 8 5/16 wide and is printed on Lettra from Crane & Co. and hand bound at the press. The Story of the Fisherman is taken from the Arabian Nights and is translated by Edward William Lane (1801-1876). The price is $775.
What follows are some of my reflections as this chapter of my work comes to a close.
My first thoughts after finishing my part in this project center around the satisfaction that was gifted to me while working on it. Now, I’m talking here about the satisfaction of a job as well done and not a hubristic sense of satisfaction. Although I’ve certainly been guilty of that at other times. It is remarkable that through out the process there were little to no egos involved, not even mine. Rather, the focus and effort was on the story and project. Along with this feeling of creative satisfcation was an abiding sense of respect for the craftsmanship involved in the work of Foolscap Press, and for Peggy and Larry as people. It was such a pleasurable experience.
There were so many moments, big and small that come to mind. For example, one evening Peggy, Larry, Mark (who is another printer and the fella who laser cut the pochoir templates) and I were having dinner together. I remember looking around at their hands. Weird, I know, but there I was. I remember looking at Peggy’s hands and thinking “those are the hands of bookmaker,” then looking at Larry’s hands, “those are the hands of a printer. Working my way around the table, looking at Mark’s hands I thought, “those are printer’s hands.” Then I looked at my own hands, almost for the first time it felt like, and thinking “these are the hands of an illustrator.” It’s hard to state the effect that that had and has on me. It was like an acknowledgment to myself of the work that I was doing and of my dreams coming true. Sometimes I still look at my hands in wonder.
As a result of the nature of our relationship and the uniqueness of the project, I was provided an opportunity to give my fullest expression of my abilities, such as they were at that point in time. Being given the time and space necessary to do one’s best work is a rare and special treat for any crafts-person! It’s worth stating here that this sense of personal satisfaction is always a moving target. Your best becomes better, and your aspirations continue to grow with you. What was your best a year ago is not what your aspirations are going to be next year! But for me, at that time and in that place, that was literally 100% of my effort. What a gift!
This book has been collected by Universities and can be found in private libraries the world over. In a charming twist of fate, the book was already in the SCAD library when I came for my interview to work here as a professor. I made more than a little hay out of that fact during the interview process! One of my biggest points of pride is that a copy of The Story of the Fisherman was purchased by the U.S. Library of Congress, Rare and Special Collections.
That is not the sort of dream that one can plan for, or is it? It reminds me of the story of and interaction that I had as student at CCAC with my teacher Owen Smith. We were in the hallway and he offhandedly asked me about what I wanted to do with my work. I earnestly answered that, “I want my work to last 100 years.” I want to clarify that what I mean was that I want to create well-made illustrations that can stand the test of time. Who would’ve thought that dream could come true?
Growing up, my family gave me an appreciation for things that were well-engineered, well-made, and for handmade crafts. My parents and grandparents would make things all the time. My grandparents were making things because that was just how things were done back in the day. However, the care and intelligence that they exhibited in how they solved problems and made these items is something that I’ve inherited from them. Right now in our home, we still have wooden candle holders and napkin rings made by my grandfather. Upstairs there are quilts and a literally priceless set of Winnie the Pooh characters made by my grandmother. She purchased the patterns from the UK and sewed them with care and craft that has lasted my entire lifetime. Recently my wife and I became parents, and I hope to pass these heirlooms as well as this book on to our sweet baby boy, and that he may in turn pass them on to his family.
The Story of the Fisherman’s success isn’t measured in purely the terms of a commodity, although the money earned has certainly helped. To me the real value of this project is measured in the kindness and generosity that was shown to me, in the good luck to have met Peggy and Larry. This book continues to be like a golden key that unlocks doors that were previously invisible to me.
As this project is cleared away from my studio, I’m left to wonder if there might be another opportunity around the corner waiting to greet me? Now that I’ve had this magical experience with The Story of the Fisherman, with working with Peggy and Larry, of watching how this project has bloomed, I have been given this gift of a positive structure and methodology with which to approach new relationships. After all, it is the people and our relationships with them that are at the heart of every project.
Thank you for visiting!
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