In May 2014, I published and the floor was always lava as a part of my final fulfillment of my Master in Fine Arts (MFA) degree. The other part of that project was what is known as the handmade element. This limited edition—the printed and published and the floor was always lava coupled with my handmade element, an appendix of illustrations—won University of Baltimore’s Plork Award.
Below is a gallery of photos and a collection of thoughts and reflections on the process that created the limited edition.
Click the images for an explanation and notes.
The Limited Edition contains a first-printing of the first edition of “and the floor was always lava” & the handmade “appendix of illustrations”
Two Parts | The appendix is made of two parts: a soft-cover pamphlet with 4 sets of blueprints and an accordion foldout with removable illustrations.
The Beginning | It always starts with a blank sheet of something.
The Fun Part | I wanted the pages to feel kid-like without feeling childish.
Channeling Pollock | I experimented with watercolors on large sheets, sometimes layering them on top of each other for butterfly effects.
Gravity Helped | I tried a few different “techniques,” including splashing the paper with three different colors and then lifting the page. I was surprised by the “lattice work” pattern.
Measuring & Cutting | I learned very quickly that cutting, folding the pockets, and scoring and folding the individual “pages” was not a late-night activity. The phrase measure twice, cut once comes to mind.
Folding the Packets | After I cut the large sheets down, it was important to fold the pockets (one long horizontal fold) and then the pages fold (a series of carefully measured vertical folds).
Layering Color | On a few of the sheets, I did one layer, let them dry, and tried covering with a new technique. These were interesting, but I ended up preferring the ones that were simpler.
Thanks, Cat | This was a loaner cat since there was a mouse situation in the apartment that week. I forgot how “helpful” cats can be.
The Accordion Folds | I chose to use folds over pages because I liked creating pockets to keep the illustrations the same way we pack away memories, but also because the unfolding lent itself to the themes I explored while writing the book like growing up, moving out, moving on, and investigating the self.
Color Scheme | I chose goldenrod and navy blue to complement books magenta and white cover of and the floor was always lava. This version of the primary triad felt youthful and appropriate for this project.
Carving the Stamp | I used a rubber stamp to accomplish a rough-looking image of the title for the appendix. I designed the text in InDesign and traced the printed image with a charcoal pencil. The charcoal impression easily transferred to the stamp, and I was able to carve the image. It did come out slightly cruder than I intended, but the “child-like look” worked with the content.
Title Block | Because the paper was so dark, I stamped white paint on the paper for the title in the same typeface as the main text. This created an opposite but related look to the cover of “and the floor was always lava.”
Why Blueprints? | I wanted to use the handmade element to preserve my childhood home in a bigger way than the essay, “Orange Street Blueprints” did. I wanted to memorialize it. Remember its changing layouts, take down the details so even when it’s not ours, it’ll still be mine.
Designing the Folios | Each layout showed our floor plan–the first floor and second–from a different decade. I designed the blueprints in Illustrator, printed them on vellum, and then traced the lines with a black wax pastel for a child-like feel. This is also a nod to “Writing on the Wall.” This was by far the most time-consuming piece but luckily I had a good friend to help me.
Layering the Folios | I layered the four vellum folios with the four distinct blueprints–80s, early 90s, late 90s, 2000s–and stitched them in a goldenrod softcover with a simple pamphlet stitch.
Tipping In | I then took the softcover pamphlet that contained the blueprints and glued its cover to the verso cover of the appendix cover.
The Hamper | The first removable illustration in the accordion foldout is the Hamper illustration. I used the dos-a-dos book form because it most closely mimics the physical structure that existed in the house.
The Bathroom Side | This side of the dos-a-dos illustrators the part of the cabinet that opened into the master bathroom where I used to play while my parents got ready for work.
The Laundry Room Side | I used another accordion fold to illustrate the laundry room side of the hamper where the laundry would tumble out of the cabinet when I opened it.
The Laundry Room Side | These are the completed accordion folds for the “dirty laundry” before they were tipped into the hamper dos-a-dos.
The Hamper | View of the hamper dos-a-dos from above with the “dirty clothes” foldout expanded.
Touch & Feel | These three cards illustrated a common behavior I had to touch and feel the walls or materials around me as a way of calming myself or exploring my surroundings. There’s a carpet sample, two strips of clothing (one caked with putty and caulk), and a “wallpaper” sample that I created using watercolor on paper.
Lava Stepping Stones | These stepping stones were a fun reminder of playing “the floor is lava” when they were younger. It was also a great way to upcycle paper scraps.
The Colophon | This one is what it is. I couldn’t not include a colophon, but it also couldn’t be a traditional colophon and still fit in this collection.
Attaching Text Blocks | The individual text blocks were glue to the movable illustrations with Studio Tac. It was an undertaking.
Text Blocks | I used InDesign to create the individual text blocks, printed them, and trimmed them down for the appendix.
The Back of the Accordion | This is the view of the back of the accordion fold section when it was completed.
The Front of the Accordion | This is the view of the front of the accordion fold section when it was completed, including all the removable illustrations.
From Above | This is the view of the completed, expanded appendix of illustrations from above.
I have only a few of these left. To enter to win one of them, comment, reblog, or share this post (and tag me) via social media before December 5 to be entered in a drawing to win your own copy. If you’re not into odds and risk, you can also purchase a limited edition (book included) for $25 + shipping and handling by emailing me at email@example.com If you have any questions or would like to know more about the process, please get in touch!
Things I Learned from the Process
I did a lot of sketches and mock-ups of this project, and a lot of things changed along the way which is to be expected. Below are some of the main takeaways I learned:
- Crayons and Wax Oil Pastels are not the same thing. Wax Oil Pastels are worth the $1.99
- Teflon folders are greater than bone folders
- A classmate told me I could have used an iron-on for the stamp for a cleaner final product. It also seems less-complicated.
- The splattering effect was more successful than the gravity-helped versions
- I would have started WAY earlier
A Chance to Win
I have only a few limited editions left (and the floor was always lava + an appendix of illustrations). You can enter to win your copy by commenting below, reblogging, or sharing this post (and tagging me) via Facebook or Twitter before December 5 to be entered into a drawing to win your own copy.
If you’re not into odds and risk, you can also purchase a limited edition handling by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org ($25 + shipping). But get yours, today (because they’re just about gone).
If you have any questions or would like to know more about the process, please get in touch.
Happy Thanksgiving and check back later this week for a new Translating Twenty-Five post.