My Climate Data Tablet is finished, and it has a different presentation than earlier tablets. Before we get to the back story and details of this design, let me explain....
Sarah Vowel recently wrote an article in the NY Times titled A University of, by and for the People. She describes Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana, a land grant college which has provided a great, affordable education to many people. One of the people she mentions is Peter Voulkas, a ceramic sculptor who I had never heard of. So I googled him, and read that he developed a kind of “Abstract Expressionist ceramics” Really? I looked up some images:
Now, maybe for those of you who didn't spend years in a ceramics studio, these aren't too impressive. Just like a lightbulb isn't impressive NOW, but back when people were still using candles, a lightbulb was incredible. Voulkas was an artist who helped take ceramics from a useful craft to a high art. By cutting and poking and manipulating the clay - by using the techniques intrinsic to the media - he created ceramic ART. He did with clay what other artists did with paint.
It's that part about using techniques intrinsic to the media that resonates with me. It got me to thinking that my tablets aren't absolutely authentic to the media. And then I remembered something I had learned long ago, about how (medieval?) African warriors had armor made of cloth. You cannot wear metal armor in the hot sun - you'll literally bake. But enough layers of cloth, sewn together, can be quite strong.
So what if, instead of wrapping cloth around sections of ceiling tiles to mount my embroidered images, I used multiple layers of tightly sewn cloth?
I was in Seattle when this idea came to me, and when I got home, I did these first experiments before I unpacked:
Sure, quilted cloth is thick, but you get ugly edges
Woven upholstery cloth has much better edges, relatively easy to hand sew through an inch of them, and YES! after enough sewing, it's strong enough to stand up!
A really cheap old gray woolen blanket is even easier to sew through, has really great edges, and yes, it stands up by itself after enough stitches.
Trying out my finally-just-finished Climate Data Tablet on the wool blanket stack. I think it works. Climate data should be on a stack of materials, not beautifully presented. Below is the Timbuktu Tablet (sibling of Climate Data):
Timbuktu is 'prettier'. Climate data is REAL. I'm going for real. On Wednesday and Friday, I'll explain the story of climate data.
PS: If you go see The Black Panther movie, you might notice how the futuristic architecture in some scenes looks a lot like the library building in this tablet.
My thanks to my brother-in-law, Steve, for pointing these out to me.
You're probably familiar with cuneiform tablets like these:
I recently read that most of these tablets are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand (funny, I always imagined them as larger). Steve told me that some cuneiform had envelopes! My first thought was... how? Well, the same way you made the tablets - with clay.
Clay tablets were usually sun dried, but not fired in a kiln. Sun-dried clay is hard, but breaks easily. So a hard tablet could be wrapped in clay, inscribed with information, allowed to harden and sent. The recipient could be sure that the internal tablet had not been read by anyone along the way.
Considering the ephemeral nature of these envelopes, how did ANY of them survive?? This next envelope (unopened?) is shaped like a hand:
Before people figured out cuneiform, they used tokens as a means of accounting:
And if you wanted to send these, you used another type of clay envelope:
So...before we had disposable paper and envelopes, people had reusable wax tablets and recyclable clay envelopes (until clay is kiln-fired, it can be wet and reused). And now we've nearly stopped using paper mail, and send information electronically. Will any of this information survive?
Hope you enjoyed the outtakes. Back on Monday with the Climate Data Tablet.
Maybe it was while researching the Scribes Tablet that I found this information on palimpsets.
Back when people had to slaughter animals and tan the hides to get something to write on, they didn't just crumple a sheet and toss it in the wastebasket. Parchment was scraped clean and reused like this:
Many times, not every trace of the old lettering could be completely removed, so often the new lettering was written in the opposite direction for greater clarity, as in the Archimedes Palimpset:
What I really love are architectural palimpsets, like this:
Architectural palimpsests occur when a building is torn down, but leaves a print on the adjacent building. You can see the placement of the stairs, the color of the rooms. Years ago, when I was teaching art to young children, I asked a class to draw maps of their homes - to show the arrangements of the rooms inside the house. One girl, from a somewhat dysfunctional family, was visibly upset and did NOT want to draw her home. I think she was afraid what it would reveal about her family (of course I discretely changed the assignment for her). But I feel that these palimpsests expose a view of hidden lives - like my Reliquary for my mother. You see things that were never meant for public view.
Sometimes, artists will add to a palimpsest:
When I found this next palimpset image, I wondered if somebody added to the remains of the old building to create a work of art....like the artists who use mending as an art form...
When I first saw the movie "Love, Actually", it was on a DVD, and I also watched the outtakes. There was a scene with Emma Thompson - a lovely little vignette. I could see how it didn't fit with the rest of the movie, but it was a touching scene. As I research my tablets, I frequently come upon information which is totally delightful, but just doesn't quite fit into a tablet. So this week, we have Tablet Outtakes.
For example, while I was gathering images for my Stained Glass Tablet, I found this image...
..which is an early example of word balloons - those floating shapes used in comics to show us what a character is saying, like in this old Calvin & Hobbes...
In the Middle Ages, those words were written into unfurling banners, called banderole...
But the use of speech balloons goes back even further, as I found when I googled "speech scroll" on Wikipedia, where I found and copied these:
Look! Sunday color comics, Medieval edition. On Wednesday, palimpsets ( a word that I am certain to misspell at least once in that blog).