Book Art

More Books to Fill

A few summers ago I read Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. The title completely caught my attention, and I searched out the book – this was before it was a NY Times best seller and could be found just everywhere.  I loved the book, and  casually began following Ariely’s work.  This past winter I checked out his website and read that he puts together art shows at Duke University, which are responses to his work. I submitted a proposal for his current project. My piece is currently on exhibition, along with works by more than 30 other artists.

Here’s part of the press release:

PoorQuality: Inequality

June 1, 2012 – August 31, 2012

Open to the public Monday – Friday 10 AM – 3 PM

Opening reception: June 22, 2012 from 6 – 10 PM

Thirty-four artists were invited to create innovative and engaging artwork after a stimulating discussion on social and economic inequality, wealth distribution, and what is so taxing about taxation.

Books to Fill

 So, here’s how it went. Ariely gave a talk, which I was able to view on-line. He discussed the research he was doing around exploring economic inequalities and people’s response to inequality. At least that’s what I think he was talking about…there were so many interesting thoughts being put forth at once that I had a hard time isolating the central theme.

I had just a few days to come up with a proposal..maybe it was more than a few days, but I had a bad cold, and the proposal was due on my daughter’s sixteenth birthday, so it felt like I had a scarce amount of time to process. But that was probably just as well.

My thinking about what to submit was guided by the fact that I am one of those people who deeply believes that a strong education  profoundly resonates for the good, and has the power to narrow the chasm of inequality that exists between people and societies.  Recently, as a gesture to support education,  I had gifted blank, handmade books to a young man, James, who is teaching for the Peace Corps in a South African village. I felt good about this gift, and decided that, for Ariely’s show I would make more books to send to more students. My thought was to give them to students locally, not so locally, and to students who are not at all local. My hope was (and still is) to donate the books to at least four sets of students in different parts of the world.

Two of Four Spaces for Books

I also made a large accordion which could be set up in many ways, though, ideally, it is meant to create  four spaces (symbolizing East , West, North and South) for the books to occupy. The symbolically interesting part of this structure is that if the books are evenly distributed and tucked neatly into the four spaces, the whole structure is strong: each pile of books supports both the accordion, as well as the piles of the other books. If the books are randomly placed, as in the first photo of this post, or even orderly placed but not supporting each other, like the photo below….

…still the structure is not strong.

I had hoped to know who I would be giving the books to before the books  went out to be displayed. I still don’t know who all the recipients will be. Of the four people I contacted only two responded positively, the other two did not respond at all. So I am still am looking for two more teachers of young children who will be willing to accept a pile of books for their students to fill.

These books  have a combination of graph paper, lined paper, and blank paper. They have pockets on the front and back covers, and measure about 5 1/2″ x 5 1/2″.

I thought that it was interesting that not everyone I offered these books to jumped at the opportunity. It occurred to me, then that it is this is part of  the inequality in the world: it’s not so obvious what to give, where to give it, and who will want it.

15 thoughts on “More Books to Fill

  1. I would be pleased to let my students use your books for their writing if you want to donate them to a teacher. We will send you pictures in the fall term (Sept. – Oct.) to show you how we’ve used them.


    1. Hi Tammy,
      I was actullay thinking of offering some to you. What grade do you teach? The show at Duke comes down in the Fall, so I would be sending the books out sometime in early October. I will be in touch with you more about this.
      Thanks for your note.


  2. I passed this on to two other teachers, so maybe one of them will write to you. Could you tell me how you made the covers? They appear to have a fold in them from the photo. Thanks


    1. I’m glad you found it, Sue. I designed the V-pocket cover while I was playing around with a batch of wall paper samples that I was trying to find a use for. Its a fairly easy structure to do, and surprisingly sturdy, especially if stiff paper is slipped in to the cover.


      1. I have the directions typed up, so will send it as an attachment. It’s made from a 12″ square piece of paper and hjas 6 pockets, 2 on each side and 2 at the sides. After seeing some of yours, I was thinking about attaching a couple together, or putting a signature in the center of it.


  3. Hi, Paula. Nice post; nice news. Center for Advanced Hindsight. That is amusing — spot on. I am glad you were able to be part of latest exhibit. Congratulations. Just learned that Ariely was formerly of MIT MediaLab. C


    1. Hi Sue,
      I’m sure that I would like anything you’d like to send about origami-type booklets…my email contact in embedded in my”About” page, but I’d probably actually see it sooner if you left it as part of a message here.

      Thanks for thinking about me!


      1. I just read your about page. The first bookbinding class I took was with Susan Joy Share when she came to our city, apparently I was pretty lucky to have experienced that. Then I worked with a local artist who has since retired to Hawaii and was raised and trained in Germany, Linde (forgot) , who does “ordinary” as well as sculptural books, and now I”m a “groupie” of Margo Klass who splits her time between here and Maine.


  4. Hi! Thanks so much for your nice comment on my blog. I LOVE these books. I teach Kindergarten and would be very interesting in having my kids write in these books- they are truly something else!

    Megan @


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