The boy has known the sea for as long as he can remember. He grows up on its shores and learns its ancient cliffs by heart. No matter the time that passes or the ways in which the landscape around him changes, he always returns.

Memories of the Sea is the central piece of my thesis work. Featuring imagery from the coastal region of the Cap Fréhel in France, this artist book is a story about place and what it means to “be from,” a tale about childhood wonder, eroding seascapes, and family.

Le Bord de L'eau is one of several flat companion pieces to Memories of the Sea. Together with Memories, they constitute a larger body of work titled Between the Sandstone and the Heather. In between careful rounds of editing and drafts of book design, I felt a need to pursue my investigation of what it means to “be from” in a more organic fashion. Inherent to this focus of my work is the sense of tension I feel in my own cultural liminality. In Le Bord de L'eau, contrasting surfaces enhance the images and information in each other.

Liberation Chewing-gum is a small piece I created while reflecting on the impact of memory on the experience of place and belonging. During a recent research trip back to France, my grandmother shared with me stories of her childhood spent in German-occupied Brittany during World War II. To this day, she vividly remembers the arrival of American soldiers in her village, and the gum and cigarettes they brought with them. 

Sur la Côte de Penthièvre continues the expansion of work undertaken in Memories. Similarly to my work in the artist book, I draw upon images from the landscape of the Cap Fréhel region for the cotton blowouts. The tension between the soft, hazy cotton of the blowout shapes and the high-shrinkage abaca fiber on which they are couched echoes the mechanics of memory and recall. The contrasting fibers of dense cotton enhance the translucence of the abaca to emphasize a sense of in-betweenness.

My practice in the book arts is heavily shaped by my relationship to materials and the notion that knowledge and craftsmanship have had to be transmitted between generations for me to make my work today. The thread with which I’ve bound the standard edition of Memories exemplifies this influence: it is from a remaining stock of sewing threads used by my great-grandfather in his slipper-making factory some 70 to 100 years ago—which my grandmother carefully collected and kept after he closed his business.

Other images in this gallery document the hand-painted image-making process I employ in Memories of the Sea, the curation of the book’s color palette, the many iterations of binding models I’ve accumulated over last few months of work on the project, gilding trials for Sur la Côte de Penthièvre and, of course, the box in which I’ve been keeping all of these parts.

Memories of the Sea is printed from metal Monotype Centaur and photopolymer relief on Somerset paper and weld-dyed abaca paper made by the artist. The image plates are developed from hand-painted negatives. It is printed in an edition of 20 and bound in a sewn board structure using decades-old French-made cotton sewing thread. The book measures 11.33” by 7” and counts 74 pages. Each copy is presented in its own fitted clamshell enclosure.

A deluxe edition of 5 copies is printed on Sakamoto lightweight paper and bound in a simplified binding structure.

Written, designed, printed, and bound between 2019 and 2020, a long way from the Cap Fréhel in Iowa City, Iowa, by Suzanne Glémot of Stoat and Heather Press.