by Timothy C. Ely
I had only been back from England for less than a year when I moved to New York. Interior Voice is a book about dreams and consciousness and intuition, and I was anxious to see what my thoughts about those ideas would look like if diagramed.
I cannot recall how to diagram a sentence, but it would be easy to rekindle that. For other ideas on diagramming, I had a book found in London which proved to be invaluable to me. It was called DIAGRAM. In this book of operational language, ideas and processes were shown broken down like a flow chart, which is a diagram. I became fascinated by how I might describe some of the notions of interest into, not only a diagram which would help me to understand a thing but how I could also merge it into a formal drawing so that it supported the visual architecture and was sort of an encoded illumination. Like how proteins break down when cooked or how vodka releases flavors from tomatoes that are not soluble in water or how bookbinding methods, like various sewing methods, could not only be explained but with a diagram, any engineering flaws might become visible. These are naturally two dimensional.
In a workshop once with Stephan Grossman, he diagrammed “Hot Dogs,” a Gary Davis tune. All that was missing was a listening and if you followed the diagram, you would get it. It was here I learned not only how to read tablature but saw the value of working out diagrams for oneself.
It’s clear to me that I had been moved by bindings seen in England that were dark and moody and in Interior Voice I was after the beginnings of a ceramic, tea bowl surface that I would explore for decades. This book is the first book I made in New York, on a card table while I slowly set up my studio. The book was full leather with plaster and marble squares inlaid lightly into the surface making up the grid. The second NYC book comes closer to the mark of a full non-leather book utilizing this Raku intense surface of Japanese ceramics that was so interesting to me. In all this, I wished for my books to begin to transcend one craft and fuse into another.
I was beginning to explore my own structural voice in the book as I was working to refine or define ideas from my bookbinding teachers. We were all grounded in the Victorian mentality and I wanted a larger set of working references and more flexibility of form. It would take a few more bindings to come to that place.
Interior Voice places the deckle of the paper on the top edge of the book. I liked that for a time and made two other books in that format but finally settled on all edges trimmed as the paper deckle ultimately made for problems with precision. The binding utilizes many of the properties of the full English techniques and those gradually gave way to my own ministrations and technical changes. I love the robustness of the traditional techniques yet those would give way to forms allowing for greater exhibition properties.
The thoughts we have, the voices in our heads and how they derive from experience — how does one diagram ideas about language and mystery? I have always liked how my own interior voicings are so often absolutely correct in what I should do and so when consulting the oracle, I never ask a question as a sentence but hold the yarrow sticks and feel the spacetime around the question and sense it into dancing with the problem or conditions being tested. It is said that the King Wen sequence of the I Ching totally expressed its growth through intuition and not from any other source.
Timothy C. Ely 2020
Drawn with ink and watercolor on Arches buff paper with braille and collage. Full-leather binding with inlaid marble and plaster squares and other details. Housed in a clamshell box.