Joyce agreed to meet with me for a chat. I wanted to see her studio, and she explained that although she converted her son's bedroom in her home in Camarillo for herself, she did all her artwork in her beach house. We met there late morning in a glorious Saturday. The impeccable house sits on the sands of "the safest beach in the world," with the all-purpose room open to the ocean through floor-to-ceiling glass front.
We sat looking out toward the beach while she told me how the book group had begun when she and Jill Littlewood attended a book binding workshop together. Jill spoke of wanting to organize something locally for people interested in the topic. Later the two of them met with Patrice Baldwin, and Book Arts Connection was born. Joyce admires the true artist in Jill, loose and creative; she admires the craft and knowledge of Patrice as a book binder. This admiration for opposite qualities is mirrored in other areas as well: The two book artists she'd most like to learn from are Dominic Riley (highly structured classicist purist interested in historical bindings) and Kitty Maryatt (generous, noncritical, creative teacher at Scrips College.)
Joyce reflects these conflicting tendencies in herself quite clearly, and with a great deal of self-awareness. She describes herself as "a literal person" most comfortable with order and the concrete. But she is determined to learn how to allow herself to "think out of the box" and be more playful. Her work reflects her struggle quite nicely.
She showed me three excruciatingly beautiful tomes of millimeter binding that she accomplished during a seven-day workshop in San Francisco with Dominic Riley. This binding was developed in Scandinavia after the second World War when supplies were few and expensive.
A millimeter of leader on the edges of the covers explains the name.
Decorative edges were found only on the top of the book block to present the user with a pleasant visual array as the book was taken off the shelf. In the past I had seen another volume she binded using papyrus. The single beautiful book required three days to finish. Joyce is at home with the exacting craft of perfectionist book binding.
I asked her about a metal book in progress she had shown at one of the meetings. Joyce identified that work as one her attempts to think out of the box and it intimidates her, so it is still unfinished. I think it is beautiful. It consists of copper panels with a transparent inner face. The panels, connected with twisted copper wire, are open at the top. In each panel will be inserted an envelope containing pictures and words about people and times in her life. Each envelope has a pull-out device made of cord and an object related to the content of the envelope. There is a necklace of copper wire and other objects of personal significance. Joyce pointed out that, even in this loose structure, the inserts are quite tightly organized in linear arrangements of clear images. She wants to finish it soon, but wants to have time to dedicate exclusively to this project because she expects it will be very involved and consuming.
She showed me another example of her work that describes well her search for diversity within herself. In a workshop the teacher provided an unformed box as the beginning theme. Joyce chose to do the box, and filled it with mementos lose within it. She calls it Artist Launch Box, referring what she believes are necessary elements for art: Tools, brain, help, heart, knowledge, soul, spirit, willingness to take risks, playfulness, magic, and ideas. The contrast within Joyce is seen in this fun, longing introspection exercise.
Joyce can draw from her unusual experiences quite poignantly. One of her recent works is an homage to her mother as a living being after being surprised by the news of her death. They had not seen each other since 1952. Joyce found among her things envelops of pictures that revealed a person with a life without her daughter. Joyce's choice of using her art as a processing, cathartic tool resulted in peaceful resolution of highly charged emotions. It appears to me that she is much more willing to take risks than she recognizes. Red is her favorite color; her mother's book is accented in green.
We also talked of Book Arts Connection. At the beginning of our time together Joyce expressed her desire for the group to be more structured, with dues and a newsletter to increase commitment by the members. She would like to see an agenda for monthly meetings for at least a year, with support and learning being the primary purpose of the meetings. As the interview progressed, I asked her to work on some project while I observed. She sat at a big glass-topped table in front of HER ocean and began collaging on journal pages. Joyce told me it was unusual for her to work in silence, since she is often surrounded by members of her family or friends, and she talks non-stop while working. From her collection she selected images and words. She made two pages that did not satisfy her, explaining she did not feel the state usually associated with wanting to create. I asked her if it would be all right if we interacted on one of the pages, and she agreed. We took turns adding elements. When we thought is was done we agreed it was quite good, developing into something related to women, restricted freedom waiting to escape, and perhaps even art. Frida Kahlo emerged for us. As we continued talking, Joyce said she wished that Book Arts Connection would include sessions to do what we had done: To meet without a structure, to make art together, to interact as artists and grow.
In just a couple of hours she allowed me to see her conflict as a person and an artist. Her candor belies her self description as "literal," and her movement from structure to loose interaction suggests a free spirit on the verge of taking flight. I hope she will continue valuing her ease with perfection as she continues exploring the messy, joyous side of taking risks.