I tend to think about the act of naming a great deal from both sides—from the place of being named and also from the place of someone doing the naming. How many times have we heard our names called out to us by someone and felt seen? What responsibility comes along with naming someone or something and forever calling it forward? As an artist, I have cause to name things frequently in my work and I find the process daunting, even though it usually finds a way of working itself out. This is the story of GLYPHS and how the naming of this project became as equally important as the work itself.
GLYPHS emerged from the marriage of two separate projects I worked on between 2018–2020. A year later it eventually became my first fabric line with Free Spirit Fabrics, but before that one project was simply a series of drawings based on the exploration of basic shapes. The other was a language project that explored how we ask questions. With the drawings, I was trying to go back to the beginning of how I thought about essential forms with respect to design and composition. And in terms of the written project, I was trying to re-discover how we communicate through questions.
After the drawings were complete, I learned that one of the last steps in producing a family of patterns for fabric, is you have to name them. Naming the patterns in GLYPHS turned out to be the most personal part of the project because this was where I began to turn the research and the questions inward. I’m sure this is common to most people who spend a huge amount of their lives reading, but I can trace my life through the books I’ve read, like a map dotted by memories of ‘when I read what book and where’. I can vividly recall the feeling of reading Beloved at 14 on a quiet bus being shuttled to a Girl Scouts overnight trip, as my best friend sat beside me sleeping. I can remember the impact of that beginning moment, of realizing the power a book could have on a life. Somehow I knew I was reading something special even if I didn’t quite have the language for it yet.
Since at the core GLYPHS was about re-imagining the beginnings of language, I tried to turn some of the questions I had been using for the drawings on myself: Who shaped my beginnings? How did I first learn about the power and possibilities of language?, etc. etc..
When I started to unravel some of those questions many people came to mind, and most of them were without a doubt black women. People like Lucille Clifton, Gwendolyn Brooks, and of course Toni Morrison, (author of Beloved), mentioned above. They were my foundation.
But the next step was trying to imagine myself as a center point and my influences rippling inward toward me from a long line of others. I wanted to think past my immediate influences and go a step further. Who were the authors that ‘my authors’ might have been influenced by? That led me to read a little deeper. From this second circle, I got to know Georgia Douglas Johnson, Jessie Redmond Fauset, and Helene Johnson. I finally read Dorothy West and finished Ann Petry’s The Street, using an old sewn bookmark still marking a page from decades ago when my grandmother first gave me her copy. For every woman I ‘found,’ there were three more that I needed to put on my ever-growing ‘to be read’ list. It was a gift to be in the midst of these women’s work.
GLYPHS was ultimately named after 16 African American women writers, playwrights and poets, who are all deceased but who paved the way for my education in language, then and now. Below are the authors and their respective patterns:
Top Row (L-R): Helene Johnson (1906-1995), Nella Larsen (1891-1964), Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965), Jessie Redmon Fauset (1882-1961), Ann Petry (1908-1997), Toni Morrison (1931-2019), Alice Dunbar Nelson (1875-1935) and Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000).
Bottom Row (L–R): Georgia Douglas Johnson (1880-1966), Dorothy West (1907-1998), Audre Lorde (1934-1992), Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960), Octavia Butler (1947-2006), Maya Angelou (1928-2014), Lucille Clifton (1936-2010) and Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784).
Through this project of reading, drawing, and naming, I am also learning that the beauty of naming has so much to do with the ability to be heard, out loud. It is remembrance in sound as much as it is on paper. I don’t know if I had a conscious understanding of that last part, the beauty of someone having to say the name of an author as a way to discuss the fabric, purchase it, etc… but it has been a beautiful result. Someone gets to call out Jessie or Audre or Ann again and again. I like the idea of each spoken moment being another chance for these remarkable women to be remembered, read, and loved. Naming, as a way to love people and keep them alive; naming, as a way to remember.
e bond makes digital spaces by day, handmade books by night, hangs out with trees on weekends and writes something close to poems in the spaces between. Under the studio name roughdrAftbooks—created in 2003—she makes one-of-a-kind artists books, printed pieces and drawings that merge and blur the boundaries of art, craft, design and poetry. Explore e’s Creativebug classes here.