for Bruce Hall at Paperback Library was to do a new cover for
a previously published book which they wanted to reissue. They
wanted it to be dimensional. This was the story of an early settler
in Vermont who made or grew most everything he needed to run his
farm and home. He told in detail how he did these things.
the story for a few days I did some pencil sketches and finally
settled on three. I always try to look ahead to be sure Iíll know
how to construct the finish and not get trapped into corners I
canít escape from. In the end, the editors chose the toughest
one. It never fails.
In all three
sketches the largest item would be an actual object which I already
possesed. They felt the trunk and the ox yoke offered less than
the box. This was a blow because all the props would have to be
hand-made. I decided the assemblage would be held in an old bread
tray which, I had happily acquired some time before. Since the
idea was to have the assemblage take up the whole cover, the tray
had to be cut down to scale exactly to the cover size. I always
find scaling a difficult task. And since this had to be right
on the button I figured it out on paper first then made a pattern
as a double check. It had to be cut down on two sides.
with changing it was that the corners were rabbited. I felt it
was necessary to preserve that even though it wouldnít show in
the finish. I did this by cutting through the rabbited pieces
and then adding those pieces back to the finished tray after I
had reconstructed it.
were made from slats from an old lobster trap which had weathered
from many years in the salt air. Wood like this has a feel and
patina that can only be gotten from time and weather. It took
two lengths of slats to make one shelf so they also were pegged
together and the cuts were hidden. The slats were warped and out
of square so most had to be planed and have square ends cut. They
were installed in the box by pegging from the two sides and back.
I prefer the pegging system to nails with older wood as it avoids
splitting and sometimes the force needed to drive in a nail can
be disasterous. I set up the type area by covering a board with
off-white burlap and then glued on a rope border.
Then I made
the individual objects and gathered the memorabilia. These included
some old labels, photos, clippings from an old catalog and a slab
of real Vermont slate. Everything was then fixed with Elmerís
I used balsa
wood for the objects as I usually do when thereís no load to carry.
Its easy working advantages are obvious. They were all cut out
with a coping saw and rough sanded until the basic shapes were
right. I then worked on each piece until it was finished.
When the hand
work is done to your satisfaction you have one more very important
control and that is the photographer. This is where you ďpaintĒ
it with light and shadow and where you enrich it or just settle
for a bright snapshot.
stage I canít wait to get to.
- Gerald McConnell for a book on "artist turned craftsman"
and titled Illustration in theThird
Dimension for the Society of Illustrators in 1978.