Cynthia Gipple, “Bells on our Boots”

Book and container.


Overview of container with leather book pull and accordion book. Mesh covered cubbies. Small hand written book and compass on top of shadow box map.


Book front and accordion book.


Cut paper layered drawing. Mountains outside car windows. Looking over the shoulders of sisters knitting and reading.


Reverse side. Wordless generation story.


Artist: Cynthia Gipple (St. Paul, MN)

Title: Bells on our Boots (2013)

Medium/technique(s): Ink, ink wash, handmade papers, cut and layered papers, wire mesh.

Edition size: 1

Number of pages: 30

Dimensions: 3.5 x 5.5 x 7.75″


Artist Statement:

Books provide structure for stories and information. Children and adults clutch books. This tells us books are precious. Thanks to cave painters, developers of the printing press and computer, we have books to clutch today. We may tell personal stories, but there is usually a universal thread woven in. I find delight in small scale book projects. The perimeter is defined and I can hold the whole in my hands. My book arts path meanders between writing, drawing and 3D construction, each interacting and impacting the other. Book arts culminating activities like critiques, competitions and showings allow the paths of book makers to cross. We see how the threads of our work bind us.

Bells on our Boots is in a series I call Close to Home. The starting point of Bells on our Boots was with my parents’ failing health. My three siblings and I were clearing out the family home. We ran across the hiking boots our mother wore when my siblings, parents and I hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. This idea grew into a memoir of family camping. My parents organized our camping trips around National and State Parks and Monuments. Besides the natural world, there was always a focus on education and history.

People are container makers from pots, purses to treasure chests and book boxes. The book container is a recall to the cubbies we used for packing clothes, tools and equipment on trips. The six cubbies, one for each member of the family, contain artifact replicas from our trips like a cooking skillet, a ball of yarn, and bells for our boots. I wove the mesh covering over the cubbies as a reminder of the netting used in tent windows. During camping trips, there were many nights I hoped the tent netting was enough to keep out scary creatures. Besides keeping creatures out, the netting let sweet mountain air in.

The accordion format for the book mimics a long and narrow hiking trail. I sewed together Bugra paper using the layers for cut out and pop up drawings.

My grandfather’s typewriter was used for the text.

Drawings are ink and ink wash. I used little color in this memoir project to give the feeling of the dim with the passage of time. On the reverse side of the accordion is a wordless trail with two bridges. It represents the span of a person’s life and specific to our family, when three generations camped together. The bridges are the dividers between the generations. I selected a green handmade paper with flecks of wood pulp as an aesthetic of the natural world for book and container covers.

The map and compass are a final dedication to my parents. They passed on compasses for location, both moral and directional.  The map is of the western United States where out family trips usually took place. South Dakota is where my parents rest.