Suzanne Vilmain, “SOMA: a Practice Book”


SOMA cover


Back cover / spine / front cover


Interior shot


Inside compact


Original page from 1880s penmanship book


Artist: Suzanne Vilmain (Santa Fe, NM)

Title: SOMA: a Practice book (2013)

Medium/technique(s): Unique bookwork, sewn over cords, leather spine. Front cover: antique marbled book board with cut inset for a compact cigarette case filled with various necessities: cigar, eyeliner, charoal, chalk, blue pastel and a newspaper clipping photo of G. O’Keeffe’s pastel case. Back cover: handmade indigo dyed paper. Interior: compilation of pages/papers — no sequence implied or required — most from other books that have been deconstructed.

Edition size: 1 in a series of 10, each unique

Number of pages: 400+

Dimensions, open: 11″ x 18″

Dimensions, closed: 11″ x 8″ x 2″


Artist statement:

The idea for this series came after making a larger series of sketchbooks.
I’m a letterpress printer and I make books.
I have been taking apart books and printing over the pages palimpsest style.
So take that practice, that sketching with a press, that markmaking with ink and pressure and letterforms — take that off the press, fold, sew bind it back into a book!
An Artists’ book with paper and ink as content practice.
Is there not poetry in the spaces between the letters?
Is there not thinking in handwriting and practice?
Is there not meditation in a blank page?

A one sentence synopsis of SOMA:

30 spokes converge on a hub
but it’s the EMPTINESS
that makes a wheel work
pots are fashioned from clay
but it’s the HOLLOW that makes a pot work
windows and doors are carved for a house
but it’s the spaces that make a house work
existence makes a thing useful
but NON-EXISTENCE makes it work.
—-    iCHING/TAO

I have been under a spell of making this Tim Ely form of sewing over cords, since last May 2012. I took a workshop with him and at the end he said: “Now go home and make 20 more!” I made 20 more, in the beginning using blank papers, but quickly adding section dividers of  letterpress and marbling. When I found an 1880s penmanship book, The Tracing Process, my resistance to the blank page was met with wanting to make a book with practice pages.

SOMA is a juxtaposition/translation of A. Huxley’s Brave New World and Doors to Perception.

I designed SOMA to seduce practice in writing longhand {italic, cursive, calligraphy}, sketching, making marks in the margins, copying, thinking, remembering and even altering consciousness.
Each section contains various blank papers sorted between book pages to suggest various influences.
I culled from over 40 different books and a variety  of paper surfaces to practice all kinds of media.

iFEAR the loss of italic
iFEAR the loss of thinking through markmaking
iFEAR the loss of books bound ……….