Aimee Lee, “Peculiar & Commonplace”

Aimee Lee
Cleveland, Ohio

Peculiar & Commonplace
pen, pencil, and inkjet printing on hanji, handmade papers, thread, manipulated papers and materials (including but not limited to natural dye, beeswax, ink, suminagashi, woven and knitted paper, ribbon, and fabric)
Open: 56″ x 8″; Closed 20 x 8 x 3″

Artist Statement

About Peculiar & Commonplace

This book combs through observations from various people’s lives—anonymous to protect privacy—and pairs these stories with quotations from books and media that I have read or consumed for almost 15 years. These quotes are included in the spirit of commonplace books and reflect my lifelong practices of compiling inspiration, organization, and filing.

A mostly silent but omnipresent narrative accompanies the text through drawings and objects. Aside from obvious illustration, they mimic an instruction manual on how to create and sew paper garment, which appears at the end of the book. This dress is constructed from discarded prints that accumulated in the making of the book. These tip-ins balance the tension and anxiety of the stories. The sewing scraps attempt to be neutral, a safe location for the reader to place their own biographies.

Further info:

A year or two prior to finally constructing this book, I saw an auction image of a book with a real dress sewn into it, folded to fit within the pages, with instructions on the verso with smaller examples of sewing. I was captivated by this simple way to synthesize my previously distinct work of making paper dresses and making paper books. I was drawn to the idea of instructions and manuals because so many people ask me for ‘how-to’ books without understanding how difficult they are to make. But making a pretend instructional manual would be much more fun, and probably even more instructive.

Since 2003, I have made and used a system of notetaking while reading, to help me hold onto the most compelling quotes. For this book, I went through all of my files to pull the appropriate quotes for the array of stories I wanted to highlight. It felt the same as making and compiling all of the physical materials I needed to tip in: bits of thread, ribbon, tape, paper, and so on.

The specific becomes the universal, and what we think is so peculiar in our lives is replicated around the world countless times. We feel so apart from others and anxious, and this book was a way to reconcile some of those feelings while combining so many things I love to do, like drawing, writing, and making books and dresses. The edition is variable, including the paper for the pages, which vary throughout the edition.