Melanie Hewitt, “Grown Up’s First Alphabet”

Melanie Hewitt
Spokane Valley, WA

Grown Up’s First Alphabet
artist’s book
11.5″ x 14.5″

Artist Statement

Around the turn of the 20th century, McLaughlin Bros publishing company printed Little Pets Linen ABC. A few years ago, a friend and local artist gifted me a copy. I was inspired by the long life this little book had lived and the character that showed through its colorful linen pages. The simplicity of the colors, and the focus on the words, defined by a picture, that is so quintessential to a child’s alphabet book, spoke to me as an adult. I missed how simply the world is presented to a child. I decided to make an alphabet book, but for adults, that highlights issues and topics that we face and presents it in the same simple, unassuming way. In a child’s alphabet book we don’t question if A is for Apple because the apple is green or red, it just is. It is my opinion that because of this, anyone can benefit from messaging being presented this way. The alphabet book is a universal form.

Grown Up’s First Alphabet is meant for anyone who finds themselves on one side of an issue unable to see the other. It is for those who find themselves confused by the complexity of things in the world; and for those who maybe don’t see all the facets. The goal of the book is to view these topics honestly. Weighty and important topics to adults are presented in a manner to force perspective on the topic’s actual importance and complexity; to see them in their simplified form. It encourages us to ask whether the topic is actually as simple and universal as we claim or does it require more contemplation and awareness. Or maybe we should ask how a subject may have been overcomplicated due to a natural tendency to overcomplicate things.

Grown Up’s First Alphabet is a hand bound linen book housed in a hand constructed full leather clamshell box. The pages and cover are bound together in pamphlet form with sewn linen thread. The book was printed on linen fabric using multi-block relief techniques with Gamblin Etching inks. Images were carved into MDF board with each page requiring three wood cuts. The clamshell box is covered in full with Harmatan goatskin leather Brown #23. Both blind and gold leaf tooling techniques were used to finish the box. The trays of the box are covered in marbled paper that I created myself in a very loose Spanish wave. Grown Up’s First Alphabet was printed and bound in an edition of 15.