Tunnel Books with Mel Anie
Have you ever seen a tunnel book? I hadn't either, so in this episode my guest Mel Anie and I set out to create one. Listen in to hear how we did.
How to Make Raspberry Jam by Mel Anie
Mel Anie's Instagram: @tumblingfumbling
Bending the glass with a tea light YouTube by Laura Quinn
Making Handmade Books: 100+ Bindings, Structures & Forms by Alisa Golden
Some of the above are affiliate links and I may earn a small commission
Photos of Tunnel Books
Thomas: My guest today is Melanie. Mel is an artist and author living in the UK. She's active in the mail art community and runs the Society of Letters. Her correspondents are from all over the globe. Mel has also published Five Foot Story House's debut book called How to Make Raspberry Jam, a lyrical journey of anguish and joy.
You may reach her on Instagram @tumblingfumbling.
Hello, Mel. Welcome to the podcast.
Mel: Hi, Thomas. Thank you so much for inviting me. I'm so excited to do this with you.
Thomas: Oh, I'm excited too. This is wonderful. Before we get started on our ideas for You and I Make a Thing, I'm curious, do you have a current art project that you're working on or something that you're excited about?
Mel: Well, I think at the moment I'm focusing on writing my big piece. That's like the core, most constant aspect of my creative practice. I've been working on something for about two years and now it's starting to take shape, but I have lots of little side projects. which a lot of those are participative.
So for example, mail art correspondence in the past has been a big part of that. Yes, like you pointed out, it's mostly international.
Whatever my project is, it's usually conversations. So at the moment there's a walking project going on. I do a lot of walking and I've started up a small online salon, but that's a really new thing. We've only done that once.
And then sometimes these side projects, they turn into bigger things, more ongoing things. And I'm also joining a poetry writing group this month. But I've never really intentionally written to a form, so I don't think I've actually properly ever written poetry, so that will be a whole challenge for me.
So yeah, those are some of the things I'm doing.
Thomas: You are busy.
Mel: How about you?
Thomas: Well, I participate in a local art collective called The B0ardside. And we hold backyard art shows with music and whatnot. But there's gonna be a local community festival here in the neighborhood called Stoke Fest. And The B0ardside are going to have a booth at that festival.
And I'm going to be leading some sort of do it yourself activity. Stoke Fest is all about surfing and the ocean and whatnot, so I'm kind of thinking of doing something with surfboards and surfers and like a little kinetic art project or something like that. So, you know, bring a bunch of materials and then invite people to build little kinetic art pieces with me.
So that's, that's what I'm focused on right now. That's coming up on November 11th. And…
Mel: I wish I was closer.
Thomas: …you know, whenever there's a date coming up, it's always sooner than you think it is.
Thomas: So, I'll be focused on that here pretty quickly.
Mel: Yeah, that sounds good. You've sent me some of the B0ardside zines in the past. They're really neat.
Thomas: Yeah, I enjoy contributing to them. Thank you for asking.
Mel: You're welcome. It's always nice to know what people are doing.
Thomas: Mel, I ask you to come up with three ideas of things that you might want to do that you've never done before, and I've done the same. How about we talk about them. Do you want to tell me what one of the things might be?
Mel: Okay, yes. So one of the things I was thinking of is making some sort of food art assemblage. So they are maybe something like a croquembouche, which is an assemblage of profiteroles.
Thomas: Right, right.
Mel: Some kind of assembled piece of decorative confectionary in the sculptural form, or some sort of dish that is given to you between courses, something that entertains and also serves as a conversation piece.
Thomas: Wow, I've never even considered making food as art. I mean, people do it all the time, I know that, but I've never thought about doing it myself. That's a wonderful idea, that's so out of left field for me.
Thomas: I'm loving it, it's like, make a croquembouche, and each little thing might be a different color or a different shape or something.
Mel: You could do so much. I mean croquembouche has been on my bucket list as such for quite a few years. I don't make food art or anything like that. I'm not a baker. I have made profiteroles many, many, many years ago. But yeah, so that's something that I really like to do.
And for me, I thought I would like to be able to finish something in a short time frame. You were talking about a month, and so I was thinking, let's see if I can come up with an idea that has a clear end point.
Yeah, so that was my first idea. What's yours?
Thomas: I was going in the direction of writing, and what I was thinking of is to create some form of kinetic poetry. Maybe something where you unfold to see the words, or you rotate something to reveal different meanings.
Or maybe even something where you're pulling on threads, like literal threads, that then do something to this, whatever it is, it's on paper or cardboard or cardstock or whatever, and you pull it and it opens up something.
This is not a very well-formed idea. All that I know is that I was thinking of like, how can we explore poetry in a kinetic form?
Mel: That sounds great.
Thomas: Yeah, so that was my first, idea.
Mel: I like that idea.
Okay, so my second idea was glass bending and writing. During lockdown, there was an artist called Laura Quinn and she basically makes art pieces using glass. But because people were in lockdown, she decided to come up with things to keep her students occupied so they could work with glass at home.
And so she basically bends the glass with a tea light. And at that time she was making a project where you made words with them. So you were writing with bent glass really. But you know, you could do all sorts of things like that. Also it's something I want to do so I bought these glass tubes, so I have some glass tubes already.
Mel: So that again is like a rough kind of starting point, it's a particular technique. But that might link to your kind of kinetic poetry.
Thomas: Actually, Mel, that's a lovely idea. I've always wanted to play with glass. And melting glass.
Thomas: But, I think we're on the same wavelength here, because my second idea is very similar. It's basically word shadows.
Thomas: I was thinking of like using some sort of cell material like the things that you get on report covers, they're transparent. But then building it into maybe a pyramid or cube or some shape, and then having words on there that then cast a shadow onto maybe other words that are on a piece of paper. I'm imagining some structure that's transparent with words on it and then as the sun shines on it, casts these words onto some other platform.
Mel: I'm making notes while you're speaking.
Thomas: I'm also trying to make mental notes because again it's not a particularly well-formed idea.
Mel: No, I'm trying to picture that, but I'm getting it.
Thomas: It’s sort of synergetic with what you're saying with bending glass to make words of some sort.
Mel: It also fits in with my first idea of making, some sort of sculpture, a tower, because the picture I've got in my head of what you're talking about, word shadows, is you would be building something like a tower of some sort.
Thomas: Yeah, yeah, it would.
Mel: Am I right? Yeah.
Thomas: It would definitely be a three dimensional object, because the light has to shine through the side, or through the wall, or whatever, and then cast a word shadow onto something else. It might be an image, or it might be another set of words, and as this shadow goes on it, it might change the meaning of what's on the surface that is being cast to.
I love this idea of words as an actor, as something animated that modifies the space around it.
Mel: Okay. But a visual word, rather than a spoken word.
Thomas: Correct. A word that you read. Yeah.
Mel: Text, I suppose.
Thomas: What's your third idea?
Mel: My third idea was a tunnel book, making a tunnel book, which is a bit like a tunnel theatre.
I think it's basically an accordion sort of thing, but then it's got different layers, and so you can look down through it, like a tunnel, you know. I suppose it's not like a pop-up book, but it's sort of similar.
And again, it's a 3D thing. It's interesting, me and you, the things we're talking about, I think every single one of them is probably 3D in some form or another.
Thomas: It is, yeah.
Mel: Yeah, so I'm saying a, a tunnel book, because I've never made one. I have, I have some books that have instructions on how to do them, and there are probably plenty of videos online on how to follow them.
Thomas: So is a tunnel book, is it something that you hold in your hand, or is it something that you look at as it's just sitting somewhere?
Mel: Well, you could do both with it, I suppose, depending on its dimensions. It would sit in your hand, yeah, it would if it was small enough. Do you want me to send you a picture of it?
Thomas: Yeah, yeah, we can do this after and send some pictures back and forth. I've never heard of a tunnel book before.
Thomas: It’s a very, very intriguing idea. I'm picturing in my mind something I saw in a museum once, where it was like a book with pages. But it was almost like Swiss cheese, you know, it's sitting there, and depending on which angle you looked at it, you saw different things, you saw people's faces, or you saw some words.
So anyway, that's sort of what came to my mind, but I will take a look and look up what tunnel book actually means.
Mel: I knew a tunnel book would just be a particular kind of structure. You could do all sorts of different things with it.
Thomas: Ah, okay.
Mel: I imagine, or you can with any kind of structural, you know, if you took a particular kind of book form or whatever, you can do so many different things with them.
If you just change the, you'll know this from all the sorts of things you do. If you just take a format and then you, modify elements of it, you end up with something different and the effects are different, aren't they?
Thomas: Mm hmm. Yeah. And is the tunnel book, is the, is the purpose of a tunnel book to tell a story, ultimately?
Mel: I don't know, to be honest. I find them visually appealing. There's probably is narrative intent with a lot of them because you've kind of built up a depth of a 3D scene, but it could also just kind of be a sort of visual experience. Because, because it's made up of lots of different layers with space in between them. So you'd get a sense of movement, you get a great sense of depth. Because you could make it as long as you wanted really, as deep and as long as you wanted.
Thomas: Right, right.
Mel: I don't know if I've actually ever seen one in its physical form. I may only have seen pictures of them. So, you know, for me, I don't even know how it folds up. I don't even think it has what you would call traditional pages that you turn, but maybe it does.
Yeah. So, that was my third idea. How about yours?
Thomas: Well, my third idea is another three-dimensional item. I call it a magnetic kinetic art. And the idea is to make a 3D art piece from paper, right? And then attach metal paper clips to the ends of things.
I'm sort of thinking, like, imagine a paper weeping willow, right? With all these branches coming down. And on the tips are these paperclips.
And then you can, like behind it or underneath it, hold a powerful magnet and as you move the magnet, the tips of the branches move because they're being influenced by the magnetism.
So, the only requirement there would be that we need to have paperclips and we need to have some sort of powerful magnet. But the structure itself is totally up to our imagination. It could be a tree, it could be an anemone, it could be, a series of people, whatever it might be.
Mel: Hmm. I might have some magnets. I don't know about powerful, but I think they're children's toys. They would probably be powerful enough to do that. I have paper clips as well. I think I have things to do every single one of these. Yep.
Thomas: Yeah, yeah. You know, this is a great set of ideas. I love it!
So let's talk about which ones we had a lot of energy around and what we might want to do. We've sort of gone down the route of three dimensionality, definitely.
Mel: Yeah. I think so too. I think we have also gone down a route of something that is like a tower or a tree. So something that has vertical height.
Thomas: I'm very, very curious about the tunnel book idea, because you mentioned that you actually haven't seen one in person.
Mel: Mm hmm.
Thomas: So how do you feel about that? Or maybe, I'm trying to think how we might combine or synthesize what we're doing with all these ideas.
Mel: Are you saying you particularly would like to explore the tunnel book?
Thomas: So what I'm thinking here is that maybe we can synthesize something with the other ideas. Maybe the tunnel book will have an aspect of transparency, you know, with the word shadows. Or maybe it'll have some aspect of food, not that it's a food item, but that it might refer to food, or might refer to something edible.
Mel: I'm not bothered about including food in the tunnel book necessarily.
If we do a tunnel book, do we need to set any more parameters? Or is doing a tunnel book sufficient, focus? You know, so for example, we're not specifying materials. We're not specifying what we want to try and do with the tunnel book. We're just going, let's each make a tunnel book and see what we do with it.
Thomas: What I'd like to do, Mel, is I'd like to confer with you back and forth, after this.
Thomas: We can do it by email, we can do it by Zoom, whatever, and just come to an agreement on what a tunnel book actually is. I think I have a pretty good idea what it is, and then we can go from there.
The one thing that I like to do with You And I Make A Thing is not to make it so open ended that we are both scratching our heads and thinking, “Oh, how do I get started with this?”
But it sounds to me like a tunnel book is fairly well defined and there are very good examples out there.
So let's do that. And the last thing I want to ask is, do we want to make it collaborative in some way? In other words, do we want to give each other a prompt as we work through this? Do we want to send each other something through the mail, which might take a long time, or do we want to send each other something by email? Or we could send like photos or whatever it might be, to make it a little bit more collaborative.
Mel: Yeah, I'm happy to include a collaborative element to it.
Thomas: Well, Mel, let's do that. Let's, let's make a tunnel book. We'll work on the logistics and we'll figure out something that we can send to each other over email.
Mel: Okay, so I can send you some photos of instructions on how to make a tunnel book. It's got some images we could use that as a starting point to understand what we could see as a tunnel book being, but we could also obviously look elsewhere to see what other kinds of things we could do with it.
So I can start with that if you want, to give you a starting point so that you can picture what I've got in my head.
Thomas: Right! That's perfect. Yeah, let's do that.
Mel: So I will send it to you and we'll decide what we think a tunnel book is, so that we are exploring a way to introduce a collaborative element to it. So that's our initial focus here, am I right?
Thomas: Yeah. Exactly. Okay, well we have our idea, Mel. This is wonderful. I'm excited.
Mel: Me too. Me too.
Thomas: The tunnel book I think it will be a perfect project for us. Thank you for that. Thank you for the suggestion.
Mel: You are welcome. It's been wonderful hearing all of your other ideas too.
In just a few moments, we'll return and hear how Mel and I did in creating our tunnel books. But before we do that, I want to play for you something quite dramatic that happened during the first recording. This is when Mel was asking me, “Oh, you want to explore the tunnel book?”
Here's what happened?
Mel: Are you saying you particularly would like to explore the tunnel book?
Thomas: (Earthquake Alert sounds) Uh oh. Uh…
Thomas: Oh. It says we have an earthquake detected. Okay. Hang on just a sec. Um, I'm not feeling anything yet. This is very interesting. I've… this is the first time I've gotten an earthquake alert.
Mel: Okay. Um, do you want to go and check something?
Thomas: I just want to pause…
Mel: Okay, I'll, I'll wait here for you.
Thomas: well, nothing's happening so far. If there was an earthquake somewhere, it's very, very far away…
Narrator Thomas: And indeed it was actually quite far away. It was about 60 miles and the earthquake was located in the Delta. And it was smaller than the initial, estimates. So that's why we didn't feel anything here in San Francisco. In any case, that's the first time that has happened to me while I was recording a podcast. So let's get back to You And I Make A Thing and see how we did with our tunnel books.
Thomas: Well, Mel, welcome back.
Mel: Hi Thomas, thank you.
Thomas: This was such a fascinating project. Tell me about how you felt doing the project.
Mel: Well, I had two things I think going on in my head. The one thing I had was about connecting to you. So, you know, like the collaborative kind of thing across the sea, across that vast distance. And I wanted to kind of connect that sense of being in a place and being across places. So I had that going on.
And then I had the, “Oh, I'm going to play with a new structure.” And I know it's going to be an exciting structure with lots of potential. And yeah, those were two different things in my head that I then tried to bring together. And you?
Thomas: You know, likewise for me, because it's such a three dimensional piece. I was excited from the start, because it's like, well, this is very different, and it's just unlike anything that, that I've ever put together.
You know, why don't we start by talking about our prompts? We gave each other some prompts for the book so that we had something to guide us.
What were your prompts?
Mel: Okay, so the prompts I gave you were, one was Kent, Mint, and Sprint. Those are the names of the three rivers that sort of feed the Kendal area. My second prompt was Mute, Cob, Pen, and Signet, because we have swans on the river.
Mel: The third prompt was Paper, Cotton, and Wool, because we had, historically there were mills, yeah?
And the fourth prompt was many bridges to cross, because we have quite a few bridges in Kendal.
Thomas: Yeah. You do.
So my prompts were, number one, in the morning, mirror calm. Number two, tidal currents, right and left. Number three, abundant life. And number four, people near, in, or on the water.
And I wrote those because when you mentioned this idea of a tunnel connecting the two of us, and in particular, the bridges and the rivers, I immediately thought of San Francisco Bay and my experiences fishing there. Because during the summer, I go fishing at least once a week on the beach in the surf there.
So those are all the sort of the things that came to mind for me for this project.
Mel: Yeah. I was focused on the river and there were two reasons for that. One was because, when I looked into the history of tunnel books, one of the first popular ones was a theater type book that promoted the bridge that went across the Thames in London.
Mel: So I was thinking about that. And then I was also looking at the Alisa Golden instructions that I was going to use to make it, and it seemed to have eight sections. And I thought, I think that Kendal has eight bridges.
Mel: Yeah, so that's what was going through my head. So then I went for a walk after we decided, yes, we're going to do this. I went for a walk and I counted the bridges that I could walk across. Yeah, there were eight.
Thomas: Oh, how wonderful.
Mel: So I was kind of thinking I could use a different prompt for each of the bridges and I would, I would have this kind of eight section book.
But then I ran into a hitch when I was making it from her instructions. I don't know if you want to talk about something else before we move into that.
Thomas: Yeah. I think before we go on, Mel, why don't we go ahead and describe our tunnel books, the best we can. Go ahead and describe your tunnel book and just give sort of a general flavor of what it looks like and what's in it.
Mel: Okay. So for my tunnel book, I just jumped in because I knew that I wanted to do something that I would be able to finish in four weeks. And I didn't want to get too carried away, and I could see that the possibilities with the tunnel book meant I would get very busy and carried away.
And I also, this was a really interesting thing. I thought, now Thomas is going to do something very probably mechanical and something that might have motion and something that might have electronics and, and so in my head I was thinking, well, let me just do something that kind of is like the sort of thing I would do. And I just jumped in and started making it to see what would happen.
And then after that, I got more ideas. So my tunnel book doesn't have eight sections, it only has four, because the instructions I was using have a photo of eight sections, but only deliver four. So, that was a bit of a challenge for me. I thought I was going mad, but turns out I wasn't.
So mine kind of uses greens and blue and it looks like a tunnel. And it runs from Kendal through to San Francisco. And it's got a cover that is made of an envelope that you sent me in the post.
Thomas: That's right.
Mel: For the listeners, Thomas and I have been corresponding just over three years I think. So I have got quite a bit of wonderful stuff from Thomas.
So I've used an envelope from Thomas. So my tunnel book basically is some of our correspondence. So it really is a kind of collaborative Kendal to San Francisco book.
And then each of the sections of the tunnel act as a slot. So I've got some of your watercolor postcards. And they slot in so you remove one and then you can see the second one.
Thomas: That’s a wonderful idea. What a beautiful idea. And you have the tunnel itself is a sort of a series smaller and smaller ovals.
Mel: Yeah, they're ovals and that oval follows a shape that is on a city street miniature card with Batman on that you sent in the post. So that shape is kind of followed through.
And then each of the different sections, there are eight different lines where I've kind of sort of made a three verse kind of poem, that draws on the eight prompts we had.
Thomas: Right. Right.
Mel: Yeah, so that's mine. And yours?
Thomas: I just want to say, on some of the envelopes that I've sent you, I've actually drawn art on the front of the envelope. And in this case, I drew a Dungeness crab, which is of course our native delicious crab here in San Francisco.
And when you pull out all the cards, you see the crab on the last oval. I think that's really really clever.
Mel: Mhm. Oh, it's such a lovely little crab, and the colors just work perfectly. So I really wanted to highlight that.
So, yeah, it turned, you know, in some ways, I didn't make the most of the structure. I didn't play too much with the structure. I mean, I added the envelopes around, so it's made a book cover, which I suppose is a bit different.
But I could have done all sorts of different things, playing with shadow and all sorts of things with the actual tunnel. But I ended up liking the color and I ended up being more interested in making sure that I sort of turned this into a tunnel book that holds our correspondence.
Thomas: I think what's so clever is that you use the envelope as a cover for the whole book. So the book folds out and you can see the tunnel book itself. But then when you put it away, you can basically fold the envelope over it and it's like a little complete folder.
Mel: Yes, well, it's also quite playful because I've made a slot in the envelope that has got other bits in. So you've got like pieces that you can drop in and out. Um, you know, like some of those children's games. Oh, what's it called? There are lots of those where you slot in a sort of Tetris-y type thing.
So the tunnel book, well for me, really lends itself to play.
Thomas: It does. It really does.
Mel: I spent a lot of time plopping things into it and letting them fall through because I didn't seal the bottom. I spent quite a bit of time just having absolute gleeful fun playing.
Thomas: Oh, I'm so glad. Yeah, I'm so glad. So for our listeners, I will absolutely be posting pictures of Mel's book and also of my book on the show notes. So you can go to youandimakeathing.com and see them there.
I'll describe my book. You mentioned having a few struggles here and there in terms of the number of pages and things.
Thomas: I sort of had the same thing as well. So I decided that I wanted to have nine pages.
Mel: Mm hmm.
Thomas: You know, odd numbers are a thing with me, so it was nine pages. And the engineer in me just sort of went wild in terms of making drawings of it and making little prototypes. And I'm glad I did because the first thing that I discovered is I was always getting the number of folds wrong, like, the number of folds incorrect.
Thomas: So my tunnel book is basically like an accordion. It has two spines. It has an accordion folds on either side.
And the one side is a printout of, Mel, you and my conversation in the first half of this podcast, so I had transcribed that and I had printed it out and I thought, well, you know, I'm gonna have like a portion of our transcript actually as the one side of the book.
And the other side of the book is… I did a digital collage of the Golden Gate Bridge and one of the big stone bridges in Kendal and and then printed that out, and that became the other accordion.
I call them spines, but they're the accordion fold sides.
Mel: They act like a spine.
Thomas: They act like a spine, exactly, right!
And then I created the tunnel pages themselves. And each tunnel page has an opening in the middle, a square opening in the middle.
And they're made of cotton paper. I wanted to incorporate the cotton that you had mentioned in actually the physical, part of it. So I was able to incorporate cotton, I was able to incorporate paper with the spines. I did not get to wool, however. There's still, it's still a possibility.
But each page is basically a watercolor drawing. On the ends, I have a watercolor drawing of the Golden Gate Bridge and the other end the Stone Bridge in Kendal.
And then I have, each page going from the Golden Gate Bridge, I have sailboats and a kayaker. I have the arched bridge that we have in the Japanese tea garden here. Then I have a paddle boarder. There are a lot of paddle boarders on the bay.
And then the next one is the yellow submarine from the Beatles. Just because I wanted something in the water. You know, with the periscopes coming out. And I just love the colors of the yellow submarine.
And then I have a drawbridge that I found online. I just sketched that and drew that. And the drawbridge is up, so the two parts of the bridge are apart.
And then I have, the swans and, a cygnet.
So those are the pages and the each page below the bridge or the kayak or whatever, I've painted it on both sides with blue and green watercolors. So they have this sort of shimmery blue green effect, which is my absolute favorite color. That's why I chose it.
Thomas: And it gives that sort of a feel of being underwater.
Thomas: And then I added some clear plastic sheets, I added a couple of them.
And what I wanted to do there is I wanted to actually paint some fish on the clear plastic, so it looks like there's actually fish in the water. And on one I tried to paint a school of anchovies and I struggled with that a little bit.
They sort of look more like neon tetras but, still, it's a neat effect when you look into the book from the top, you just see the fish just in there, hanging there. You don't even really perceive that there's a sheet of plastic there.
And then on the other end, the UK end, I drew a European eel. And I did that because, when I spent some time in Europe, in Germany, I actually fished for the eels. And we would smoke them and eat them and they were delicious. So, that's the reason I drew an eel. It's one of my one of my favorite animals, actually. They're kind of strange little beasts.
Mel: I'll have to check to see if we have eels in our rivers here. I don't know.
Thomas: So Mel, what do you think was the most difficult part of the project?
Mel: I think... The most difficult part was the structure itself. Once you do it, isn't too difficult, but sticking them on the right side of the accordion fold was a a little bit of a faff.
And I don't normally do this, but I worked backwards, so I made the structure first, then I wanted to work in it. I knew that that was not going to be a good idea and it was a terrible idea.
Thomas: Uh huh.
Mel: Because I've written, you know, lines of the poem on the different side, on each different section. But it was very difficult to do that once everything was in place.
I did this backwards, but with great enthusiasm. So I think if I did this again, I would do a different project with a tunnel book.
It's so much fun! I would definitely plan it before, because you could do so much with it, but once you've stuck it together, it's very difficult to work with.
So aside from that little fiddly bit, and following the instructions from the book where the photographic image that was in the book was not an image that matched her instructions, so that was a bit of a pain, because I thought I was misunderstanding, but I wasn't.
But then the other difficulty I think was, and this is often the difficulties, is deciding what you're going to do,
Mel: Because it had so many possibilities. Yeah, those were the two hardest things for me.
Thomas: That's always a challenge when starting something like this and that's why I'm so glad that we came up with some prompts. The prompts really guided me into having a structure to create from within.
Thomas: Yeah. you know, as far as difficulty goes, it was exactly the same as you said. It’s like once the pages are in the structure, because there's two spines, not just one spine, but two spines, there's not much you can do with it once it's in there. It's like very hard to manipulate once it's within the in the book itself.t
The other thing that struck me is… so, I did the ends first. I did the Golden Gate Bridge, and then I did the, Kendal Bridge. And then, um, I went to do the Swans. So the pages that are in the book, they all are supposed to have a window.
And when I started cutting with my X-Acto knife, I got to the point where I got to the swans, and I realized that the swans were separated. In other words, the window was broken at the top, because I visualized the way the window should work with the swans in it.
Thomas: So there was a little bit of a struggle for me to, figure out, how does the window part relate to whatever's on top.
And eventually I decided, it's actually okay if the window doesn't have the top part of the frame.
So there are several pages, like with the drawbridge, because the drawbridge is open, The frame isn't complete at the top. And then I have another one with a paddle boarder. The paddle boarder's only on one side. And so that frame isn't completed as well.
And so I discovered it's like, yeah, it's okay. You can, I can keep it open on the top. It does make it a little bit more floppy. Because a few of the pages are not a complete frame, but it's totally okay.
I ended up taking the swans and gluing them onto this plastic sheet where I painted the eel onto.
Mel: So it's interesting that you mention it being floppy, because I think I've seen that somewhere else about someone talking about a tunnel book.
But she was mentioning how, you could interpret it as being a bit, floppy. Mine is, mine's quite sturdy, but mine's also portrait, not landscape.
Thomas: Right. And then the other thing is, I made my accordions… the accordion folds are three centimeters and three centimeters. So if you actually pulled the fold out, it would be six centimeters. So it's actually quite big.
Mel: oh, big.
Thomas: So the folds themselves are not very tight.
Mel: Oh, mine are quite tight because they're probably just over a centimeter.
Thomas: Yeah. So that makes quite a difference.
Yeah, Mel, did you refer to any other resources other than, Alisa Golden's book?
Mel: No. I looked at examples online of different tunnel books and sort of the history of it. And, you know, they link very much to theatre books and everything.
I sort of got the idea of, okay, so I could see it was an accordion fold, because I'm used to making books. So in some ways, in terms of the structure, it wasn't much of a stretch for me.
Mel: There's a part of me that feels like I didn't stretch myself enough. Except, I'd never seen one and I wanted to make one.
So I was very excited about that And that's, I think, why I just kind of launched into it. But then I just started adding the cover and all of that. And it just became such a versatile structure. It's very, very exciting. I mean, the structure I've done is absolutely a kind of prototype. But I'm really happy with it.
I'm sitting here now talking to you, and I've got my fingers all over it. It's so tactile, and I just love the sides of the of the accordion, how they feel. It's just, it's a wonderful, wonderful play. It really is.
Thomas: It really is.
Mel: Did you go and look at anything else?
Thomas: I did, I looked at a few pictures just to get an idea, but I didn't want to overdo it,
Thomas: I had the instructions from the Alisa Golden book, and I said, yeah, that looks exactly, like what I might want to do.
So I didn't look too many resources. I just looked at a few and said, oh, okay, that's interesting.
Mel, was there a specific, like, “a-ha” moment for you?
Mel: I suppose there was. I mean, I knew this was going to happen, but once I stuck the pages in, I was like, oh, this is going to be very difficult to work with them now. But I knew that, yeah, so I've kind of regretted that a little bit. That was me being too enthusiastic and not wanting to redo it.
But I didn't want to redo it because there's something about it I really liked.
And often with these sorts of things, I don't prototype. I just go and I do it and I kind of go with the flow.
But the other a-ha thing was, because I was excited as well, I was impatient, I wanted to see, I wanted to see what the potential was within, you know, how easy it might be to do.
And once the pages were in, I could see, yes, it's going to… whatever you do with it, it's going to do something, you know, because of the depth and the layers. And if you cut any part of it, you're going to change the effect or what it can do.
Thomas: Right, right.
Mel: And you?
Thomas: You know, it's been a while since I have worked with watercolors, and it just reminded me of how wonderful it feels to work with watercolors.
You know, watercolors, when you're working with them, they have a mind of their own. It'll spread, the colors will merge, and then when it dries, it really dries much lighter than you think it will.
All of that, I love about watercolors. You know, like I said, the watercolors have a mind of their own, they don't obey you. And I'm fine with that, I actually enjoy that aspect of painting with watercolors. And that was very enjoyable.
Mel: I like it that, you know, I've got your postcards that I'm using. They're watercolors that you did.
Thomas: Mm hmm.
Mel: So it's nice that there's like a watercolor theme running through it. I didn't do any drawing or anything like that. I suspected that I wouldn't. I didn't want to necessarily do a narrative kind of story.
I wanted to, I wanted to play with the color and light. And in terms of another a-ha moment, once I'd got it together and realized, oh, I can slot things into it
And I dug out your, I dug out some of your bits and then I was like, okay, this is going to be a book that holds our correspondence.
Do you want me to, to read what I wrote on, on the, on the panels?
Thomas: Yes, please do.
Mel: It goes…
A day ripples, minted fresh,
Preens itself in the mirror,
Reads the paper, both sides,
Sprints right, left a little late,
Hop, skip, jump over, the tide turns.
Yeah, that's it.
Thomas: I love that. That's great.
Thomas: Mel, did you learn about anything about yourself in this process?
Mel: Yeah, (I’m) very playful and impatient. And I like 3D structural. I like it when an artist's book or something has a sculptural element to it. Yeah.
Thomas: The same but opposite, if I can say. I also am just overjoyed when I do something three dimensional like this.
And what I learned was, I need to be more like you, Mel. I need to just jump in and, do something and not be so deliberate about it. I should just, I should play.
And it was play for me. I mean, I don't want to suggest that it wasn't play, but I am enjoying your description of how you jumped into it and just went with it.
So maybe, there's some middle ground that we both of us can, can find in our future projects.
I am so overjoyed by doing this project, but also just at the thought of doing future tunnel books.
Mel: Yeah, me too. Me too. I could become very addicted to doing them. They all look completely different. Hmm. Yeah.
Thomas: There's so much possibility, I mean, there's just… it's almost like an unexplored, medium.
Mel: You know, once you kind of have made one once, you understand, because the structure's not that complicated. It's a tiny little bit fiddly. It's really not that complicated, is it?
Thomas: Right. Right.
Well, Mel, this has been wonderful. Thank you so much for, first of all, the suggestion of doing the tunnel book, and just your, your playfulness, and the joy that you brought to this, I am so delighted that we did this together.
Mel: Oh, me too. I'm so glad you invited me. It's been lovely.
It is Free