Form + Function
Notes On Creative Process
I wrote an essay about the years the dog and I spent driving back and forth across the country and called it Vanishing Point: A Mobius Atlas because there was never an end; we just kept going on this endless loop. Even after the piece appeared in McSweeney’s, I still kept imagining it in the form of a handmade accordion that fastens into an actual möbius strip, the form echoing the essay’s elliptical content.
Relying on Scotch tape, refrigerator magnets, and Kinko’s coupons, I jury-rigged the essay into book form.
The biggest challenge was figuring out how to layout and print it so the story could read in perpetuity without the reader having to flip it over and I wanted the reader to be able to lift the tab and begin reading on either side of the the accordion. There had to be no Wrong Way to do it.
For the first version, I used a tab and a slit to secure the loop. The problem was that the paper tab got pretty beat up.
Next I made a version secured by magnets.
I think that magnets work if I can find very flat, strong magnets and a good print shop.
I had the first version printed at various print shops—and none could get the front and back of the paper to properly align; the front and back panels really have to line up. I added the black strips on the edges hoping it would make for a little wiggle room, but it didn’t solve the problem. I’m going to keep the black edges though as they suggest the blacktop of the road.
The best printing alignment I could get was actually at home on my shitty inkjet printer. I used a heavier paper stock, which can bear the weight of the magnets—but it’s so thick the accordion gets really bulky and unwieldy. I want the presentation to be as tidy as a book, but so far nothing has allowed it to lay flat.
The thicker accordion happened to fit perfectly in an eyeglass box I had sitting around, so I tried inlaying a magnet on the bottom of the box and securing one end of the strip on top of it. I’d hoped that the magnet inlaid in the opening tab would be heavy enough to weigh down the volume but it wasn’t.
So far the best I’ve come up with is belting the volume so that it’s contained—but still easy to pick up and access.
The next step is finding a place that can print it better than I can.