This is not your typical graphic novel. It comes in a big box, and contains fourteen different segments in different formats -- broadsheet, accordion fold, newspaper, pamphlet, Golden Book, and so on. There's no particular order to read them in, just pick one up and start in on Ware's tale of life and loneliness, told in his clear, neat, evocative illustrations.
The work centers around a nameless, one-legged woman struggling with depression, but it's not as bleak as it sounds. Ware is no sadist, delighting in making his characters suffer; instead he is deeply understanding of them. Building Stories is about life, and the way one copes with everyday disappointments and expectations. By almost every standard, the protagonist has a good life, and she acknowledges it (certainly in hindsight and sometimes in the present), but it doesn't make her struggles and doubts any less sincere or painful.
Several sections of the work have been published elsewhere, including in the New York Times Magazine, which is where I first encountered Ware and his endearing protagonist. That portion focused on the apartment building the woman lived in for a time, and aptly demonstrated different kinds of loneliness -- the young woman, convinced she would never get married and have children; a married couple unable to break out of their vicious, petty, squabbling cycle, and the elderly landlady with no one in her life other than an aide, thinking over the choices (and non-choices) she made long ago. Ware's art and writing is like a sharp needle to the heart, so skilled he is at capturing the feelings so many of us experience at one point or another.
The segment ends with a flash forward to the protagonist, now married and with a child, marveling over her past loneliness (not really a spoiler, given the nature of the work). It seems like a happy ending, but it isn't, really, because the other segments, about other areas of her life, show that the loneliness and sense of loss never really go away. In this sense Building Stories reminded me of Our Tragic Universe; it is a story-less story, with no real ending or beginning, no neat resolutions or dramatic revelations. This is not a happy, cheerful work, but it is a profoundly human one.
Ok, a caveat -- the images are not great, because as I said I borrowed a friend's camera and it took me a while to figure out the settings. Also, getting them onto my computer took some doing, so the resolution is not great. But the quilts are fabulous, so that helps.
I think "Euphoria" by Marilyn Badger was my favorite:
I loved the combo of orange (but a really pretty, interesting orange!) with teal, and the gorgeous, ornate pattern. The quilting, too, was phenomenal, because she used contrasting quilting that added more ornate detail (the photos really don't do justice to the lushness of the embellishment):
I also really liked Ann Horton's "Life Everlasting":
I think the skulls were machine embroidered; unfortunately, her blurb about the quilt did not go into a lot of detail about her techniques.
Nancy S. Breland's "Twinkling Stars" is like my doily quilt, but a lot more impressive with the giant doily perfectly placed and the thousands of beads:
Ever since the Folk Art Museum's Infinite Variety show, red and white quilts have been super popular, and the quilt show had a whole section of them. The stand-out by far was Toby Gluckstern's "Metamorphosis," based on Escher's famous woodcut:
The detail is incredible. The fish's eyes, for example, go from well-defined beads and sequins to embroidered asterisks to tiny french knots, as the fish lose their form.
On Saturday I had the lovely treat of heading to the quilt show with friends; I provided them with a car, and they provided me with an excuse to do something I had not done in years. The quilts on display were absolutely gorgeous, and quite varied in technique, style, topic, material, pretty much every variable imaginable. I forgot my camera, of course, so borrowed a friend's, and when I get the pictures sorted I'll post my favorites.
In the meantime, I can show off what bought (I told myself to avoid fabric and books, which I can get easily in lots of places). From an incredible booth devoted to all sorts of vintage and vintage-y trim (whose card I forgot to get):
Buttons, a button stack thingie that might possibly be bakelite (I'll have to test it) and which I will make into a ring, shapes cut from antique quilts, two pairs of doohickeys I will make into earrings, and trim that looks like a measuring tape.
These gorgeous beads which will make a fabulous necklace, possibly strung and knotted onto a shimmery ribbon.
From a delightful wool booth:
Some awesomepatterns ("My Wool Crazy Year" April and October) and a piece of wool fabric I could not resist.
From another trim booth:
The main focus of this booth was providing white trim and the fancy paints and colors to dye it. I'm not really into that aspect of fiber arts, however, so I'll either leave these trims as-is or dye them with something simple like tea or watered-down acrylics.