I came to writing in a roundabout fashion. I was a musician who turned to bookbinding as a way to satisfy a desire to work more physically with my hands. I thought of writing as convenient filler material for the books I wanted to create, but the joke was on me because I got hooked. Not only did I discover I enjoyed writing, I realized that my interest in books is largely about language to begin with, specifically the ability to co-opt the language and format of the book for my own creative work.
Words and language have become the central focus of the creative work I do. I am interested in words as entities and objects, perhaps even living organisms, existing at the intersection of sound and sight, further complicated by layers of meaning. The rich, messy, wonderful disaster that is language is the playground in which I create my work.
I think of the book itself as an integral part of the writing I do. The way words look on the page and how one page turns to the next are as important to me as the choice of words themselves. Taking advantage of my skills as a bookbinder and printer, I consider a book’s structure, design, and even production method in the process of writing. The book is a macrostructure of punctuation.
Words have multiple meanings. Meanings have multiple words. I think of wordblocks as a single-word stand-in to express multiple meanings, or an ambiguity of meanings. I use them in my writing all the time, and often generate them as a warm-up exercise before I write.
- Write a word.
- Make a list of other words that are related to this word, in meaning or in spelling.
- Combine these words into one wordblock sharing letters. (See pictures for example)
- Keep rearranging, adding, or subtracting words until you have a wordblock you like aesthetically both visually, and linguistically. A wordblock rarely looks great on the first try. Wordblocks have vast potential both handwritten, and typeset either digitally or with moveable letterpress type.
- Your wordblock can stand alone as a one-word poem, or be placed in a sentence. Try stringing multiple word blocks together. The result is a sentence that provides multiple ways to navigate it.
Click on the image thumbnails below for some examples:
Woody Leslie is a multidisciplinary artist, writer, and bookmaker who builds large homes for tiny ideas. Born and raised in Northern Vermont, he has gone on to live and work in many locations nationwide and abroad. In 2008 he founded One Page Productions, a small artist book press through which he has published a multitude of writing, comics, artist’s books, and more, including his own Courier’s Text Atlas of the United States of America (2013), Understanding Molecular Typography by H.F. Henderson (2015), and his forthcoming book Parsely, slated to arrive this Spring.
In addition to producing books through One Page Productions, and now his new imprint, Large Home Tiny Idea, Woody has worked at Ugly Duckling Presse in Brooklyn, the Journal of Artists’ Books in Chicago, and the Governor’s Institute on the Arts in Vermont. He is currently a graduate student at Columbia College Chicago’s Book & Paper MFA program. More at woodyleslie.com.