2017 Focus Gallery: Holly Walker


Holly Walker

The word abecedarian refers to the alphabet. The abecedarian is an ancient poetic form guided by alphabetical order. Abecedarian poems are word games for children. An abecedarium is something arranged alphabetically.

In this exhibit, I have envisioned my abecedarium as a conversation. I’ve displayed the plates as a story with a light, playful banter that drifts off into tangents, and then returns to a point at the end. I’ve used one letter of the alphabet as a design starting point for each plate; some remain obvious, some become completely obscured. I scrutinized the letters for clues. What is each letter’s signature? What movement does it suggest, what color calls out, how can it be manipulated into pleasing designs? By enlarging the vowel plates and simplifying their colors, then condensing the consonant plates and enriching them with vibrant color, the wall conveys a spicy rhythmic meter.

Other pieces in the exhibit have more recognizable letters. The ‘F’ handles become linear shadows on the inside of the bowl. Childhood troublemakers ‘b’ and ‘d’ co-exist in harmony. A wall platter sports an alphabet primer. Yellowy ‘Y’s’ provide a branching structure for a checkerboard.

When I began researching the idea of creating an abecedarium, I was fortunate to come across Edward R. Tufte’s books: The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Visual Explanations, Envisioning Information, and Beautiful Evidence. These four beautiful books are about the graphical display of data. Although they aren’t alphabet oriented, they are packed with extraordinary charts of visual thinking, content and design.

The alphabet is one of the ever-present parts of life, like birds and the stars. Letters are our gateways to language. My interest in letters and the alphabet stem, in part, from remembering my difficulties with dyslexia as a child. I find it satisfying to create an alphabet on my own terms, filled with lively color and playfulness.

This project is supported in part by the Frog Hollow Vermont Craft Association Artisan Grant Program. 

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