A new inspiring Moby Dick

design, inspiration

In 1996 when applying to be a VISTA volunteer in Appalachia I met my future husband and business partner Bill Kerr. Bill had just finished 10 yrs of living around the world and out of a backpack — literally he had just spent six months hiking the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine and living in a tent. He cooked me dinner in his tiny furnished studio apartment that was impressively spare. I asked about owning books and he said, “Why do I need to own books if I live across the street from the library?” That was a profound question to me. Living the simple life with as few possessions as possible: sign me up.

So I went back to my house and sold every book that I owned that I could get out of any library. I kept my Japanese books, cookbooks, reference books and books that I’d want to look at on a regular basis for inspiration. My mantra was, “Realistically I don’t need to have a copy of Moby Dick. I don’t need to store it, dust it, move it. I’ve probably read Moby Dick for the last time.” I’ve used the Moby Dick analogy for the past 17 years when extolling the virtues of borrowing rather than owning books.

So it was REALLY ironic that my friend Gini, a retired high school English teacher, showed me a copy of the new book Moby Dick in Pictures. The author, an untrained artist, made a piece of art every day for 552 days based on a sentence of Moby Dick. Many of the pictures are made from drawings on paper ephemera with ball point pens, makers or paint. This is an inspiring piece of work not only for it’s clever concept but also for the dedication and faith that it must have taken to complete the project. I really appreciated the dedication: For Ione, I’m finally done!

It’s a beautiful book that may inspire you to make a piece of art from words or a story that you love. If you’re a book collector it’s a big, beautiful and interesting book. If you’re a minimalist like us and just need 3-6 weeks of Moby, inter-library loan may be your new best friend.

9 thoughts on “A new inspiring Moby Dick

  1. Wow, what an interesting project! I can hardly believe that the artist doesn’t have any formal training.

    As for owning books…I agree with you to some extent, but on the other hand, there is some security for me in owning some favorite books, even if I will likely never read them again. I sometimes just enjoy the memories they evoke when I browse my shelves. Kids’ books, however, are an entirely different story. We are drowning in those.

    I have to ask whether your friend is Gini Williams, from OPRF? If so, she was my AP English teacher there in 1994-1995. I thoroughly enjoyed her class.

  2. A few decades ago, with that same philosophy, we culled our science fiction collection. Lo and behold, our daughter became a big fan of science fiction and bought many of the same titles from the used book store, and when she moved many of these were donated to our local library. This Summer she graduates with a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science. Her goal is to work in a public library.

  3. Well I will start thinking about this Weeks. We do use the library a great deal and I have Kindle but I’ not sure I could give up the couple hundred hard backs….something to think about. I am starting to cull my quilting books and magazines, does that count?

  4. Great idea for quilting inspiration! I probably own 1,000 books, and that is after paring my collection down considerably twice in the past 10 yrs. ~ and watching it grow again ;( I commend you, and wish I’d taken the library road long ago. Having moved several times, I know that hauling my books from place to place should have cured me by now! I will NOT move them all again, but I must admit I have emotional attachments to books. So you’ve planted a different idea in my head. Next move will have to be across the street from a library!!!

  5. What a great story! I will remember this post from now on when I am hovering over prospective purchases at the book store. I do use my local library regularly, but it is very tricky sourcing what I am looking for. I will test the system with ‘Moby Dick in Pictures’! Thank you for sharing an inspiring story. I am wondering how your refreshing minimalist view translates to other parts of your life. Do you even try to minimise your fabric collection?! Keeping that under control is my nemesis! Best wishes, Ros

    1. Ros,
      I have a bunch of ikebana vases that I brought back from Japan that are impossible to find here but from dishes to clothes to food, we try not to buy or store much. We don’t go to Costco to buy the gigantic things of 3 jars of peanut butter and such. We don’t have 5 bottles of shampoo. We don’t buy fabric unless we have a use for it. It’s actually not hard at all because we have more than we need. Our stash is mostly leftover fabric from commissions. If we could get rid of half of what we had we’d be thrilled. Read what Anne Morrow Lindbergh writes about owning lots of dresses in “Gifts from the Sea.” Owning less of everything is just plain less stressful for us. Our motto is “It’s a home. It’s not a storage unit.”

  6. Oh the irony of authors not being book owners…
    I find myself thumbing through Color Harmony on a some what frequesnt basis – still years later & I’ve made more quilts from The Modern Quilt Workshop than I ever thought possible. But you now I am wondering about my purchases…

    1. Amyps – We absolutely are book owners! What I said in the post was that we hold onto books that we use frequently including cookbooks, books we use for inspiration and reference books. We don’t hold onto books that we don’t read regularly or that we’d have a hard time finding at the library. Moby Dick would fall into the category of books we don’t read often while books on fabric design, quilting, knitting, sewing, graphic design, gardening, cooking, interior design, architecture, poetry, photography, prayer, writing and travel would be books that we use regularly. Once we read a novel or another book that we don’t think that we’ll reread often, we donate it to the library for their annual book sale.

  7. 17 months ago I made the commitment to purchase 85% books and magazines electronically. I donated over 200 books to our local Goodwill. HOWEVER, not one of my donations included books of inspiration. The books, magazines & other publications that have Bill and Week’s name on them hold an honored shelf in my studio. Dog eared yes, very much loved!

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