Recent I watched a doco on ABC2 about the 1000 Journals Project. A guy came up with the idea of sending 1000 blank books out into the world and seeing if any came back to him. They were numbered, and people could scan and send in pages to a website that tracked them. It took 2 years for the guy to buy, cover and sent out the journals. A book and the doco were made about the project.
There were some interesting stories. The first journals went out in August 2000 so events like 911 and Katrine were recorded. Some people recorded deeply personal events, others just had fun with it. A few people added to what was already there, from ‘making the boring pages prettier’ to covering up some completely, but most just filled new pages. While some journals were left in places for strangers to find, others wound up with a big list of people waiting to have the journal sent to them. One guy nagged the previous person to hurry up, then two days after he received it cyclone Katrine hit and he wasn’t able to pass it on for months.
There was obviously some disappointment that so many journals went missing. The guy who started the project has set up another, similar project called 1001 Journals. It is more of an interactive web project – you get your own journal and either have an approved group of friends who contribute to it, keep it in one location such as a cafe so that strangers can contribute but not take it away, or else use it as your personal journal. Either way, you upload pages as you go. There are a couple of thousand journals going.
In both cases, even if you don’t want to participate, the scans on the sites are interesting to look through – if you like that sort of art and writing – sketches, doodles, collage, reflections, opinions, and wordplay.
Not long after I watched the doco and investigated the websites, in one of those spooky moments of serendipity, a blog that I read manifested a link to The Sketchbook Project. Again, it’s similar but different to the 1000 Journals Project. This time you buy a notebook from the organisers, fill it with sketches and send it back by the due date, and then the sketchbooks go on a roving exhibition throughout the USA. Each time someone at the exhibition reads one, it’s logged, so you can find out which one was most popular. This is the second round of this idea – it was first done in 2009.
And then, if that wasn’t enough, the same people are running The Canvas Project, where they send you small canvasses for you to paint and return to them.
I’m tempted by The Sketchbook Project, but knowing that the exhibition won’t make it to Australia is a bit off-putting. As far as community art projects go, I’m more of a Meet Me at Mike’s Envelope Project kind of girl. I like to see everyone’s contribution, and mine within the whole.
But the doco, these projects, the whole altered book thing, bookbinding, my doodle book, and Sketchbook Sunday have been rubbing together in my head and creating sparks. Or maybe just lots of noise. I find myself wanting to do a dozen things at once. I look at the books I’ve been making and want to fill them up. I want to make more.
I’ve let the ideas rumble around together for a while. Now I’m at one of my favourite stages of the creative process: scribbling down lists, paring off what I’m not interested or capable of, summing up ideas, hoping to turn wild, untamed inspiration into something a bit more structured, practical, sustainable and – most importantly – do-able along with all the other things I want or need to keep doing.
Which, ironically, is what I’ve used my sketchbooks for all along.