I opened my email and waiting for me was correspondence entitled “Artist Request”. It was from a dear friend I’ve known for years, Barbara Billey.
“I would like to commission you to use your sacred artist gifts to create a faux Book of Gospels for my ordination. The Book of Gospels contains the four gospels, will be carried high in the processional to the table of worship and then someone will dance with it to the lecturn, where the gospel will be read. The theme of my ordination is “be fire and light our world with justice and peace.”
My jaw dropped.
My first reaction was, ‘no way, too much pressure’. The weight of the request gave me pause.
Who am I that I should attempt something like this? The words “carried high, processed, danced” all cried out in bold and I pondered whether I was worthy to say ‘yes’ to this request. After a few days of thinking about it I came to the conclusion that if I didn’t accept I would be missing a tremendous artistic opportunity and challenge.
It had to be faux book, more like a theatre prop; large enough to be seen in a large public gathering, yet small enough to be carried. And it needed to open like a book and hold papers. I formally worked professionally in props for Victoria Playhouse Petrolia, so I knew I could pull it off. I wanted it to look like an old-fashioned leather bound book.
I’m not one to make drawings of my designs. I usually work more organically, just laying out fabrics. But I did do an initial sketch.
I laid out some possible fabric choices for the theme “be fire and light our world with justice and peace.”
I used a fine netting fabric trapping method taught by the wonderful Canadian fibre artist, Lorraine Roy.
I used some interfacing material from a old liquid embroidery kit to stabilize the fabric manipulation. She loves trees. So hidden inside is one!
I wanted the lettering to be in gold leaf so the closest thing would be to use a foiling method to apply the text “The GOSPELS”.
I trapped actual pieces of real gold leaf into the cover.
I applied some random vermicelli stitching, including a tree and a hidden message for the recipient to the back of the book.
For the construction of the actual book I used acid-free foamcore board inside as the guts to build the front, back, sides and spine. Most of this had to be stitched by hand.
Gold lame replicated the idea of gold leaf page edges.
I was thrilled with the finished product. But would she be? It’s always the unveiling which is the moment of truth.
She cried with delight.
At her Ordination Service she held it high and danced down the aisle.
Oh, did I mention that she is a Roman Catholic Priest? Women can’t be priests, you say. WRONG. Just check out this group of empowered women. http://arcwp.org
Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests
Can you hear the sound of the church bells ringing there?
The birds singing in the voices?
The waves washing through our minds in rhythmic breath?
carrying all the debris away away
healing the struggles of yesterday
clearing the way for the morrow
when women walk as Catholic priests!
Read more about Barbara Billey’s Ordination Service here and here.