Turning sticks and stones into art books

Lauri Twitchell does more than manage UC Berkeley’s 10.5-acre Blake Garden in the hills above campus. She often extends its life in the form of books that she assembles from the teaching facility’s rocks, redwood bark and other natural objects.

Some of Twitchell’s creations, such as “On Stone” (2015) and “Sticks and Stones” (2016), which she made in collaboration with fellow artist Peter Suchecki, are among the 300-plus artists’ books in a special collection at the College of Environmental Design (CED) Library at Wurster Hall. Altogether, she estimates, she has made close to100 artists’ books.

“I find a lot of debris in the garden,” says Twitchell. “Instead of sending it to a landfill, I see if I can make something out of it.”

“I don’t make them as a commercial thing,” she says of her books. “I make them because I make them.  I’m an artist.” 

Some of her works were among 26 artists’ books on display in January at a special event at the CED Library. (See a Berkeley News story about the program.) The books are purchased with a special endowment — not student fees.

Altogether, the Environmental Design Library has a rare book collection of more than 4,500 volumes housed in its Sigrid L. Rupp Rare Book Vault. The collection is primarily of out-of-print, limited and first editions, fine press, and pre-1800 imprints in several languages and covering architecture, decorative arts, city planning, landscape architecture and gardening. In addition to books and journals, it also has related ephemera, such as architectural and planning games, recordings, architectural construction kits and ViewMaster slides.

Blake Garden is open to the public Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.-4:30pm. It is closed on weekends and university holidays. 

More information about the Environmental Design Library is available online.

See a multi-media package about Twitchell and the Environmental Design Library rare books collection that was assembled by Library staff, which includes a video in which Twitchell discusses her unusual work.