Library Card Project: Merle Slyhoff

Library Card Project: Merle Slyhoff

Merle Slyhoff WordPlays Necklace

WordPlays necklace

Today's featured Library Card Project is by Merle Slyhoff, a librarian at the Biddle Law Library at the University of Pennsylvania Law School who created a number of jewelry pieces she calls WordPlays. Here's a little more about Merle and the inspiration behind her work:

What do you make? 
My main interest lies in clay, making wheel-thrown functional pieces. But, I also do lampwork, PMC clay, and have just recently turned to quilting. I’m not a professional artist, but for years have found refuge and escape through my art.

Why did you want to participate in the Library Card Project? 
I’m a librarian, which probably says it all. But I have loved library cards since I was a kid and had to stand on a stool to look through the drawers. The cards were a source of mystery, like a treasure map. The call number took you to a shelf and then to the book. The words in the book taught you, took you places, inspired you. Records in online catalogs just aren’t the same – they aren’t well-worn from years of fingers flipping through them; they don’t have hand-written information added many years ago; they don’t have that old-book library smell. Transforming the cards into a new life helps to preserve this dying part of the library.

How did you use the library cards? 
I created jewelry that I call WordPlays. Artists are inspired and then create. Their inspiration triggers inspiration and ideas in others. For me, books are a source of inspiration, and the catalog cards start the journey to inspiration. The actual words and photos or illustrations inspire, and through WordPlays, the jewelry starts a journey of thinking and discovery. A clay necklace that isn’t clay… or is it? Fiber earrings that aren’t fiber… or are they? Only by reading the jewelry, catching the word plays, and the “twist” (the clay beads that I made, the fiber in the earrings) does the meaning come out. The handwritten notes on the cards, the copyright year, the author’s name… all fragments on the cards that help tell the story.

Where do you get your inspiration?
From books. Whether it’s clay, jewelry, or quilting, I have way too many books (if that’s possible), and I borrow more from the library. This is why the library cards mean so much to me – they are the key to finding my inspiration.

What is your favorite/most read art, craft or design book? 
That’s hard to say since I have so many books and so many interests. Most recently I find myself going back to The Teapot Book, by Steve Woodhead for clay inspiration, and The Quilting Bible: The Complete Photo Guide to machine Quilting for my latest addiction.

View more Library Card Project entries.