A Life Made by Hand: The story of Ruth Asawa

A Life Made by Hand: The story of Ruth Asawa
Andrea D’Aquino
Princeton Architectural Press

I have to admit that despite my interest in art the name of this book’s subject is new to me.

Brought up on her family farm in California, Japanese-American artist Ruth Asawa was from an early age, mesmerised by the flora and fauna she saw around her.

Her close observation of such things as insects she saw led her to make representations of them from wire or folded paper, and she also loved to draw in the dirt with her feet.

At weekends, instead of working on the farm, Ruth studied Japanese calligraphy and later she went to art school where she gained further inspiration from dance choreography, and her teachers, in particular Buckminster Fuller and Josef Albers.

Travelling to Mexico she learned wire weaving from local craftsmen who twisted the metal to make baskets.

Back home Ruth experimented with this medium and finally knew what was THE medium for her.

Her sculptures are enormously complex, beautiful graceful pieces that are now to be found in art museums mostly in the US

where they inspire others to look closely, imagine and create for themselves.

This short interesting introductory biography for youngsters with an interest in both art and the natural world omits the darker events in the life of Asawa and her family, but the author provides factual notes on these, as well as an explanation for her own inspiration in creating the book, and instructions for making a paper dragonfly.

D’Aquino’s collage style illustrations – a combination of charcoal and colour pencil drawings with hand-printed and monoprinted paper are quirky and arresting, and may well inspire readers to experiment with collage too.

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