| It was back in fall last year when a friend asked me if I would want to do something for EL James upon the occasion of the movie premiere. I was reluctant at first. It wasn’t because I didn’t like the books. I am a fan and I have been a fan for a long time already. Two insecure, imperfect, inexperienced people find somewhere the courage to dare the struggle for love together while shredding their masks they even wore to hide from themselves. What’s not to love? The language you say? It might not flow from your lips like Shakespeare but I am with E. E. Cummings who wrote:
Since feeling is first
It was me. I didn’t know what I could offer that would be interesting and unique enough to bother. I am not your average fan art artist. Beautiful faces don’t have the capability to hold my attention for long (except one but that’s not the story here). I bow my head at the altar of amazing creativity and extraordinary ideas, and I expect the same in my offerings I leave behind. There wasn’t anything –
or maybe there was. There was this idea that had been lingering in my head for quite some time:
Watching fandoms like the 50 Shades of Grey one, being part of them in celebration of incredible creative work and the great minds behind them, sharing precious moments with like-minded people who might even turn into friends because a shared love can bridge the gaps our ever present, usually first noticed differences create, I came to the conclusion that fandoms and religions show many parallels, and not just in their devotional aspects. Especially tweets often read like prayers expressing gratitude, love or asking for something while marking the hours, days, and special occasions life provides.
That again would make the creators, people like EL James, something like Henry VIII – sans the ulcerous leg that turned him into a grumpy, eccentric old man too fond of young women and beheadings. They shape a new ‘religion’. They do so not out of nothing, but deeply rooted in the millennia-old tradition of storytelling.
Speaking of Henry VIII, in medieval times the most common type of books, of illuminated manuscripts were Horae or Books of Hours. They were prayer books developed for laymen who wanted to incorporate elements of monasticism into their daily lives like reciting the hours. Thus the name. Personalized copies were a common thing in the great families. Even without personalization would these manuscripts all be unique since they were as their appellation points out hand crafted. Yet they typically contained the church calendar, excerpts of gospels, psalms, and special prayers.
Keeping all that in mind I went ahead, kept the general structure of a Book of Hours and substituted the prayers with tweets by the 50 Shades of Grey fandom to create the personalized Horae of the Grey family. I didn’t just find matching illustrations from original manuscripts and added, where possible, figures from movie scenes; but to highlight 50 Shades’ place in the tradition of storytelling I added fitting quotes from other books throughout history from the Odyssey and the Divine Comedy to contemporary YA.
The result is funny, sometimes provocative or ironic, but always full of love for EL James’ creation and the work of all involved in making the movies. It would have been a great gift.
Would have been because currently the book is MIA. I put it in the mail, as a registered item and everything, in December to give it enough time to make the trip to said friend. It didn’t help. It’s gone missing somewhere between Berlin and Chicago. The worst thing is that despite properly filed search requests with the Deutsche Post AG and many phone calls everywhere no one seems to actually been looking.
In my devastation about it, about over a month of living for just that one thing lost, I did the one thing I could do. I created something that kept me connected with the Grey Horae – a triptych fashioned after the typical altar pieces of old with a touch that reminds of old manuscripts as well. The three panels are connected and can be folded shut thanks to a crocheted embroidery that is very much a pun on the dismissive term “mommy porn”. Whenever I see it I imagine the witches of the Garlickhythe gathering giggling and doing needle work while discussing THAT book, above all Marjorie Cooper of course. The needlework magically sneaked its way through centuries and realities into the art.
After all this talk the point why I said all this – I decided to give at least the scans of the Horae, what is left of it right now, and images of the triptych back to the internet. Not an eye for an eye but a gift for a gift.
(If you find yourself in the artwork why not leave a not?)