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Walking in the woods at night

I am part of an incredible art collective. Three Americans. Three Australians. Every two months one of us comes up with a “book structure” and a theme and we make at least six of them, and send them to each other. We’ve made things like tunnel books, pop-ups, and one-page books.

I choose the volvelle structure–with the theme document. The moveable wheels and circle format fascinates me. One of my design heros Jessica Helfand (one of the founding editors of Design Observer, Senior Graphic Design Lecturer at Yale)  wrote a great history on it called Reinventing the Wheel.

Our theme? Document. And what did I document? I documented walking in the woods at night. We hike a number of trails in our backyard with very complicated names.

  • The short walk.
  • The steep walk.
  • The mountain bike ride.
  • The reverse of the mountain bike ride.
  • To the reservoir.
  • To the bridge.
  • The hike where I almost killed Doug. (Because it took way longer than I anticipated and it started to snow and get dark and we couldn’t see the white blazes and we didn’t have any food. I know, not smart.)

Out of all of these it’s a toss up between the short walk and the steep walk as to which we do the most. But we have done both of them in the dark with headlamps. Using artificial light at night in the woods opened up the possibility of walking in the woods during times previously out-of-question. The only thing to conquer? Fear. It’s amazing how naked I feel when I walk in the woods at night. Since I don’t hear very well when I do hear something, it tends to freak me out. The first time we hiked like this, at the top of the steep section an owl called out. We played call and response for a few go-arounds. But the human quality to the call churned up every nerve in my being. Intellectually I knew it was an owl, physically my stomach tied itself up and my heart rate escalated. Had I been alone I would have started to run at full-speed. My volvelle documents this walk. Different strings of words like fear creeping outside light become sandwiched between the whooooooo calls of the owl. 29 words make up the the text–with a third of those words calling out whooooo. The tree pattern adorns the back of the volvelle.


Want to learn more about volvelles? This page will help you. Want to make your own? Go here.

And here’s one in action from my undergrad alma mater Case Western Reserve that I’m including only because it cracked me up that it came up in my basic google search.


  1. David says:

    You should try the hike blindfolded and being guided by Doug (or better yet a stranger!).

  2. Melanie says:

    That’s a great idea. That would take some serious trust!

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