I sense it is time to really retreat in between work schedules and ensure cave time to focus on my passion project: Molly, a true crime analysis. Seek solitude, writes Delacroix. I hear you. I am in a fantastic place regarding the project- she feels ripe, ready, eager. Through a tear in the fabric of time and space, Molly, long dead, guides, revealing more and more. It astounds and humbles me.
“Murder, though it hath no tongue, will speak with most miraculous organ.”
— Shakespeare, “Hamlet”
Creative process includes allowing for gestation, gathering resources, paying the rent. But it also requires intense dedication. And obedience. So it is important now for me to honor this new call for retreat.
We need quiet time to figure things out, to emerge with new discoveries, to unearth original answers. – Ester Buchholz
And having allowed the project to gather even more evidence of late, it seems very much like gathering supplies in order to build. To sculpt.
Writing non-fiction is more like sculpture, a matter of shaping the research into the finished thing. – Joan Didion
Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is a result of good work habits. That’s it in a nutshell. ― Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life
My passion project, Molly- a true crime analysis, centres around a 63 year old Vancouver cold case.
On January 15, 1953, the skeletal remains of two children were found in the forest of Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The victims became known as the Babes in the Wood. The physical evidence indicated that the children were killed using a hatchet and confidently pointed to the involvement of a woman, likely the children’s mother. Unsolved for over 63 years, the double homicide still haunts the city and fuels the imaginations of Vancouverites. Several theories have been explored and many leads and tips have been followed; yet the identities of the two victims remain unknown.
Molly- a true crime analysisillustrates my research into this heartbreaking mystery.
My involvement initially began as a volunteer researcher on the Babes in the Wood task force from 2003 to 2004.
This passion project- an illustrated book- is as much about the PROCESS and my deep involvement as it is about the cold case and the ultimate “end” product. And yes- that process. The creative process is incredibly magical and rewarding. The project is directing itself in a sense, and I am following and trusting.
The book will include text (facts and interpretation), illustrations (including magic realism), photographs, primary sources, physical evidence, circumstantial evidence and artifacts.
I am currently reworking the text and illustrating. I am experimenting with embroidered drawings.
Why embroidered drawings?
Certain drawings (in particular chapter headings) are embroidered as a means to reflect the act of connecting the dots and weaving together timelines, evidence and research. The stitches are footsteps on a map. It reflects deep thought and the passage of time. It is historical. Traditional. Sacred. It is about strengthening the fragile. It fascinates me that a medium so cheap and easily torn such as newsprint becomes strong and hardy when layered and sewn together. It can be manipulated and folded, handled, and only gains a lovelier patina. There is something magical in that.
The skeletal remains were found covered in layers of fallen leaves and forest growth and decay. I am currently experimenting with layering of embroidery and incorporating text continues to simulate forensic taphonomy and the layering of forest vegetation over time.
Forensic taphonomy is concerned with the study of the decomposition of human remains, particularly in the context of burial sites.
… And when they were dead
The robins so red
Brought strawberry leaves
And over them spread;
And all the day long,
The green branches among,
They’d prettily whistle
And this was their song-
‘Poor babes in the wood!
Sweet babes in the wood!
Oh the sad fate of
The babes in the wood!’
“The Babes in the Wood,” Anonymous (ca 1595). Public domain.
It has taken me years to create a structure for Molly that could combine two stories that run both parallel to each other and have intriguing connections.
Massive research needs to be formatted in a cohesive way, yet allow for a compelling narrative.
Currently, three timelines run through Molly and eventually braid together converging in Fall 1947. I went into a research wormhole a few weeks back as I contemplated the image of the braid. And lo and behold, the braid theory is indeed a thing (ironically coined in 1947 by Emil Artin).
The braid and the trefoil knot-
A knot may be represented as the closure of certain braids. A mathematician’s knot differs in that the ends are joined together so that it cannot be undone. Thus braiding together the three timelines within the narrative leads to intriguing circumstantial evidence, intertwining of the two stories of the Babes in the Wood and Molly O’Dwyer.
We have all experienced on some rare occasion the feeling of elation in realizing that we have enabled our listeners to see at a glance the whole architecture and all its ramifications. – Emil Artin, mathematician
The trefoil knot (a play on the Irish Clover) further illustrates the convergence of the timeline in 1947- it is impossible to untie it without cutting it. It also alludes to Molly’s Irish heritage.
“Gentlemen, when two separate events occur simultaneously pertaining to the same object of inquiry, we must always pay strict attention.” –Dale Cooper, Twin Peaks
This is the endless magic that happens with this project. Incredible incredible magic. I must remember that.
Years ago, I found this very old German edition of Der Struwwelpeter originally written in 1845 by Dr. Heinrich Hoffman. Hoffman was a psychiatrist and this book is about children behaving badly. I work with youth with severe behavior disorders, so I may have been drawn to this strange view of oppositional defiance. I believe Struwwelpeter was the inspiration for Tim Burton‘s Edward Scissorhands.
Struwwelpeter describes a boy who does not groom himself properly and is consequently unpopular… Mark Twain‘s English translation of the book is called “Slovenly Peter.” A link to an English translation of the entire book is here. [Source]
Here are some pages that stand out for me:
The book belongs beautifully in my graphic novel collection and I find the illustrations deliciously creep and Jan Švankmajer-esque!