Crafting a Cover Story
By Jocelyn Tatum
Photos by Amber Bailey
Just a few days before she designed this cover, she was on a flight back to the U.S. when the wing started to break off of her commercial aircraft at 30,000 feet in the air not long after takeoff. This left artist Amber Bailey with a few extra unplanned days in Spain after an emergency landing. She found herself walking along the beach finding shells, rocks and other random objects as she often does when looking for inspiration. She found a wishing stone and dropped it in her pocket. She later covered it in her magic — some resin and yarn.
For Amber, these random objects tell a story. They become conversation pieces, which then turn into shared experiences that bring people together, like the words of a story printed on this page. When people ask about the objects she finds and adds to with various materials, she hopes that through conversation people find commonalities and not differences. This is how they build community by emphasizing what unites, not what divides. Her art ventures have inspired her business name — The Storied Stone.
If you were to ask her about this wishing stone she found on borrowed time, she wouldn’t tell you a story of survival, but one of a serendipitous few days to slow down in paradise — a gift. She also remembers that an eerie silence fell over the entire interior of the plane as they watched the wing turn black and as pieces flew past Amber’s window in the very last aisle window seat. Nobody panicked. A peaceful shock hushed the airbus into silence — a story with a stone to go with it.
Known for her mixed-media art and yarn bombing installations on places like Crocket Row, Amber used a collection of meaningful storied objects she found that could illustrate Claudia Casas’ story. When Amber read the cover story about Claudia, she realized they were the same age. At 2:30 in the morning after she got home from Spain and France, she found a random picture of herself as a little girl in the late ’70s/early ’80s. She became nostalgic and felt connected to Claudia’s early story. Commonalities. “I felt very bonded in a way just by creating this piece of art about her. I felt like ‘little me’ and Claudia could have been friends,” she says.
Amber taught in elementary school for many years and said she has a special place in her heart for those who teach kindergarten, which Claudia did for 20 years. But what really captured her heart was the way Claudia became an advocate for herself at such a young age — smiling, saying “hello” and sharing her disability to any curious gawkers — the same age as Amber was in that photo. “The way that Claudia’s mom taught her to smile back and engage a person in conversation and at such a young age, that stood out to me, more than anything else because that is how you become your own advocate just like the story says,” she says. So the first image she had in her mind was a mouth like the ones she makes to photo bomb, saying “hello.”
Moving around the cover, you see nods to Claudia’s life, like the composition notebook, image of a teacher, which came from an old flashcard used to help children study time. For Amber, hexagons are a strong geometric shape symbolizing strength, so she created patterns out of hexagons and old children’s books that Claudia could have read to her kindergarten students. Pieces of fabric from old shirts dating to the late ’70s and early ’80s were added. The hands say, “Here I am,” which is a stamp she made by carving an eraser. When she was photographing the work on her roof, she saw some pebbles and found a pipe. These random objects became a part of that moment, the story of the creation of the cover art, so she included them. They became storied stones.
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