JARRING: Artists' Books to Break the Silence

JARRING: Artists’ Books to Break the Silence


Jarring III is a set of three letterpress printed & hand-bound artists’ books in an edition of 50 that seek to end the silence and stigma surrounding sexual assault and rape by sharing the real narratives of 22 survivors. The goal of this project is to encourage discourse by uniting the experiences of survivors, create a publicly accessible archive for research and therapeutic use, and raise funds for Rape Crisis Centers (RCCs) through book sales and donations.
JARRING III: Artists Books to End the Silence

Photos by Michelle Yoder

Ending the Stigma & Silence Surrounding Sexual Assault

In 2011, I was sexually assaulted in my hometown of Oakland, California. Dealing with my own frustrations as a survivor, led me to the desire to connect with other survivors. At the same time, I was enrolled in the MFA in the Book Art & Creative Writing Program at Mills College. My work as a graduate encouraged me to pursue the first stages of the JARRING project, starting with the goal of working with survivors of sexual assault and rape to publicly share their experiences through the art of self-publication by way of letterpress printing and bookmaking. Despite the pervasiveness of rape and sexual assault in our society, affecting one in six women and one in thirty two men, survivors are shamed from speaking out about their experiences. Once I began speaking out, others came to me with their stories. The more I listened, the more I felt very strongly that these stories needed a place where they could be united and shared, serving as a platform for discussion and a resource for survivors and researchers alike.


“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” -Zora Neale Hurston


I started by breaking the stories down into three parts and storing them in three colored jars to mark each stage of the experience: the green jar held the beginning of each person’s experience. The red jar stored words and phrases concerning the assault. The blue contained each survivor’s personal reflections on the experience at the time they submitted their story. As more stories flooded in, the jars began to take on their own symbolic meaning as containers of a complex and socially repressed discourse.


In 2013, I decided to create a limited edition, hand-made digitally & letterpress printed set of books based on the narratives of JARRING with the goal of creating a publicly accessible archive that would truly honor these stories, building a bridge between private and public discourse. The project entailed making three books in a set of 50, for a total of 150 handmade books. Each book utilizes a different structure to create a unique experience that honors the text and experiences represented, embedding the narratives in form, imagery, and movement as well as language.

Book one is a letterpress-printed, accordion format artists’ book printed in an edition of 50 during a letterpress studio arts residency at Women’s Studio Workshop in Rosendale, NY. The book uses 11 handset type faces from the studio’s historically-rich collection to signify a variety of voices. The image of the original jar developed from a photograph into a photo-polymer plate serves as the main artwork. The book is laser cut to give the illusion of slips of paper floating inside a jar with seemingly endless depth. The book’s laser cut layout was tested at 3-Scan Labs in San Francisco and the final cutting performed at Crashspace in Los Angeles. The book is bound in green Brillianta cloth covered boards and stored in a slipcase. Colophon on end paper.

JARRING III: Artists' Books to Speak Out Against Sexual AssaultJARRING III: Artists' Books Against Sexual Assault

Book two uses the flag book structure where slips of paper jut across each other to create the impression of multiple, layered voices. The book is made of photographs embodying text printed on archival translucent photo papers. A letterpress printed spine and end papers printed at LALA Press with a hard cover of Asahi book cloth covered boards complete the book’s layers of graphic images, transparency, and texture. Colophon on back cover.

 JARRING: Artists' Books to End the Silence of Sexual Assault

Book three is a sculptural codex with a handmade paper cover containing raw silk and blue glass inclusions that have been sealed for archival and handling purposes. The pages, letterpress printed at KALA Arts Institute, juxtapose pressure prints and type to convey the thoughts and reflections of each survivor at the time they submitted their narrative. Each book is hand bound with wax thread. Colophon on inside of back cover.

JARRING III: Artists' Books Against Sexual Assault JARRING Book III: Photo by Michelle Yoder: http://www.michelleyoder.com/Photos by Michelle Yoder


The three books will be stored together in a set of magnetic slip cases and sold to private collectors as well as to special collections libraries, creating a freely accessible archive of these narratives in one of the places they are most needed: the college campus. All profits from book sales as well as any unused project funds will be turned into donations for Rape Crisis Centers and survivor resources. The project has the potential to raise over $20,000 for crisis centers through book sales and related fundraisers. It is my goal that for every book sold, I will offer one handling copy to a crisis center for therapeutic and personal use.

Book Tour & Upcoming Talks:

Please check back for more upcoming talks and appearances. You may also contact me to arrange a talk at your university or organization.

Previous Talks & Appearances:

Project Image Gallery:

Photos by: Michelle Yoder



Get Involved

Press: If you are a journalist or a member of the press who would like to promote the JARRING project through your network, please get in touch via email! I am available for in-person interviews in San Francisco and Los Angeles as well as telephone & email interviews worldwide. Thank you for helping spread the news about the project.

Survivor Resources and Rape Crisis Centers: If you are interested in becoming involved with the JARRING project as a representative of an RCC or related survivor resource, please contact me. The project may be able to offer you a handling copy of the JARRING books, funding, or an in-person talk or workshop pending an upcoming book tour.

Survivors: If you are a survivor interested in sharing your story in upcoming JARRING projects, you can anonymously submit your narrative at the following website.

Individuals: You can help spread the word about JARRING by sharing the project on your social networks or making a donation through the Art Against Assault site.

With Gratitude to the Following Individuals & Organizations

THANK YOU to the following individuals and organizations who have helped make this project possible:

MY INDIEGOGO SUPPORTERS: Thank you to everyone who contributed to my Indiegogo Campaign! I’m thrilled to say that this campaign reach Indiegogo’s front page and met its funding goals with your help!

BOOKBINDING NOW: Thank you to Susan Mills of Bookbinding Now for helping to spread the word about the project! Hear my interview with Susan on the Bookbinding Now website: http://www.bookbindingnow.com/

FEMINIST RADIO: Thank you to Sese Abejon for sharing the project with listeners of Feminist Magazine on KPFK! http://feministmagazine.org/

WOMEN’S STUDIO WORKSHOP: Thank you to Women’s Studio Workshop for providing the perfect environment to print the first of the three books for JARRING during a 2013 Letterpress Studio Residency. You can read about the residency and the printing process here: http://www.wsworkshop.org/2014/01/mirabelle-jones-artists-book-activism/

LALA Press: Thank you to LaLa Press for providing letterpress access for book 2.

KALA Arts Institute: Thank you to KALA Arts Institute for providing access to letterpress equipment for the 2nd and 3rd books.

3-SCAN & CRASHSPACE: Thank you to 3-Scan and Crashspace LA for providing access to laser cutting equipment. Special thanks to Sean Kolk, Katy Pelton, Todd Huffman, Chandra Barnett and Matt Pinner.

THE COLLEGE BOOK ARTS ASSOCIATION: This project funded in part by a grant from the College Book Arts Association. Thank you for supporting recent graduates and current scholars in the field of Book Art: http://www.collegebookart.org/

MILLS COLLEGE BOOK ARTS: This project was conceived while completing the MFA in Book Arts & Creative Writing Program at Mills College. Special thank you to Professor Kathleen Walkup, Professor Julie Chen, Studio Manager Lara Durback, and fellow Book Art & Creative Writing MFAs Kat Howard, Kate Robinson, and Rob Borges.

MINDSHARE LA: This project appeared at the Mindshare LA showcase on 4/23/14.

Thank you to the Rape Crisis Centers and Survivor Resource Networks who have helped the project grow since day 1.

Thank you to the 22 anonymous survivors who invited me to share their narratives in JARRING III and to the survivors who continue to share their stories through the Art Against Assault website. It is my hope to continue this project in the years to come, sharing the stories of whoever wishes their voice to be heard through performances and visual art. If you are a survivor and would like to be involved in an upcoming instance of the JARRING project, you can submit your story through the original site here.

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