You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

This is a new artists’ book, You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby, that was inspired by an ashtray I found in my grandma’s things after she passed away. You can see the ashtray, open, in the middle, with the little flip book in it. The ashtray, called a Silent Butler, was named after the device used in the late 1800s to collect table crumbs and ashes.

I found the little ashtray interesting and decided to make a book to go in it. One thing led to another and pretty soon there were two books and a custom matchbook that go inside a vintage purse.

The matchbook has a vintage ad on the back and stats on the front about a depressing term called YPLL. Years per life lost. In the case of smokers, the CDC estimates YPLL of 12 years per person.

The cigarette pack has the accordion book inside with vintage advertisements, aimed at women, from the early 1900s to the 1970s juxtaposed with passages from medical books from the same timeframe as the ads. There is a paragraph from a 1960’s era medical book that informs ladies that, although they probably won’t feel like smoking for the first three months of their pregnancies, they’ll be fine to resume in the next trimester.

The book in the Silent Butler ashtray is a flip book with a girl about the age my grandmother was when she started smoking. She is holding a cigarette and as you flip the pages her lungs change from pink to an unhealthy shade. It ends, perhaps a bit melodramatically, with a gravestone.

The last element is a handkerchief I made using printable cotton. It’s quite lovely and took the inkjet printing very well. It has the colophon printed on it along with a dedication to my grandma, Virginia Elizabeth Ginn.

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