Hong Kong was home for almost 4 years and, during our stay there, we lived away from the city center, on a small “Outlying Island” called Cheung Chau.
Human-scaled Cheung Chau — with more dried fish, bicycles and beaches than cars, elevators or malls — was the perfect place for my S to be a small child. In 2014, as we prepared for our move back to New York City, I reflected on his 2 years of scooping sand, babbling to stray cats and poking fish in the wet market, hoping that the soul of Cheung Chau should somehow remain part of his soul and that, no matter how far in the world we might wander, he might be an “island boy” at heart.
So I started drawing again, in an attempt to capture some of that for him. Before we bid goodbye to the island, I produced 12 handmade books printed on rice paper, bound with red thread to our friends and family in Hong Kong, and kept a copy for ourselves. For over a year, I came back to the book, reworking images and updating words. There is also an e-book, to read on an iPad or iPhone. and a bound copy available through Blurb.
Over the following years, we returned to Cheung Chau many times to visit friends. With each return, I watched my son reflect on old memories and form new ones, solidifying his love of the seaside way of life. I made more drawings, and the book evolved. In 2017, a friend helped me translate the book to Cantonese, and I produced a 2nd edition for the Cheung Chau Wave Art Festival, to be read and enjoyed on a boat in the harbor. The 2nd edition is hand-mounted in a traditional stab-bound calligraphy book, with silk covers and a custom made, indigo-dyed fabric case with bone closure. Somehow I like the idea that this book is still unfinished. Having the freedom to add to it, to change it and to produce 3rd, 4th, or even 10th editions, seems like a apt metaphor for how to approach art, creativity and life itself.