Ex Computātrīs Portābilibus: Boston College Art Students

In February, Prof. Lisa Kessler’s Introduction to Digital Art class once again visited Burns Library – 13 in person, and 2 via Zoom – to prepare for a new assignment that the Burns Instruction Team could really get behind: 

Design a “Bookplate” to mark your computers. The design must be created with symbolism that speaks to a broad sense of who you are, taking into consideration past, present and future visions of who you want to become.

Our goals were to introduce them to the concept, function, and form of bookplates, as well as give them an opportunity to look for, recognize, and investigate symbols within a visual medium. Students would then write a proposal for the broad concept and specific ideas they would incorporate into their ownership marks for their computers. 

After pulling dozens of examples of bookplates – both loose and pasted in books – we reviewed one bookplate design (from Boston area graphic artist and typographer, George F. Trenholm) together as a class.

Bookplate. Box 20, Folder 2, Boston College Collection of George F. Trenholm, MS.1994.038, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.
  • What symbol(s) do you see? An open book, an hourglass, closed books, a dolphin/anchor, a writing implement (quill), a scribe, a lectern
  • What concepts are being conveyed?  Printing history, the book arts, and writing
  • What do you think it means/stands for?  Does the open book mean a personal story or history? Is the hourglass a symbol of time? Does the dolphin/anchor mean water? 
  • What decorative motifs or patterns are included? Corinthian columns with leaves, swags, a motto Ars longa vita brevis (art is long, life is short)

Students then moved through multiple stations of bookplates, both in person and online, to review bookplates independently with those same guiding questions. Assessments indicated that learning objectives were met (“I learned about symbolism in bookplates and that symbols have different meanings in different places/cultures”) and students enjoyed the experience (“I thought this was a great and informative session, and it was nice to have an interactive session, even during a pandemic. Also it was really cool to look at books/bookplates from the 1700s!”)

Below, find the first of what we hope to be many rounds of digital art bookplates (or should we say laptop plates?), as well as the student artist statements about them. 

–Katherine Fox, Head of Public Services and Engagement, Burns Library

  1. Lindsey Belgrad ‘24

My bookplate is meant to represent me, while also being a peaceful reminder of who I am. The flower pattern I drew is meant to be a Lily. Lily is my Hebrew name, so the flowers represent a unique part of my culture that will always be with me (past, present, and future). I also saw a similar flower pattern while we were studying the bookplates in Burns library so I thought it was fitting. In the background of my image, I included Camelback mountain, the mountain in Scottsdale that is visible from my window at home and always reminds me of my roots and elements of my past when I lived in AZ. In one of the books from the library I read that mountains are a symbol of power within a landscape. Additionally, I included butterflies because they are universally a symbol of growth and change (future), as well as a personal symbol of good luck. I used a vibrant, yet somewhat limited color scheme in order to represent my expressiveness. 

  1. James Carelli ‘21

For my bookplate, I wanted to incorporate five elemental sources of mana with the five symbols representing them stemming from the central figure. All originate from the center representing how the five elemental components make up the greater whole. Mana is the life energy that flows through all aspects of life and can be attributed to magical forces from which they stem. The sources of mana are thought of as greatly Planes (White), Water/Island (Blue), Swamp (Black), Mountain (Red), and Forest (Green). They represent light and justice, water/mind/aether, death/decay, fire/power, life/strength respectively. The symbol for plains is a sun – this shows the idea of justice, light, and purity. Island is represented by water droplets. Aether, knowledge, and water are ever-flowing, providing wisdom and cunning. Swamp is represented by a skull. Death, witchcraft, decay – recycling of natural materials. Mountain is represented by a fireball. The mountain is fire, dry and powerful, bloodlust and fighting. Forest is represented by a tree. The forest is life-giving, brute strength, primal in nature. Each of these has their own source of magic that goes with and the nature of which implies the core aspects of the source. Inside the regions, I have incorporated symbols that represent some of the aspects of the element as well as myself. These components come together to make a greater whole and represent the full aspects of myself. 

  1. Hannah Chapdelaine ‘21

In my bookplate I wanted to use the concept of a family shield/crest that we had seen in several BookPlates in the Burns library as the main shape for my piece. This bookplate shows a series of mountains which give the feeling of a journey and adventure. I decided to incorporate the north star shape because it is an important symbol in my family, representing guidance and direction. I decided to stick with a blue-green color palette to represent water and have a clear and concise bookplate, with a modern and clean feel.  

  1. Amaka Chukwujekwu ‘21

For my bookplate I wanted to have a strong use of symbolism throughout and it was important to me to have a strong representation of my Nigerian heritage, which is something I value a lot in my life. In Nigeria, two horses are representative of peace and unity but the horses also represent my parents. The symbol in middle represents air, which has the meaning of life and represents my own life. The band circling the horse represents continuity and how it important for me keep moving forward but also recognize my past and where I have been because all of it is connected. I used the colors green and white to represent the Nigerian flag and the horses also look like the flag.  The olive branch represents peace which I hope to find in my life. Lastly, the phrase Ife di mma amaka means “what is good is beautiful”. It is a phrase from a song my parent would sing to me as a kid. 

  1. Estevan Feliz ‘23

I hope that my bookplate is able to convey the plethora of personal values, interests, and traits that are important and have been a part of my entire life, as I know it. Personally, I tend to like a “flatter” or pastel-based color palette for a lot of my other design work so I wanted to make that a part of my theme. Each of the items in the room/scene indicate particular interests of mine but the computer serves a double purpose. First, it represents that I love technology and electronics, but secondly, I decided to use the “looking into a window” effect I noticed with several bookplates we viewed in the Burns Library. Looking at the computer screen is like looking into a whole other world of mine, the digital realm, where I love to code, design, make videos, etc. I hope that my ideas for this project came across properly through the various elements of design used.

P.S. the poster shows my interest in sci-fi and superheroes (along with their willingness to help others) while the instrument hung up is a Ukulele that I occasionally play (or indicates that I love listening to acoustic covers of songs).

  1. Laura J Ferraris ‘22

For my bookplate project I incorporated elements representing my past, present and future. I drew some inspiration from some of my favorite childhood books written by Dr. Suess. As a child, his books always inspired me to dream big and that there is no limit on the success I can achieve when I put the effort into it. I included sailboats to represent my love for sailing and the freedom I feel when I am out on the water. I also included the symbol of the Buddhist Endless Knot. This serves as a symbol of endless wisdom, compassion and eternal harmony. Specifically, in the Buddhist culture, it is a sign of rebirth. This reminds me that there is always a place for new beginnings. As a whole, I chose to present my book plate as if the viewer is looking through a window. Opposed to creating an actual window, I put curtains in to create this effect.

  1. Bridget Foley ‘21

In creating my Bookplate I wanted to capture how nature makes me feel at peace and alive at the same time. To portray the feeling of calmness, I set the background as a looking out a set of windows to a beach sunset with smooth water, cotton candy clouds, and slow-moving palm trees. From there, I incorporated the silhouette of a woman with her arms majestically extended towards the silhouette of a lion, with both of their hair blowing in the wind to create a sense of movement and freedom. I envision the woman as myself, or someone like me, and the lion as a reflection of the woman’s fearlessness when immersed in nature. Finally, I positioned tiger lily’s that match the sunset’s orange tones along the edges of my Bookplate; these are my mom’s favorite flower and are intended to represent my connection to my family. 

  1. Ellie Formisano ‘21

This bookplate represents my home in Chatham, Massachusetts. I decided to model it after this place because it holds a special place in my heart as I grew up there and have made a community of friends there over the years. I tried to include a beachscape using different layering and brush tools, as well as center the main colors around beach tones. As a finishing touch I added the quote by F. Scott Fitzgerald because not only do I love it, but it connects directly to the imagery I utilized in the piece. Furthermore, it represents that despite any difficulties in life I will always have Chatham to go back to.

  1. Zhihao Guo ‘21

My bookplate intends to convey the human interaction with nature. The window sill is taken from a cityscape photo, while the ocean background is taken from “nature”… I hope this contrast will provide some thoughts for minimizing carbon footprints and preserving our only habitat. Finally, the black & white filter gives this bookplate a nostalgic feel, paying homage to the old and traditional bookplates I saw in the Burns Library. 

  1. Sarah Konopaske ‘24

In my bookplate the image of the ocean with the tree in the center serves as a symbol of my life back home, seeing that I lived very close to the ocean. The desk with the typewriter is a symbol of my life at BC. The roots emerging from the tree onto the desk symbolize how I am putting down “roots” here, so to speak. The decorative roses along the border pay homage to my middle name which was passed down from my Grandmother Rose.

  1. Jack Moore ‘23

Blue is my favorite color and I wanted my bookplate to show that in every way. My bookplate encompasses different parts of my past, present, and future. The flag in the background coupled with the arching bluebonnets, our state flower, is meant to reference my Texas roots. In the upper right corner of the shield, I placed a bible to show that I am currently a follower of God; while in the lower-left corner of the shield, I decided to draw a scribe pen/brush to show how I am also a student at the same time. In the upper left and lower right corners of the shield, I put the symbols of longevity to show my hopefulness for the future and the many days ahead in my life. I placed an eagle on top of the shield to show that above all things I am a Boston College Eagle; a proud student that represents our school and the reputation that comes along with it. 

  1. Caitlyn S. Neville ‘22

My bookplate attempts to bridge three worlds: the astrological, the natural, and the virtual. The glow of each realm culminates at the center of the page, demonstrating how each comes together to bring light into my life. The bookplate is essentially personal as it outlines in vector shapes my actual living room; these are also the most bookplate-like elements, as the filter is intended to be reminiscent of a block-printed look. Photographs juxtapose these homey, traditional elements by bringing in forces from the other worlds. Symbols such as the globe, window, books, constellation, and fire in my piece add to this sense of adventure or spark, while the dog represents guardianship and loyalty in order to bring me back to the sense of home I’ve created with my living room. My bookplate is full of competing elements, from adventure vs. home to dull vs. bright colors. I hope through my composition one may see how many elements explode off the page to form one person: me.

  1. Ben Thomas ‘21

For my bookplate I chose to recreate the cover of Where the Wild Things Are (one of my favorite books growing up) while aiming to maintain the format of a bookplate. I used black and white colors only, and included a bookshelf because I noticed those were pretty consistent themes/symbols across most bookplates I observed in Burns Library. Furthermore, the border I chose is a layering of Sailor’s knots — the knots specifically symbolizing strength and adventure. I’d like to think of my interest in reading as “strengthening” my sense of creativity and adventure, so this symbolism was perfect to use.

  1. Nicole Vagra ‘24

In my bookplate I am trying to convey a sense of serenity and give clues to what kind of person I am. This scene comes from my family vacation spot where I used an image that I had taken as inspiration for the setting. I incorporated the lighthouse as a symbol of hope. The birds convey a sense of freedom and represent the five members of my family; I also added a photographer in the foreground to portray me because photography is one of my passions. I also used hydrangeas as a border because they represent gratitude and family and, finally, a sailboat to symbolize my life’s journey. Additionally, I decided to have this specific color palette because the monochromatic tones give the viewer a sense of calm and serenity while cleanly incorporating all my symbols and ideas. 

  1. Maggie Yueliang Yao ‘21

The theme of my bookplate project revolves around the moon, a personal symbol of myself (I was born on the Moon Festival and my name means moon in Chinese). I incorporated my grandmother’s drawing of Chang’e, the Chinese goddess of the Moon, as the main element of the bookplate. While Chang’e is traveling through space with the moon, the cats, symbolizing independence and my support system, are sending off Chang’e to the starry sky, which represents the new chapter of her life with endless possibilities.

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