The Dough Golem
Interview by L. Valena
Please explain to me what you responded to.
I responded to a piece of writing called 'Love Letter'. In the piece of writing, the protagonist bakes croissants, and by the end they become a love letter. As she's baking them, she has this emotional relationship with the dough and its fleshiness.
And what was your first reaction to that?
Well, I was actually a really avid bread baker for many years, and have written about dough and flesh before, so there was a lot to draw from. It's stuff I had thought about before.
That's amazing! What are the odds?
My first reaction was wow- what a perfect prompt! And it really resonated with me- the idea of a baked good as an expression and embodiment of your feelings. And just how lively that is. The other side of that is when at the end of the story she's deciding whether she should just eat it or not. In a bakery, a baked good is a consumer product and is devoid of any particular meaning. It's something to be enjoyed and eaten, but it can consumed in a way that is totally unemotional. All those ideas were in my head after I finished reading.
What happened next?
So, then I was trying to figure out how I could produce a piece that kind of riffed on this. The first piece of imagery that came to mind was something about the laminated dough of a croissant- it's not so much a love letter as a stack of love letters. All those layers of dough. Maybe it would be good to do something really ambitious- I was imagining a series of drawings where each layer is a drawing of someone receiving this love letter and enjoying it or not. Then I drew some people eating croissants, and it felt a little disjointed. I kept going back to this stack of papers thing. The next idea I had was to make a flip-book. Again, someone on the receiving end of this love letter. The idea of a stack of images was what kept coming back. But finally I started to work out the comic that I started drawing- the stack of layers of croissant became the different frames or layers of the motion in the final comic.
Walk me through the narrative of this piece.
I had in my head a singing valentine- like the singing telegram from Clue. That crossed with the fleshiness of the dough, and the liveliness of the croissant as a love letter. What if the croissant love letter was this little dude who came out and did a dance, and then returned to his croissant form. So that's kind of what I was going for. This weirdo thing made out of dough that lives in a croissant, or maybe he is a croissant.
I love this idea of a golem. Can you talk some more about that?
It's not steeped in any real mythology, I just love the idea of a golem as this kind of weird thing between an inanimate object and a living form that someone can bring into existence to do their bidding, but they often get out of control.
And I love that the animus of a golem comes purely from words- it connects back to the idea of a love letter in a really cool way.
The other thing I should mention was that I colored the croissant with leftover coffee grounds. As a nod to having breakfast.
Oh wow there's something interesting there- ink and coffee. Ink and words and food and letters. Is that something that you've done before?
Yeah, I haven't done a ton before. I've done some painting where I've used coffee grounds in a base layer to kind of give it a texture. There's always something extra earthy about using food waste- it kind of lends a texture that I struggle to produce by any other means.
What advice do you have for someone else who is going to do this?
Have fun with it. I kind of let my mind run wild with ideas for a few days before I put pen to paper, and it was fun to just kind of run with it. Without the specter of actually acting on it, it could get really ambitious. But then it was kind of a fun process to whittle the process down to something you could produce in a week or so. It is just really fun to analyze the prompt and figure out what aspects I wanted to respond to. For me, there was a struggle to decide how much of what I'm going to do is just going to take this prompt and translate it into another media, versus responding to aspects that really spoke to me.
Call Number: Y13PP | Y17VA.scDo
Ben is a dilettante living in central New York. He makes computers do math, makes banjos make noise, draws cartoons and rides bikes in the woods.