Scott Kristopher is a Book Artist, Poet and Storyteller.
Rachel: What is your connection to Buffalo?
Scott: It’s my hometown. [Laughing] Typical teenager, hated it. [I said I’d] never come back, but in my 30s— called back. Impressed with the art scene.
R: What countries have you traveled through?
S: South West Africa, Namibia. Colonized by the Germans. 1990 Independence; youngest in continent. It’s modern so not much culture shock. Thirteen tribes that are peaceful and diverse. People my age fought the revolution. There’s a ton of natural resources there.
R: Is there a story you would like to share about your experiences traveling?
S: For my study abroad experience, I spent it at a preschool. It was unusual: a man, white, foreigner. Not knowing what to do with me, I read to the kids and [shrugging] the teachers watched soap operas. The books I read to them were donated but not culturally relevant, so I spent most of my money on cultural relevant African themed books. There was a change; the kids owned them. From this I started a literacy project. Kids sat passive, but I had them act it out. They continued it.
It was unusual: a man, white, foreigner.
R: So in Africa the preschool continued your programming. How have you used that experience to benefit the Buffalo community?
S: My experiences with my work in Namibia have not fully materialized to benefit the Buffalo community as I’ve only recently returned home. But it is my driving force for coming home, and it is the most important life goal that I am actively pursuing. In the past ten years since my study abroad, I have been working on this neighborhood storytelling center and adapting it to a specific Buffalo context. Although I have taught some children’s theatre here and I work on storytelling with every kid I meet, I still have a lot of work to do to make the large scale impact that I intend to with a project of this magnitude. At the moment I am laying down my roots and creating networks and organizing my ideas into a coherent and sustainable program. I’m hoping to be able to at least pilot it by next fall.
R: Is journaling an important part of your life?
S: Journaling is an essential part of my life. Not only does it allow me the personal space to process my social interactions and relationships with my environment, it also creates a space that allows me to express myself. Although I do not always share what I write with others, the experience of putting my ideas, thoughts, and experiences in words on paper makes me better able to understand and express myself in other mediums and interactions. Plus, I’m extremely preoccupied with the existential, so journaling is that space where I work out my perception of reality with the universal - particularly on the subjects of meaningful and purposeful existence, moment/memory, and death.
R: So you learned making books independently. How long have you made books?
S: Since September 2011.
Save the world, one journal at a time!
R: The material you used for some journals is from a pair of pants you wore traveling in Africa. Are there other meaningful materials you used to make your journals?
S: I like to upcycle, and use unconventional materials. I do buy a ton of paper. When I take commissions, I repurpose. I like when someone brings something they envisioned, something tangible. My friend wanted to give journals to her wedding party. Even though I did not meet the bridesmaids, they felt [the journals were] just for them. Afterwards, they wanted to meet me. It was so personal and not about the design. It is special and unique. Your writing changes when the journal is designed for you.
R: What do you write about in your multiple journals?
S: One is for sketches for larger pieces I am working on. One for poetry, not a traditional journal in prose. One for food. One random notes.
R: Who are a couple of people in your life that motivate you?
S: My mom is easily the most influential person in my life. She’s the one who taught me to read at 2.5 years old, the one who encouraged me to be unique & creative and to tell stories. She helped me through all my years of bullying, made me want to spread light & love instead of perpetuating negativity and hatred. I’m also very inspired and influenced by the City of Buffalo, herself - the story of the fall and resurrection that is told by every brick in this city. Tom McDonnell (the executive director at Dog Ears) has been a tremendous influence and mentor to me creatively and socially. At the moment I’m very eager to get involved with Lorna C. Hill at the Ujima Theatre Company. But I’m really still finding my place in the Buffalo arts community. I’m inspired by Paul Auster as a writer and Neil Gaiman as a storyteller. I’m inspired by Tori Amos and Courtney Love as musicians, and I’m inspired by Claire Danes and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as actors and by Darren Aronofsky and Terrence Malick as directors. I consciously consume art that provokes me and makes me feel deeply as well as question, evolve and grow as an artist and human being.
R: Who do you make journals for?
S: I want everyone to journal. Save the world, one journal at a time! Give people, who may not have otherwise, a space for writing personally.
It started in Hawaii, an admiration for birth. After listening to an experienced midwife and doulas about the power of the uterus, the breast milk’s connection to the baby’s immune system and the interconnection between baby and mommy throughout the birth process, I wanted to support moms and encourage them through birth; so I completed a DONA International approved Birth Doula Workshop from the Academy of Certified Birth Educators.
Our educator, Linda Herrick asked everyone about our fears. In that moment, I did not have to put my fears in a box and shove them under the bed. No, she held each of our hands and listened. No advice, just repeating so I knew she understood my fear just as it was. Then she talked about ways to address my concerns and she supported me through the workshop.
When I moved back to Buffalo to pursue my passion to write, I would not forget about birth. In my writing, I used my experiences from the classes to express attitudes about birth. In my Fish Place Rookie Collection, a series of poems about a catcher working at a pet shop, The Fish Place in North Tonawanda, I begin to write about fear as well as women in labor and living through it.
Striped Raphael Catfish
I would have a chance to share my poems with midwifes and doulas, when I gained an opportunity to organize El Buen Amigo’s International Women’s Month Series. On Saturday, March 5, 2016, the Women Birthing program began with doula and musician, Sara Rodriquez performing her original pieces. The speakers from the Buffalo Midwifery Services: Eileen Stewart and Regine L. Marton made it, coming right from a birth. The open mic, Birth is Beautiful.
Here is another poem I read:
Rachel L. Johnson
Contributor Focus: "Buffalo: Deep Roots Abroad"