Noe Valley Voice May 2006

Artist Captures the Soul of Beach Stones

By Erin O'Briant

Sit for a moment with a page from Josie Iselin's gorgeous new book Beach Stones, and you'll feel your shoulders drop two inches.

"I know of nothing better for daily stress than walking along the beach collecting stones," Iselin says.

Readers of all ages can get the same feeling--without the drive to Fort Funston--from Iselin's collection of 200 images of beach stones. The book, she says, is "an artistic collaboration with nature."

Each two-page, 7-by-7-inch spread shows a grouping of beach stones against a stark black or white background. Some arrangements are whimsical--the stones might look like a paw, for example--while others simply reveal the sculptural beauty of a single stone.

The images appear to be photographs, but Iselin actually created them using her scanner. "I place the object directly on the glass of the flatbed scanner and import the resulting image into Photoshop," she explains. It's a technique she's refined over the years.

Along with each image is a caption noting where the stones were found, and on the opposite page geologist Margaret Carruthers explains what natural forces shaped the rocks. "It's really a very loving and intimate portrait of these stones," Iselin explains.

The 29th Street resident, artist, and mother of three is a longtime stone lover. "I've always collected stones," she says. "Stones are very soothing and appealing physically, and also there's something about the fact that they're not really worth anything, but they hold so much value--a memory of a certain beach or a physical presence. People really, really treasure their stones."

Originally, Iselin put together a small mock-up of 12 stone images. After a friend gave Iselin's sister a gift of 50 stones for her 50th birthday, Iselin expanded the mock-up into a prototype book called Fifty Stones. Her agent, who lives on Elizabeth Street, encouraged her to create more images. The final product, Beach Stones, is being released this month by Abrams, an imprint of New York publisher Harry N. Abrams, Inc. Abrams also will publish Iselin's companion book, Leaves and Pods, this September. Both books are $17.95.

Iselin is making a couple of appearances in San Francisco during the next few weeks. She'll read and sign books at Cover to Cover Booksellers--on Castro Street near 24th Street--on Friday, May 5, from 3 to 5 p.m. She encourages parents to bring their kids after school, since the book appeals to all generations.

On Wednesday, June 7, Iselin will speak at the San Francisco Center for the Book; she'll demonstrate how she uses a scanner to create images. That event takes place at 7 p.m. at 300 De Haro Street near 16th Street.

For more information about Iselin's books, visit her web site at www