I feel so connected to LA-based artist, Judi Delgado, that I have a false memory of the two of us hugging. The whole thing plays out in my mind like a scene from a movie. It was a big embrace, the kind of great big hug that you give to a close friend that you’ve been apart from far too long. But in reality, it never happened. It was supposed to happen in June 2020 at Baum-kuchen’s 10th-anniversary celebration. I’d been invited to come to California for the celebration, and I was so excited that I would finally meet Wakako, Frido, their girls, and the BK team in person. And, I was so excited that I would finally meet Judi, face to face. I imagined hugging her over and over again, while I was planning that trip, so I suppose my memory could no longer differentiate fact from fiction. I never made it to California in June 2020 because by March, the United States entered into a lockdown to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus. So I haven’t gotten the chance to meet her in person yet, but that imagined hug feels so, so real.
Even though I’ve exchanged so many texts with Judi and have had great provocative discussions with her over Zoom in the past, we spent a lot more time talking about her notebooks and her writing process, in preparation for this story, and I am in awe. When I do finally make my way to California, I am inviting myself to her house because I want to see her 15 years' worth of art journals in person; I want to look through her Midori 5-year journal where she kept track of the COVID-19 stats during the height of the pandemic; and, I want to peruse the vintage diaries and journals that she rescues from estate sales and flea markets.
I must add that writing this profile was extraordinarily challenging for me because Judi is so fantastically talented, so remarkably intriguing, and so truly good in so many different ways.
It’s nearly impossible to share everything about her that I want to share with you in a single short story.
Judi started keeping a journal when she was a teenager or around 14 years old, and then regretfully destroyed those. She wishes she’d kept them because she was “a prolific writer then, prose, and poetry, and wrote letters frequently.” She eventually resumed her journaling practice, at around the age of 23, when she was “traveling with an improvisational theater group.” How cool is that to have as a biographical tidbit? Though her habit has been on and off again, she has kept all of her notebooks since then, and has an absolutely awe-inspiring collection of notebooks, written journals, and art journals.
Some people, like myself, keep just one notebook at a time, but Judi, like many others, keeps multiple notebooks, each with a specific purpose. These are the notebooks that she keeps and the purpose that each serves:
- A Field Note brand notebook, which she keeps as a log book/done list.
- A traveler’s notebook, which she keeps as a commonplace book, and in which she writes a page a day.
- A Midori-five-year journal, which is great for looking back on previous years to see what was happening on a given date.
- A Stalogy notebook to track her diet and exercise, which are very important for managing her health and well-being.
- A sun yellow Roterfaden for (my) MindMosaics and notes from our Taking Note meetups, as well as notes from workshops that she does with Yung Pueblo.
- Another Stalogy notebook, which is a catchall for lists and what she wants to or needs to accomplish the next day. All three of her Stalogy notebooks are kept together in a Yuruliku portfolio, so they are always on hand.
- And lastly, an art journal, which she uses a couple of times a month when she gets together with a group.
And even though I’ve been a one notebook person for so long, I was intrigued by her array of notebooks for different things, especially the Field Note brand notebooks, where she keeps her logbook/done list. She keeps track of/logs things she’s completed or done each day because it helps her manage her life and time. As someone who has 50 balls in the air with work, my own life, two sons, and a house to manage, I am always doing things that I could actually benefit from tracking in one place, and I think this is such a clever life hack. Rather than writing a list of things to do, she keeps careful track of what she has done.
In addition to keeping various notebooks, Judi also makes gorgeous notebooks. After she lost her parents within a few years of each other, she took the time to take some creative classes, like the one that she took to learn bookbinding. So, in addition to keeping art journals, she also makes them. The regular-size art journals she makes are spectacular, but she also makes tiny art journal necklaces that are magical. She told me about one that she made for a teacher. The teacher put a photo of each student in the book, so that she could carry them with her every day. The tiny book necklaces are true works of art. Some of the covers are made from vintage metal matchboxes, which I didn’t even know existed, and she explained that the chains are vintage, mixed chains. She’ll do things like buy broken rosaries and mix them with other links to make the chains. They are breathtakingly stunning.
Her own art journaling is beautiful too. She’s been keeping an art journal for about 15 years and started back when she was working an intense corporate job. During her lunch break, she would go to her car and work in her art journal, and these vessels of self-expression are themselves works of art.
And if all of that is not notebookishly wonderful enough, Judi also collects, or as she puts it “rescues” old journals and diaries and vintage office supplies from estate sales and flea markets. She is the first person that I’ve ever met who does this. As someone who has gone to the archives in the New York Public Library, I truly appreciate how meaningful even the simplest of vintage diaries and journals can be. They are historical documents and glimpses into what life was like for an actual human being, written in his or her own hand. And even though I have researched them, I have never thought about going out and rescuing them.
Speaking of historical documents, someone, in the future, would be enthralled if they were fortunate enough to rescue the Midori 5-year journal that Judi kept during the height of the pandemic. Every day she recorded the COVID-19 statistics for the United States, California, and LA County, a reminder that keeping a notebook doesn’t only have to be about reflective writing or art journaling. This data that Judi collected during the pandemic is priceless, and I again found myself asking why I hadn’t thought to do that. Judi is so inspiring in so many different ways.
When Baum-kuchen reopened for in-store shopping, Judi signed up for one of the shopping timeslots, making sure that I’d be available at that time, so she could FaceTime me and take me around the store with her. I got to say hello to Wakako and other people, and she took me around, so I could see all of the goodies in the shop. She ended up buying a Soumkine yellow Agenda notebook, which I used in my Roterfaden. I cannot think of adequate descriptive words that really capture the magic that is Judi and the way that I feel about her. To me, she is not only an artist, she is truly a human work of art.
Judi Delgado can be found on Instagram at @delgadojx.