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Helen Keller Award: Benighted

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series 2020 CripLit Keys
The 2020 CripLit Keys presentation video and podcast is here and on all good podcasting platforms. This post is about the Stella Young Award itself.

The next award is the Helen Keller Award. I chose this name because, when I was in primary school in a mainstream school, I found a biography of Helen Keller for children in the library. This was the first time I’d found any character with whom I could identify as vision impaired. I read and reread that novel over the next few years.

The story was, in many ways, problematic. After all, Keller was completely blind and deaf unlike me. She was what we call a “supercrip” so she’s used for “inspiration porn” these days. And, because she broke new ground for disabled people, she didn’t offer any hints for having a career in the present. However, she was the first vision impaired character I remember finding in any medium. And, being an historical figure, hers seemed an appropriate name for this award.

The Helen Keller Award is a retrospective award given to stories with representations of disability that pre-date these awards.

Just like Helen Keller’s children’s biography was a first for me, so was the story receiving this award. I bought this book from Dymocks in Tea Tree Plaza back in 2007, in an era I was struggling to read without disability access. However, this book was worth the effort.

Bareback, aka Benighted

Bareback, or Benighted as it’s called outside of Australia, is a story about werewolves. The author, Kit Whitfield, turned the trope on its head. Anyone who is not a werewolf is considered disabled, is shunned, lives on a low income and has unique battles. This is ironic considering this society needs people who are not werewolves to keep everyone safe during the full moon. So few people are disabled that doctors deliberately cause this disability during childbirth.

There are so many parallels between Bareback / Benighted and disability in the real world that this story blew me away. Since I was 4, I believed speculative fiction done well portrays the human condition and holds a mirror up to society. This book, however, took these discussions to a new level. Thirteen years later, I’m still excited about it.

So today I am pleased to award the Helen Keller Award to Kit Whitfield for Benighted, which is also called Bareback.

Helen Keller Award for Benighted

The making of the Helen Keller Award

If you’ve been following these posts, you know I painted nearly all the things with two coats of black gesso.

The frame, as usual, has a rough coat of texture paste that I then painted black. (Those Big W frames were SO boring before I hacked them!)

For texture in the background I used a stencil of some clocks and laid down some texture paste, trying to make incomplete clocks that fade away on the edges. The clocks also generally trail diagonally down the page from the plaque to the lock.

For added texture, I painted grit paste around the clocks. I may have forgotten to mention this for previous awards but took this step for each award. It helps to pick up the metallic wax later.

Sticky fingers sticking sticky things

The scrollwork consists of three layers of heavy watercolor paper glued together, painted with black gesso and glued down. The key and lock are chipboard, painted black and glued down.

Stamps created outlines for the houses and layered up the wolf. For the houses I used Versamark ink and black embossing powder then a heat gun. Then I die cut them and trimmed the edges to make them consistent. The wolf is just layers of stamping then ink blending over the top.

Hello, Moon

The moon is a Lavinia stamp on cardstock in a stack of about 5 pieces of watercolor paper all die cut with a circle die (o joy that I didn’t have to cut them out!) and glued together for dimension. I painted Perfect Pearls in the color (wait for it…) Perfect Pearls to get the shine then inked around the edge to hopefully give the moon a bit of a curve.

Brush your teeth! Oh, not *that* kind of plaque then

The plaque was printed onto watercolor cardstock then die cut. Meanwhile, the clouds are die cut, then the plaque and clouds experienced the joys of ink blending and hearing me swear when I put dark purple and black fingerprints on the highlights.

The lamp is (ta daaaa) several die cut layers glued together. I hand-cut a piece of white cardstock, colored it yellow, and stuck it behind the lamppost for the light, then filled in the holes with Glossy Accents.

Die cut leaves in bright shades of green experienced the joy of ink blending to tone them down without making them actually black. We needed some color, after all!

Moldy roses

I bought the roses and used paper molding tools to improve their shape. Then I applied Stickles glitter glue to give them some shine. I think I also did that to the wolf’s back… or maybe I edged him in silver embossing powder? Can’t remember for sure now.

The minion

I prepared a massive pile of bits and pieces then the minion sat down and played with them. He didn’t like the skyscrapers I provided so I pulled out the stamp set with the houses and church. We discussed the book, how the “barebacks” live set apart, so he liked the town as he set it out.

I worried that the top portion of the award looked too empty so he added the leaves as if we’re looking through bushes in a park, looking at the wolf and the city behind it.


And, finally, I used three colors of metallic wax to give this award and its frame some shine. Or, actually, I *might* have done that before the Great Gluing Event, because I learnt the hard way how tricky it is going around the colored fiddly bits. They’re not exactly fjords but… (excuse the Hitchhiker‘s reference, I couldn’t help myself).

When I put this award together I don’t think I had any problems with buffing the wax because I had a soft cloth (ratty old singlet donated by hubby) and I was careful when cleaning the glass.

By this stage I took photos withOUT the glass because gah! Need a studio! But taking the photos sans glass works. I took great pains not to stress the clips holding the frame together, took it apart, put the glass in, reassembled, voila! Ready for posting! (Don’t talk to me about posting… or my Marvin impersonation may spontaneously revive itself from when I was a teen. I used to be able to quote literally pages and, according to my friends and even my mother, my Marvin impersonation used to be pretty good. For Marvin.)


If you’ve actually read this far, I’m amazed. I have waffled but I’ve also tried to give a genuine recounting of how to make these awards for those who might be interested.

Stay safe. Enjoy this respite before the New Year kicks in with a vengeance. All the best!


Series Navigation<< Stella Young Award: Daughter of Lies and RuinTriantiwontigongolope Award: A Lifetime Of Impossible Days >>
Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


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