Don’t get too excited, this isn’t an all encompassing post about the history of and current practices of every artist book maker ever. Actually a happy trawl of the internet will reveal a fair few, and there are several very good books about too, available from a bookseller of your choice, obviously.
I have made five artist’s books so far, one a hanging book, and I’m just making my sixth. They are all quite large, and I want to make more books, but they must be smaller, due to storage and transportation problems; none of them would sit happily on a shelf, not without potential damage to the shelf, at least.
Trouble is, small isn’t me, but I have achieved an A3 sized book, so won’t make myself get smaller than that, just yet.
Last Saturday I went to Volume, at the Library of Birmingham. This was an art, book and print fair, featuring a large amount work, some of a more esoteric nature, including zines, artist books, prints, cards and much interesting stuff. I really needed to spend all day there, and hope it happens again next year, if not sooner. I was attracted, not surprisingly, by one artist using Khadi paper in his work, but also by the astonishing creativity of so many of the artists. I suspect sales weren’t buoyant, particularly at this time of year when people are spending their money on objects of a more tinselly, or electronic, nature.
I have plans to start a new book soon, and of course the fair has really made me impatient to try new ideas and formats too.
I seem to get out and about more in the winter, as it’s my quieter period work wise. I spent a lovely day in Worcester with a friend on Friday, having my annual look at the cathedral and enjoying the great range of small and independent shops there, and the lights and decorations, and of course the wonderful river and flocks of swans.
On Sunday it was another trip to a local National Trust property, before it closed for the winter. Packwood House has had a large new restaurant built, and there was a Christmas fair, where we were forced to buy some beer, and the house was decorated beautifully. I like to get my fill of Christmas before the day. Here is a view of the house from the gardens, which are quite spectacular in summer, but quietly beautiful in winter too.
Part of the topiary garden. I’d love to see it on a moonlit night.
I wish our garden was as tidy as their vegetable garden is; we have two nearby oak trees that empty themselves into our garden, so much leaf removal awaits.
A very chic auricula theatre, waiting for its auriculas.
Decoration and bird feeder making.
And a creepy decorated gourd.
I have nearly finished the pieces of From the Bright Sky, a largish piece I’m making for the Festival of Quilts next year. Below are a couple of the stitched and beaded pieces, and a close up of a third piece too. Next job will be to mount them on Khadi paper, and add some text, and then at some point to move some of my work along so we can actually use the table for Christmas lunch.
If you are very keen most of the images will appear larger should you wish to click on ‘em.
This weekend I began my membership of the 58 club. I’m not at all concerned about this but I may start twitching when it’s the 60 club that’s attained. Still, what can you do?
I had a lovely birthday weekend, with a mix of friends and family. On Saturday I went to Winterbourne Gardens with friends from our textile group Quatrefoil; we were lucky to have bright sunshine for a walk and then coffee and non-stop talking, we could have gone on all day. It’s a wonderful garden and house that’s close for all of us, and below is a photograph I took in one of the greenhouses during this year. I didn’t have my camera on this visit, unfortunately, but the greenhouses are beautiful all year, and they are building a new orchid house too. I must admit to liking the old one though, it was long, dim, sweaty and creepy, crammed with gorgeous plants trailing, clinging and hanging. The new one seems to be bigger though, so more botanical opportunities will result.
In the evening we were at another friend’s house, being fed, wonderful; many thanks J and T. I cook a lot so it’s excellent when someone else brings you food, and fills up your wine glass. In the days when you were fed on a ‘plane I loved it, those little trays with compartments; I realise this is beyond sad.
On Sunday we went to Baddesley Clinton, a National Trust moated house; I post about this property quite a lot, as I go several times a year, but like a birthday trip there as the house is decorated and I can indulge in a bit of Christmas schmaltz. And, there was another burst of sunshine for a walk. I very much appreciated this, I’m feeling light deprived at the moment I think. Here’s few shots of good old Baddesley below.
I love the dreamy colours in this last image, and would like it printed, I think, on some fabric. If I don’t get round to doing that I will use it in my Identity work, for the Art Textiles: Made in Britain show next year, which I’m working on at the moment [and for many future moments, it's turning into a biggie.] I have written a list of what I would like to include in my Identity artist’s book, some of which is featured below, which then sort of depressed me. I think I will go my usual route of doing exactly what I want rather than what I think I should; after all, where would we ever stop with identity when you start to list your life? So I will keep it intuitive.
I’ve made some more pages for the book, Shadow and Light. Here are some of them below, in progress.
This is the start of a couple of double page spreads about the coast, the sea, and many beach walks.
These are A3 sized photographs of Welsh beaches I used to visit frequently, an image I took of pebbles, with silk then bondawebbed onto it, text and driftwood, all materials used to make the pages shown below.
Page 2 of the double page spread, with the rest of the book stacked behind, and page 1 below, being stitched.
Right, I’m off to finish these pages now.
The title makes it seem as if I have been away working, which isn’t the case, it’s just that I’ve been working away at my work. So, having sorted that out, here’s a quick round up of what I’ve been doing, which is basically working on a couple of projects at the same time, whilst being very keen to start another but not letting myself, and, as I write, another interesting possibility had raised its head, so that’s another one to be firm about.
I have a few days a week to do my own work at the moment, so tend to do design/layout work in the morning, and stitching in the afternoon. This sounds wonderfully planned and calm; it’s not, so don’t be jealous. Our family life is far too interesting to allow that. I have been on a couple of very nice outings lately though, to see David Tennant as Richard II at Stratford, and to see Stereophonics this week, and could quite happily get into the habit of such outings on a more regular basis; undoubtedly getting out and about is good for your work, so that’s as good a reason as any, then.
Here’s some actual work. I have written about a book I started back in primeval times, and have toyed with for ages, which I then dumped. But, I saved the best bits. Actually I threw away a few useful bits too, so be warned against too much de-cluttering. Art Textiles:Made in Britain, the new group I am part of, have their show ‘Identity’ at the Festival of Quilts next year, and whilst making my current work I have been thinking about my work for that exhibition. It became clear that From the Bright Sky, my current project, will be perfect for ‘Identity’.
That set me thinking about the abandoned book, the boomerang book as I now think of it. This was, and indeed is, called Shadow and Light, and is now in full working mode, and will also be part of my ‘Identity’ exhibit. So I am ploughing on with both, and much enjoying it. I’m not forcing the identity thing, I’m letting it evolve; I don’t imagine it will be an obvious piece, as I love a bit of esoterica.
Here are a few of the pages, some new, some cut and re arranged, and all at different stages, i.e. none finished.
They are 70 cm x 30 cm, very long landscape.
I visited the 18th century Warwickshire house and gallery Compton Verney this week, to see their final exhibitions of the year. Curious Beasts is a large exhibition of animal prints from the collection of the British Museum, investigating the importance of prints as an aid to document and understand the natural world from the 15th to the 19th centuries. This wasn’t just a collection of pretty pictures; it was a complex mix of images exploring our knowledge and treatment of creatures as well as some glorious natural history scientific illustrations, and some political comment from the 18th century which is relevant still today.
Compton Verney also houses the Marx-Lambert collection of folk art. I particularly enjoy the work of Enid Marx, a designer and illustrator working during the 20th century. Many of us will have sat on her designs, as she produced many patterns for transport seating; the tube, buses and so on, as well as gorgeous block printed wallpaper and fabric. In another exhibition on the animal theme in the temporary exhibition galleries, it was good to see her animal alphabet lino cut prints exhibited. They were fresh and vigorous, and supported in an adjoining gallery by an exhibition of contemporary printmakers with their take on the theme of animal alphabets. So of course I want to make one too, now.
Many years ago I bought a small dog eared book in a second hand bookshop in Dolgellau, Wales, called Birds of the Sea, unaware that its front cover was her work. It is my favourite book, and if I could save only one book in the event of some sort of catastrophe it would be this one. I also recently bought her book, written with Margaret Lambert, a social historian, called English Popular and Traditional Art, published in 1946. This is part of a quaint series called Britain in Pictures. I have English Villages from the series too.
I was away teaching for a couple of days last week, at the Bramble Patch in Northamptonshire. I had a lovely group of invigorating students, and we made pieces of work based on recycling and the rainforest, using fabrics and papers coloured and printed with acrylic inks and paints. I have been screen printing and dyeing for some time now and it was good to get back to acrylics for a change; it made me realise I won’t be dropping them from my repertoire just yet.
So when I got home I decided to get going with painting and printing some paper, for some new work, and for teaching next year. It is quite possible that the work just may be that animal alphabet I’ve been inspired to make; a theme is so good to get you going, isn’t it?
I use Khadi paper, and here is a a selection of the pieces I made. Most will be used as collage paper, to be cut up and layered, with some painted maps, printed pages and music too, quite possibly. There are one or two more obvious background pieces at the end, but who knows, they too may be cut into collage elements.
I’ll be printing more papers later today, after we’ve been shopping, moving into using thermofax screens and procion dyes, and this will be followed by experimenting with coloured pencils and Inktense pencils, graphite blocks and my favourite, Indian ink.
Some of my ancient but trusty print blocks, and below, papers drying in my work area.
The weather may be grey, but here’s what George and I do to deal with the dullness. Admittedly I am in the happier position as I can do both of these activities, whereas George has limited access to beads and probably no real interest in them. Below is George’s usual way of dealing with less than jolly weather.
And here’s mine. The twelve pieces of From the Bright Sky are all machine stitched and ready for their beading experience. I’m not going to be minimalist at all, I am in the mood for beads; a mix of gem stone chips, glass seed beads, a few handmade porcelain beads and one or two other bits and pieces.
So here are a few pieces of work auditioning potential beads.
This the the twelfth piece, featuring sagittal squids. I’m not a horoscope sort of person but when I found a squid whose name shared my birth sign I knew he was the chap for me. This piece was constructed on Khadi paper before it was machine stitched, and is 70 x 50 cm in size, so the whole twelve together will be taking up a fair amount of space when they are hung.
Below are a couple of details. The bead stitching will now continue for some time, in the comfort of the living room, listening to the television.
A few months ago a new textile group was born, Art Textiles: Made in Britain. It’s members are Louise Baldwin, Pauline Barnes, Hilary Beattie, Ineke Berlyn, Cas Holmes, Rosie James, Edwina Mackinnon, Sandra Meech, Stephanie Redfern, Christine Restall, and Jenny Rolfe.
The setting up of our group was the idea of Hilary Beattie, who has put in a tremendous amount of work both in the group’s formation and in securing us a biennial exhibition at the Festival of Quilts, at the NEC, Birmingham, UK. The profit from sale of the catalogues from these shows will go to the Quilters’ Guild of Great Britain, an important and instrumental organisation who celebrate the history of quilt making and textile arts and who also support and promote present day makers of contemporary, art, and traditional quilts.
We now have a new website, at www.arttextilesmadeinbritain.co.uk as well as our Facebook page, so please pop over to have a look at it. Meanwhile, here are a few images of our work.
And indeed needing a touch of bright sky too. The weather here in the Midlands has been quite grim; dark grey skies and rain; that good summer has spoiled us. I am, however, enjoying working with bright colour and pattern, and have a few more pieces from the series From the Bright Sky laid down. There will be twelve altogether, so one more to go.
It’s been a busy time with teaching and ageing parents, so work has slowed down a little, but here are the latest pieces. I have a plan to put them in a book together with the Found pieces, and one or two other pieces of new work, which I will probably and somewhat unimaginatively entitle ‘New Work’, unless something more exciting comes up. I can think of any amount of esoteric wordage, but nothing that would cover several pieces of work, in an understandable way, but does that matter? I will think on’t.
Below are the latest pieces, all about A2 in size, constructed from appliquéd painted, printed and dyed fabrics, with some papers and metallic fabrics too.
I’ll be adding machine stitch next. I’m thinking wave lengths and undulating diagonals; perhaps that could be the title of the book…