Last year I thought it might be fun to make one-off books from time to time. For fun, I repeat. For no purpose other than fun. I started with a simple concertina monotype book, in response to spending endless hours scarcely moving in a traffic queue - just a verge, with a list of the plants I identified on the back of the monotype.
I put it out at the Manchester Artists Book Fair. People liked it, which was, of course, a very acceptable state of affairs. It sold, and a couple of people asked if I would make something similar for them. In my innocence I thought, well why not? It wasn't in the spirit of a unique book, I suppose, but I'd enjoyed making the first one. Whereupon I discovered that, while making a single book with no purpose seemed a simple undertaking, making more of them, with people in mind and some kind of a deadline (which I spectacularly failed to meet), was somehow infinitely more difficult. I would do a monotype. I wouldn't like it. I would do another, think I liked it, then find it wasn't so very different to the one I didn't like. Eventually I ended up with half a dozen, each based on somewhere, sometime. Later still, they acquired lists, covers, and now, finally they are finished. I'm moderately happy with them but they took much much longer than I ever would have dreamed. I won't say never again, but in any similar future situation, I'll think very hard before I say anything at all. They're on the 2015 Books page (accessed from Book arts).
Well they always speed up on me, these events, but I think I have a reasonable idea of what I can and what I can't achieve before the Leeds fair (early March) and BABE in Bristol (mid-April). Still have to do what I need to do, of course.
Meanwhile I'm starting with a little light card-making from prints.
Well that's it for another year - the 2014 Manchester Artists' Book Fair has now been and gone. At the moment I'm still buzzing but no doubt tomorrow will be a bit flat. It's a surprising amount of work beforehand to organise and every year I swear it's time to pass the whole thing on to someone else, but once it actually arrives I admit I always enjoy it. Of course how I feel is not what it's about, but I like to think that the exhibitors - and the visitors - enjoy it too. That definitely is the point of it all.
Time to move on to the next project. 20:20 print exchange here I come.
I always have great plans for autumn. It's my favourite time of year and I develop vague notions of a pleasing range of day-long trips to not-too-far-flung places (well obv, or they'd take longer than a day) where I will have a fantastic time and return tired but happy and with broader (geographical at least) horizons. Something like that.
What I never remember to take into account is how full my head will be, first with the Manchester Artists' Book Fair and all the scattershot work that goes with it, second with how little time there is left to make an edition for the Hot Bed Press 20:20 exchange and how on earth will I manage and what am I going to print anyway, and third with my part in the sorting, packing up and posting out of parcels to a million million workshops for said 20:20 exchange. And then it'll be Christmas and I won't even have picked up the atlas (yes, I still use maps. I have no plans to change this method of knowing where I am).
Not that the events that steal my autumn are without their own charms. I do enjoy the book fair, once it's arrived, though I'm still researching some kind of herding method to get more people in there. Cattle prods? Maybe not, probably against the rules. I like the printing for the exchange too, of course I do, and although 30 prints is a bit of a drag (I only need 25, but a safety margin is non-negotiable), I love seeing rows of (reasonably) identical prints all laid out. Very satisfying. The sorting is definitely more of a chore, once you get past the child-in-a-sweet-shop overindulgence of looking at many hundreds of different prints, but when the whole distribution thing is over, there's that pleasant feeling of a task definitively finished for another year.
Nowhere near that point yet. But I did sort out all the wooden type in my studio (neatly but randomly) into a variety of boxes (some bound for the fair and keen new owners) and the like, meaning that suddenly there are surfaces available to produce prints on. It's progress of a sort.
I started efforts to print flyers for this year's Manchester Artists' Book Fair on one of the HBP riso machines - these were two of the fails. Can't use them, but love the colour mixes.
There might be others, later on - who's to say? Elizabeth Willow set up the letterpress for last year's bookmarks, I photographed it and started off the poster, and Andy Magee added style, spruced up the text, attached the logos. I think it works pretty well.
Liverpool's was an artists' book fair of two halves, I think you could say. Friday, judging by what visitors said and the way many of them looked, it rained all day. People did come, but they were reasonably sparse - very reasonably, I'd suggest; I wouldn't want to trek through ceaseless wet even for a book fair, and especially not if I knew there was a second day, when the sun might play nice.
And on Saturday, hey presto! The sun shone all day long and a lot more people turned up. It was, of course, also the weekend by that time. We had plenty of youngsters around too, making an absolute and obviously very satisfying racket merely by running down and up the generously built-in ramp that gently descends around the edge of the circular room - well, we had moved in on their dedicated library space, so it seemed fair enough.
Liverpool Central Library has been extensively renovated/made-over in the past few years, only reopening just over a year ago (I never even thought of visiting as I passed through Liverpool on my way to work in Bootle many many moons ago - probably wasn't even aware that there was a library amongst that substantial row of buildings near the station). I mentioned we were in the children's library, Discover - it's hard to imagine how it's set out when not full of upstart tables, but it looks a lovely roomy area. On the Friday I arrived hot and bothered (from hurrying so as not to get too damp from the just-practising rain) and damp anyway. I'd got there, and all I wanted was to go sit down at our table and set up. I didn't shift from the room until I went home (the long way - don't ask - not for the first time - don't ask about that either).
So on Saturday, when Gemma and I entered the library relaxed and without baggage (all there already) and on a gloriously sunny morning, I looked up and was amazed to see a wonderful modern central area, open above me, with crisscrossing stairways, all the way up to the... dome? It's sort of distorted - a little disorientating but very beautiful. Later on in the day I went up to the Picton Reading Room. Just stunning - massive, round, traditional, lovely book layers and ironwork and spiral staircases and (I think) another dome. I was in love. I wanted it for my own, though I do think it might squash my whole road under its generous footprint. I've seen so many beautiful library spaces recently, I'm beginning to understand why the Library of Lost Books set up a Pinterest site of Beautiful Libraries. I was on my way to see the exhibition of artists' books in the Hornby Library, also rather nice, off the Reading Room. Like an idiot, I deliberately left my camera at home on the Saturday - surely there just weren't any more photos to take! - and accidentally left my phone behind as well (along with other things I meant to take - oh what it is to be such an organised individual) or I'd have lots of "Look at this! and this! and this!" photos to share. But the Biennial is now on, so I'll be going back (no really, I will) and can take in the library on my trip. Alas it won't include the artists' book exhibition, which ended Sunday. Many of the exhibitors were also at the fair, along with other examples of their exhibits, but Theresa Easton wasn't. I'd have loved a closer look at her subtly multi-shaded Two Thousand Insects, housed in an old letterpress drawer, but she's very kindly allowed me to use one of the photos from her own blog here.
The fair was, of course, full of lots of lovely book people and lots of lovely books. I had to fight quite hard with myself not to go round acquiring completely unjustifiable gorgeous-little-things at every stand (and no, I wouldn't be buying them to give away as presents, they would be ALL FOR ME). Picking out just a very few examples, there were wonderful leather-bound volumes and books full of exquisite drawings of beetles, bees, butterflies, intricate woven book sculptures made from twitter messages and, which really took my fancy, a book created around the shipping forecast. In the end I was pretty restrained and just indulged in these -
a book which is purely colour, eco-dyed with onion skins, from Pauline Lamont-Fisher (she makes many beautiful books) and an outsize woodcut ampersand from Andrew Morrison of Two Wood Press (lovely man, he says he'll try to identify the random fonts in my new wooden type Pi book, though I shan't hold him to it). Another one of his posters was in a crazed German font saying (in German, natch) You can kiss my arse - apparently the comment of a soldier in 1918 when asked if he'd like to stay on in the army. Should have got that too. But what I might do is ask him to bring one for me when he comes to Manchester in October.
Because YES! the Manchester Artists' Book Fair is on again, 17th and 18th October. Bookings for tables are coming in steadily (this is the 'paperwork' end of proceedings) and I'm slowly gearing up to the flurry of activity that precedes the event, then worrying over and enjoying the two days that are the point of it all, before slumping back with a sigh of relief and a pinch of regret that it's all over for another year. Still, long way to go till I get that far.
I'm going to be there, sharing a table with Gemma Lacey. Probably ought to check what I've actually got to put out on said table.
Is it too late to start something new? Too early? Still keen to change into a well-planned, ahead-of-the-game sort of a person. Still no nearer.
I make prints and book arts, though nowhere near as often as I'd like - no good reason, just an inability to get on with things. I occasionally go on about landscape (with which I am mildly obsessed) and various of its elements, and I like to pass comment on exhibitions I visit.