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'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.
Just finished a weekend course at Hot Bed Press, sewing book after book after book - glorious! The ever-lovely Elizabeth Willow was the tutor who led us with dancing hands through two days of learning long stitch, japanese stab stitches, coptic stitch, palm leaf books and more - and every new technique resulted in another gorgeous book for us to add to our growing collections. Not to mention that she provided us each with a box to keep everything in! And Elizabeth surrounded us with little things of incidental beauty, from a collection of summery floral china saucers (for the one session of gluing) to a needle case made from frayed velvet, so that the whole experience was a pleasure in every way. Really, what better way to spend time?
For now, what I really need to do is go practise all the various stitching methods, slowly and often until they're really bedded in. And I need to do it as soon as possible, before forgetting starts to set in. Then I need to use those by-then-well-honed techniques to make lots of exciting new books - the ideas are queuing up already.
Elizabeth had a display of her books on a side table - one particular book caught my eye and mind, called What is to be done? and full of her signature sideways take on the world. It was (inevitably) delightful, eccentric, unbelievably feel-good, with unforgettable phrases as 'grow monstrous marrows and cress on cotton wool'; 'hips and haws and dubious mushrooms'; 'drink fire and woodsmoke from a bottle'. Loved it.
Continuing the bookish theme, I have recently been reminded that I need to make 100 bookmarks by June - something that, because I signed up for it well over a year ago (possibly two?), I had more or less completely forgotten. Oh well, I've still got time.
Busy stretch ended (I refuse to sweat the small stuff, like nearly all the christmas shopping). I suppose a trip to my parents didn't count as busy, except that I knew I should really have been preparing for the Volume fair at the amazing new Birmingham Library. Instead I had a lovely couple of days enjoying somewhere else's christmas market (Bath instead of Manchester),
admiring the ceiling in Bath Abbey (unusually for a church building, it was much warmer in there than outside, which was very welcome)
and generally soaking up glowing autumn colour - the greyer the day, the more glowing the colours (no photos, always driving, and I've made the very wise decision, I think, not to combine driving with photography).
Then a mad day (though not half as mad as it needed to be) of sticking and wrapping and preparing before making it down to Birmingham with Gemma. As is becoming almost traditional for fairs in new places, we drove in a few exciting wrong directions before hitting on the right one, but we still got there with time to spare. Birmingham's new library was brilliant. I already liked the centre of Birmingham anyway, the little I've seen of it - everything seems to be clustered in a way that makes it absolutely crystal clear that yes, there can be no getting away from it, this is the centre - and the library is a flashily tasteful addition on the outside, with great facilities and amazing juxtapositions of shapes and colours on the inside.
Driving across the embarrassingly tiny section of the centre to get to where we were staying (admittedly we were trying to do this during the rush hour) involved another interesting detour (all in all we saw a lot more of the A38 than we ever intended) and a few irritated drivers, but we managed. And the fair? Well, it could have been busier - it sometimes lacked buzz - but I've decided that bringing new people together with the niche corner of the world that is book arts, is an arcane skill requiring decades of practice (whatever, it seems irritatingly difficult), and of course the event was nevertheless full of lovely people and amazing work, and the staff couldn't have been more welcoming and helpful than they were. All in all it was a brilliant couple of days.
I do hope I'm going to have some work ready for this fair at Birmingham's new library - I'd even like to do something new, but I don't think there's time for that. New things might have to wait for the next fair. However, it's rather good to be able to put prints on show as well as books - here's a list of people showing. I'm sharing a table with Gemma Lacey, not for the first time - should be fun, as ever.
It always grows to fill all available mindspace (allowing, I suspect, for quite a lot of barren or barely fertile ground, only capable of sustaining freecell and minesweeper, and mindless sci-fi on tv - the shame of it) and then it's over and I feel relieved and faintly bereft. Something has been taken away and I miss it, while still being pleased it isn't there for a while.
Yes, the Manchester Artists Book Fair for this year has been and gone. I always feel a little too close to it to judge how things went, but I know that I had a good time, which must be worth something. I even had table space for my books this year - Emma very kindly gave up a day and a half of her time to look after things for me and (I knew she would) did a fantastic job of selling things for me, as well as generally helping out with everything else. I'd like to put it all down to the boundless energy reserves of youth, but she's also very very good with people - it's something of a gift.
Meanwhile I talked a lot and counted a lot and photographed a lot and made a fair number of cups of tea and coffee as well. And, um, I might have spent a lot too. Mind you, I have some very lovely books to show for it.
So now what? Well there's still the 20:20 looming (and I still haven't figured out when I'm going to finish the edition for that) and the sorting of it, and then - because Emma was so super-efficient at shifting my work - I'd better get making books (and prints) for the Volume fair at the shiny new Birmingham library in December. It's definitely time for some new work.
Nearly there. Then I can get back to thinking about everything else. Do come along - go to www.manchesterartistsbookfair.com for more details.
This is another poster for this year's Manchester Artists' Book Fair - well, actually it'll be the catalogue cover, but I think it works nicely as a poster. We distribute letterpressed bookmarks as flyers locally - set and mostly printed by Elizabeth Willow (letterpress artist, book artist, performance artist, probably everything-else artist too - she never seems to stop doing, yet still manages to look cool, calm and competent) - so the middle of the poster is a copy of this year's bookmark and the outside is a fabric pattern as printed (in burgundy) by our local risograph and eco-friendly printers marc.
Anyway, so I spent a good section of yesterday tramping round sections of Manchester leaving a trail of bookmarks wherever I thought they would be well received - hence the sore feet (better now, thanks for asking). Plenty more to go, though. They're often printed on discarded screenprints, resulting in a random range of designs - there have been a couple (or so) each year that I have failed to part with; the collection is coming along quite well.
And I managed to include a couple of exhibitions en route. First was MMU Special Collection's The Language of Process: how new materials and technologies are changing product design ( Monday 23rd September - Friday 20th December; just ask on the ground floor of the library and they'll direct you). I had bookmarks in mind, but (not surprisingly, on a saturday) the people I wanted weren't there to talk to. The exhibition was there, however, so I had a good browse. I thought it would be good - when I put it on the book fair site, I thought I should look up the named designers at least, and liked what I found - and it is good. At first I wasn't quite sure just how good - the first few pieces are fine enough but not overly exciting - but then I reached the lit up section. Remember, I don't approach this as a designer or even an artist - what I want is the 'ooo' factor, and for me the area with lights was where I first felt it. I think my favourite piece of the show has to be the analog digital clock by Maarten Baas. It looks just like a digital clock at first, but you don't have to watch for long before realising that something isn't... quite... right. There are odd shadows. Time changes surprisingly slowly. What it turns out be instead is a film, 12 hours long, showing someone physically changing the time in front of your eyes by painting over and wiping off windows. You can see them, moving about! Isn't that great? With the added little twist that back in the days of analogue only, 12 hours straight off just couldn't have been filmed. Fantastic. I also thought My new flame by Moritz Waldmeyer for Ingo Maurer was rather brilliant - tall, slender, circuit board candles with digital flames at the top, but such wonderfully convincing flames. I didn't blow at them, inspite of the urge, because I didn't want the disappointment of them not bending as I blew (and besides, what if they had done? What if I 'blew' one out? What then??). There was, in fact, a shedload of excellent work there, and I'm not going to go through the lot because I think people should visit - so just a few more mentions. The ripple tank table (Daniel O'Riordan) is a very understated but lovely item, a table with ripples on the surface - and you don't have to feed any fish. I loved the idea of the chairfix by Ben Wilson - a simple design, made democratic by all being made from one sheet of many-ply wood, then made original again by the designs printed on it. And Etive (Drummond Masterton) was a small metal cup (non-functional, as they described it) containing the topography of part of Glen Etive. Most of the work, if not all of it, has computer design at the very heart of it - that is, after all, much of the point of the exhibition.
Later in the afternoon I made it to the John Rylands. I had remembered that the Polari exhibition, organised by Jez Dolan and Joseph Richardson was on - Jez is a member of Hot Bed Press, so we were able to see some of the work being created. I didn't want to miss the show, but it turns out that it's on till February, which is good because it was reasonably scattered and I'm sure I only found some of it on this visit. I had forgotten, however, that the Boccaccio exhibition was showing too. Lots of old, old books with dense type or script and with illuminated letters, plus a couple of cabinets full of artists' books made especially for the exhibition. But I was really by now on the bookmark trail, so again a return visit is in order, and I have until December. Though I must not wait that long! I already have two exhibitions I'd like to see next week before they disappear. It's too easy to think 'I still have time' until I don't.
I was going to talk about the Manchester Contemporary (already a week gone) as well, but maybe later.
The 8th Manchester Artists' Book Fair is once more just over the horizon. It's a lot of work every year, as much as anything because of all the attendant anxiety - will the stands book up? Will the exhibitors be satisfied with everything? Will visitors come to the fair, enough to make it buzz? I've added a new worry for this year - will anyone find the new website? I'm working on that.
I hope everyone who reads this will go take a look at the website, and then come to the fair in the autumn, not just because of the buzz we're hoping for, but because going to a book arts fair is a fantastic way to spend an afternoon. I know, I'm biased, but really it is. It's a little early to urge everyone to go - it's not till the 18th and 19th of October - but whatever, that's what I'm doing. Put it in the diary now, and when the middle of October comes round, go see for yourself!
I made the trek over to Warrington yesterday. It makes me disappointed in myself that a trip to Warrington should loom trek-like, but it does. Until I go, when I realise I really quite enjoy the journey - the road runs alongside the Manchester Ship Canal, and to be next to almost any waterway is nice; there are unenclosed fields for part of the way, which always give a delicious feeling of space and, with everything keen to grow grow grow at the moment, they were beautifully fuzzy-edged; there is a section of roadside that has been made into flower meadows. I've stopped before now to appreciate them, so I was looking forward to them and they didn't disappoint - mostly yellow (not quite sure what) and also red (poppies), blue (cornflowers) and doubtless much more unnoticed as I sped past.
But enough of the journey. I went to see an exhibition being held in the Gallery at Bank Quay House, by a group of artists who call themselves Markmakers, which inclined me to like them before I arrived. The introductory blurb suggested that they had been working from stories into art, with a particular emphasis on Mark Cocker's Crow Country - more reason to like. There were many artists involved, so I should say straight away that I shan't be naming them all, but some artists and works particularly took my fancy, of course.
In spite of the attraction of crows, I was most taken by Claire Weetman's boxes, which had nothing whatsoever to do with corvids of any description. A residency in Shanghai had been full of bustle and bemusement and incomprehensible signs in chinese characters - arrows were more helpful than much else and aided her in making her way this alien world. The boxes each have a lasered quotation on the lid from 'Alice in Wonderland', adrift in her own unknown land, and inside they have photos and (mostly) chaotic arrows. They were lovely things in themselves and definitely portrayed the sense of confusion.
Elsewhere in the show, Fiona Phillips' 'A Crow Day' was a densely layered book created from fabric and paper; Jacqui Chapman had a poem on a large canvas entitled 'Winter Walled Garden, Grappenhall Heyes' - I had some totally deep and meaningful thoughts about it at the time but I didn't note them down so now I don't have them any more, but it managed to make me want to see this winter walled garden; there were some convincingly bird-like wire birds by Angela Sidwell; and Jane Copeman showed Rookery Prints - both the digitally etched wood plates and the prints taken from them. What I failed to see or wasn't there was some kind of introduction - as in the email invitation - explaining the idea behind the show. A very nice touch, however, was having copies of the books used as inspiration or starting point, so that visitors could look at them while having a coffee in the attached café. All in all, definitely worth that trek.
The straightforward across-on-the-M62-and-up-the-A/M1 journey to Newcastle cannot really be described as interesting. Crossing the Pennines is always good, especially this particular time with the horizon silhouetted stunningly against a lovely early morning sky (why does a low sun in the morning look so very different to a low sun in the evening? Or is that an illusion?) but I always forget how very wide Yorkshire is compared to the western side of the Pennines, and how relatively flat and featureless the route north is (I'd rather go up through Cumbria and then across on the 'B' road next to Hadrian's Wall - definitely a feature-full trip just about all the way). Still, there were little landscape thrills, such as shiny bright fields of rape against a backdrop of dusty purple cloud, and a fleeting glimpse of Durham Cathedral, not to mention some amazing skies and an astonishingly broad strip of rainbow touching base in the field next to us on the return journey. Due to some slapdash route planning just before I left, I missed the Angel of the North on the way up, but really, we needn't go into that.
Enough to say that I made it to the Baltic on the south bank of the Tyne and checked in for their first Artists' Book Fair. A very enjoyable two days meeting lots of new book artists (and a few old acquaintances) and talking with them; meeting visitors who'd never been to such an event before and talking with them; meeting all the lovely organisers and staff associated with the fair and talking with them (you always talk a lot at book fairs). It wasn't overly busy but it wasn't overly quiet either and I think everyone there had a good time.
One of the pleasure of book arts is how different everyone's work is - book arts is very much an umbrella term. I'm only going to pick out one artist this time, whose work was completely different to anything I had seen at a fair before - Marie Marcano, whose experimental calligraphy was just fantastic.
I didn't get enough of a look at the rest of the Baltic on this visit, though I did make a brief trip to the second floor library where the Book Apothecary, a Travelling Museum of Books, was on show. I was (being just a tad keen on books) most taken with the curving wall of oldish books in the window - there were some fascinating tomes there, and I would happily have spent a few hours (or days) deconstructing the wall, leafing through any number of its building blocks and putting it all back together, perhaps short of just one or two of the most covetable bricks...
... and inside. Sarah Morpeth's table, opposite our own, with Sarah (I would say) enjoying a quiet moment not having to smile at anyone. We talk a lot at book fairs, we smile a lot at book fairs. They are a lot more tiring than you might imagine. Incidentally, the lovely, ruffly red piece, top left, was a delight to run your fingers round - very satisfyingly tactile.
It really doesn't need saying, does it, that I didn't do all the preparations that I meant to, before the fair - making more stock of old pieces and perfecting the latest book - but it didn't matter. Today at least, I am going to do nothing at all.
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.