Bookmaking: Part 1

It has been a really busy time for me over the last few months and I feel like I’ve worked harder than I have ever worked before. There have been a lot of late nights in the studio and I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard the Shipping Forecast and the National Anthem played before having to resort to some comedy podcasts to keep me going. Having said that, I’m certainly not complaining. In this difficult economic climate, I count myself as very lucky to be able to do what I do and make a living as an artist (just about!) whilst many are struggling. It is not always easy being on my own with only one income coming in but the sense of satisfaction from knowing that I can totally support myself doing what I love makes it all worthwhile.

Life can’t be all work (even if that work makes you happy) and I do do other things to keep myself amused and inspired. Fellrunning and having adventurous weekends with Brian is one way and playing about making artists’ books is another. For the last two years I have been really fortunate to have been attending a bookmaking course at Number Six Studio run by the fabulously talented and inspirational artist, Joan Newall. She is part of a group called Page, Paper, Stitch and you must check out their website to see her work. On Saturday we put up the exhibition of our final projects and those of Joan’s students on her courses in surface textiles and machine embroidery. The exhibition opens this Tuesday (9th July) evening at Number Six Studio Gallery, Pateley Bridge, 6-8pm and is then on daily until Sunday 14th July, 10am – 4.30pm.

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Our theme for the year has been ‘worn surfaces’ and I have chosen to concentrate on the fragments of blue and white china that I have been finding on one of my favourite woodland walks by the Burn in Masham. During the summer, the little shards are often obscured by foliage but in the winter the porcelain pieces shine starkly through the rotting leaves. I’ve been collecting them and looking more closely at the details. Traditional willow pattern pieces show pagodas, cherry trees, bridges and fisherman and are the fragments of larger scenes so that to hold a piece in my hand is a glimpse into the life of the person that owned the plate but then beyond to the designer that painted it and beyond again to the story that they depicted. There are also pieces with ornate flower designs and trailing vine patterns that echo the plants and vegetation amongst which they were discovered. The layering of imagery and narrative is something that I employ in my printmaking and I was drawn to the idea of using photographic imagery taken from the china and combining that with print. I wanted to create objects that would provoke in the viewer the same emotional response that I got when I first discovered each piece.

Throughout the year I have been developing ways of creating papers that give a feel of the forest floor and I have created a box covered in the papers so that when the viewer lifts the lid to discover the sections within, it might feel like looking amongst the leaves in the woods.

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Within the box there is a selection of the pottery shards and a book. The content of the book has been created from cyanotypes of the exquisite fragments and I’ve contrasted these with monotypes of natural forms found in the vicinity. I’ve used burning on the page edges to give the feeling of loss and age but also to hint at the home and hearth. Long ago, these pieces of pottery would have been used by somebody, maybe even daily, and that life is remembered here.

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I really loved just playing about in the studio. The cyanotype part of the project took a lot of work and experimentation. I coated the papers and developed them in the sun using transparencies that I’d made. By working in Photoshop I was able to create negatives from my digital photos that could then be used for the positive prints. I was a bit over enthusiastic and waded in without any prior knowledge of the process and this meant that I made a lot of mistakes…I then read the instructions! I’m still working on a wall piece which will fold up into a book using small pieces of Du Chene paper, cyanotype, embossing and burning but it will take a while to iron out some of the problems I’m having and I will wait until I have more time for ‘playing’.

The exhibition looks great and the variety and quality of the other bookmakers’ work is astonishing. None would look out of place in a good gallery. I can’t wait to see the textile students’ work too.

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Above is my work in situ along with the first ever lidded box that I made, a Belgian secret binding book and a hard bound book all made on the course. I really do love making books and think that they are a great medium for a printmaker. Later this week I will write another post with some examples of the other methods that I’ve explored on Joan’s course and my trio of crow books.

 

Busy busy busy!!

I can’t believe that it has been a month since I wrote a new post here. My residency in Sweden seems like ages ago and I’m feeling slightly overwhelmed by the amount of workshops that I’ve been teaching and exhibitions that I’ve been preparing for but there is light at the end of the tunnel and I am keeping my fingers crossed that by the time December comes, I’ll be able to start working on the ideas that I started at Ålgården.

In the meantime, as an update, my seven week collagraph evening course at Number Six Studio in Pateley Bridge is now three weeks in. I have seven returning students who have become ‘old regulars’ and one brand new student who has not done any printmaking before but has really thrown himself into the process and not been put off by the fact that he is also the only man on the course. I’m looking forward to seeing his collagraphs develop.

I’m also four weeks in to my Introduction to Printmaking Techniques course at ArtisOn Ltd. This is on a Tuesday afternoon and so far I’ve covered monotype, making a basic relief stamp, linocut and drypoint! My ten students seem to be enjoying themselves and we will be making collagraphs this week.

Rural Arts in Thirsk has been running taster workshops and I’ve done some three hour collagraph sessions and am about to run a two-day collagraph workshop on consecutive Fridays (16th & 23rd November). I also did a monotype class for the Leven Art Society and a linocut workshop at ArtisOn. After my linocut Christmas card workshop at ArtisOn in December it quietens down a bit and I’ll have more headspace for my own work. I enjoy teaching and it really keeps me on my toes and pushes my professional practise but it also takes up a lot of time and energy so it is important that I get the balance right and give myself enough time to work on my printmaking.

Winter exhibitions include group shows at Cambridge Contemporary Art, The Waterstreet Gallery in Todmorden, The Lime Gallery in Settle, Will’s Art Warehouse in Putney and I’ll be taking part in a two week show at RHS Garden Harlow Carr from 27th November to 9th December. Phew!

I was very pleased to be one of the fourteen printmakers selected for the West Yorkshire Printmakers ‘Flourish Printmaker of the Year’ award and had two of my prints on show at the exhibition in Mirfield. Sara Clarke won the award and there were three commended artists: Moira McTague, June Russell and Dan Booth. It was good to attend the preview and ceremony and meet up with other printmakers. This is one of my selected prints which was created during my Extending Practise Award last year. Chrysalis Arts funded me to be mentored by Jane Sellars, Curator of the Mercer Gallery in Harrogate, whilst I created prints inspired by the Vale of York Viking Treasure Horde. These went on display at the Mercer Gallery alongside the treasure.

It’s always interesting to see what sells and so far I have had quite a lot of success with my most recent print ‘The Raspberry Thief’.

This was inspired by watching a whole family of blackbirds feeding in my back garden. The male and two fledglings were stealing raspberries whilst the female wrestled with a large slug!

My most recent print was created last week and is of a mountain hare. I have been asked by The Lime Gallery in Settle to make a couple new hare prints for their winter exhibition. They are such wonderful creatures and steeped in folklore and mythology. I often watch them in the fields near where I live and have taken many photos. I’ve always wanted to see a mountain hare in its winter coat but haven’t yet. Maybe one day! Instead I have made do with making a little collagraph of a snowy hare.

I’m now working on another hare print and will photograph the different stages for my next post.

I’m already planning various exhibitions for next year and have been invited to take part in a show called ‘Flight’ at the Craft Centre and Design Gallery in Leeds. It will start in March 2013 and will feature four of my prints and four each from Janis Goodman, Pam Grimmond and Mike Smith. I’m also taking part in a group exhibition called ‘Our Feathered Friends’ at Cambridge Contemporary Arts which is also in the spring.

On a final note, I’m delighted to be having an exhibition with glass artist, Jane Littlefield at Rural Arts in Thirsk. This will take place from 16th March to 31st May 2013 and we have chosen the title ‘Telling Tails’. We met last week to discuss the show and discovered that we are inspired by the same things: wildlife, the countryside and the myths and stories that are connected to both. We plan to show glass and prints featuring birds and animals with an illustrative twist. We will both be running workshops to coincide with the exhibition.

Right, I’d better get on with the paperwork I need to finish before continuing with my new hare collagraph. More on that next time.