Hello and welcome to my world of collecting, creating and sharing stories.
I collect objects, paper, packaging and ephemera along with a plethora of related stories some true and some imagined narrative. My art practice is about documenting, recording, collecting and sharing these stories through drawing and creating artist’s books. If you enjoy what you see here I would love to stay in touch with you. I endeavour to share a monthly newsletter about what I have been making and doing along with sharing about any courses or fairs I am involved in. There may be a few hints and tips along the way and definitely copious amounts of colourful inspiring images. If that appeals to you please sign up below and I will look forward to being in touch soon.
Those of you who have been following my work for a while will probably already know about the #areyoubookenough challenge I take part in each month over on instagram. Those of you who don’t it is a challenge created by Sarah Mottaghinejad from Editions Studios in Seattle where we are given a word to respond to in the form of some kind of book. I have been taking part for a year now and found it the most rewarding community and challenge to be part of. I thought I would catch you up on one or two of my submissions from the last few months…
For this one I thought about the fact that a machine needs instructions of some kind to work. So I made an instruction manual about how to make a book from used tea bags. I chose the tea bags because they are also machine made (and I drink copious amounts of tea so have plenty to hand!). I made the books using a sewing machine and covered the box that houses it all with pages from an Italian book about mechanics.
This book was made as a memory of a time after my dad had died when I would walk on the beach every day to find space to try and process my thoughts and feelings about what had happened. I started collecting shells on these trips without thinking about it. At some later date I realised that I was drawn to spiral shells that were broken open to reveal the inner workings. I found them so much more interesting than the intact ones. I recognised through this action of collecting that I was a bit broken open because of my experiences but that was ok and actually in some ways made me stronger and gave me a new dimension. My strength was visible not hidden away under a perfect surface. This time I collected snail shells from the garden and broke them so I could draw the shapes inside and the fragments left after they were broken open. The book is a decreasing spiral to echo the imagery inside. I used one of the shells as a clasp to keep the band around the book tight to protect what was inside. The words are random finds from an old book about sculpture.
When I first thought about the word human I immediately thought of the phrase ‘the ties that bind us’. This led to thinking about how we are so much stronger when we all join together and head in the same direction. So for this piece I used a left over scrap of material and spent hours sewing by hand lines of running stitch along the length of the material. I used every colour I had and because of the hand stitching each stitch is different. It represents us as humans and the diversity on our planet and celebrates that. The piece of fabric becomes very strong because of all the layers of stitching. It is wound round an old bobbin which represents the planet we inhabit. Again I used found text from old books to piece together some words to accompany the book/scroll.
If you are interested to see more of my creations for this challenge head over to my instagram page via the link at the top. This months word is ‘recycle’ if anyone fancies a challenge!
The end of August and first couple of weeks of September saw me in Sheffield moving my studio space to its more permanent home. It is housed in the former Bank Street Arts building in Sheffield city centre and gave me a brilliant, if exhausting, opportunity to sort everything within an inch of its life! I just thought you might like to see where some of the magic happens in my happy place…
One of the things that struck me most during my time in Iceland was the colour palette, both in the natural and those made by human choice. I’m really not sure what I expected, maybe my previous visual experiences of the country had all been Iceland in winter dark earth covered by a deep layer of crisp white snow, I’m not sure. But the sheer intensity in the range of colour reached another level entirely and provided a feast for my eyes. These quick watercolour sketches are a small sample of my subsequent experiments with the landscape I experienced.
The luminosity of colour struck me so much, maybe it is the big skies, or long days of sunlight but there is a feeling of being on top of the world. For me my choice of translucent watercolour on brilliant white paper go a tiny way towards capturing this experience and feeling. I am not sure where this will lead but I am enjoying the journey!
Wherever I travel I will always gravitate towards flea markets or charity shops. Part of my practice is the searching out of photographs, postcards, stamps, documents and books from the place I am visiting then I will expolore the history of what I find. Iceland was no exception.Reykjavik has a flea market in the old Harbour close to where I was staying. A couple of hours rumaging brough up some proper treasures. This particular book began with a black and white cigarette card of a place called Siglufjörður. It is the most northern town in Iceland and also the name of the northern coastline.
I drew a map of Iceland and used a zine fold to fold it down to the size of the picture card and stitched the card on the front and a description on the back. The envelope case came from a first day cover from the flea market too.
Amazingly with all that’s going on in the world I had the opportunity to go to Iceland. I got to stay in a flat underneath a little museum in the old harbour area of Reykjavik for a couple of weeks to explore, draw and make some books. I explored outside of Reykjavik a bit and the thing that struck me the most was the colour. There is so much colour everywhere from houses to landscape. I have so enjoyed soaking up these colours partly because they are so different to home. Will post later some of my watercolour experiments. For now these two books were made from pages of Icelandic poetry, abstract marks using colours I’d seen on my road trips and a paper bag from a very good bread shop (I am going on my friends say so here as I am coeliac and couldn’t try any, although the smell was amazing!) So here they are my little nod to ‘A Sense of Place’ in Iceland.
During this period of lockdown I have been making sketchbooks. At first it was because the shops were shut and money was scarce but now it is mostly because I enjoy the making process, love the outcome and can make them exactly tailored to my needs. I thought I would take you through the process of one of the designs to hopefully inspire making in others.
good quality magazine paper
matt white paint (acrylic, gouach or emulsion)
card for covers
awl (or hammer and nail)
tracing paper (optional)
clips to secure the paper
I have been using pages from an Italian architecture magazine I got for free from a book swap near where I am staying, the paper is a good thickness and strength so can take lots of playing with. First of all I painted each of the pages on both sides with a matt acrylic white paint. When they are completely dry fold in half and trim to whatever size you require. Collect together into three signatures. With this batch of paper I made a squarish sketchbook and then a landscape one with the off cuts.
Next take your card (I have used two old school folders stuck together with double sided tape to make it thicker and two coloured) measure and cut your cover leaving extra either end to fold in at the end of the process to create a box cover. Make sure to leave a section in the middle which will be your spine, score either side of the spine and make folds. Measure and mark where you would like holes for stitching up the centre of one signature then use that as a template for the others and the cover. With your awl make holes in the paper ready for stitching. Take one signature and clip in the centre of your cover making sure the row of stitching will be up the middle of your spine. With your needle and thread start in the inside centre and use a running stitch first up to the top then back down to the bottom and back up to the centre where you can tie the thread securely. Trim the ends. For the second signature place it close to one side of the one you have already stitched and clip in place. With your awl make the holes through the signature and into the cover. Stitch using the same process as before. Repeat the whole process a third time on the other side of the first signature then you should have three lines of stitching down the spine of your cover.
The next job is to fold the ends. This is entirely up to you how you configure it. You could just simply cut them off altogether or, as I prefer score the folds to make a neat box shape which protects your precious scribbling inside. For this one I have stitched on a button for a fastening but you could simply have a length of ribbon or string that wraps around the book or anything else you fancy. A little extra touch I do is to round off the corners which really pleases me but thats completely to taste (and I have a corner rounder which makes it easy!)
As an added extra I use tracing paper for some extra layers throughout the sketchbook but also to create a pocket at the end. I am notorious for collecting ephemera wherever I go so pockets in sketchbooks are essential for me. All you need to do is fold some paper in half and half again. Stitch in wherever you like with the fold at the bottom so all you need to do is add a line of stitch (I use a sewing machine for this bit) hey presto a pocket. Of course you don’t have to use a tracing paper but I like to be able to see what is in there!
I wish you some happy hours of making something exclusively tailored to your own needs and I’m sure you can come up with some other extras that suit your practice. These little beauties will be coming with me to Iceland next week as I have been blessed with two weeks of drawing time there and I am very excited! Will keep you posted on what comes out of that as I go…
Appologies its taken me longer than planned to post these drawings! Anyway here you go four more drawings from out of the windows during lockdown, I am about half way through the book I made to house these drawings so the next round will be room aspects I think and possibly out of the front door, stay tuned….
One of the sketchbooks from the previous post was made so I could simply draw everything from my surroundings. I wanted to start with views out of the windows of the apartment. I love the theme/title ‘A sense of place’ something we used years ago when I was teaching for a module all about making books and recording your environment whether real or imagined. As the years have gone by I have realised that pretty much all of my work is about this same thing. My work is about capturing a sense of place and this period of time in history really calls for that don’t you think? Anyway these are the drawings so far…
An added little clue to the timing of the book is the bookmark end did anyone spot it? I found a ‘corona’ bottle top on one of my daily walks which I felt was a little bit of serendipitous ephemera just meant to be for this book. If you are interested in seeing the time lapse versions of these they are available on my YouTube channel. I will post my progress in a week or so…
During this last few weeks of lockdown I have been in Germany. I was visiting when everything unfolded and decided to stay put. It was definitely for me the best choice my only problem was that I had very few materials here for making work or money to buy things due to loosing the majority of my income in one go. I love the phrase ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ and am very aware that all the best equipment in the world doesn’t necessarily equal quality or good work in some cases it can actually hinder thought processes and make us a bit lazy. I am particularly fond of a challenge and creating something from nothing, with a nod to recycling and minimising waste. So all of this has led me to make a series of sketchbooks that would enable me to draw all the things I wanted to during this time. Currently I have made five…
The first one was made from collecting end pages from some old books picked up from a free book swap box a couple of minutes walk away from where I am staying. One of the books provided the black outside cover and the three signatures of pages were stitched inside. I left most of the edges rough and this book has been for drawings of objects from my surroundings. I love how an object tells a story and sparks memories. In another post I will share some of the drawings.
Next came the ‘Fat Boy’! This one began with the label which I removed from a large bean bag chair thing that was being thrown away due to holes. It is really tough material and seemed the perfect length for a spine, the rest of the book evolved from there. It has hard covers made from off-cuts of board covered with pages from an old Italian book on engineering. The signatures are made from used wrapping paper, magazine pages washed over with white paint and some old card file dividers not needed any more. I am always picking up things when I am out and about so already had a little selection of bottle tops that when flattened made great bookmark ends. Finally I made a pocket inside the front cover and voila a second sketchbook.
After the second sketchbook I was really pleased with the magazine pages washed with white. I used a matt acylic which had created a lovely chalky texture that was working well with all my drawing materials. So on another trip to the book swap box I collected a couple of architecture magazines which had some great images in I was thinking of using for collage. However I realised that the paper was quite thick and might work well painted with white for drawing on. So book three emerged. Completely made from the architecture magazine and white paint. Three signatures stitched into a cover made from two interesting pages stuck together. This one was finished off with my corner rounder just for a little touch of class!
The final two are made in a similar way using a kind of adjusted coptic stitch to attach the signatures together and I left these without a cover. The main difference was the paint used for the white pages. This time I tried a furniture paint using a roller to apply it. The surface is nice and smooth but a bit to slippery for watercolours but good for pen and ink, biro or fine liner.
I am sure as the weeks go on I will keep experimenting but for now I hope this maybe inspires you to use the things you have to hand and that a lack of materials or money doesn’t have to mean a lack of creativity, actually I think that the opposite is true!