February’s ‘are you book enough’ challenge was Heal. For me making little books has been such a godsend in times when life happenings have been painful, stressful or a bit all consuming. I take myself away from it all and hide in the studio to play and let magical things happen, so in one sense any of my books could come under the category of ‘heal’.
This little book has been a particularly cathartic exercise. Made entirely from ephemera left by my parents. Letters they wrote to each other in the year before they were married, wedding photos and bank statements from the first year of their lives together. It was designed using a turkish map fold which I altered to fit the oval theme I wanted which echos a locket or keep sake. The structure and movement of the book reference a paper streamer used to decorate for a celebration and is a very playful thing which also picks up on the mood of the letters and the expectation of a new chapter in life. The leather case was not left by them but I wanted something to keep it safe and as much as I would love to have made a large silver locket, that is rather expensive and outside of my skill set, vintage leather seemed the right thing. This little book holds much that is precious to me and will be kept safe for a long time to come.
The second book for february was another teabag book (yes I am slightly obsessed by teabags!) This book is a little sense of place from a weekend spent with an old friend. We drank tea and shared our lives over a weekend during February. There was laughter, joy, tears, sadness and hope all in one weekend, everything you would expect from time with a friend. The book is made from the teabags we both used plus a map from around the area we were in and pages from a Thomas Hardy book of poetry, Thomas Hardy also being from around a similar area. The poem in the book was created by peicing together some of his words to echo my thoughts about that time.
The #areyoubookenough challenge for January was ‘in between’. I thought about many different concepts for this one but ended up pouring all my time into one book.
This little book is made up of three parts. It began as a vintage book sourced from a charity shop in Frankfurt. I took out the body of the book and cut the cover into three equal parts. Using a vintage english book, two maps and the rest of the german book I created a triptych book exploring my current life ‘in between’ two places. I live in Sheffield and my partner lives in Frankfurt.
One book is constructed of pages of english text and sections from a map of the area around Sheffield, one has german text and maps from around Frankfurt, and the final one is a mix of the two collaged together. I cut holes into the text pages so that maps would be visible through the text. The cut out circles were used as the collage pieces for the third book.
The central page of each book is the key place so Sheffield, Frankfurt and the mixed one is Manchester as that is the conduit that we both pass through to see each other. These central pages have been left solid as these are the streadfast places in my life, while everything around them is fluid. I am really pleased with the way the pages interact with each other making shadows and revealing places on the maps. The triptych format allows even more play with structure enabling them to be laid out simultaneously or left to form a dos-à-dos form. I used the spine from a third vintage book of poetry by Robert Browning and the title comes from a poem from that book called ‘By The fire Side’.
While I was away over christmas I took the fabric with me for a project that has been in my head for months now. I wanted to make something for each of my little neices as a memory of their Grandma who had passed away eighteen months ago. She was my mum’s sister and a very special lady to me too and this all started because I wanted to make something as a memory of her for myself. I had held onto some of her clothes for the purpose of creating something with them and a plan had been germinating in my imagination. The ‘From Grandma with love’ bear was born.
I found a pattern for an old fashioned teddy bear shape and my imagination went into overdrive! I cut out the pattern pieces and started playing around with combinations of fabrics (I was using a pair of jeans a dressing gown and a couple of tops). I wanted the bears to be like a family but all with something different so they were easy to tell appart from each other to prevent any mixups. The first one I made for myself as a test run.
Once the first one was made the other three were a complete joy to make! Each with a different little character that reflected the recipient a little bit whilst still being very much a reminder of Grandma. Grandma was known for her love of leopard print so a final little addition was a scarf for each of them made from her leopard print leggings! As you can see from the picture below they were extremely well recieved and that made me a very happy auntie indeed! One is still to be delivered but ssshhh that’s a secret…
Having enjoyed participating in the #areyoubookenough challenge for November so much I made a priority to find the time to concentrate on December’s word which was warmth. I had two very different ideas. One has a focus on memory and capturing a moment the other is a whimsical bit of fun.
This first book was made as a memory of a visit to a friend in Italy. I hadn’t seen her for over a year so it was lovely to catch up and share stories and laugh. All of this was a warm experience. Whilst there I collected all the tea bags we used and they became the signitures for the book. Tea bags need warmth to become that lovely rich colour when the tea infuses in the hot water so a second nod towards ‘warmth’. Finally where I stayed we are surrounded by olive trees 200 of which belong to my friend, they also require warmth to grow. I embroidered 100 little olive tree shapes throughout the book being aware they can be seen on both sides and each side is different so decided that would pass for 200! The rest of the paper and card used came from a book I picked up in a second hand shop whilst there. A lovely memory of an equally lovely visit.
The second book is a bit of frivolous pleasure. I thought it would be fun to make a cut out book of myself with each page being a layer of clothing until I am totally covered, warm and ready to head out into the cold. It was a little tricky lining everything up but I am happy with the results. I was particularly keen to make it as real as I could and also to draw the backs of the clothes as well as the fronts to keep the interest as the pages are turned. A very different project from usual but a lot of fun to do. I really enjoyed the challenge of learning the lotus stitch for the Japanese binding which I will be using again!
Looking forward to finding time for January’s ‘inbetween’ challenge watch this space…
I have just been very fortunate to take a couple of weeks out in Italy visiting two lovely friends, one in the Abruzzo region and one in Rome. I always have a sketchbook with me and try to take time out to sit and draw the things I am seeing. On this trip I especially took time for drawing in Rome spending several hours at each of the places I went, sometimes until I couldn’t feel my fingers any more! It is quite a strange sensation when the sun is burning the back of your legs through the layers of clothes but your fingers are frozen and turning blue…
This is a challenge I found on instaram run by Sarah Maker and have been following others who have participated for a long time and have longed to have time to take part. FINALLY this month I have and became some what enthralled by the title of ‘gather’. So much so that I have made three books inspired by the title.
All of the books are made from left over materials kept in my studio until I found a good use for them…apparently this was it!
For those of you who can’t get over to Sheffield to see my current exhibition her is the blurb for your perusal…
‘An Attic of Curiosities’ is a frivolous yet thought provoking foray into the world of women. Using objects that immediately evoke femininity to create a range of cyanotype prints coupled with overheard snippets of conversation a narrative is constructed. This narrative will probe the personal memories of the viewer and speak of how as women we need each other to share our lives.
Sarah is a collector. She collects objects and ephemera along with a plethora of related stories some truth some imagined narrative. Her practice is about documenting, recording, collecting and sharing stories. The process is important especially if that process has some element of surprise in the outcome and ritual becomes part of the process especially when it comes to drinking tea. Tea is also used in the process of making the cyanotype prints. Experimentation is vital and mark making in its broadest sense provides the tool to search and discover ways to document, catalogue and interact with these objects unfolding layers of narrative.
Sarah works with artist’s books, found paper, cyanotype and found boxes as there is something so delightful about collecting ideas whether thoughts or marks and encasing them within a protective exterior.
Throughout the centuries groups of women have stood together through all sorts of situations side by side sharing their lives, supporting each other, sharing stories and drinking tea. Sometimes these groups create something; either from necessity or simply for pleasure. How many knit and natter, stitch and bitch or similar groups have we seen advertised in recent years? There is something special and powerful about the collective strength and support of women. These groups have also been a place to share stories and remember important events and the objects created soak up those stories and exude something of their creators.
The Gee’s Bend community in Alabama is one such group. A group of black women living in one of the poorest areas of the United States from the mid 1920’s who began sewing quilts and creating beautiful pieces of practical art for their homes using remnants from clothing that were to hand. Early examples are often a range of blue tones as they were made from denim trousers often not fit for wearing anymore so the useable areas were cut out and reused in this way. These creations echo an earlier tradition born out of necessity in Northern Japan. Japanese Boro (Boro translates as ‘scraps’ or ‘rags’) is the art of mending and patching garments and household textiles to make them last throughout the generations. These were also made with blues, blacks and greys as vibrant colour was reserved for the rich. The cycle these creations have experienced, from necessity in poverty to the expensive and prized collector’s pieces they are today, is fascinating.
The cyanotype process echoes the colour of both Boro and early Gee’s Bend. The paper has been found and collected over a number of years much of it left by family and used out of necessity for this project. Each print is soaked in tea for different lengths of time to create a wide range of tones and, also to echo Sarah’s own addiction to the drink, there is nothing that cannot be fixed with a good cup of tea!
The objects represented were all once owned by women. Some of these women are family and friends and some are unknown, as the objects were searched for and discovered in people’s drawers, charity shops, car boot sales and flea markets. Each tells a story of its own and adds to the collective narrative. The snippets of conversation were overheard by a wide collection of women all keen to help with this project, which in itself echoes the many generations of women before us who have rallied around each other, encouraged, and lent a helping hand.
It’s all cyanotype related and collages in boxes in a beautiful little quirky attic space. I’ve made it as cosy as possible so you can sit and peruse for as long as you like! If you would like me to pop down for a chat let me know.
I started this a little late this year due to the Book Fair preparations but better late than never. It’s always a great opportunity to focus on drawing and this year I kind of ended up with the theme of ‘Tea Paraphernalia’ . In my little world tea is one of the most important things so seemed an appropriate focus of my drawing attention! I think there may be some kind of little book coming from these I’ll keep you posted. Here are some of my favourite drawings.
October 5th was the first Sheffield Artists book fair which saw 55 stalls representing about 90 artists! It was a day of fantastic inspiration and lovely new friends and connections. I’m sorry to not have posted sooner but as the main organiser and curator of the event my time was swallowed up a bit! Especially managing the Artist’s Book Centre website mine took a back seat. Anyway here are a few images mostly curtisy of Anya Uhren as I was too busy running around to take any! If you are interested to see more about the artists involved check out artistsbookcentre.org.uk if you’re local to sheffield there are a number of things going on you can get involved with.