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!
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.
This month’s ‘are you book enough’ challenge was Hexagon and it turns out that March is also Hexagon appreciation month! I have never really played with the shape before. To begin with I wasn’t sure what to do but after some research about hexagons in nature I was quite blown away by just how many things have a hexagon as a building block for their structure. I had thought I’d choose one thing to focus on but ended up thinking about nature in general picking the colours of the rainbow to represent everything. This piece is really playful thinking of hexagons as building blocks so I wanted the pieces to come out and become a number of structures. I kept the back of each piece white as white is the sum of all colours. The box it sits in shows all the workings out for the patterns, the basic structures within structures that a hexagon has. When the pieces are used to build you can create a flower and a tree which represent the life that is touched in some way by the hexagon.
My second book took a fraction of the time my other one did and I think I like it better. It’s again about the hexagon being an ancient building block for lots of life. The three sections are covered with images of ancient monuments and simple brown card for the rest. Each book has six pages each side. There are six covers all together. The books fold out into building blocks to play with and create lots of different shapes including a hexagon. In this film the end assemblage signifies life/nature with two hexagon trees and the earth. Called chapter one as it’s about the beginning of everything.
I think it is pretty obvious how much fun it has been playing with the hexagon. I am pretty sure it will be appearing again in a book somewhere very soon!
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’.
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…
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!