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.
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…
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!
Pretty much everyone is experiencing social distancing at the moment and staying home during the conovirus outbreak doing our bit to keep each other safe. Some of you may well have your hands full with children, animals or projects already planned. If you are looking for something to do or would just like to crack out your creative side then here are three short films to help get you started. Below are a set of tools that will help but they are not essential so please don’t panic if you don’t have all these things.
The first one is a simple concertina book made with pages from a magazine and can be made in any size or dimension you like.
This next film shows you how to make a concertina book with pockets. A great way to keep lots of your treasures and photographs safe and in one place. Or you could make a set of little cards using collage or simple drawings of things around your home or even draw each member of your family to pop into each pocket. Those of you who like to play with words could use this book to collect ideas/words/poems or stories.
This final film is lots of fun and is all about playing. You can make the concertina in this book as long or as short as you like, or like my book in the previous post make a little collection that can interact with each other, it’s all about playing and experimenting.
I hope you find these helpful and I would love to see what people create, please feel free to email me some images and feedback. Now go and have some fun!
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…