If you have been following me through this last year of lockdown you will see that recycling the everyday left overs has slowly become an even bigger part of my practice. This began through necessity but now is just an utter delight to take the ordinary and elevate it to something else.
Predominantly this has happened through paper making which you can see more about specifically here. But I realised it was well and truly time to share some of the books that have come from all this papermaking. I will add, I am still very much in the exploratory stages of this adventure with the papers to see what they are capable of and how light fast the colours are, so I am armed with knowledge for future projects. It has so far been a very rewarding process and a little bit like playing with magic. I am known now for not throwing anything away but squirrelling everything away just in case! My recycling bins have definitly had much less use in recent times.
During this last few weeks of lockdown I have been in Germany. I was visiting when everything unfolded and had to stay put. It was definitely for me the best thing 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!
With most of the world in lock down at the moment many people are finding that they are isolated from the people they love and even though technology is amazing it isn’t the same as a real person or maybe even a hug. I had the idea of sending handmade postcards to people I know who are on their own for whatever reason as a way of saying I am thinking of you. It is personal, time was taken to make it and I hope communicates care and is a nice surprise. Below are some of the designs that have been received so far.
I like many others at the moment have lost most of my usual income and have been thinking of new ways to help during this time and earn some money to pay my bills. So I am offering my personal postcard services to you. I will draw/paint a 5 x 7 inch postcard either on white or brown card add a message of your choice and send to anywhere in the world! I am asking only £20/€22/$23 per card. I hope that it will be a blessing to someone you know as well as helping me to keep going. If you are interested email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with details of what you would like. If at the moment for whatever reason this is not for you please can I urge you to maybe make your own or write a letter to someone I can guarantee it will be warmly received!
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!
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!
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.
I had been keeping this particular matchbox for this particular place as it is a little bigger than most of the others and is quite sturdy and well made. It really didn’t need much doing to it. I acquired it from a lovely evening dinner out in Mysore celebrating the birthday of one of my travel companions. My rubbish collecting apprentice (mentioned earlier on in these posts) saw the opportunity to get me the box and I think even from that point I knew it would have to be used for a book about Mysore Palace.
The outside cover of the book was created by using some more of the biryani lid collected on the train journey the day after I visited the palace. Its sleek silver surface echoed well the opulence oozed from the palace and somehow makes the whole little book feel extra special encased in silver. The gold is the inside of a cigarette box, not quite as salubrious but out of context I think it works. The inside is made from three layers of paper each serving a different purpose. The first two are cut-outs mimicking the shape of some of the arches inside the palace layered up to give some depth. The back layer is more of the silver foil backing from the biryani lid this time peeled away from its cardboard surface as it becomes opaque and lets the light shine through whilst retaining the shimmery opulent quality.
The paper used for the top layer of arches comes from an envelope given to me on the first day of this trip and the second layer is part of a register book I bought in a supermarket in Mysore I liked the colours and grid lines with bits of text and numbering. I also decided to make this one a self fastening book so the book itself creates a little box when closed. I’m really pleased with this one I think it has managed to capture a little of that special something I felt walking round such a beautiful and special place in a very simple way.
This little box of delights was a lot of fun to create. It came from quite a large selection of ephemera collected on an eight hour train journey from Mysore to Chennai. During the trip we were given various refreshments which came in interesting packages, so of course I saved it all. Each time something came I squirrelled the bits and pieces away into a bag by my side along with other peoples bits and pieces that got passed down the row! From this selection I created a box/draw for the matchbox cover and two books to fit inside.
The first book was simple and came from one of the tea bags I used on the journey. The cover of the book is made from the label of the Taj Mahal Tea. The inside is part of the teabag dried out and emptied after use and some of the paper cup I drank the tea from.
The second book began with a label from the delicious biryani we were served, I cut it out from the box lid and as a bonus the back of the lid is very shiny silver which adds a bit of sparkle and a different surface to the book. A nice touch is that the label has the date stamped on it which always makes me happy…simple things. The accordion fold bit of the book was made from the place mat we had on the tray of food (I saved mine before it got any spillages on it!) As an aside all the labels for each matchbook is typed on this paper. Then i used various other bits of packaging to create the other elements of the book everything from ice-cream lids to sugar bags. Finally I used the rest of the teabag as the books tie to hold it together.
As I said at the beginning I had much fun with this creation mixing, matching and folding packaging. I have plenty of bits and bobs left so I expect something else will happen to all of that one day and another creation will be born.