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.
This book is a more general one. It’s not about one specific place as such but the whole of Kerala. It broadly covers a number of the places I visited in the area many of which were outside and related to nature. Kerala is a lush green and fertile land producing many fruits, vegetables and spices. Many of the spices from Kerala are world famous I realised when I got home that I have black peppercorns from Wyanad, Kerala amongst other things.
The materials for this book came from the packaging of some Ayurvedic toothpaste I bought to bring home, a masala tea box and some remnants of banana leaves picked up at a couple of different markets. The shiny lush packaging echoed my experience of Kerala. The banana leaves add something natural to the mix and I particularly love the two tones of the different leaves. The only matchbox that was suitable to house this theme was one with sunflowers on the front enhancing the rich natural aesthetic.
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.
This little book was inspired by a visit to the Chamundi Temple area in Mysuru. It was a public holiday the day we went so was ridiculously busy, the queue for the main temple was enormous and the heat of the day was intense. So after some discussion we decided to visit a much smaller and older temple behind the big one and then wander down the approaching three hundred steps to the monolith of Lord Shiva’s Bull.
I found the steps to be the most beautiful of places. the view is amazing right across Mysore city. And the aesthetics of the place are stunning. The steps are chalky white and gently meander down the side of the hill. Visitors to the temple have used red and yellow to touch the edges of each and every stair as they have passed by. There are also white chalk patterns and rangolis drawn every now and then. It was quite magical.
So this little matchbook was born from this experience. I collected about five matchboxes on my walk down the hill from the scrub at the side of the steps. The gold was the inside of a cigarette packet discarded along the way along with a packet for some kind of stimulating drug apparently! We were also given a red and yellow thread bracelet as a blessing at the top of the hill that I platted together to form the tie.
The main body of the book was a piece of an envelope I received on the first day of the trip and the yellow (turmeric) and red powders were bought from a different temple on another occasion but fitted this purpose perfectly. It is possibly the simplest little book so far but I think maybe the most elegant? Well I am pleased with the result it captures my memory of that experience beautifully.
Wayanad is a particularly beautiful and fertile part of Kerala. Whilst there I visited a bamboo workshop where some beautiful products were being created everything from blinds and matting to braclets and pens. As a maker myself I really enjoyed watching the ladies at work and even had a go myself stripping the bamboo with a very sharp knife! Whilst there I couldn’t help but notice lots of delicate little curls of discarded bamboo on the floor. I collected some and used them to make a cyanotype print a few days later. I also collected some beautiful leaf skeletons and some random scraps of paper.
I used a zine fold for the cyanotype print so I didn’t have to chop it about too much and used the long and elegant leaf print as a wrap around cover for the book. My aim was simply to make something beautiful to echo the beautiful work I saw going on there. It always suprises and delights me when a book kind of makes its own shapes once I’ve made it, things I never envisaged in the first place! This was definitly one of those.
Finally I used the receipt for the little things made from bamboo I bought in the shop as the cover for the matchbox/draw the book lives in and kept the tiniest little curl to live with the book in the matchbox.
This next little book was one of the first ones that germinated in my head whilst away. On a long windy drive up a mountain in Kerala we stopped to admire the view and encountered several monkeys. They stole the spot light from the view with their cheeky little characters! I knew then I would draw them. At the same time under my feet I spotted this matchbox and a piece of material a bit trodden into the dirt. Once washed it turned out to be quite lovely and has become the cover for the book and the box. It is also the material used for the cyanotype print in the previous post.
The background for the monkeys is a cyanotype print of foliage made in India but it didn’t take as well as I had hoped. However it is perfect as a background… as I used to always tell my students about their work ‘never throw anything away’ you never know when it might be useful.
The only other material used for this book is a page from an exercise book I bought the same day. I love paper and try to keep an eye out for paper that is used in everyday tasks. Something with marks of some kind is always interesting and adds an extra dimension to the work created with it.
I hope I have done these little creatures justice and it’s a great memory all packaged in a tiny box.
This book was inspired by a trip to the Gandhi Memorial Museum in Madurai. On a previous trip to India I had visited the Gandhi Museum in Mumbi called Mani Bhavan. As a child my dad used to talk about Gandhi often I think he was something of a hero for him and he made sure we kids knew all about his life and what he had achieved. My dad was a pacifist and I think saw many commonalities of ethos and conflict resolution. So now on two occassions I have been fortunate to visit places this man had been or lived and learnt about his life first hand. Both times I have found it moving and had a sense of my dad over my shoulder telling stories of this great man of peace.
The start to this book was a receipt I collected when I donated some money to be able to take photos inside the museum. I didn’t want to chop this up to much so used a modified zine fold to create a little book that still has the ability to open out to become one sheet again and at the same time creates the accordion fold to hold the rest of the sections together. From there I created two more zine fold books from a ten rupee note. I thought long and hard about using actual money as a book (I’ve been toying with the idea for a long time). I feel that Gandhi would have disapproved because although to me as a westerner this note is worth the equivalent of about twelve pence to many people in India it could be a meal. To a great extent it felt quite frivolous to cut it up, but I felt on this occasion it was warrented. It symbolises the struggle for fair wages and prices for cotton and the fact that it bares the face of Gandhi goes to show how important he is to this country.
The cyanotype prints used were made by a piece of fabric I found on my journey and the detail of the weave reminded me of the simple cloth that Gandhi chose to wear, some of which was on display in the museum. I had a little bit of the original receipt left over so made a second zine fold book covered with more cyanotype print. The matchbox used was found in Madurai and seemed appropriete with the symbol of a light bulb on the front. Gandhi was most definitely a light for India.
With this book, as often happens, it has become a tiny sculpture as much as a book. I love how many shapes it can make just by opening it in different ways. This one more than most!
Matchbook number five was actually a concept that came to me very quickly and seemed quite an ovbvious thing to do. It is created from a collection of receipts aquired after an evening meal in Madurai up on the roof of a lovely resturant. The food had been great as was the company and being on the roof gave the whole evening a rather lovely ambience so I wanted to create something to remember that evening. I had previously played with the round stamp the resturant use on each reciept and used a flower fold (instructions in a previous post find it here) to see how it looked. It worked very well and I liked the idea of little bits of information about the meal being hidden in each little folded square of paper. I cut out thirteen little identical squares making sure each one contained some piece of information about the meal i.e. time, date, choice of food, drinks and snipets of the address. There were thirteen because there were thirteen of us eating dinner together. Then it was a simple case of creating a structure with my thirteen little bits.
I am particularly please by the vesitility of this one. It can become all sorts of different shapes depending on how you open it up. I get a tad over excited at how a small little thing in a matchbox can fold out to create so many forms, it REALLY pleases me! I could fiddle with this for hours. As you explore the structure you glean little snippets of information about the evening and it builds up a picture of an event. For this one the matchbox draw was lined with some of a local newspaper from that day and I left thirteen of the waxmatches in the box that were in there when I found it.