Hello and welcome to my world of collecting, creating and sharing stories.
I collect objects, paper, packaging and ephemera along with a plethora of related stories some true and some imagined narrative. My art practice is about documenting, recording, collecting and sharing these stories through drawing and creating artist’s books. If you enjoy what you see here I would love to stay in touch with you. I endeavour to share a monthly newsletter about what I have been making and doing along with sharing about any courses or fairs I am involved in. There may be a few hints and tips along the way and definitely copious amounts of colourful inspiring images. If that appeals to you please sign up below and I will look forward to being in touch soon.
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!
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!
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.