This time last week I was on an island surrounded by water, mud, birds, boats and a clear blue sky… Northey Island is in the Blackwater Estuary, Essex and has only two houses on it. One of these was ours for the weekend for a workshop through which we explored the island and recorded our experience of it.
The approach to the island is via a causeway that is covered for a few hours at high tide. It only takes half an hour or so to walk right round the island. Salt marsh and mud continue beyond the land you can safely walk on, creating tantalising patterns that extend toward the watery edges and change with the ebb and flow of the tide.
After a period of bad weather we were blessed with a dry weekend of sunshine and blue skies, a keen wind and stars at night. Spending much of the time outside, we undertook a series of mark making, drawing, printing and recording activities, with students exploring different aspects of the place. We also shared our marks in a collaborative exercise one evening.
Then we made a series of books with our marked papers, which became our personal records of the place to take away.
My book is published today! So now it is available to buy from all good bookshops. Of course there are various ways of getting a copy (and various prices on the internet) but if you want to buy one directly from me I have signed copies available in my shop.
I’m just getting ready to go off to the Festival of Quilts at the NEC. I will be demonstrating in the Virtual Studio on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. Do come and say hello if you’re there. Oh, and I might have some books with me…
Well almost… The books have arrived at Art Van Go for the launch this Saturday (25th July). Do come along between 12 and 4pm if you are within reach. I will be there with a pen to sign copies and I’m told there will be cake too! On the walls in the gallery space at Art Van Go there are lots of examples of my work featured in the book. The exhibition, called Here & There, will be up until the end of August. The book is officially released on 6th August so the 50 copies we have for the launch really are hot off the press and prior to the publishing date. Once I have some copies in stock myself they will be available to order here. I will be at the Festival of Quilts at the NEC on Friday 7th and Saturday 8th August. I’ll be demonstrating in the Virtual Studio and I will have copies there too.
My Leaf Stitching books have just arrived, hot off the press from the printers. The book is now available here. This book forms a photographic record of a series of experiments with leaves and hand stitch that I have been playing about with for a couple of years. As it says in the afterword: This book illustrates a line of inquiry, the following of a thought process.
Some of the pieces that feature in the book, and others that don’t, will be exhibited this Autumn at the Society of Designer Craftsmen Gallery, London.
Just as the new buds are unfurling in the woods I am using last years leaves. I am working on my largest leaf stitching piece so far. This is a sort of experiment, just to see what happens when I try to scale up something that I’ve been doing previously on a hold-in-the-hand scale. These leaves are pretty fragile, although they were collected at a point when the winter hadn’t completed its job of weakening and breaking down the fibres. Pressed and dried flat they are generally doing what I want them to and I am learning all the time what the boundaries are. As I work on this piece in the studio my Leaf Stitching book is finished and at the printers. I hope it will be available in the next couple of weeks.
I’ve just posted off my entry to this year’s Sketchbook Project. My book is called Contemplating the Badger and is made up of drawings of a dead badger that I met last September. Encounters with wildlife in this way provide a closeness that we are never afforded when they are alive. It may seem morbid to want to study an animal that has met with an end like this but I see it as an opportunity to understand more about them. It was particularly moving to find this young badger freshly killed (by a car) within days of the badger cull being re-started in the area of the country I was visiting, something I strongly disagree with. Very sad. One of my all time favourite books is a collection of drawings from wildlife by Keith Brockie. Many of his studies are made from dead animals: the model stays still! I have had his books since childhood and I go back to them again and again.
In order to fit my badger into the small format of the standard Sketchbook Project book I took the book apart and laid the pages out together so that I could work on a larger scale. I drew from a series of photos I had taken. The pages were then re-constructed back into their book form. The drawings are therefore broken up and somewhat abstracted. I have also included on my pages words from a poem of the same title as my book by Nigel Morgan:
I stopped the car I was alone,
I snapped it three times
with my phone and now
it lies here on his desk,
three shots of this dead thing,
its dark blue pool of blood
that spills half on the road
half on the grass, from deep
inside its side it’s dead,
and really still,
it has a such beauty,
This weekend there was a magpie dead on the road near my house. My daughter told me it was there so we went to look. It was laid out in the middle of the road. I removed it from its undignified position and spent a couple of hours drawing it.
Contemplating the Badger will eventually be able to view either as part of the Sketchbook Project tour or via the digital library, once it has arrived and been processed. Previous contributions to the project can be seen here and here.
I suddenly have some space to start exploring new ideas, or rather ideas that I’ve been having over the last year but not had the time to engage with. The book I’ve been writing is now finished, or at least delivered to the publishers. There will be editing and tweaking to do but the majority of it is complete. The last year has been pretty much focussed on the book and touring Tide Marks, alongside a fairly hectic workshop teaching schedule. Apart from finishing off my report to Arts Council England for Tide Marks, that is now complete too. So, what is next? I have a number of projects to be getting on with. There are various group exhibitions next year that I will be making work for, so what follows is a period of development of new work. This is exciting and daunting. Where to start is always an issue. The best things is to get in the studio and see where things get to. So often we are forced (by time constraints) to commit to an end point before we’ve hardly started. It is a challenge to allow things the space and time to develop without knowing what that end point is going to be.
I have books on the brain at the moment – if I’m not writing words for one, I’m playing about with book forms. On a recent workshop I was teaching, where simple book forms was a small part of what we did, I was inspired to try out some new bindings. I used some of the demonstration samples to experiment with and now they have become little books.
I recently got a copy of Little Book of Book Making, out in America (and I think a UK version is coming out later in the month under a different name) in which my work is featured alongside some amazing book artists. Making books is just a small part of what I do and I only use very simple structures, so I feel very honoured to have been included in such a collection.
Now that the Shirt Collar Project exhibition is open and the final pieces have been revealed I can share a few images of my finished work. There is a full explanation of the process and decisions that led to these pieces over on the project blog. I ended up making three small book forms using the prints I made from my collar. I find the 3D nature of these pieces very pleasing. I often feel drawn to working in a more three-dimensional way and perhaps this project has taught me to go with that impulse. I really allowed the experimentation with the materials to lead me this time, with no particular outcome in mind: a really useful challenge.
I will be at this lovely event this weekend at The Tetley, a new contemporary art gallery in Leeds. I first showed at this event last year and it was a very friendly gathering of all things book art. I’m looking forward to seeing the new venue and meeting some lovely artists’ book making/appreciating people! I’ll be taking some of my Tide Marks books along, as well as this: Forgotten Haberdashery