Love Big Books exhibition

Unknown Book: Paper, linen, acrylic, acetate, ink, natural dyes, gold leaf.

A collection of hand made book units with stitched Coptic binding in linen thread, using new and re-purposed paper (discarded by the library) and incorporating print, natural staining and gold leaf.

On Wednesday I took Unknown Book up to Newcastle to install in the City Library as part of the Love Big Books exhibition. My piece is on library shelves up on floor 6 of the library in amongst the books that live there permanently. I didn’t know until I got there where my work would go in the library. I’m thrilled with how it sits amongst the ‘real’ books, almost camouflaged.

The exhibition is on all floors of the building, with work in a variety of different spaces. Visitors will either seek out the work and explore the library through the exhibition, or they will come across exhibits whilst using the library for all sort of different reasons. The exhibition continues until 17th November.

Publication

One of the key aspects of this project and my involvement in it was that the lead artists would share the process of developing a piece of work with the other participating artists. Everyone has different approaches, strategies and skills for making a work of art. Understanding something of an artist’s tools can be an enriching and inspiring experience, whether they relate to the medium one works in or not.

Working ‘in residence’ in the library and having direct contact with participants was an obvious way to share experience and knowledge. Writing about the development process is accessible to those involved in the project but potentially might reach a much wider audience. The text that makes up this recent series of blogs is now transferred onto the physical page in a publication called Unknown Book, thus forming a tactile record of the project. The book is available to buy here. I have also taken the opportunity to share something of the process of putting together the publication itself.

Unknown Book is number six in an on-going series of self-published works, each one recording a specific project I have undertaken. These books are bought by people from all corners of the earth and many who haven’t seen the physical work but who are interested in knowing something of it. The books I publish are part exhibition catalogue but they also contain some sort of explanation about the processes involved in making the work. They are a means for me to share my work on a level that is beyond just presenting a ‘finished’ piece of work in a gallery.

Anyone can self-publish and that process has become very easy in recent years with various approaches, including on-demand printing. There are also different ways of promoting the self-publication and if it is something you might consider I would suggest giving that some serious thought: If you are going to spend money on producing a whole load of books you need to be confident that you can sell them. I didn’t set out to become a publisher, but after the first two books I realised it was something I wanted to continue doing and that it might become a significant part of any project I undertake. It also provides me with a ‘product’ that I can sell at a reasonable price and this takes some of the pressure off feeling that I have to make ‘sellable’ work. I bought some ISBN numbers and thus became a publisher – it sounds far grander than it actually is! You don’t have to have an ISBN number to publish but it does mean (in the UK) that the British Library and the Legal Deposit Libraries collect copies. There is a certain legitimacy associated with this, which isn’t necessary but it also means that you can claim a share of royalties via organisations such as the Design and Artists Copyright Society (if the publication includes your own images). So it costs you a bit but there are benefits.

Each time I have self-published a book I have learnt something new, which feeds into the next publication. These are some of the things I have learnt or found useful:

I have developed a relationship with a local printer who has an environmental policy I am happy with (this is something particularly important to me) and who I feel I can talk to without needing to know a huge amount about the publishing and printing industry – I can ask a stupid question and not feel stupid!

I now know the sort of paper finish I like but also what the implications of that are for my images and the environment.

I have a format that works for me and has been consistent through the different books.

I have picked up the basic skills I need to layout a book and get it how I want it to look. Keeping things simple and clear is a benefit.

I do my own photography for the books and I am always looking to learn ways to improve that.

I understand the timescale needed by the printers so I can build that into my work on a project. This means that if the book is associated with an exhibition I may need to have the publication ready to go to the printers before I have finished making the work.

I have a fairly loyal following via social media, through my blog and from exhibitions, which means that I am confident that over a period of time there will be enough demand for a new book to justify the outlay.

The experience I have gained through producing these self-published books is part of the reason I was invited to be a lead artist on this project. The different parts of my practice are all interlinked and one thing leads to another…

Page 17

Earlier this year, during the time that I was developing my ideas for the Fifth-Sized Book Adventure, I was invited to take part in an exhibition initiative by the Embroiderers’ Guild. This group exhibition under the title ‘Page 17’ was to be shown around the same time that the Newcastle Library Project would come to fruition. In fact it is on show this weekend at the London leg of the Knitting and Stitching Shows. Participants in Page 17 were invited to take a favourite book as their inspiration for a new piece of work for the exhibition. I don’t know what is on page 17 of ‘my’ book, just as I don’t know what is on any of the pages due to it being bound shut. However, I liked the synchronicity of this project with my current thinking and decided to accept the invitation.

The requirements for the Page 17 exhibition were set out by the organisers and are quite specific due to the nature of the show and its location. This gave me a set of constraints within which to conceive a piece of work, something that can often be quite useful as a starting point. I decided that I wanted to explore the exposed spine and to continue making small units, bringing them together to make a larger whole. These would then be encased in an acrylic box, showing mismatched stitched spines and page edges in a block that would remain tightly closed and restricted.

Constructing this piece proved a useful testing ground for the library work. I planned out the units that would sit within the clear box and then made them one by one, fitting them together at the end like a sort of jigsaw.

The bright white of the paper and stitch was too ‘clean’ to relate back to my old worn starting point, so each unit was dipped in tea to gather more sympathetic tones and marks along their folds, stitches and edges. Fitted back together the piece became a study in texture within a constricted form: rough torn edges and uneven junctions between units, all contained by clear straight boundaries.

Page 17 will be shown at the Harrogate Knitting & Stitching Show 23 – 26 November.

studio(s)

Alice Fox Open studio

I have recently taken a new studio, just round the corner from home, which means I can make better use of my working day. It is above The Butterfly Rooms in Saltaire and there are a few of us with studios, which are open to visit during shop opening hours and when the residents are there.

I still have a space at the Keighley Art Studios but this is mainly to store things (as the new place isn’t very big) and I am now working day to day out of the Saltaire studio.

This weekend Keighley Art Studios are opening the doors to visitors between 10am and 4pm, Saturday and Sunday. I will be there on Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday with my studio open and it will be lovely to welcome visitors there. I have lots of framed work up and there will be a variety of studio holders’ work to see: paintings, upholstery, ceramics, sculpture, prints . . . and no doubt there will be plenty of tea and cake.

The studios are in:

Unit G8, Keighley Business Centre, Knowle Mill, South Street, Keighley, BD21 1SY.

objects

I had a lovely week with my Leaf Stitching exhibition in London. Spending time with a body of work in an exhibition situation is a good time to reflect on things, both leading up to that point and looking forward. Being removed from the studio and all the distractions of home life can be useful for a period of time, even if the logistics of arranging it all are tricky! Being present in the gallery to talk to visitors about the work can be very rewarding and, I think, adds a lot to the visitors’ experience of the work. Visitors were often surprised to find that the person sitting quietly stitching in the gallery was the artist. For those that didn’t make it to the exhibition the Leaf Stitching catalogue/book is available in my shop, along with other publications. I hope to get some of the pieces that were featured in this exhibition available in the shop in coming days, along with a few other items for sale.

cleanned up group low res

Tide Line, shown above, is currently showing in The Language of Objects at Unit Twelve Gallery, Staffordshire. This looks to be a really interesting exhibition with work from a great group of artists and makers. I am really pleased to have another opportunity to show work at this quirky gallery set on a farm in rural Staffordshire.

A few more workshops dates for next year have been added to the list on the workshops page. I hope to arrange some more day workshops at my studio in West Yorkshire as well, although these have to be during the middle part of the year when the temperature in the  studio is more hospitable: it is starting to get pretty cold in there already and we’re only in early autumn! Details of these will be made available when I’ve sorted out dates in the diary.

meticulous stitchers

Alice Fox 49 Beer Bottle Tops1

I was thrilled to be invited to be part of Meticulous Stitchers at Unit Twelve Gallery, Stafford, alongside artists whose work I really admire. The two pieces I have made for the exhibition are part of my Rust Diaries series and have involved hours and hours (and more) of stitching.

Alice Fox 76 Hair Grips1

The exhibition opens on 4th June and runs through until 29th August. I will be teaching a couple of day workshops at the gallery in July and there is a ‘stitchers soiree’ on 27th June, a mid-exhibition event (open to all) instead of a private view. You can find more details here and on the Unit Twelve website.

Alice Fox 49 Beer Bottle Tops side view

Alice Fox 76 Hair Grips side view

happy new year

Alice Fox winter landscape

This comes with wishes for a happy, healthy and peaceful 2015. The holiday time brings a necessary pause, a change in routine and a chance to relax and reflect. Walks each day this week have been wonderfully varied. The same walk done a few days apart was invigorating in very different ways – first with a few inches of snow transforming the landscape into a monochrome graphic version of itself, the second in wind and rain with russets, greys and greens of winter wood and moor. More images are here.

The Society of Designer Craftsmen annual exhibition takes place at The Mall Galleries in London from 8th to 17th January. My 25 Beer Bottle Tops will be in the special 25th anniversary section of the exhibition. I have some invitations for the preview on 9th January. If you would like one of these send me an email and I’ll pop one in the post to you.

bottle tops and stitches

Alice Fox 25 Beer Bootle Tops

I recently completed this little piece (25cm x 25cm). It has 25 found beer bottle tops trapped between layers of linen and a lot of small stitches. Once all the stitching was complete it was dipped into tea so that the rusty bottle tops could stain their surrounding fabric and stitches in their own special way. It will be shown as part of 25 x 25 x 25 at the Mall Galleries, London alongside the Society of Designer Craftsmen’s 25th annual Designer Crafts exhibition in January.

Later this week I’ll be at the Knitting and Stitching show in harrogate. On Thursday I’ll be stewarding part of the day in the Prism exhibition Coded : Decoded, in which I have some work on show. On Friday I’ll be demonstrating in the Artists in Action area on stand C590. Do come and say hello if you’re visiting.

Alice Fox 25 Beer Bottle Tops detail

 

space

Alice Fox studio experiments

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.

collar books

Alice Fox Shirt collar book #1 d

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.

Alice Fox Shirt collar book #3 a Alice Fox Shirt collar book #3 b Alice Fox Shirt collar book #2 c
Alice Fox Shirt collar book #1 b

Alice Fox Shirt collar book #1 a