Thursday, 8 February 2018

Ex Libris: Altered Books at Bucks County Museum

There is still time (just) to visit, Ex Libris: Altered Books at Bucks County Museum, Aylesbury - open until 24 February.

Altering books is a very old method of 'recycling'.

Long before the printed book, monks recycled old parchment manuscripts by scraping off the ink and adding fresh text and illustration. When I recently visited Designing English I noticed quite a few examples of words, illustrations and annotations added (at a later date) to the margins.

As they say, there is nothing new etc. etc.

You could say that this exhibition, organised by the group Sparksartists, is therefore following in a very fine tradition!

These are just a few of my favourites . . . there is so much more to see!

Barbara Pearman: From a Cornish Window
Made while artist-in-residence at Cape Cornwall.

Dorothea Reid: Full Fathom Five
Original book, Shakespeare Survey 1 ed A Nicoll 1948

Jean Crow-Stewart: Deadwood
Original book, Simple Pruning by N Catchpole RHS 1948

Heather Hunter: Summer
Original book, Pictures of Britain Series: English Garden Flowers  by George M Taylor 1946

Barbara Pearman: Water life of Britain
Original book, Readers Digest water life of Britain

Kate Crossley: Nil Admirari - Let nothing astonish you
Original books, Bolingwood and his times, volume 1 & 2 by S Sichel

Nancy Campbell: Itoqqippoq
Itoqqippoq means 'washing line' in Greenlandic. The narrative of this book is created from a series of photographs of frozen washing, observed in west Greenland. In the Artic, laundry is left out to freeze-dry all winter long, but these sheets were dancing in the wind - a sign of spring.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Handwritten Manuscripts (the first thousand years of written English)

Before the printing of books (in the west) sometime about 1473/4, every book was handwritten . . . with a quill pen, crikey, fountain pens not to be invented until the 19th century . . . and, no popping down the shop for some ink!

For almost a thousand years books were written in Latin, a language widely understood throughout Europe. Writing in English was much less important and much less widely read. However, as English grew in prestige it was used more often and there are some fabulous examples in Designing English on until the 22 April in the Weston Library, Oxford.

It is worth seeing, not just for the medieval manuscripts in the main exhibition, but also to see the display of current, recently created artists' books inspired by those manuscripts.

The most 'ordinary' of books this, a medical book of the late 1400's. Remedies and charms scribbled on the flyleaves in scruffy and wonky handwriting. But these are magic words, with the power to heal. It includes a spell, with the instruction to write +loy +eloy +zedeloy onto a loaf, butter or an apple as a cure for toothache!

Composed 990-995; copied second half of the 1000's at Worcester Cathedral. I think the shape of this writing is adorable . . . the lines are widely spaced for ease of sight-reading, and large coloured letters mark new sermons.

Sheets stitched together

A herbal, copied sometime mid 1000's, the scribe having left spaces for someone to illustrate at a later date. Who knows what may have happened so that it did not get done . . .

Stories are painted inside these initials in this English guide to hunting, more entertaining than informative.

A manual for swan upping copied between 1516 and 1539, with beautiful abstracted forms symbolising the brands used on the beaks of swans.

A book which folds into a tiny square, about 55mm wide, perfect for folding up and carrying about to consult. Pictures show when it's lucky or deadly to do risky things like getting married, or letting blood.

Verse composed in the late 300's or early 400's and translated between 1439 and 1443 and designed as a gorgeous gift for a duke. The scribe uses multiple coloured inks to highlight fiddly rhymes and different sounds, resulting in wonderful patterns and shapes on the page.

Redesigning the medieval book - artists' books inspired by the manuscripts on show.

When leaving the main exhibition rooms of Designing English, turn to the left and head for the vitrine in the main entrance hall to see a selection of books made as a compliment to that exhibition.

Two of my favourites . . .

A guide to mouse hunting, Lizzie Waterfield, with marvellous mouse covers!

Invisible, Angela Callanan, captures the eccentricity and peculiarity of medieval magic charms.

Redesigning the medieval book, until the 11 March 2018 at the Weston Library, Oxford.
Weston Library information 01865 277094

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Floating Ink . . . suminagashi paper marbling

Still in progress, but nearly finished . . . I've been paper marbling, using suminagashi (Japanese marbling) a technique I first practiced in a Print and Bind workshop with Emily Martin.

It is possible to achieve very subtle marks with this technique, and I want to use it as a background for a piece of work inspired by walking the sea-wall in Mersea, which must be completed this week as I'm taking part in Colchester open studios with Neti Love, clever letterpress printmaker (and my lovely sister-in-law).

Colchester Open Studios, Saturday 30th September & Sunday 1st October, 11am - 5pm
Click here for further information about all the artists in the scheme.

Suminagashi is a simple process . . .  using just water, ink and a surfactant,

alternately float the ink and surfactant onto the surface of the water,
then lay a sheet of paper onto the water surface and gently lift off . . . and voila sheets of marbled paper!

Monday, 24 July 2017

Happy the bride the sun shines on!

Radio (as always) plays in the background, sunny and warm outside, . . . I'm in the cool of my shed binding wedding guest books for June and July weddings.
Laurie thought very carefully about what he wanted this book to be . . . size . . . text . . . even down to torn edges on the paper. 

It was edifying to work with him on this project, what a charming and considerate man he is!
As a surprise for the bride and groom, Rebecca's delightful friend Sophie arranged this book project with me. 

How lovely for me to work with two such kind and thoughtful people!
These are luxury, handmade wedding guest books made specifically for each couple, so that all their guests can sign and comment to commemorate their wedding day.