Occasional Book Club Four Part I

Make: French Sewn Book

Cake: Yummy, Scrummy, Carrot Cake and Malteser Tray Bake

french-sewn-block

French Sewn Block

The fourth OBC happened on 18 July 2017. The invitations were little three hole stitch books with a self-contained wrap around clover with slot and tab fixing. We were very pleased this time to have Andrea join us around the table. In the continuing spirit of recycle and re-use the covers were off-cuts from old, left-over, prints.

This time Heather took the lead to get us to do some ‘proper grown up sewing’ and introduced a stitch that was new to most of the group. It was one which she had been shown on her bookbinding course at the Borders College. See the link for further info, she is really enjoying it!

http://www.borderscollege.ac.uk/find-a-course/bookbinding-book-repair

One of the joys of Heather is her organisation so we had copies of her beautifully written college notes to keep for future reference. She truly had the patience of a saint and was having to do a dynamic risk assessment as most of us handled the folding with no problem but the making the holes with a Stanley knife was slightly erratic to say the least! I would definitely review this part for when that I do more for myself. Holes were eventually made both in sections (huzzah!) and tablecloth (boo!) but thankfully not actually in anyone.

notes

Once we had calmed ourselves with tea and cake we continued. The sewing was actually straight forward when you concentrated (note to self) and the finished results quietly pleasing… it brought discussion about books with exposed bindings like these beauties from Ruth Bleakley. Future project for the making methinks! http://www.ruthbleakley.com/blog/2012/04/awesome-handmade-books-french-link-stitch-bookbinding/

Thank you Heather and we are all looking forward to Occasional Book Club Four Part II when we will take our French Sewn block and turn it into a proper book!

Occasional Book Club Three

Make: Pop Up Books

Cake: Heather’s Lemon Drizzle

The third OBC happened on 6 June 2017. The invitations were little postcards. All survived the post!

This time Rachel took the lead with enthusiasm and introduced the group to ideas for creating pop up elements to our books. We tried three versions: the ‘box’, the ‘diamond’ or ‘mouth’ and the zig zag. These were very effective methods that everyone found easy to re-create and there was excitement about the applications possible beyond the book form… Heather left buzzing with plans for Christmas cards (and it is only June!).

 

Without you, I am nothing?

Examining a call for response…
I have realised that I make with a specific ‘audience’ in mind, within the instrumentalist idea (or some inherited sense of work ethic) that art should have a practical purpose, be for something and someone. I am interested in this as a vehicle for engagement and change. I also want to consider the praxis… how the practical is underpinned by the theory and production.

 

As a way to support my own emergent practice I want to gain a better understanding of how to engage and initiate the call, start conversations and subsequently engender the possibility of a meaningful response. I have always been interested in the ideas of encouraging ‘disobedience’ and this is part of a bigger project that I am developing as part of my MA. As I progress this I want to understand more about how engagement is made through an individual’s creative being and practice to promote a better sense of shared citizenship and a ‘common good’ within a neoliberal world.

I am defining disobedience in this context not only as a way to challenge rather than maintain the status quo (an example of which could be the refusal to give up a seat on a bus) but as a conscious decision in taking the time to be, think, make, talk and exchange ideas with a kind ‘artfulness’ (in both senses of the word).

I wonder whether, in the current time of noise and visual saturation, the quieter, more considered, creative conversations are more effective and ultimately more sustainable (and less exhausting) than the rant and has more value than a click. Looking to go beyond mass protest and a strictly ‘anti’ agenda that relies on binary thinking of a ‘us and them’, or the ‘powerful and the powerless’, I want to focus on the elements that have an emphasis on (quiet) subversion and creative making as a means of activism, protest and resistance (real or imagined). I believe, by its very nature, it cannot stand alone, it relies on engagement with and within the grey areas that form society, communities and audiences. I want to explore the processes and platforms used as ways to start conversations and build the connections… the stage, the public space, the event, the happening, the participatory workshop and the anonymous (?) intervention.

It could be argued that as the more acknowledged models of protest and resistance have become ‘established’ and there is a risk to them becoming formulaic and almost cliché. This, in turn, allows them to become easier to ignore… the derogation and subsequent dismissal of ‘student style politics’. As the appropriation/subversion of ‘the Spectacle’ and its graphic language as tools for protest becomes more sophisticated and prevalent is there is a danger of it being consumed, but not considered, by the very models and audiences it seeks to challenge? Is there a way that mimicry maintains rather than challenges or subverts the status quo?

There is a rise in more passive models such as ‘slacktivism’ and ‘clicktivism’ which again can feed an innate ‘want to do the right thing’ in the responder but can lack the integrity of real thought and does not necessarily deliver a call to action.  This new model of petitioning  can also risk dismissal under a ‘quantity not quality’ agenda. Placed alongside ideas of virtue signalling it is a way to be ’seen’ to be engaged with important issues and concerns but without actually having to do anything much. Should we be seeking models that embrace elements of these where useful but are re-imagined and smarter, indeed more artful, for our times?

Occasional Book Club Two

Make: Zhen Xian Bau (needle thread pockets)

Cake: Chocolate Brownies

The second OBC happened on 19 April 2017. The invitations were little folded books that fitted into A7 envelopes. I have been keen to test what gets through the postal system and whilst three survived without incident, one ended up arriving in a ‘apologies we have tried to kill your post’ bag.

The lovely Muriel (heidihanddyes) took the lead and introduced the group to Zhen Xian Bau (needle thread pockets). These are a little known Chinese folk tradition that she had discovered through the books of Ruth Smith. She showed us some beautiful examples that she had made from her textiles and used to form a part of gifts she had given.

“It features making ingenious paper-folded containers for storing embroidery threads, packets of needles, paper patterns, often a precious family photograph and personal memorabilia. The reason for their little known history is partly due to the fact that ‘zhen xian bao’, as they are called in Mandarin Chinese, are utilitarian, made for use in the home, and being made of paper wear out with use.” Ruth Smith

http://www.foldingdidactics.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/zhen_xian_beyo.pdf

Following on from the first OBC and the conversations about the secrecy and hidden messages, Muriel suggested the group try these. The lovely Steve had produced the instructions for after use (thank you Steve) and frenzy of folding and gluing began. The first two layers (we went for the 5 box book… the 15 one will be coming!) consisted of measuring and folding to make three collapsible boxes. One large base and two half-size one top. This went by without too much incident (although my basic ruler and mental maths left a bit to be desired). The top layer, with its twist and fold pockets caused much furrowing of brows and muttering as fingers and paper manipulation were not always playing the same game. It echoed the clockwise twist and fold of the OBC one ‘puzzle purse’ where suddenly, once you are almost ready to give up and eat more cake, it happens and you don’t know how you did it. The sense of achievement was palpable, well done all and thank you Muriel! I loved it so much I made a neater one soon after using scraps of end papers and white paper.

Occasional Book Club One

As a way to get making and baking again, the Occasional Book Club (OBC) was set up to bring a small group of people together to share thoughts and ideas whilst making books. I am also increasingly drawn to the ideas of ‘potlatch economies’ where the personal exchanges of ideas, skills and action replace those of money and goods. Finally remembering that ‘thinking about it is not the same as doing it‘, I made a call for a response. The invites (thankfully) survived the postal service and as a result the first OBC took place on 14 March 2017.

Make: Victorian Puzzle Pouches and Envelope Books

Bake: Yummy, Scrummy Carrot Cake + Pear & Ginger Loaf

These require no gluing or stitching, just folding. They are designed as containers for other books/objects/gifts. We have all experienced the pleasures of receiving and opening a gift, the promise a handwritten envelope on the doormat… an effort that makes a simple connection and spreads some joy. The idea was to move away from, or subvert conventional formats, to add curiosity, intrigue and engagement of the recipient.

PUZZLE POUCHES were very popular in the Victorian era. They were easily made by hand and many were covered with intricate hand drawn or painted patterns. They were often used to pass secret Valentine messages, a lock of hair or other personal gift.

OBC-1-Making

Getting to grips with the folding, remembering that 1mm out at the start can become a metre by the end!

 

It was a simple way to start and gave the time for people to get to know each other. Lots of common ground was discovered, ideas were shared and help offered. We discussed ideas of the haptic both as maker and receiver and how the thought and the hand work added value to the action. It was also a very useful way to recycle and re-love some of the small mountain of ‘that will come in useful for something’ scraps I have hoarded. Paper and covers were recycled from old prints and make ready sheets or from paper off-cuts. Additions were made with rubber stamps, sequins and googly eyes. Jane won the inkiest hands competition and I think lovely time was had by all.

 

 

An Adventure in Collograph

  

Mood Board Collograph

(l-r): felt, satin ribbon, recycled paper (home-made), tracing paper, lace, corduroy

hole punch chads, embroidery thread, sticky back plastic, masking tape, flex vinyl, found label

ribbed ribbon, wire binding holes through paper, bandage, folded tissue paper, scrim, hole punched board (280gsm)

book cloth, foil, flex vinyl strips, sticky dots, sellotape, balsa wood

The first collograph plate produced was a mood board. Using what was to hand for materials and in terms of composition was thinking about applications for ideas that I am developing but not wanting to be overly precious about it. I purposely used thin grey board and added to it as I wanted to get a feel for the texture and print from a variety of materials. I want to push collograph further and explore additions and reduction by using thicker mount-board and cutting away as well as adding to the collograph plate. The plate had the materials glued on with pva and then 2 coats of shellac were applied.

As suspected the addition of the shellac made the plate much more interesting than the actual prints. The aged look of them was visually very appealing and the challenge is to get the print equally, if not more, compelling.

The first print was a de-bossed print and really like the results and offers much future potential.

The preparation was key and some of the materials definitely worked better than others. The vinyl flex produced a good result but was not very robust, it began to peel away very quickly so would not sustain a longer run without extra glue which in turn would compromise the subtle effect achieved. The material (scrim, corduroy, lace and bandage) worked really well but held an excess of ink and so a second print (without re-inking) was much more successful. It was a good exercise in planning what materials work well together and also in the application of ink and how much to take off. It would be useful to explore this further and try other materials such as tile cement, cardboard reductions, polyfilla, wax, feathers, etc., and build up a reference library of what works and how it prints and also think about substances that can have objects pushed into them… leave an impression to make an impression.

Taking the collograph print further, I scanned it in and duplicated it to make into a screen for printing on fabric. It was a considered exercise to help get a better understanding of this process, how to prepare artwork and files for screen and to get a measure of the amount of loss to quality each time the image goes through a new process.

The collograph image was printed out onto folex and made into a screen. The scan from the print of the collograph needed some work. The original scanned image held too many tones of grey and not enough contrast. It had to be adjusted to a point where it could work. It was a good exercise on how an image needs to be prepared, how it gets translated digitally for output to screen to then get a successful print. The adjustment meant a compromise in loss of image but I was pleasantly surprised at the detail achieved on certain areas that remained. It provided a measure of what worked (and what didn’t!) and will be very useful when planning a screen printed edition of a print, originated via a different process, going forward.

The image was then screen printed onto calico, cotton, silk and muslin. I see the application of this process to fabric as becoming an intrinsic part of something else. This could be a cloth book cover, an actual book, garment, bag, found item, etc. and so the exploration of the results from using different materials will inform this.

The over-prints on the pieces I was least happy with came out really well and as with other areas it would be interesting to push this further with masks, stencils and layers of fabric to hide, remove or enhance. I like the ‘waste nothing’ approach and will continue to keep work, stitch scraps together to re-use as the ‘mop-up’ prints at the end of the day as these throw up possibilities and present ideas and juxtapositions I would not otherwise have considered.