Some of the research I have been undertaking around ‘call and response’ has led me to consider ideas of tribes and image projection… what are the messages we give out and how do others receive them? How do we find ways to visually connect with ‘them what think like us about that’ and repel ‘them what don’t’?
One vehicle for this that intrigues is the t-shirt. I like their chameleon like quality, their humour, and their potential for disobedience. It is not just what the t-shirt says but what it is saying about the person wearing it. I will explore this idea further and build in more research to consider ideas of belonging, identity, virtue signalling and protest. What do we project, when, and why? Do certain circumstances allow freer forms of expression…
In the meantime, and as a way to finish my first MA year with an actual real piece of work, I set myself a project that would utilise some of some existing & new-found printmaking skills. Whilst at Catton Hall, for the 10th Bearded Theory Festival (which was amazing by the way), I took ten minutes every day to bond with a pint of Thatcher’s, ‘the perfect breakfast cider’ and make a list of the t-shirts that went by. These were edited to become ‘found’ poems and formed the textual elements for the Bearded Poe(t)ry book.
I was keen to get back into the screen printing studio to get more comfortable with the process before the academic year finished. I set myself the challenge to increase my limited colour palette (there is life beyond the black and red) and explore the outcomes when combining printing techniques, in this case screen print, letterpress and rubber stamping. I used geometric shapes to echo isotype and directional elements as the foundation blocks of screen printed colour and I also included an illustration made by Alys in my sketchbook at Catton Hall, to include a drawn element (her response to what she found).
I over-printed the text elements in letterpress, along with some ornamental border in gold. It was so enjoyable to spend a proper chunk of time on the Arab, printing something for the simple joy of it. The rubber stamping takes the form of a hand cut homage to the Bearded Theory logo, the home-made and imperfect adding a humanity and character to the more ‘formal’ or ‘rigid’ printed elements. The happy accident of printing the stamp upside down was the perfect, though maybe subtle, solution to communicating the New Model Army vs Ferocious Dog ‘t-shirt off’.
I have long been an admirer of Theresa Easton’s work and keep coming back to the egalitarian ideals of chapbooks and broadsides and so for this decided to combine them both.
The broadside element was printed in the garage on my trusty Farley proofing press, not perfect but perfectly adequate, the home based approach further enabling the prINtDEPEDENCE (which will increase once the mice have been properly rehoused after their eviction from the sofa hotel).
The finished ‘chapside’ is Japanese slit fold book with a single one line ‘t-shirt’ poem as a proclamation broadside on the reverse. The whole thing is kept together with the poe(t)ry wristband.
Bearded Poe(t)ry is in an edition of 20 copies and will be included in the Off-Set Exhibition at the Christmas Steps Gallery in Bristol from 29 August until 3 September 2017.
Make: French Sewn Book
Cake: Rachel’s Granny’s Orange Yoghurt Cake
The invite was a real cobbled together affair combining scavenged print finishing leftovers and the coming out of retirement of my Imperial typewriter (swapped for a shiny set of rotoring pens when at Chelsea School of Art nearly 30 years ago and still going strong). Typewriting is a perfect way to challenge the perfectionist within and I forced myself to embrace the mistakes and their inherent charm. It was a good exercise and opened up thinking for future projects.
The making of the book from our french sewn block in part I, took place at Robert Smail’s Printing Works on Tuesday 22 August 2017. We decamped to ‘work’ so that we could make use of the nipping presses, guillotine and extra space. This involved gluing the spines, attaching the ‘mull’ or scrim’ and craft paper to stabilise the block. Then we moved to the quarter case bound cover. I had pre-cut the boards to save time and Heather again provided comprehensive instructions for each step of the process. It was really useful (for someone who usually wings it) to have precise measurements as that really helped the neatness of my finished results.
I had never made a quarter bound case cover before and I have to say I liked it. Traditionally to manage production costs a more expensive (stronger) material (say leather) was used for the spine and extended slightly onto the covers with the rest
being covered with a cheaper material.
Our books consisted of a buckram spine and paper covers. This allowed me to use one of the lining paper roller prints I had made in collaboration with Ruth Broadway at a wonderful workshop led by Stephen Fowler (King of the Rubber Stamp) at UWE back in May. Others used print room make ready sheets, end papers, wallpaper samples and gift wrap… the possibilities are endless.
It was time-consuming… we all underestimated how much time it takes to measure, cut and glue but a couple of us got there by the end (with a chance to finish next time, rather than rush for the others).
There was a satisfaction in making a ‘proper’ book and I liked the potential for the combination of materials this format opened up. The other combination of materials (or rather ingredients) we all liked was the orange yoghurt cake. She has recently inherited her Grandmother’s recipe book and brought this in for us all to see. It was a beautiful, well-loved, well used object and it sparked conversation and equivalent memories and laments for everyone. The thing that made it magical for me was the greasy finger prints, embedded crumbs and especially the little notes put next to the recipes (some glued in from magazines, some handwritten). Their provenance was always acknowledged… ‘Mr Little’s Marmalade’, ‘Isobel’s Coffee Buns’ (not as good as Mum’s), some were ‘good for freezing’, some ‘nice for parties’… a personalised Mrs Beeton which connects and resonates across the generations… the people known forever linked to the food eaten. Will Rachel add her own recipes and notes or conserve it as epitaph all bound up in a book? I wonder…. maybe the book from this OBC will be the start of her own? The Orange Yoghurt Cake had made it into the book three times so it must have been a favourite and after tasting it we could see why… thank you Hazel, I will add it to my own collection with its provenance acknowledged and think of you every time I make it (possibly with a note… ‘not as good as Rachel’s’).
Make: French Sewn Book
Cake: Yummy, Scrummy, Carrot Cake and Malteser Tray Bake
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!
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 when I do more for myself. Holes were eventually made both in sections (huzzah!) and tablecloth (boo!) but thankfully not actually in anyone.
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!
A group show of a selection of works produced (and organised) by level 1 MAMDP students at the Christmas Steps Gallery, Bristol. Open daily 10-5. 11 Christmas Steps, Bristol, BS1 5BS. http://christmasstepsgallery.co.uk/projects/