In Artist Books

Its no secret that this year has been nuts! I mean – strange, crazy, unexpected, scary, unprecedented (how many more times can we squeeze that word into 2020?), just crazy! And just like so many other people, I have had my own ups and downs as the year unfolded. As we’re edging closer to December its feeling like the virus is going to take us in to 2021 in much the same way as we started 2020, with it (now galloping) alongside for the ride.

But despite whatever life throws at us, we solider on. We put one foot in front of the other and do what needs to be done to get through the day. We step over obstacles, kick what needs to to the kerb and weather the storms as they pass through our lives.

But sometimes … when the pressure gets too much, when little things become big challenges, when molehills become mountains, when you can feel yourself becoming a drama queen of royal proportions, maybe then its time to stop, breathe and … surrender.

So that’s what I’ve done … I’ve surrendered to a drowning sense of overload that wasn’t making much sense to me and decided to make a break for it before the school holidays started. I’ve packed my bag. Filled the boot of the car with art supplies. Driven north a few hours. Booked myself a beachside apartment for a week. Stocked the fridge with healthy food options, including that extra special fermented grape juice 😉 and bunkered down for some solo R&R.

I have surrendered to myself and stepped away and created my own Artist in Residence retreat.

I’ve made, slept, read, eaten, walked, beachcombed, slept some more, read some more and made more. I’ve gel printed, walked, pondered. Made friends with the local cafe worker. Rediscovered the joy of filling your pockets with little beach-finds. Enjoyed days of silence and quiet, blissfully making and playing and creating. Reconnected with music I haven’t listened to in years. I’ve barely left the apartment. And I’ve loved every second of it.

For months I’ve been wanting to get back to making artist books, using the myriad of gel printed, eco-printed and cyanotype papers that I have created and collected over the past few years.

I’ve been making books for as long as I can remember, inventing folded structures, incorporating guided folds and giving them away as gifts. Now I want to make some for me to keep and share with others.

I am introducing a new Artist Book workshop into the 2021 workshop schedule (it was planned for this year, but COVID put pay to that). So I am also making in preparation for this workshop. I am so very excited about it.

So this week I covered the floor of my Artist in Residence retreat space with my printed papers. Tried to contain the sand from my beachcombing explorations, and sat and pondered and made and let the shapes and forms evolve.

And this is some of what as evolved from my time away …

Artist Book #1 – Blue

The first creation for the week was a little ‘blizzard’ book, folded using two different gelatin plate monoprints. I love a folded book – where you use different folding techniques to hold the book in its own, stable form. I might insert notes or cards or letters of anything into the folded sections of each page. I’m not sure what I’ll do with the book at this stage – leave it as it is, or add some printed momentos from my artist retreat? Time will tell. But right now, I’m enjoying her for her shape and structure and colour and form, just as she it. Click here to see a few more photos of this book.

Artist Book #2 – Freedom of Movement

I saw this book structure online early last year and fell in love with it. The layering of folds and stitching. Stitching helps bind the book together and by design it moves and waves as if folded in and around itself. The image that inspired me was of a book construction created by Adele Outteridge from Studio West End, in Brisbane. I have long admired her artist books, and those of her late creative partner Wim de Vos. Adele’s creation is far superior to what I have created here, and I’m looking forward to developing this structure a little further. Click here to see a few more photos of this book.

Artist Book #3 – Love notes to my garden

While making the previous two books it reinforced to me just how lucky I am to have such an array of botanical materials on the doorstep of my studio. All of the papers I’m using have come to life with the gifted assistance of my garden. I’ll be honest – its not really a garden as such … its a 1 acre block with trees and shrubs and weeds and plants that look after themselves perfectly well without much or any intervention from me. I do like the idea of being a gardener, but I also like the idea of more hours in the day and days in the week and weeks in the year to do more of what I want to do 😉

So … I though it appropriate to create something special for my garden, to say Thank You in my own way. I thought to write her love notes.

I have used eco-printed and gelatin plate printed papers to make the book. And the love notes themselves have been written on cut cyanotype papers and inserted into the pockets stitched into the book. I’ve written a few love notes already, and as I write more I will add them to her book. Click here to see a few more photos of this book.

What next … ?

I still have a few days to go on my little Artist in Residence retreat. I think its time to crack open the gel plate clam shell plastic packaging and print some gelatin plate prints :-). I wonder what making will happen next?

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