Sunday, 14 January 2018

Learning from the past

Last year I set myself the challenge to produce a book and a print each month. And I managed it – just.

At the beginning of this January I started to think about a new challenge and decided on ‘From the book shelf’ responding to a piece of literature each month. I even went as far as setting up a website to document it. Then I had second thoughts. The idea of the last challenge was to make me create on a regular basis and it worked, but I was so focused on producing different pieces that it didn’t give me much time for exploring and developing ideas. This year I’ve decided that I’m going to try making fewer but more developed pieces. 

At the same time I started exploring Frankenstein in response to the call for entry from Liverpool Book Fair (this is what prompted the idea of ‘From the bookshelf'). The deadline was 9th January for the proposal, with delivery sometime in March if it was accepted. I even finished the proposal. But then I decided that, for a little while at least, I don’t want to give myself strict deadlines that have to be met. I am going to make the book, but I want to be able to let things develop in their own time.

So this year, to keep things moving along, I’ll aim to record small steps of new progress on this blog each week, but I’m going to see where the work takes me.

On the subject of which I’ve been exploring texture and backgrounds for the text of ‘Dangerous books’.

I tried making monoprints on the relief press and on the etching press but neither one gave me the feel I wanted. After a period of trial and error I found using stencils, taking an impression on the Albion press to take off some ink, then printing the ghost on the etching press gave me the weight that I wanted. They aren’t stunning images in their own right but they are heading in the right direction to accompany the text. The next step is to try making it less monochrome and with a more subtle colour palette than bright yellow.

I’m starting to enjoy exploring without having to race to a conclusion.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Baker’s Dozen Completed

Just before Christmas I spotted a call for entry for the Liverpool Book Fair. They are running an exhibition at the Liverpool library alongside the book fair. The theme of the exhibition is Frankenstein (the book is 200 years old in 2018). I started playing with ideas, one of which meant constructing interlocking spirals. Though I’d never used it before I thought about using a wire edged binding to make up sections of the spirals.

I was short of a book for my ‘baker’s dozen’ challenge and thought exploring this construction might kill two birds with one stone. I made gelli prints using circles, rectangles and triangles as a starting point for the motifs and using the three process colours (cyan, magenta and yellow) plus white to keep the colour scheme simple.

This week I cut 24 ‘pages’, attached the wire edging and started to assemble them
 I started using embroidery thread which looked ok but half way through, when I was seeing how many different ways I could fold the books, I realised the knots were coming undone.
So I had a go with thin copper wire. This was more secure and I like the look of it better.
 I made four sets of 6 pages...

 then combined these into two sets of 12 (though I may separate one of these back into two again).
These books don’t have a front and back cover so I decided that they needed a box to protect them.
Then later in the week I went to HBP and printed up the type I’d set before the holidays.
Each one looks unbalanced as single prints but they are designed to be cut down and made into a small book. It seems an appropriate way of presenting the text (which is a quote from Fly By Night by Frances Hardinge).
So now last year’s challenges are completed (more or less),  the Christmas decorations are packed away and it’s time to move on into the New Year and see what that brings.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Where did December go.

Between Christmas (fourteen for Christmas Day including a two year old, a four year old and two babies under four months old) and decorating (which also entailed moving studies, bedroom and workrooms around) there wasn’t much time for creative artwork this December.

But today I managed to get into my beautifully spring cleaned and organised workroom and got my hands dirty - gelli prints to make a book which will meet my ‘Bakers Dozen’ target  of a book a month in 2017 (the book might not get finished before midnight tomorrow but I figure it counts if it’s started this year).
As for the final print for the challenge, I’ve got some words already set up in type at HBP ready for ink on my first visit in January.

Hope you all enjoyed the holidays and I wish you all a peaceful, happy and creative New Year.

Saturday, 2 December 2017


It’s that time of year again. At our house everything stops for Panto in November.  Due to the recent arrival of a new grandson my daughter wasn’t in it this year but my son was the goose, my husband was the dame and I was busy painting, making and shifting stuff. I was particularly proud of the 9 foot high waterfall that the dame made her exit and entrance through (unfortunately no photos)

But I did manage to make a book. A while ago my husband and I were talking about the possibilities of combining his woodworking with my bookmaking and he made me a prototype scroll box. This month it finally got its scroll.
The box itself reminded me of a time capsule so that set the theme
and I decided to use a mobius strip for the structure to represent the infinite nature of time.
Initially I had been intending to use fabric make the scroll but needed something that would hold its shape and that I could print on both sides. In the end I use paper and digitally printed it.
It joins (under Dinner time!) with 4 tiny magnets.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Wooden Type

A few weeks ago I went on a course where we used letterpress and wooden type. Last week I went back to the studio and had a go on my own, trying different type and inking.

Not sure what would be the digital equivalent of 'don’t believe everything you read'.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

And the bees still buzz

This is my contribution to Artists Books 3.0(# 19) Nature. As I started looking at small creatures (medieval slugs, then butterflies, then bees) the words “And the bees still buzz” kept going round in my head.

Ryan Willams wrote this poem immediately after the attack at the Manchester Arena on 22 May 2017. (Worker bees have been a symbol of Manchester for hundreds of years).
I live in Preston, not Manchester, but it’s nearby. My daughters lived there for a few years. They worked at the Manchester Royal Infirmary. My son works in the city centre. We regularly go to the City and the Whitworth Galleries, the John Ryland Library and the Exchange Theatre, I print in the studio at Hot Bed Press in Salford. It’s part of home.
This book isn’t a comment on the politics of the situation or meant to point fingers of blame at any group. Like the poem I want it to reflect the response, the sorrow, the quiet anger and determination, the unity of a city made up of so many different people in the face of an attack on the way they choose to live and work alongside each other. I want it to reflect on the best of human nature in the face of wanton, senseless violence.
In my book the honey comb has been damaged but the bees are still there, coming together, moving to the damage to repair it. My bees are a uniform size because no one person or group is more important than the other. The differences between people and different groups, the thing that helps make the city interesting and vibrant, are alluded to in the differing sizes of the honeycomb cells
The whole poem reads:
“A grey Tuesday morning, 'neath Lancastrian skies
We wake once again to wipe tears from our eyes.
Forced to wear robes of weakness and pity,
As cowards attack the very heart of our city.

Like always, we'll comfort and hold one another,
A Mancunian family of sisters and brothers.
For a time our strut is reduced to a stagger,
But make no mistake, we'll rekindle our swagger.

We'll learn how to live with another deep scar.
If you think you can beat us, you don't know who we are!

We're Collyhurst, Ancoats, Moston and Sale.
We're Oldham and Bury; Ashton; Rochdale.

We're Pankhurts and Turing, the Gallagher Brothers,
We're Morrissey, Marr and a million others!

We're a city of workers, a city of shirkers.
A city of tracksuits, and bibles and burkas.

Vegetarian, Rastafarian, Athiest, Jew.

100 red! 100% blue!

We're each of us different but never alone.
In the Cosmopolitopia, we get to call 'home'.

So, come at us again, and again if you must.
Time after time we'll rise from the dust.
You'll never prevail - not against us...

This is Manchester, our MANCHESTER
And the bees still buzz!”

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Medieval snails

It’s time for the annual 20:20 print exchange at HPB.

I had an image already in mind. It developed out of the research I did while developing my response to the medieval book. I made my plate and went to the studio to print, but the block, which was printing oddly from the start, started to break down before I’d got half way through. I’m not sure what I did differently when making it but something wasn’t right.
 I did manage a few good prints out of it, but I’ll have to give the 20:20 a miss this year.

Saturday, 7 October 2017


I'm way overdue with my contribution to Collaborative Artists Books (# 19 Nature). But I've finaly designed..
 and made the plate..
Normally I wouldn't use die cut pieces, however for this book I wanted the precision that die cutting would give me.

Sunday, 1 October 2017


I finally decided that using gum arabic or cutting text into blocks was all very well but for some projects you just need proper set type. So last weekend I went to another workshop at HBP. Elizabeth Willow was teaching letterpress, wood type and book making (all in 2 days!).

We had to take a word to use. I chose fragmented. I thought it would lend itself well to book structures.

We used the Adana presses to print metal type on bookmark sized paper
  and the Albion presses for wood type.
 I was overjoyed to find that you can move the metal type onto the relief press and combine the two.
We made the prints into several different book structures.
Even with such a fantastic teacher I know two days is nowhere near enough to become proficient but I’m hoping I’ve learned enough to be able to go in to play and work some of it out for myself now.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017


Whilst we were in France over Easter we drank a lot of tea and I had this bright idea of drying the bags, putting things inside them and making a book. When I tried it the bags weren’t transparent enough but I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away. Home they came – Yorkshire Teabags that had travelled full to the supermarche in France and then back empty to Lancashire – a lot of air miles.I decided it was time to stop keep moving them out of the way in the workroom and actually use them for something.

I wanted to use text but also to keep it quite simple. So I got out some rubber stamp letters that I’ve had for years and never used and started to play. The first thing I realised was that the words would have to be no longer than 5 letters long to fit onto the bags. This limited the possibilities but I thought “Tea for Two” was quite apt and I wasn’t after deep and meaningful. 

A bit of paint to heighten the contrast with the lettering and .....
Keeping it simple, for the backs I made stamps, a teapot and two cups, out of foam and milk bottle plastic....
I thought putting them in a box was more in keeping than binding them into a book.