Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Collaborating in book art

I’ve been working away on the new website I mentioned in last weeks post, making progress but still a way to go.It’s given me the chance to look over images of my work, and reinforced the pleasure to be had connecting and sharing with online friends, like the Book*Art*Object group.

A great way for artists to connect is by collaborating. While BAO isn’t collaboration in the sense of the individual books/objects created, the project, which encompasses all our books as the group’s response to a text, plus the entire blogged experience of their creation is certainly a collaboration.

Judy & the Jacaranda, which was my first BAO work, opened up another opportunity for collaboration. In July 2010, when I was about half way through binding my edition of 14 copies of Judy, I took a break and went to Sydney. One highlight of the trip for me was the day I visited the Librorum Bibliothecea apud Artificem, Monica Oppen’s private artists book collection.

As well as being a printmaker and book artist, Monica is a trained bookbinder and spoke about her many collaborations with artists. Although reasonably happy with my stab-binding of Judy, I leapt at the chance to explore other options with Monica. With her depth of knowledge and experience, I was intrigued to discover what her solution would be.

I spoke to Monica about the way I had thought through my approach (see this post) so she would understand what had been important to me. Then, when I returned to Brisbane, I posted off one unbound copy and one bound copy for her to consider.

Monica suggested a single piece cover with z-folds. (If you own Vol 1 of Keith Smith, you can see a diagram on p. 131) This is also an Asian-style binding, but the sewing is hidden. I was keen to use an Asian binding because the book refers to the tradition found in Asian art, where the seasons are used as a metaphor for the cycle of life. I felt happy with Monica’s suggestion and sent three more unbound copies for her to bind.

In the end, there are 14 books in the edition, plus 2 artists proofs. There is a Special Edition of 4, handbound by Monica Oppen, which comes with a handmade protective slipcase and ten copies handbound in a 5-Hole Stab Binding by the artist (me!)

It’s been a very different process, but one that has been very valuable. Living in a house with a musician, for whom collaboration is a completely natural instinct, I confess I have longed at times for something similar in my work. This collaboration came along a little late in the project, and next time, I would definitely aim to share ideas from the start. It was somewhat of a challenge to hand “my baby” over to another (it never occurred to me that I could simply unbind it all if I wasn’t happy!) However, the leap of faith that was required was really just another of the type that is demanded at times during the act of creating. I found that there was much to be gained by opening myself to the input of another at this stage, and by the injection of Monica’s particular expertise.

The binding Monica chose gives the book a greater elegance. It opens with ease and still refers to the Asian origin of the book’s theme, but with more subtlety. That said, I think some people may prefer the stab binding simply because it is a much-loved binding, as pointed out by Tara O’Brien.

I’m proud to share with you that a copy of the Special Edition was acquired for the Librorum Bibliothecea apud Artificem. Thank-you Monica! There are copies of both editions currently available for sale. I will be putting them up on the new website, but until then you can email me (potsrmeathotmaildotcom).

Finally, I have posted a slideshow below that takes you page by page through the book. This is for those people who aren’t BAO-folks (who obviously have their own copy of the real thing!) Hope you enjoy it!


A page by page look at Judy & the Jacaranda

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Brisbane flood: connecting & contributing

Well 2011 has kicked off somewhat dramatically with the worst floods this city has seen since 1974. However, it’s far too early to get negative, and I’m determined to view the fact that everyone in my family escaped inundation as a good omen. In fact, I haven’t heard of any friends who’ve been badly affected. Just good luck, I guess, given the severity of the situation.



Out of respect for those who haven’t been so lucky, I haven’t been out of my local area since this all started. “Rubber-necking” has been firmly discouraged by the authorities, and quite rightly so. It didn’t feel right to take photos, even locally, but a very high resolution aerial photo, taken on Thursday Jan 13th after the peak is online here.

I’ve posted a tiny section showing where I live and the closest flooding to our home. It seems quite far away, but when the worst was feared the prediction was for flooding to come as close as the footy field just across from us.

Below is a close-up of the area in the red square.

Flood close-up

I find it quite heartbreaking peeking into those backyards. If you click on the photo you’ll see more detail, like the clothes lines and pools. Remember that’s after the peak. Nevertheless, our suburb is so much better off than many others.

It’s been incredible to see the way the city has rallied around those people who have lost so much. The money, the clothes and toys, but most impressive of all is the willingness to offer ones own time to do what is at best uncomfortable work. It’s been hot, humid and smelly and yet they came in their thousands.

Brisbane in the 21st century had become a bit of a strange, soulless place, in my opinion. Back before good old Expo ‘88 we used to be described by Southerners as “just a big country town”. It was meant derisively but it was pretty true, right down to the sense that you knew everybody (and their business) and that we looked out for one another, for their kids and so on.

By the new millennium, we may have acquired outdoor cafes and shops that stay open on Sundays, but we had lost a sense of community in all but a few small enclaves.

I can’t help hoping that the floods just might teach us the value of community, about reaching out and contributing time and effort for something beyond our own personal benefit. It might remind us of the joy to be had from connecting with neighbours and from the collective sense of belonging to a place.  And most certainly it should remind us, as we seem to need to be reminded at regular intervals, that Nature is the boss and we disregard this fact at our own peril.

This might all seem pretty off-topic for me and this blog, but the strange thing is, it is exactly what I wanted to express in my first post of the year. After all the reviewing and thinking and planning I did in December, I tried to come up with one word to set the “tone” or theme for the sort of 2011 I hope to create. And I couldn’t do it of course, but I did come up with three: Connect/Community/Contribute.

These are the things that I most enjoyed about 2010 but that I felt I wanted in greater quantities. I realized that the easiest way (and therefore most likely to be successful) was to do this online. Being ill has left me feeling terribly isolated at times, but since hooking up online with both other PWCFS and with my book arts buddies, this has been much better. Still, I do want more, and I genuinely want to give back. I used to work in “a helping profession” so I always felt that I was giving and contributing, and never had to seek out more ways to do so. I don’t see it as realistic to consider that type of work any more, but I still have a lot to contribute, and I want to contribute.

I also want to share my work with more people. And when I say share, I do mean share. It isn’t about making money from it, I just want people to see it and derive pleasure from it. You might remember that for my 200th post last year, I had a give-away, and I was surprised by the pleasure and satisfaction I felt as I sent my prints off to their new homes.

At the moment, I am setting up a website that will have a shop facility, and I have decided that all proceeds from sales made before June 30 this year will be donated to the Queensland Premier’s Flood Relief Appeal. Hopefully the website will be online in the next few weeks. If you would like to be notified when it comes online, please leave a comment on this post with your email address. In the meantime, if you feel you would like to, you can of course donate directly on the Qld government site.