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


  1. what a captivating post amanda! - a big congrats all around (on the acquisition, the collaboration, the youtube slideshow - what a triumph!) you've shared so many things that I will have to go back and read through the post again - (I must say you've given me a great idea with the you tube! I feel some video work coming on...)

    I was immediately struck by the thoughts of projects that included a more collaborative element.... maybe that's something we could investigate in another BAO project? - or in another way... in the fullness of time...

    (just thinking whilst I'm typing.... now its back to cooking!)

  2. Yes, I was thinking along those line too Ronnie. Perhaps a different way to respond to a text...

  3. Amanda, this is a fantastic post! So good to hear that Monica has added your book to the collection but absolutely deservedly so. Seeing the video reminded me how beautiful the book is, and just how talented you are. Did you make the video? It is beautifully produced. Congratulations!

  4. Fantastic Amanda. very inspiring. which is what I need at the moment. I love the fact that you collaborated with Monica, what a wonderful thing. Well done with the youtube too! looks great.
    ditto to what Ronnie says above about more collaboration. maybe you could post this or something like it on the BAO site.
    Great ideas
    jane a

  5. beautiful video; captures the book very well.

    i also think this has sparked perhaps a new way to collaborate for BAO... a round robin or something

  6. This is so inspirational. Great post. And I love the video! Along with collaborating, we book artists need more of that sort of thing. A book like Judy and the Jacaranda just can't be conveyed in a few still pictures. And it is a beautiful book.

    What happy news about the acquisition. As was noted elsewhere here, well-deserved.

  7. Thank-you all for taking the time to comment and for your congratulations.
    Carol: yes I did make the video myself. It was actually really easy. Maybe I could do a post to explain how it was done. As the Chipmunk said, it is a good way to convey an artists book online, rather than only still images.
    Ida & Abigail: glad you enjoyed this. I will certainly post something along these lines over on BAO. I like the idea of a round robin, or even pairing up and sending work back and forth a few times.
    Thanks again, x

  8. an incredible work.

  9. Amanda! What a beautiful book! I can't tell you how much it inspired me...I simply MUST do some book art this year. I am so impressed with your beautiful and evocative images. And BTW, I'm very excited to hear about your coming trip! ;^)!!!

  10. Hi Amanda, I love hand made books though I have never made one myself.. I love to see how other artists create books in such unique and creative ways like yours.