A number of weeks ago I had a go at messing about with indigo ... I couldn't resist dunking a few bits of pale blue leather, scavenged from the seconds bin at my local leather wholesalers. I had planned to make these into books in January ... but why wait?
I've been invited to participate in an artist's blog hop that started in Europe, has been to America, and worked its way to me in Yorkshire via my "on line" Alaskan artist pal Amy Meissner.* You can see her blog hop post here: Amy's blog hop. (*Amy and I met through Pinterest ... a little bit of surreptitious internet stalking commenced, followed by a bit of mutual Facebook liking and an internet friendship blossomed. If she is indeed the jogging bottoms-clad middle-aged man that she alluded to in a FB message, with dubious social skills and personal hygiene... well .... her cover story is far too inspiring and I am happy to go along for the ride.)
Amy Meisner is an artist from Alaska who is currently making the most most beautiful and thought provoking quilts. Her artist's statement explains her work beautifully and explains my admiration for her work:
"I’m inspired by textiles with the heft and history of the domestic -- burdensome to store, impossible to use -- and by the drudgery of working by hand. I love that during the hours of repetition the meaning of a piece shifts and deepens, but never loses its initial impulse."
So, here goes. The blog hop consists of four questions about my work and some recommendations for other artists that I am inspired by:
What am I working on?
This is a funny old time of year for me and my production (it really is about production at this time of year) is geared up for the shows I have planned for November and the hope of sales in the run up to Christmas. (These plans have been somewhat scuppered by an appointment for eye surgery, which should have been successfully completed by the time this post is published, fingers crossed). In the back of my mind, scribbled in notebooks, I have new designs and ideas screaming to be made; a pile of indigo-dyed leather taunting me from a shelf, a mound of naturally dyed fabrics made into book cloth sulking on the shelf above, a list of new skills I want to master and an equally long list of experienced artists/ crafts people that I will need to entice to share their skills with me. I will need to save these joys until January ... then I shall play ...
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
This is a tricky one for me to answer. I do, however, work hard to make them look like "My books" ... that probably makes this an easier question for my customers to answer than me ... I will need to think about this one a bit longer ...
I make books using traditional bookbinding methods - functional objects to be: used, loved, treasured, the receptacles of private memories or even destroyed by their new owner. I have, in equal measures, a love/ loathing of modern technology ... and am yet to be convinced that we have the same emotional response to a data file of photos/ emails that we have with a handwritten letter or a pile of old photos... where is the touch, the smell? It gives me great pleasure to know that in the future the content of my books will provoke an emotional response.
Why do I do what I do?
I have a need to make/ create combined with a need to learn. I fell into bookmaking a number of years ago and had a gut reaction, almost a craving: "I want to know how to do that". It's such a fascinating and ancient craft that I believe learning/ mastering it will keep me interested for many years to come. It is also the most marvellous vehicle for exploring my interest in: the history of women in art/ craft, textiles and its assorted haberdashery ephemera, respect for skills that take time and effort to learn and implement and a need to create in a sustainable way,... oh ... and people buy them, which is completely marvellous as it allows me to make more.
How does my process work?
I am the most prolific list writer, and use a notebook constantly to make notes of ideas, things I want to learn. My notes/ sketches are scruffy and not at all beautiful, which is maybe a reaction to the,almost contrived sketchbooks we were encouraged to create at art college back in the late 80s. It is also the most wonderful aide-memoir for grey cells that are beginning to feel the ravages of time. My process is also defined by the discarded materials I have to hand; for example, a bag full of old linen and threads, donated by my lovely book artist friend Annwyn Dean, was the original catalyst for the "Darned Books". So ... I constantly have ideas brewing: what do I want to learn? What do I have to hand? What will I do with them once they are made?
Next week (October 25th -- pop a note in your diaries), these same 4 questions will be answered by the two artists I've chosen: Josie BeszantandRachel Brown.
" My work takes discarded objects from the past and through the reworking of them attempts to speak about the present and future. I am interested in the beauty of the damaged and worn and the processes of decay, repair and preservation. I also look at what makes connections between people who have long gone and our current experience of the world. The work makes references to collections, why we collect, what we do and how objects preserve memory and storytelling."
Rachel Brown:the second is the equally lovely Rachel Brown; Jeweller and Senior Art Lecturer. I have had the pleasure of exhibiting alongside Rachel a number of times ... although I wear very little jewellery, when I see Rachel's name on the exhibitors list I think "yay!"and "uh oh ... I'm going to have an empty purse"
I've spent a glorious day messing about with an Indigo vat and a pile of fabrics that I dyed last year. Indigo is marvellous stuff, the speed with which it dyes fabric is a complete contrast to the slow and steady process used with most other natural dyes.
I had a play with some of last years dyed fabric: Golden rod, Apple, Rhubarb, Avocado and Walnut... and was pretty pleased with the various shades of blue achieved ...
A few of the fabrics have an interesting mottled effect which is both irritating and quite exciting. I do find "happy accidents" quite thrilling, however I get more pleasure from mastering a technique and the knowledge that I can replicate it ... more work with Indigo is required before I adorn a book with these.
If, like me, you are too lazy to: grow your own indigo, ferment a vat of urine etc ... I highly recommend buying a kit from The Mulberry Dyer. She really is an expert and her kits are brilliant!
I've spent the last year or so endeavouring to expand my repertoire of stitches .... here are a few ... practised/ devised on card as I am too frugal to waste a book block ....
Bowles Braid ... I am certain that plaiting long stitches, whilst sewing the book block, has been done before ... I've looked and looked ... but can't find any examples... so for today ... can we call it Bowles Braid?
Bowles Braid (?) ....
A couple of Hardanger stitches applied to the spine ....
Stitches in situ, and off to a new stockist in Thirsk ....