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.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Aquatint Workshop

I still can’t lean over or sit at a table to work but last weekend I did manage to get to a workshop run by Kate Desforges at HBP that I’d booked weeks ago - aluminium and zinc etching in copper sulphate. I use copper sulphate with aluminium already because aluminium etches to give tone, but I hadn’t used it with zinc before, and I have wanted to learn how to aquatint for ages.

So by working on the tops of various cupboards and plan chests and using the press whose wheel rotated highest from the floor it was possible without bending too much.

I managed to make sandpaper texture with this very deeply bitten aquatint
My aluminium etchings were better but I was back in my comfort zone for those.
The 20 20 print exchange happens in November. I think I want to explore using aquatinr for that so I'll have to get back to printmaking regularly as soon as possible

Monday, 28 August 2017


Well I can move better but I still don’t bend or stretch easily. In terms of studio work this means I can stand at the drawing table and scribble, if I don’t over reach, and I can use the computer.

The materials and bits for the medieval book are stacked on the side waiting. I refuse to put them away otherwise they’ll get sidetracked and I’m determined to finish it.

In the meantime I’ve scanned the completed pages for the literature and games sections of the book, arranged them into layout order and saved them as a pdf (the nearest I could get to actually making a book). If you would like to see them please click on the image (they are at the bottom of the page)

I’m also having to rethink my contribution to the CollaborativeArtists' Books book swop #14(Nature). I was going to make multi coloured offset prints from a single collagraph plate but the roller at HBP I need for the this size of  book is rather large so I think it will be too heavy and too much of a stretch for now.

I’m considering snails instead at the moment.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Man Plans.....

And God laughs. Every now and again this proverb seems apposite.
Last week I had it all worked out.  I could finish painting the book section I was working on which would give me two sections to print on the Friday. Then this week I could paint the last section and left over bits which I could print on Thursday (today). And that would gave me a week while they were drying to work out how to treat the covers and to make the two end sections which are more ‘things’ than ‘books’. And finally a week to stitch it together, photograph it and get it uploaded onto the entry site.  Wildly optimistic, especially given that the whole thing is an experiment anyway, but doable, probably.
Last Friday I woke up and couldn’t get up. Moving was agony. Too much time spent bending over a worktable and not enough changing position and doing other things.  I can now stand (which means I can use the computer at the drafting table), lie flat and sit bolt upright, though none for very long and the transition between them is a bit tricky.
This morning I caught myself looking at the calendar thinking if I miss out a couple of sections and......

 I think it’s time to get real. I will finish it but slowly.
 On the plus side it does mean I can spend time getting it right rather than just OK. And the research and experiments I’ve done so far have given me a whole set of ideas I want to explore further.

Friday, 4 August 2017

A Sample

These are a few of the prints for the literature section of the book structure. So far I have planned, painted and printed four sections and have painted another one.
There are three more sections to paint. One of which I have planned out. To finish this book by the deadline I’ll need to have finished the painting and printing stage by the middle of the month. Tight but just about doable (I hope)

Thursday, 20 July 2017

First set of pages

Here are some of the first real set of pages in progress. They are for the scientific section of the book.

Since these photos I’ve managed to varnish them (both sides, to stop the pages sticking together- a disadvantage of acrylic paints) cut them and print the texts.  At the moment they are drying so I don’t want to risk putting them on the scanner.

That’s 15 down only another 105 to go. 

Did I mention the deadline. The book needs to be finished by the end of August. I may be off line for a while!

Monday, 10 July 2017

Decisions, decisions

I’ve been making final decisions about the scale, colour scheme and papers for the book
Considering the colour scheme I think I’ll keep it quite simple. I want to reference the colours in the original manuscripts so I’ll use a blue, red, yellow and probably a green but I’ll try to keep to the same one of each of these throughout the book. I’ll also use white and the earth colours as these have been in common usage for centuries. But although we often think of manuscripts books as having dark mottled crinkled pages I want to avoid the look of deliberately aged ‘tea stained’ papers.
The scale needs to be handleable. Referencing handheld devices means the book itself needs to have small scale dimensions. The mock up was 7 x 7 cm simply because I could get 3 pages out of each page of hardback book. But it did mean that in practical terms it was stable with three lines of stitching and I could do the centre line without the need for a curved needle.I’m going to keep these dimensions. They feel right in the hand
I’ve been trying out torn edges verses cut edges. The problem with torn edges is each small page has to be painted separately to avoid white tear marks and the paint can get underneath and mark the reverse side. Whereas if I cut the edges I can paint 3 pages at a time on taped down sheets of paper and cut them out when both sides are finished. It just takes a bit of planning.  Fortunately when I put several torn pages together I decided that rather than giving a tactile element to the book it just looked messy in comparison to the cleaner cut edges of the other papers which means foe once the easier route is the better one.
Having decided to use acrylic paint I have been exploring different types of paper. Partly because the art shop in town has closed down and I haven’t enough of any one type to do all the pages. Before I go down the mail order route I want to be sure I’m getting the right stuff. I’ve been vacillating between cartridge paper and 300 gsm watercolour paper and I’ve made sample after sample.
The cartridge stays folded better but I like the more tactile paint effects I can get with the slightly textured watercolour paper. Having finally put a set of each of them together with samples of the cover boards I have made two decisions. The first is that the book needs the heavier feel of the watercolour paper to balance the thickness of the covers, and the second is that I need about 50 % more pages to each section. I’m now looking at producing 120 pages (120 double spreads and 240 singles).

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Considering technique

Initially I thought if I made the pages using a mixture of techniques it would give variety and could also have the appearance of ‘notes’ being collected from different sources.

 I started with acrylic painting, monoprinting, collagraph and adding text with gum arabic transfer
Having put the examples side by side I think using multiple techniques would lack cohesion. Also I didn’t like the ‘feel’ of the heavily inked monoprints and for a book I think the feel is important.

So now I’m thinking of mainly using acrylics and adding the text and some details  with gum arabic transfer. Using modern materials works with the concept of the book, and, considering the number of pages I’ll need to do, the drying times compared with multiple layers of oil based inks seems like a good option.
 I can incorporate both painting and monoprint with this. I can also add an element of mixed media into the images if it seems right.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Medieval Books

I’ve started working on a complicated structure based on medieval book and manuscripts.

My thoughts are bit scattered the moment, but that’s nothing new at the beginning of the process.
I’ve been thinking about different types of medieval books and their purpose. Whilst looking at different types of manuscripts I was especially interested in almanacs, other folded, easily portable books and those which contained volvelles and diagrams,. These everyday objects with their signs of wear and repair have now become a precious thing to be handled with gloves and kept in controlled storage.

I was intrigued by the way that they provided information that physicians and others used on a daily basis to do their work. Nowadays we can use smart phones in much the same way

I am thinking about trying to create a book that can house multiple sources of information in separate sections which do not have a straightforward sequential structure,  echoing how we use the internet to flick quickly from one subject to another .
But I also want to make reference to our twenty first century response to the medieval book. Most of us don’t understand the languages or have difficulty in deciphering the texts .When we read about them we patronisingly consider many of the concepts in the books as primitive or strange (eg.the zodiac related to parts of the body, the body needing the four humours to be in balance for well being , forecasting the future based on the weather) .

However these books have a visual impact and we can respond to them on a surface level even if we don’t have knowledge to interact and gain from the contents meaningfully as the scribe/maker/ commissioner intended.

So I want my book to be a container of fragmented knowledge collated but not ordered in a meaningful academic/usable way.  I also want it to make clear reference to the source of inspiration, the medieval book, in a way that isn’t a direct copy. And I want it to have a tactile and visual appeal which reflects our modern understanding of the original
After experimenting putting together several sets of pages in various permutations I have a structure that I think will work. Now all I need to do is fill it. Simple !

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Punch in Jail

I am participating in new project being run by the Lancashire County Archives. The idea is to create work in response to something in their archives. The theme this time is Theatre.

I found a couple of documents relating to James Heward. He was arrested and imprisoned for performing in several public houses without a license. The court records were put on microfilm in the 80’s. I managed to work out most of the text in the first one. Here’s a fragment

“the said James  Heward did .... and also Saturday night now last past in an alehouse within Huddersfield aforesaid for Hire, Gain or Reward ... did act, represent or perform or cause to be acted represented, or performed an Interlude, Tragedy, Comedy, Opera, Play, Farce, Juggling or other entertainment of the stage or farce Part or Parts therein and did also perform Juggling... and that for several years now he has strolled about the Country for ...... the same and with a strange woman: although his settlement is within Stansfield township within Heptonstall Parish in Yorkshire and has a wife or dwelling ....... in the said holding”  QSP/1582/35
The catalogue entry for the second document (which I haven’t been able to decipher from the microfilm, I’m hoping to be able to view the original soon) says it is an “examination of James Heward, aged 52, of Stansfield in Heptonstall co.York. arrested for showing puppets, including Punch and Judy” QSP/1582/38
I had this vision of Punch performing shows and wandering  round the county with Pretty Polly while Judy was at home with the baby. I think my Punch got his just deserts.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Running late

My attempt to make a print and a book each month has slipped a bit. I finished the book in May but the experiments took up a lot of time so I only finished and printed the print block last week.

I got 7 prints out of it (5 good ones) before the stars and the moon started to peel. The prints are on the rack drying but here is the plate.
I left it inked up because I won’t be trying to print from it again

Sunday, 28 May 2017

And back again

It began as a book, started to become a set of three multi-layered images and turned back into a book.

I made a set of prints, of each block of text and images in both brown and blue on gauze. I already had a set of brown on cotton for the back.

The gauze that I bought wasn’t as fine as the original stuff so when I put two layers over the back image they obscured it too much. As  I started to layer the gauzes to see what I could do with them it started turning back into a book with the cotton as a cover.

I initially thought I’d join them a Japanese stab binding, something that looked a bit like blanket stitch, but even that was too obtrusive so I settled for a simple backstitch.

 I wanted the womans words to ghost through the images.

At the moment the edges are a bit too clean cut but they are fraying each time I turn the pages and with time they should soften up nicely.