Upcoming Shows and Events
The Small Publishers Fair will be running an online programme this year. Sadly most of the other following events have been postponed - details to follow.
Projects and Past Events
BRING ME SUNSHINE - FLICK BOOK
This tiny flick book came into being as a result of a further LFC postcard exchange. In the second round of postcards we wrote words or phrases on them as a prompt. Sue sent ‘Bring Me Sunshine’ on hers and my interpretation was to make a flick book of Morecombe and Wise performing their classic skip dance to said song.
The reason the book is the size it is, is because the original book was made from cutting up the actual postcard. The card was cut into ten pieces and printed with my hand carved rubber stamps. Sue’s handwritten title became the front page and I made postage franking mark the back page and I also printed a rising sun on the backs of each page so that it could flick both ways.
I hadn’t intended to turn this into one of my collection of artists books but it just seemed to fit in so well. So, I digitalised the rubber stamp images (including a title I’d cut), added more pages on thinner paper and a yellow cover and put the image of the sun on the back cover instead of having it running through the book’s back pages…oh, and I bought a bigger stapler.
CHRISTMAS COMMISSIONS - CARD
Here are two very different and very enjoyable commissions I was asked to design for Christmas 2020. Both influenced by our changed times.
One was a classic Christmas card in format but the image was not the usual festive fare. The client who is a Brit living in Australia wanted a fun card that depicted her group of miniature gnomes and strange figurines she has collected over her years of globetrotting. She sent me their portrait and I got to work on some ideas.
The card was going to be sent to a lot of friends and family in the UK so the message wasn’t just ‘Happy Christmas’ but ‘Hello over there!’ too as she, like everyone else, hadn’t been able to travel so her annual visit was cancelled. As a shout out, I decided to incorporate the name of her neighbourhood in Melbourne – Reservoir. She told me that when she and her partner had just bought a house there ten years ago a work colleague had said, ‘Reservoir, well it is not as crap as it used to be’. It is getting quite gentrified there now but it is a great quote so I gave Les T Gnome, the main character of the gang, a placard to hold. Then a few decorations were added as if the little critters were having their own Christmas party.
When it came to sending the cards I posted some out to Australia but to save on postage and air miles I sent the UK ones myself. The client emailed me the addresses and a letter to be included and I posted them from my local post box in Penge…which is also, ‘not as crap as it used to be’.
CHRISTMAS COMMISSIONS - ENVELOPE
The other was from some clients I’d worked with a number of years ago. They always produce their own Christmas card, collaborating with a different artist or designer but being very much involved themselves with the making process. Previously I had carved some rubber stamps for them to print with.
This time they wanted an illustrated envelope they could use to send out their ‘Round Robin’. I would supply it to them ready for print production on A4 paper and they would do the folding and gluing and any ‘colouring-in’.
They had seen the Tolhurst envelopes drawn by a father for his children between 1909 and 1934 (well worth a look on the link below). I loved these too after seeing them first when I worked on a commission for The Postal Museum so this was right up my street.
Because overseas post was quite unreliable at the time the envelope wasn’t to be Christmassy in case it didn’t arrive in time. My clients were, ‘after something playful to make a postie smile and appeal to the ten-year-old in everyone’ …with…‘fun framing for the address’.
I came up with some ideas and we agreed on one that was an art gallery setting with a plinth as an address space and frames for stamps. After some Zoom discussions I added some artworks inspired by artists they particularly liked and included the gallery attendant (in a nod of solidarity to gallery workers who were facing unsettling times).
The only breakdown in communication came when I suggested using pencil crayons to colour the envelopes. I don’t know why I use this term rather than coloured pencils (apparently it is a Canadian term and I was brought up in Somerset) but it was soon sorted and the coloured-in envelopes were sent off around the world…hopefully making posties smile.
IT'S JUST A HILL - BOOK ILLUSTRATIONS
It’s Just a Hill - Me, My Bike and the Massif Central by Helen Jennings.
A commission to illustrate a cycling journey made in the 1990’s.
Over the summer of 2020 my friend Helen contacted me about some illustrations for a book she was writing. It was a journal of a cycling trip she took back in the 1990’s. The changed world order had given her the time to take it off the back burner and finally write it up.
The trip involved a flight from Melbourne to Rome then cycling up through Italy and France to cross the Channel and to cycle on home to the West Country. It was a solo trip, camping along the way and with not much French or Italian to get by. To give you an idea of how well it went, the working title was, ‘My misery is complete’.
Helen had kept a diary throughout the trip but had taken very few photographs – it was pre digital cameras and don’t I think she would have had the time or energy to take that many anyway. I read through her draft in my studio while, aptly, the rain was pouring down outside and I got the feel of the journey.
Over the years I have often seen Helen at the end of her many trips and heard her tales. Living in London I have always been a good stop off point and I’ve been grateful for that, I know she has lots of friends to catch up with. But reading the book and imagining her experience to put in to pictures I felt I was cycling alongside with her…but I’m sure glad I wasn’t!
LAST FRIDAY CLUB - POSTCARD EXCHANGE
For a little while now a group of Cockpit Arts makers (past and present) have been meeting on the last Friday of the month for gallery visits, to chew the creative fat and generally catch up. Having left my Cockpit studio after thirteen years last June for a garden studio at home I really relished these meet ups. But as lockdown drew close and it became obvious that this was no longer going to be possible, a great idea was struck by a couple of our gang, Eleanor and Holly, to do a postcard exchange until we could resume Last Friday Club in person. The idea was to each send a postcard that we had created to everyone else in the group.
I was so pleased to have something to focus on. All of the shows and fairs I had planned to take part in were uncertain (and subsequently cancelled). I have always been interested in Mail Art and artists’ postcards. Only last summer I visited a fabulous exhibition at the British Museum, ‘The World Exists To Be Put on A Postcard’ – still worth taking a look at on the link below.
But what to fill the front of my own cards with now I had the time and reason to do so?
I’m a fan of batch production and I like setting myself a project with rules so I’d already assumed that the twelve postcards would be a set rather than random works on each. At the same time I had decided to get back to painting and drawing for its own sake rather than to create an image for a print. Looking for things to draw from life and venturing no further than my garden I started painting some ceramic fragments that I had recently dug up (like everyone else with a garden in lockdown I had embraced gardening too). So the ‘Small Finds Series - Garden’ was born.
To hold the set together (and keep myself on familiar ground) I cut rubber stamps to create the surround and text for each postcard. I also found the pot of other ceramic, glass and metal pieces that I’d dug up and saved from our garden over the past twenty or so years. I painted the finds with watercolours and I decided to include an organic piece on each card too.
The process of making and sending out the postcards was really enjoyable and was more than matched by the joy of receiving all the beautiful post from my fellow LFC friends. All so different and each with a little message on the back that was such a tonic when we couldn’t meet up for real. We all seemed so buoyed up from the project that we have had a few Zoom meetings to discuss our postal artworks. A walk through an exhibition on the last Friday of the month chatting with friends in the bar afterwards became a virtual visit to our own gallery, now all sat at home on our laptops discussing each other’s work instead. It’s not quite the same…but the bar bill is cheaper!
And now this project has finished the next one is about to start. Again it’s postcards but with a new twist this time. I can’t wait to start.
Some of my garden finds were too big to fit on a postcard as they were all painted to actual size so I have continued the series by painting some larger artworks, some of which I have offered for sale on #artistssupportpledge. Collaboration, even from a distance, has been the catalyst for this new work that I would never have made otherwise. It makes me very grateful for my LFC friends.
SMALL PUBLISHERS FAIR
In November 2019 I was one of sixty-five publishers from across the UK and around the world together taking part in the Small Publishers Fair.
The Small Publishers Fair is the annual gathering of small press publishers, writers, artists, poets and book designers. It was set up by Martin Rogers of RGPA (Research Group for Artists Publications) and first took place in 2002, the Royal Festival Hall. The year after it moved to Conway Hall, the centre of humanism and literary Bloomsbury, where it has taken place ever since. Since 2012 Small Publishers Fair has been curated, organised and developed by Helen Mitchell.
I have been exhibiting at the Small Publishers Fair on and off since 2003; the first few years with the collective ‘Lucky Dip’ and then as an individual publisher (this year with the most petite table in the hall!). It is always great to be involved in the fair as it has such a diverse range of book artists and publishers and there is always a featured exhibition, readings and talks taking place. If you haven’t been before and you are interested in artists books, print, poetry, zines or fine press you are in for a treat. And if you haven’t visited the Conway Hall before your treat will be doubled.
You can find out more about the Small Publishers Fair below.
POP UP MAKER STORE
Pop Up Maker Store was founded by Amanda Doughty in 2017. The concept is to bring a small group of designers and makers together to create a bespoke pop up shop. I have been lucky enough to be invited to take part in two Maker Store events, in 2017 & 2019, both at Phoenix Brighton.
It has been a wonderful experience to be part of this small group of creatives who, as Amanda says, “believe in the value of designing & making beautiful, and desirable, functional objects by hand. We’ve always been authentic and sustainable.”
You can find out more about Pop Up Maker Store below.
A LETTER IN MIND - MAKING LIGHT WORK
A Letter in Mind is an annual fundraising art exhibition for The National Brain Appeal. Artworks are all on or in an envelope and this year the theme was ‘Making Light Work’.
This is the first time I have taken part in the exhibition. It seemed like a great way to create a new piece of work and support a very worthy cause at the same time.
My illustration came from the very idea that the piece should be on an envelope. I decided to use the postal format keeping a stamp on it with the queen reaching out to switch a light on. And who should be there to benefit from this light but the royal corgis. The illustration is ink and pencil crayon.
The exhibition was held at Gallery@oxo and I was lucky enough to be showing my work alongside some internationally-renowned artists such as Olafur Eliasson, Tracey Emin and David Shrigley. All the artwork envelopes were priced identically at £85 and sold anonymously with all proceeds going to help the one in six affected by a neurological condition.
You can find out more about The National Brain Appeal and the A Letter in Mind exhibition below.
TWENTYSIX VASELINE VACATIONS
In 1963 American artist Ed Ruscha published Twentysix Gasoline Stations. A book of black and white photographs with captions of petrol stations on the highway between Los Angeles and Oklahoma City. This book is now considered seminal in the history of artist books.
Inspired by Tom Sowden’s keynote lecture, ‘Exploring Appropriation as a Creative Practice,’ at last year’s turn the page Symposium, where Tom recounted how Ruscha’s work has been appropriated and played upon by many other book artists over the years, I decided to create my own Ed Ruscha appropriated book.
My penchant for puns led me to create Twentysix Vaseline Vacations. A concertina book of black, white and Vaseline blue images showing a pocket size tin of Vaseline in various holiday destinations around the world.
The images and captions are printed with hand carved rubber stamps (my customary working method).
The book is 8.5cm x 6.5cm when closed, 8.5cm x 156.5cm when fully open and is an edition of fifty.
You can find out more about Ed Ruscha’s original book below.
The Library of Re-Claimed Books
The Library of Re-Claimed Books is a collection of altered ex-library books that started as Noriko Suzuki-Bosco’s personal endeavour to give a new lease of life to books that had lost their original use and value.
I took a book out of the Library of Re-Claimed Books at turn the page artist book fair in Norwich. There weren't many books left to choose from at the time (it was at the end of the fair) so there was no special reason for choosing it but 'My Brother's Famous Bottom Takes Off!' was mine.
I wasn't sure what to do with the book at first. I didn't find it that inspiring but I love wordplay so I made an anagram of the title (I cheated a bit and left a few letters out). As soon as I had the title I was away.
'Fast Bus from Tokyo to Rome' immediately led me making a flick book so that the bus could travel between the two locations from the start to the end of the book.
I decided upon a classic London bus due to my own location. Then the wordplay continued as I used the space on the side of the bus to advertise 'NOODLES' at the beginning of the journey morphing into 'SPAGHETTI' at its destination. The drawn line of the noodles/spaghetti became the road on which the bus drove. I created the bus illustrations with hand cut rubber stamps. The book was cut down to size and the title was collaged on.
As I was printing the buses in the book I came across a page that I hadn't previously noticed (as I hadn't actually read the book). It was an illustration of a family eating bowls of spaghetti - just a lovely coincidence!
The book was then sent back to the Library of Re-Claimed Books. You can browse through more of the Library’ collection or find out more about it below.
Royal Academy of Arts 250th Summer Exhibition
Ruth Martin was thrilled to be part of the 2018 Royal Academy’s 250th Summer Exhibition. Showing alongside David Hockney, Paula Rego, Antony Gormley, Tracey Emin and fellow Cockpit maker Katharine Morling, Ruth had two pieces selected for the show.
MARTIN’S DRAWING PINS is an artist book hand printed with Ruth’s distinctive hand carved rubber stamps. This concertina book folds out to reveal the drawing pins that can really draw, featuring the likes of Pablo Pincasso, Beatrix Pinter and Jackson Pinlock. It is a limited edition of 50 and measures 7cm x 8cm when closed.
MARTIN’S CULTURE STOCK is also a rubber stamp printed artist book. This book opens out from a box and exalts various forms of culture - stock cube style! In a limited edition of 50 it measures 7cm x 7cm when closed.
You can find out more about the RA Summer Exhibition below.
Past shows and fairs
Cockpit Arts Summer Open Studios
13 - 16 June 2019
21 - 23 June 2019
turn the page Artists’ Book Fair
7 - 18 May 2019
Society of Bookbinders - Book Arts Day
Talk by David Jury, plus Book Arts Fair and Exhibition
6 Apr 2019
Cockpit Arts Christmas Open Studios
30 Nov – 2 Dec 2018
The Margate Illustration & Print Fair
27 – 28 Oct 2018
Illustration & Print Fair
Towner Art Gallery
13 – 14 Oct 2018
Doon Street, South Bank
20 - 23 Sept 2018,
The London Art Book Fair 2018
6 – 9 Sept 2018
The Postal Museum Illustration Commission
I was really excited to be asked to take on a commission for the new Postal Museum. I already had a keen interest in postal design with ranges of greetings cards that depict pillar boxes, post office bicycles, telegrams and messenger pigeons already in my collection.
Katie Fairburn, Buying & Merchandising Manager at the museum had got in touch with me after seeing some of these cards and we met up to discuss what she was looking for. It was decided that I would create a set of illustrations ‘The Evolution of the Pillar Box’. To get things started I went to visit the Museum Store in Debden which is full of pillar boxes from the very earliest right up to the modern day. There I took photographs, sketches and colour matches. The curator, Joanna Espin, helped greatly by pointing out the many details and variations of the boxes. It’s amazing how many differences there can be in just one design.
Back in my studio I started the illustrations by sketching them out in pencil. The different sizes of the boxes had to be taken into consideration at this stage so I was also consulting with the measurements and diagrams I’d been given. Once the pencil drawings were ready, I reworked them in ink and finally I added the colour with watercolour paints. The illustrations were then ready to be sent off to be used on a range of gifts and stationery for the museum shop.
I’ve started noticing every pillar box I pass now. I’m no expert by any means but I know what a lot of them are called now and I even have a favourite K type that I pass everyday on my way to my studio. In fact this was one of the boxes that I went out to measure just to double check the size.
I wasn’t the only one to be excited about this project. My dad started his working life as a messenger boy at the Post Office and really enjoyed his visit to the museum when we went there together.
You can find out more about the Postal Museum below.