Blog Post

May 29, 2024

The epic graphic novel that I’m working on continues under wraps – so I’ve enjoyed diversions that help me navigate through the vast scale of it – like little life boats on the side.

As well as trying to keep up the observational watercolours, milking the extended twilight, as I swish to the park of an evening in my crinolines –

Irises in the walled garden, Brockwell park, May 2024

I also loved a recent chance I had to squeeze in the making of a new tiny book.

Mountain of hand stitched artists’ books Soundling

This was because a long time ago I’d made a date with my friend and collaborator Suki Hayes Watkins to go and spend a day with her at her screen print studio, The Print Block, outside Whitstable.

View from Suki’s studio – pic by her.

We were overdue some work time together and both she and I had a lot of ideas about what we’d like to produce next. So I took boxes of paintings and collages for us to look at and we had a lovely time talking about artists and colour and ink and paint. Suki has been immersed in developing amazing new techniques to deepen the texture and tone possibilities in screen print – and she is pioneering her own approach which excitingly she has invited me to be a part of. More on that another day!

Detail from the poems previous incarnation – (I was lucky to find this camp old book on poet Francois Villon, with costumed photographs of how he was imagined to look!)

Towards the end of our put aside Thursday in April – we began work on making something new. I prised some stuck down words and phrases that I’d already glued into a zine earlier in the year, (some of them did rip, but I found replacements from a few old books I’d brought with me.) From a slew of noises described in the material I was snipping through, I composed a poem.

I distributed the words and phrases into a running order across eight pages or panels, then I cut shapes from black paper to accompany the words.

The book in later stages of assembly

A very different process from staring down a bed of irises and attempting to render them loosely in water and paint.

I made the artwork for my eight pages on a piece of acetate, Suki reminded me how to do it, as it had been so long since I was in this print-thinking space. Then I readied the paper we were to print on. This was to be pages detached from another (very old) book that in my artistic demonry I’d decided to plunder. The delicious texture of its hand set, hand made type & age softened paper is at least half of what is magic about this object.

Onto these pages from 1734 – I settled the purr of a stealthy cat and the thump of a surprised rabbit. The original setter of the books text had used effs as esses as was the style back then. (So my rabbit would have appeared furprifed.) This infpired me towards the title: Soundling – a little book made from found sounds and printed on fuch claffy sheetf of found ftock.

Would you risk sitting on a paper cut chair?

Suki and I made an edition of 50, using some leftover inks mixed into a slightly transparent dark plum. I took the work home as plain one sided prints, then began the folding and binding. Each print folded into 8 pages and slit in the middle (classic zine system) then stitched into a piece of sugar paper. The title I carved from a rubber and block printed at my kitchen table. Then I signed each little book on the front and numbered it on the back. My motivation was increased by the thought of selling these at Free Verse, the poetry book fair, which was coming up a couple of days later.

Poet Tom Jenks, of fabulous Manchester based press, zimZalla, kindly let me add the books to his table of wonders. He was selling his own prints of text visualisations which were very popular, alongside new publications by Simon Collings, Vik Shirley and Jesse Glass, as well as the last box or two of my INDEX. We plan a reprint soon.

Another snaffled photo – this time of Free Verse, the poetry book fair, organized by poet Ali Lewis, at the Poetry Society.

The fair was a crazy flurry of people to catch up with and books to consider. Luckily for me I sold half my run of Soundling – which went towards assuaging my risk – or, the speculative efforts that are at the heart of bookmaking!

I have just a few remaining, so please let me know if you need one too. They are £15 plus postage.

In other news, I’m guest speaker this week at the excellent Girl Friday Breakfast Club online – which is a friendly space to talk about drawing set up by Drawing Projects UK Tickets are available here.

I’m also really happy to have some poems added to mercurius magazine in their surreal absurd section. Thanks to Vik Shirley for inviting me to add some of my poetry to this great archive. More news soon, but for now – may you rest your own irises on these.

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