Over the last two years, I have been working through a book design course with the Open College for the Arts, culminating in a final book project putting all things learnt so far, into practice. I decided early-on that this book would be handmade, but be loose enough not to aim to be fine press. I have always been inspired by the work of Rena Gardiner who using litho techniques and letterpress, worked tirelessly to create huge numbers of guidebooks for the National Trust during the 1970's and 1980's. I therefore decided to emulate her style (using linocut imagery instead of litho) in a book entitled 'My Coast' that takes its reader along a stretch of the local (to me) Bristol Channel from Aust Ferry to Burnham on Sea.
I was also very inspired by the Artists Book 'Flatholm' designed and created by ottoGraphic using the poetry of Chris Scully, which was launched at the Bristol Artists Book Event (BABE) back in 2015, at the Arnolfini Contemporary Arts Centre. The simplicity of the vivid screen-printed graphics accompanying the text, really made this work stand-out.
Much of the research activity for this book would be made up of visits to the locations featured within, which in itself greatly influences the content. When visiting the victorian coastal town of Clevedon, I was expecting the focus of the journey to be the famous restored pier. I certainly wasn't expecting to be instead, more inspired by the views down the Bristol Channel from Wain's Hill overlooking the mudflats of Clevedon Pill at low tide!
Research of other locations revealed some interesting little-known stories, for example the legend of Gunner Haines, who in 1900, after being put on charge for late return to barracks, turned his firearm to the fort's large store of ammunition and blew himself, and a large part of the fort, sky-high.
As the book led me onward past Berrow Sands to Burnham on Sea, a story of heroism during a violent storm in the channel during 1897, came to light. Ten crew-members of the stricken SS Nornen, and the ships dog, are plucked to safety by the Burnham on Sea lifeboat crew, just as it runs aground on Burnham Sands. What is left of the skeletal remains of the SS Nornen still appears daily on the low tide.
For the construction of the book itself, I decide to opt for an exposed simple-stitch binding with the end-papers attached to to hardcovers, made of grey board coated with admiralty charts reflecting both the actual location and subject matter. I decided to omit any titling on the book covers to maximise the visibility of the beautiful admiralty chart covers, which adequately portray the theme of the book on their own.
So with this book now completed (with some of the ink yet to dry completely!), and submitted, its time to take a quick breather and focus on something new.