My most recent handmade book, created as a final project for an Open College of the Arts course in Book Design. This book is a journey along the Bristol Channel from Aust Ferry and Avonmouth, down to Berrow Sands and Burnham on Sea.
This sixteen-page book is made up of single-colour linocut imagery and passages of letterpress text, and is simple-stitched bound with separate hard front and back covers covered with old admiralty charts of the area described.
Following a recent course in etching and a long-overdue return visit to the Italianate Peto Gardens at Iford, Wiltshire, I was inspired to work on a new hardground etching of one of the many architectural artefacts on display at Iford. I decided that the subject matter would be one of the pair of beautiful stone lions guarding the Cloisters.
I have written-up this project and my visit to the Peto Gardens in my Blog post 'Iford Revisited'.
One of my new years resolutions for 2017 has been to get out my pad and pencils and get sketching. As I am focusing my efforts on matters botanical at the moment, I decided to obtain some random subject matter in the form of a twig with dormant buds, from the old Bramley Apple tree at the bottom of the garden. Upon closer inspection of the twig, I discovered plenty of shapes and textures to sketch.
The resulting sketch was going to be the end result, until I decided that this would make a nice small drypoint print. The sketch outline was roughly traced onto a 100mm square perspex sheet, before the detail was gradually built-up. I was going to use a dark green etching ink for this print, but in the end decided to use a nice dark raw umber which always looks good on Somerset buff 280gsm printmakers paper. I intend this to be the first in a series of small drypoints of various twigs, which will allow me to study variations in the shapes and textures between different species of tree.
Ladymead Fountain - Bath
I was inspired to create this work after reading The second volume of The Stones of Venice ‘The Sea Stories’ by John Ruskin. The text of Ruskin’s trilogy is often very heavy-going with frequent associations drawn between Venetian architectural and moral decay. Despite this, Ruskin demonstrates a great ability to spot interesting architectural detail within the buildings of historical Venice. One feature in particular, an archway feature of the Duomo of Murano drew me to a victorian architectural feature located in Walcot Street in the city of Bath, which has obvious architectural similarities.
This was my opportunity to study and sketch this feature as Ruskin would have done and create an intaglio print of this feature, in the style of the great printmakers of the late 18th and early 19th centuries such as Whistler and Roth, who created beautiful etchings of the city of Venice.
By researching the Ladymead fountain and closely observing its features, I was really able to appreciate the variety of carved stone and rock materials used in its construction including grey and pink sandstone, polished granite columns with beautifully carved white marble capitals.
In a cycle of 154 short, 14-line poems first published in 1609, William Shakespeare meditated on themes of love, death, and desire. To celebrate the 400th anniversary of the death of Shakespeare, Oxford University's Bodleian Libraries have asked for contributions from hand-press printers across the world to pick and print one of Shakespeare's sonnets for selection to be exhibited and added to their collection.
I managed to select sonnet number 4, and designed a print incorporating arabesque borders based upon those of the Fell types collection of the Oxford university. The text is 18pt Caslon Roman with a 60pt illustrated capital. The sonnet was printed onto 210GSM French BFK Rives printmakers paper on the Albion handpress.
Click here to see the poster shown on the Oxford University Bodleian Libraries website.
Altered book - Bees
As part of my ongoing Open College of the Arts course in Book Design, I have had a first attempt at creating an altered book. The book I decided to use as a starting point for this project was a small but quite thick 1940’s hardcover book about bee-keeping. As this is a subject that has fascinated me, I thought it would be an obvious starting point.
However, upon reading through the book, I quickly realised how dry and serious the author’s writing style was, and coupled with the obligatory groupings of black and white photographs of old people standing next to hives smoking pipes, turned me off of the publication completely. I then realised that my mission would be to make the subject matter more accessible, even if delivered in nowhere near the same degree of detail than the original content. I wanted someone to be able to pick up this book, and very quickly get a high-level understanding of what happens to bees in their hive over the course of a year. At the same time, I wanted the book to also have more exciting imagery to demonstrate the subject matter.
As an almost knee-jerk response to the existing content, I decided to use simple linocut imagery extensively throughout the books pages, with some letterpress images plates and monoprint leaf skeletons thrown in. I also re-used a couple of the books original black and white photo plates, to add a bit of visual contrast to the linocut images.
Four chapters of the original book covered the seasons of the bee hive life-cycle, so pages from these chapters were re-used from the original book, and formed a basis for the narrative of the book in its new altered form.
Together we are strong
Until very recently, all of my work has simply been inspired by subjects that interest me like botany and architecture. However with the recent passing of my wife, a handmade book project brief from my ongoing Book Design course unexpectedly became an outlet for a wide range of emotions associated with an ongoing grieving process. The narrative for the book had to be on the topic of one's identity. An important part of my project brief was to experiment with printing onto varying types of card and paper using differing printing techniques.
I immediately realised that various paper and card types ranging from strong and hard to thin and fragile would be very suitable physical representations of the stages of the grieving process, starting out strong, moving into a dark and fragile state before a reassessment of oneself starts and rebuilding begins, recreating strength, albeit in a slightly different form before finally seeking a new way forward.
This is a one-off creation, which is really quite different from anything else I have created to-date, and has been a great opportunity to experiment in a way that I probably would not have done otherwise.
A Little Boke of Iford
A little Boke of Iford, is my own small tribute to Harold A. Peto, who in the early 20th century, created an Italianate Garden masterpiece in the grounds of the newly acquired Iford Manor, near Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire. Recently, I managed to unearth a collection of photographs taken at the Peto Gardens, during a visit ten years before. I have always wanted to created something inspired by this visit, and my engagement with the process of drypoint has given me the opportunity to do this in a book.
I am planning to return to Iford soon, to gain some inspiration for some more prints.
In keeping with this booklets Italianate theme, I decided to set all text including titling in Bodoni, which was cast for me by the Hand and Eye type foundry in London. The 36pt decorated capitals used on each page of text, were cast by the Hell Box foundry.
I believe everyone has a favourite local spot where they can visit either to gain inspiration, get some fresh air or just contemplate life. My favourite local spot is Frenchay village and common, which are walking distance from my house and adjoin the River Frome which passes on its way to the centre of Bristol and its historic harbourside. The village consists of twenty to thirty compactly arranged tiny stone cottages, huddled-together on a hillside leading down toward the river and the site of a former flock mill.
This drypoint print shows the view over the roofs of the cottages from the edge of Frenchay common, looking toward the river valley.
A walk in winter
This was my first book, and my first real project, involving getting out, taking photographs, making sketches, creating plates and composing the the text to make up the finished item. I didn't really have to travel very far for ideas, in fact is was a walk of just a few hundred yards into the Leap Valley, behind my house.
It was a chilly December morning and I decided to study a variety of winter vegetation in close-up, and convert what I saw into a small series of basic woodcuts with the woodgrain clearly showing in the finished prints. I then wrote a few very short passages of text to accompany the prints, and printed them using 18 point Centaur Italic letterpress type.
The paper used was BFK Rives 210gsm Mould Made printmakers paper which too the letterpress and woodcut prints very well.
A small edition of fifteen 12-page booklets were finally bound and finished in April 2011.
Occasionally, I get the urge to reach for the wooden drawers of my larger wood type, and have a go at a poster. I cannot remember where I got the slogan from, but I thought it would be ideal for the forthcoming local Art Fair BSpoke16. The poster was going to be A4 size, and so would be an ideal size for printing on the trusty table-top galley press.
Here are some pics of the poster printing in progress, and finally trimmed-down into a suitably coloured square frame.
Make Bread not War
Having recently acquired some nice big Johnson wood type, during 2013, I was inspired to put together a poster that was reminiscent of the 1930's - 1940's, so came up with this design incorporating a two-colour linocut of a loaf of bread.
Shortly after putting this new poster on my website, I was delighted to have been approached by the Home Baked project, who wanted to sell my posters in their new bakery. The project used a kickstarter campaign to resurrect Mitchells Bakery, a long-standing local landmark and family business in Anfield, Liverpool that eventually closed-up in 2010.
The bakery now has its own oven and as well as providing bread, Homebaked are planning to make pies, pizzas and cakes for match-day crowds, and even host their own bread making courses. This bakery is also an important development within the program to regenerate the Anfield area which was almost wiped-out by the government Pathfinder urban renewal scheme of the 1990s.