Monday 30 December 2019

Review & Order

My biblionaughtic chums, Gastronauts (thank you Keith Floyd) and other friends. My fav chippy in Lincoln is ... The Newport Chippy, excellent service, and for those with a nervous tummy... really unhealthy/generous sized portions. Followed by a rather subdued record shop window.
However, the typographical work in the window is to be applauded, in the age of all neat and boring computer based, pedestrian, conforming signage that has become the go to for many... I found the 'review and order sign' to be in tune ( no pun intended) with the nature of the shop. It is arresting in the fact that one can see that it is text but to engage/read it one has to stop and look to understand the massage plus it gives us a chance to peruse the window.
With books, I realise that this typographical treatment is suitable for certain subjects, it would not, for example work with more classical themes such as Withering (sic) Heights but on more urban and contemporary books it would be fitting. Indeed one could argue that many bookbinders suffer from what I call.. expectational or default lettering and titling. I know that there is a degree of skill required to do this and that on older books it would be correct... there are exceptions to this of course.... but is one just looking at skill? applauding the craft? Perhaps we could also look at more contemporary ways and themes in titling that are less of a label in nature and explore the art side of things more? I suppose that a balance could be strived for... However I feel that it would take time to educate or show clients different ways of doing things... but that could open a huge can of worms......... After all many bookbinders have made a living by telling their clients and students that their way is the only way... because that is how they were taught and that is all they know how to do......... Offering a number of alternatives would then bring in to question the validity of all the previous work done. As I say, a huge can of worms.
Is it a vicious circle? the binder does what the customer wants, the customer is not aware of what else is possible and goes with the default offered because that is what the binder offers and so on. There are, of course exceptions to this but in the main, and from my experience this is what happens.
It may be also the case that it is a 'safe' option. I have been to so many exhibitions of books and bindings over the years. Often I am in despair, beautiful work ruined with lazy lettering. Bling gold up or down the spine with little or no thought to the totality of the finished composition. Or the daring wavy line, you get my drift. The common option is not to title a book... I got into serious trouble when at college with my finishing tutor.... I argued that many paintings I had seen did not, in fact have the title of the work going up the centre of the canvas. Many were titled on the frame (in our case as bookbinders this could be the box, more about this later) or a discrete label to one side in the gallery environment.
I realise that for sets or editions of books... the Encyclopedia Britannica or the Waverly Novels it is important to have the individual volumes titled, that makes perfect sense. However, for the modern library/collection/gallery for the book is that really necessary? Most, if not all collectors know exactly where each and every book is, in fact most collectors in any genre know where everything is in their collection.
This thought drags me further...
For binders that come from a more arts background the working with the total composition of the book is not a problem. I feel the problem lies with the perceived conservative nature of book collecting.... dare one say the collectors? or the expectations of the collectors (please see above 'the circle') I know that many institutions actively collect contemporary works of a more robust contemporary nature as they are looking to the future, to have collections that show case the contemporary... it is important to realise that today's contemporary will be tomorrow's antiquarian.
These living collections are important and should be supported. However, in the wider world of the arts not only are there collectors that collect the safe works of the past, validated by time and expert opinion. But there are equally, if not more so, active collectors of the contemporary. The enquiring collector, the collector of the contemporary book that has their own agenda who engages with the now for the future. Collectors that actively seek the non-conformist, eccentric and the bizarre. If I may cite one collector from the not so distant past.....
A collector that patronised artists of the time when they were derided, misunderstood, thought of as having no importance or peripheral at best. Not only did this collector buy but also encouraged others to engage in the now, believing that the art was of the next decade. I speak of Peggy Guggenheim.
This brings us to the world of book arts. As I progress with my work and life I have begun to engage with this genre in the book making world. I admit that in the past I was a bit of a book snob. Though I produced a number of book works I was unable to cut free of the shackles of the finely bound book, working towards the mastering the complexity of the book... dare I say I was blinkered? In retrospect it is only over the last 15 or so years that I have been able to bring together the various disciplines of the book with the art of the book (though I am sure many who will argue I have neither) It has taken time for me to be able to engage and combine. However I feel that working in this way I am able to be honest with my work, to reflect the now as opposed to rebinding the past. It is a personal journey.
Please note there are other ways of doing things and opinions..... spelling and grammar. Please further note, the opinion of the author may change at any moment. This is due to having an open mind... of sorts.

Thursday 19 December 2019

The Agony of Things Left Unsaid

My biblionaughtic chums and other friends, The Agony of Things Left Unsaid... is finished. A tryptic, mixed media, altered Edwardian photo graph in original frame, book-cloth and board. H 65cm x 49cm closed - 98cm open x 6cm. Rather like a traveling tryptic of a bygone age, Agony, however, gives us a more up-to-date explosion of a very traditional format.

Wednesday 18 December 2019

Studio 5 Creative Studies in Contemporary Bookbinding and Book Arts. Manifesto 2020.

Studio 5 Creative Studies in Contemporary Bookbinding and Book Arts. Manifesto 2020.

The new Studio 5 modules and courses in Creative Studies in Contemporary Bookbinding and Book Arts offer a unique combination of specialisms in traditional, contemporary and experimental bookbinding and book arts practises and skills. With a flexible delivery programme throughout the year, modular learning and a teacher to student ratio that affords time and consideration so enabling the individual student to maximise their learning experience.
Over the last 17 or so years not only UK residents, but many visitors, students and working artisans from all parts of the world have been willing to travel to London to study both part and full-time at Studio 5. Whilst it would be easy to increase numbers, the ethos of Studio 5 has always been quality not quantity. Unlike many courses that concentrate on conceptualisation and theorems to bookbinding and book arts or short, Studio 5 provides practical experience in making and doing.
With an ever increasing trend for people to have more than one career in their working life, and with the modular nature of the courses, Studio 5 is very well placed to offer all suitable students an exciting, stimulating and challenging learning opportunity in an area of the arts where there is growing awareness, varied progression routes and work opportunities.
Aims of the Studio 5 course, Creative Studies in Contemporary Bookbinding and Book Arts
The scheme of study has been designed to enable suitable students of any age to study the Art and Craft of Bookbinding and Book Arts with the emphasis being on practical projects and modules, balanced with theoretical understanding that offers a practical gateway in bookbinding and book arts.
It is anticipated that students will acquire and develop skills that will enable them to become artisans, designers and artists who understand the importance of good working practices as a firm and practical foundation for contemporary and progressive work.

The intention of the Studio 5 course, Creative Studies in Contemporary Bookbinding and Book Arts is to:

provide a unique education in terms of the diversity of the mixture of art, craft and making

stimulate creativity in terms of traditional, contemporary and progressive/experimental working practices

provide artisanal training in bookbinding and book arts that can be used specifically for bookbinding and book arts or adapted for further use in other areas e.g. applied arts, graphic arts, installation work, restoration, private press etc

develop a student’s sense of professionalism

develop students’ critical abilities and awareness and an ability for self expression and collaborative works through projects

develop the understanding and application of relevant health and safety in the studio/workshop environment

develop the student’s ability to identify and solve technical and design problems and to become self motivated in working practices and out-put

provide knowledge, environment and facilities that enable students to work with hand tools, workshop and studio equipment safely and competently

provide a sound background in general and working knowledge with particular regard to bookbinding, book arts and associated practices

The Future

Since the inception of the earliest hand written book and increased availability due to inventions such as paper and printing, there has rarely been a time that the book has been out of the public domain.
Recently, with the rise and eventual stagnation of the ebook and similar reading platforms, the contemporary book has undergone something of a revolution. The genre of the book as a creative vehicle is growing in importance and understanding around the world.
With the wonderful advances in technical communications and affordable equipment such as printers and graphic packages for computers along side the traditional processes, the scope for either the self-employed bookbinder, book artist or employed artisan, in an institution, company or college/university, to engage with the book has never been more varied, exciting and rewarding.

Mark Cockram.