Who ever would have imagined that supermarket shopping bags would become interesting. I found this bag at, of all places, the Whole Foods Market on Maui. It was immediately appealing because, at the time, reusable shopping bags in Australia were pretty much available only in plain green. We still call them green bags, although now a green bag can be blue, orange, patterned, or anything else! (The best bags come from the place I buy coffee beans—they are black with a repeating pattern in orange.) Despite the growing choice of reusable bags, I still like this one, with its graphic illustration and promise of lemons straight from the sunshine state.
Often the best things turn up when you are not looking for them, like this scrap of street poster. I have long been in the habit of looking for type everywhere I go — and even more so these days as I have a new project in the pipeline — but this fragment appeared when my focus was elsewhere. I like it on so many levels: the bold, no-nonsense sans serif type, the colour, the very scrappiness of the torn edges and glue residue. My upcoming project involves type and a book, so this piece of urban detritus is remarkably prescient.
My friend is working on an installation that requires red. Red paper, red plastic, red fabric, red string, red found objects, red everything. As I come across them, I save items of red that might interest her, and when I have gathered a decent amount I hand it over. I delivered a bagful yesterday, and as she was rifling through it she pulled out this red meat paper bag, which, given the appeal of its straight talking and typographic qualities, I immediately asked to borrow back. After I have made use of it today I will return it, giving this piece of packaging more lifespan that it ever would have imagined for itself.
It’s remarkably easy to accumulate offcuts, scraps, printed bits and pieces and ephemera, all intended to be used later in some collage, artists’ book or other artwork. Each piece invariably holds some special appeal at the time, but later, going through those piles of saved precious commodities, the appeal of much of it can have evaporated. I have a busy year ahead, and I’m preparing for it by clearing space and assessing the material I need to keep and that which I need to discard or reassign. I find that I am discarding more than I am keeping, an enlightening process because it’s showing me how my art practice has changed and developed over the last year or so. I’m also finding things I had forgotten about—which are now providing new inspiration—and items like this blue post bag from Sweden, which must have contained a delivery of books bought online, that will go back into the pile to be reassessed at some future point in time.
I have some pre-digital Sydney Morning Herald lead type. I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do with it, as I don’t have a printing press or even a type cabinet, so I suspect that a good proportion of it will go the way of most of the other Herald lead and get melted down. Once I can bear to part with it, that is. My dilemma is that it is body text, maybe 7pt or 8pt, so it’s fiddly to handle, not that you want to be handling it too much and breathing in the dust, and anyway, for my creative purposes I don’t need a lot, just a few pieces of each letter. The type came accompanied by this picture, which I can only assume is an illustrated snapshot of the Herald back in the day. I particularly like the press on the left, which looks very much like a Columbian Press. The Columbian Press, manufactured in Philadelphia in 1813, was the first press to be operated efficiently by levers, and was designed to allow a whole newspaper page to be printed in a single pull. The counterweight, in the form of a neoclassical eagle, sits balanced on the counterpoise lever. The scene depicted here looks rather relaxed, but perhaps it is a slow news day and they are nutting out the cryptic crossword.
Here is another of those book jackets I was given a while ago. This one appeals to me for its title script—which I’m guessing was done by the illustrator, Herbert Ryman—not only because of its obvious handwritten appearance, but it was published in 1955, long before the proliferation of script fonts. Thomas B Costain was a Canadian journalist, reporter, writer and editor who turned into a bestselling author of historical novels in his 50s. I was quite interested to read about Costain’s life and career, but Herbert Ryman proved even more engaging! He was an artist and illustrator whose considerable body of work includes watercolours of the Californian coast, the wonderful Ringling Brothers Circus posters, designs for attractions at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, and a long association with Walt Disney. He art directed Fantasia and other animated features and drew the first illustrations of the theme park that become Disneyland.
Some time ago I was given a couple of adhesive street signs, and ever since I have been looking for an opportunity to use them. All I knew was that I wanted to use the ‘green’ section of the sign Greenswood Lane, in conjunction with some astroturf, in an artists’ book. Finally the idea took shape and a deadline presented itself, and I am pleased to say that my book made it as a finalist in the 2017 GreenWay Art Prize. The book is digitally printed on fine art paper, 7-hole pamphlet stitched, and sits in a black box lined with astroturf, the street sign used as the title on the front. Text fragments are taken from descriptions of common NSW eucalypt, wattle, grevillea and hakea species, found in the discarded pages of an out-of-print botanical encyclopaedia.
I have spent a lot of time in the garden this week. On Wednesday morning I woke with a plan. This entailed visiting several garden centres because, naturally, one place had the right pots, another had the right potting mix, and yet another had the right plants. On Thursday pots were positioned, plants were planted. On Friday, after months of dry weather, and with perfect timing, it rained. My new hibiscus already has new flowers, and wouldn’t you know it, I have a typeface called Hibiscus!
A big thankyou to everyone who visited my table at Volume 2017 Another Art Book Fair at Artspace in Woolloomooloo this weekend. It was a busy and rewarding three days, and while it was great to show (and even sell!) some of my artists’ books, it was the conversation, interaction and exchange of ideas that made it a worthwhile experience. When I make books I work alone in my studio, and apart from occasionally singing along to whatever music I have playing, I can spend days without saying much. This morning I am hoarse from those hours of chatting, so today I’m planning to sit around and do not much of anything while I segue from loud Volume to daily life volume.
This is the run-up week to Volume 2017 Another Art Book Fair, the biennial event at Artspace that features more than seventy local and international exhibitors, me included. It’s a diverse mix of book people. At the first fair, in 2015, some exhibitor tables were crammed with towers of books, other tables featured just one or two, and they ranged from printed books, much as you might find in any bookshop, to one-off handmade artists’ books. This year I have a taste of everything from my book arts practice, plus a few handmade notebooks and cards and several new small editions. So if you are in Woolloomooloo on the weekend, stop by and say hello to Alphabet City Press.