Text message from TM to PW 15.24 – 19 June 2017
Using the portraits of non-recipients, illuminate/amplify their connection to the life, loves and letters of William Windham.
I viewed this instruction as an opportunity to develop a set of more unified illustrations than those produced for instruction 3 which lacked cohesion and identity; this was a chance to
revert to previous (more successful) practice by putting in place a series of systems to develop a visual style.
The first action was to identify the non-recipient portraits and how many letters each person had sent to Windham – surprisingly three people had sent no correspondence to WW at all, therefore it was decided to deal with these portraits in a separate manner. This left 4 portraits to work with. To get an understanding of their relationship with Windham, I read each letter several times to determine its tone of voice – one major problem with this was that some of the letters had been heavily obliterated in response to instruction 1, so working with what was still readable I identified those correspondents who I considered friends and those who were considered foes. Having ascertained how many letters each correspondent had sent, I was able to work with this information to develop a system. The portraits were photocopied onto either blue (friend) or pink (foe) paper, at the same time each image was enlarged by a percentage that correlated with the number of sent correspondence; for example Canning sent 8 letters to Windham, so his portrait was enlarged to 180%, whilst the Duke of Gloucester only sent 1 letter so was enlarged to 110%, and so forth.
This system helps to communicate the direct relationship each person had with Windham. I also wanted to portray the relationship each person had with others within the book by
using the hierarchy of the British peerage system in some way. By identifying all the names (that again were readable) within each letter, I typed each one onto a colour-coded piece of paper to represent their rank/title. Using a system of placement, each name was sewn onto the illustration in a position that represented its place on the book page; the thread colour was defined by the same hierarchical system of rank. Working on copies then attaching them into the book enabled me to avoid some of the problems encountered with the previous illustrations and opened up opportunities to work with machine stitching. A key to identify the
system hierarchy was placed on the page opposite the first non-correspondent portrait.
Despite the various ups and downs of the intersect project, we now seem to be back on track. With my sections of the book typed and sent to T – using recorded delivery (to ensure against further losses!); I have been able to move on to the covers, whilst T begins the typing of her sections, whenever she gets some spare time… thanks to the portable typewriter!
We are using the covers from my book but the (new) title has been taken from the title page of T’s book. The initial idea for the front cover was to translate the title using code, however the symbols +*=:/ are not all available as wood type, therefore it was decided to overprint the full title using black ink to reflect the typed code of the inner pages. The inscription from T’s original book was also letterpress printed, this time using red to reflect the second colour of the typing, it was placed in the same position as the original book – the inside front cover; these processes continue the concept of intersect.
Text message from PW to TM 11.52, 22 May
Using the portraits of recipients, depict/illustrate/communicate some aspect of
Windham’s correspondence with the individual. Deadline 12 June.
Highlighting a particular aspect of Windham’s correspondence was reasonably straightforward as in the majority of cases the illustrations within volume 2 depict recipients who
received limited letters from Windham – the exception being Lord Grenville who received 23! However finding a common theme in each of his 23 letters was not as difficult as anticipated.
Working on illustrations that are bound within such a large volume was challenging, and as suspected the folded pages from instruction no.1 also impeded some production methods.
Rubber-stamping, letterpress (albeit hand printing) and collage techniques were adopted to develop a range of individual solutions rather than a thematic approach. The final illustrations are not wholly successful due the restrictive nature of the bound pages. With hindsight more effective pre-planning would have helped improve both composition and technique – photocopying each illustration to practice upon prior to beginning would have been advantageous, however as with the first instruction, I worked directly onto the pages after only limited testing of media and techniques.
Unlike instructions 1 and 2, this was the first time that a system was not put in place
in response to the instruction, instead each of the 8 illustration pages is an individual reaction to the topic of correspondence.
After 8 days of waiting for the parcel from T to arrive, it became apparent that part of the original book pages were lost somewhere in the postal system. My initial thoughts were that this would put an end to the project, however a Facetime discussion enabled us to establish that T had made some copies and only 6 pages in total had been lost, this meant that we could still proceed. We decided that rather than reduce the number of pages, the book would remain at 20pp with the lost text pages remaining either blank – or with something to identify or even celebrate the loss. Although the delay had an impact on the original planned production schedule – once typing commenced on the newly adjusted pages, it was an incredibly quick process, and as time went by it became easy to translate each sentence quite naturally into the code – almost becoming fluent in a new hieroglyphic language!
Having finalized all the details for Intersect, as we began to start work, it became apparent that whilst we had divided and swapped sections of the two original books, further work was needed to resolve the imposition and order of the new book before work could begin.
Talking face to face, we quickly identified that we didn’t have enough text pages for Revised Edition to be more than 20pp, and we would need to re-distribute the pages that had already been divided. We made the decision to type the book (using the code), in the same order as the original edition. Through discussion some former decisions were also adjusted – namely the covers and end papers.
At the end of the discussion we agreed tasks – I offered to work out the imposition and make a dummy, whilst T would re-divide the text pages and post the necessary extra pages to me.
Text message from TM to PW 21.18, 8 May 2017
Catalogue William Windham’s correspondence by constructing/extracting an inventory of recipients. Deadline 22 May
When I first read the second instruction set by T, I wanted to gain a clear understanding of the meaning of inventory, rather than making assumptions, therefore I chose to work with the
interpretation of an inventory as a tally.
Colour coding the individual recipients seemed an obvious way forward, but I wanted the colours to have a resonance with each person; taking inspiration from T’s previous working methodology I started to research all 36 recipients. Whilst Wikipedia was a quick, invaluable resource – many of the recipients were impossible to find, so it became clear that finding a colour that was relevant was going to be a challenge. After studying the work of both Karel Martens and Irma Boom, I started to consider how it maybe possible to combine graphic shapes or pattern with colour; to develop this idea further I turned to the letters themselves for visual clues.
Reading the paper by Kathy Corcoran (subject cataloging workshop, ARLIS/NA, L.A., 31 March 2001) entitled: ‘Many intricate and difficult problems that torture the mind – words of wisdom for art cataloguers in the real world’ – I was mindful of her statement:
Besides knowledge and skill at interpreting and applying rules, we need to call on our judgement,
experience, and intuition, and even occasionally our sense of aesthetics and of what ‘looks right’
Although written in relation to library cataloguing I chose to adapt the same approach – this gave me the necessary freedom and flexibility I needed to develop a colour coding system that was more abstract but still had some form of significance (however tenuous).
Whilst part of our research is to determine whether or not working independently will affect the outcome, by the second instruction I am conscious that because we know each so well, and talk regularly, it is difficult not to be aware of T’s various approaches and be influenced by her methods.
Following our Facetime discussion two weeks ago, we have both divided and sent our
respective half books to each other, giving us an opportunity to examine and reflect on
potential directions for Intersect. Having identified that both books used colour keys, tonight’s discussion centered around the idea of applying a similar process to that of the Windham
Papers, through the development of a key-based system.
The challenge with the cross-stitch books is that they are both largely image based, so we came to the conclusion that by using the text matter, which is more limited, we could allocate a typewriter symbol to the five vowels. We did this by a process of discussion and elimination resulting in the following key: a + e* i= o: u/
The key will enable us to interpret the text through the development of a series of patterns typed on top of the existing book. Due to the sometimes dense nature of the pages, each pattern will be typed in red in response to whatever space is available; to enable a greater sense of hierarchy, headings will be letterpress printed in a different colour using the same key. We’ll each attempt a sample page before we meet in a week’s time. A decision regarding the schedule and book structure will made once we are satisfied that the idea is feasible.
Text message from PW to TM 12.40pm, 21 April 2017.
Only letters sent from William Windham to be treated, therefore received letters to be ignored/hidden/deleted. Deadline 4 May.
Having made the decision to develop the Windham Papers through a series of rules that are open to interpretation, we have agreed to write about our individual responses, but we will not share the work with each other until the end of the project, instead just hints or glimpses of our progress will be uploaded to the blog. We are trying to examine whether the rules will hinder our creativity, and if by working independently without influencing each other, this will affect the overall outcome.
In response to Rule 1, I made the decision to fold the unwanted letter pages in half, although this decision immediately highlighted various issues; firstly I did not take into account the fact that there could be a letter from Windham (which had to be kept) sharing a page with a
‘received letter’– this meant having to adapt my system – so cutting the page horizontally enabled just a portion of the page to be folded. Secondly was the problem of multiple short letters – there could sometimes be 3 unwanted letters sharing a double page spread with 2 wanted letters, therefore folding was not an option and an additional system had to accompany the folding. Blocking out using xxx was applied to anything not able to be folded – but as result another system had to be put in place for the way in which the xxx was positioned… having two separate systems was not ideal, but having committed to the folded pages there was no going back. I took the decision to work directly onto the book without testing out ideas first… perhaps a misjudgment(?), however I wanted to make an immediate response to the ‘rule’ and not over-think the process; as a consequence I made several mistakes that will have to remain, or perhaps these could be embraced or highlighted in some way?
The folded pages have forced the book to start to fan out, which may or may not cause problems when working on the pages in the future, and although the book no longer closes properly the overall look is not displeasing!
So it’s time to start thinking about our next projects. The altered book exhibition that relates to the Windham Papers is currently on hold, so there has been no sense of urgency to start this project; with that said, there has been a brief email exchange with a proposal to get the ball rolling. Following on from thoughts blogged several months ago, and an awareness that neither T or I particularly like the altered book genre, we recognise that to make the project worthwhile, we need to find a suitable approach that both challenges our current working practice but enables us to enjoy the process and play to our strengths.
In review of the working methods adopted throughout our last project we note that working to rules and given conventions provides a further focus to our making. Previous blog posts acknowledge that given restrictions within scales of working, image placement and colour choice provokes discussion, stimulates ideas and extends our practice. A systematic approach to making artwork is developing which we are interested in continuing. Recent research into the concept of Serial Art, artwork produced by Sol LeWitt and Tam Van Tran has further consolidated these ideas. With this in mind, the current proposition is to collaboratively devise a set number of rules that will then be applied to our individual books using whatever method we decide – this part of the project will be undertaken independently.
Alongside this we will develop another project on the theme of intersect – a call for entries from we love your books – this project is likely to be based on two chance purchases that we made independently, but on the same day. Both books contain guidelines and patterns to produce cross stitch and one is inscribed:
Antonia, Hours of Happy Needlework Caroline 22.06.76
It is hoped that both these projects will offer different challenges in terms of our collaborative practice and enable us to develop new working methodologies.
The penultimate parcel arrived from T this week. This enabled me to collate and complete half of the 12 book edition. When viewed as a set the bias-binding belly bands effectively reflect the coloured band at the top of each pattern envelope, although interestingly, this wasn’t apparent when we made the decision.
Drawing upon the framework of collaboration we established throughout the original Meeting in the Middle project, we have achieved the completion of 6 books 8 days ahead of the deadline. Integral to this process has been a well structured, but realistic schedule which acknowledges both our separate work commitments and distance apart. In response to this, we identify with standpoints made by Gates, Kettle and Webb and Ravetz within Collaboration Through Craft (2013) and value the importance of negotiation and shared making to increase productivity. Time spent on the co-ordination of meetings has enabled effective decision making and opportunities to talk through any difficulties together.
The creative practice undertaken within this project has offered opportunities to build upon the approaches to visual communication begun within Meeting in the Middle with autonomy alongside being mindful of each others input so that an overlapping of knowledge and skills is developing. A shared focus to making work and sense of responsibility to meeting deadlines is very much supported by shared interests within the production of artwork. We have begun to reflect upon this practice in preparation for next projects.