bits of blue

Finding, Filing and Formats

bits in bags

Whilst the Facetime discussion helped to rationalise the development of the project, it’s interesting to note that our independent research and exploration of media and techniques has led to the consideration of making two further books based on the same theme as our edition recovered and recorded; this is an unusual direction for our collaborative practice to take, and perhaps highlights the potential that we have identified within the subject matter plus the opportunity to develop our creative practice in different directions.

formats open

In the first instance, and in response to the ‘questionnaire book’ I have worked on producing a set of dummies to send to T that explore and reflect the idea of discovery. Six different formats have been produced and these will form part of the discussion at our next Facetime meeting. Secondly, I have started to take a far more pragmatic approach to the ongoing findings of pottery pieces within the garden by photographing, recording and cataloguing the fragments by date order.

As a side note to T’s last post, and the question as to whether or not we use both collections for the ‘collection book’ – could part of the process be to compare and find potential similarities within each set? Research into the property itself should also be given a priority.


What if they were all plates?


In response to experimental text pieces produced by P this week, and my own interest in exploring visual imagery, I began by tracing all the different plates in my kitchen! The slight differences in size created multiple overlapping lines which reminded me of patterns formed when using a spirograph.

Having documented multiple plates, I spent some time reading about dinnerware and plates in particular. I read about earthenware which is ‘prone to chipping’, stoneware which is typically used in ‘everyday place settings’ and porcelain which is used in ‘formal dining settings’.  These phrases may  be interesting to draw upon as the project develops.    I discovered that there are eight traditional types of plate, ranging in diameter from 140mm to 500mm, and noted that the outside edge of the plate is often decorated with a pattern. I am interested in re-examining the found pottery pieces to search out edges – as if in a jigsaw when the outside edges are found in order to assemble the rest of the picture.

In response to this research, I selected different types, and sizes of plates from my collection, and recorded 1 charger, 1 standard plate, 1 dessert plate, 3 side plates and 1 saucer.  In consideration of multiple pieces, I traced all remaining pieces from my Grandmother’s tea service: 1 cake plate, 5 cups, 6 saucers and 4 plates. Multiple lines becoming darker in tone were created by tracing round every individual piece of china. Having traced the outside edge of plates, I am now beginning to connect these to the found pottery pieces.


Whilst exploring the shape and scale of plates, I am still keen to make use of colour and pattern in some way and took a series of photographs documenting a second recovered collection of pottery pieces.  These were found by my mother and father in their allotment.  By documenting them in a similar way to P, I was drawn to the simple geometric patterns on some of the pieces which I may explore further.







Layering with Letraset

02 letraset

In response to the previous post, a half term break has enabled work to begin on experimenting with some typographic techniques that could form part of the next edition of recovered/recorded.

03 letraset

An old collection of Letraset dry transfer lettering became the starting point for this experimental process; working with phrases taken from the limited questionnaires that have been received so far, I selected three initial sheets of type – all Clarendon, but at two different sizes, as the sheets were incomplete I had limited letterforms to play with, so the layout and structure was led by the letters available, (this process echoes some of the work done on my MA several years ago, where work was developed via a system rather than by design); as work progressed and certain letters of the alphabet became depleted, another font had to be introduced.

04 letraset

By accident some of the letters had transferred themselves onto the translucent backing paper, I realised that by working on different layers I could suggest a sense of depth that would reflect the idea of the earth and found pottery pieces. Whilst the first sheets that I used were in good condition, the secondary type started to crack as the letters were rubbed down and in places pulled off part of the ‘good’ letters, rather than being concerned about this, it was felt that the disintegration of the type reflects the fragmentation of the found pieces.

Around the Houses

letrasetThis week a pre-planned FaceTime meeting offered us an opportunity to discuss the ongoing project of found china fragments.

Project development has been limited since we showed the first book at Small Publishers Fair in November and subsequently sent out questionnaires. The timing of distributing these in December, was, with hindsight, not effective, and as a result responses have been slow to arrive.


Due to the limited number of completed questionnaires we are currently unable to draw any conclusions about what direction we want the next edition take. Therefore we started to discuss practical solutions to keep the project afloat.

Several months ago T identified the aim to allocate more time to experiment and explore techniques through visual practice; therefore we arrived at the conclusion that we would start to develop ideas individually through type (PW) and image (TM).  This will be an opportunity to develop a new way of working, there are no set outcomes but the process will enable us to develop the visual language of the book without pressures of conforming to structure or deadline, and should offer us freedom to take our practice in new directions.

Without a resolved narrative, I will use short phrases from the completed questionnaires and explore the idea of working with Letraset to develop typographic responses that reflect the subject matter – I have not used Letraset since Art College in the 1980s, therefore a new challenge as it can be unpredictable!

SPF: Presentation, Discussion & Conversation

Recovered / Recorded was presented on the Caseroom Press table at Small Publishers Fair, Conway Hall on 9-10 November. This afforded opportunities for P and I to discuss the project face to face alongside conversations with fellow exhibitors and visitors in response to questions around objects discovered in gardens.

P and I exchanged stories of making processes including challenges, successes and technical skills developing. We began to consider the potential of this project, and some consideration was given to C9 which was the one fragment P and I had both selected to be represented. We discussed the idea of making larger prints which combined imagery from these first books and extended each fragment to reveal the imagined whole object it may have been originally part of. These could be linked to more objects and perhaps the original/imagined owners of the china.

As visitors and fellow exhibitors stopped to view books on the table, conversations were entered into with those interested in Recovered/Recorded. Stories of objects being found in gardens were invited to be recounted, shared and documented in response to a pre-prepared series of 10 questions substantiating our areas of interest. Approximately 8 questionnaires were given out on day one in response to stories revealing:

  • the burying of barbie doll heads as a child
  • the finding of a stone head in a garden which is ‘a bit strange’ and now ‘lives on a shelf in the house’
  • the finding of lots of pottery and ‘even whole glass bottles’
  • the finding of a grenade
  • the storing of found objects within a cabinet of curiosities

Following on from the initial success of  sales and conversations at SPF, P and I will now send the questionnaire to friends and family before Christmas in the hope of gathering further stories to make use of within the development of this project in the New Year.

Recovered Progress Report

In consideration of the 8 pieces of china selected, I began by arranging these sequentially in response to grid numbers attributed by P within first cataloguing. Interestingly this resulted in each of our 4 fragments being presented alternatively. As I explored the arrangement of these within each page of the book,I began to play with composition rotating each fragment to create a sense of rhythm through the resulting positive and negative shapes discovered.

Two tracings were made of the final page layout, and having sent one to P, I made use of the second to trial linear mark making in order to imply the earth around each fragment of china when it was discovered. I decided to use the process of drypoint etching and began by working on top of the outline of each fragment taking note of the first trial to keep a sense of movement to the mark making. Within the printing process, I explored alternative approaches to inking the plate which resulted in different depths of tone surrounding the fragments. As I made the work, I began to prefer the darker tones which provided a greater contrast to the white shapes.

The prints produced were left to dry over the weekend and I returned on Monday to mark the cutting lines in order to send to P for trimming and folding. At this point I realised the process of drypoint printing had reversed the original composition and these prints would not be the same as the Recorded prints P had already produce! As there was no time to re-make the plate and re-print, I selected my favourite drypoint and used the copier machine to reverse the image onto a medium weight recycled cartridge paper. Unfortunately this lost the quality of the individual print and the thickness of the fabriano paper which I could return to later in the project. Some alterations were required with depth of tone and the placement of the print to avoid a white border around the image, although as this is a process I have used before this was reasonably straightforward and the prints were posted to P in time.

C9 & Moving Forward

Having agreed to the content of a new project, a series of 9 email exchanges alongside 34 text messages over 16 days has enabled us to take some steps forward.

Decision making began with the organisation of all found fragments as a labelled photograph which was shared by P via email. This enabled the individual selection of 4 pieces of china each to be represented in the book. Whilst we both later admitted to making this selection without using any pre-determined system or pattern, interestingly one choice overlapped and C9 was chosen by both of us.

The exchange of written conversations has enabled a different form of decision making to take place, and the thinking through of ideas has been undertaken as questions inviting comments. This open ended approach has resulted in the shared clarification of design decisions and technical details. The use of photographs within emails from P has very much supported this process and mock ups of the final books were presented alongside written ideas. This aided decision making around choice of scale and presentation of the final 2 books. The final email decision centred around choices connected to the positioning of each fragment within the book. In response to this a tracing will be made to document the arrangement of fragments so that both of us work to the same format.

A series of book titles were also proposed by P –  a joint decision was made to call book 1 – Recovered and book 2 – Recorded, titles that reflect the individual nature of each editionAs we hope to use Small Publishers Fair as a platform to gather information for part two of this project, a set of initial questions was also received, using these as a starting point, we will formulate a final list which we can use both at the Fair, and as a questionnaire to friends and family.

P has sent me the selected 8 fragments so that I can explore the positioning of each piece to document their discovery within the ground and make tracings which we both can use. I am keen to develop my own printmaking practice and will take on board compositional formats seen in A Slice through the World, the recent exhibition at Modern Art Oxford ( In particular I will draw upon the ‘floating’ compositions seen in the work of Lucy Skaer and ‘overlapping’ compositions seen in the work of Kate Davies within the construction of a drypoint background for the fragments.

Unearthing a New Idea

p china

Our main focus in recent months has been the forthcoming SPF and the opportunity this offers us to exhibit new work. Whilst we were both keen to pursue the button box idea, the project had been progressing slowly and failing to gather momentum, it was during this interim period that some chance findings led to a potential new project.

Whilst digging a large proportion of garden in a recently purchased property, fragments of china started to be unearthed on a relatively regular basis – the natural reaction to these findings was to remove them and save each piece. When researching further it seemed that these garden discoveries were not uncommon:

As the collection began to grow, it seemed that these fragments could form the basis for a new book.

The idea was proposed to T, who was immediately enthusiastic about the idea, and had unknowingly found similar relics within her own garden; it seemed that this was the break-through we needed in developing our next collaborative project, and a FaceTime meeting was arranged.

t china

T started the discussion by putting the time schedule (until SPF) into perspective, this was followed by a proposal that addressed both the desire to produce new work for the London, alongside our previous aim to produce a book which enabled us time to develop and experiment with visual style and structure.

The proposal – which was readily agreed – was to produce two books.

Book one will be a simple concertina fold, with both structure and medium being inspired by a recent visit to an exhibition at Modern Art Oxford. As the discussion developed, it was decided that a pair of simple books would enable us to both work individually on an edition that when seen together would work as a whole. The books will be informed by some aspects of previous practice, cataloguing for instance, and we are interested to explore how archeological finds are recorded and displayed.

For book two we will use a different method of research gathering– namely the Small Publishers Fair event. T recognized that such events always provoke conversation and discussion around specific book themes. Therefore the aim is to engage with friends, fellow exhibitors and the public to seek their reaction, response and comment to book one. It is hoped that these findings will inform the content for book two. In preparation for SPF we will explore a range of possible questions.