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.
A pre-arranged visit with friends presented the opportunity for a face to face meeting to make sense of first ideas in response to our new project. The time afforded enabled free flowing conversations, in which we questioned content and context with a particular focus on overlaps with previous projects and our interest in continuing to challenge working methodologies and individual practice. Object led memories were discussed as we exchanged stories around childhood, parents and grandparents, and similarities were noted with ideas beginning to be formed linked to keepsakes, evocative objects and the house and home. Interests in family photographs, clothing and shoes emerged as we spent some time sharing details around favourite items and specific moments in time. Keen to establish our next step, we considered potential timings for research,decision making and realisation and began to construct a series of first points of enquiry focussed around the selection of evocative objects connected to our grandparents. As we discussed these in more detail, common themes around keeping house emerged and we became interested in the notion of housekeeping, ‘housekeeping money’, and routines and rituals linked to these roles across generations. In response to this, we agreed to each undertake first research around the theme of housekeeping in order to clarify our question of enquiry prior to gathering stories and memories.
P and T: Following a visit to Windham, we took the opportunity to determine our next project. A face to face meeting enabled us to exchange books and view first hand commonalities. We questioned if there were any? and if we wanted to alter, combine or produce by-products of these volumes. A leading issue was the discovery that ‘Twenty Years A’Growing’ is considered a seminal work documenting the Irish language which presents some challenges in making responses which haven’t previously been considered. This, together with some initial reservations around the author of ‘Venture to the Interior’, resulted in the decision not to focus on the main characters in the book but to search out something new.
We started to talk about cataloguing, and how we had both really enjoyed the inventory aspect of the Windham instructions. We were reminded of the Vera project, and spent some time talking through how we had catalogued the seemingly random collection of broken jewellery and the subsequent value this had given to 5 miscellaneous pieces. This seemed to give us a way forward. We questioned – why we can’t catalogue these books in the same way that we catalogued Vera? This could be a new way of looking at the books – a visual examination of the whole rather than the narrative or the leading character. From this point, we began to generate a list of categories to catalogue. These became: colour, transport, animals, clothing, food, drink, occupation, climate, building, equipment (domestic or otherwise).
We agreed on a system and will plan a FaceTime conversation on 15 March to review emerging ideas.
P and T: A pre-arranged face to face meeting enabled the opportunity to visit Windham in the Bucks County Museum, as part of an exhibition called Ex Libris: Altered Books (http://www.buckscountymuseum.org/museum/events/498/ex-libris-altered-books/).
As our first venture into the genre of altered books, it was interesting to note the similarities and differences within the rationales and books presented. Windham Volume 1 and 2 was shown alongside 2 other books that utilised similar approaches to either the production or research methodology. A large proportion of the books appeared to place greater value on decorative elements, whilst on reflection we concluded that the process we had put in place to re-work Windham had greater importance to the development of our practice and it is this that will inform our next collaborative Blue Book project.
The opportunity to share first sample pages face to face enabled scrutiny of the given theme, analysis of our decision making process to date, and the format of the book to be finally confirmed. Ideas were exchanged and initial concerns around the scale of the typewritten key in contrast to the cross stitch transfer page alphabets were talked through and solutions were found collaboratively.
We have decided to revise both independently found cross-stitch books by transcribing the text from one book onto the pattern transfers from the second book using a typewritten key-based system. The key will be printed onto both sides of the transfer paper utilising the grid format in the original book which will result in off set printing when the pages are viewed together. The scale of the transfer pages will enable us to construct two new double page spreads from each sheet which we plan to insert into the first book. In this way imagery and text, original substrates and outer book covers will all intersect.
Sections of first sample pages provided further ideas about other outcomes which may possibly enlarge sections of given and intersected pattern.
After a gap of several months, we were in the fortunate position this week of being able to spend some time together in Lincoln to discuss and make plans for our next project/s.
Our first task is to respond to an open call entitled ‘she will need her sisterhood’, this is an
invitation to artists to submit work that responds to the theme of femininity. Working with
content from our previous project – meeting in the middle – we plan to extract and expand on the case studies that relate to all the individual women within the book and re-present the work in a new format. The initial challenge is to give the work a new title – being able to talk face to face enabled us to bounce potential names back and forth until we arrived at a suitable solution – and so Women of the Walk will become our next project.
Written submissions have to be received by 1 December, and size restrictions meant that we started by discussing and planning the format and design of the work and how it could be
exhibited. We spent a lot of time considering the purpose of the work to ensure it responds
effectively to the exhibition criteria; satisfied with our decision making process – this then
informed the writing of the proposal. We seem to have developed a natural way of working
collaboratively on written pieces, the best method seems to involve somebody starting the process prior to the meeting, this then gives us some foundations on which to build by working together – adding, editing and re-structuring enables us to acknowledge each others
experience and expertise until we arrive at a solution that we are both happy with and
without it seeming like a compromise.
If our submission is unsuccessful we agreed that we will progress the Women of the Walk project; by making new work or amending the existing pieces to a standard format, it will
become a limited edition artists’ book with a new focus.
Day 1: The day started with tea, coffee and discussion. Multiple strands of conversation enabled the sharing of visual processes made use of to date. We discovered a commonality in our individual working practices and methodology through the use of found image, colour and decoration. Strengths were recognised and celebrated in each others practice and the focus remained positive – affirming decisions made. We shared and exchanged materials and constructed purposeful ‘to do’ lists for the making day ahead. The choice of working methods required us to work in separate studios, although we came together at relevant times throughout the day to support and discuss progress.
Having pre-arranged this day, making extended beyond the time spent in the studios and decisions continued throughout the evening. The day’s progress was discussed and new decisions were made collaboratively.
Day 2: After a brief discussion about the sequence in which we could both achieve the day’s objectives, we quickly adopted a similar routine to day 1 – our individual areas of focus and requirement of specialist equipment resulted in working in separate studios again. We utilised a wide range of techniques including lino printing, screen printing, letterpress printing, photocopying and digital printing and foiling, and met at regular intervals to share progress and seek advice from each other. Towards the end of day 2 we were able to review the project’s current status and plan potential tasks for the final Making Day in the south in three weeks time.
A weekend away enabled us to discuss things face to face (rather than relying on email or FaceTime) this is much easier when sharing and reviewing information which involves physical objects and images.
P: Firstly we reviewed each others individual stories so far; since T’s recent blog posts which were very inspiring – I had felt pressurised to fill any ‘gaps’ – so I had made a concerted effort in the last week to doggedly further my investigation, mostly through the internet, but this led to another form of research which resulted in emailing a vicar, a boxing expert and a American descendent of an USA air officer to help with the detail of some potential stories. The responses (some ongoing) were all very fruitful – and in hindsight this could have been undertaken much earlier on in the process. Through talking with T she made me realise that I have enough information to work with already – however short or limited the story itself. Her rationale was that a postcard is after all just a snapshot of a moment in time, therefore as we are using this as a vehicle for the book pages our aim is to provide a glimpse into the social history of each place, however brief!
T: Having a sustained time period to discuss found individuals and their stories provided the grateful opportunity to discuss, question, reflect and identify a new ‘to do’ list of further research in response to my own 18 towns and the visual research P presented. Inspired by P’s correspondence with individuals to extend her research I too have contacted a vicar and B&B landlady this week! The range of imagery P has already considered forms a coherent body of work and very much supported me to have confidence in and clarify my own visual arts practice. In response to this I have spent some time this week gathering visual imagery to make use of including bicycles and mules!
P: Further conversation was based around the design process and some of the detailing. For example – the production of each postcard page should in some way have a sense of individuality – i.e embellished or over-printed etc and we looked at the stitching samples to ensure parity between the two book halves. We discussed the possibility of using either found imagery or our own site photography to produce a postage stamp for the cards. We felt that the most productive way forward would be to start designing, making and printing the stories and pages that are already resolved whilst continuing with research; this is made possible by the fact that each page is a singular A6 card that can be produced in isolation. It is hoped that this method will enable us to keep the project momentum going and offer a sense of progression!
T: Having time to continue our conversations provided the opportunity to further confirm the making process through sketchbook visuals in addition to establishing new dates for meeting and making days. I have spend some time this week reading to clarify stories and am now beginning to work on editing text so that the written side of the postcards can be produced.