In the past two months work commitments have impacted on any opportunity to discuss our collaborative pratice; however a pre-arranged FaceTime meeting offered us the chance to
reflect on what is important to us individually and to bring these thoughts and ideas ‘to the
The discussion started with what could be deemed as the ‘failure’ of our most recent collaboration, The Blue Book, however it was clear that we could take some valuable lessons from the project; it re-iterated the fact that the ‘altered book’ is not our favoured genre and starting a project with no particular purpose, or emotional (or personal) attachment to it, hindered our commitment to the process. Therefore our first decision was not to explore this type of project again!
T expressed concerns around returning to known practice, and producing books that, although may have commercial appeal, may limit our making to repetitive/expected outcomes. We both agreed that it was important to continue to challenge our working methodologies.
We articulated the need to address a particular aspect of our individual practice – whilst T had enjoyed the research and process element of previous projects, she felt the development of imagery had not always been as successful, therefore it was important for her to address this. P recognised that recent projects had led to an emphasis on book content rather than book structure, and therefore it was important to explore and develop this further. We recognized that this could be the starting point of the project and started to discuss a range of themes which included: the ‘Hear her’ radio series, keepsakes, hidden messages within garments (inspired by the Phantom Thread film), cataloguing aspects of our meeting in the middle project, inheritance, domesticity and MA practice.
It became clear that with our new individual aims, we could still explore our joint areas of interest without compromising the integrity of our practice; therefore we will look to develop a body of work based around the idea of evocative objects and the memories we attach to either the object or the original owner of the object (namely grandparents).
The aim of today’s pre-arranged FaceTime conversation was to share and exchange ideas emerging from the two pre-set tasks set four weeks ago, namely the cataloguing of colours within our respective books and the generation of new text matter based on the combination of page 99 from each novel.
Whilst we have both completed the tasks,it was evident, from the individual blog posts produced in response to these, that we are finding it difficult to apply appropriate levels of meaning and context to this project. As we began to discuss issues face to face, we quickly came to the conclusion that whilst the project has enabled us to develop new working methodology, both the process and book content hold no real appeal or significance, and subsequently this lack of engagement is hindering the momentum needed for us to collaboratively drive the project forward. Therefore, at this point, 5 months into the project, we made the joint decision not to pursue this project any further. Since beginning to working collaboratively, 13 years ago, this is the first time that we have abandoned a project.
Once the decision was made, we exchanged ideas around new directions.We both highlighted areas for potential exploration, these included, Vera / evocative objects / women of the walk / celebrating a moment from time / notice boards / the typewriter owner – all themes which have the potential to link back to past projects, or concepts, that have arisen whilst working on other books. Size, scale, processes and working methodology also formed part of our discussion, and some initial decisions were noted.
Our aim now is to locate a new project. The starting point for this is to undertake both a review of previous work and individual research with each of us uploading a blog post to record our progress after two weeks of research, prior to a next scheduled FaceTime meeting in mid-May.
We have had a month to catalogue our respective blue books using the categories we developed through discussion and debate. A FaceTime ‘meeting’ enabled us to report our progress, along with our findings and reservations. We have both found the process of cataloguing rather tedious and repetitive, and have started to question the purpose of the exercise; this meeting came at an opportune time and enabled us to voice these concerns, and subsequently talk through the issues that the process has highlighted.
P: I felt it was important to start by questioning what we wanted to achieve with this project. Was it to further challenge our collaborative practice and working process, or merely an opportunity to produce an edition of ‘sale-able’ artists’ books? Also did the book have to have a purpose? As we started to talk through these topics it became evident that we were both struggling to find a point to what we were doing. T suggested that this could be because we had no personal connection with our particular books, which had been purchased at random, and subsequently we were struggling to relate to the subject matter. Was there then a way forward that would enable us to find an area of common interest?
We discussed and rejected various methodologies, including producing a haiku version of each book; of the 10 categories that we had mapped, we had both gravitated towards ‘colour’ – therefore it was decided to take a more abstract approach, and to start listing each colour with its corresponding page number and any relevant descriptor attached to the colour. In conjunction with this we discussed a project that I have recently completed called Page 99 – there is a theory by English writer Ford Madox Ford, that if you open a novel at page 99 then ‘the quality of the whole will be revealed to you.’ Using this premise we will both use the final sentence on page 99 as the title of our respective books. To enable us to consider a narrative, T suggested that we send each other a copy of page 99, and both attempt to combine the text of these pages to form a new ‘story’. This is not dissimilar to the work of Graham Rawle who wrote an entire novel using words from vintage women’s magazines.
These decisions will now enable us to take the project to the next level, and hopefully by undertaking this set of instructions we will start to gain a greater sense of what the book may become. Without knowingly setting out to develop our practice using a new methodology, by default the nature of this project – and our disconnect with either the text or author – appears to be leading us in a new direction.
T. A pre-arranged FaceTime conversation provided the opportunity to share and exchange initial observations made individually in response to first readings of our new blue books. Selected independently, it was interesting to note a number of actual and potential similarities as we talked through our findings.
In consideration of this new project, we both agreed that we remain interested in continuing to question our established collaborative practice, and that whilst we had enjoyed our first altered book project, we do not want to repeat Windham, but use what we learnt in the process to move our practice forward. With this in mind, P introduced the notion of the production of a series of by-products at a continuum of the process of altering our new blue books. These may provide the opportunity to further explore scale, text and image in alternative formats.
Beginning to exchange the stories and characters contained within our books, we noted the emergence of content similarities. Both books contain maps and document journeys and both tell stories with male leads and references to other languages. Time and place may be significant alongside characters met along the journey. As a starting point we both agreed to begin to list the characters and geography contained within our books in preparation for our next planned face to face meeting in two weeks time.
P. Considering the random selection of two ‘blue books’, it is interesting how many perceived similarities there are between the two editions, are these coincidences a matter of chance? or could we have found similarities within whatever books we had chosen?
As well as reading the novel, I did some primary research into the author Laurens van der Post – sadly he does not have the same charm as Windham; a friend of Prince Charles, and godfather to Prince William, the story of his seduction of a 14 year old girl entrusted to his care during a sea journey, which resulted in her becoming pregnant, does little to endear him to me; however I should not let this colour my opinion of the book or the potential development of the project.
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.
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.
A pre-arranged FaceTime conversation enabled the exchange of first ideas gathered independently in response to our new projects. We are keen to continue with the methods of making established in our last project which are rooted in Serial Art and talked around a range of possible starting points.
Inspired by the purchase of 2 cross stitch books, first research into this craft has revealed rules and conventions around restrictions with image placement which could be interesting to make use. A potential colour palette is listed within one of the books with particular symbols linking to specific colours. The symbols have some reference to the patterns we created using the typewriter in our previous project and the making of these links with the theme of Intersect. The process of making a cross stitch also links Intersect and also offers further potential to divide pages into two parts, cut across, overlap and criss cross. Whilst these are interesting ideas, first examination of the two books presented challenges in how to connect them. Eventually we have decided upon sending half of each book to each other for further examination. This will involve taking the books apart and some independent decision making which may provide new ideas
We considered the idea of using text messages to instruct each other in the production of art work and both liked this idea initially although were unsure of how this would lead to an outcome. P shared ideas making use of found books and experiences from the recent Artist Book Fair in Bristol (BABE) around working on editions and one-off books from the same starting point. We discussed first ideas for the Windham papers and P will initiate this process by texting the first rule that we will undertake on our individual volumes of the book.
With many potential ideas to consider we have fixed a second Facetime conversation and a meeting within the next 3 weeks in order to move both projects forward. Prior to these we have agreed to send each other half of our cross stitch books and share links to first reading.
Removing the papers from my cross stitch book to send to P has revealed 9 sections with each section having 3 double pages. The remaining pages are glued onto the binding – perhaps these remaining pages can be the starting point for the the new book?
Another Facetime meeting enabled us to discuss and make decisions regarding a few of the unresolved elements of the project, namely the addition of the bias-binding and how we can attach it effectively and easily, the making of the bag versus belly-band to contain the book and the inclusion of teachers names. We have two weeks until our BABE deadline, so once we have completed some further tests, we will base our decisions on what we can achieve in the time available.
The working methodology that we have adopted to develop this project has proved to be highly effective, especially in relation to time management and division of tasks. We have worked to each other’s strengths and the method of sending work backwards and forwards, apart from a slight postal hitch(!), has kept the project moving at a steady pace. The process of receiving the project without knowing fully what to expect, and then adding to it, and returning it has been one of the unexpected pleasures of this project.
The need to postpone an arranged making day due to work commitments resulted in FaceTime decision making this morning. Swift decisions were made within the limited time frame in order to move the project forward around the illustrations and text. Determining the order of production led to jobs being shared between us in order to construct the book within the given deadline.
Both P and I are keen to build on the style of working we established during Meeting in the Middle and share the production of both text and image. This is being realised by P adding letterpress text on top of initial backgrounds and both of us typing the selected stories. Both of us will use a blue ribbon and decorative elements in order to draw upon sewing conventions seen in dressmaking patterns.
Whilst I finish the backgrounds, P will edit each story and produce a template to work to. P will then add letterpress text whilst I construct new backgrounds for additional individual stories. Each of us will have 2 weeks to type the stories and add any final embellishment which is still to be decided but may include stitched details and bias binding trims.
Following the FaceTime conversation, my first job is to send P the sewing story I am contributing to the book. Reflecting upon my first sewing projects at secondary school led me to old school reports and reading around Needlecraft and Housecraft education in the 1970’s.