Blue Books: First Observations


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.


Intersect intersected

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!

Intersect logistics!



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
, 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.

Idea Exchange

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?




Positive postings

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.
p buttons

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.

Shared Decision Making

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.




Sharing, planning, resolving


img_5705 cottons threads

Having individually explored different aspects of Sewing Secrets through the design process, we had reached a point where we needed to share and confirm thoughts and ideas. Facetime is an immediate and effective medium, and in this instance it enabled us to verify the number of stories for the book; by discussing the merits of each one we agreed to a total of 12. I am now able to start stitching and progressing the envelopes in time for our next making day. We also resolved thread colours (any colour referenced within the 12 stories has given us our colour palette), choice of typewriter ribbon and discussed T’s image-making and production details – and all within an hour!

Sewing the Seeds

We had initially stated that if ‘Women of the Walk’ was not being accepted for exhibition, we would still progress the project anyway; however we have subsequently decided that it would be more beneficial to take other aspects of meeting in the middle, such as the village noticeboards, and develop new concepts instead.


However, in the short-term we have decided to resurrect a project that we initially began in 2009… the working title was originally an ABC of Stitching and Sewing, a follow-on book to our previous edition entitled ABC of Childhood Memories – we got as far as collecting a series of dress patterns from the 70s and 80s, along with personal stories from family and friends to use as the narrative, and then for some reason the project stopped. Although this isn’t unusual when working alone – I personally have sketchbooks full of unfinished project ideas – working collaboratively is different, as you feel a commitment to the other person and to the idea, so it is rare to dismiss a project once it is underway.

Whilst we both have some reservations about returning to this subject matter – as our most recent practice has moved away from this style of book – having discussed the issue, we realise that the idea of using previously disregarded ideas and material will in itself be a challenge. We see it as an opportunity to employ new knowledge and working practices in the development of a project from our past.

An email at the start of January laid out the bare bones of an idea. Talking face to face is the most effective way of developing a project in the early stages as it enables us to bat ideas backwards and forwards quickly – and it’s a process we are both comfortable with. During a Facetime conversation today we resolved the format and methodology and are now in a position to start developing the project further. We will adopt a similar working practice of developing the inside cards that we used for meeting in the middle and both take responsibility for all aspects of the cards, rather than T working specifically on the fronts and P the backs.


Getting closer to the middle

Facetime #5
Today’s discussion centered around the upcoming making days and current progress.
P: Making days
In terms of the first making day at the University of Lincoln, we will aim to utilise the facilities as much as possible, therefore we need to try and ensure we have things ready prepared; options include lino-cutting or mono-printing, possibly screen-printing (if the screen is pre-made), photocopying and guillotining. It will also be our intention to finalise book cover ideas/design – in readiness for this we will both aim to think about the materiality of the covers and how it can relate to our book theme. We discussed the possibility of working collaboratively on this aspect of the project, this is in contrast to our current working methodology, which is about independent-working – although not in isolation as we are continuing to share work via the blog or Facetime. We will also use the making day to review all finished work so far.
The second making day in Banbury will hopefully focus on finishings such as sewing the books together, rubber stamping and book cover production.

kitchen table photo


T:  In preparation for the opportunity to make work alongside P in the print studio, I have prepared several lino cut blocks to experiment with.  Overprinting and collaging ideas are still to be finalised and I’m looking forward to the sharing and exchanging of techniques and processes as the practical making of work takes place.

P: Progress report 

We had a discussion around whether or not it was important that postcard imagery depicted the named individual within the story. We had both taken the view in developing our ideas that a disconnect between story and image was fully acceptable and could add to the intrigue of the story.

Despite the various typewriter problems that we have both encountered, we have now got to grips with this aspect of the project (and back to back photocopying) and therefore this element is well on the way to completion.

It was interesting to see the first of T’s designed postcards, which were beautiful and inspirational. It made me realise again that I need to stop procrastinating and start to move on with some of the story/design aspects that I have been avoiding because they are problematic. I should also not worry about re-doing postcards if I am not fully satisfied with the final outcome – as T pointed out, there are only 8, so it is not an issue.

Our meeting in  10 days time will be a great opportunity to share and discuss our practice and to offer support in moving our individual work forward; more importantly it will give us the opportunity to assuage any doubts!

T: Progress report

The challenge of representing a village with one A6 image and 90 words of text is resulting in having to select what to depict and what to leave out which has led at times to the visual and written being different.  The choice of what to include and what to leave out is interesting and perhaps one to further review at the end of the project?

I found the opportunity to confirm details around the typewritten side of the post card was particularly helpful – P has definitely explored and realised this more fully and was happy to share tips and make suggestions.  The idea that there may be mistakes was discussed. This sharing of practice led to me re-making several pieces of text which I am now much happier with.

My first visual images are beginning to take shape but as yet are limited to collage.  I was interested to hear about additional details P intends to apply to the surface of her postcard and I’m interested to consider this myself with the addition of stitch.