the design process

Layers of mark making

Having received copies of P’s text pages, I have begun to explore the process of making with more focus! I have selected imagery to make use of, sourced larger scale self-adhesive paper, and gathered a series of blue media to draw with including wax pencils, tape, an assortment of writing pens and a dip pen with blue Quink ink.   I have re-read extracts from the returned questionnaire to provide ideas for image placement,  and am begin to refine how these objects will be viewed through layers of tracing paper.

I have begun to explore using carbon paper as a dry alternative to mono-printing and have trialled this by using a series of drawing tools to imply the action of digging. I read a little around the history of garden tools, and have started to use my hand held garden fork to transfer carbon onto the tracing paper and self-adhesive labels to suggest a nod to how each object was found. Whilst this produces some interesting mark making, the tone of blue is limited to the colour of the carbon which be be too strong for the text? As a response, I have spent some time adding differing amounts of extender ink to blue relief ink and have produced some monoprints with the garden fork onto the self-adhesive paper and tracing paper surfaces.

Layers of mark making have started to emerge within the illustrations of each kept objects. The first layer will be a pale blue monoprint, made with the garden fork on a part of the inside surface of the tracing paper page.  Each object will then be recorded as a contour line drawing using the dip pen on the self-adhesive surface.  This will enable a degree of choice around which drawings are selected to be cut out and presented within the book.  Prior to cutting, carbon paper marks will be produced on top of each object providing a second reference to the act of digging. The objects will be positioned inside each page with some reference to where they are now kept, and will also be be glimpsed behind the text which P has produced.



Putting an end to inactivity



Five weeks and two cancelled meetings later, a pre-arranged Facetime meeting enabled dialogue and decision making.  The title for this project was confirmed as Kept, and the number of stories clarified as seven, with P providing a possible addition/alternative, if required, in response to a recently recovered hand forged nail. This project will document responses to questionnaires through text and image and focus on alternative finds to broken pottery.  Both P and I are keen to make a third response around the theme of Recovered Recorded, possibly as a pair of books, to catalogue only the hoard of blue and white broken china pieces found in P’s new garden and at my mum’s allotment.

Having previously agreed on the page size, format and three components of content for this book, P has begun to research each of the given postcodes to collect historical facts about each specific location. In conversation it was agreed that these snippets of additional information could be presented within the book as Tip-In’s, possibly echoing the record card presentation style made use of within the Recovered Recorded. I have begun to explore how to make the illustrations within the inside of the tracing paper French-fold format and have started to work on top of self-adhesive labels so that the object can be viewed clearly from one side and becomes only a shape/shadow from the other side.  These need to be refined further, and experiments using mono-print, carbon paper and tape are planned.  P will send the text pages to be printed onto tracing paper so that the scale and placement of image can be resolved next week.

Belfast Sinks to Rusty Keys


Our regular Facetime meetings are becoming an invaluable way in which to ensure the projects’ momentum is maintained; this week we both had a focused set of questions that we were able to discuss and subsequently form decisions about. The book’s format, size and substrate were confirmed – we will work with the French-fold format and experiment with the idea of a heavy-weight trace – the translucent nature of this paper could suggest the idea of layers, with glimpses of type and image appearing in different forms then changing as each page is turned. Through further discussion we recognized that there are three elements to the book – fragment of a story (developed using Letraset type), images (T will work on the idea of contour drawing and map symbols to develop imagery of the found objects listed within the questionnaires) and historical facts and information (this relates to the sites where the objects have been found) – additional research into these sites will be required. In terms of composition, one of these elements will be hidden within the French-fold of the book, T recognized that all respondents had kept their found ‘treasure’, so it was suggested that the image of the object should be the item to be contained (kept) within the fold. Further references within the questionnaires offered the idea of a limited colour palette of blue (and possibly green). Whilst the book will have to be printed digitally (due to restrictions of some of the design processes we have used), we agreed that some form analogue/hand-crafted element was needed to ensure each book was in some way unique.

Kept: Colour, Pattern and Stories of Times Past  

In response to ideas generated by the book structures P produced, I have begun to re-read written responses within the returned questionnaires.  Drawing upon the process of inductive coding, ideas have begun to emerge around colour, pattern arrangement and stories of times past.  Several responses record local industry or points of interest which could be included within the hidden inside pages of the book structure P has produced. I have been reminded of working methodologies employed within the original Meeting in the Middle project which referenced social history discovered through on line local history groups.

The majority of questionnaires record that found objects have been kept, with one participant noting that they were ‘too beautiful to throw away’.  The idea of giving value comes to mind and the challenge of how to realise this visually.  Several answers include references to pattern arrangement which has begun to inform page layout ideas exploring the use of edges, negative shapes and repeating patterns. Postcodes and specific locations are recorded which has led to some investigation around map markings and the idea of using types of lines to trace the outline of each found object. Whilst considering map markings, I came across a contour drawing challenge at The House of Illustration which provided further context about this style of observation which may afford value to each object.  I have begun to make line drawings informed by this which I intend to develop using selected map markings.


Predominate colours are noted within the questionnaire as blue and translucent green glass which I will begin to explore as shapes within the line drawings.

Taking on board suggestions by P, and the notion of revealing information, I have begun to consider what if these illustrations were produced on translucent surfaces so that some information and imagery may be glimpsed through from one page to another.



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.

Questionnaires & Collections


A pre-planned FaceTime discussion last week, offered the opportunity to comment upon each other’s new practical work, share making processes, and exchange design methodology in order to clarify next steps of this project.

P talked through the making of her text pieces in which she had selected phrases from the returned questionnaires.  The media made use of has restricted style and scale of text and provided translucent surfaces to make use of.  The subsequent layered pieces have the potential to link to the notion of the pottery fragments being found at different layers within the earth in P’s garden.

Having been given a collection of broken pottery pieces found in my mum and dad’s allotment, I made use of this, alongside the text pieces made by P, to inform my first practical work.  Interested in developing more refined visual work, I started to catalogue all the different plates in my kitchen by tracing around them in response to one of the returned questionnaires.

As the project has developed alternative ideas are emerging.  One idea is to respond to the returned questionnaires.  These provide given starting points, snippets of others’ stories and found imagery in a similar way to our previous project in which we documented sewing secrets. There may or may not be connections across one or more questionnaires, but the interest is in documenting individual voices.  Having made use of The Small Publisher’s Fair in November 2018 to hand out the questionnaire and gather feedback on the project from visitors and participants, it would be interesting to present their responses next year at the fair.   P has already started to explore the potential of these questionnaires by selecting phrases which I could interpret visually, or I could re-examine the questionnaires independently to select visual imagery.  During the face time discussion we shared potential ideas for the format of this book which P will develop.

The second idea is to respond to the found collections of pottery in either P’s new garden or a combination of my parents allotment and P’s garden. This could become a second book in which the structure, text and visual imagery is more complex.  This may involve further research both to collect stories about either P’s house or my parents allotment or about the china pieces themselves.

Towards the end of the discussion we agreed to respond to the returned questionnaires in the first instance as we have the content for this book.  We agreed to develop the book structure and visual imagery independently and meet again via Facetime after four weeks to exchange ideas with a view to working together to construct part or all of the book within the Easter holiday.

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.

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.

Recorded Progress Report

trace on screen

Having received the tracing and layout from T of the china pieces, this week afforded the opportunity to start work on the Recorded book. As most of the decisions have been made via texts, reviewing our message history ensured I was using the correct dimensions. At this point I noticed a small anomaly with the size – to ensure the folding and making of the books are accurate – a quick visual and an email to T enabled a small issue to be resolved.

poor drawing

Whilst the layout has been pre-determined, I have not made a final decision regarding the print process that I intend to use, therefore working with images of the china, each piece had to be manipulated and saved in two different ways (a full colour version, and a grayscale version). Rather than using photographs, I scanned the china, and this enabled the size and scale of each piece to be in proportion to one another. The most difficult part of this process was rotating each piece to replicate T’s layout… by trial and error I finally resorted to placing the tracing over the laptop screen to ensure greater accuracy, although this was not an exact science.

screenTest prints next week will enable a decision to be made regarding the print process. Paper stock will also be sent from T, to see if a match is possible, otherwise different stock will be used for each book. Other decisions have related to the front cover and use of typewritten adhesive labels, and we will research the idea of archive bags to contain the pair of books.

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.