The Blue Book Project

The Small Publishers Fair in November 2017 concluded the Windham Papers, and enabled us to view both books together for the first time, before delivering them to the exhibition. We also had the opportunity to talk face to face and reflect together on the project; we concluded that whilst we had initially resisted the idea of an altered book project, writing and responding to the instructions through research and making had given us an opportunity to expand individual practice within the confines of a set brief, and the end result was something that we would not have produced within our established practice. Having noted this change, it was decided to further explore this process through the undertaking of a second project based on an existing book.

Using the reasoning behind the Tom Phillips book project The Humament as inspiration, two decisions were made immediately, the first was that the book should be blue (as a gesture to the Windham Papers) and secondly that the purchase would be made from an Oxfam shop (a previous project had resulted in coincidental purchases from Oxfam), so it seemed pertinent. Following these decisions, a series of text messages attempted to formulate the book theme and book price, however before we had the opportunity to complete these tasks, a chance conversation revealed that we had both already purchased an autobiography, so the decision was made to use these books as the starting point.

P: At this stage I had purchased two books – the autobiography for £1.99 – a purchase based purely on the title and name of the author – Venture to the Interior by Laurens van der Post. The other book The Comanche Scalp by William Colt MacDonald costing 99p was a novel and a nicer blue, however it was the title and book jacket design that were driving force behind the purchase. I suspect that if I had the choice I would opt to use the The Comanche Scalp as my chosen book – however, as with the Windham Papers, I like the fact that the decision has been made through theoretical reasoning rather than through personal selection. It is also intriguing that with this project the book size, structure and content is unlikely to align in the same way that the Windham Papers did, therefore there is an even greater sense of the unknown!

T: Around the same time, I purchased two blue books – the autobiography also for £1.99 – contains a map on the end papers, reference to being rendered ‘from the original Irish’ and an intriguing title: Twenty Years A-Growing. The other book – A Constable guide to the birds of the coast costing £3.99 contains photographs, diagrams, maps and factual data. With no idea about the subject matter of the books P was purchasing, I enjoyed the limitation of searching out a blue book – I could have bought loads!


Meeting, musing and decision-making

sharing 2

This weekend gave us lots of opportunity to share research and ideas, examine our individual approach to the project so far and decide upon the direction of the project.
We used a series of questions as the starting point for our discussions:
Should the outcome of this project be a book?
P: This project is about exploring a different working practice to our usual collaborative process, a practice where research plays a more significant role in determining the outcome; therefore it was important to ask this question rather than make assumptions. After some discussion we decided that a book was still the most appropriate vehicle for the project, it would enable us to reach a wider audience and there was a known forum for it to sit within. We would be working to a new formula where the focus would be on the process of making (the journey) and sharing skills rather than the end result. We reasoned that this was a good enough rationale to work within, what could be considered our comfort zone of ‘artists’ book’

T: The opportunity to meet over a weekend and address an outcome for this project was really interesting.  Sharing visual and written starting points enabled a detailed discussion debating alternatives  for and against a new book work.   We spent some time talking through a potential second outcome which will include making work in response to the range of village notice boards observed during our individual site visits.  It may be that we return to each village and photograph the notice board and catalogue its contents in some was or that we consider exhibiting artwork within these notice boards.

If a book, should it be an edition?
P. We decided on an edition of 8. A manageable number and as the walk is a total of 88 miles, we will both be producing 8 books, so we could also rationalise the decision.

T: Whilst discussing the format of a final outcome we exchanged individual aims and areas of interest within this project.  We share an interest in both the meaning and making  processes and agreed that producing an edition will enable the achievement of both these areas of interest.

Should we work independently and share ideas and practice or work in isolation?
P. We looked at the collaborative project organised by Design Factory called Synchronise, which puts together two practicing craftspeople to exchange a material skill to further practice. Although we both perhaps have some reservations about working separately, rather than adopting our  usual collaborative process – i.e T as the image-maker and P as typographer and book maker… it’s important to find a way forward that enables us both to work independently to an agreed format, so finding techniques that we are both happy to work with in terms of type, format and binding became important to this process.

T: The idea of working independently seems to ‘fit’ this project – in that our separate practices will ‘meet in the middle’.  Whilst this will be a new challenge we have established a format of exchanging, sharing and refining ideas within previous work which will ease this.

Should there be a common theme/ ‘hook’ ?
P. We had both arrived independently at the thought that there could be a women-related theme throughout. However as we talked through this idea, we realised that it would be too restrictive and we both had interesting research that would have to be discarded. We looked at the definition of social history and the phrase ‘the experiences of ordinary people in the past’ seemed to resonate, therefore we’ll aim to highlight and tell the story of an individual within each location – this’ll mean reviewing and consolidating current findings and undertaking further, ongoing research. We began to realise that having to do further research needn’t stop us from starting to produce actual artwork, the two could and should work in tandem.

T: We spent some time considering how artists use photographs in their work and in reading around history and geology.  The definitions of social history and compendium really seemed to fit with our first observations.  Both of us have discovered eclectic collections of facts about villagers within our section of the walk which we would like to present in some way.



Some decision making

So, what should the project be, or what could it be?

Here is our starting point: each artist will explore 44 miles of the Jurassic way route; Tamar from the south, where the walk originates in Banbury, and Philippa from the north working from Stamford to the mid-point.


We will work to some initial pre-determined criteria that will enable the final piece to have some sense of cohesion. We may or may not work in isolation, but the concept, content and theme will be the decision of the individual.

The project may culminate in an artists’ book, two volumes that come together as one – either physically or conceptually.

Piecing things together

And so the project begins.

Whilst we haven’t actually identified what the main output will be, we do know that it will be based on the 88 mile walk called the Jurassic Way – a route along the limestone ridge that joins our hometowns of Banbury and Stamford. The project will hopefully enable us to further develop our collaborative practice, and at some point we will meet in the middle.
So, the first task is to try and piece together the entire journey so that we can accurately gauge the middle point. Luckily for us there is a set of leaflets that give a breakdown of the mileage for each specific section, this, in theory should make life easier.

map with feet


close up map

It the calculations are correct, the midway point is half way between the villages of Welford and Sibbertoft.