Pop-Up Letterpress Studio

For one week in September 2009 there was a letterpress machine available for public use at 'the maker-difference pop-up letterpress studio' by Cockpit Arms and SORT in Newburgh Quarter, Carnaby Street. I got to use a letterpress for the first time and printed text on to a lovely little book, courtesy of SORT. The letterpress man was friendly and extremely helpful and told me that sometime in the near future SORT plan to run letterpress workshops from SORT HQ! Excellent news!


So I'm having to consider what I mean when I say "artist's book".

Today I'd like to think of it as
when the book as subject is the art rather than when the subject of the book is art.


Recently there have been some interesting finds in my mailbox. This is rare.

Last week came a note that read:

you look like a blade of grass with 4 incisors sticking out of the sides. it has no legs, so it obviously hops around with no feet. This means that balance is an issue, but it's fine, because this is kept constant by its own homeostasis system. It never falls over, but it can do. If it does, it has to wait for the wind to push it back upright again. This can be quite troublesome in the summer, when wind is at a minimum. It has no arms because its a blade of grass so when it wants to eat, it must turn to the side and use its incisors to mash up food, it then lies on the food, and then the necassary nutrients enter the blade of grass by diffusion and osmosis through the partially permeable memebrane that forms the outer layer of the blade of grass. It has a small brain positioned just behind its bottom left incisor. the end.

Yesterday came this:

It's the latest publication from the WET INK PRESS. A book for John Sparrow. Put together and bound by Becky Cremin with contributions from all at WET INK HQ.


Yesterday I bought an old Victorian Flat Iron. I've been looking for one for a while now. Despite not being fond of laundry I can't wait to use it.

I've been reading up on the Flat Iron and apparently Flat Irons were used in pairs so that one could be used whilst the other was being heated up. As one iron started to cool it was switched for the other. The irons were either placed face up in front of open fires on stands known as trivets, or they were suspended over the fire using hangers. So I guess I need a pair before I can really start using the Flat Iron. The laundry will have to wait! Just until I find another one which may be a while as this one was hard to come by.


The Idea as Book : The Book as Idea

I've been meaning to do a write-up of a seminar I chaired at the ICA earlier this month in association with MA Poetic Practice, but I've been putting it off as my transcript is sketchy with a lot of gaps. The seminar entitled, The Idea as Book : The Book as Idea, took place on the 14th of July and looked to interrogate the artist’s book in relation to ideas of conceptual art and concrete poetry. It was part of a series of events tying in with the current exhibition Poor. Old. Tired. Horse. which takes an imaginative and expansive look at text-based art practices from the 1960s to the present day.

The aims of the seminar were to explore the limitations and the potential of artists’ books with regards to the book as space, the book as self-reflexive, the book as performance and the book as process. It drew upon past and present examples of book art, conceptual art and concrete poetry in order to foreground the ever deepening cross-over between these art forms. Members of the panel included Redell Olsen, Allen Fisher, Mark Pawson, Elizabeth James and Kate Gallon.

The following was discussed: "Space" as public and private and the 2D/3D relationship between a work and how you view it. The social formations thought to be missing from the show. Typewriter works looking old-fashioned yet possessing a nostalgic quality. Redell Olsen referred to Lilian Lijn's 3D sculpture, Sky Never Stops, as a type of book, a "cone book" in fact. Like a book it invites the viewer to read it but in a way that requires the viewer to be aware of his/her own physical presence as well as the presence of the moving cone. Both object and viewer are moving and participating. We talked about books not only referencing spaces/sites but via their materiality they can very much hold a site too. I guess an example of this would be Dieter Roth's Daily Mirror. The "preciousness" of the art object was also brought up and in particular the issue of allowing artists' books to be handled. Suggestions about their display and distribution were also made. Ed Ruscha's Information Man was mentioned but I can't remember in what context.

If I were to take one thing away from it, it would be the concept of space in relation to the book, that is, the book as an object made up of pockets of space as well as the book as an object occupying a space. Some did say that they didn't think it useful to discuss the book and space, but I'm interested in Ulises Carrión's play with space in relation to the book. It's potential is limitless and that's not just in conceptual terms but in actual physical terms. How people choose to use the book is obviously interesting as is the space in which it is made and then stored or displayed. During the discussion Allen Fisher pointed out Carrión's book Tell me what sort of wall paper your room has and I will tell you who you are, a book that comprises of a selection of wallpaper pieces with labels such as 'Living Room', 'Bedroom' and 'My Friend's Room' overprinted onto each page. Each page references an external space collated into the space of one book. Carrión moves you from space to space / place to place, each individualised as the reader turns the page and feels the uniqueness of the textured wallpaper. I think it's important to bring up Carrión's work as concrete and visual poetry did play a part in his break with literature in a more traditional sense. He also emphasised the close relationship between poetry and artists' books, insisting that poets were responsible for opening up the way to such bookworks.

A big thanks to the panel and everyone who came and to those who helped and read and re-read my list of questions just days before the event.


Tonight we performed EVERY DAY A BATTLE and we're lucky enough to do this in the impressive Mosaic Rooms.

There was film, a tape recorder, paper cuffs, moving paper structures, entangled paper rope, a list of names on a ream of paper splitting the room in two, bookmaking, books to read, envelopes to open and generally lots of words and actions to respond to. We tried to incorporate each medium and the different aspects of performance. It was all about remediation, translation and the evolution from one state to the next. Not just revealing a finished state but the process involved.

During the performance I made books to be distributed and to be read/performed at the end of the performance. Some weeks ago we all met in Earl's Court to gather and make material which was recorded and would be remediated through performance tonight. In Earl's Court I was filmed making books filled with material provided on the day. Tonight I continued to make these books, however, they were filled with the material circulated during the performance, which was in itself remediated when read at the end of the performance.

Below is an example of the books made. On one side is a map of the Earl's Court area, on the other side are words taken from tonight's performance. The books were made using a sheet of A4 paper cut and folded and placed in a translucent folder.

My aim during the performance was to just make, that was to be my one and only response. However, I soon realised that with paper cuffs falling into my eye line and with moving paper structures walking round me and with language being exchanged in every direction it was impossible to remain transfixed on making. I was naturally encouraged to contribute to an energetic space of words by vocalising my own.

For me the success was that the performance was able to foreground our personal interests but still come together as a collaborative. It took me back to thinking about the bookmaking day and stealing Perree's term "cross-fertilisation" - we were combining individual work, ambitions, dialogue and exchange in the same time, place and moment.
Becky's documented it all with her camera here.

WET INK and Scenery Chewer Present ‘Every Day A Battle’

Place: Mosaic Rooms, 226 Cromwell Road London SW5 0SW

Time: Saturday 11th July from 6.30 pm to 8.30 pm.

£5 – All proceeds to go to charity.

We seek, for an evening, to revisit the notion of Earls Court as cultural battleground. This event takes inspiration from Peter Barry's book Poetry Wars: British Poetry of the 1970s and the Battle of Earls Court which uncovers the 'battle' at the National Poetry Society during the 1970s between radical and conservative factions. Thirty-five years after Eric Mottram heralded a 'British Poetry Revival', the question of how to negotiate with the poetic mainstream still infiltrates choices made in the everyday practice of many emerging poets. We present the work of several new poets and hope they will be joined by some of the leading figures of this historical moment to revisit the scenes of an important struggle for creative freedom.


Tonight we performed RHYTHM CITY DREAM SURRENDER. It's the first time we've performed something for the second time. I think it went well. We were thinking a lot more about us and space and how we use it and move through it and respond to it.

Anna is DREAM and her Anna-Grams are lined up against one wall which she reads aloud as she walks back and forth.
Becky is CITY and she stands transfixed, a central point reading her city-(sound)-scape.
Ryan is SURRENDER navigating his response to the word in and around the room.
I am RHYTHM keeping a constant beat with a tapping shoe and moving in relation to the sounds around me.

We each fill the room with sounds and words that stop, start and restart in relation to what we each hear, responding through volume, tone, repetition and movement. Our physical presence occupies the space through physical means.

The physical sounds of the city perhaps... dragged in, prodded, roughed up and shaken and then dragged back out with us.


Yep, that's 6.30 tonight
The Simpson Room in Waterstones, Piccadilly


peroxide cabbage

peroxide cabbage has salad fingers.

peroxide cabbage knows her stuff about all things loud.



Today I hosted an informal day of bookmaking in my garden. Poets/artists Becky Cremin, Ryan Ormonde and Sejal Chad attended.
Today the book became our medium.

I've spent a bit of time (I should spend a lot more time) reading Rob Perrée's Cover To Cover, a must for anyone trying to get to grips with the long and confusing history of artists' books. Perrée talks about the collaborative nature of artists' books in which individuals engaging in their chosen medium and specialism come together in the production of one bookwork. They may include the writer, artist, designer, publisher, exhibitor etc. But any thinking, considering, making, presenting is carried out individually, separated by time, space and place. After completing one part of the bookmaking process the book is placed in the hands of someone else who sprinkles their thoughts and plays their part. There's nothing wrong with this. It's worked since the early twentieth-century but sometimes on that rare occasion for a brief while, individuals find a time, space and place in which to think and create together. And in this instance, collaboration can be and is an immediate and instantaneous exchange. Perrée provides an excellent example of this when he takes his reader to Paris to embark on a brief history of bookmaking, Parisian-style. Here, once upon a time, 'writers and artists found one another, discussed the issues together, worked together or knew one another in other ways'. Perrée calls this 'a mutual process of cross-fertilization'. Now that's something to achieve and keep going - works being made, experienced and discussed all at the same time, in the same space, in the same moment.

Ok, ambitious plans - realistically this is unsustainable as we have jobs, commitments, other places to be but today we tried it. It was nice. Really nice. Maybe there can be other days like this scattered (generously) in amongst our busy schedules.
Today we cross-fertilised for sure.

Ryan holds an awl. Sejal gets ready to type. Becky hangs it on the line.

Our work station.

Instructions for the day:
I'd like us each to make a book and fill it with material we have prepared beforehand or come up with on the day.
I'd like us to exchange our books.
I'd like us each to review the book we take away with us.
I'd like to document the afternoon and the books with photographs.
I'd like to put these images up on my blog with links to your thoughts.
I'd like us to focus on how bookmaking can be very much a collaborative process. This collaborative means of production instantly makes way for fruitful dialogue as we work alongside one another witnessing the gems and disasters of bookmaking, and are able to pose questions to those working alongside us.
I'd like it to be an afternoon that's really quite rare when it comes to the production of artists' books.

You will need paper.
You will need tools for scribing words.

You will need a needle and thread.

Cut, rip, scribe and bind!

Some handy tools.

Ryan makes his book using black gaffer tape.

After awling Ryan binds.

Becky hears and writes. Becky writes what she hears.

Here are the finished books drying on the washing line:

Ryan Ormonde, Y Chromosomes

A beautifully textured bookwork.
30 cm x 8 cm. 17 pages alternate between acetate paper and black gaffer tape. Binding with pink embroidery thread tried in a knot at seven points along the edge of the book. Text word-processed and printed onto acetate paper. Black gaffer tape represents the absent X chromosome. The ribbed underside of the tape leaves very visual markings that come through the acetate and resemble a scientific code, thus echoing the idea of chromosomes and DNA. This can be made out in the image above. The tape brings to the book intricate detail that is both visual and haptical. The layout of the text draws attention to the form of the book, in particular its length. It consists of paper which has been cut into strips and the text adapts to this form resting in narrow columns. The text is visually striking and words such as 'you' and 'and' are repeated and presented in a block column but the columns remain unfinished drawing attention to the number of words. 86 words which Ryan tells me has something to do with the make up of the Y chromosome. The visual quality of the text encourages me to read down as though I am being guided by the length of the book. I find myself reading in long strips slicing through the more conventional left to right read. I read the text longways. Ryan plays with repetition, rhythm and sounds which reverberate throughout each poem, like vibrations unfolding down the column and down the page. I particularly like Ryan's use of capitals, which grow out of words such as 'ecoKNOWmic', 'cNOversatiNO' and 'preJEWdice'. If the words are to represent parts of a gene, then it's like the gene is growing outwards - out of the 'economic' stem 'KNOW' roots outwards - and the way in which they are positioned in the text, as though in dialogue with each other. And Ryan did tell me something about genes networking and conversing with each other. Some of the poems that appear in Y Chromosomes can be found

Becky Cremin, Baking I

Becky Cremin is a domestic goddess. Fact.
22 cm x 4.5 cm. White rag cloth cover folded around the edge to form a spine. Inside 14 pages of Newsprint paper. The second version of this book measures 19 cm x 4 cm and consists of 14 pages of green Lamali paper. Both versions include handwritten text using pen and ink. The left-hand side of each page is reinforced with a strip of masking tape for added strength when binding. Japanese Stab binding with black embroidery thread. Each version is unique and consists of hand-cut handmade paper, self-bound with a handwritten text. The text comes from a series of sonnets produced by Becky and have also been baked in a oven (see below). Each book is a different sonnet. On each page is scribed a line from the sonnet. The pen and ink bleeds through the light Newsprint and Lamali paper creating smudges and splatters of black ink. You can't help but notice how Becky's choice of materials and method of making acts as a visual aid to the content: 'hand clean skin' - the paper is skin like, 'tears butter grams' - the paper is torn, 'melting spread' - the ink on paper, 'hand over wrist' - the motion of handwriting. The text not only relates to the domesticated act of baking but also the act of handcrafting. Becky also plays with a range of textures clearly marking/recording/performing the scratching of her ink pen on the rough surface of the rag cloth cover.

Sejal Chad, when you hand(L)ed me

The only illustrated book of the day.
15 cm x 10.5 cm. Red cover card for front and back cover. Pink and red card inside on to which is taped, stapled and stitched acetate paper filled with text and sketches in black Biro. Book bound together using a two-staple bind with additional black embroidery stitching along the spine and continues to form border on the front cover. This is quite obviously a self-conscious book, an inside-out book, where all it's processes of making are exposed on each page. The acetate allows for all stitching to be unveiled. It is multi-layered in its use of materials and the way in which the paper is attached on top of one another creating a multi-layered text. You follow the text through the acetate and on to the card for a multi-layered reading. Each page is unique due to the craft processes Sejal employs but it retains coherence through Sejal's style of text and image. This is definitely a book to be hand(l)ed. Unfortunately, I don't have a copy of the text but I remember that reading it is like the black thread that makes its way from cover to cover. When reading Sejal's text I find myself trying to thread together the text with the conversations, music and happenings that occurred today. Also, the sketched pigs resemble those in Richard Scarry's 'Biggest World Book Ever!'

Me, ELLE is one big issue (April '09)

14.5 cm x 9.5 cm. Pink foam board front and back cover. Text on front cover hand stitched in a chain stitch and loose stitch using black cotton thread. Japanese Stab binding with black cotton thread also. Inside 12 pages hand-cut from an old journal. Text typewritten. The text comes from the April '09 edition of ELLE magazine which I bought in March and never got round to reading. I read the magazine yesterday including all PL codes and cosmetic small print. Words were selected, noted and written through to create an alternative narrative for the April issue of ELLE. The text can be found here

Becky also baked homemade cakes with a surprise poem-filled centre.

Above is the poem that was baked in my cupcake. Delicious cakes and evocative poems. Language of a domestic discourse has been cut, blended and literally baked to explore the notion of a female (domestic) goddess - my favourite line: 'She waits in domestic wire blending hours'. Read more about Becky's thoughts on "performing" domesticity here

Below are our thoughts on the day ( kindly transcribed by Becky):

So to end with Perreé. I think, we found each other to have a similar interest - books, childhood and positive thinking. We did spend some of today discussing issues surrounding 'the book' and our books, childhood and positive thinking. And we did work together not on the same book or anything, but together nonetheless. Gush!


ELLE is one big issue (April '09)

SHE SAYS does lipo really work? I want to be face to face with Jen. I have no regrets. It was the smoothest thing ever. Euphoria lets me live the dream. It feels good. In sixty years age will catch up. I'll be ultra fine. I'll tell stories with sequins SHE SAYS describe yourself in three words. Stay In More. Geeky and on the debating team I stay up all night with Courtney. We're in love. I do make up for bar mitzvahs. Your appearance your pain is low. I stopped feeling guilty. I'm urban and dark SHE SAYS work is tacky. Vera was born to rule. I wear cotton jerseys. Thrown together glamour to a blade runner backdrop. I strum my ukulele. The phoenix insignia is tatooed on her wrist SHE SAYS clothes make you disappear. Hair is comic and cruel. I'm born too late to appreciate real music. It's back to laurel canyon to hand with zappa outside it takes someone with a certain panache to pull off doo wop. I thought the world was lovely. I lost myself in The Goonies and Michael J. Fox. Ripped jeans and silver chains SHE SAYS expressing heartbreak the days of the grumpy detective are over. Vera looks at me and tries it on. It's like slipping on banana peel. A drunken lens of human fragility. The vulgarity of 1980s excess. No liberal guilt. I'm not interested in identity. A blonde afro with black lips. I'm addicted to subject matter SHE SAYS I'm not afraid to make mistakes. My farewell tour never ended. When I have no money to make movies I tap into the nyc electrical system through a lampost SHE SAYS let's play a little. Nappy rash on my face. A bow tie and a sequin encrusted collar. For the club kids it's arm candy it's very now very wow. Hands up to donkey jackets. Hands down to genuine blokes. Get lost. Lose your footing. Air kiss when the adrenaline goes. I'm nervous no one will turn up. Ok ok so people are coming SHE SAYS your work is you. Your big break is yet to come. Breakdowns equal breakthrough. Without fear I live. That's not a tabloid story SHE SAYS this is over. We can't recover. You can't control it. Her comments are carefully considered and deliberately understated. She would say but she isn't going to not now not ever. Mortgage gigs fly by the seat of your pants whoosh by empty podiums. Everything's out of context and misinterpreted. It's hard on the soul SHE SAYS I don't owe anybody anything. There are no sides. There's nothing to go on trial for. Her body defies time and gravity SHE SAYS don't get on this train. It's a ride you can't get off. I'm a realist. It demands respect. Laugh at this unlikely portrait of domestic bliss.


Five [yellow] Poems

Five [Yellow] Poems
170 x 120 mm
Cover made from black corn fibre. Yellow Lamali flocked paper. Typewritten text. Japanese stab binding in yellow embroidery thread. Poems include: Yellow, Avian Flu, extract from On this day, Spectacle/Surveillance, extract from Rope.
Maybe waxed linen thread would be better as the embroidery thread will weaken over time. But I expect the entire book to eventually disintegrate as the corn fibre will also weaken and fall apart. Due to the mixed combination and thus texture of the Lamali paper, it is particularly difficult to typewrite on to. Although the stamp leaves the impression of a letter, it does not always stain the page. Excitingly, this does mean that holding the page up to the light reveals hidden indents. The typewriter's marks also bleed through to the reverse side of the paper creating tiny buldges - see second to last image.


A Human Approach

240 x 120 mm
Concertina book made up of 22 panels.
Red cover boards. Handmade paper. Colour tissue paper to bind each panel.
Typewritten text.
This bookwork began as loose pages of cut-up and collaged text from William Freeman’s novel, The Human Approach To Literature (a book I found last year). Each page was then written through to create the text that now exists in this concertina format. The coloured paper binding draws upon the theme of binding prevalent throughout Freeman's text.
The concertina has no front or back cover. Opening it at one end shows how each poem builds on the one before. Opening it at the other end presents three poems made up entirely of five key words and phrases that appear in each panel. At this point I was looking at Wolfgang Iser and dabbling in theories of reader-response. Particularly Iser's idea that the reader sees these words in a different perspective and is able to recognise the pattern that is being created but also, acknowledge the differences due to the varied contexts the words are used in (The Reading Process: A Phenomenological Approach).
In the first version of this bookwork I set out to use visual elements to completely change the form of Freeman’s novel and reconfigure the content. However, it lacked unity and compactness which I think version two shows a bit better in relation to both form and content.


Suspect, Location, Time

150 x 210 mm
12 pages of embossed card. Black felt binding.
Typewritten text with black pen and ink.

This bookwork was made in response to Foucault's "Panoptican" with the idea of surveillance as a ‘faceless gaze’, positioned and alert everywhere (Discipline and Punish). These ideas relate to city life in the twenty-first century with the growing number of CCTV cameras becoming an expected part of the city landscape. This piece uses the set-up of a detective following and noting the movements of five suspects. The detective is the camera. The five individuals are watched in unison and each offers their response to this alongside the detective's notes. References in the text and map are actual places in and around Baker Street; however, they have been reconfigured to create a new fictional text and site. The map of Baker Street has been drawn in relation to the movements of the suspects in the text and not in accordance with a map of the actual site.