Gallery of past work

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Hedges and Artists' Books

This is a post about learning and work in progress - work which follows recent experiments with photographs of trees and hedges and then an excellent artist's books workshop last Saturday with Lesley Crawley up at the yard:Artspace in Cheltenham.

For anyone who is not familiar with this genre, the world of artists' books is huge. Our focus for the day was one of the simplest forms known as accordion folds. Numerous versions were on offer and wonderful and inspiring examples were shown. I was amazed at the variety and complexity that was possible with such a simple basic idea.

I dived straight in and chose to work on folding some of the modules needed to make up a version of the star accordion book. I used two copies of an image of a hedgerow taken on South Island New Zealand 18 months ago which I had previously manipulated in Photoshop and printed onto A4 photocopier paper. I trimmed the photos to give a long narrow shape and stuck them onto light-weight white card. Manipulating and lining up the image gave me something to think about and much useful practice in the folding techniques.

Unfortunately, I was unable to complete the whole star as I didn't have enough of the photographic material with me. Anyway the wish to try out other forms of accordion book overtook me. First of all, I tried a basic accordion fold with no frills which I made with simple computer paper for speed. It used an inverted version of another very similar hedge photo to the first ...

I then tried a much more complex form involving careful measurement (and the oportunity to cut in the wrong place!) - a panel accordion where a shape is partially cut out of each fold which allows panels to swivel when opened out ...

Last of all and with time running out, I had a go at a flag book where small 'flags' are stuck onto a narrow accordion folded spine ...

Perhaps, on reflection, I should have explored those basic forms in plain white card first as I might then have chosen to make a form which I could have finished in the session. I have the tendency at workshops to choose, usually unwittingly, the most complicated option which means I take home unfinished work which is frustrating.

The next steps in all this will be to do a proper, full version of the star book, thinking about backing colour (maybe black instead of white?), methods of joining the modules of the star together and the making of a cover. This is important as it anchors the form when it is open as well as protecting the 'pages' when closed.

I had been feeling for sometime that artists' books were something I wanted to explore, linked to my photographs. I realised that I needed to develop my practical book making skills and also my awareness of what is possible. This workshop was an excellent beginning.

You will find more about Lesley on her Printed Material blog  and by googling Lesley Crawley artist. Star accordion books and others of this type can be found by googling Artists' Books, accordion folds, and any other of the folds that take your fancy. The opportunities and the information are endless!


  1. It took me a long time to understand and come around to the concept of artist books but now I find them quite fascinating. Such a variety of forms and interpretations, which from these experiments in the class I can see may be the perfect presentation for the photo manipulation and mark making work you have been playing with.

    Timothy C. Ely is the artist that made it all come clear and won me over. So fortunate to see his work in person. Here's a link to an interview preceding the exhibit I attended.

    And of course, I blogged about it. :-)

    Looking forward to your continued exploration of this form.

    1. The variety of forms is indeed most enticing. There is much to explore. I'm sure you are right that the genre will suit me well. I had been looking out for some time for a suitable workshop to get me started properly so having one so close to where I live was excellent.
      Thank you very much for the link to Timothy C. Ely. I've just followed up the link briefly- lots to explore there too, I can see.

  2. I can imagine that the accordion book forms will suit your stitched photographs well. This seems like a really good introduction to the genre. I'm so glad that the yard Artspace is working out so positively.

    1. The yard Artspace has been a great find - and I have you to thank for that, Olga. This workshop was particularly good for me and I feel quite excited by all the possibilities, both with and without stitch. Lesley Crawley was excellent, very generous with her knowledge and with so many examples to show possible ways forward.
      I will be posting my first examples shortly!

  3. I went on one of her day courses, simpler book making than yours but very enjoyable, she is s good teacher

    1. Lesley's enthusiasm is indeed most infectious. As you can see, the workshop has given me much to think about.

  4. This art form seems made for you ... it looks very exciting ! Hope you find that workshop near you. I love the bottom photo of your book !
    I'm not very geometrical and know I would be completely lost trying to construct a book like that ;) ! All the power to you !

    1. I think you're right, Sharron. I feel this is made for me, certainly at the moment. It runs well alongside the sketchbook/journals that I love to do as I develop work. I have often felt when I was doing these that my pleasure in them should be telling me something about the book form and it suitability for my photo images.
      The techniques aren't in fact as tricky and geometrical as they look and, certainly in these simple forms, quite quick to do which is satisfying.
      I also want to keep stitching as I find the physical process of drawing the needle through the fabric most relaxing ... and then there's weaving which also has a meditative quality. There's just too much to explore and too little time in which to do it. I feel very lucky!


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