Making Books22 Dec 2015, by Learning in
Drummond Community High School
1-4 September 2014
The concept of the project was to combine 4 disciplines: Bookbinding, Embroidery, Spanish and Printmaking with the overall aim to create a handmade book which would represent and reflect the individual participant’s experiences of different cultures, languages, and migration in a creative way.
This was the first time that these 4 disciplines were offered together. The underlying thought was that from previous experience Bookbinding and Printmaking worked very well together. Adding the elements of Embroidery / Sewing / Stitching and Spanish representing languages would be additional puzzle pieces which would give participants the opportunity to reflect on their language and cultural experiences with the chance to bind and stitch those together through creative exploration of printmaking and bookbinding.
The project team: Elizabeth Allen – Embroidery, Marian Davidson – Spanish, Jenny Findlay – Printmaking, Susie Wilson – Bookbinding / Printmaking and Birgit Harris – Community Programme Manager met 3 times to discuss and prepare the project. The art tutors are well known and respected artists as well as experienced tutors. The Embroidery tutor is about to complete her training with the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court. The team – fully aware of the very personal and potentially emotional aspects of this particular project – wanted to give participants a safe way of exploring the themes of the project. A very simple exercise was chosen as the starting point: participants were asked to write down: A name, place, date, journey, country, language, word. These spontaneously given answers were the inspirational starting points for the participants to create a book. Two members of the team shared their answers with the group so that participants would feel comfortable to do so too, initially only in pairs and then slowly with the whole group if they so wished. Participants had also been asked to bring an object, a word, a poem etc. along which was important to them which they could show, or read to the group. Together – the exercise and the individual objects provided the platform for participants to make their individual books. The art tutors showed different examples of handmade books, printmaking and embroidery / stitching which were possible in the given time frame and which could be used to translate the individual’s story artistically. The language tutor collected the words the participants had chosen and they were displayed in big print on the wall. The languages used were: English, French, German, Gujarati, Italian, Maori and Spanish.
This first day provided a great introduction into the project and gave all participants, and tutors a great buzz in tackling the task. All tutors worked individually with each participant. The group atmosphere was very good and participants engaged in conversation with each other, talking about their individual stories and experiences. All participants and the tutors lived and breathed the project for the four days – most looking out more photos or things that would fit into their book and many working on dry-point etchings or drawings at home – sometimes into the late hours. One participant said in a very positive way: “I am pleased this project is only lasting 4 days – I could not cope with it much longer as it is all consuming. I could not think of anything else.”
The books produced are absolutely stunning and tell each individual’s story using drawings, dry etching, gelatine prints, photographs, maps, embroidered letters, stitched writing, printed writing in different languages, parts of the books sewn together. Each book is individual with individual creation of art work.
Some participant have been involved in art classes before – for some it was a new experience. The artistic results are impressive, the (new) skills learnt amazing: like printmaking, bookbinding, embroidery techniques, sewing, dry etching. On the last day all participants shared their book project with each other.
It was an ambitious but very successful project with the individual disciplines complementing each other fantastically well. The embroidery / stitching really added the special element of connection – linking – binding.