And so the time had come…summer freedom!
A road trip up North, with a slight 3 day detour to York, I arrived in Leeds, for my first time ever…both to the city and to The Society of Bookbinders (SoB) Conference, as a blessed Bursary winner!
I felt so lucky for so many different reasons: a 3 night stay with an ensuite bathroom (sans kids) with food included; a visit to the spectacular Brotherton Library in town (let’s face it any library would do, but this one, wow, wow, wow); a chance to indulge in booky related talks & demos (I went to four on each day), to drool over the exquisite entries in this years competition, to hyperventilate at the Suppliers Fair over how much I was spending (was there enough left to pay the rent? did I care?) to breathe the same air as some of my Bookbinding (BB) idols, to spend quality time at the bar & pool table with my favourite BB buddies & to meet some news ones, from far flung countries like America, Australia & yes….Wales! Total BB immersion!
It felt like heaven…except it was Leeds.
I never wanted it to end…& it hadn’t even started!
It was intense. As a Bursary winner, & a first timer, I felt obliged to make the effort of attending as many of the talks as possible. I had juggled with the timetable, weeks before when booking, but as one speaker cancelled it required rethinking. It worked out fine & I think there were only a few speakers that I unfortunately had to miss.
I had hoped to start with Audubon to feast the eyes on, but as it was, it became the most glorious Finale! The conservation work that the team did on those volumes, was nothing less than awe inspiring! I loved Philippa’s fun pink Flamingos too, and bird song playing as we settled ourselves down to our last talk, all bristling with excitement at the thought of the Conference dinner & the upcoming Auction.
But I digress to the end too soon.
There were many gems before that.
None more so, than Stephan Ortbauer’s talk. I had never heard of him, but the fact he was talking about Artists Books attracted me, so off I went.
I had already spoken with his wife, Heidelinde, about the fabulous ‘Tiger’s Eye’ marbled papers they were selling in the Fair, that were a little over my budget, but were totally awe inspiring. I settled in. Stephan is a very dynamic, engaging and funny speaker and he brought some amazing work with him from Vienna.
In particular I was attracted to the extremes in scale in the work he showed, from very large to very tiny. (A personal favourite theme of mine, obvious to anyone who has ever stood next to me!)
There were Thomas Stimm’s large Tree books, approx 1 x 1.5m. Images of different trees were screen printed (?) onto large sheets of paper which were glued into a split wooden dowel spine. These books are so large, and I presume heavy, that they need at least two people to handle them and turn the pages. Another artist that struck me was Turi Werkner. He is a collector of many different types of object and especially his own work. He has filled at least 958 books with his drawings and paintings, many automatic expressions with liberal use of brightly coloured inks, which I also love producing. Some dark, almost sinister, others bright, fun and humorous. He has even filled one book with his own ‘Idiomatik’ language.
Stephan sources his papers especially for each individual artist’s needs, depending on the media, they intend to use, and the finished product/book. One papermaker that he uses and who he said “makes the thinnest (or was it finest) paper in the Western World” is Gangolf Ulbricht, based in Berlin. Some of the sketchbooks are seemingly simple stab bindings often with bare boards, but the finish is impeccable and one can feel the excellent quality of the materials being used.
Stephan makes books for many artists, he also collects artist’s books. He makes small miniature blank books which he sends out to artists, who then, hopefully, fill them with art and send them back to him.
I have always collected small artists books, primarily for financial reasons but also for their aesthetic beauty. (There was a gorgeous little travelling library, of mini vellum bound classics at The Brotherton that is worth a second trip, to Leeds, for sure.)
I couldn’t resist. I asked Stephan, how one went about getting one of these little blank books of his. I was suddenly filled with the desire to have one of my own books within his collection. A discussion about my artistic background and my plans to start a Book Arts MA the following week, later…one was mine.
A further conversation with Heidi about deadlines (end of this calendar year…watch this space) and I was the now very nervous temporary guardian of one of Stephan’s books!
Now what to fill it with?