Friday, February 27, 2009

You can't save everything in this world. but you can make it worth it's living


It seems to be the way lately that whenever I take some things outside to be photographed (which is nearly everyday thanks to my listing approximately 254,304 things on eBay) our little white kitty feels the need to help. Generally her favourite way of doing this is to spread her hair all over everything, and insist that my hands would be better put to use patting her than arranging some boring old earrings on a bit of old wood.

As well as become an eBay freak, I started making some more covered notebooks- making a dint in my sizable 'old book bits' collection.


The cover for this one is from a great 1950s book which is designed to teach women how to be charming, graceful, pretty- but also how to educate yourself, what kind of sports a lady can play, and other general things we all seemed to need to be able to do back then in order to be real women. It's so charmingly out-of-date and filled with great pictures of lanky, buck-toothed farm girls becoming swan-necked belles. Hilarious in an eye-rolling kind of way.


I love the book pages I used to seal the end papers on this first covered book- from a 19th century novel that was falling to pieces. The paper is like bible pages, the letterpress so heavily indented you can run your finger over the page and feel it like braille; the ink so dark that the print shows through the other side. It has the sweetest tiny little illustrations at the end of every chapter.


Using books in collage is an interesting game. I grew up in a house full of books, my father is an avid collector and my mother is a librarian- it's taken me years to get up the moxy to take a blade to a book! I started with cheap 60s paperbacks and slowly worked up from there.

There are a few good 'excuses' for taking a book apart and I admit that not all books I find end up murdered- some of them I just can't bring myself to ruin! But some are easy to kill- falling apart, extremely boring in subject but lovely of cover, born into the world as ten cent trash...then there are books you can convince yourself you're ridding the world of by slicing their spine.

One great example is a book I bought last week at the thrift. I wanted it mostly for it's time ravaged and embossed cover but the subject was interesting too; it was about tigers. It was only upon getting home and reading it properly did I realise it was about shooting tigers. Lovely. The cover came off and the rest when in the bin, hunting trophy photographs and all.


1. "Lovely", 2. cover of my book 'voices', 3. Vintage Sheet Music Stack, 4. new inspiration in my studio, 5. L'école de médecine vétérinaire, 6. Grace, 7. Love is here, 8. Untitled, 9. Ancient Pages

It's a similar situation with lace, textiles, buttons... some of them are so old and you think to yourself that there are collectors out there ready with a wallet full of cash for these things. But probably more so than books, lace buttons and fabrics need to be used. It's their purpose in life to be crafted into something. I find using vintage and antique things in art to be one of the best ways of appreciating old things. Just because something is old doesn't make it precious or valuable, especially if it's worn out or run down or otherwise decrepit (just the way I like 'em). My way of concentrating my material gathering on the broken and decayed is a way of re-using what the collectors don't want, and in using it to make art I hope to teach people how to see the beauty unnoticed.

An old book with a lovely cover can be bought by someone and end up on their dusty shelf, might never be read, never be touched, just another slab of paper resting on a stretch of wood. But take it apart, layer it in art, hang it on the wall...is it not better used? It has a purpose again- the object has become more than it's information, and perhaps in it's transfiguration from everyday object to art object, even gained in value. Why do we put such stock in these old things? Is art more valuable when the book itself was a valuable thing? Could I charge more for a covered notebook I make if I used a first edition Agatha Christie?

Interesting question. And I do have one too...

7 comments:

ArtSnark said...

I know a librarian who would cringe at this post, but I thoroughly enjoyed it! Lovely pics too (as always)

Susan Shaw said...

I am still stuck in the admirations tage, and bring myself to destroy a book. I have a lovely pertial set of the Book of Knowledge - lovely covers, suede accents, and you can't get a better title than that. Full of glossy images of the extent of 'knowledge' as it was in the 1920s.

But do you think I can bring myself to fold, staple or mutilate? I need your secret...

greavesdesign said...

I often find myself thinking of these very things...
I covet vintage buttons etc. but I can't bring myself to collect them for collectings' sake. I like to make use of them in my cuffs and chokers so they can be 'alive' and seen in the world.

It is a tiny bit like caging a bird... it is a rather one sided way to admire beauty. If it's free flying about many people will chance to see it...

Seth said...

While I love reading books...I have found myself more engrossed by their make-up and their break-down. Such an amazing mosaic of images in this post.

Sophie Appleby said...

I love books as you know and I have worked in a library and I think the recreation of books is one of the most beautiful forms of art. I love working with bits of books in my collages and just adore what you are doing. I think it is giving them a new life. I definitely think you could charge more for first edition covers! I would totally by one! Thank you for the inspiring post. Have a wonderful weekend.
Sophie xx

kate said...

well i have only just stumbled upon your blog but im in love already. all your beautiful photos and objects and books. wow im in heaven! you must have the most amazing collection of objects! im jealous :)

im going to much time trawling through all your posts, and will be back again soon! thanks for such a lovely blog!

india said...

on the other hand you can save things for years and years only to see them eaten by a bushfire [i speak from experience] or have them destroyed in a war [grandmother's stories]
so go your hardest!