**STOP PRESS** Christmas Open Studio is Sat 1 Dec and Sun 2 Dec at Parade Mews more
I have many ‘journals’ – or ‘day books’, maybe. For recipes, for glazing, for day-to-day stuff I need to remember. It’s frustrating though, they often fall apart: the glue ages, the binding tears, or the paper’s too thin. But it’s almost too hard to write in really expensive blank books. The only book that’s really lasted is my Mailing list book (thank you Sarah Falla, who made it!) which is coptic-bound. So I set out to make myself some.
Luckily I already had linen thread, needles, and glue. My first few books were made with old covers from books I had which were both duplicates and falling apart, together with some photocopier paper and old paper pads from work. Endpapers were OS maps from charity shops.
It’s surprising how many old pads I found at home and at work. Plus old address books, unused sketch books, left over water-colour paper. Meanwhile, buying ‘millboard’ and special book-cloth, available online now like almost anything, seemed a bit extravagant. Although buying tools and materials is addictive for makers, and I did buy a ‘bone folder’, a cutting mat (essential), and more linen thread!
I’m lucky that I volunteer at a charity shop that sells books. It’s shocking how many books come in that are mouldy, damp, written-on, or just plain unsaleable (“Laws of the Gold Coat, 1936, 5 volumes”). So I buy up these unsaleables, and keep just the covers.
I’m also trying to upcycle the inner ‘endpaper’: using old maps, old catalogues, origami paper. Nice end papers are hard to find though, so I’ve started making my own with a bit of calligraphy. Endpapers are traditionally (and reversibly) stuck with flour-and-water paste, which seems strange but really works.
It feels great to be re-using, re-cycling, these very old-fashioned materials. The patched-up papers, the foxed, the worn are such a pleasure to use and handle – and look great too: better than the new, pristine, perfect. Of course, the hours of pleasure I get from making them doesn’t compute with any economic analysis of manufacturing costs, if I was thinking of selling them.
I’m beginning to think this is at the core of the artistic ‘project’: it just doesn’t make any kind of sense in economic terms, whether you are Hirst selling to the Sacklers for drug-money, a maker on ‘money for nothing’ on the TV (what a title), or one of the many now-famous artist who never sold/published in their lifetime. Alfred Wallis died in the workhouse. But this just means we all have to acknowledge there’s more to life than consumer capitalism, and maybe recognise the undiscussed schism at its heart.