Bird, soul

The book is the story; the story is what we keep, failings and successes, longings and fulfilments; the shades of all of us; what it is to be alive. Wrapping black, soft feather embrace, unfolding to find wings of paper, layers of soft and firm, sounding and silent, tucked inside. Writing for the soul.

The best thing for me about working with the Knicker Drawer Books is how inspiring they are. Here are the objects for your narration; link them, part them, place them, wrap them around with your times, moods, places, characters, and states of being. Make of them what you will. A book of collaborative art, perhaps, or a story shared between us, told in different ways.


A book of no little curiosity

What a curiosity is this?

A book. Found, we might fancy, in an old junk box, or buried at the back of a dimly-lit shop, rising gently from the settled dust of years.

Covered by a deep brown leather, reused, perhaps more than once, now scratched and cut; it is wrinkled, uneven, maybe bears the memory of a wound. Fragile, yet tough, it has a soft, gentle feel. The catching of the stitches ribs the fingers like a gentle scar.

On the cover, three objects. What purpose brings them here? Tell them together, see them apart; they bring to mind a story, a place where you can begin, or end.

But here's an oddity. The cover has a strange way of inviting your fingers to explore; as if something - a lost object - has been inserted inside, once for safe keeping, but now removed, or fallen. What would you keep in here? Perhaps secured by a pin?

Open this curious book.

Feel and hear: the papers rustle, shifting one against another. Wax rubs against felt, against net, against tissue. Soon, some of these papers will crinkle, change under the exposure of light, and age under your touch.

A curiosity. A book that is stitched to change over time, as do you, and all we live with.

Peer inside. Here is a strange book. Filled with private places, hidden folds, and discreet tucks.

What an odd idea then, that comes into a book owner's head! As if a calling spirit of a bird passed by, and folded a wing to keep safe inside, a secret.


Book for a (thinking) storyteller

Working on this storyteller's book has been an absolute delight and a fitful struggle, so good will come of it.

Warning!! Grit is now about to wax filosofical and akademik. Like when she has a funny turn poetic in the apple orchard, come autumn. There she is moved to give fulsome praise to the glorious apple, measuring out her years in brown pips and apple bellies.

(Now you can see how there may be a bloody mangled crime scene ahead.)

The brief for this book contained a reference not only to thinking, but to physicality. This in turn sent me thinking about the physicality of the book. This is one of the absolute design inspirations for Grit's hand-made juicy delights.

Normal bookbinding requires that the physical presence of the book does not change over time. Acid free glues, waxed linens, strong woven papers all help to keep the book secure as a physical object. But I want a book to change - sometimes I stitch degrading organic material into a book (a big conventional bookbinding No No); but specifically I want your book to change, physically, under your hand, so that it becomes a shape and a memory of you - the way you hold the spine, turn the page, lay the book on a desk, throw it in a bag or a drawer. I want the book to take on the thought of you, the smell of you, in the way of an old coat or a favourite scarf. I want the book to become you.*

When I deliver the book to you, I want it to come already to you with layers - literal layers of papers and textures - but I want those layers of material physicality to hint too at story layers of intent, purpose, whimsy; stories which are potential or fragmented, and which you may see, or not see.

This seems to me the way we all interact with any place and location, wherever we are - shop, street, kitchen - we are surrounded by layers, some of which we have made and given meanings, and some of which are made by others. As we move through that physical and material environment, we add our own layers and our own meanings. There are of course many blank pages in the books - they are note books after all - but inside, as you add your own thoughts and ideas into this physical space, the book will layer your experience further on and on; I want to create the book that invites you to do so, then the book becomes more complex, more rich and telling - your sound of sympathy, empathy, contradiction, powerlessness, pain, frivolity, power. Your book becomes a personal telling within a story within a work of art within a physical place. **

Finally (thank someone's God for that), I want the book not to be new. (This clearly puts me on tricky ground if I'd like to sell a few.) We have been trained by a consumer world to reject objects old, battered, torn, stained, and buy fresh, clean, new. I don't want that. I use hide off-cuts, cast-offs, rejected items, thrown away pieces. If they are old, worn and aged, so much the better. The stain is a memory, the scar tells a history, the battered edge speaks of another time, and the chime of a charm is an echo to a different place. When you receive your book, storyteller, it won't be new.

The holes are intentional.


* I should say at this point I'm not in love with you or anything creepy. I haven't been stalking you. It's just that the language I use for thinking through the making of the book and the language of love seem to be the same.

** I'm off to a different place now, maybe exploring the work of schizocartography by Tina Richardson to see how I can express those intriguing ideas within the physicality of a book. 


The book for the wild words of story

I could barely stop myself with this one. I had to slap myself around a bit to put it down. It was so darned feisty!

I had to brave my way across the chasm, face the demons, snatch the dragon heart, flee the smoky scene, rescue the helpless knight, then bound the bridge to safety! Hoping all the time the dainty silver chain of my telling tale held me safe, and never let me fall.

The book for this story-laden owner I stitched with possibilities in mind, guided by thoughts of dramas reshaping and reforming, old stories combining from new origins to reach new points of departure. The leather crack reveals a scaly skin; the stitched inserts twirl and swirl; you choose to layer the ribbon, felt and net. A book of things familiar, a book of things changed, a book of stories yet to be told.


Transformation, renewal, memory, healing

The brief for this book contains those lovely words, tranquil, healing, growth. I've used a neutral suede wrap and stitched gentle colours throughout. The objects given I've used in stitching to bring them into the whole of the book. Do these strange wild objects tell a story when combined? Do they tell us truths when apart? Do they connect together only by an unrevealed narrative that peaceful contemplation can find?

The Knicker Drawer books all invite you to consider the narration of object; the bringing together of disparate items for story-making, tradition-telling, truth-finding.

A book of delicacy, fragility, vulnerability. The way we deal with those traits in other people shows us who we are.


Steampunk selection

I've had my head down for the past few weeks, solidly stitching books in preparation for Knicker Drawers' first show at The Asylum. It was an absolutely splendid time, and I thoroughly enjoyed creating books for you wonderful people! Thank you!