Changeling

I’ve been busy not absent, thinking, not, not thinking.  I just thought I had better say that.

The thing that has been taking up most of my brain is a new project called Book Apothecary – A travelling Artist Book Museum.  I thought to myself that life as an artist is quite lonely with lots of thinking but not enough talking or sharing or see-sawing as I like to think of it and I want to collaborate more, learn new skills and that there were other book artists in the North but no place for us to think and see-saw together.  So I thought I had better do something about that and so a few months pass and I think some more, even write things down on paper and then a funding application (well two actually) later and here we are, breathing and see-sawing and really getting rather excited.  It’s still quite new but we have a holding page here and a booking for Durham Book Festival in October so that’s what’s happening and when more things are ready to be shared then that will go here and also on the there (the website).

In other news, i’ve left my job at The Shed… well this time next week I will have.  I’m going freelance, in the studio full time, making books, not making books, thinking out loud, drawing?  Yes that’ll be a change won’t it?  I’m going to rework this website a bit and then maybe even think about an exhibition, that’ll be good won’t it?  Watch out, here I come!

Book Art – New Book

I was recently asked to take part in a news story for DW-TV for an upcoming book I’m featured in called Book Art.  The book gets released in  April but you can see a sneak peek right here.

Work in Progress

I’ve started cutting for a new sculpture to go into an exhibition in Leeds next month.  I’m really excited about it, it’s the biggest sculpture I’ve made, or will have made once I finish it.  I’ll post progress as I go along, but I’ve already got blisters just thinking about it.

It consists of my childhood copy of Alice in Wonderland.  I’m using books about women written by men.  I sort of regret cutting it as it has sat on my book shelf which isn’t meant for folding.  But then I think, when was the last time I read it?  Why do we hold onto these objects if not to use them?  That’s a whole other debate though.

In other news I’ve made a facebook page.  Please visit me and say hello.

Planning

I’m still striking up a balance between the whole art and craft/design debate of my whole practice and lately the craft/design seems to be taking up a lot of my time.  It’s funny because I guess both strands seem intrinsically interlinked.  Both book sculptural and that.  But for me they really couldn’t be more removed.  I know this because it feels like using different parts of my brain when I work on each.  My designer brain is completely seperated from my art head.  Lately my designer brain is coming up with ideas that are both excellent and saleable.. a difficult feat I’m sure you understand, but a fun one.  It does come over a bit number crunchy at times, but I still, even after all these folds, completely enjoy the process.  I think if I didn’t I wouldn’t do it would I?

On an art focus, I absolutely need to get started on a new sculpture.  There is an exhibition in Leeds coming up at the end of February and I haven’t even started the sculpture.  I have worked out it will take about 15 twelve hour days to complete though, so the planning is in my head (the side I’m still unsure) which I think is always a good start.

Here’s to brain co0ordination and happiness in making!

Reflections and Resolutions

It’s that time of year again where I choose to reflect on the past years goals and make new ones.  I had a quick browse amongst my posts and only really had one goal which I set for myself last year, which was to work towards being a full time artist.

Hmmm not sure I’m there yet but the progress I’ve made to getting myself there has been immense.  In fact in some way I think perhaps I have achieved it.  At the beginning of the year I had been made redundant in my job as a part time volunteer co-ordinator, but managed to get some project management work until April.  Then I got the job I’m doing now which is managing a creative studio part time as well as managing a public art project.  Even though this work isn’t directly working as an artist, it is contributing towards my professional development and I am much better connected amongst other artists and arts organisations and funders than ever before.  So I would say that is mega progress.  On the other side of the coin is my practice.  Balancing a job (that pays the bills) and my work has been a real struggle, yet still I have achieved:

  • Established a relationship with a gallery through a supported artist programme
  • Three solo exhibitions in the region
  • Series of workshops in an empty shop
  • Working towards my first publication
  • Press featured in three regional publications
  • Included in exhibiting at a major art fair
  • Exhibited at Glasgow International Book Fair
  • Joined Axis

When you put it like that, it’s pretty good isn’t it?  Okay so this year has been pretty fantastic!  It makes me realise how important it is to reflect on the years achievements.  So with that in mind, it would be a good idea to list a few things that didn’t go so well…

  • Unsuccessful application to Northern Futures Prize (but out of this, was asked by Axis director to join Axisweb)
  • Unsuccessful application to David Canter Memorial Fund
  • A couple of opportunities that didn’t get realised including a restaurant and hotel commission (what can I do to make this successsful for me in the future?)
  • Unsuccessful application to public art commission in Canada – I was probably punching above my weight to be fair

Righto, onto next years goals.  For me, I really would like to look at opportunities outside of the region and abroad of possible, though that last one might be something for 2012.  I’d like to have or be working towards an offer of

  • one solo exhibition outside of the region
  • one group exhibition outside of the region
  • A paid residency to develop new work
  • Regular income from workshops or sales of work
  • Attendance of at least one artist book fair outside of the region
  • Development of new project Artist Book Mentoring Scheme
  • Publication
  • One public art commission

That’s quite a bit actually, but I think I need to challenge myself more than ever now.  The first two goals are in progress at the moment and hopefully I’ll have some good news about them at the end of January.  Fingers crossed.

Axis Choice

I’m thrilled to announce that I have been chosen as Axis Choice all week in the directory pages.  To see it click here.

I only joined Axis quite recently, prompted by Axis Director Sheila McGregor who contacted me following an unsuccessful (or successful?)  entry into the Northern Futures Prize.  It’s been great for my development, getting the word out there amongst curators and artists and have had a few opportunities come through already.  It’s by far the best thing I’ve done for my practice and welcome many more opportunities and connections in the future.

Essay by Stephen Pritchard

I’m working on a book project at the moment, more details to follow soon.   Stephen Pritchard from Globe Gallery has written this essay for it, but thought that it was such an excellent summary of my ideas and focus, it needed to be shared here too.

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Yvette Hawkins, An Essay by Stephen Pritchard.

Hawkins work centres on the significance of book as object.  The book’s traditional role as container and conveyor of information is subverted, recontextualised: form replaces content; paper denominates words; literal language becomes structural language.  Her work is liberating, her artistic inquiry asking whether an unread book can still say something.

Hawkins’ sculptural process is an act of magical recycling, turning discarded tomes into beautiful art objects.  With their covers removed, the pages are set free.  Their creams, yellows and browns subtly shift depending on light and perspective; their textures unique as fingerprints, little tears here, forgotten creases their; their lingering odours tracing past lives back to long-dead wood.  With careful precision and monotonous repetition, Hawkins cuts and trims then folds and folds and folds.  The books become physical objects, often appearing uniform at first glance, uniquely individual upon closer investigation.

Hawkins’ work is rooted in a commitment to socially engaging practice, often involving members of the public at various stages of the making and presenting process as well through their interactions with the finished installations.  Her first major installation, Their Silence, A Language (The Globe Gallery, 2009) examined notions of memories, relationships with language and the experience of seeing before reading.  One thousand two hundred cylindrical second hand books were, with the help of more than fifty volunteers, transformed to create a beguiling installation reminiscent of an ancient monument – a cylindrical maze of suspended colonnades.  Yet Hawkins’ conceptual practice also imbued her work with contemporary spirit, cleverly lighting the columns of books so they glowed ghostly shades; secretly whispering recorded memories from deep within their cores.  The result was typical of Hawkin’s approach, compelling viewers to interact with space, transporting them into distant worlds of past lives, secrecy and lost stories; always exploring the hidden spaces of language.

Hawkins is the first artist to participate in The Globe Gallery’s Supported Artist Programme and she has worked collaboratively with the organisation on two other major installations as well as several participatory workshop programmes.  The appropriately entitled Nothing to Read Here saw Hawkins transform a disused shop in a Northumbrian coastal port into a monument that celebrated renewal – the reopening a retail premises as a temporary art installation redefined the rules, creating a different type of ‘public’ space: a place of engagement and interaction rather than consumption.  Her most recent exhibition No Land in Particular explored fictional landscapes using imagined texts as both object and line.  Hawkins’ cartographic intervention created a three dimensional map where her recycled book sculptures drew lines that sometimes appeared to follow the gallery’s contours but also had a tendency to meander.

Hawkins’ practice is inherently deconstructive, decentred and steeped in the language of semiotics.  Her dismantled books reflect Derrida’s assertion that no text is discreet or unified, that texts deconstruct themselves indefinitely.  Likewise, her installations create playfully decentred worlds reminiscent of Barthes insistence that works of art do not create a self-contained meaning but objects contingent upon infinitely shifting fields of interchange and interaction.

Hawkins’ work is therefore steeped in the language of cultural sign processes, analogy and metaphor; a study in object and language and their deeply interactive interplay where lines between signs, signifiers and signified blur.  Her book sculptures are both real and imagined.  By disrupting concepts of ’seeing,’ she creates mesmerising worlds interwoven with objects of literary and physical illusion.

Stephen Pritchard is Programme Manager at The Globe Gallery in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. He is an art historian and writer with a strong interest in socially engaging contemporary arts practice. He lectures on participation and volunteering in the arts. With a previous background in fabric and garment design and business, he is also particularly interested in improving arts management systems and models.

Photo’s courtesy of Rosella Studio

I’ll reveal more details of the project closer to completion.

Moving left, moving right

It’s been a busy few months.  It’s safe to say that probably about only 20% of an artists time is spent making or showing work and I have this thing about writing text only blog posts, so this is my rather weightless apology as to why I haven’t blogged much.   At the same time though, am trying to run a practice while running two arts projects… it’s a difficult task, impossible at times.. especially during the dark wintry days when the prospects of book reading and roaring fires overtake the need for making and natural light.

Mostly though, with regards to my practice, I’ve been pondering.  Here is a list of said ponderings:

Direction: relating to two areas, art and craft.  It’s funny how people put these two things together and I can see why: they both relate to aesthetics and the act of making.  But for me these areas belong to two completely different worlds.  One of thought and concept, the other of function and process.

I’ve been trying to stitch these two together but there are so many decisions to be made and I fear I’ll make the wrong one.  An example of this is multiples vs production line.  I won’t deny that I want to run a sustainable practice and I see such wonderful things on places like etsy and I think, wouldn’t it be wonderful to just make and make and make and be able to afford everything I ever want or need in the world.  The prospect of making a living out of my work is still very much a dream for me.  On the other hand I have a strong connection to the ideas and concepts behind the work that I make and that for me, these objects came from an idea that I want to communicate to the world.  I don’t want that idea to be lost through mass production and consumerism, so for me to take the craft route that seems to be so srongly linked with making copies of a design, it would in some way counter act the reason I made the piece in the first place.  I guess this brings me to multiples which is something that is much more linked to art and books and prints and that sort of thing.  To make a limited edition of works allows me to find that balance without losing the original concept.  I think I definitely want to go down this road and include more of a variety.

However, it’s also really important to me to maintain this role of craft in my work.  Skills like bookbinding are slowly being lost in the world and I have a real affinity with the heritage of that way of working.  Bringing these skills into non craft environments is also a key aspect of my work.

Installation: For me the installations is the crux of all of my work and I want to continue working in these, but in different ways, maybe different materials or different approaches to paper.  I think the prospect of following a kinetic route or looking at how technology can work with paper works is an area I’d like to explore.

Group Shows: I definitely want to be part of more group shows.  I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have solo shows this early in my career and that is something I will alsways endeavour to continue.  But to be amongst other credible artists is something I would really value and hope that collaborations can be formed.

Collaborations: I would really like to work with another artist(s).  Not sure how or when or where.  I like the idea of working with a kinetic artist or a performance group or even filmmaker.  In fact I think I would also be open to the idea of some sort of partnership if I met the right person.  This sounds like a lonely hearts ad doesn’t it?  Maybe it is…

Newcastle Gateshead Art Fair

I’m taking part in this years Newcastle Gateshead Art Fair at The Sage Gateshead.  There’ll be a mixture of new and older pieces available at Globe Gallery’s stand in the Emerging Artist Showcase.  If you get the chance to pop along come and say hello.  The show is on 1st-3rd October 11-5pm.  See you there!

Books about women written by men

I’m working on a new proposal for an exhibition.  Thinking about the Sewing Circle sculptures, I’ve decided to further explore the role of women in bookbinding and go on a bit of a tangent with experimenting with books, corsetry, sewing materials and victorian accessories.  I’ve also decided that the subject matter of the books needs to have more focus, so I’m on the lookout for books about women written by men, particularly within the victorian era but not necessarily limited to.  I would welcome some suggestions.  So far I’ve come up with the obvious Alice in Wonderland, Lolita novels.  Any others are most welcome.  If I use any of the suggestions sent in via twitter or as a comment on this blog I’ll credit you in the exhibition, how’s about that eh?

Looking forward to your suggestions.