WHY BOOKS?

Louise Jennison installing By This Unwinking Night, 2012, Latrobe Regional Gallery

Gracia Haby installing Charms of the Gloaming, 2012, Port Jackson Press Print Room

Dear you,

We make artists' books collaboratively, as a team, if you like, and have been doing so since 1999. Place the apostrophe before the 's' or after the 's', we don’t mind, we just like to make books. Artists' books with drawings, with elements of collage, hand coloured with pencil or stamped, even cut out and altered ever so slightly. Every step, every part of the process, every learning curve, holds us besotted.

We fell into the making of these artists' books seemingly by accident, without even realising, much like our collaboration. A turn here, a turn there, and here we are. From working in various journals, scrap books, visual diaries and sketch books, and often side-by-side in the studio, it seemed only natural to continue this further and commence making a series of limited edition artists' books.

The medium of the artists' book seemed, to us, to be free of rules and regulations, of do's and don'ts. It also presented many new things to consider, from page layout and sequence to typographical decisions. Which paper stock ought we use? Will we be able to draw over the printed areas? Will a watercolour wash make the paper ripple excessively? How can we get the most out of a singular sheet when it comes to printing a costly albeit small edition? These questions we tossed in the air and arranged upon their landing.

Yes, from the outset we knew next to nothing of the logistics of binding. Could a love of books as reader, and a limited knowledge of the history of artists' books, coupled with a stint in Switzerland to studying experimental binding techniques under Daniel E. Kelm, be enough to guide us along the way? Perhaps.

As we have worked on this loose (positively ballooning) series of books, some of those involved in the inky process of printing them, from Phil Beattie at Hart Printing (in the early period) through to Bernie Rackham at Redwood Prints (currently), have chuckled at the small size of our print run. Along the way, we have been fortunate, very fortunate, to receive assistance and inspiration impossible to measure from bookbinders, offset printers, opticians, hobby supply shop stockists (for the brass wire and rods required in book spines and saddle sections), Dr. Carlos Lemos at the Portuguese Consulate, and many, many others, not least, our friends and family. Who could have foreseen long ago, as we spent many a quiet afternoon happily ensconced in the Chess Reading Room at the State Library of Victoria, looking at a wonderful collection of rare books shown to us by Des Cowley, that we would end up with a small army of artists' books to call our own? From turning the pages of old Atlases decorated magnificently with their deep-sea monsters and ghouls, each of us sporting a pair of white gloves, to now, why, it is proving a long and amusing journey.

We plunged in knowing little and are unlikely to ever end our affair with the artists' book and all the possibilities the medium holds.

Yours in paper covered,
Gracia & Louise


Our artists' books can be found in the collections of: Artspace Mackay; Bibliotheca Librorum Apud Artificem; Deakin University Library; Melbourne University Library; Monash University Library; National Gallery of Australia; RMIT University Library; State Library of New South Wales; State Library of Victoria; State Library of Queensland; Tate (UK); UWE Bristol (UK).