Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Reflections on return

Susan and I have returned from Auckland with our heads still full and buzzing with ideas.  The conference was a remarkable gathering of primarily Australian and New Zealand book workers. I liked the term book workers as it so nicely embraced us all - artists' book makers; conservators; fine press book printers; artisan book binders and probably some other variants as well.

The first keynote speaker was Julie Chen who shared so very openly the processes behind the making of her books - the years of research that go into them and the highly considered ideas and content that form the basis of the books. She also spoke about how structure and content must support each other and it was a really engaging talk.

This a photo from her website of a book called "Invented Landscape" she spoke a length about her research and how she worked so hard to find the right imagery of the grass and how the format indicated that sense of wide open grasslands...

She was a warm and knowledgeable speaker and it was a great talk.


The other keynote speaker was Dominic Reilly, a master book binder if ever I saw one. I was completely and utterly gobsmacked with how beautifully this man could cover a book. The absolute detail and perfection in his covers, and the days and days of work to get there.  I really liked how he read the books and then worked out what he wanted to express on the cover, and how. His use of abstraction was also wonderful - and very helpful to have him explain where the elements were, they were often so cleverly obscured.

This is one of his designer bindings - The Dead (not exactly sure of the title) by Thomas Hardy.
Because of the format of concurrent sessions, it wasn't possible to attend every session, but we did get to hear a lot of different people. I listened to some amazing talks on conservation and preservation as well as some beautiful presentations on binding and letterpress.

Many of them held me spellbound and I kept wondering how I could use and or incorporate some of the ideas in my own work. Caren Florence (aka Ampersand Duck) spoke so wonderfully about text and poetry in book work and Monica Oppen showed us through some of her collection - in details and with the wonder of an owner explaining why the books are so meaningful.

A fragment of a work Caren shared.


It was heaven on a stick for booklovers; with wonderful trade tables of conservation materials, bone-folders, leathers for binding and letterpress broadsides and books.

Susan and I had not managed to book into the studio tour that was held on the Monday; but as serendipity would have it, when we got downstairs to start our own wander of Auckland, the group was assembled in the foyer waiting to be picked-up. They had had a couple of cancellations and we were welcome to go with them! That turned into a wonderful visit to the Museum of Transport and Technology - to the printery and bindery there; a visit to Paul Taylor's Spiral Path Studio filled with conservation and preservation things and books and tools, and a final explore of Elizabeth Steiner's studio.

Here are some snap shots of the day...

Happy days in the printery at MOTAT - ahhh, letterpress.




A fabulous wee binding in the bindery at MOTAT


A book awaiting conservation at Paul's, along with his nipping press and a map waiting to be restored.




A page and a book in Elizabeth's studio.



So much wonder to absorb, and such a great way to spend time - with lovers of books in all their forms. I had never been to a book conference before and will definitely go to more. You learn and absorb so much and meet such great people!

It flowed really well, the food was great, everybody was so welcoming and so generous with their time and knowledge.  Thanks to the organisers of ABCNZ014 - Inside Outside a case for the book - you did a fabulous job.

18 comments:

  1. fiona, this sounds just amazing, so very well organized. you got some rock stars, too, julie and dominic. i bet you would love PBI!

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    1. I bet I would too Velma! Must check out the next dates... It was fabulous and Julie and Dominic were both so warm and giving. Still floating really...

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  2. what a fantastic post Fiona! will you share the transcript of your talk about collaboration?

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    1. Thanks so much Mo - you can find it over at Pretext if you follow the link over at the most recent blog post. Hope that helps! Go well.

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  3. ooo fantastic -- I was wondering if this was the same conference that caren was sharing fb posts about (mid one presentation she sent me back a message that there was a gal talking about books and matches :) ) --- meeting julie chen would have been a ripper!

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    1. It was all delicious and amazing Ronnie!

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  4. Sounds like a wonderful time. The conservation photos reminded me of when my husband was working a contract at the National Archives here in the UK. I got to go through the room where they were doing similar things to old books. My husband is a technical author. He was there to help write a manual for their programme that retrieves information on outdated computer platforms. For instance, Blue Peter children's show did a Doomsday project in the 80's which was supposed to be able to tell people in the future things about what was going on then. But already by the early 21st century the only place where the info on their technology could be read was at the National Archive!

    If you get to England, the National Archives is very near Kew Gardens. You can see some things like parts of the Doomsday book.

    Anyway, that was a bit more than I meant to say in Comment! But it does show you the Doomsday book is still here and can be read, where the technology is obsolete in 25 years and you have to jump through hoops to access the information!
    Hurrah for books!
    Sandy in the UK

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    1. Thanks so much Snady - that was a great way to illustrate how books are the ultimate time-lasting tools and technology! I often think about floppy disks and CDs etc and how so much stuff will no longer be accessible. It was the most wonderful time indulging in all this bookishness beauty. Go well.

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  5. Sounds amazing. So many things and thoughts, an overdose of ideas. Just what I like.

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    1. I did overdose just a bit Lyndell - and met a number of your colleagues from Canberra! It was marvellous though and inspiring and exciting and...as you can see, I'm still revelling in the experience! Go well.

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  6. I enjoyed reading this, Fiona. It sounds like a great conference and that you and Susan had a wonderful time. I think what is so appealing is that it was inclusive of a combination of people working with books in different ways and offered opportunities to see things from different points of view.

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    1. I think you cracked it Helen - it was wonderful to see the love of the book from so many different perspectives and to see how different folk practised art and craft and skills of the highest order. I am still distilling it all...

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  7. Thank you, Fiona, for this glimpse into the conference. I'm still sad that I couldn't go at the last minute though I know I will see photos and read reports in the next few weeks. But these are the first I've seen and I can tell it was wonderful.

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    1. I was sad you couldn't be there too Carol! It was a wonderful gathering and I'm sure lots more will come out of it too.

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  8. What a fabulous experience for you both - I am overwhemed just thinking about the logistics of your presentation and the opportunities to see such amazing accomplished book art.

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    1. It was mind-boggling at times N; I came away wishing I could have a few more lifetimes to learn all the other skills as well! Just amazing to be in the presence of so many like-minded yet totally different folk. Still walking on air just a little bit...

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  9. Hi Fiona, so wonderful to read yours and Susan's overviews of the whole event. Congratulations on the presentation of your paper, and thank you for posting it on Caren's website. Makes for very interesting reading and extremely thought provoking.

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    1. Thanks Rob - the whole experience was wonderful, including giving the presentation and sharing our work and what we have learned. I really really hope we get the chance to go to another one sometime. Loads to think about and ponder and some fabulous folk to connect with. Go well!

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