Tuesday, April 24, 2012

UNESCO World Book Day - Day of Wonder

Whilst researching information about Book Towns recently, I discovered that UNESCO had determined that 23 April was World Book Day.  I mentioned this casually to Susan one day when we were checking dates for a meeting, and said "we should do something".  So we booked it in and only started to think about it again last week.

We decided we would try to make a book or work on a book on the day, and gradually our approach emerged. We would each work on some pages, the beginning of the book, bring them along to to have the other work into them a bit and then have them returned to us to complete.

This ended up being a lovely approach. It meant we were providing some inspiration and a sense of guidance to the other, but it also meant that they would truly leave their mark on our book. By being able to take it home and complete it, by adding and subtracting elements, it also meant that we would truly feel like we 'owned' the book.

It was funny to discover that Susan shared the sheer panic I had the night before - too scared to touch each other's work and not ruin it, but we overcame that as we sat together in the studio.

Susan's beautiful etchings, some delicious get paper and warm white paper and tracing paper, that she asked me to work with.

The day unfolded gently, as we sat and stared at the work and what we were asked to work with. Wondering if this would add; would that? What could I bring; how could I link?  We made design decisions, only to toss them out; we chose materials and then figured no; that wasn't right.

 I wondered if bleed-out lines of ink would complement the etchings?

I knew I couldn't work the etching pages themselves; but maybe the tracing paper that sat over them?

Some of these ideas found their place in the pages; others didn't...

We worked in silence pretty much - but stopped and discussed how the process was unfolding. First off we were not totally surprised to see we were working with similar materials; that Susan had brought tracing paper to work and so had I. That I had collected some nice scraps of khadi paper to add - Susan had brought some with her as well.

New guides appeared as we worked - that we were both free to add what we wanted, order the pages as we wanted, choose how many to work with; suggest finished formats to each other. We each had lovely moments where we went " oh I'll go this far, but leave it to her to take it where she wants...". Permission was given for each of us to ignore something the other had done - work over it or around it when the pages were returned. We also worried at different times that our work was too much 'ours' that it wouldn't look like 'theirs'. Which as we discussed, was the whole point - we wanted to be able to see each other in the work; I wasn't trying to 'be' Susan on her pages and she wasn't trying to 'be' me. But, we also held the other and their work and style at the front of our minds, and didn't do anything that would overwhelm or work against it.

We also ended up giving ourselves a bit of a timeframe for completion.  We didn't want to turn it into a pressured issue for us and make the magic go away; but we didn't want to leave it so long the energy of the day drifted out. So next Monday we shall have completed them.

I can't begin to say how much I enjoyed the day. It was a totally new experience for me - to work alongside with somebody, trying to honour their work and yours, creating things of beauty. Both of us teach, but we weren't teaching. Both of us are students, but we weren't in class. It was a unique and special way to be that left my mind absorbed by it all, playing long after we had packed up for the day, trying this and that, dealing with the new challenge of responding to Susan's work and finishing my book..

On her blog, Susan has described it like a "Pas de deux" which goes close to describing the way we worked - there was a hint of music too - one led, the other followed, they set up a new movement, the other responded...

The serendipity of the world that finds us living near each other is a special bit of magic and it's been wonderful to discover that we work well together. Hopefully we will be able to do it again, here and there, now and then.


  1. Oh that sounds like a perfect creative day. The images are very intriguing and so lovely. What a blessing to have a creative bound with a close friend.

  2. What a wonderful idea and a perfect collaboration. xoxox

  3. Beautiful grey and white images, with lines and shapes and dots. Perfect.

  4. What a wonderful collaborations and such exciting images. I'm sure the end result will be stunning.

  5. How inspiring to hear about the journey your day together took. Such an endeavor takes a lot of courage and trust, but it sounds as though you both navigated the process beautifully. Looking forward to seeing where the next step takes you!
    - Lisa

  6. So inspiring - I love what you do with simple materials - you give them a magical appearance - enticing and beautiful.

  7. Oh! What a day you and Susan had! The results so far are beautiful.

  8. That sums it up perfectly for me Ronnie - a wonderful day indeed!

    Thanks Jo - it was indeed pretty special and its great to have a friend to work together with like this.

    Hi N- thanks! We did work well together and I hope the results are as good as the process...

    Thank you Leslie - a combination of Susan and I in there; but it does look so soft and lovely doesn't it?

    Glad you enjoyed the images Gina - I think they look beautiful (I hope Susan finds the books does too!) Thank you for taking the time comment - I appreciate it.

    Hi Lisa - you got it in one. It did take courage and trust and I found it wonderful that we could talk thru the process as we went thru it; that we were both so often to negotiating things and both had so much respect for the other.

  9. So true J! We had a day indeed, which will carry us for quite some time I think...our spirits were lifted and the quiet companionship was wonderful. I think we are probably both still hoping we can finish the books with style...

  10. Sounds like a wonderfully rich day.

  11. Mmmmmm we did have a lovely day and as I expected, your blog on our day is special.

  12. Fiona, I read your post and then went over to Susan's blog to read her description of your day working together. What strikes me immediately is the symbiosis in the way you both think, react and create. You are so lucky to have someone living close by who really is on the same wavelength. I cannot wait to see the end product from you both. I want to reach across the miles and pick these books up...

  13. This is really great to read - I love when the notion of artists as self-absorbed territory-protecting creatures gets blasted by such a fine example of creative spirits working alongside each other in such a gracious and harmonious manner - and to such good results!

  14. Read Susan's blog first then caught up with yours. Looks like you two make the perfect collaborative team. The work is lovely and the photos really make me want to see it firsthand.

  15. Alice thank you - a very apt way to describe it - there was richness.

    Thanks Susan! Your choice of 'pas de deux' was inspired!

    Thank you Lesley - I think even we were surprised with how well the working together thing went. It was really quite remarkable and we were able to observe it and comment on it to each other, and celebrate it. I realise how fortunate I am to have Susan nearby...

    Thanks G/TT - it certainly blew me away in a way! Generosity and creativity hand in hand - great day.

    Thanks Jo - I think we are both looking forward to seeing how they work out in the flesh as well!

  16. what a magical collaboration! your work and susan's seems to mesh beautifully!

  17. Thanks anca - we are enjoying the process and keep trying to find a word that truly describes for us what it is...still pondering, but really enjoying. Thanks for your thoughts.

  18. I'm obviously quite behind on catching up on blog reading, but never too late to add a comment, eh? Sure seems like you both had a wonderful experience together! Collaborations can be magical times....full of surprise in the work in your selves....sounds like this one was most satisfying! Beautiful photos, too. Cheers!

  19. Thanks Patti - I'm a tad late in replying. It was a great day and with great results in the end. There were so many delightful surprises along the way.


I appreciate your thoughts and comments; thanks for taking the time.