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Saturday afternoon at BABE

April 27, 2013

The Bristol  Artists Book Event at the Arnolfini Art Centre is a feast for book-lovers. It takes place on alternate years and is organised with great enthusiasm by Sarah Bodman and her team at the University of the West of England’s Centre for Fine Print Research.

They also publish the very useful Book Arts News.

The venue is a converted warehouse right on the waterfront. I spent a very happy and stimulating afternoon there last weekend.

It was a delight to meet Julie Johnstone of Essence Press. Clothed in layers of charcoal and dove-grey, she was every bit as serene and elegant as her books. I was able to thank her for having published the beautiful poetry magazine Island, to which I was a subscriber, and for the “Island binding” that I use so often. She claims not to have invented it, but I’ve not seen it elsewhere. I was having a bad eye day and had to be helped to discern the subtle change of tone on alternate pages in her book Impalpability. There is a quiet intelligence, an uncompromising aesthetic and a playful sense of humour at work here.

Julie Johnstone

I always look out for Carolyn Trant of Parvenu Press. I love the scale, the colour, the bold physicality of her woodcuts. I first saw her work at the book fair at Oxford Brookes University some years ago, and was especially drawn to “Beauty and the Beast”, a stage-set of a book, covered in recycled black leather from biker jackets, folded and moulded to form a very dark forest. In Carolyn’s words, “the piece consists of a dressing table in a forest, which opens up like a book to reveal five further small, readable volumes inside; a portable altar, a fetish object, a true archive of the heart.”

Carolyn Trant 2

Carolyn Trant 3

I was also looking for Andrew Law, whom I met at BABE two years ago. He draws and writes with a stick dipped in very viscous Chinese ink. The effect is inimitable. I like his work very much.

Andrew Law

Both Carolyn and Andrew are Al-Mutanabbi Street book artists, as are Mike Nicholson (whom I met recently at the John Rylands Library) of Ensixteen Editions


and Mette Ambeck of Ambeck Design.

Ambeck. 3jpg

Mette’s book, Al-Mutanabbi Street – a Vicious Circle, is a text-free volume in which powerful sentiments are conveyed by the illustrations: hand-cut or burnt circles in every page. I found it very moving.

Ambeck. 2jpg

This book is among those mentioned in an article in the Egypt Independent, which also comments on Pauline Lamont-Fisher’s contributions.


Pauline’s table was a quiet oasis of thoughtful artistry and craftsmanship. Her work is lyrical and painstaking. She was also showing work by other members of whnic Press, Erin K Schmidt (her book Dear One is fascinating: old photos and found love-letters)

Erin K Schmidt

and Egidija Ciricaite, whose eloquent book Ash Rises Silence Falls is shown in the photo below.

Egidija Ciricaite

My eye was caught by a lovely little folded structure called The Grove on Elizabeth Willow’s stand.

Elizabeth Willow

Click on the photo to enlarge it. The Grove is near the top of the photo, right of centre, nestled among many other very appealing books.

On my walk back to the bus station I passed an interestingly damaged hoarding around a development site. One can see through the hole to a healthy young forest of buddleia.

Bluepage 1

Bluepage 2

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Karen Young permalink
    April 27, 2013 8:59 pm

    Hi Ama I too enjoyed my visit to BABE very much – look forward to catching up on 18 May! Loved your photos! Love Karen I

    Sent from my iPad


  1. 60: From Plates to Trees, diversifying. | Almofate's Likes

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