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Saturday at BABE

April 17, 2015

Jane and I went to Bristol by bus for a day of pure self-indulgence at the Bristol Artists Book Event. By chance we met up with three other ABCDers, Clare, Caroline and Elaine, during the day. And it was lovely to sit by the waterside for a while with Nina Fenner, whom I met recently in Exeter.

Before the event even started I was thrilled to see a very polished sword-dance performance in the foyer by a troupe of young people in stripy socks. Having taught the Flamborough Sword Dance to junior school children for ten years, I was impressed by this group’s neat footwork and perfect timing.

First I sought out the people I didn’t want to miss. I found most of them. I enjoy the work of Andrew Law for his exuberant and graceful stick-drawn lettering, teeming sketchbooks and large-scale plant drawings.

Andrew Law

Andrew Law Book

Julie Johnstone of Essence Press is a purveyor of elegant and often witty minimalist works. I bought a copy of a recent book-work, “Exercise”, and the delightful “Point of View”. Like much of Julie’s work it is too subtle for an amateur to photograph, but a joy to behold.

Pauline Lamont-Fisher was minding a table for the international collective whnicPRESS.


Pauline’s practice is largely based on walking: maps, itineraries and landmarks feature in some, while others are conceived and planned during a walk. I spent a while looking at a collection of four quite dissimilar books concerned with the same walk at different times of a year – 2013 – remarkable for its unusual weather, and an unusually significant year for me. Eventually I decided upon “February”.


Otto Dettmer of OttoGraphic is a printmaker with a gift for combining words (other people’s) with strong screenprint images. I went home with two of his publications: “Flat Holm“, a collaboration with poet Chris Scully, who spent last summer living and working on this small island in the Bristol Channel,

Flat Holm018

and “Races”, an incisive rant against competitiveness! Words by Benjamin Heathcote. I’d like to find more of his work, but his former website has been taken over by an Australian acupuncturist. Either that or he is a poet-turned-acupuncturist.


“The Octopus (would like to put a stop to us)”, another collaboration with Benjamin Heathcote, is understandably sold out, but do read it on the website where all the pages can be seen. A perfect marriage of word and image.

Mavina Baker is an artist of hedgerows, teacups and vernal colours. Her book of prints about the Herb Garret caught my eye. The plan of this former operating theatre is reminiscent of a chalice, a labyrinth or … a theatre! A photo of Mavina’s beautiful book can be seen here. I would like to have spent longer here, and at the neighbouring table of work by Stroud Artists’ Books (Facebook: /stroudartistsbooks), but was called away by a text-message.

Due to which, quite by chance I joined the audience for a reading by Jo Reed, poet and printmaker. It was a spellbinding performance, and I’m enjoying the pamphlet I bought just before heading for home.


Big thanks to Sarah Bodman and her team from the Centre for Fine Print Research atUWE, who make this amazing show happen every other year.

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