Creating Community and Artist Books. An Interview with Joan Birkett

Joan Birkett, an artist from the UK, has collaborated several times with Art Byte Critique. Currently, she is part of the UK contingent sharing a table with Art Byte Critique at the Tokyo Art Book Fair Ginza Edition at Sony Park in Yurakucho. The TABF Ginza Edition runs from March 8-April 7. The Art Byte Critique tables from March 9-March 10.

In this interview, Joan talks about her work, collaboration and building a community.

You and Arthur Huang were instrumental in creating Reading Between the Lines, and other shows, how did that collaboration come about?
The group of artists connected with the Tokyo St Helens project, came together at my request after I had made contact with Art Byte Critique through Arthur.

What was the purpose of building the artist group in your area?
Some of them belong to Platform Arts studios which was originally formed by Claire and myself linking up with a number of other interested artists, with help from the very active Arts and Library service in the Town. This was about ten years ago now but it has changed over the years to what it is today, most of the artists now involved are new. Other artists involved work individually across the North West but come together for group projects. There has always been a number of individuals and small art groups in St Helens but Platform arts was possibly the first artist network around in St Helens at the time of its conception. Since then there seems to be a number of artists coming together to form collaborative partnerships. The Yellow Door artists are one example.

Not long after Platform started to operate, the Heart of Glass programme began in St Helens with funding from Arts Council England. This was through what is called the People and Places funding which is for artists to work with communities in order to introduce innovative arts and cultural opportunities, hopefully broadening and raising the level of engagement with Art and Culture throughout a particular Town. A number of different organisations in the Town were involved in bringing bidding for the funding and Platform was one of these. It was through this programme that I originally received some funding to look at the possibilities of linking with artists in Japan, it was suggested by one of the Heart of Glass producers because of my family links in Tokyo and my interest in Japanese woodblock print work and how my own work had been influenced by the connection. It was also about providing information to others about how links could be made and the benefits of working in this way on a number of levels, perhaps influencing others to have a go. So I did quite a lot of research about what networks were in Tokyo and I put some information together which I sent off to them. My daughter-in-law helped by translating the letter for me. However, I wasn’t very successful until I discovered an online blog/help site, by an artist working in Tokyo, named Miki Saito, she was very helpful and receptive to what I was trying to do and put me in touch with Arthur Huang and consequently the artist group -Art Byte Critique. Arthur, was from the beginning as I have always found him to be, so positive and resourceful, open to just trying things out, exactly the artist I needed to meet, he has been so such a great person to meet and work with. It is really down to him and all of the other artists involved that we have been able to put on three joint exhibitions as a result of the partnership. I can’t believe how lucky I have been in being able to meet such open and interesting people.

Another artist that I met was Atsu Harada a really talented traditional wild life artist, this was through a friend of my Son, and we keep in touch and have been able to meet up when I have been in Tokyo

How long have you been making art books?
I started to explore making book art objects as part of the Tokyo/St Helens return project, which began in 2014. This was somewhat of a pragmatic decision on my part because of the practical difficulties of sharing larger works between Tokyo and St Helens. Also the fact that a number of the Art Byte Critique artists with whom I had made contact through the artist Arthur Huang, were making books and zines as part of their practice and exhibiting at The Tokyo Art Book Fair.

Why do you like making books?
It has allowed me to explore 3D possibilities on a scale that I am able to cope with easily, experimenting with materials and form, I also like the fact that it can be touched and explored by the viewer. Although not normally working with paper unless I am sketching or drawing from life, I am interested in materials and texture, and book art has inspired me to work with different papers and to explore my interest in print as a process.

What do you like about making books compared to other forms of expression?
My work generally begins from my being inspired by a particular subject or idea, after  which comes the research that informs the work I eventually make, this is often large scale and consists of a visual language type imagery as a depiction of humanity. Book art allows another dimension to this in presenting a number of possibilities, particularly in the size of the work, it makes me think about working on a different scale and with the text in a different way. It does though present certain constraints given I am quite new to the process and book making skills.

Do you have a favourite method or technique to make books?
I am still learning so I haven’t tried many of the techniques yet, my experience to date is limited but I intend to keep exploring the possibilities.

What method of making books do you want to try next?
I have had a long term interest in using text within my work therefore I suppose I would be interested in exploring different types of text and what I can do with it, therefore developing my work in this way.

What was the biggest challenge in making your book?
Definitely for me not getting too expressive in the making, so that the object becomes too fragile for the viewer. Although I have to say this is often really what I am looking for, a depiction of strong and fragile within the same object, so a bit of challenge. I have also attended a number of print making workshops in order to extend my knowledge and skills with printing methods. I don’t deny that this is quite a challenge for me I work expressively, precision and constraint is not something I am necessarily very good at.

Do you have any favorite book artists?
There are so many artist’s work that I find inspiring generally, I haven’t really just looked at artists who concentrate on this medium. I’m interested in how the making of book art can influence the expression and physicality of my ideas.

Where can people find out more about your work?


Interview with Carol Miller about Artist Books

I haven’t met Carol Miller in person… yet. But through another artist, Joan Birkett, we’ve collaborated on a couple of art book exhibitions. Carol is also a very talented illustrator. Her graphite drawings for Drawlloween 2018 are amazing. I was really impressed with her pieces for Reading Between the Lines and Turning the Page, doubly so since they were her first foray into artist books. She answered a few questions about her work. Check out her interview below.

How long have you been making art books?
Before being invited to participate in this project, I had not made any artists books since my Art Foundation Course.

Why do you like making books? / What do you like about making books compared to other forms of expression?
I enjoyed the tactile nature and sculptural quality of the final works.

Producing work which people are actively encouraged to handle and interact with and which would be enhanced by the potential ‘destructive nature’ of that handling added an additional element not possible in my other work.

Do you have a favourite method or technique to make books?
Whenever I start a piece of work the process is always fluid and I never have an end ‘work’ or image in mind, rather letting the work and lead me.

I approached making books in the same way.   I did rediscover the joy of Ink and bleach and produced 3 of the books using this technique.  I’m not sure I would say it was my favourite technique, more that I got slightly obsessed with it for a while.

“Dirty Washing” Photo courtesy of the artist

The books I made using this technique are still amongst some of my favourite work.

What method of making books do you want to try next?
The books I made for the project were originals and I would like to explore the possibility of producing affordable editions.

What was the biggest challenge in making your book?
Honestly, stopping.  My one book contribution to the project turned fairly rapidly into five.

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Do you have any favourite book artists?
As a ‘newbie’ to the world of artists books, not yet but I enjoy the journey of discovery.

Where can people find out more about your work? (Social Media etc)
Instagram           carol_miller_artist
Facebook            artistcarolmiller
Twitter                @carol_miller1

Photos courtesy of the artist.

Tokyo Art Book Fair 2015: Q and A with Lyle Nisenholz

The Tokyo Art Book Fair is two weeks away. This is the first post of interviews with fellow Art Byte Critique members to introduce their work and talk about the show.

lyle-nisenholzARTIST: Lyle Nisenholz
アーテイスト:ライル ニセンホルツ

From: United States
In Japan: 12 years

I work for Tokyo City Learning Disabilities Special Schools as English Teacher

bonobobook71How long have you been making books?
From 2007

What is your favorite kind of books to make?
The books I am making recently, minibook.

Do you have favorite materials to use?
I always like using pen and pencils on paper

What is the biggest challenge for you when you make a book?

What kind of books are you making for this fair?
I’m making miniature replicas of books I make from A4 size paper.  I also cut the same holes in that can be seen in the original book.
ミニブークはもとのほんのそっくり小さい復刻, それも同じ穴をあける。

Please visit my only website  私のウエブサイト調べてください

bonobobook75What did you learn from last book fair? What are you doing differently for this book fair?
Its best to make the the book easy so its easy to present and buy.
安くて作っているの本はいいです. それで今年の本は買って安い.

Do you have any advice for people coming to the book fair?

Its best to make a simple presentation

The Tokyo Art Book Fair is held from September Saturday 19 – Monday 21 (holiday)
at Kyoto University of Art and Design, Tohoku University of Art and Design GAIEN CAMPUS
1-7-15 Kita-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan

You can read about fellow artist Karin Gunnarsson here.

Tokyo Art Book Fair 2014: Interview with Arthur Huang

The Zinesmate Tokyo Art Book Fair starts next week and I’m participating with the Art Byte Critique Group. Art Byte Critique is a diverse group of artists based in Tokyo. I’m really excited about the event and really proud to be part of the group. They were generous enough to spare some time from their preparation to do an interview with me. Over the next two weeks, I’ll be posting their interviews on The Spendy Pencil.

The first interview is with Arthur Huang, founder of Art Byte Critique Group.

Tell us about your background.
I moved to Tokyo from the San Francisco Bay Area in 2009. I work at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute as a researcher in a laboratory studying the mechanisms of learning and memory in mice. At the same time, I maintain a studio practice working as a visual artist interested in memory and the everyday.

How long have you been making books?
I made my first artist book back in graduate school in 2001 incorporating bookbinding and screenprinting. Since then, I have always had an interest in making artist books, but I have not had the structure and motivation to focus on this craft. I began to explore this medium again in late 2013 in conjunction with the Art Byte Critique group, which I helped to start, with other Tokyo-based contemporary artists.

Can you tell us more about ABC?
The Art Byte Critique group was started to create an environment where artists could gather on a regular basis to share ideas and give feedback to each other’s work in progress.

How has Art Byte Critique helped you get ready for the Tokyo Art Book Fair?
We have had regular meetings over that last year to gather knowledge, inspiration, and feedback about our work in creating artist books. They have provided structure and motivation for me as we get ready for the Tokyo Art Book Fair in less than two weeks.

What kind of work will you have at the okyo Art Book Fair?
For the Tokyo Art Book Fair, I will be exhibiting a series of accordion books that I created in 2011 titled “One Year on Japanese Public Transportation” which is composed of twelve books. Each book represents one month of travels on Japanese, primarily Tokyo, public transportation. I have drawn lines which represent each train or subway ride that I took in that month. The lines are the actual route of the train or subway ride taken from a map of Tokyo. Each ride is connected to the next ride chronologically (time and day) and run back and forth through the length of the entire book. Each book uses slightly different marks to represent departure and arrival points.

In addition to “One Year of Japanese Public Transportation”, I am in the process of creating several new series of artist books based on my “Memory Walks” project and “Interstices” project. I plan to assemble the books for the these projects by hand, printing the images on paper or acetate, cutting and binding the pages by hand.

Photo courtesy of Arthur Huang
Photo courtesy of Arthur Huang

For the “Memory Walks” artist books, I am planning to create photo books composed of close-up photographs of my Memory Walk eggshells. Each edition of the “Memory Walks” artist books will consist of a single walk that I take on a regular basis, such as my walk from my home to the train station or the train station to work. The cover for each book in each edition will consist of a previously drawn “Memory Walk” crushed eggshell for that particular walk.

隙間 070614 #3 – 下北沢, Courtesy of Arthur Huang
隙間 070614 #3 – 下北沢, Courtesy of Arthur Huang

For the “Interstices” project, I am planning to create a series of accordion books in which individual photographs of alleyways in Tokyo are printed on acetate and then mounted into the pages of the accordion book. Taken individually, the reader can see the characteristics of each alleyway. When the book is folded, the different photographs will be overlaid to create a composite image of all the alleyways similar to the digitally created “Interstices” photographic series that I have been creating since 2012.

Is there a website where we can learn more about you and your work?
You can learn more about my progress towards the Tokyo Art Book Fair 2014 at my blog – This blog also has more details and images about my “Memory Walks” and “Interstices” project. Please come to the Art Byte Critique booth between September 19th and 21st and say hello!

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