|PhD Student : Angie Butler (Letterpress
and Artists' Books) at CFPR
Commenced: PhD, October 2012; Thesis title: Evidencing the role of Letterpress as a contemporary process within book arts practice and higher education in the UK. Supervisory Team: Director of Studies Sarah Bodman, Tom Sowden, Dr Paul Laidler
In recent years there has been a marked resurgence of letterpress and artists’ books practice in higher education. Angie’s project will investigate how we learn to design and create artists’ books through letterpress. To gain an understanding of how contemporary book artists teaching letterpress has influenced what is produced in the field, and how this relates back into studio and private press practice. Letterpress is usually discussed in relation to graphic design and typography, not book arts practice, or via the relationship of craft to art in the use of materials, experimental process, concept and aesthetic. Being a traditional, tangible process, letterpress offers many possibilities for developing creative ideas, underpinned by practical skills. The particular nature of the artist’s book as sequential narrative presented in an intimate environment can be developed through investigating letterpress as a form of creative, interactive printmaking. For example, when printing with letterpress, the potential to manipulate and rearrange forms on the bed allows for incidental and experimental practice throughout the printmaking process.
In her chapter ‘Handwork and Hybrids, Recasting the Craft of Letterpress Printing’ in Extra Ordinary: Craft and Contemporary Art, the American academic and curator Betty Bright states that “A number of viewpoints co-exist within the letterpress community. There are printers who embrace tradition, there are printers who subtly undercut standards to raise questions about making and reading, and there are printers who depart absolutely from any recognisable standard in service to a personal vision.” (Buszek, 2011, 140). This indicates that artists’ books and letterpress feed into many areas of creative arts education (graphic design, typography, illustration, fine art, etc.).
Letterpress, as a traditional fine press process, also sits firmly within the field of contemporary artists’ books, but is still discussed using terminology relating only to typography. This is evident when carrying out literature searches; letterpress books are classified under ‘typography’, rather than ‘printmaking’.
The positioning of letterpress within the book arts needs to be critically appraised through investigation and dissemination that consolidates and encourages the appreciation and understanding of craft skills alongside conceptual practice. This would feed into educational arts practice at many levels. A greater understanding of the potential of these related entities would also inform the wider audience of book arts and letterpress practitioners, and independent presses in the international field.
Angie graduated with distinction, from the MA Multi-Disciplinary Printmaking Course, at UWE in June 2011. One of the main reasons Angie applied to study specifically at UWE was because her practice had shifted. She had knowledge of book arts research at CFPR through her growing interest in artists’ books: attending various book arts fairs, projects, exhibitions and events, and meeting up with Sarah Bodman and Tom Sowden. Angie realised that studying at an institution with this particular research facility would be of direct benefit to her emerging practice as a multi-disciplinary artist with a specific interest in all things book art. Over the past four years, Angie has also been involved with various artists’ books exhibitions, symposia and conferences organised by Sarah and Tom, and undertaken collaborative projects with other artists and institutions, alongside the development of her own independent research practice.
Angie undertook a residency at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts in 2010. As the largest and most comprehensive centre of its kind in the United States, Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA) celebrates the book as a vibrant contemporary art form that takes many shapes. From the traditional crafts of papermaking, letterpress printing and bookbinding to experimental art making and self-publishing techniques, MCBA supports the limitless creative evolution of book arts. Spending time at MCBA alongside the encouragement and support of Jeff Rathermel (Executive Director, MCBA) and other key members of the Minneapolis Artist Community; was a seminal experience, and had a hugely positive effect on Angie, and the continued development of her book arts practice.?
After her residency at MCBA, Angie set up Len: The Letterpress Etiquette Network at UWE, for Staff and MA MDP Students interested and working with Letterpress to encounter each other in the studio, both independently and collaboratively. Sessions are on a Thursday evening, enabling members to print together, swap tips, discuss research, developing their practice both individually and collectively.
Awarded two prizes for her artists’ books as a student: the Sheffield Book Arts Prize (Student Prize) 2009, and the Agassi Book Arts Prize, UWE, 2011, Angie holds two Masters Degrees (the first being in Visual Culture: Fine Art): and has enjoyed working at various Institutions across the UK, Europe, US, and S.E. Asia, as both Visiting Artist and Lecturer for the past ten years. Her work is held in both UK, and international private and public collections.
Angie’s work is predominantly in artists’ books, often using letterpress as a method of production, publishing under the press name, Pet Galerie Press. She is interested in celebrating the ordinary events and occurrences of everyday life, this deeming them extra-ordinary and special by their manifestation in book form. Her recent books include: A tour of her own house (Open House: No.18 & No.42. A collaborative project with Philippa Wood, Summer 2012), a small love token (x = How Much I Love You Feb 2012), the pastime of a 90 year old woman (Mrs.Derrick’s Blankets May 2011), and a catalogue of her eighteenth-month artists’ residency at a traditional local hair salon (Behind The Shop Window: My Life With Miss Carol June 2011).
Angie’s artists’ books and related works are in a range of national and international public collections including: Winchester School Of Art, The University Of Southampton, UCA: University For The Creative Arts, (Farnham), The University Of The West Of England, Bristol, We Love Your Books University Of Northampton, Bath Spa University Bath, Limfjord Centret, Thurup, NW Jutland Denmark, Barratt Galleries, Astonville, NSW (New South Wales) Australia, Jaffe Centre For Book Arts, Florida Atlantic University Libraries Florida USA, Iraqi National Art Library Baghdad Iraq, Taiwan International Visual Arts Centre Taipei City, Taiwan.
See examples of Angie’s work and follow her PhD.blogs at: www.petgaleriepress.com