Book Arts

Scandinavian Artists’ Books Partnership Project

UWE bookarts received an award from the Nordic Culture Point to run a project from February 2021 (delayed due to Covid lockdowns) until September 2022. This has been a collaboration between: Sarah Bodman (CFPR, UWE Bristol) Angie Butler, (CFPR, UWE Bristol) Imi Maufe (Codex Polaris, Norway), Lina Nordenström (Grafikverkstan Godsmagasinet, Sweden) Joakim Norling (Timglaset Editions, Malmö Sweden), Shaun Oaten Bower Ashton Library, UWE Bristol), Morwenna Peters (Bower Ashton Library, UWE Bristol), Tom Sowden (School of Art & Design, UWE, Bristol) and Maria White (Independent curator, UK).

Our aim for this project was to facilitate knowledge exchange between librarians, artists and the public, expand understanding of arts practice, and work towards a more sustainable, innovative and culturally successful discipline. We wanted to change attitudes towards and the perception of artists’ books in the Nordic/Scandinavian regions.

We launched the project in December 2021 with an online event in collaboration with our project partners in Bergen, inviting participants from the Nordic / Scandinavian regions.
Our first seminar invited Nordic / Scandinavian and UK participants to share best practice ideas – thinking about what artists’ books are and what role they can play within a library and an educational environment. We also asked them to tell us about any issues we might be able to help with in working with artists’ books. These were then discussed, documented and taken forward via email reports and a second meeting in February 2022.

Tom Sowden then invited librarian / curator participants from Nordic / Scandinavian countries, along with some UK & USA library staff and independent specialists to create works for a Librarian’s Artists’ Books (LAB) exhibition. The challenge for them was to produce an artist’s book in tribute to their collection or archive in the style of or referencing the seminal artists’ books of Ed Ruscha which are held in many libraries. Imi Maufe also ran a free bookmaking workshop in Bergen in December.

This part of the project was created to involve library staff in considering the making and components of an artist’s book, how it might be put together, handled, perceived before it joins the library collection for cataloguing. These books are on display here at Bower Ashton Library as the Librarians’ Artists’ Books (LAB) exhibition, from 2nd August until 31st October 2022 (and will form part of the IMPACT International Multidisciplinary Printmaking Conference exhibitions, hosted by UWE Bristol, September 2022).

We also invited participants from Nordic / Scandinavian countries to join us for the Bristol Artist’s Book Event (BABE) over the weekend of 23-24 April 2022. This included artists’ groups, small publishers and individual artists supported by funding from the project coming to Bristol from Norway: Codex Polaris, Kurt Johannessen, Bergen Art Book Fair. Sweden: Lina Nordenström/Grafikverkstan Godsmagasinet, Timglaset Editions, Malmö Artist Book Biennial, Eva Hejdström. Denmark: Pist Protta, Bladr – platform for artists’ books. Finland: Finnish Artists’ Books – curated and organised by Eeva Liisa Isomaa and Hannele Nyman. Iceland: ARKIR artists collective. Many thanks to Imi Maufe who organised the group of visitors as their main facilitator and tour guide. As well as exhibiting their artists’ books over two days and selling works to the public, the group met other artists, curators and librarians, presented public talks and show and tells, and were highlighted to visitors in a walking tour led by Maria White.

Bower Ashton Library staff also hosted a one-day ARLIS South West event on 25th April for the visiting librarians from Bergen and Gothenburg after BABE to meet their counterparts and build new relationships. This included making activities and round table discussions. Many thanks to Morwenna Peters for leading this.

At the end of the project, we have:

Showcased ideas for best practice with artists’ books in library collections. We did this through online seminars, email round ups of Q&As, examples of projects and talks with staff about collecting, promoting and exhibiting these artefacts.

Built a network and knowledge exchange opportunity for all attendees, including a regional Arlis group for artists’ books established by participants. Participants have also shared info and contacts to keep in touch beyond the project.

Assisted artists and publishers in promoting their work in these regions and further field. This was achieved through sales at BABE and resulting contacts. Angie Butler also visited Malmö to present a talk on the project at MABB the artists’ books biennial in May 2022, which had a special focus on collecting this year.

Promoted artists’ books practice in the region and embedded it within the wider international field. This was achieved through BABE, the Book Arts Newsletter, articles written for the Artist’s Book Yearbook and in journals such as Printmaking Today and The Blue Notebook, and the videos produced for our Scandinavian Artists’ Books Partnership Project playlist on YouTube.

If you would like to get in touch about this project, please email Sarah.

Centre for Print Research, UWE Bristol, City Campus at Bower Ashton, Kennel Lodge Road, Bristol BS3 2JT, UK.