Saturday, 27 October 2012

Book Artists Aloft

As the summer drew to a close, book artists Mette-Sofie D. Ambeck (Ambeck Design) and Mike Nicholson (Ensixteen Editions) visited me in Oxford. How would I entertain the two travellers, one fresh from the flatlands of Jutland, and the other, a vertigo-suffering Londoner?

We went as high as it's possible to go in this city of spires, climbing up the tower of the University Church of St. Mary. I hoped the candy-cane pillars, the gargoyles and the crumbling finials might interest Ambeck, whose latest book (pictured above) is a celebration of the stone-carvings found among the curious, shadowed pathways and tombs of Abney Park Cemetery in Stoke Newington, North London. Ambeck has worked with Tom Sowden in the studio at Centre for Fine Print Research in Bristol to replicate her photo-archive through laser cutting. In this process, the laser sears into the paper fibres, creating a ghostly image that is not only the perfect technique to represent the crumbling, eroded gravestones but also evoking mortality itself.

The clouds lowered as we climbed - on the east side of the tower our faces were stung with rain - from the west we saw patches of sunshine break through thunderous skies to illuminate the cornfields on the far side of the city. Pressed in against the ancient walls as other sightseers passed us on the balcony, we noticed an abundance of graffiti left by earlier climbers.

Deciphering the amateur carvings in the Tower's winding stairwell, the descent was giddying. The image below, from the cover of Mike Nicholson's new edition Glass Half-Full/Glass-Half Empty, was penned many days before our climb, but it captures the sense of disorientation we felt on returning to the cobbled ground, and to the present moment. 

Readers are encouraged to visit the Small Publishers Fair in London on 16th and 17th November, to take a closer look at both Ambeck's and Nicholson's books.

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