21 July, 2014

Painting the lily . . .

. . . and gilding the burnished gold!

I am always happy when the sweet peas are on the go. This morning, as I approached the sunny wall to relieve the plants of today's crop (pour encourager les autres!) I saw that the flowers (already, in my opinion, one of the most perfect in their simple beauty) were jewelled with water drops, from dew or from last night's thunder storms. 

I was about to post [sorry to have been so quiet for so long] about our exciting up-coming new book, but I could not resist rushing for the camera and heaping upon you an armful of these images. Happy Summer!

14 May, 2014

Olympia here we come

Our prestigious and successful five-week exhibition in the Pierhead Building in Cardiff Bay is now over but there are other places where we shall be taking books this year. First will be the  London International Antiquarian Book Fair at Olympia from 22 to 24 May.

 Our stand there is in the LIVE! section and during the course of the event we are offering three talks about our work.
On Thursday: How Gutenberg inspired the design of a book; which focuses on Angela Lemaire's Jubilate Agno (around 5pm)
on Friday: Printing letterpress from woodcut and polymer. A discussion of direct 3-dimensional printing of original work by contemporary artists; focusing on Ralph Kiggell's The Third Thing and on the latest book with John Abell -  The Diary of a Dead Officer
on Saturday: Making paper for printing a book which showcases The Affectionate Shepheard with paper handmade by Frances McDowall.

Among the bookbinders

The world of bookbinding has become more and more visible with many wonderful exhibitions in recent times and we were delighted that Dominic Riley won the Paul Getty prize for a binding on a book with a Shakespearean theme with our Pyramus & Thisbe.
In May a tour of the work of designer bookbinders working in the UK and US will begin at St Bride’s in London. Entitled InsideOUT the exhibition will have 65 books produced by private presses on both sides of the Atlantic and promises to be spectacular judging by the splendid catalogue. A number of Old Stile books have been selected and it will be good to see these bindings go off to the USA, starting at:
Houghton Library, Cambridge MA 11 September - 13 December 2014;
Minnesota Center for Book Arts 10 January - 28 March 2015;
Bonhams, New York 10-19 April 2015;
San Francisco Center for the Book 6 June - 5 July 2015

Later, in June, there will be a Society of Bookbinders Training Seminar at Cirencester Agricultural College and we shall be there on Friday 27 June 8.30 am - 7 pm with unbound copies of many of our books for binders to choose from. It is always good to be able to see and feel the physical presence of a book before embarking on a a binding - so much time is invested and choosing from a website (however detailed) is not the same! Hence we have for many years taken copies to such conferences. Do let us know before the event if there is any particular title you know you would like to see.

There will be unbound copies of our latest book The Diary of a Dead Officer available at £200 - from this Fair or from us direct.

01 May, 2014

By popular demand - or something!

If you have been prevented by matters of State from visiting the Old Stile Press' exhibition at Futures Gallery, Pierhead Building, Cardiff Bay at any time during the past month . . . 

. . . we can offer the happy news that the show has been extended for a week. It can indeed be visited at any time until Thursday 8th May 2014.

All welcome!

04 April, 2014

Dame Rosemary visits the exhibition

 Yesterday afternoon, Dame Rosemary Butler, the Presiding Officer of the Welsh Assembly, kindly paid a visit to the exhibition which she was entirely responsible for making possible. We must again say how enormously grateful we are for bringing all this about - and for her enthusiastic appreciation of the results.

Above, she is talking with Frances and Robert Macdonald (Where Many Shipwrack) and below she examines his new book, The Diary of a Dead Officer, with John Abell.

In the photograph below, she is discussing his book, The Abstract Garden, with the poet, Philip Gross.

02 April, 2014

The Old Stile Press on exhibition in Cardiff Bay

This remarkable (if slightly over-dressed!) edifice is the Pierhead Building, the historic centre of Cardiff Bay, which used to be the office of the Harbour Master when the Welsh capital still had its docks. It  now stands next to the Senedd - the home of the Welsh Assembly - and houses historic exhibits, conferences and other events . . . including, throughout the month of April, an exhibition describing the activities past and present of The Old Stile Press. The poster to be seen by the main door at the extreme left of the photo below advertizes this fact!

We were invited to stage the show when we had the pleasure of meeting the Presiding Officer of the Senedd, Dame Rosemary Butler, a year or so. She was kind enough to think that Wales should know more about our activities.

 The Futures Gallery is housed in a beautifully spacious and airy room on the first floor and we managed to erect our carefully planned show quite painlessly - with the help of our son Daniel with his picture-hanging skills and after penetrating the most efficient-seeming security procedures.

I hope that the following photographs will give some idea of what visitors will see . . . but, best of all would be if you could visit in person! From 10.30 - 4.30 every day for the rest of April.

PLEASE DO follow the instruction below the next photo (which I do not know how to countermand!) bacause there are LOTS and LOTS more good things to look at!

11 March, 2014

John Abell's "Book Day"

For John, his "Book Day" was when he came to Catchmays Court to see, and handle, the sample copy of the Main and Special editions of his great work, hot from the binders. 
I had previously printed small editions of some of the mighty woodcuts from the book and John signed and annotated this (one of my great favourites) to remember the occasion.


 The group from the previous post had reconvened, with the addition of Beith, an artist friend of John's, and a fine time we had admiring the binder's workmanship and, above all, the magnificence of John's images. 

 We were seeing the cover for the first time -

 and elements of the Special Edition, such as the portfolio of superb images that do not appear in the book

 and the recess in the bottom of the box that fits, for each of the fortunate owners of the Special Edition, one of the actual linocut blocks used in the printing of the book

When the party had left, I was able to set about the necessary photography of the book and the results can now be seen on our website - with full details.

As the double-page spread is so wide, only a general idea can be given of the full sweep of the great images on the usual 'slideshow' so I have taken a number of photographs of 'details'. Some were posted earlier and a couple are given here. 

I could not resist including a good number more on the webpage as I was fascinated to find how powerful an experience it was to look at a large woodcut and then to zoom in on just the expression of a face or the brilliantly effective woodcutting to depict a coil of barbed wire.


So, now I will leave you with yet another photograph of John Abell being justly proud of his handiwork

and, finally, one of Bill Garnett . . . also studying John's book but, for some reason, looking like a Renaissance saint!

25 January, 2014

Signing the book, a bit of lunch and some collating

The final piece of printing had been done, the sheets folded and inserted to form sections. John Abell had now to sign each copy of the colophon page before the sections were collated into books. Happily this coincided with John having finished cutting the two lino blocks planned for the cover, so a trip to Catchmays Court was organised to include our mutual friend, Bill Garnett, of Pomegranate Fine Art.

  As John signed, I slipped the page into its section and we talked . . . about . . . what more appropriate than "what shall we do for out next book"! These photographs show the aftermath of all this, a little lunch, during which the pile of signed sheets was pushed ignominiously to the edge of the table!


The next day saw Frances performing her lonely dance round the piles of sections to produce ever-growing piles of collated copies - ready for transport to the binders. That is when I have completed the final printing, of the cover blocks.

 As mentioned in an earlier post, I hasten to take photographs of the blocks themselves so that the effect of the artist's original coloured drawing can be seen and remembered when the black ink of the printing obscures it for ever.

19 January, 2014

Good Progress with The Dead Officer

 I can hardly believe it, but the lengthy slog of printing The Diary of a Dead Officer is almost at an end and the binding process can begin. John Abell is at the moment cutting blocks for the papers that will cover the book and the printing of these should be my final task.

Frances has been folding sheets as they are completed and recently has begun to insert sheets into others to form sections. This is one of the most exciting moments in the whole process as I begin to see images and passages of text in their true relation to  one another - rather than to what was next to them on the press.

The above is the 'emblem' that appears, very effectively, on the book's halftitle . . . pointing atmospherically towards the rest of the book.


 This photograph was taken of John during a recent visit to Catchmays Court . . . during which I was able to show him my printings of his linocuts which (as you may remember from an earlier post) he will never have seen printed before!

Rather than photographing complete pages, I have today directed my camera at various details of blocks and have taken advantage of some 'stage-lighting' provided by the winter sunshine.  You will therefore not get a full idea of what the book will look like but the power of these images will, I am sure, make an appropriate initial impact.