23 December, 2007

With all good wishes . . .

May all the happinesses and the beauties of the Season come to you and all our friends!

Frances & Nicolas

12 December, 2007

Bad Husbandry at Catchmays Court

Temporary fence-strengthening against invasion by especially athletic sheep from next door.

I'd like to say that this is our latest purchase by way of riverside sculpture, but . . .

When 'bindertwine' is so effective for fixing a gate to its post, who would bother with new hinges?

When I first told myself that I should remove this post and wire support, the tree was just big enough to survive without them. A bit late now . . . so, if anyone questions, I go all serious and talk about long-term experiments!

This is just so much displacement activity to make up for the fact that so much time has passed since my last post! I do apologise.

Phew! It has been a busy old time. We went to the London Artists' Bookfair (LAB 07) at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. This is the fair where are thought of as being staid and fuddy-duddy, as opposed to the Fine Press Fair in Oxford where we are regarded as dangerous radicals! Both shows were fun and successful.

I have finally completed the text and binding printings for Green Blades, with its poems by Thomas Hardy and wonderful lino and woodcut images by Mark Cazalet. We do not yet know how long The Fine Book Bindery will take over their job but I hope the book will be available soon after the New Year. Mark asked us to make a little leaflet for him to add to his Christmas Card mailing and already a goodly list has formed, including takers for more than half of the Specials. Watch this space for photos of the bound book as soon as it arrives.

We also went to the remarkable Spike Island complex in Bristol where (as mentioned last time) we could view Peter Reddick's wonderful retrospective exhibition A Backward Glance. It will remain open quite far into the New Year and I can eagerly recommend anyone who is able to visit. Frances and I were 'in conversation' with Peter as you may have noticed on the Invitation I included last time. This was a great success as the substantial audience was very interested in what we do and very interesting too . . . happy, often, to discuss what they themselves did in relation to books and print-making.

Now we are able to stay at home for a bit, which is lovely. It is also extremely cold at the moment so I will concentrate on other (indoor) things for the moment rather than rush to start work on The Christmas Sequence which certainly beckons but my printing office has only rudimentary heating and my trusty Press does not operate happily when its metal is too cold. What a superb excuse!

16 November, 2007

A good Fair at Oxford and a 'Barbarian' at our gate!

The Fine Press Fair at Oxford happens only every two years. When it finally comes around, after this long interval, WHOOSH and suddenly it is all over! We had a very successful time, though, talking both with many long-standing customers and with some folk who have only recently discovered the joys of collecting books printed by hand. There were so many people there, however, that we had little opportunity to see what other presses have been printing, which is usually one of the joys of being in a room all together. No time even to take photographs! So, two very hard-working days and then home again. Leading the Cranes Home was much admired - even by the judges for the prize of best book of 2006-7. The Abstract Garden and Black Marigolds also disappeared off the table at speed which is encouraging after all the hard work that went into their creation.

Peter Reddick, who did the magnificent engravings for The Abstract Garden, is about to open a retrospective of his work at Spike Island - the printmaking studio in Bristol which he founded with others. . . . It will be open, at 133 Cumberland Road, from 8th December until 21st December and then from 7th January until 29th February, 12-5 o'clock including weekends before Christmas but excluding weekends in the new year.

On our return home, we had the great pleasure of the company of Crispin Elsted who had come to the Oxford Fair from his Barbarian Press in Mission, British Columbia. After bewailing the fact that we had so little time for exchanges with other presses at the Fair, we were able to put our feet up and talk with Crispin who is poet, writer, ex-actor, designer and typesetter and has a wealth of knowledge and experience of life and literature.

During the few days he spent with us we had to visit Tintern Abbey - especially since his wife Jan, who is the printer of all their exquisite books, has a particular love of the poetry of Wordsworth. Sadly she had been unable to come on this visit - so we paid her respects to our neighbouring monument. Here is Crispin with Frances instead!

Many photos were taken so that she could share our ecstatic autumn day there, followed by a climb past Llanthony Abbey to Capel-y-fin to see the spectacular views which were part of Eric Gill and David Jones life for a number of years.

While the inevitable Welsh rain came down on the following day, we listened to music, became excited over books for which we shared a love, drank wine, looked at pictures and cemented the friendship which until now had largely been conducted by e-mail across to the other side of the world. Here is a taste of Barbarian printing.

Now, we have to move on to the next Fair - The London Artists Book Fair at the ICA, The Mall, London SW1.
Friday 23 November 12 - 6.30pm
Saturday 24 November 11 - 7 pm
Sunday 25 November 11 - 5pm

This fair has a very different collection of people who create books from those who show their work in Oxford but it is always stimulating and a wonderfully central place to exhibit. For those who did not manage to come to Oxford, we hope we may see you in London!

Next year we hope to be at the Royal Academy again - more details later but that show is at the beginning of February. Then, for the first time, there is to be an Artists Book Fair in Glasgow at the Royal Concert Hall in April, which we shall be at.

. . . and, finally, three of my own sort of photos, the first taken in Tintern Abbey and the last two taken in the tiny church outside Llantony Abbey. As the latter was so dark I could barely make out the shape of these monuments in the gloom. I aimed as best I could and the flash (which I hardly ever use) did the rest. What thrilling discoveries!

08 October, 2007

Doesn't The Old Stile Press ever do any work?

A few days ago, the weather man came on the television looking particularly pleased with himself and announced that there were to be a couple of superb days of almost universal sunshine before we sink yet further into Autumn.

One of the many great things about being immeasurably old and working for oneself is that we can take advantage of such 'unrepeatable offers' at a moment's notice! So we did just that . . . shooting off to Pembrokeshire for ANOTHER couple of nights!

When strong sun in a blue sky makes a rare appearance this late in the year, one is in for a real treat in this part of Wales for its low angle can make for dramatic effects.

On our first day we went to Solva and stood on the cliff overlooking the sound from which so many families from all over Great Britain would, in those early days, have started on their terrifying journey under sail to make their fortune in the New World.

On the second day we went to the "Deer Park" (there never were any apparently) which is the cliff-bound promontory that reaches out to the island of Skomer. It is, for me, one of the most utterly beautiful places in the world.

On previous visits we have seen seals at this time of the year but this time was beyond everything. I am hereby rushing onto the blog a number of nice ones but I have to warn the world that I took about 240 photos altogether so I shall have to think of ways to 'presenting' them!

To be technical, I was on top of a cliff looking down at the happenings below with a rather standard telephoto lens at full stretch pointing downwards. There was another chap with a monstrous lens with which he could probably study belly buttons but I was more than happy with what I got, especially as I did not have a tripod.

Before anybody starts suggesting that I must have put these shots through the gismo in Photoshop that makes everything look like an oil painting, I must stress that I have done NOTHING with them except crop and enlarge. The incredible effects in the water (which have made me drool with pleasure) were simply what was there for the photographing - because of the low sun, the broken surface of the water and (where it goes dark blue and brown) the shadow of the cliff itself and, of course, the utterly delightful cast of seals. There were the dads keeping solemn watch from afar and there were the newborns laid out on the beach and crying (very humanly) until they were fed. In between there were the (presumably) mothers giving the youngsters swimming lessons and the youngsters having an absolute whale (or seal!) of a time.

Although it is very early days, I cannot let pass this perfect opportunity to mention the fact that, way over the water in Carbondale, Illinois, our good friend the artist Michael Onken (who comes to Scotland, the Orkneys especially, at least once a year, to keep his artistic juices flowing) is busy making images of Selkies in lino and engraved wood which are to go in a future OSP book. We are more than usually excited about this one for its text is a 'play for voices' called The Girl from the Sea, by George Mackay Brown, performed once but unpublished in his lifetime. There will be time enough to say more about this lovely project when it comes a little closer but, meanwhile, here is a treat in the form of Michael's Selkie studies.

27 September, 2007

Editing the Garden . . .

This post is for Natalie d'Arbeloff - to take her mind off things for a bit.

This morning was autumnally beautiful. We were to expect the arrival of some friends so, rather than start something I could not finish, I grabbed the camera. Encouraged by the fact that some folk said they liked the beach photos below, I wondered whether I could attempt to do the same picture-finding process in the garden. What do you think?

and finally . . .

The portrait of a very shy goldfish!

24 August, 2007

Editing the Rocks

We've been down in Pembrokeshire for a few days, mostly improving our 'Box' with a bit of paint but also enjoying some glorious sun, all the more magical after, it seems, weeks of rain.

A few months ago I posted some results of my fixation with photographing rocks as 'artworks'. Some of you, gentle readers, were kind (rash!) enough to say that they liked the outcome, so . . . here are some more.

These were all taken on a stretch of beach/cliff about 50 yards long. For all the folk swimming, frying, building sandcastles there, it appeared that I alone had noticed the incredible beauty of any of these natural wonders!

A click will increase the size. The bigger the better for these, I reckon.