Sunday, 6 November 2016

A trip to the small publishers fair

It was expected that I attend the small publishers' fair in London this week as part of my course.

I duly attended ( and enjoyed the experience).

It was a wet, cold and dark day. My anorak leaked.

I was thinking about words as I walked there.

Colonic irrigation ( hydrotherapy by another name)  appeared before my eyes. I moved on swiftly.

You can see my short journey in this short video.


I was expecting a large and glamorous affair. 

But no. This was the world of small publishing; men with beards and trestle tables in Conway Hall. A crowded and friendly event. Nothing fancy. Not even a cup of tea.

There were about 48 publishers represented in all. Some sharing a table, others more luxuriant and spacious. All the books could be handled, and all the publishers were delighted to disucss their work.

First stop Essence Press

I had already discovered the work of Julie Johnstone in my explorations online. Her understated minimalist approach is exactly the feel/look that I  aspire to . Reminiscent of Agnes Martin and Rothko.  

Julie describes her work as 'concerning perception, distillation, and contemplative experience'

I had been contemplating this week what silence looks like; 

Julie has already considered this....

Julie Johnstone- on silence

 It was encouraging to learn that she makes her work at home on an inkjet printer.

Next up was Guy Bigland whose work with words amused me greatly. Playing with text, lists and ideas about four letter words . 

These were all very clever but I found myself wondering how often one might want to read them. The sort of content that suits a coffee table or loo, for quick browsing and then passing on, or for inspiring ideas for one's own projects. I was more impressed with his wealth of ideas than desirous to own his work. They emphasise the banal, which can be entertaining in itself.

text based works by Guy Bigland.

 Two artists that I spoke to used thread in unconventional ways in their work.

Geraldine Dubois uses machine stitching to join pages of her concertina books


and Batool Showghi uses thread to connect pages in her concertina books as  a representation of boundaries, in a similar way to the work of feminist artists, Sotau and Eisennegger,  currently showing at The Photographers Gallery.


Showghi's work explores her cultural heritage, memory, identity and loss. She wants to examine the physical limits that women can experience with regard to cultural and religious boundaries.

 There were many landscape based books, often in concerntina form that drew my attention. Delicate papers requiring a light touch in some cases. 

Clever use of text to create line drawings ; something that I have been experimenting with.

One word books - sold out.

Small Publishers' Fair 2016

And a collection of white goods in 'Still Works' .

Brilliant title.

And finally the most overworked book that I have ever come across, on the subject of the human intestine.

I think they need a quick irrigation.

And I needed some fresh air.


  1. ntto on that last one !!!

    Call me prosaic and lacking in imagination if you will, but my first reaction on seeing thread hanging out of a book binding would be to snip it off or pull it out. Threads do not suggest boundaries at all ... but connections and processes so I dare say the authors who are trying to communicate have completely failed to convey their intended meaning.

    I do agree - it's fun to experiment with text on a curve - speaking from personal experience ( wince ) - it has been used to disguise less than average poetry for ages. Trace a path in illustrator or photoshop and then just add the text to the path/curve - youtube videos of varying quality abound... ( not suggesting in any way that *you* would use bad poetry )

    It's a bit depressing how many of those titles were exercises in futility where the "authors" appeared to be groping after originality or the shock of the new. Instead they either come across as vanity projects or as mind-numbing ephemera, profoundly dull and re-using ideas that have been done better before - but, to be fair, it is very hard to be truly original, and, as ever, I enjoy your take on them.

    1. I appreciate your thoughts Caroline. It is very hard to be truly original, and I think it is telling that I didn't feel a need to buy any of the books :)