The Pottery Press
The Pottery Press is our in-house imprint where we occasionally publish printed versions of my artist’s books in a small signed edition. We at Potters’ Yard Arts (writer Frances Bingham and artist Liz Mathews) established The Pottery Press in 1999, and published our first title that year: MOTHERTONGUE, with text by Frances Bingham and images by Liz Mathews, in a limited edition of 100, signed by writer and artist. Our most recent title is Paper Wings, a half-size digital facsimile of my artist’s book installation setting to paper a new love song cycle by Maureen Duffy.
Paper Wings Text by Maureen Duffy Images by Liz Mathews
57 pages 57 images ISBN 978-0-9930171-0-0
Published London 2014
On first reading Songs for Sappho, Maureen Duffy’s new love-poem cycle, I immediately saw the poems as flying messages like smoke signals or paper darts, the words lifted into the breeze like the beneficent mantras of prayer-flags. The cycle also suggested a concertina book where the last page can join the first in a circle of continuity, like the turning year. From these two imaginings I envisaged a flying installation that would become an unending artist’s book.
I set each poem on a large (42cm x 30cm) handmade paper sheet, lettering the text with unconventional tools – sticks of Thames driftwood, goose-feather quills, reed pens, wooden clothes-pegs – and mixed paint with blood, honey, snowmelt, earth or wine as the poem demanded, to make each page reflect the material qualities of the text, and inhabit the poems rather than illustrate them.
The installation was shown at Enitharmon Press’s London gallery (Sept-Oct 2014) with the pages fluttering overhead, before construction into the 23m-long artist’s book. The half-size facsimile book published by The Pottery Press (signed limited first edition of 100) combines aspects of the artist’s book and the installation, with each page photographed by the artist and reproduced in full colour, strung from a length of washing line with a couple of wooden pegs. It can stand upright so that you can turn the pages day-by-day, reflecting the turning seasons in the poems.
Here in the studio at Potters’ Yard we have also made an artist’s film of Paper Wings, in which Maureen Duffy reads each poem as the pages turn and the complete song cycle unfolds to a background soundscape of birdsong, London buses and the weather evoked by the poems. (DVD £10 + VAT available from Enitharmon Press).
MOTHERTONGUE Text by Frances Bingham Images by Liz Mathews
99 pages 18 images ISBN 0 9537016 0 3 Published London 1999
Signed limited edition – low stock – a few copies still for sale £25 +P&P
This artist’s book was another joint text/image project: a limited edition artist’s book with original artwork by Liz Mathews inspired by Frances Bingham’s text, a narrative poem which explores time and memory, gender and identity, inheritance and creation, through the voices of women performers whose different lives are linked by their birthright, a common language.
Here in the theatre, my heart- and home-land
where every step I take is seven leagues
nearer to my improbable desires,
I am indeed, a lad unparallel’d.
The stories – told in irresistable, readable verse – are those of Thea Buckingham, ‘King of the Boys’ – a music hall male impersonator ‘Sartorially more elegant, refined,/ more gentlemanly, indefinably,/ than any specimen of masculinity/ likely to be met with in these sad days…’; then Pen, child of the English Revolution, and woman actor-writer of the Restoration: ‘I was the first. I proclaim it’; and Macheath, the ‘uppish highway-youth player/ who wears the glamorous fashion of their grandparents’ and who sweeps her Polly off her feet in time-honoured fashion – and woven through these stories is that of the Narrator and Fen, recognising their forebears
Booted and suited, cropped and monocled,
they swagger with their innocent bravado,
lending us small change, giving us a light,
knowing our names and speaking the same language,
perversely practising our one religion,
and coming from the same part of the country.
The relation of image to text in the book is subtle; the eighteen images reflect aspects of the text, rather than illustrate scenes. One is a ceramic sculpture in low relief of a theatre stage and highly ornate proscenium arch, complete with ‘ashtrays’ or boxes – with a spotlit chorusline of text on stage.
Another, A box of tricks, is a photomontage of the Globe Theatre ‘in the round’, with the Narrator as MC/Wizard/Conductor wielding driftwood baton, under a handprint made with raw clay slip. Pollock’s Toy Theatre shows ‘our players down the wrong end of the telescope, they suddenly diminish’ – revealing the interweaving of the stories, and some games with costume.
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