I travelled down to Edinburgh for my second set of Brigid Collins Masterclasses at the beginning of October. I had another three workshops spread over three days courtesy of the VACMA Awards – funding from Aberdeenshire Council and Creative Scotland. These built on the previous three masterclasses I had with Brigid in May (see previous blog post of May 31st, 2017).
This set of classes combined studio time with two field trips: one to the library at the Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) and another to visit artist and publisher Julie Johnstone who creates artists’ books and installations. You can find out more about Julie and her own imprint, Essence Press at: www.essencepress.co.uk
During the first day Brigid introduced me to another two book forms – the tunnel book and the star book – providing a wealth of examples and practical instructions on how to construct these forms.
Our second day began with a visit to the Library at the ECA where I saw more examples of these alongside a further selection of artist’s books with a particular emphasis on poetry. Getting to spend time with such a wide body of work was invaluable as it expanded my perception of just what an artist’s book is and what it potentially could be. This hands-on interaction also led to a fuller consideration of the weight, texture and colour of paper and card to use than I might otherwise have had.
We then visited Julie Johnstone who gave us a highly detailed insight into how she creates her artists’ books and installations from the equipment used to the paper she prefers. She talked us through a large body of her work and generously answered all our questions. I was particularly struck by the less-is-more approach Julie employs in her work. Wisdom whispers from her pages providing an invitation towards reflection which I deeply appreciate. I was enchanted and awe-inspired by her creations and her openness towards sharing her years of experience with us.
The final day was spent back in the studio developing my ideas further. In particular, solving the problem of how to create rigidity in my ‘blue print book’ made from tracing paper. Brigid’s suggestions led to a very effective solution and I was able to complete my first artist’s book for the Flourish project within our final session. That felt like a very fitting finale for our time together.
Spending this time one-to-one with Brigid has been everything I had hoped it would be, and more. I always anticipated getting something valuable from the experience, but I didn’t understand the myriad ways it would expand my practice and enrich my growth as a creative. Alongside Brigid’s wealth of experience and knowledge, she also shared the joy of those ‘a-ha’ moments when you find something vital to the successful outcome of a piece. Essentially, I also found something vital to my own practice too – a generous teacher and a place of acceptance and nurture. This whole adventure has expanded my field of vision as to what is possible for me and I am excited to continue on with what I’ve learnt to produce more visual poems and artist’s books inspired by the Flourish project.
In addition to this experience something else wonder-full came out of my time with Brigid – a collaborative piece of work between the two of us. During the first set of sessions, Brigid read some of the found poems I had written in the Wild Garden which I had brought with me as inspiration. She was particularly struck by one of them and asked my permission to create some work of her own in response to it. I was humbled and delighted to oblige.
And this is what she created – a series of porcelain furls in response to my lines:
unfurl your knowing
porcelain furls – by Brigid Collins
These formed part of her exhibition, “Such frail enclaves” held in September in Dr. Neil’s Garden in Duddingston, Edinburgh – yet another wonderful garden space. Details of this exhibition and Brigid’s work can be found at: http://www.brigidcollins.co.uk/articles_350314.html