One of the tasks in my itinerary was to find out about Other Books and So, an artist run bookshop in Amsterdam organised and hosted by Ulises Carrión that ran from 1975-1978. I’ve undertaken some desktop research to establish how the shop was started which has helped me contextualise San Serriffe and Boekie Woekie within Amsterdam’s long history of receiving printed matter from artists all over the world.

Noticeably, collaboration with friends is a key part of getting started. In 1975, eighteen friends of Carrión, clubbed together and paid 100 Guilders each to pay the first 6 months rent for a 6 x 10 metre, low ceilinged basement at Herengracht 227.

The shop stocked cards, postcards, magazines, audio tapes, stencils, offset print, photocopies, letterpress, rubberstamp and hand written work. The shop also worked as a gallery presenting visual poetry, Fluxus, stamp art, mail art and performance. Works were presented flat on tables and in cabinets.

Elements of these activities are reflected in both Boekie Woekie and San Serriffe and it’s interesting that Gerrit Jan de Rook proposes that that Other Books and So became a ‘model for a generation of artists, curators and designers who’ve opened publishing houses and galleries’.

I missed out on the exhibitions exploring renewed interest in Carrión in London in 2009 and subsequently with Book Show at Eastside Projects in 2010. I found out about Carrión through reading Sarah Bodman and Tom Sowden’s Manifesto for the Book which begins by referencing The New Art of Making Books. published in Kontexts, 1975.

At Other Books and So unknown artists from Europe, the USA and Latin America shared space with well known artists; Ed Ruscha and Sol Lewitt for example.

In 1978, after a move to a bigger space the previous year, Other Books and So lost it’s subsidies and was taken over for a while by other artists before closing.

As an artist and educator running a temporary shop and a book fair, I’ve placed myself in various, unexpected situations and roles which has allowed me to draw on different sets of skills. It interests me that Gerrit Jan de Rook writes that Carrión, through running the bookshop, was ‘liberated from being an artist’ and that being an organiser and a gallery became an essential part of his work.

Source: http://metropolism.com/magazine/2010-no5/tatata-tatatata-ta/english


Dead Ends

This blog post is about coming to a perceived ‘dead end’ in the research and then finding out that it’s not a dead end at all, its working out what happens next and making plans on how to do ‘what happens next’!

Before leaving for Amsterdam, I contacted staff at the Stedelijk Museum library for help in sourcing material to help me find out about Other Books and So, an artist-run bookshop in Amsterdam organised by Ulises Carrión.

Maartje and Michiel were helpful and emailed to say they’d ordered a book for me ‘Other Books and So’ and that there was another location in Amsterdam to view archives.

Arriving at the library, the book was a catalogue of an exhibition. In essence, it presented Carrión’s essay/manifesto ‘The New Art of Making Books’ published in Kontexts in 1975.

With no time to visit the City Archives on this trip, I felt I’d arrived at a dead end. I need more time in Amsterdam if I want to develop this research further through the Museum.

I made a decision to conduct desk top research at home instead. Also that I need to come to the Museum, better equipped and with sufficient time (and then some) to follow up leads. This is a whole other research trip!

One thing I’ve learned through this trip is to allow more time for activities. While, another week would have been helpful to follow up leads; City Archives, Rotterdam and Uttrecht artist run spaces (Ott’s suggestion), yet another week would have allowed me to get mucky and make page-work with the stuff collected.

I needed to come to Amsterdam to realise why I wanted to come here in the first place, if that makes sense?

Writing this post has helped me realise that the trip is the beginning of wondering:

1. How do I organise a shop space again?
2. How does Counter work?
3. Where do I send/take my page-work – and how?
4. Do I need to come back to Amsterdam?

And then wondering:

How do I do all that?

Back home, I’ve found out stuff about ‘Other Books and So’ through desktop research, there’s another post on this.

The research is about finding models of artist run bookshops to help me realise my own.


Noticing lots of weeny gardens in Amsterdam. Little patches of soil tucked into oblong brick recesses on the pavement alongside apartments. I’m interested that things grow here in such tiny spaces.

Grot Gardens

Tall Yellow Rose Trees

And this is the view from the back of the shop through to Boekie Woekie’s little garden, which by comparison to the little oblong brick recess gardens is enormous!

I’m thinking about these lovely little gardens as metaphors for making spaces, projects and works from, well, not a lot.

I’m wondering what can unfold on a shoestring, in a tiny space.


Ott Metusala is a graphic designer who moved to Amsterdam from Estonia to study Graphic Design at the Gerrit Rietveld Acadamie where he met Pieter Verbeke and Elisabeth Klement. Pieter is a librarian and Elisabeth is a graphic designer. Together, they created San Serriffe.

Ott is pleased to talk shop!

The shop stocks art books and self produced publications and the stock is changed weekly to keep titles fresh. In addition to international titles, works come from Amsterdam, some of them produced and published with San Serriffe. It’s usual for the shop to hold an event on Thursdays; a book launch, performance, reading or talk.

There is a careful selection process for book-works, partly given that due to the small space they can’t take all the books but decisions are curated and rely on gut feeling. I am thinking this gut feeling is based on the design sensibilities of Ott, Elisabeth and Pieter.

Many artists/designers come to the shop to show their work to Ott with a view to having their books stocked. More often than not these works aren’t suitable for the book shop. Ott seems to feel a bit sad about this but we talk about the feedback he gives in return and the networking opportunities he sets up as a valuable resource – this is something they are working on – a kind of agency. He often advises artists to hook up with designers to enable content to be realised. I think by this he means a kind of neat, minimal design as this is reflected in the types of books stocked in the shop; it contrasts well with the glorious messiness of Boekie Woekie.

Ott is interested in artists working with designers and interprets this as the way to work now. His tutors on the Graphic Design course at Gerrit Rietvald Academie are both artists and designers. This is interesting to me having worked previously with Graphic Designers who perceived my background as an artist a barrier.

It’s interesting that Ott, Peter and Elisabeth are very much focussed on what they want to do with San Serriffe. They work independently in Amsterdam concentrating on their own ideas of how they want their space to evolve.

On shops, or the ‘Art of the Shop Keeper’, its worth noting that Ott refers to the mercantile history of Amsterdam: people from Amsterdam are ‘good at shops’. Perhaps the long history of seminal Dutch designers and architects is key. He likes that there are lots of small specialist shops all over the city – it’s a way of life here.

San Serriffe take work to showcase at art book fairs like Offprint Paris, which helps them assess the types of books similar organisations carry. This research enables San Serriffe to go out and find other titles as an alternative offer. They also scout graphic design student shows and invite some graduates to work with them on publications.

Talking to Ott about the sense of connected living/working spaces that seem to be scattered all over Amsterdam, he explains that people are cramped and need to find a way to live together, especially as it’s expensive to be based here.

Studios and social enterprise hubs with intriguing windows of objects, graphics and activity are common. These units are located in residential apartment blocks dotted around the centre and suburbs of the city. Creative people are visible here. Like the UK, funding for small art projects has been reduced and Ott says that there are fewer projects in the city because of these cuts.

Ott says that although its expensive to live here, it’s a great place to connect with people and it’s easy to reach other cities like Berlin. He suggests that Utrecht and Rotterdam would be good places to visit next.

The visit ends with book buying: Widgets by Bastien Gachet, A Play by Uta Eisenreich & James Langdon and Neem Me Mee, Zei De Hond (Take Me With You Said the Dog) by Wim Brands.


San Serriffe is an art bookshop and gallery situated in a narrow cobbled street in the red light district in the old town of Amsterdam.

It’s a shop unit and the interior fit is minimal giving it an industrial feel contrasting with the sex shops, window parlours and coffee shops of this popular district.

Ott is staffing the shop today. He has his studio here which is aloft a DIY, particle board mezzanine floor built in a nook alongside the shop space. Beneath the mezzanine floor, a storage cupboard with concertina screen constructed from peg board to populate with tools.

Diagonally poised, particle board shelving islands on little castor wheels occupy the canary yellow shop floor.

Flat boards lean against walls where music on vinyl and cassettes perch on little grey rails.

A small trestle table with stools invites visitors to sit and browse. A mini-kitchen with basic bar and a tower of simple stackable stools illustrates that this is also an event space.

Overall, this is a bright, contemporary, well-designed modular space that suggests multi-use as a bookshop, gallery, event space and workspace that opens to visitors 3 days a week, Thursday – Saturday.