- Spike Print Studios
- South West England
The Spike Print bursary, awarded through Spike Island’s Associates programme, enabled me to take up a place on Paper Structures: Book Arts Unfolded at Spike Print Studio in 2017–18.
I embarked on this course with a long-standing interest in artists’ books and an existing creative practice that spans visual art and writing. The course challenged my assumptions about the kind of work I thought I’d make through the year and reminded me how important the not-knowing is in creative development.
Paper Structures: Book Arts Unfolded has playfulness and experimentation at its heart, and the invitation to play was especially liberating; I let go of the worry of being artistically consistent, of feeling the need to make coherent work that neatly fits into my ‘practice’, as it appears publicly. My peers showed me different ways of looking and seeing. I took risks and thoroughly enjoyed the act of making and thinking-and-not-thinking, and followed the circuitous paths that appeared. I ran headlong down dead ends, spent hours making things that went straight in the bin, felt momentary delight and rambling exasperation: essential elements in creating anything of value.
I have new practical skills in bookbinding, box making and toy design. I tried to trap tiny paper minnows inside handmade Japanese paper but they darted away from me. I found the simplest pleasure in folding paper into 3D forms then fell down a rabbit hole of mind-melting mathematical variation. I moulded scissors from paper but they snipped themselves into self-referential confetti. I built a staircase that went nowhere. I got lost in a mirrored Cricut maze.
I left folded orange printer paper in daylight, then unfolded the sun bleached sheets and saw a calendar that recorded the final weeks of the course. This became the piece I showed at the end of year exhibition. The marks left by the light continued to fade during the show. My interest in the marking of time – which in the past I have expressed through photography and video – has found a new form in paper.
When I look back at the maquettes, the tests, the 3D sketches I made throughout the year, what surprises me most are the clear threads of ideas running through them. The act of unconsciously playing, of pressing pause on my self-critical brain, far from resulting in an incoherent mish-mash, has uncovered new ways of articulating my artistic concerns. This course enabled me to make those discoveries and leaves me with numerous lines of artistic enquiry to follow.
–Ellen Wilkinson, July 2018
(An aspect of writing that I’m very interested in is when authors – particularly of fiction – use parentheses to say the most important thing: far from being parenthetical, the brackets contain the bit that really matters. These parentheses contain Emma Gregory, who led this course with generosity, insight, challenge, support and many, many questions. Thank you so much, Emma).