A trip to BABE 2011

If you are a book artist in the UK and don't know what BABE is then you should! BABE stands for Bristol Artists' Book Event which is held biannually in Bristol's Arnolfini gallery. This is the first one I have been able to come to, only as a visitor this time but perhaps in 2013 I will be there behind a table.
Reading latest issue of BAN on the train to BABE
It was a beautiful, if chilly, day to adventure out of London on the train. It was a 2 hour train journey which gave me plenty of time to catch up on the latest BAN (Book Arts Newsletter), which is always a treat, as well as starting to read a book I picked up at a launch at Artwords bookshop earlier in the week; Phantom Settlements is a book published by Ditto press and edited by Catrin Morgan. But I digress.
The Arnolfini was only a 15min walk from the station and is located on the waterfront of the harbour docks in an old warehouse. I managed to walk in the side entrance about 5mins after the doors opened into the first room full of booksellers. The table I was most interested in in that room (after arriving just 2 mins before!) was that of the artist duo Reassemble. Sheena was the one holding the fort that day and I spent a good 20/30 mins just on their table trying to decide which books to buy, asking her questions and generally getting in the way of everyone else looking! Their books a generally all monoprinted, and as such are each completely unique, or as they put it "never the same book twice".
I ended up buying two A5 size books, a smaller one and a tiny one that is one sheet that folds out. All the books are made with newsprint which gives a lovely feel to the pages. I have always loved the way monoprints act on newsprint and I am so glad to have found someone else who feels the same. My only worry is how long the newsprint will last before becoming brittle but then again all the pages are completely covered in print and ink in layers and layers of overprinting so perhaps that will protect and seal the paper...
After that purchase I bumped into Nancy Campbell who I met a few years ago (in Bristol again) at a Book Arts conference at UWE. It was great to catch up with her briefly, but the books were calling to us both so we headed our separate ways. I went up to the next floor of the gallery to the largest spread of tables. So many lovely books, but not much money! While deep in my book hunting mode, with I am ashamed to say, hardly a glance at the artists behind each desk, I saw a book I was really intrigued by, checking the name of the artist I realised I knew her. Having never really met (email correspondence only) I hadn't recognised her; Jo Moore makes work under the imprint Peach Tree, Pear Tree Press and I know her because she wrote a piece of text for my Micro-Pages exhibition catalogue a few years ago. We chatted for a good while and I bought one of her books that has text printed on tracing paper (love that).
A page from Stills
After Jo I moved on round the rest of that floor, just admiring and chatting to a few people. My brain started to melt after that so I decided to leave the top floor until after a cup of tea so I went off to the cafe and bumped into Nancy again so we had a proper catch up over tea and cake. 
It was getting really busy by that point so I sought the refuge of BABL; Bibliotherapy Artists' Book Library is a library in a vintage van driven around and looked after by the artist Lucy May Schofield. I stupidly didn't take a photo of the van, sorry guys, hopefully Lucy will put up some up to date photos of her beautiful mobile library on her tumblr blog soon. It was parked just outside the gallery next to the waterfront and was just what I needed to get away from the bustle for 10 minutes. Lucy taught me some basic bookbinding skills a few years back so I promised to come back to the van later to catch up with her. I had to dash off to a tour/talk that was being led by the Arnolfini's archivist Julian Warren. He talked about Arnolfini's latest project to enliven their archive. Cover-ed is their current exhibition/event series which shows original Ed Ruscha books alongside a plethora of book works that artists have produce after Ruscha. Ruscha certainly has inspired many many people in the book arts world. One of the events was to rein-act the original book with a twist and a new book was produced entitled Salad Dressing. I won't go into detail because otherwise this post will go on forever! Follow the links for more info. After the talk I had a little wander in their archive reading room (a very nice little space) and then outside for another break. Lucy was still there with BABL so I went inside for a browse and a catch up (lots of catching up happened at this event!), the van/library was such an oasis of calm, if you ever get the chance to go inside it on its wandering tour of the UK then do, you will not regret it. 
So that was my day, after that I had a wander and went home on the train with my bags of goodies! Thanks to everyone for a great day. And thanks to all your blog readers who have read the whole of this long rambling post! 


projectforty said...

am so disappointed I didn't get there - I hadn't realised that it won't reappear until 2013 - thanks for showing us your visit

ronnie said...

oh boy abigail - I'm DYING of jealousy over here.... the whole thing sounds WONDERFUL ..... hey in 2013 maybe we BAO peeps might gather together enough work (and UK participants) to 'do' something at the event.... ahhhhh dreams - without them we'd be rocks....

and I LOVE have a a great long interesting read about booky things - saves me the plane fare (that I'm unlikely to ever have....and even less likely to use on air fuel...)

mmm mmmm MMMMMM this has been a juicy post
- I'm going back to follow the links now

Abigail Thomas said...

Hi projectforty; thanks for commenting - hope you get to go in 2013 - there are other book art events around the UK though yearly so maybe there is another nearish you... I will let you know if I hear of one.

Ronnie; yes I was thinking about a BAO table & event too..... it would be amazing! Many links in this one; enjoy!

Sara Bowen said...

ooh yes, please can I be part of a BAO contribution! Our show at Impact 7 is just the beginning... Great post, Abigail, well worth reading all the way to the end. Made me a bit homesick for Bristol, actually - it's such a lovely city.

Angela said...

Damn! How did I miss you? I was there on the Saturday. Sarah Bodman very kindly put some of my pendants on the UWE Stand. I really enjoyed it and met loads of people I knew from my MA and various courses I've done at UWE. I like Ronnie's suggestion - something to work towards.

Abigail Thomas said...

oh no, we should have met up! damn!