Bodies, Botanicals & Bindings; Reimagining Rare Books Exhibition

Nature and wildlife are some of my biggest passions, and the natural environment we live in often inspires creativity within me. With this in mind, it was a joy to be asked to work on a piece with Christine Kingsley, inspired by nature and mindfulness. An open call from the University of Dundee Archives for art inspired by nature and some of their rarest books, dating back to the 16th Century, caught our attention and provided the perfect opportunity to share a piece of collaboration.

In particular, John Gerarde’s Herbal Studies with all the charm of an illustrated plant-life companion from the late 1500s that you could wish for. Thick brown covers envelope thin pages, cluttered in a somehow careful manner with delicate drawings, intelligent type and hand-written annotations which provided plentiful inspiration for Christine and I. The subject also, must be considered as one of the greatest influences behind our resulting piece of work – nature, and most specifically, plant-life.

Over the space of a mere few weeks, Christine and I worked to create a zine displaying how Gerarde’s studies made us feel and influenced us artistically. Using only the book’s archive reference number of ‘F 530.84  G 356‘ as a title to our zine, paper stock, binding techniques and graphic layout were all fine-tuned to result in a piece which we hope not only pleases visually, but also that inspires mindful walks in nature and an appreciation for the beautiful natural environment around us.

Textured brown kraft card bound with natural, delicate thread envelopes crisp white pages decorated with efforts from both artists; wonderfully intricate wood cuts by Christine paired with 35mm film photograph scans by me. Peaceful places that each of us hold close to our hearts such as The Hermitage and Tentsmuir Woods are picked as subject matter, accented often by quotations from our chosen rare book of influence, with a graphically spacious air that aims to replicate the freedom of mind found when out in quiet nature.

It was a real pleasure to work with Christine, who brought a unique attitude towards design and creativity, produced incredible wood cuts, and encouraged a sense of slowness towards the project amongst many other things. The exhibition “Bodies, Botanicals & Bindings; Reimagining Rare Books” hosted by University of Dundee Archives opened on Friday 8th February and runs in the University’s Lamb Gallery until Saturday 27th April. It is both exciting and humbling to have my first ever piece of design in an exhibition, and I cannot wait to head along myself to see what other artists have made in response to the selection of historical books in the archives.

F 530  G 356‘ can be seen at the above exhibition, along with supporting materials including sketches, wood blocks and film negatives. A limited print run of 50 copies allows viewers and zine lovers the chance to have a copy of their own, to inspire moments of mindfulness, slowness and appreciation of nature. There are more details at the exhibition – but if you’d like to know more about purchasing a signed numbered copy for yourself, please get in touch with me either through email or my social media.

– J

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