Winning a bursary from the SWLA to make an artists’ book was a massive boost to my practice and gave me the impetus to complete a project I had been struggling with. I had made a set of prints describing the pacing behaviour of a zoo tiger but lacked the skills to make a professional job of putting them together into a piece of book art. Through the bursary I was able to have one to one book-binding tuition and reach my goal to complete an edition of handmade artists’ books, finally realising a project that has been close to my heart for some time.
Whilst researching animals in motion I had become interested in the distinctive and disturbing behaviours often seen in zoos. The wildlife charity Born Free Foundation identifies pacing, swaying and head bobbing as ‘stereotypic’ behaviours, typical of stressed wild animals in captivity. With the support of the bursary I created an edition of ten artists’ books entitled ‘abnormal repetitive behaviour’ that show the pacing of a caged tiger. It was inspired by both the early animal locomotion photography of Edward Muybridge and Born Free Foundation videos of this behaviour in zoos.
The book reformats my drawings of a pacing tiger into a sequence of images printed using five photopolymer etching plates and then overprinted with dry point cage bars. Using the zig-zag format of a ‘leporello’, or concertina book, helps to show the movement of the tiger weaving in and out of the panels. A clear border below the images suggests an area outside of the cage. The completed work can be displayed in the round or horizontally across a shelf.
Receiving the bursary allowed me to work with experienced book-binder and teacher Ruth McCann to combine my individual prints into professional pieces of book art. With her help (and a LOT of measuring!) I learned the intricacies of accurate folding and joining to make both the images and plate edges match up accurately across five separate prints. I was then able to add embossed covers to protect it and help it stand for display. I did all of this fourteen times to make an edition of ten books, plus two handling copies, and then joined my last two books together to make a double-length version.
Showing my finished artist book as part of The Natural Eye is the icing on the cake, connecting me with an audience interested in art and wildlife where I hope to meet like-minded artists and animal lovers.