In September 2010, I went on a writing retreat where I met Sarah Bird who was about to set up a community publishing collective, Vala (have a look at Vala Publishing Cooperative on Facebook). I love the idea of starting a publishing company. I love the audacity. We keep on reading about the demise of the book, and anyone without a kindle or an iPad is made to feel horribly old-fashioned and frankly not trying, but I’m not so sure. I think we underestimate the tenacity of the tactile. So, Sarah and her co-co-opers are committed to making books which are a joy to read and to handle, so I wish them all well.
Sarah asked me if I would do a workshop with her on how they could think about making artful and soulful books, and so I suggested that they actually made books. So, we chose our day and invited people to join us in making books. I used the most simple book form there is – the rubber band book with an upcycled scrap cardboard cover (have a look at www.accessart.org.uk for details), to get people started in the morning, and then in the afternoon, we ‘tricked out’ the books, as a Danish architecture lecturer described the process of personalising and customising sketchbooks.
I was a bit worried about not having enough to fill the day, but I started off by showing them books that I had made, and they were off. They had to be forced to stop for lunch and again at 4.00 pm for show and tell and a discussion about what Vala could do to make their books distinctive. This is the workshop in full flight:
The books they made were just fantastic and each one really reflected the personality of the person who made them.
And yet again I was amazed at how people diving into the same pile of materials could come up with quite such different end results.
There were gorgeous details,
and a real flair for personalising the pages,
And people started to work in the books rather than leaving them as blanks, like I did!
They were luscious and I would have loved to have taken any or all of them home:
At the beginning of the day I promised the participants that they would take home a finished book and some of them were a bit sceptical, but by the end of the day they were talking about making notebooks for presents, to commemorate birthdays, and to use in school with quite small children. I loved doing this workshop because the energy in the room was so high, and people were so enthusiastic. It was a lovely day and I am grateful to Sarah for inviting me.