Bristol Artists’ Book Event (BABE)

Lace Artists Book - Holly Cooper - detail
Lace Artists Book - Holly Cooper - detail

On Saturday I went down to the Arnolfini Contemporary Arts Centre in Bristol with my trusty companion, Mike, to have a look at the Bristol Artists’ Book Event (BABE).  It is a really big event with two floors of exhibitors showing all sorts of beautiful books, from artists’ books with illustrations or stunning forms (or both) to notebooks with beautiful bindings.  It really is a place for bibliophiles.  The only problem is that it is overwhelming.  There is too much to see as so many of the things on display are very detailed and intricate and after a while I got sensory overload.  One thing I saw and instantly fell in love with, though, was this book by Holly Cooper which was all about lace edgings – everything from actual pieces of lace to pin prick paper lace, to burned lace, to lace drawn on and cut out from tracing paper.  I love lace and feel a certain affinity with it coming from Nottingham with its tradition of machine made lace.  I also wish that I was better at doing adventurous edgings in my hand-made books, so I had to buy this.

Lace Artists Book - Holly Cooper
Lace Artists Book - Holly Cooper
Lace Artists Book - Holly Cooper - detail
Lace Artists Book - Holly Cooper - detail

The book was a bit pricey as it just has a very simple stitched pamphlet construction, but the amount of work that had gone into constructing the pages meant that I am quite sure she made less than the minimum wage had she priced it.  It has gone to a good home!

The other thing I bought was a beautifully bound hardback notebook which has a lovely handprinted cover inspired by William Morris, printed by the binder.  The reason I bought it was that it has pomegranate design and I love pomegranates. But also because the young woman who made it really sold it to me.  So many of the artists were real ‘artists’ and it clearly killed them to make eye contact (which is endearing and lovely) but some completely ignored us and chatted to their mates (mistake, learn to pick out the people with disposable income and at least smile at them).  Anyway, the two young women on the Owl and Lion stall from Edinburgh were engaging, enthusiastic, warm, grinning and came out from behind the stand to make Mike sniff the leather bindings he was admittedly hanging his nose over.  I wanted them to succeed and so bought something I might not have done.  (see  I bought some nice little prints, particularly of pens, and Mike got the undoubted bargain of the day, five exquisite little prints mounted on cards on very fine paper for a pound each and an extra one thrown in for buying five!

All in all, an impressive event which is well worth looking out for next time. (


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