This was my first time at the Small Publishers Fair. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but somehow, because it was in London, I imagined it to be bigger. But it was a nice size and had a broad range of participants, something for everyone.
There is always that awkward exchange over the table of exhibited books. How much are you meant to talk to the person on the other side of the table. Some seem to want to talk a lot, others not so much. Do you have to buy something or is positive feedback enough? My most memorable interaction was at Kurt Johannessen’s table. The initial shared hellos were exchanged, and then he selected a passage from one of his books for me to read. This performative invitation broke down barriers and created an instant blanket of warmth and generosity. It reminded me of travelling abroad to a country where you don’t speak the same local language, but you have a moment of understanding with a stranger.
There also were some familiar faces which was nice, considering I am new to the scene. There were also books that I had in mind to buy prior to the event, so this seemed like a good opportunity to save on postage, and make the load a little lighter for the participants when they pack up at the end of the event.
I also go to see the greatly anticipated artist’s book aptly titled The Object of our Affection created by Angie Butler commissioned by the Making Books in Bristol Project. Sarah Bodman wrote about it here. In my mind this is an example of a perfect book. It contains all of the elements that I love to see when flipping through the pages of a limited edition book, such as inserts and other surprises. Different paper weights. Clear collaborative additions such as a wood engraving by Ben Goodman, a poster that Angie created with Jim Smith, and a foldable page that was made with the Books at Bristol lead academics from the Centre for Material Texts, Jenny Batt and Rhiannon Daniels. If you get the chance to see this book, make sure you do. A must have Object of our Affection for artists’ book collections.
The books that I purchased from the fair fall under these categories:
Educational books, such as the books I got from Uniformbooks, Unshelfmarked, Reconceiving the artists’ book, by Michael Hampton. And, The Keartons, Inventing nature photography, by John Bevis.
Inspiring, educational in an aesthetically pleasing way. For instance, there might be elements that I may want to incorporate from the purchased book in my own work. A good example would be ottoGraphic’s Photoshop for Screen Printing. This is a beautiful book. An informative how to manual, but also an object of affection. The printing quality, the edges of the paper, the centerfold poster. Wonderful!
Books as gifts. Such as the books from Sato Hisao. These are paper-craft marionette books. There are instructions so that you can fold and make your own moving paper toy. I purchased two for my niece and nephew.
Attending book fairs are part research and part pleasure. A perfect way to spend a day.