After my recent book-making demonstrations at Selfridges, I got some feedback that gave me pause for thought.
Kavita Kapoor attended the class with Jesse Chan-Norris, expecting to be shown some very finished books (“it was billed as a masterclass,” she writes on her blog, and she was dismayed by what followed.
“John-Paul Flintoff bounced onto the stage to show us a series of books he had made which was rather disappointingly amateur. Bits of paper stuck together to make a sketch pad for poor art work.”
Reading this for the first time, I wondered whether it had been wise to take along sketchbooks that I had, after all, made and filled for my own purposes, rather than to impress anybody.
“We were shown book after book”, Kavita continues, “and I wondered why I had bothered extracting myself from the computer for an evening. John-Paul’s passion was unrelenting. He continued as the audience sniggered and laughed at this un English display of excitement for the amateur.”
But happily I didn’t notice the sniggering, and Kavita – to her great credit – stuck with it.
“It was suddenly our turn. We were shown how to sew a few bits of A4 together. The possibility of designing my own book become exciting. I had no idea how to fill it. I could make my very own notebook and in this health and safety limited world I was been given a needle and thread in a public space. I quickly made a notebook in the time that it would take to plan a trip to Muji for my regular notebook.
“John-Paul Flintoff then showed us a one page book that I wished I had for my paper obsessed youth. Immediately I knew how to fill this book and it was exciting. From imagination to reality in minutes.
“I am astonished how delighted I was at the end of the session. John-Paul Flintoff was incredibly knowledgeable about book making but chose to focus on what was accessible. I would have been very entertained to learn about mass production hard cover book binding but it wouldn’t have changed my life as learning about the one page note pad.”
Another who came along was Handmade Jane, who reported the event on her blog, with pictures too, including the one at the top of this page, showing her friend Kathryn from “Yes I like that” in mid-stitch.
“He had lots of examples of his own handmade books to show us,” wrote Handmade Jane, “all literally made from bits of tat that were hanging around his house.
“The workshop was completely casual, but so much fun, and I took home bucket-loads of enthusiasm, plus the beginnings of a new skill.
“As well as being charming, enthusiastic, thrifty, creative and extremely tall, John-Paul really urged his audience to try new things. We don’t have to be good at them and they don’t have to be perfect, it’s the trying that’s the important thing. Thanks J-P, I couldn’t agree more.”
(Thanks to you too, Handmade Jane, for your kind words.)
+Update, 2021: See this list of great websites relating to artist’s books