Bookmarks VIII: Escaping the Library System


Lauren Roberts


The year 2010 marks the eighth annual Bookmarks series put on by Centre for Fine Print Research at the University of the West of England, Bristol, UK. The purpose of the project is to encourage appreciation of work “in the format of the artist’s book.” The theme is different each year, and in 2010, it was decided to limit participants—normally open to everyone—to librarians. The result is a spectacular array of materials, designs, sizes, and types of handmade bookmarks from thirty-six participating librarians.

According to research fellow and Bookmark organizer Sarah Bodman, the project originally started after she noticed some “beautiful bookmarks and thought they could be used as a kind of intervention with the public, which got me thinking that we could get book artists to produced bookmarks to slip into books.”

It was a way of promoting artists’ books to people who might not know about them. I thought it would just be a one-off project but them people started e-mailing to ask when the next one would be, and it just grew from there. It isn’t a funded project, we don’t have any budget for it; it is just a thing that has turned out to be a lovely project to run. I really enjoy doing it and the artists seem to as they keep asking to join another year’s project, and of course, everyone loves getting their set of all the bookmarks!

Participating artists each hand-produce an edition of one hundred signed and numbered bookmarks to give away through distribution boxes at venues around the world. Each bookmark has the website address which brings visitors to the gallery of artworks online.

For the first couple of years, Bodman took charge of getting them all stamped (with the website link), but given that each participant is required to submit one hundred copies, it soon became too time consuming. These days, she uses an intern to stamp and then sort them for distribution. Each participant receives a packet that contains one of each submission, then the rest are released to the public.  Over the last seven years distribution has taken place in more than sixty participating galleries, bookstores and libraries in Italy, The Netherlands, the UK, Ireland, France, Denmark, Germany, Poland, Singapore, Turkey, New Zealand, Canada, Brazil, South Korea, Cyprus, Croatia, New Zealand, Japan, Australia and the USA. Over 280 artists have contributed more than 28,000 bookmarks to the eight projects to date.

This year, for the first time, Bookmarks is adding an online distributor so that people who are not in places where physical distribution takes place can participate: BiblioBuffet. That’s right. If you would like one or more of the bookmarks shown below, send us an email, telling us which ones (by artist name) that you would like in order of preference. We will mail them free of charge to you so be sure to enclose your mailing address too. (We will not use your address for anything other than mailing these bookmarks.) While neither Bookmarks nor BiblioBuffet can guarantee that you will receive your first choices or all that you may want, we will accommodate you as best as we can. And having seen the bookmarks in person, I can say that you are definitely going to be happy!

“The best part of the project,” Bodman continued, “is when all the bookmarks start to arrive in the mail, as I never know what they are going to look like, and some of the parcels are so beautifully packaged! You can tell the really good ones when I open the package and people look in. You can hear lots of ooohs!”

I agree. You are going to love these! To choose the ones you would like to receive, please click here to see the gallery (you can enlarge each image by clicking on it) or click the artists’ names (below) to see the individual bookmarks:

Doreen Barnaville
For these bookmarks, raw linen has been folded and stitched using the stab stitching of Japanese bookbinding. The indigo vat was prepared, finely balanced and reduced—the oxygen removed from the liquid—thus allowing the indigo to fix on the cloth. When the fabric was lifted from the vat it was green; only on contact with the oxygen in the air did it turn the familiar indigo blue. The process was repeated several times to build the depth of colour. The stitches that held the cloth and resisted the dye were removed leaving the memory of the folds and stitches remaining in the fabric.

Jurema Mosquera Barreiro
I am visual artisan from the Canary Islands who is passionate about Light Art.

Sheona Beaumont
Sheona’s bookmarks are created from segments of an imaginary bookshelf across which her entire practice is represented. Archives 1-50 contain photographic documentation of every artwork she has produced, and Archives 51-100 contain snippets of sketches and writing that have supported this work. The collection represents some 300 artworks and corresponding study, over a period of 20 years. . . . Here, Sheona’s past is both seductively laid out into striated patterns, like a geological trace through time, and made more immediately present in a flattening homogeneity of design: classification by texture.

Katie Blackwood
I made these pylon bookmarks by screenprinting onto different bits of paper and card cut-offs that I had lying around my studio. I’ve been really interested in pylons and power lines for the past year or so, and these bookmarks are part of an on-going investigation into the complicated relationship human beings have with them. On the one hand, they are necessary for the running of our modern technological society and on the other, they are deemed a blight on the landscape and a possible cause of cancer. Driving by rows of pylons on the motorway its hard not to imagine them as stoic, lonely skeletal beings. I wanted to turn the pylons (usually seen as purely functional) into something pretty. I make handmade artists’ books and I work as a library assistant in the National Irish Visual Arts Library in Dublin.

Marion Bouwhuis
The starting point of her work is the shapes and colours found in nature. The most important goal of Graphic Art, to reproduce an image, is mostly abandoned her work: the graphic process in itself is more important than the production of identical images. The print on these bookmarks is inspired by the strange shapes that are formed by the reflections of branches and plants in water. The technique is a combination of monoprint and screenprint.

Robin Canham
My bookmark examines the passing of time and libraries. Of course libraries and their services are constantly changing—we must always keep up with the technology and be aware of what our clients needs are. This bookmark showcases old up-cycled due date cards, representing old and outdated library ideas. The collaged clocks play homage to the passing of time and are layered with a handmade linocut stamp in the image of a rabbit with wings. This winged rabbit is a symbol inspired by the white rabbit in “Alice and Wonderland”—always late for an important date! In today’s modern world, libraries can’t afford be late, we need to strive ahead and make some (possibly radical) changes to our services . . . so with those wings we can fly into the future.

Duncan Chappell
Foreign occupation comprises a series of visual puns based on diacritical marks and accents found in several European languages. The letter A was selected as the display site for these marks only because it seemed to offer an approximation of the human form, or else a plinth-like display stand. An occupation has been ascribed to each of these ‘foreigners’, based on the visual clues provided by the diacritic—so the juxtaposition of the French grave and acute becomes the furrowed brow of the philosopher, whilst the two dots of the German umlaut become the twin lenses of the birdwatcher’s binoculars.

Taz Chappell
I gathered unused and unwanted library material, including old envelopes and disused class mark cards and recycled them to create something useful and attractive that will once again infiltrate the library system.

Anne Culhane
I am fascinated by the Creative process from the first spark in the imagination right down to how and when it is viewed. Somewhere in this process, accidents can happen as I work with very wet paint and different types of paper. It is these very accidents that can decide what the picture will become. It is almost as if the paint is telling us we do not have complete control and the Artist can be as surprised by the end result as the Viewer.

Abby Dansiger
Covers: Printed Lokta Paper by Lama Li
Pages: Acid-Free Layout Bond Paper by Strathmore
Binding: Sewn, cotton thread
Handmade in San Francisco, California, June 2010.

Sarah Edmonds
When in London a couple of years ago, I picked up a slip of paper, which must have fallen out of someone’s bag at a station: To Deborah, Please find enclosed one of your ordered hats. We are still waiting for the sand coloured, suede hat to come in. Sincerely, Lizzie. What a find! When I heard about the bookmarks project I knew it was a chance to develop this note into something visual. It tells a story, but although it’s short and simple on a small bookmark, this phrase is just the beginning of that tale. It encourages you to question and speculate who, why, what, how—imagine the people involved and what their lives—and hats—are like.

I thought this would therefore work well as a bookmark, and although I reproduced the ‘letter’, each hand that holds it is separately drawn, and each collaged hat was made individually. I photocopied a range of fabrics and ties, using the paper produced as a base for the hats and embellishing them in pen.

Lauren Foulkes
The image on my bookmarks is a reproduction of a drypoint print. It shows a stack of china cups with spiders crawling around. I am interested in the negativity created by this instance. I find similarities between spiders and china as they are both fragile and delicate, although the latter is usually more favourable.

Valerie Frey
These bookmarks are paper planes folded from recycled pages of the 1999-2000 edition of R.R. Bowker's American Library Directory. There are two planes for each of our fifty states. “Imagination takes flight at the Library” is letterpress printed on the wings. Launched as a reminder that the world is an open book and we all have a page in it. Libraries are starting points, resting stations and repositories of the human essence.

Collaborative bookmark
This bookmark was a collaboration between Gould Library Reference & Instruction librarians Danya Leebaw, Kristin Partlo, and Heather Tompkins and curator of library exhibitions, Margaret Pezalla-Granlund. As such, it reflects the spirit of collaboration, creativity, and play that characterises our library.

Hazel Grainger
A reflection on the image of the librarian. 100 unique bookmarks, each presenting a librarian’s button along with their description of the clothing it belonged to. Mixed media (buttons donated by librarians), London, 2010.

Alex Hardy
Alex’s text based works create word play using synonyms and homonyms harvested from various thesaurus sources. These slowly shifting definitions of words—chosen for their particularly loaded associations—play themselves out in multimedia installations, the written word, print and screensavers. Using a progressive abstraction of words and their meanings, the process keeps the artist one step removed from the creation of meaning. The simple style focuses the viewer’s attention wholly on the words, giving few clues to any intended reading of them.

As the connections between the words literally move in and out of sense and nonsense new definitions, connotations and associations are created. The experience of falling between the gaps in the words can be either disconcerting or playful—sometimes both at the same time. With this comes a heightened awareness of the processes and assumptions involved in the construction of communication. It explores the line between expression and interpretation; and the creativity inherent to both.

Cheryl Jones
Library and Collections Curator at the New Art Gallery, Walsall, UK.

Carol Keddie
The bookmarks are based on photographs of UK seaside holidays.

Geoffrey Langford
Geoff is a first time bookmark maker. He sometimes draws and makes other things too.

Jane Lilly
My first idea was to see if I could reproduce shopping lists for well-known people from the past, mainly by looking at cookery books and recipes reconstructed from their household accounts. But I got distracted! I searched the net to find lists of supplies used by vegetarians, Mormons, backpackers and so on, then added a list my Dad made in his wartime POW diaries while he was in Germany for some 3 years. The other one with a personal link is the Board of Guardians’ list published in the Bristol Mercury in 1836, because their address is given as Bower Ashton, where I work for UWE Libraries. The cheese they list as ‘half coward cheese’ is in fact Single Gloucester, which was a good cheese for keeping, like Cheddar.

Mary V. Marsh
Discarded library catalogue cards and book jackets are upcycled into a bookmark book. The beginning of card catalogue transition into digital is seen in the numerical codes applied to the cards. Book jackets, catalogue cards, linen tape, sticker and rubber stamp.

Helen Mason
I love maps and I especially like the idea of stories and people represented in maps, so it seemed appropriate that they formed the basis of my bookmarks. Each design features a route plotted between two streets in London, representing a great literary romance. My practice has always been craft-based and my methods tend to be unsophisticated, so that I can do everything by hand with minimal technological intervention. In this vein, all 100 bookmarks are hand-traced and drawn in pen.

Diana McCormack
I love the deckled edges and quality of watercolour paper and fear spoiling them with artistic efforts. Hence, having heard during my Illustration and 3D Design Degree course that ‘Less is more’ I aimed to maintain a minimal design on my bookmark where the text infers, influenced by Magritte, that it isn’t a bookmark....

Emily Meredith Lewis
I am a trained art librarian, currently working as a digital archivist in Los Angeles. In my spare time I like to design and create objects for my home. I have a great love of the art of 1920s New York. For my bookmark I decided to create a Francis Picabia inspired work illustrating how he might have viewed a librarian in mechanical terms: a book press.

Neil Morton
Library advisor at University for the Creative Arts in Maidstone, Kent, UK.

Sarah Nicholas
A recent holiday on the Isles of Scilly, surrounded by crystal clear waters and an expanse of bright sky, inspired these bookmarks. They were made by fusing strips of vibrantly coloured voile to a stabilising fabric, stitching along the strips and dividing the resultant lengths into bookmark-sized pieces, before fixing them to card. The bookmarks say nothing of the process of reading, other than it being an escape from the mundane; just as is a holiday in an idyllic location.

Shaun Oaten
For my set of bookmarks I was inspired by the niggling feeling of homesickness I’ve felt since leaving friends and family beside the sea in Brighton at the end of 2008 to start a new life 160 miles away in Bristol, a city with a fine harbourside but no beach. Consequently, as well as missing those I left behind, I have a constant longing to be near the sea, having lived on the coast my whole life. Unsurprisingly, the sea is something that occurs repeatedly in my photography too, so on discovering a quote by American author Zora Neale Hurston, I decided to use her words with photographs I have taken in various coastal locations.

Stephen Prince
As I am a Librarian for an environmental organisation, the environment is the main theme. As my main interest is photography, you will get where I’m coming from. The front of the bookmark has 6 images related to the environment, whether it is physical, urban, my work environment, or whatever. The images are layered with varying degrees of opacity and overlain with text. The text list 100 of the most endangered species. The reverse of the bookmarks again are images of the environment, layered and of varying opacity. This time they reflect the scale of the environment, ranging from images of microscopic forms through to nebular gas clouds. The twin lines of text reflect the double helix of DNA, the basis of all life.

Ruth Simons
The design on these bookmarks comes from my artist’s book Kapa Kapa. Through 60 screenprinted designs, the book explores the contradictions of the conservatory plant Medinilla magnifica. Endemic to the Philippines, the plant is a threatened species due to deforestation of its native habitat, whilst also listed as a noxious weed in Hawaii where it has become an invasive alien species. As a metaphor for human colonisation, migration, invasion and the cultural erosion in these countries, the work is in the form of a wallpaper sample book. This invites the viewer to reflect on global consequences of personal domestic choices.

Sarah J. Trigg
Withdrawn university library books and broken fragments, that have fallen to the floor or been found, left behind on shelves, are the raw material of this set of ‘Price less’ bookmarks. Pulped and made into paper, in these bookmarks you may find fragments of obscure texts, brittle paper, powdery leather, frayed Buckram, library labels…

This work draws on the tension in a library between an almost sacred attitude towards books and the knowledge they contains, and yet they are often very quickly physically broken down or superseded in content so that their worth can seem to evaporate.

Maarten van Doremalen
Sometimes I write poetry. The text on the bookmark is a translation from one of my texts written in Dutch.

Nicolien van den Brûle
I am a librarian and work at the AKI ArtEZ academy of visual arts in Enschede, The Netherlands. My bookmark is a part of a picture I made of a skirt.

Maria White
For many years I have been going on evening “fox walks”. I find the existence of such large wild animals in our urban midst amazing. Living close to railway embankments, I have seen foxes trotting along beside the tracks to visit the take-aways, returning carrying white bags in their mouths. Fully grown foxes with bushy tails, scraggy mangy foxes, young foxes with big ears. When you spot them they may be unaware of you or run away. Sometimes they stare back at you and, as you watch them, sit down to wait out your attention.

Lynn Williams
I live in the Forest of Dean and the trees around me inspire the images that I produce. I have made a number of enamel on copper pieces and for the Bookmarks project I selected one which I wanted to turn into a Bookmark. I tried not to lose the effects produced by the shiny surface of the enamel. The one enamelled image was divided into three using Photoshop where I added text. It seems to me that trees, leaves and books are inextricably linked.

Yolande Willink
A photo-detail.

Charlotte Wilmot
In conversations comparing e-books to print books it is the physicality of the book, the paper, the smell, the urge to curl up in chairs or under a duvet that people would miss. Perhaps the future of the print book is in the beauty of the object itself. For these bookmarks I have cut the leaf shapes of the cheese plant in three different papers used by bookbinders—2 Japanese papers and 1 I found in a stationery shop in Manchester.

Many thanks to Sarah, her team, and most of all to the artists who made the romance of books come alive in their bookmarks. Literary romances need not be restricted to fictional characters. They can be found between readers and their favorite books. They can be found between readers who share their love of the written word as well as their lives. And they can be found in the handmade bookmarks that were lovingly made and submitted to Bookmarks VIII and that will soon be coming into your life as well.


Almost since her childhood days of Mother Goose, Lauren has been giving her opinion on books to anyone who will listen. That “talent” eventually took her out of magazine writing and into book reviewing in 2000 for an online review site where she cut her teeth (as well as a few authors). Stints as book editor for her local newspaper and contributing editor to Booklist and Bookmarks magazines has reinforced her belief that she has interesting things to say about books. Lauren shares her home with several significant others including three cats, nearly 1,300 bookmarks and approximately the same number of books that, whether previously read or not, constitute her to-be-read stack. She is a member of the National Books Critics Circle (NBCC) as well as a longtime book design judge for Publishers Marketing Association’s Benjamin Franklin Awards. Contact Lauren.



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