Why I love Artists’ Books

I first heard about artists’ books more than 20 years ago; I was at art school and I wrote an essay about them. It was about 6 years later when I made one for the first time. I love books that are beautifully designed objects that you just want to hold. I love beautiful papers and I love printmaking. So it is not surprising that recently I have been making more artist’s books.

My most recently made Artist's Book
My most recently made Artist’s Book

Artists’ books don’t have to have a story although they can, they are books which are artworks. One of my favourite examples of artist’s books (although nothing like the work I make)  is called Twenty six Gas Stationsby Ed Ruscha.  The book documents all the petrol stations on a boring journey between the artist’s home in LA and his parents’ house in Oklahoma.[19]

My books are not so documentary in nature, they are more poetic. When I make the linocuts for these books  I feel connected to the medieval woodcut printers of the past who illustrated and handprinted books with the only technology available to reproduce an image. (Click here to see the lino blocks for this book.)

The Space Within - Artis's Book by Shana James
The Space Within – Artis’s Book by Shana James

The first books I made were images only, more recently I have started to include text. In my last book I printed the words digitally, onto acetate  with the handmade linocut print next to it, old and new side by side.

Its the tactile quality I enjoy most; the embossed surface, the slight imperfections of a handmade object, the series of images that go together. The way the images and the text or other images relate to each other. It’s all these elements working together that make a good artists’ book more than the  sum of its parts.

The Space Within - Artists' Book by Shana James Linocut on Cotton Paper and Digital Print Text on Acetate
The Space Within – Artists’ Book by Shana James Linocut on Cotton Paper and Digital Print Text on Acetate

Read the text that goes on each page on my etsy page

Click here for previous post What is an artists book?

Click here to see artists books on my website.

I also teach a printmaking class where you can make an artists’ book at the Fremantle Arts Centre.

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