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Coptic Stitch Artist's Book

I might keep this blog entry short as it extends upon a project I did in 2017 - Spurious Species - which you can read about here. The concept for this artist’s book is relatively the same, but this time I decided to actually cut out and combine the animal parts to depict the unique beauty of these strange, surreal and imagined animals. I was trying to emphasise the unexpected beauty of the nature of the hybrid - there is sense of feeling ‘out-of-place’ and perhaps a bit uncomfortable with oneself when unable to fit into a neatly defined box, and yet there is an explosion of beauty and wonder when we discover what is possible with ‘being’ a hybrid. I thought it would be interesting to explore this concept by combining these animal creations with amalgamated landscape creations in book page form.

We were required to use the coptic stitch for this project, which is ideal as the pages would lay completely flat, allowing the articulated animals to easily collapse and extend out from the pages. I also like the idea that since the animals themselves were so 'busy', keeping them monochromatic against a colourful backdrop would both draw the viewer to the landscape and the animals without either being ‘lost’ amongst each other.

After an extensive amount of internet research, I decided to collect vintage postcards that I found on royalty free websites. I like the imagery in so many of these, and I was able to collage them to create surreal and strange landscapes that are both overwhelming and dreamlike.

The other appeal to this process is that I would be able to edition the book. I have yet to decide how to do this, but I had thought it would be interesting to create the same book pages, but use different animal-part combinations for each book, just to see what is possible. I foresee a number of limited 'variable editions' emerging from this.

Here are a few photos of the process. You can view more images here.

Before cutting out the animal parts, I collaged vintage postcards on Photoshop to make the book pages.

Then I started playing with different arrangements of the animal parts.

After constructing the animals, I started playing with placement on each page, making sure they would fit when they are collapsed. I also wanted to complement the book cover with the coptic stitching somehow, since the stitch is designated for the spine and often hidden. I thought expanding the multicoloured thread onto the cover would highlight the theme of 'colour against monochrome' depicted in the book pages.

I was quite happy with how it turned out, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to use all my animal parts (there weren’t quite enough pages - or enough time)! I also found that some animal parts didn’t quite fit well enough for them to be ‘articulated’ or to fit in the book pages, so it took a fair bit of playing around to discover what could work. This may be a smaller part of a larger future project - and perhaps a larger book.

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