Bristol Artists Book Event returns this April, with over 100 bookmakers and small presses. BABE founders Sarah and Tom spoke to Arnolfini's Holly McGrane about where it all began and the world of beautiful books.
HM: How did BABE begin? How has it grown?
TS: BABE started in 2007 at Arnolfini and has steadily grown each time it is presented. Hosted every two years, it started with 62 artists showing their work and this year will be showing books from 113. Pleasingly, the audience numbers have always stayed strong, with between 5000 and 7000 visiting on each of the weekends.
HM: If you had to simply define what an artists’ book is, what would you say?
TS: It’s really quite hard to define as any who comes to BABE will see how diverse it can be, but we would say an artist’s book is a book that has been made or conceived by an artist, and is to be viewed as a work of art.
HM: Who should we look out for at this year’s BABE?
TS: Everyone! But we are particularly excited to see those who’s work is new to BABE, such as Field Study Publications all the way from Australia and Amber Hsu and Tiny Pencil from London.
SB: And I am also looking forward to seeing Pineapple Falls, the best press name ever!
HM: What, for you, is the best thing about running BABE?
SB: The best thing about running BABE is being able to bring together all the diverse book artists, presenting them to an interested, and at times a completely new audience, and of course going around the event and seeing all the work ourselves.
HM: Are there many artists' bookmakers in the area?
TS: Bristol is a bit of a hot spot for artists’ books. There are many practitioners in the locality, outlets for buying books, multiple workshops in the area that can assist anyone wanting to make books, and at the University of the West of England we have a long established tradition of artists' books being an important part of our courses and research.
HM: If someone wanted to start making their own books, where should they begin?
SB: If someone is completely new and would like to start making books, the best place to start would be to learn the basics on how a book is made. This can be through online tutorials or by attending a workshop. Books need quite a degree of preparation and once you understand the basics of construction, you can then really start to experiment with the content.
Tom Sowden is MA Design Programme Leader and Sarah Bodman is Senior Research Fellow for Artists' Books and Programme Leader for the MA Multidisciplinary Printmaking, both at UWE.
To find out more about BABE visit the event page here