Monday, 29 October 2012

Russian Dictionary Recreated

Yet another refugee from our recent weeding exercise this small dictionary had never been out on loan. I like to think I've given it a new lease of life by saving it from the recycling bin,  even though this work isn't particularly original it does have  a tactile element to it that I like. It also makes a lovely feathery sound when moved, sort of like autumn leaves rustling. 

The major mistake I made with this one was not leaving a few untouched pages in the centre so it looks a bit unfinished when open. A couple of whole pages would have solved this problem so as always it's a case of live and learn. I also have a few more plans for this particular piece so it may feature again once I have had another play. 

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Edinburgh in 48 Hours

First I have a confession to make. I went all the way to Edinburgh last week, spent nearly 48 hours there and in that time didn't set foot in a single library. I did buy a very smart dress from The Library Room in Debenhams  but I'm not sure this counts as genuine library research. Therefore I am officially a bad librarian!

I was in Edinburgh for the 12th Scottish E-Books Conference. I'm not going to write much about it here, I'll be doing a proper article for a newsletter. I did enjoy it immensely, especially a very interesting talk over lunch about the feasibility of a national e-lending service that authorities could buy into. 
I also bumped into an old library school friend, one I hadn't seen since the course ended nearly seven years ago. I must apologise again for not recognising you John. Don't take it personally, I'm well known for my terrible memory for faces. Anyway, a coffee turned into a beer, a beer turned into dinner at The Cafe Royal and the result was a very enjoyable evening with someone who it turns out has a very similar job to my own. 

I'd taken Friday off work  to see Edinburgh proper and had promised myself I'd run Arthur's Seat before checking out of my hotel. Despite a slight hangover I made it out of bed in plenty of time and set off to blow the cobwebs away. My route took me down the Royal Mile, past the Scottish Parliament and Holyrood Palace, up the Radical Road and on to Arthur's Seat proper via some stone steps. I won't even pretend I ran all of it, it was a hard slog not made any easier by the early onset of winter. However the view from the top was well worth the effort, as was the easy downhill jog through Holyrood Park. 
After getting back and defrosting with the help of a shower I set off to explore Edinburgh proper. I didn't have a particular plan for the day but soon found myself at The National Gallery where I immediately sort out the Turner's. I also discovered the Scottish Impressionist, William McTaggart, who impressed me with a storm swept seascape. You'd need more time than I had to do the galleries justice, I could only afford a fleeting visit before I left. I did however take time to visit the neighboring Royal Scottish Academy which is currently exhibiting Of Natural and Mystic Things, a suitably ghoulish exhibition for this time of year. Many of the pieces would have looked perfect in a Victorian Cabinet of Curiosities including a mix of science, mythology and nature. If you lean more towards modern art I would take the time to pop in if you are passing. It's just round the corner from one of the open top tour stops and is worth a visit even if your time is limited. 

Afterwards I treated myself to lunch at The Dome, recommended by one of the suppliers the day before. I was quite taken a back by the extravagance of the Christmas decorations considering it was still October but regardless found the converted bank worth a visit due to it's classic architecture. I enjoyed my glass of fizz and food but found the service left a bit to be desired. Don't get me wrong, the team were professional, just not particularly attentive - something I have found all to common when eating alone.

From here I did a bit of shopping, picking up a lovely dress from Debenhams. (I was tempted by a tartin number but thought I might regret once back over the border) I then took the Edinburgh open top bus tour. The one I choose had live commentary and although it is difficult to compare (having not taken the equivalent in Edinburgh) having previously taken a couple of others with recorded commentary thought that I preferred the latter.

The tours are an excellent way to see the city and I did learn a lot about the history of Edinburgh. I just wish I had had more time to listen to  some of the alternative commentary,  available on the same bus. However having done a complete circuit I made my final stop the Castle which I had decided I wanted to see before I caught my train. If you are going to visit yourself make sure you take the time to wait for one of the guided tours which will explain the main layout and history before allowing plenty of time to see all the museums. 

Easily my favorite part was the National War Memorial. I challenge anyone not to be moved by this somber place of remembrance which will hopefully remind all who visit of the ultimate sacrifice made in the past and present. I was also drawn to the contemplative space of St Margaret's Chapel, in fact much more so than any of the other exhibits in the various museums around the castle proper. The exception to this was the National War Museum of Scotland which was well laid out and included the everyday detail and commentary that I always find intriguing when studying the past. There is currently an moving exhibition called Reconstructing Lives that traces the history of prosthetics, geared no doubt towards this years Olympics and the many ex-military personal who have competed successfully after suffering disabling injuries. However the whole museum was fascinating and must be even more so for anyone with more than my tiny knowledge of Scottish history. If your time is limited at the castle make sure you make this a priority.

All of this was done in one day so I was very glad to get on the train and snooze. Hopefully I will be able to go back and visit again sometime as there was so much I didn't have time to see. Maybe I'll have to go to the 13th E-books conference next year. 

Monday, 22 October 2012

Classic Fairy Tales

This book was one of many withdrawn from our library over the last 6 months. It's fate was sealed due to it's lack of movement and the amount of notes some considerate student had made over several of the pages. I was drawn to it because of it's numerous and varied illustrations which immediately brought to mind the work of artists such as Alexander Korzer-Robinson  and so I saved it from the recycling bin. 

I make no claim for originality here, these cut away books have been made better and bigger than this one, certainly it is nowhere near as intricate as Korzer-Robinson's creations. However the process was fun and educational  - I'd never realised before just how tough hardback covers are, it's a miracle I didn't do myself injury hacking away at it.  I think I'm either going to have to make some friends in the construction department or add an electric saw to my Christmas list if I want to do another one of these.

With hindsight I made several mistakes. I discarded too many illustrations, (and more importantly threw them away before I had seen the finished item) and then made the front window to big. The cover is also a bit of a hack job, mainly because I was too impatient to find the proper tools. It is also lacking depth because many of the illustrations I kept were from the back of the book. However making it was fun and although I won't be attempting another in a hurry it was a fairly satisfying process.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

E-Books Round Up (Pre Conference)

This week I'm off to the Scottish E-books conference this week thanks to a sponsored place from MmIT. I'm really looking forward to both the conference and visiting Edinburgh as well as meeting a few new librarian people.

As someone else is paying I felt it only right that I do a bit of swotting up on e-books beforehand. I've been a bit neglectful of my favorite subject recently and am long over due a post on the subject anyway. I thought I'd take the opportunity to do a round up of some of the most relevant news since I last did a serious post. 

One of the biggest developments has been in the Apple price fixing case with three publishers agreeing a settlement with the Justice Department in September. Although Penguin, Macmillan and Apple continue to fight the accusations the settlement will see customers who bought e-books from the other 3 publishers receive a partial refund for their purchases. Amazon have already started contacting customers who have bought eligible e-books and will in all likelihood be reducing the prices of relevant Kindle books now that  it is no longer tied to the agency model. 

Back on the right side of the pond there is equally big news in the form of the government review into e-books in libraries. Now I'm not really a fan of the government sticking it's nose into the e-book situation like this, they've been all to keen to take a step back and keep their distance as councils cull library services across the country. However if the review results in a resolution to the stand off between publishers and libraries then it's got to mean progress, certainly we don't seem to be getting anywhere ourselves. What I worry about is the lack of understanding of the role of libraries displayed by the government and therefore the sustainability and feasibility of any outcomes from the review. It'll be too easy for them to see e-books as a cheap replacement for expensive buildings and staff without really thinking the long term problems through.

More recently there has been other developments with Amazon as they announced the introduction of their e-lending scheme for UK Prime members in mid October. Allowing Prime members to borrow 1 book a month the scheme is hardly a serious rival for libraries but it does raise a couple of questions. With Amazon approaching publishers to opt into the scheme a few have asked whether publishers can do so without first getting agreement from authors. Also, given that Amazon seems to rolling out schemes previously proved in the US, will we also soon see an Overdrive / Amazon collaboration in the UK similar to that in use in public libraries in the US.

There's other news of various importance and scale. Avon's imprint are launching DRM free e-books in response to demand for books that can be read across a variety of devices. Not huge news in itself but yet another example of a small publisher going down the DRM free route. 
There are also a couple of commercial e-lending enterprises launching in the UK that could pose a threat to public libraries plans for e-books. Bilbary is already live and a similar service, Oyster is in the pipe line. The press describes them as  subscription based e-lending service similar in nature to Spotify for music. Having had a quick look around Bilbrary I'm not sure where the e-lending process comes in as it seems the books I found were only available to purchase. Maybe I'm not looking hard enough or have missed something. It'll be interesting on Thursday to see what other people make of these services. 

I'll be tweeting during the conference and writing a blog and a piece for the MmIT newsletter afterwards. I hope more than anything that I'll learn a lot while I'm in Edinburgh, I have high expectations for the conference given the high profile of e-books and e-lending over the last few months. 

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Making the Cut

This weekend I had promised myself I would write a proper post. By this I mean one about work. I had been thinking of investigating the capabilities of the 3D printers currently being used in America or catching up with the government e-lending and e-book review. I just knew that I wanted to do something a little less frivolous than my recent posts. 

This went out the window thanks to Facebook and it's sponsored ads. Now, I'm not normally a fan of these ads, they rarely interest me. But on Wednesday Facebook presented me with one which I not only found interesting but which I would have been willing to travel across the country to see. 

This was ad was for The First Cut at Manchester Art Gallery, a new show that will run between 5th October and 27th January. The reason it excited me was because it's about artists who use paper, and more specifically, a number who recreate, reuse and recycle books. 

On Saturday there were a number of artist talks planned so I rushed down after my hockey match and managed to make it for the last 4. I haven't been to an artists talk for years and I have to admit I cringed slightly when a eager art student (with obligatory oversized sketchbook) piped up to compare her own work when asked of there were any questions for the exhibitor. However it was nice to feel part of the art scene again and to learn a bit about the process and methods employed by the artists. 

I don't want to repeat what they said, suffice to say most of them were genuinely passionate about their work, if maybe a little tired from the stresses of installing over the previous few days. I've tried to sum up in a few words how the works came across below:

Andreas Kocks (Paperwork) : epic, meticulous, depth, raven.

Andrea Mastrovito (Exodus:8:13) : floral, layers, humor, bright.

Mia Pearlman (Roil) : storm, deconstructed, spontaneous, strokes.

Nicola Dale (Sequel) : dry, dead, unloved, reloved.

I also saw work from Sue Blackwell, Noriko Ambe, and Claire Brewster and will be going back to spend more time exploring the works that I missed. I especially want to spend some time in Manabu Hangal's Wonder Forest without the crowds of small children running about. Don't get me wrong, I love that the exhibition excites children, nothing is better for art than that. However there is something about the suspended forest that calls for contemplation rather than shrieking!
I didn't like all the work. As a librarian I found Nicola Dale's talk of 'the death of books' a bit twee and I'm not completely sure Mia Pearlman's work translated successfully from it's normal room sized scale. However I did love the way the curators placed additional pieces throughout the main galleries, matching paper dresses, feathers, butterflies and skeletons with epic sea scapes from Turner and the grand neoclassical entrance. If you're visiting the exhibition it's worth doing the rounds of the other galleries to see these additions.

The overarching theme I took from the exhibition was how vital appropriate scale is to the success of a peice of work. Whether it was the tiny work of Peter Callesan or the room sized creation of Andreas Kocks the size seemed to either draw you in or overwhelm. Both these artists made a huge impression on me although their work is vastly different in both scale and concept.

The First Cut is worth a visit if you have anything more than a passing interest in art, books or craft. There are a number of events planned including workshops, family events and a series of additional artists talks. There is also additional work at The Gallery of Costume in Platt Fields Park. I certainly found it interesting, beautiful and inspiring in equal measure.

 So I supose I should say thanks to Facebook. Although I'm sure I would have stumbled across The First Cut eventually I wouldn't had made those first weekend talks if it hadn't been for the adverts. Although it pains me to say it Facebook actually got it right this time.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Flowers and Mushrooms

When I was studying art at university one of the characteristics of my work was that I would rework and reuse pieces. Very little of what I made was ever intended to be permanent, my work was often perishable and transient, captured in photographs before being torn apart and made into something new. As such my work continuously evolved with many of the pieces in my final year able to trace their roots back to my initial experiments during my Foundation Degree. 

It seems you can never escape your past and in this case I don't really want to. Over the weekend, in between the baking, cleaning, running and hockey playing, I took my wax flowers a step further. Staying to form I also reworked some paper mushrooms I made back in March.