creating beautiful journals and books
That old Puck has a lot of pluck, turning up like that!
I was excited to hear in an email from Sarah Bodman in Bristol UK that she was sending my altered book Puck of Pook’s Hill from the library collection in Bristol to Ballarat in Australia for an exhibition titled:
Page. Print. Post. 50 years of artists’ books
The exhibition will be opened by David Dellafiora on Saturday 19th July and will run until 9th August at the Post Office Gallery in Ballarat, Victoria.
PAGE. PRINT. POST, curated by Debbie Hill and Geoff Wallis will include a large selection of books by Australian artists, together with rare publications by pioneers Ed Ruscha and Dieter Rot, members of Fluxus and the Conceptual art movement, and feminists May Stevens, Nan Becker and Nancy Holt.
A broad range of artists’ books and postal art by contemporary artists, including Nicholas Jones, Deanna Hitti, Angela Cavalieri, Gracia and Louise, Deborah Klein, David Dellafiora, Sarah Bodman and Guy Begbie, will also be on show.
I didn’t choose Puck, he just arrived. The School Kipling version of Puck of Pook’s Hill (pub. U.K. 1935) came in the mail after I signed up to be part of The Regenerator Project run by the University of Western England. It was an honest, old-fashioned cloth covered book which had been discarded from the library – lovely to hold and too good to deface.
But, as an antipodean, I found the content reeked of old empire and the text seemed dense and generally drab. For many weeks, I couldn’t find any way of working with the book.
Then one day, Puck spoke to me. (He’s a poet! – of course, like me.)
Bees! Bees! Hark to your Bees!
Hide from your neighbours
As much as you please,
But all that has happened,
to us you must tell.’
It was during the making of the first book, featuring The Bee Boy’s Song from Puck of Pook’s Hill, that I started working with Puck. Next came A Tree Song:
‘Sing Oak and Ash and Thorn, Good Sirs!’
And while we were making The Smugglers’ Song:
‘Laces for a Lady,
Letters for a spy,
Watch the wall my darling
while the Gentlemen go by’
Puck told me he’d been feeling quite irrelevant lately as ‘the oldest thing in England’, and he felt dispirited about the fact that people don’t have time for him any more. As we talked, we made five books in all, featuring excerpts from Puck’s songs and poems.
Our mission became to rejuvenate and update Puck’s image and make him more accessible to people in the 21st century. He is such a character, it would be a great shame to lose him. And he has lots of stories, not just ones about Britain’s history.
We also collected a map and a few things from the bottom of Puck’s ancient shoulder bag and placed everything in an old cigar box with the books we had made. Then we added some images to the original School Kipling to help readers find the featured poems. We wanted to encourage them to read the unabridged poems and songs by adding a bit of colour to the original copy.
I really think Puck just needed a complete change of scene and a different point of view, which he got when he came to Australia the first time. The visit definitely did him a lot of good and I loved having him with me.
Now he’s found his way back, this time to Ballarat!
That old Puck has a LOT of pluck, turning up like that!
PAGE. PRINT. POST.
Post Office Gallery. 19 July – 9th August 2014
Federation University Australia, corner. Sturt & Lydiard Streets Ballarat VIC 3350, Australia.
federation.edu.au/pogallery Wed to Sat 1-4pm, Mon/Tue by appointment.
Dr Emma Powell
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