Miscellany- A Mixture from the Motu

What do insects, fairy tales, old lace, Shakespeare and one of the founders of the Association of Book Crafts NZ have in common? Read on and all will be revealed.

Miscellany - a Mixture from the Motu had its genesis in 2022 in the inaugural Print + Bind collaboration between the Association of Book Crafts NZ and various hand printers from around the country. The theme was 'Bugs' and the twelve printers and twelve binders all had free rein to interpret it as they wished. The only requirement was that the prints had to be on a single A5 sheet. Every printer made twenty-four prints of their chosen design which were then collated into twelve sets, each of which had two copies of each print. These then went to the binders who bound one set of prints into a book for a designated printer and the other set for him/herself. Thus, a potential twenty-four Bug books were born, and the idea arose that it would be wonderful to share the creations more widely than just through the Association newsletters and social media. A coordinator volunteered and the hunt for venues and dates began.

Image: Sandy Corbett- Bug Book

Right from the beginning it became obvious that most galleries and exhibition spaces had their bookings already finalised for 2023 and so we were looking at 2024. An initial list of 20+ potential places was gradually whittled down to four with the Angela Morton room being chosen to open the tour. The possibility of twenty-four Bug books proved to be ambitious as inclusion was entirely voluntary. However, as time marched on, four more opportunities to create arose for printers and binders and the resulting exhibition comprises forty items. 

The 2023 collaboration saw ten printers and ten binders play with a Fairy Tale theme. As with the bugs, there was a wide variety of interpretations, with the printers using letterpress, linocut/woodcut printing, relief printing, picture blocks, metal ornaments and wood type whilst the binders showed their own individual flair and preferences, using techniques such as the Shrigley, accordion and crown bindings to create their books. There is a strong verbal element in the Fairy Tale books, in comparison to the Bug books which are almost entirely visual. 

Image: Winsome Brown- Fairy Tales

A third collaboration was timed to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the publication of William Shakespeare’s First Folio in 1623. This was the first time all Shakespeare’s known works had been gathered into one volume, thus ensuring that lasting texts existed for Macbeth, Twelfth Night and other cornerstones of Western literature. Taking inspiration from the well-known Bernard Levin poster You Are Quoting Shakespeare, ABC designed a miniature book (55mm x 80mm) incorporating many Shakespearian sayings that still exist today. John Nixon, from the Printing Museum in Wellington, hot metal typeset the 48 pages in linotype and Graham Judd of Inkiana Press letterpress printed 120 copies which were sent out to interested ABC members. A wonderful array of bindings was the result, many of which are part of the exhibition.

Image: Terrie Reddish- You Are Quoting Shakespeare

Sandwiched in between these collaborations was a competition for ABC members entitled New From Old which invited members to dig out grandma’s old doilies etc and use them in some way in a new binding. There were prizes for the Most Surprising, the Most Flamboyant and the Most Transformed. The winners for the first two categories are included in the exhibition, along with a small number of other entries.

Image: David Thoresen, winner Most Flamboyant in New From Old

As it transpired, the last category of books to be included is also the largest. In 2022 John Sansom, a founding member of ABC and an inspiration to all who met him, passed away. John was the go-to person for materials, books, tools, advice and humour and to honour that lasting legacy ABC has instituted an annual competition in his name. John was a traditional binder with a preference for working with leather, but he also experimented with bindings, rebound many old books, bound workshop notes, made equipment and so on. Binders were encouraged to take any aspect of John’s bookbinding life and create accordingly. There were 18 entries in this year’s inaugural competition with three categories on offer: Traditional, Craft/Modern and Creative. Most of the entries will be on display, including the winners. The judge, David Ashman, said “I’m impressed with the time, thoughtfulness and effort that has gone into creating the bindings presented here for the John Sansom Memorial Competition. I’m quite sure John would have been appreciative of the kindness and consideration reflected in what has been created in his memory.” 

In the citation for the winner of the Craft/Modern category, David referenced the 2021 Bird of the Year competition being won by a bat…. you will need to visit the exhibition, which is on from 1 February - 1 March 2024 at the Angela Morton Room, Takapuna Library, to find out which “book” engendered this comment. 

Image: Fleur Williams, winner Creative in John Sansom Memorial Competition

Grateful thanks go to all the entrants across the entire exhibition for generously allowing their creations to go on tour. Together, these books showcase the depth and breadth of the printing and binding crafts in Aotearoa New Zealand. There will be information available on both organisations as there is always room for more to join in helping to keep these old traditions alive. 

                                 Whaowhia te kete mātauranga | Fill the basket of knowledge

Author: Winsome Brown (Ms), Committee Member, Association of Book Crafts NZ.

Note: 'Miscellany -A Mixture from the Motu' exhibition runs at the Angela Morton Room, Takapuna, from 1 February- 1 March 2024. 

Book artists involved in this exhibition:
Ashman, David
Brown, Winsome
Browning, Rose
Cameron, Gordon
Corbett, Sandy
Dimoline, Michael
Elphick, Mark
Ensor, Janet
Hamm, Kevin
Harries, Di
Henderson, Julz
Higginson, Maria
James, Louise
Laycock, Jenny
Lenihan, Jann
Mosley, Toni
Peacock, Susan
Pinney, Rosie-Anne
Reddish, Terrie
Rose, Jill
Thoresen, David
Took-Stevens, Patricia
Williams, Fleur


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