a closer look at myself, and other book-lovers, as a collectors…
Since I can remember, I’ve had a strong connection to printed matter. From my childhood memories of comics, coloring books and bedtime stories with family, to my adult life as a print-maker with connections to literature, scholarly references, artist books and portfolio editions… printed matter has always informed and enriched my life. My never-ending interest in imagery and information, not to mention a certain fetish for bound piles of inked pages, has turned me into an avid book collector.
My collection has amassed from hundreds of places and from dozens of people. Some are brand-new books with fresh, crisp pages and a tight spine, many are used with that dusty library smell and the suggestion of having lived another life with someone else, a few are unique limited edition artist zines bound full of creativity, and others are sketchbooks, journals, altered books and bound books from my own practice. Each one speaks to particular interests of mine ranging from knowledgeable references on anatomy, ecology, mechanics and nature, to whimsical poetry, folklore and tales about far away places or glorious absurdities. They each hold secrets about my life: the places I discovered them, the times I’ve sat to flip through their pages, the curiosities they have sparked in my mind, the homes or studios they have traveled with me to… Whenever I look at my books, I experience so much more than what is just physically there.
With any collection comes the natural tendency to want to display, organize and showcase your unique treasures in a certain way, and when it comes to printed pages, nothing works better than a bookshelf. Bookshelves have essentially become the modern version of the Renaissance’s cabinets of curiosities; they offer a way for ‘patrons’ to publicly exhibit their objects of interest: books and small trinkets. Bookshelves truly allow a viewer insight into the patron’s persona, particularly through the fashion in which the collector chooses to catalog or juxtapose their treasures. The titles, subjects, orientations, publishers, genres, colors, sizes, materials, locations, and objects within the collection, all create a visual language that tells viewers plenty about the owner.
Thoughts surrounding these ideas led me to form a ‘collaborative project,’ for lack of better terms, and I asked artists to submit images of their literary cabinets of wonders for me to post along side my own; 25 book lovers submitted and I am tickled! I have included participants quotes, contact information and most images can be seen in a larger format by clicking on them. Do visit the hyperlinks to artists’ blogs, websites or twitters, especially if you liked a particular collection. I hope you thoroughly enjoy this post, my fellow book-lovers; you should… I know how much you love reading.
The top two photos of my bookshelf & trinkets were shot last year for 2 of my 10 pages in the Print Media 400 publication. I felt that my collection spoke a lot about me as a person and it included many things that were currently influencing my life. It felt very natural to document this collection as an artist profile. The third photo is a quick shot I originally posted on my twitpic of my bookshelf in Calgary before I packed & dismantled it for the move to the South Cariboo.
The photo below is from spring 2010 when I had the pleasure of renting a studio for 6 months at Blackstar Gallery in my second home: Invermere, British Columbia. They offered to lend me this small, silver, wooden wall mounted bookshelf they had laying around… so I happily filled it up. The photo of this cute little corner makes me miss warm days of creating with the back doors wide open to the mountains.
Finally this brings me to my bookshelf in my current home… my pride and joy! I left a lot of books with my parents in Calgary to avoid shipping/storage issues, but the ones I chose to bring are proudly displayed and used. The top shelf holds one of a kinds: antique books, artist zines, journals, altered books, limited edition artist books, my exhibition comment books, my leather crafting bin and a Blasted Church wine box. A Canadian mountain, a hare and Patrick the starfish are hanging out up there too.
The bottom shelf holds artist biography books, a Sukie perpetual calendar, my printer/scanner, portable light table, polaroid photos & film in a Beeland Spillimacheen, BC honey box, an aluminum coin holder, leather bird by Zuny, heart photo frame, a mini acrylic painting in a gold frame and my printmaking apron.
The hidden shelves underneath store printmaking, drawing & crafting supplies. Journals, hand-bound books and paperwork line the top shelf. In the middle: my gocco press, mail art stationary and found objects. Gocco ink & supplies, computer disks and photo frames can be found on the bottom.
Are there little things about my collection that jumped out at you or anything here that you really loved or found intriguing? Please be sure to write your comments about my collection, or about the 25 next gorgeous collections to follow.
Keep in mind I love all of my participants equally, which is why I have decided to showcase the bookshelf submissions in the order they were received…
Dona Vajgand (website) “Books have been a great source of inspiration for me ever since I was little and I love displaying the ones with beautiful covers – they brighten up the room and make interesting decoration. I like displaying different ones every once in a while.”
Samara Andrews (website) “My husband and I’s bookshelves are filled with mainly illustrated books which we were either drawn by friends, ourselves or ones that we have discovered along the way. Amongst them are bits and bobs that we have come across and loved for their aesthetic qualities; we are suckers for beautiful objects and books! We do have novels around the house but can often be seen flicking through picture books…”
Jeannine Saylor (blog) “My books are on lockdown and my shelves are wrapped tightly. I’m moving and books are the first thing I pack. What’s waiting for me when we arrive at our destination? A wild assortment of Art History books, photography & printing references, a few business guides and novels — some great and some I won’t admit to reading. For now they are all tucked tightly away in plastic bins and cardboard boxes, waiting for their new home.”
Sumi Senthi (blog) “Because of lack of space most of my books are neglected and live under my bed in boxes gathering dust. In this box there are lots of fairytale/fantasy books, mythology books and graphic novels. A lot of these are childhood favourites… These are books that I use the most of at the moment and they live in piles near my desk… The rest of these books are all inspirational books with pretty pictures. They are just waiting for me to get a creative block.”
Anika Starmer (blog) “I don’t strictly organize my books. There are vague categories like poetry, fiction, and art, but the odd travelogue or collection of short stories will pop up in unexpected places.”
Helen Macdonald (website) “I enjoy reading but don’t own a lot of books. I mostly buy books from charity shops and then give them back once I’m done. The books on my shelf were either gifts or ones I’ve hunted down on ebay.”
Kerri-Ann Hulme (website & blog) “I love my bookshelf, it is the most important part of my room and it gets used every single day. I have a few favourites on my shelves… as they were a bit part of my life when I was a child… My books make my life more interesting and they continue to inspire me every day. I think I need a bigger bookshelf as my collection is growing larger and larger all the time!”
Becca Thorne (website & blog) “The smaller one is from my work room, so it’s illo books, ones I’ve illustrated, AOI directories, things that don’t come out that often- hence the trinkets in the way of everything. The larger one is our main bookcase, so it’s piled high. At the moment it’s covered in birthday cards, but we’ve read pretty much all the books on there at least once, so it’s also covered in fossils, pretty shells and unusual stones we’ve found over the years. There’s also my boyfriend’s rock hammer on the top shelf, protecting the non-fiction and larger hardbacks.”
Lisa Grabensteter (website & blog) and Evan Jensen (website) “Books have always been an obsession for me. From their form to their content, they are what inspires me to make art. These are also Evan’s books.”
Robin Sharp (website & etsy) “I love looking at other people’s bookshelves and I can’t wait to see your post! I’m sharing two images with you. The first one is my own bookshelf. Small but efficient. The second one is not really a bookshelf, it’s a photo of my friend’s bathtub filled with her books. She’s a writer and her name is Iris Benaroia.”
Gillian Gibson (blog) “My Dad told me at a young age that money is never wasted on books and I certainly took his advice! My collection is a bit unorganized due to lack of space, but I know where everything is – organized chaos maybe explains me more than I’d like to admit!”
Matthew Ellero (website) “This is my (fairly) messy bookshelf which resides right next to where I sit to work… The books on the top shelf bring back fond memories. I also keep a variety of books on different aspects of design and illustration, including character design, illustration and exhibitions. Lots of magazines are kept on my middle shelf and the bottom shelf is for boring freelance paperwork! I try and keep it all fairly orderly but think a bookshelf needs to look used and messy!”
Gilly Rochester (blog) “Whether stacked on the floor or tables or on shelves, books give a home the dimensions, resonances, and memories that are the fabric of a life … the recipe books in the kitchen … the music books on the piano … books in the hallway and landing …. our school and university books, the children’s books from picture books onwards, the disorderly piles of books by our bed, novels, travel books, books of images and patterns, poetry … they accumulate over the years and tell our continuing story.”
Liam Nicholson (website, blog & tumblr) “I’m a computer games Design Graduate from the University of Huddersfield in Yorkshire (UK) Science Fiction is my biggest influence in everything I do, with fantasy coming a close second. Books are my source of inspiration before anything else, they’re crammed full of wonderful ideas by some of the most interesting people in the world. Not only that, but they smell amazing! New book smell, old book smell. Both knock my socks off!”
Marissa Falco (blog) “Seeing my shelf of books brings to mind pages and plots, but also where I was when I read each one. I keep my journals and sketchbooks here, too, so together they form one big autobiography.”
Kye Sangha (website & blog) “This is the China Hutch. It’s hand-built & actually the nicest piece of furniture we own & its in the studio. On the top levels I keep my ribbon & soft goods collections for my multimedia work. More bookshelves contain a mix of reference & pop-up books that will be turned into altered books, & inspirational books. These days I do very little reading for pleasure, except trawling through art books. Mostly I use them to learn new techniques. As an artist, the library is my best friend! I like this quote ‘The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it.’ ~James Bryce”
Ros Williams (website) “Having lived on a boat for a long time I tend to borrow books rather than owning them. As an artist who also teaches, most of the books I do own are about printmaking and book crafts. I can’t resist collecting the odd Ladybird books because they remind me of my childhood. Harry Potter I used to read aloud to my children (now grown up). I like the ilustrations in the George Bernard Shaw book and the facsimiles in the big book about John Lennon The book in the ziplock bag is Lennon’s ‘In His Own Write’. It looks a rather sad, messy collection. Most of the books were used when I bought them. I haven’t even got a proper bookshelf but I do love these books and wouldn’t want to get rid of them, even though I know I don’t look after them as well as I should.”
Ellen Vesters (website) “Books are very dear to me. They are a big part of my everyday life. I feel fed by the, with passion, inspiration, dreams. They feel so close to me, that they are everywhere in my house. As it should be, on bookshelves, but also in piles all around.”
Thanks for reading book-lovers! Please make sure to post comments and to visit some of these collectors websites.