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Artists books

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Susan Allix, London, UK

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Curvatures, 2015
7 Ladies in a Book

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Artist Susan Allix takes a wry look at seven ladies who are not of the slenderest proportions, accompanied by short quotations by George Eliot, Edith Wharton and Marilyn Monroe. It also features a moment in the life of Miss Van Eyck where every letter of the alphabet in the typeface celebrated here may be seen.

There is little that is straight in the chosen ladies – chosen because the artists says ‘drawing a large woman is so much more interesting than drawing a thin one (or indeed a large man)’. The seven prints are made in various ways which include etching, drypoint, aquatint, chine colle, digital and linocut. One title is from a drawing and five pages have collage with the letterpress.

45pp, 200 x 245mm, edition of 20. Printed letterpress in two fat face types. The principal typeface is 36pt. Braggadocio (designed in 1930 by W.A. Woolley for the Stephenson Blake type foundry), combined with Bodoni Ultra Bold (released in 1928 and designed by Morris Fuller Benton). Printed on Somerset mould made paper.

The binding is of natural toned cloth over boards, onlaid with red hand-made paper, an embossed title on cream paper, a black leather rectangle, two wandering lines and a coloured pin. The endpapers are embossed paper collaged with shapes of overprinted type and chine colle, backed onto red. Contained in a cloth and paper envelope.

£350 (plus P&P and insurance)

BLITZ, 2014
Letters from London, September and October 1940

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In 2013 as the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I approached Allix was given a small collection of letters found among the possessions of their owner Mildred or 'Billie' (as she was known) after her death. 

They were letters written to her by her sister Evelyn, a young woman in her twenties working in central London, and they date from the 1940s. Allix decided to use them as the basis of a book that would mark both the centenary of World War I and the 64th anniversary of the London Blitz. 

Allix has reproduced fragments from the original letters with photographs she took with her 'box Brownie' camera at night in the early 1960s. She says, 'perhaps because 1960 is nearer to 1940 than we are now, these have acquired an irrational historical perspective, and their flecked and grainy appearance with looming areas of light seem appropriate to the subject.' As well as photographs, the book contains 7 aquatints, and 2 linocuts.

The text is hand set and printed letterpress in 18pt. Grotesque 215 with 12pt. Grotesque Italic and 18pt. Granby Light Italic. Certain pages are smoked and burnt. This was done after the printing and owing to the unpredictable nature of the process each copy is different. The smoke trails were made over a candle and the edge burning done with a Dunhill lighter (brought back into use because it doesn't over-heat) setting alight a small line at a time then extinguishing the flame.

Altogether the book has 60 pages, including blanks, printed on Saunders Waterford paper. It measures 33cms x 28cms and is in a limited edition of 15 copies. Each book is contained in an elephant grey box.

The binding is of black goatskin and light brown textured handmade paper. A shape of natural, sanded leather is sprinkled with black dye, inlaid, then onlaid with a black shape, which is onlaid in turn with printed and distressed reversed skin. There are further areas of ink-dyed paper, dark red kid and randomly snipped tin, with title lettered in blind. The endbands are leather rolled over parchment with black silk lines, and the endpapers have been airbrushed in black then painted. As Allix notes, 'All this is the result of experimentation, coming after I discovered that to make a binding of destruction gave an impression of startlingly bad workmanship rather than a genuine feeling of a battered world.'

Allix on BLITZ
'As it will never be possible to have this same experience, designing the book seemed sometimes similar to creating an historical novel. Descriptions, film, artefacts and related reconstructions can help to provide brief windows and snapshots of the time, and Evelyn's letters accompany visual ideas that make them more imaginatively real.'

£1,850 (plus P&P and insurance)

Myth, London 2011

The binding is full leather. The front board and spine are covered in black goatskin, inlaid with a panel of white calfskin and the back board is red. The front cover is onlaid with a soft-ground etching of a woman printed onto white hard grain goat, with black leather dye additions in pen. It is completed with red and white onlays and lettered in random red lettering sprinkled over the spine. The endleaves are hemp paper with red ink and drawn black lines; the flyleaves are white textured with fibres and the double endbands bright red. Contained in a red box lined with black.

The book won a Judges’ Choice Award at the 2011 Oxford Fine Press Book Fair.

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127 pages, 340 x 270mm. Edition of 28. Hand set and printed letterpress in 18 pt. Bell, Roman and Italic with titling in Caslon and handcut metal letters. The paper is mould made Somerset Book with Somerset Velvet for the heavier multi plate etchings.

£3,950 (plus P&P and insurance)

One Evening, 2013

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In this delightful book Susan Allix describes an evening by the sea when the sea and sky were tinted with unusual colours and textures. The starting point was a piece of silver: images and text followed. They describe elements of the evening and progress to the imagined destination of a flock of birds (depicted by commas!). The printed pages lie on top of a pile of blank pages, with the intention of continuing the thought of the last page in a more enigmatic way. They may represent the invisibility of a return of a spirit to perceived reality or nothingness, whatever the reader wishes.

90 pages, 110 x 150mm, 6 images, drypoint and etching printed in black and pale yellow on heavy Fabriano paper. Text set in 22pt Caslon, on Zerkall with some flying 48pt Bembo commas. Yellow goatskin binding and printed cloth over boards with a white embossed paper rectangle on the front, contained in the box. Edition of 10. Signed by the artist.

£270 (plus P&P and insurance)

Sudden Blue, 2012

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Inspired by two lines from Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s poem ‘Sudden Light’, this jewel encrusted book is a homage to the colour blue. With pages in colours from deep ultramarine to pale turquoise of differing shapes and sizes the words and etchings recall moments of Venetian blue. The prints are small and rectangular. They echo the glass tesserae inset into the binding reminiscent of the jewelled bindings of earlier centuries.

Three verses and three etchings interleaved with a variety of hand and mould made blue papers. The letterpress is 18pt Centaur, printed on to Saunders ‘blued’ hand made and the prints on to Somerset mould made paper.

110 x 170mm, 25 sheets of pages, some printed, some cut, some folded. Bound in dark blue leather inlaid with Venetian glass tesserae. Contained with a blue box lined with velvet. Number 12 of an edition of 18. Signed by the artist.

£750 (plus P&P and insurance)

Five Delightful and Irresistible Things, 2011

This‘caged’ book takes its form from precious mediaeval books sometimes taken into battle as talismen and carried aloft on a standard, the book locked into a cage to keep it safe. The owner has to decide whether to break open the seal and view the book’s contents.

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Linocuts and etchings in colour and black and white printed on Arches paper, bound with a yellow leather spine and batik printed paper, contained within a hand-made sealed paper cage and finally enclosed within a dark pink box with yellow leather fastening. Special copy bound in full leather inlays of yellow, green and pink goatskin with a green silk headband and green striped endpapers. The binding is contained inside a sterling silver cage of abstract lines and rococco curves, closed with silver chain. Contained in a drop-back box. Signed by Susan Allix and numbered.

40 pages including one folded, 100 x 95mm, edition of 23.

Standard Edition £320 (plus P&P and insurance)

Special Edition £790 (plus P&P and insurance)

Palm Tree Sketchbook, 2006

Images from sketch book drawings of palm trees from distant locations, the text giving a descriptive title to each tree.

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A concertina of 14 palm tree prints in etching, relief and reproduced drawings printed on Somerset paper, bound with a folded front board using green suede and Abaca paper. Signed by Susan Allix and numbered.

14 pages, 170 x 130mm extending, edition of 25.

£210 (plus P&P and insurance)