on the road again

October 23, 2016


Barrie had the pleasure of travelling up to Newcastle on Friday to talk to Graphic Design and Illustration students at the Northumbria University.

He’d been invited up by the extremely talented Sara Ogilvie, and spoke about The Caseroom Press, Typewriter Art and also took a few carrier bags full of Artists’ books for the students to look at (Philippa’s fabric printed Delia Taught Me To Cook was a particular favourite).

There was even a question about his Typographic Dante (he’d not mentioned it in the talk, but one of the students had really done their research). If anyone’s particularly interested in that, there’s an article about it here: Academia.

It was lovely to see Sara again – she’s also one of the illustrators for Utopian Tales – and he was given a grand tour of their studios, wonderful print room and small, but beautifully formed, letterpress studio.

A really delightful day.

So why the rather forlorn picture of his bags on the platform at Newark?

He forgot to take any photos when he was there.

the image in the machine

October 19, 2016


Barrie had the pleasure of going to the Liverpool School of Art & Design at the end of September. He had a paper accepted for the Seventh International Conference on The Image.



His parallel session (Learning Images) included wonderful talks on Virtual Illumination by Alexander Nevill, from the Centre for Moving Image Research, University of West England – Quite brilliant and well worth booking him for a talk if you’ve got some budget to spare – and Jim Hamlyn’s; The Truth About Images, which was another, very thought provoking high point which asked to what extent are photographs ‘truth dependent’.

Barrie spoke about portraiture and the typewriter. Apparently this is quite a niche subject, judging by the fact one of the audience asked, ‘Is that even a thing?’

He’s even managed to meet the deadline for submitting the paper to the Journal of the Image. So, it might even end up in print.

fond farewells

October 5, 2016

hanky-2 hanky-5

By comparison to Barrie’s recent blog post and the nine year saga of Utopian Tales, the collaborative project between Philippa and Angie Butler of ABPress has been a mere 18 months in the making, but nonetheless it is with a sigh of relief that their limited edition artists’ book has finally rolled off the production line. Fond Farewells is part of an on-going project called Endangered Species, this particular edition is a pair of books that examines lost language.



they finally met in the middle

September 29, 2016


mim-cover mim-3

One of the collaborative projects that Philippa has been involved with recently has been Meeting in the Middle. In January this year she started working with Tamar MacLellan, to research the 88 mile Jurassic Way. Taking a 44 mile section each, they both explored 18 villages, with a focus on social history. In the final book, a person from the past is used to represent each of the villages, their story is re-told in postcard format on the reverse. The individual A6 pages were produced as single pieces of artwork and then stitched together to become one book, with the sections literally meeting in the middle.


mim4 mim-5

utopia (at long last)

August 10, 2016

Utopian Tales

After more years than Barrie would like to admit to, Utopian Tales/Utopische Märchen is finally in print, and copies are now in the post to the contributors.

The never-ending story starts in 1987 – at the Chelsea School of Art, whilst he was learning the joys of typography, magazine design and letterpress. The Chelsea School of Art opened his eyes to a great many other things too – music, dance, literature, theatre. It was an education in the arts in the broadest sense. Through the recommendations of his tutors, particularly Frances Corner, Rob Mason, Jon Newman and Dave Strickland, he discovered (amongst many other things) the work of Kurt Schwitters and the writings of Jack Zipes, which have led directly to the blog post that you are just about to read.

Some ten years after graduating, he was living and working in Edinburgh, and was lucky enough to freelance for Polygon Books. As part of getting to know the imprint, he was allowed his pick of their back catalogue, including Polygon Sigma – which according to the intriguing blurb on the flyleaf was ‘a series of books which challenge the barriers between disciplines. It will include weird fictions, half-truths, plagiarisms, anarchisms, aphorisms and…’

He never found out what the ‘and’ was, as that was where the statement finished, but one of their books in particular caught his eye. It was called Utopian Tales from Weimar and was edited and translated from the German by none other than Jack Zipes. What’s more, it contained two fairy tales by Kurt Schwitters. It just couldn’t get any better.


And of course, it didn’t. The book was originally published in America and it was photo typeset. It appeared to have been designed between the end of paste-up and the beginning of the Macintosh revolution. The text was quite dense, a condensed sans-serif, on a tight leading, and no matter how many times he picked it up to read it, something about the typography and design defeated him. Utopia always remained out of reach.

At various points when he was teaching in Edinburgh and Glasgow, Barrie would lend the book to students as research for their projects, but whoever the reader, it always seemed to be a hard book to engage with. Wonderful though the content was, the typography and layout just lacked readability.

In 2005, Jantze and Barrie had moved down south and he was teaching at Lincoln School of Art – making Artists’ Books as part of The Caseroom Press, as well as continuing to freelance. One of his clients was the Scottish Poetry Library, and at the time he was working on a series of books for them. One book in particular, How to Address the Fog: XXV Finnish Poems 1978–2002 seemed to be going through an endless series of corrections (which in turn led him to make to another book, The Ghost in the Fog, but that’s another tale). During a particularly trying set of alterations – as he recalls, it included an argument between two translators as to whether a series of ‘o’s should have a ‘^’ or not – he looked up to see, on his bookshelf, his copy of Utopian Tales from Weimar, and he thought, ‘now that I’m working as part of an Artists’ Book collective, I could maybe make a new version. A better version.’

So, Barrie searched the web for Jack Zipes, found an e-mail address and wrote to him to ask if he’d consider working on a new edition of it. Much to his surprise, Jack wrote back, said that he was going to be in London and asked if Barrie fancied meeting him for lunch?

So they met, discussed Utopian Tales, Kurt Schwitters, Gianni Rodari and many other things, and as a result, Philippa Wood, Brian Peacock and Barrie started working on a number of projects based around Jack’s translations – these became Lucky Hans and Other Merz Fairy Tales (published by Princeton University Press), Tales to Change the World, The MerzBox, The Good Man, The Onion MerzPoem No. 8 and Fairy Tale, all published through The Caseroom Press.

But of course, what he’d really wanted to publish was Utopian Tales.

The first problem was that none of the text matter existed digitally. Jack had originally researched the book in East and West Germany back in the early 1970s and had photocopied the stories at the time, ready to translate when he returned home. These were quite ‘soft’ copies, often from poor quality photocopiers and had hand written notes where the copied text was illegible.

The only copy for the English translations was that in the Polygon Sigma book itself.

So. The first task was to scan the entire book, run it through Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software and create a new clean digital file. This was time consuming, but fairly straightforward. The text matter was good enough quality to be picked up fairly well and required very little editing.

The German texts were a different story. The tales published after 1941 were usually set in sans serif, but those before that tended to be set in blackletter. The scanning software had a language option, so it could recognise German words, but even the sans serif stories were only partially successful. The age and poor quality of the copies often meant that the OCR didn’t pick enough information up and the stories needed to be transcribed letter by letter (Barrie doesn’t speak German) and typed in to form the final digital copy (He can’t touch type either, so this took a while).

The blackletter script was impossible to scan at all and each of those stories needed to be typed in, in their entirety, letter-by-letter, word-by-word. And, to add to his woes of not speaking German and not being able to touch type, the forms of blackletter script are fairly unfamiliar. As Zuzana Licko said back in 1990, ‘you read best what you read most’.

So, there were many, many nights of slowly typing in texts, half of which barrie could read, and half that he couldn’t. Luckily Jack was very happy to re-proof-read his original translations, and Ken Cockburn, a long time collaborator, proof-read, amended and – on occasion – completed the missing parts of the German stories, working back from Jack’s English texts.

Finally, the text matter for the book was complete and all the illustrators and artists began to produce varied and delightful works for each of the English and German versions of the stories. He really cannot thank them enough, both for their contributions and their endless patience.

Eventually, in the Summer of 2007, Utopian Tales/Utopische Märchen was ready to go to press.

The project had been given the go-ahead by the University; it was deep in the middle of the Research Assessment Exercise and, although the Head of Research at the time seemed to have had little truck for Graphic Design as a viable source of ‘research’, it was grudgingly agreed that Jack and Kurt carried the day and the book would be ‘reffable’.

It just couldn’t get any better.

And of course, it didn’t.

In a Series of Unfortunate Events, the funding was lost, and that was that. The book was dead and Utopia was further away than ever before.

Barrie contacted everybody to let them know what had happened, to apologise for the setback, and to say that he would continue to try and find a way to publish the book. And to be honest, it’s been on his mind ever since. Every so often he’s tried to raise funding for it to go to press, or to make an ‘in-house’ edition, but my attempts always came to nothing.

Which is where we are now. In 2015 Barrie finally realised that he has the methods of production that he needed to make the books. After a few false starts with the Glue Binder and some dead-end format changes, he made a dummy that he could produce in a very limited edition. He contacted everyone to get updated biographies … and found out that a few folk had forgotten they’d ever contributed in the first place.


The first job – taking lots of big bits of paper and making them into…


… lots and lots of smaller bits of paper


The production line in progress.

It was quite a daunting, and time consuming task. Most of the Summer has seen Barrie trimming, cutting, folding, sticking and collating all the various elements that make the books up.



The books getting their last trim on the guillotine. 


Ready to ship. Only 9 years later than expected.

But. Finally. Wonderfully. Thankfully. Here it is. Utopian Tales/Utopische Märchen. With a heartfelt thank you to all the illustrators for their work, their patience, and  their support, here is the most ambitious book Barrie had never published. Utopia at last.

We shall leave you with a very apt quote from Jack Zipes himself.

     ‘Inevitably they find their way into the forest.

     It is there that they lose and find themselves.

     It is there that they gain a sense of what is to be done.

     The forest is always large, immense, great and mysterious.

     No one ever gains power over the forest,

     but the forest posses the power to change lives and alter destinies.’

meeting in the middle

July 6, 2016

02 lino printing 07 printing

For the past few months Philippa has been working on a new collaborative project with Tamar MacLellan. Meeting in the Middle explores the 88 mile Jurassic Way which starts in Banbury and ends at Stamford. Each artist has 44 miles of the walk to explore, research and develop a body of work around. This on-going project will result in a limited edition artists’ book.

Whilst most of the project has been developed via a blog and occasional Facetime discussions, this week we found time to meet for two making days in the Caseroom where we worked with a variety of processes including letterpress, screen printing and lino printing. More information about the project can be found at:


LENvention 4

June 30, 2016

LEN7 work


LENvention is an annual workshop for letterpress practitioners and was established by Angie Butler and Hazel Grainger in 2013. This year Philippa and the other LENventioners* returned to UWE in Bristol where they were fortunate to work with Dr Tim Mosely from Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia who had been invited by Angie to join and run this year’s event.

LEN2 tim

LEN4 angie

LEN6 group

Tim’s research practice includes haptic aesthetics in relation to the artists’ book. His research methodology, which we were introduced to, was a new way of working for the majority of the group and responding to the theme of Empathy we worked collaboratively to develop and produce a range of work that resulted in a rather impressive 19 finished artists’ books within a two day period.


LENvention regulars Angie Butler (ABPress), Andrew Morrison (Two Wood Press), Rachel Marsh (Semple Press), Hazel Grainger (HGmakes), Lucy Guenot and Philippa (Caseroom Press) welcomed Imi Maufe (bluedogstours) to the event this year. Elizabeth Willow who was unable to attend, kindly supplied the words with which we worked.

LEN5 work

LEN3 hazel


sorting, cutting, printing

June 21, 2016

wooden a's

It’s that time of year when we can begin to start making our way back into the Caseroom. After a bit of a re-jig to the space, we have now got a far more functional space in which to work.


Our colleague Brian – who likes a challenge – has been doggedly getting to grips with the laser cutter – the result of which has been to cut some new replacement letterforms that were lost (stolen) a year or so a go… he is currently testing different types of substrates – so far acrylic, mdf, pine, oak and ply – although he is still on a mission to track down the perfect wood with less grain. Thanks BV.

Voyage Boxed bagged

April 14, 2016

sngma copy


Good news this week as Voyage Boxed, which has featured regularly on this blog, was purchased by the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh. This is quite a coup for all involved but congratulations to Imi and Rona who initiated and curated the project. It’s great to be part of such a successful collaboration.

fond farewells progress

March 30, 2016


After almost a year of deliberation (or just avoidance?), Philippa has finally started to print on the handkerchiefs that will form two publications of her collaborative project with Angie Butler. Printing on a different substrate to normal is always challenging, but the cloth hankies were easier than imagined. The next challenge was a two colour registration, not as easy as it looks using a Farley proofing press!