Artists’ Books on Etsy

For those of you who may not know what an artist book is, be my guest in explaining them! Each one is unique, sometimes made in editions like prints, sometimes “printed” by a press, other times not, cataloged in the library like books with a call number, often displayed in museums as art objects behind glass – each one may look, feel, or even sound different from the next (queue Keith Smith’s string book).

A few brave and creative souls have started selling their artists’ books on Etsy. I found these recently and thought I’d share!

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Butterflies from TheMuseumShelves

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Night from SignOfTheLadybug

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Nachtmahr Box from buechertiger

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Miniature Black Artist Book from PegandAwl

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Book of Nonexistent Animals from HandmadeBook

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Artist Interview with Deborah Anne Corr from Modestly

Artist Interview with Deborah Anne Corr from Modestly - learn about her beautiful handmade books and ephemera projects. #handmadebooks #bookbinding #ephemera #mixedmediaart

“The conscious mind hungers for success and prestige. The unconscious mind hungers for those moments of transcendence, when the skull line disappears and we are lost in a challenge or a task —when a craftsman feels lost in his craft, when a naturalist feels at one with nature, when a believer feels at one with God’s love. That is what the unconscious mind hungers for. And many of us feel it in love when lovers feel fused.”

~David Brooks

Artist Interview with Deborah Anne Corr from Modestly - learn about her beautiful handmade books and ephemera projects. #handmadebooks #bookbinding #ephemera #mixedmediaart

It is my pleasure to introduce Deborah Anne Corr from the Modestly Etsy shop. Her artist book inspired by Joseph Cornell inspired me to then interview her for the blog. Please make sure to give her shop some love!

Can you tell me a little bit about your work making artist books and where you draw your inspiration? When did you learn how to make artist books?

The quest of living our lives well is the inevitable journey each individual must take. It is the perpetual drive to retain the mystery and magic in a world that is sometimes inhumane, hostile. Sometimes life becomes almost unbearable in the moment. I have struggled to maintain my equilibrium in different phases of mine – my early twenties working in a pressurized commercial environment, my early thirties becoming a parent, my early forties learning to live with the loss of a marriage and forging a new future.

Since I was a child I have had a curiosity about how to live well. To me this is the question that philosophy tries to answer. And philosophers are interesting, but so are poets and gurus, and business leaders. Curiosity is the spring board to doing something, whatever it may be, it is about the opportunity to dig deeper, to investigate. The process of making my books chose me really. I have loved mining the minds of past thinkers – and current ones too – I think in an attempt to understand more about how to be human. That seems strange, since being human should surely be the most natural of processes. I don’t find that, I find it discombobulating, I look at behavior to learn from it. I know now I am not alone in that feeling of alienation from my own species, and writers and artists taught me that. I learnt from my early life that being a career girl disassociated me from what is most important to me. So I stopped.

Artist Interview with Deborah Anne Corr from Modestly - learn about her beautiful handmade books and ephemera projects. #handmadebooks #bookbinding #ephemera #mixedmediaart
A special friend who shared a lot of life with me when we were young parents once handed me a present of a handmade blank folded book. That started me off. I looked at this little piece of created loveliness, and wanted to fill it with something beautiful. I have it still – and it is still blank – I haven’t yet found its story. But it projected me into a new arena of creating, my book making journey had begun. All trial and error – I love to learn by doing, so I just made lots of books. Then family asked me to make them and I considered selling them. I had sold cards at craft fairs, but felt the books would get over handled – so I opened a shop with Etsy, and was thrilled when I made a sale! Then I found more encouragement when I went to a local Etsy meeting, and discovered teams, which opened up the Etsy platform. I find many of my customers are from the U.S.A and that amazes me.

Artist Interview with Deborah Anne Corr from Modestly - learn about her beautiful handmade books and ephemera projects. #handmadebooks #bookbinding #ephemera #mixedmediaart
One of my greatest pleasures in life is creating. To find yourself living that flow of easy ‘being’ when the mind and the body are occupied has to be the up there with the best things. I don’t care who you are, or what you have – this is the experience that tops status, recognition, fan appeal. It is really playing – and we in the Western hemisphere have somehow forgotten that play is how we began, and how children learn best. Learn to play, and you learn how to live well. Creating anything, from a cupcake to a spreadsheet, from a poem to an engine, is about that engagement of you with something else. And alchemy happens.

Artist Interview with Deborah Anne Corr from Modestly - learn about her beautiful handmade books and ephemera projects. #handmadebooks #bookbinding #ephemera #mixedmediaart
Every time I send something out into the world because a customer has ordered it, I get a frisson of excitement. Will they love it? Often I am lucky enough to get amazing comments and always feel incredibly grateful that someone has bothered to do that. I create in a very humble and small way – but it means something.

Can you give me some background information on the Cornell Book and what the creative process was like? What kinds of materials and processes did you use?

Joseph Cornell, the New Yorker, was a genius at bringing together ephemera, and producing assemblage art in a time when the genre wasn’t really considered art. A collector extraordinaire, inspired by the surrealists and dedicated to the care of his brother whom he cared for and who sadly died early from his condition of cerebral palsy, this gentleman produced items that inspired a new generation of artists and writers, and well, just people. His work inhabits the hinterland between the reality we live in, and the dreams we have, the inner realities that can sustain and sometimes seem more meaningful than the exterior lives we lead. And that is why I love him. And that love propelled me to produce my own small tribute to him. A mixture of images from some of his work mixed with my own journeys into unreality.

Artist Interview with Deborah Anne Corr from Modestly - learn about her beautiful handmade books and ephemera projects. #handmadebooks #bookbinding #ephemera #mixedmediaart

Artist Interview with Deborah Anne Corr from Modestly - learn about her beautiful handmade books and ephemera projects. #handmadebooks #bookbinding #ephemera #mixedmediaart

Artist Interview with Deborah Anne Corr from Modestly - learn about her beautiful handmade books and ephemera projects. #handmadebooks #bookbinding #ephemera #mixedmediaart

Are you working on anything new and exciting in the near future?

Am I working on something new – always!! Work is what propels me, but much of it is done in the background of my life. I continue to read, consume new information and to look. Staying curious is how I work and sometimes there are periods when all the productivity is hidden – nothing to show. I know that is just a period of gestation. I don’t consciously pick my subjects, they arrive. Questions arise in my mind and I research, or a customer asks me to produce a book on a subject I have given no consideration to – that’s how my book celebrating dogs came about. I have always loved sharing my life with my dogs, and it came very easily to me! Virginia Woolf was a subject given to me by a customer – she had wanted the Bloomsbury set but Virginia was louder than them! She arrived in my head and wouldn’t leave for quite some time.

Artist Interview with Deborah Anne Corr from Modestly - learn about her beautiful handmade books and ephemera projects. #handmadebooks #bookbinding #ephemera #mixedmediaart

I don’t make myself create a book from a subject, unless I am working to create an order. It is a sort of sideline to my more structured daily routine of illustration, where I try to make something of a contribution to living costs! I try to create something everyday for uploading onto my sites where I sell printed on demand product ranges – its practice, and some are more successful than others, my books are my indulgence really. I suppose like knitting for relaxation, they bring me to a different part of me, where I dream a little. I like the physicality of making something that has form – so much of my day is spent digitally on the p.c. I really wish I could enjoy the world of the kitchen, allowing my creativity to blossom there, but unfortunately for me and la famille, I tolerate cooking. Just. I love the part when I get to make the covers – each book is different, and I like playing with different materials, reclaimed mostly because I love the history of objects. I even like the packaging of my books, and I often finish the order by making it a slipcase, simply because I want to go on with the creation of something wonderful to open. Like treasure. I like adding beads, or textiles.

Artist Interview with Deborah Anne Corr from Modestly - learn about her beautiful handmade books and ephemera projects. #handmadebooks #bookbinding #ephemera #mixedmediaart
I am very interested in the past and one of my gestating projects is to produce a ‘girdle book’ , in the manner of a small book of thoughts, daily motivations worn hanging from the waist on a cord. I want to do a sort of modern day version of that.

Artist Interview with Deborah Anne Corr from Modestly - learn about her beautiful handmade books and ephemera projects. #handmadebooks #bookbinding #ephemera #mixedmediaart

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Skillshare has some great classes on bookbinding – check these out if you’d like to make your own!

Alphabet Accordion Handmade Journal Class

Alphabet Accordion Handmade Journal Class - expand your #bookbinding skills! #skillshare #handmadebooks #accordionbooks

Click here to take this class

Bookbinding: Make a Coptic Stitch Book 

Bookbinding: Make a Coptic Stitch Book #skillhare #classes #bookbinding Click here to take this class

Bookbinding Basics: Making a Perfect Bound Notebook

Bookbinding Basics: Making a Perfect Bound Notebook #skillshare #handmadebooks #bindyourownbooks #bookbinding #learnbookbindingClick here to take this class

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Dieter Roth’s Diaries

Book: Dieter Roth Diaries by The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh 

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Over a brief 12 weeks working on a digital humanities project in which I analyzed the text in Van Gogh’s letters to his friend, Emile Bernard, I started to grow a larger interest in artist letters and writings. I stumbled upon this book in the stacks about Dieter Roth and his diaries, a book that has caused me to generate my own questions about private/vs/public art and private/vs/public self.

With my Van Gogh project, I was trying to explore what his letters to Emile Bernard could tell us about his work, and if there was any correlation between certain details in the letters and certain details in his paintings (I looked at color more specifically). In the book on Dieter Roth’s diaries, Fiona Bradley discusses the book’s publication and the exhibition it is based off of as a way to “examine the impact they [his diaries] may have on the production, reception and interpretation of his work” (31). I was immediately fascinated because of the interest to explore similar veins in my own research this past summer.

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Dieter Roth’s diaries date from 1964 to 1997—the last one is a video diary called A Diary (33). Roth describes himself as being a compulsive diary-keeper, and throughout his life was enamored with the concept of diary-keeping, even collecting other diarists (32). He was very aware that someday someone might read his diaries, and he often wrote them with that very assumption in mind (33). While holding to this assumption, the practice of diary-keeping was complicated by his own feelings of self-consciousness (47). He writes:

I write as if I’m writing for a typesetter/fear of writing incorrectly/I can’t let myself go/as soon as I have the feeling of being observed (e.g. the reader), I want to appear correct (even if it’s only the spelling).” (48)

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The fact that he often felt self-conscious about doing something so personal, and worried about how it might appear to others, but simultaneously assumed others would read it, generates some interesting questions:

How can the truest self be revealed through writing if an individual can’t let himself “go”?

What does it mean for that individual’s identity if they are constantly going between a public and private self in the act of diary-keeping?

When the self is revealed through writing and bound in a material form, and it is poetry and art process, drawings and paintings, even material waste, and a document of everyday life down to the most mundane details, but it is also meant to be seen as an art object—although with self-conscious feeling attached to the process of creating it—the boundaries of public and private self and art become so unclear that the boundaries could even be said to be broken all together.

 I believe his diary-keeping and the questions it implies are important to think about for any artist who may want to keep a journal or diary, especially if the keeping of it is even partially meant to document artistic practice and process.

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