Angie Butler

Angie Butler
THESIS TITLE: Evidencing the role of Letterpress as a contemporary process within book arts practice and higher education in the UK

In recent years there has been a marked resurgence of letterpress and artists’ books practice in higher education. Angie’s project will investigate how we learn to design and create artists’ books through letterpress. To gain an understanding of how contemporary book artists teaching letterpress has influenced what is produced in the field, and how this relates back into studio and private press practice. Letterpress is usually discussed in relation to graphic design and typography, not book arts practice, or via the relationship of craft to art in the use of materials, experimental process, concept and aesthetic. Being a traditional, tangible process, letterpress offers many possibilities for developing creative ideas, underpinned by practical skills. The particular nature of the artist’s book as sequential narrative presented in an intimate environment can be developed through investigating letterpress as a form of creative, interactive printmaking. For example, when printing with letterpress, the potential to manipulate and rearrange forms on the bed allows for incidental and experimental practice throughout the printmaking process.

In her chapter ‘Handwork and Hybrids, Recasting the Craft of Letterpress Printing’ in Extra Ordinary: Craft and Contemporary Art, the American academic and curator Betty Bright states that “A number of viewpoints co-exist within the letterpress community. There are printers who embrace tradition, there are printers who subtly undercut standards to raise questions about making and reading, and there are printers who depart absolutely from any recognisable standard in service to a personal vision.” (Buszek, 2011, 140) This indicates that artists’ books and letterpress feed into many areas of creative arts education (graphic design, typography, illustration, fine art, etc.). Letterpress, as a traditional fine press process, also sits firmly within the field of contemporary artists’ books, but is still discussed using terminology relating only to typography. This is evident when carrying out literature searches; letterpress books are classified under ‘typography’, rather than ‘printmaking’.

The positioning of letterpress within the book arts needs to be critically appraised through investigation and dissemination that consolidates and encourages the appreciation and understanding of craft skills alongside conceptual practice. This would feed into educational arts practice at many levels. A greater understanding of the potential of these related entities would also inform the wider audience of book arts and letterpress practitioners, and independent presses in the international field.

Angie graduated (with distinction), from the MA Multi-Disciplinary Printmaking Course, at UWE in June 2011. One of the main reasons Angie applied to study specifically at UWE was because her practice had shifted. She had knowledge of book arts research at CFPR through her growing interest in artists’ books: attending various book arts fairs, projects, exhibitions and events, and meeting up with Sarah Bodman and Tom Sowden. Angie realised that studying at an institution with this particular research facility would be of direct benefit to her emerging practice as a multi-disciplinary artist with a specific interest in all things book art.

Over the past three years, Angie has also been involved with various artists’ books exhibitions, symposia and conferences organised by Sarah Bodman and Tom Sowden, and undertaken collaborative projects with other artists and institutions, alongside the development of her own independent research practice.

Angie undertook a residency at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts in 2010. As the largest and most comprehensive centre of its kind in the United States, Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA) celebrates the book as a vibrant contemporary art form that takes many shapes. From the traditional crafts of papermaking, letterpress printing and bookbinding to experimental art making and self-publishing techniques, MCBA supports the limitless creative evolution of book arts. Spending time at MCBA alongside the encouragement and support of Jeff Rathermel (Executive Director, MCBA) and other key members of the Minneapolis Artist Community; was a seminal experience, and had a hugely positive effect on Angie, and the continued development of her book arts practice.

Attending workshops at MBCA was an inspiring introduction to Letterpress through the generous nature and expertise of award winning book artist and letterpress printer, Chip Schilling. After returning home from MCBA, Angie carried out letterpress internships at the CFPR for two summers: implementing systems for good studio practice she had seen at MCBA; to improve procedures and processes in typesetting and letterpress at UWE in 2010, and running the letterpress masterclass for the Summer Institute Courses at CFPR.

Awarded two prizes for her artists’ books as a student: the Sheffield Book Arts Prize (Student Prize) 2009, and the Agassi Book Arts Prize, UWE, 2011, Angie now holds two Masters Degrees (the first being in Visual Culture: Fine Art): and has enjoyed working at various Institutions across the UK, Europe, US, and S.E. Asia, as both Visiting Artist and Lecturer for the past ten years. Her work is held in both UK, and international private and public collections.

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