3/10/2012

A Very Special Collection.



A few weeks ago we decided to visit an exhibition of wood engravings in Manchester at the Special Collections Gallery in the Sir Kenneth Green Library at M.M.U. I studied at this university in the seventies and have very fond memories of the library although this actual building did not exist then. The exhibition, “The Best Tools, the Best Methods, the Best Aims” is on until the 23rd March and full details can be found here.

This exhibition celebrates the work of the Society of Wood Engravers (SWE) and includes material from the Society's archives from its foundation in 1920 and traces its development up to the present day. I was particularly drawn to the work of John Farleigh and to one book in particular “The Adventures Of The Black Girl In Search For Her God” by George Bernard Shaw with illustrations by John Farleigh. Until a few weeks ago I had heard neither of the book or the engraver, by coincidence a friend of mine had the book on her shelves and I fell in love with it at first sight. I was so smitten with the decorative engraved patterns that I decided to track down a copy. It seemed fortuitous that the exhibition had the work on show.



The book has the most beautiful endpapers (see top) and both the design and the quality of engraving are superb. I love the way the figure appears almost as a negative shape, the eyes being first dawn to the foliage. The back cover has a marvelous design featuring a figure and a crocodile. If you want to learn more about the craft of wood engraving you might like to follow this link where you can see “Engraving on Wood” by John Farleigh is a digitized version of the book, which you can thumb through at your leisure. You can read more about how he created the pattern and the method he used to engrave the block.

The exhibition is very inspiring and informative and made me want to play around with a few new ideas. I decided to see if I could translate one of my wood engravings into a design for patterned papers. The snowflake motif was first engraved and then printed and the resulting print scanned into Photoshop. I used this to work out a repeat in both positive and negative and have printed several sheets to use in bookbinding projects.

12 comments:

  1. I think that whatever art or craft one is involved in Valerie, going to exhibitions/recitals etc. is of such importance because of the inspiration one gets. So glad you found it all so inspiring.

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  2. Beautiful work... love the foliage in the second one.

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  3. I have seen this work before when Googling to see if we have comments; I live at Farleigh Wood, so you can see how John Farleigh and wood engravings would pop up.

    I like your design, it almost has an Arabic mosaic feel to it.

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  4. How glad am I to stumble upon your blog, via Bellas blog. I absolutely love your work Valerie, I have some of your books, I've been a fan for yonks (which is a long time). I shall hopefully be following you from now on. Your paintings etc are so beautiful, I love all the natural world you portray, I could go on praising for a while, but I will follow and see what you get up to. I see you are up to speed with digital wizardry, I have yet to try and master all this, I only know some basic photoshop. Well Its nice to catch you, and I'll be back to comment again no doubt.

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  5. well that's fascinating. I didn't previously know his work. your papers are lovely

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  6. well that's fascinating. I didn't previously know his work. your papers are lovely

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  7. Valerie, thank you so much for the introduction to John Farleigh. I am going to see if my library might have some books featuring his engravings.

    I very much like the way that you've spun one of your own engravings into another form via ... the computer. It's wonderful to see that an artist like yourself who is very hands on and inspired by nature can also play with tech and find harmonious results.

    xo

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  8. i enjoy taking the art to heart through your words and eyes.

    thank you for sharing your finds~

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  9. John Farleigh's wood engravings, what a treat - loved viewing the 'flipping book' and especially seeing the 'Cactus Dahlia'.

    Love your 'snowflake' design too Valerie. Have a good week. Lesley x

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  10. Thank you for sharing this Valerie. What beautiful work, a real inspiration : )

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  11. Wonderful engravings and I think your snowflake design works beautifully.

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