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.