Wednesday 16 September 2015

GUEST POST: Artists’ Book Fairs (Pauline Lamont-Fisher)

When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes. 
Desiderius Erasmus


Artists’ Book Fairs take place throughout the year in various cities in the UK. I have been to several as a visitor and I have had tables at quite a few too. I love the artists’ book fairs as they each have their own unique atmosphere and character. I remember going to one that had loud raucous music playing all day. It seemed so incongruous with books, which I associate with quiet contemplation, and prevented any discussion about the work. Another fair I visited in London was so crowded that I could hardly move. That was a zines fair and very different in character, content and visitors from the artists’ book fairs I am used to.

Artists’ book fairs offer a unique opportunity to present your own work and get feedback from the visitors. They also provide an opportunity to have work seen by private collectors as well as librarians and archivists from public collections. They give a good indication of how to price work and what sells and what does not.

Egidija at the Small Publishers’ Fair in London

Over the years you get to make friends with fellow makers and meet familiar faces, which is such an important aspect of the shows for me. Being an artist tends to be a solitary occupation so that interaction is a good opportunity to catch up and discuss ideas and new work. Artists come from all over Europe as well as the UK, which is stimulating and adds diversity.

My favourite fair is BABE; The Bristol Artist’s Book Event which is held biannually at the Arnolfini gallery in Bristol. The Arnolfini is an old warehouse with high ceilings and makes a superb venue for the book fair. It is the biggest fair I have been to and the gallery is so spacious that there is plenty of room for people to circulate. The ambiance makes it easy to talk and interact with interested visitors. The facilities are excellent too, not the least because of the tea trolley manned by Snoozie and laden with delicious cakes baked by Pearly King!

BABE 2015 photograph: Chris Evans

All the Artist’s Book fairs I have been to have been well organized and well
run. The table sizes are usually pretty standard and I have my own linen table
cloth that I take to each. Having said I love the fairs I always hate them before
I get there as packing up, organizing and finishing those last minute jobs can
be stressful. However as soon as I arrive at my destination I feel glad to be
there and enjoy unpacking and setting up.

Setting up at Liverpool Artists’ Book Fair

Talking to visitors is enjoyable. You can always spot the students as they want to know the name of the paper used and how the book was made, but that’s OK. Other visitors are more interested in what the work was inspired by or what it is about. The book fairs are held in different parts of the country and at different times. They make a good goal to be working towards as I try to make a new book for each one that I have a table at. Normally booking tables is about 3 or 4 months before the event and has to be done when the call for participants is made to avoid disappointment. Some of the events use the website Curator Space for applications and that is a great place to store images and details of the imprint.

I try to have a handling copy of each book on the table. I have found that most
people handle books carefully and considerately. However I have also had stressful moments when someone with dirty hands picks up a book. I have also had people holding cups of coffee over the table, which can be alarming.

Manchester Artists’ Book Fair

One of the most irritating things is a table blocker: someone who stands talking either to someone else or on a mobile right in front of the table. They are not looking at work but stopping anyone else from looking too. That has happened to me several times and on the last occasion I actually plucked up the courage to ask them to move on!


The upcoming artist’s book fairs are:
10th Manchester Artists' Book Fair on Friday 16th and Saturday 17th October,
11am – 5pm, in the Manchester School of Art’s Holden Gallery.
Plymouth Artists’ Book Fair Counter 2015 at KARST in Plymouth on
Saturday 24th October, 12-6pm.
The Small Publishers’ Fair at the Conway Hall in London on November 5th
and 6th, 11am-7pm.
Tables for these book fairs will have gone by now but for visitors the
admission is free and they usually have events alongside, so well worth a

Some annual Artists’ Book Fairs:
Edinburgh: The Fruit Market: Artists’ Book Market: February
Leeds: Pages Leeds Artists’ Book Fair: March
Bristol: Bristol Artist’s Book Event: April (bi annual - next one 2017)
Norwich: Turn the Page: May
Liverpool: Liverpool Artists’ Book Fair: July
Newcastle: Baltic Artist’s Book Market: July
Manchester: Artists' Book Fair: October
Plymouth: Counter: October
London: Small Publishers’ Fair: November
Curator Space

Pauline Lamont-Fisher is an artist, who makes artist’s books. Her principle inspiration is walking in both urban and rural environments and her artist’s books reflect her interest in the landscape.  She holds a BA (Hons) in Fine Art, a Postgraduate Diploma in Book Arts and Crafts from the London College of Communication and an MA in Visual Arts (Book Arts) from Camberwell College of Arts, University of the Arts, London.  She exhibits internationally and her work is held in public and private collections.

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