Why books?

Gracia Haby & Louise Jennison,   Paw Pad Path   ,      2018

Gracia Haby & Louise Jennison, Paw Pad Path, 2018


Why artists’ books?
From the desk of Gracia & Louise
Sometime in 2017*
(Sometime in 2007)


Dear you,

For those of you we are yet to meet, we are besotted with paper for its adaptable, foldable, cut-able, concealable, and revealing nature. In our artists' books, prints, zines, drawings, and collages, we use play, and perhaps the poetic as well, to reel you in closer.

For us, above all, it is not the medium that is always of greatest import, but the message. And so, we use found photographs, collected postcards and acquired scenery in our artists’ books and zines, alongside our drawings and prints, and more recently, moving digital collages, for what they can enable us to say, and what we hope you might in turn feel. Though, of course, what you feel is entirely up to you, and to this end we favour open endings above all. You can see in our work what you will. You can make of our collaged and drawn scenarios what you will. You can see fragments of your very own self. You can see your own link with nature. You can see human nature reflected in the movements and actions of the muzzled anteaters roaming through a paved courtyard or the Salvaged Relatives costumed for the ballet. You can see charm, absolute. Along the way, some people have seen our zines to be artists’ books, or our ‘this’ to be ‘that’, and as this is something beyond our control, we’re fine with that. Like anything, the closer you look, the more you see.

The animal is oft present and easily detectable, the centre of our paper stage. Hard to miss, over here and over there, the animal runs up hills, scales rooftops, and sometimes appears in the library considering flight. Gliding through a scene it is too large to be contained within or perhaps too manmade to call home, that it has a tail or feathers or furred muzzle is not solely why its form appears. For us, the animal is there to question our very behaviour, those moral principles one governs the self by, and to explore our relationship with the natural world.

We love the challenge artists’ books and digital collage presents, the possibilities, the history they hold, and the intimacy they awaken. The flexible medium of the book holds us in its palm rather than us holding the book in our own palms.

Our artists’ books can be found in the collections of: Artspace Mackay; Bibliotheca Librorum Apud Artificem; Deakin University Library; Melbourne Museum; Melbourne University Library; Monash University Library; Moreland Art Collection; Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery; National Gallery of Australia; National Gallery of Victoria; National Library of Australia; RMIT University Library; State Library of New South Wales; State Library of Victoria; State Library of Queensland; Tate (UK); UWE Bristol (UK).

Based in Melbourne, we work from home. And more often than not, we collaborate with each other. We rather fell into collaboration, many years ago now, and it is one based on harmony. To date*, we have made 99 artists’ book titles and 127 zine titles.

We decided early on in our collaboration, through an organic process, not to polish the same skills. We naturally lent towards different things and now bring those different things together to make one work not possible without the other. Working this way, a third work is made that belongs to us both.

The two of us have been fans of the book for a long time now, and it is perhaps because no work is ever as you’d imagined or saw in your mind’s eye, that we keep working with books, paper, drawing, and collage. The way we approach digital collage is very much as the reader. Every step, every part of the process, every learning curve, holds us entranced. We love the challenge artists’ books and digital collage presents, the possibilities, the history they hold, and the intimacy they awaken. The flexible medium of the book holds us in its palm rather than us holding the book in our own palms. In the beginning, the medium of the artists' book seemed, to us, to be free of rules and regulations. It also presented many new things to consider, from page layout and sequence to typographical decisions, and such things we tossed in the air and arranged upon their landing. Working together has meant we were able to figure out the particulars through trial and error, and groundwork.

From the outset, we knew next to nothing of the logistics of binding, but a love of reading books, and a limited knowledge of the history of artists’ books, coupled with a brief stint in Switzerland to study experimental binding techniques (on a Freedman Foundation Travelling Scholarship in 2002), has guided us along the way. And blind faith, or whatever you wish to call it. At the back of our minds, the feeling that if we stuff this up, it has all been in vain, and this is a powerful motivator when joined with a love for what you are doing.

Yours in paper covered,
Gracia & Louise


Though they have since retired, you are welcome to comb through our blogs for the rounding-out of details,
High Up in the Trees (Gracia's blog)
Elsewhere (Louise's blog)
Dear You (postcard collages by Gracia)