Big Jump Press

The Manchester Artists’ Books Fair (and a ridiculous hotel)

I spent the weekend in Manchester sitting behind a table at the Manchester Artists Books Fair put on by Hot Bed Press and the Manchester School of Art. I have sat behind a lot of tables with a lot of books, but this was my first vendor event in the UK. I want to find out more about book artists here, where they are located, what they make, and who else is doing letterpress work.

One of the hardest things about moving to the UK has been separating myself from all of my geeky book buddies in the States. Producers of letterpress printed artist’s books are relatively thin on the ground, so having a few friends you can count on is important. Who do you call when your press starts making a weird noise? Who can you whine to about matching colors? Who can you talk to about the pros and cons of the automatic washup feature on your Vandercook press? Most of my letterpress buddies are 3,500 miles away.  (that’s you, Southern Letterpress, Queen Anne’s Revenge, and oh so many others!) So while I was hoping to sell some work, I was also looking to find some people. So I packed up all of my stuff and Ben and I drove it all to Manchester, about five hours away.

Setting up a table is like putting a puzzle together. I am a flustered mess from the moment I walk into the room until everything looks moderately presentable. While setting up this table, I lost five pens and my phone. But it all came together in the end.

Things you need: Labels, tags, price lists, receipts, plastic bags, signs, pens, mailing list sign up sheet, postcards, business cards, tape, scissors, cash and change, somewhere to write down peoples names and take notes, somewhere to put all of the business cards and debris that you collect, something to do with your hands to keep busy, something to look at when people want to look at the books but not talk to you, psychic abilities to help you determine when people want to talk about the books and when they want you to leave them alone.

If you are lucky, you are situated next to someone fun. The roulette wheel of the Manchester Fair plopped me next to the lovely Charlotte Vallance. She was loads of fun AND she came with a huge bag of sweets.

Because I was on my own at my table, I didn’t get much of a chance to wander around the fair. This is a familiar agony: the desire to stay at the table to make whatever sales might be possible as people drift by– pitted against the desire to go touch and investigate the thousands of strange and wonderful books all within forty feet of your chair. I managed to hit a few tables just at the end of the two days, but not enough, not enough, not enough. You can see a list of all the exhibitors here. Here is the table of Elizabeth Willow:

Charlotte and I were positioned directly in front of the entrance to the fair. Immediately to our left? Ratchford Limited Bookbinding Supplies.

It is a goddamn miracle that I didn’t spend every dime I made over there. Due to extreme restraint I managed to escape relatively unscathed with only a small bucket of pva and some methyl cellulose.  (I know I am living in the UK now, but there is simply no useful equivalent for the word “dime” and so I will continue to use it in my day to day speech. I am not trying to be difficult. You try saying “I am down to my last twenty p.” It is ridiculous.” Anyway, I digress.)

And just like that, the fair was done. Goodbye, Manchester.

Warning: the following has nothing whatsoever to do with books

Post Script
I simply cannot write about this trip to manchester without showing you the following photos.

Yes, this is our hotel room. Yes, that is an enormous four poster bed. But wait, are those. . .

Yes, they are. Framed photos of John Travolta. An enormous four poster bed surrounded by framed photos of John Travolta. It all happened. I was there.  I will leave you with this one:

8 comments on “The Manchester Artists’ Books Fair (and a ridiculous hotel)

  1. Hot Bed Press (@HotBedPress)
    October 15, 2012

    Well thanks very much for the write up. it certainly looks like you had fun at the book fair, I hope it was a successful weekend for you too!

    Well done on resisting the pull of Ratchford’s stand. I would suggest you visit their warehouse in Stockport on your next trip to Manchester, but I fear you might faint at the site of the vast selection of book making goodies on offer!


    PS. There’s nowt wrong with being down to your last twenty pee. Embrace your inner Brit 🙂

    • Big Jump Press
      October 15, 2012

      Thanks for a great weekend, hot bed! I’ll try to do better on the inner brit front. See you soon, I hope!

  2. sonja
    October 15, 2012

    How lovely and fun. Who else did you meet? Can’t believe the pics of John Travolta. While he looks really good in the last one, that movie was horrible! Glad you had fun.

  3. Glenn House Sr.
    October 15, 2012

    Travolta is a 20th century has-been. Ben and Glenn, the Gordo banner-masters, could teach him a thing or two about 21st century ladies.

  4. Lili Loofbourow
    October 18, 2012

    Sarah, this was lovely, and that hotel room left me speechless. That last photo. The curls. Oily razor-sharp nipple shadows? Oily razor-sharp nipple shadows.

  5. graham moss
    October 24, 2012

    It was a great pity that the Manchester Fair, some thirty minutes from here, clashed with the Oxford Guild of Printers Wayzegoose, some five hours away, but there we are, or rather, there we were! Next time you are in Manchester and want a shot of letterpress, plan on coming for a visit. And you might like to join the Oxford Guild, which is chock full of book makers and letterpress printers. Plug in!

  6. Big Jump Press
    October 24, 2012

    Thank you, graham, I will! Sorry to have missed you in Manchester, but I will make sure to come and visit the press next time I am in town!

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This entry was posted on October 15, 2012 by in Other People and Things, Visits and tagged , , , .
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