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