Centre for Fine Print Research University of the West of England Centre for Fine Print Research

Tom Sowden

Presentations and Papers

Re-reading the Page

Author/CO AUTHOR: Bodman, S. Sowden, T.

conference: New Art of Making Books
Place: Winchester School of Art
Date: 20.03.2013
Paper Presented by: Tom Sowden and Sarah Bodman
URL Links: www.book-lab.org/sarah_bodman_and_tom_sowden.html

Tom Sowden and Sarah Bodman will explore some of the ways in which national and International artists are working with the book today. From the beauty of the physical, to page-based explorations of text and image, to the accessibility of free downloads, the immediacy of print-on-demand, and the crossovers and relationships between books and video. Now that books can be paper-based or screen-based, our questions aren’t so much about how artists are making books today, but why are they making them? And what is it inside them that is still so exciting to us as the viewer or reader?

Drawing with Fire: The Art of Laser Cutting Paper

Author: Sowden, T.

conference:  IMPACT 7: Intersections & Counterpoints | International Multi-disciplinary Printmaking Conference
Place: Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
Date: 29.09.2011
Paper Presented by:  Tom Sowden
URL Links: impact7.org.au/participants/sowden.html


The possibility of using the laser as a tool for cutting, scoring, perforating and engraving paper is as yet underutilised by book and paper artists. Many artists use hand cutting and scoring in their work unaware that laser cutters can assist in many of the more mundane aspects of producing editions or unique works. The laser cutter need not replace the handcrafted element rather run alongside it. This would allow the artist to produce larger editions more effectively and allow the work to be distributed to a wider audience.

Starting with a brief explanation of the laser cutting process, this paper would then present and discuss examples of artists working with the laser cutting technology to cut and manipulate paper. In particular it will present the work of three detailed case studies, myself, and two artists who were invited to participate in a four-day residency at the Centre for Fine Print Research where they explored the potential of the laser cutter in relation to their own work. Both of the artists, Su Blackwell and Mette-Sofie D. Ambeck, were selected because they use hand cut elements within the production of their work, but as yet had not fully explored the capability of the laser cutter to produce larger editions and more experimental formats of construction.

Follow-Ed (after hokusai)

Author: Sowden, T.

conference: IMPACT 7: Intersections & Counterpoints | International Multi-disciplinary Printmaking Conference
Place:  Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
Date:  28.09.2011
Paper Presented by: Tom Sowden
URL Links: impact7.org.au/participants/sowden.html

I can't stop making books in the style of Ed Ruscha. It has become an obsession, and my failure in trying to replicate an Ed Ruscha book, whilst always trying to succeed, is entirely part of the appeal to me. I don't live in 1960s California and my city is not as aspirational a place as Los Angeles was then, but I am not alone in this and many other artists share my passion and also produce books in an Ed Ruscha style. But why do we do this? 

This paper first looks at my own practice and my journey as an Ed Ruscha rip-off act, and then looks at some of the books from my collection of Ed Ruscha tribute books. Direct tributes such as the amazingly faithful reproduction of Royal Road Test; Macintosh Road Test by Corinne Carlson, Karen Henderson and Marla Hlady - true to the spirit even in the clothes they are wearing for the photographs - in which they substituted a Macintosh Plus (Model 'X') computer for the original Royal typewriter; to more conceptual books such as Doro Bîhme and Eric Baskauskas' Various Blank Pages, which presents all the blank pages from Nine Swimming Pools, Colored People, A Few Palm Trees and Various Small Fires. 

Although the books collected so far vary enormously in size, subject matter and style, they all have an intrinsic 'Ed' theme, however tenuous the connection may be. The prevailing quality that I feel they all have is the element of humour reminiscent of Ruscha. Where each artist has taken one of Ruscha's books and reinvented it with a knowing twist; referencing with wit, the time and environment that they find themselves in, just as Ruscha did in the 60s and 70s.

A Manifesto for the Book - artist's book - artist's publication - book art?

Author/Co Author:Bodman, S. Sowden, T.

conference:  IMPACT 7, ntersections & Counterpoints | International Multi-disciplinary Printmaking Conference
Place:Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
Paper Presented by: Sarah Bodman
URL Links:http://impact7.org.au/participants/bodman.html


This paper is based on the results of a two-year research project by Sarah Bodman and Tom Sowden, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, March 2008 - February 2010. The project investigated the context and future of the artist's book in an attempt to extend critical debate of what actually constitutes an 'artist's book' in the 21st Century. One key point was to include all the book related activity that artists currently engage with, work that is produced on, and exclusively for, digital technologies within the book arts field, and not leave it floundering on the edge; if the artist considered what they were producing to be a book, then we felt it should be included. We also discussed the continued practice of traditional production processes for artists' books such as letterpress, etching, lithography, screenprint and woodcut, and interviewed a range of artists and publishers who work with these, as well as those producing livres d'artistes, fine press books, design bindings, multiples, installation and audio books.

The project was set up for international artists to openly debate and contribute online with forums through Artist Books 3.0, downloadable survey forms to fill in and diagrams to alter and return for artists, curators, librarians, collectors, teachers, students, dealers and publishers.  We used these alongside findings from our series of in-depth interviews and case studies with 53 artists and other professionals involved in the book arts in many countries including: Australia, USA, Denmark, Poland, Belgium, Canada, Turkey, Lebanon, South Africa, South Korea, Cyprus, Japan, Italy, Singapore, Argentina, Norway, Germany, Estonia, UK, Ireland, Russia, France, Spain and Brazil. We also hosted symposia and a conference, with an exhibition of 119 international artists' books to show examples of contemporary works. All of the outcomes from the project are available as free downloads (http://www.bookarts.uwe.ac.uk/canon.htm).

The Art of Laser Cutting Paper, Drawing with Fire

Author: Sowden, T.

conference: Doverodde Book Arts Festival
Place: Doverodde, Denmark,
Date: 15.05.2010
Paper Presented by: Tom Sowden
URL Links:http://www.bookarts-doverodde.dk/

Artists often adapt industrial and digital technologies to work with creatively, as evidenced by the use of digital printing, to create artists' books and prints. As the technology becomes more affordable, laser cutters are a regular feature within secondary, further and higher education. The talk examined and demonstrated the potential of the laser cutter as a tool for artists working with the book form and paper-based work. The talk aimed to change attitudes to creative making and increase awareness of the advantage of new technologies for artists/craftspeople and discussed how artists are using the laser-cutter as a creative tool, with examples of artists works on paper and artists’ books.

Ruscha Rip-off, Rip-out

Author: Sowden, T
Publication: Afterimage, the journal of Media Arts and Cultural Criticism, Vol. 37, No. 6
Publisher: Visual Studies Workshop, NY
Date: 2010
URL Links: www.vsw.org/ai/issues/afterimage-vol-37-no-6

A Portfolio by Tom Sowden as part of the special section on photo-bookworks in Vol. 37, No. 6 of Afterimage, the journal of Media Arts and Cultural Criticism, published by Visual Studies Workshop, NY. The photo essay details a selection of the books he has collected for an exhibition project co-curated with Linda Newington to be held Winchester School of Art in January 2011. Published in Afterimage online, the journal of media arts and cultural criticism 2010

Artists’ Books in the Digital Age

Author/Co Author:
Sowden, T.
conference: Doverodde Book Arts Festival
Place: Doverodde, Denmark,
Date: 9.05.2009
Paper Presented by: Tom Sowden
URL Links: www.bookarts-doverodde

Tom Sowden was invited to present a public lecture on Artists’ Books in the Digital Age, concentrating on how digital technology has improved the production of artists’ books, at the first Doverodde Book Arts Festival to be held in Denmark in May 2009 (attendees c.50). Alongside the talks the festival hosted public artists’ books exhibitions: Ø island (8th May - 25th June), workshops & demonstrations of book arts and crafts / music and story-telling / bookcafé / reading corner (visitors c. 350). For the Ø island exhibition, Bodman and Sowden produced a collaborative artist’s book (Ø - Cherry Blossom Island Tree) that was kept for the collection of the new Book Arts Centre in Doverodde. A documentary video on the production of the book, which was made en-route, can be viewed on the UWE Book Arts website – along with the talks and information. 

Discussions at the festival, over workshops with an exhibiting Danish book artist Mette-Sofie D. Ambeck, who utilises hand cut elements in her work led to a successful application in 2009 to the AHRC for a grant to explore laser-cutting for book artists: Paper Models: investigating laser-cutting technology to develop new artists' books and paper-based creative practice for arts, crafts and design, commencing March 2010. Ambeck will visit CFPR for a week-long residency in June 2010, as one of the three case study artists for this AHRC project. Sowden has been invited back to Denmark for the second Doverodde Book Arts Festival in May 2010, to produce a new collaborative book for exhibition and present a talk on laser-cutting for book and paper artists.

Artists’ Books Abroad

Author/Co Author:
Sowden, T. Bodman, S.
Place: Minnesota Center for Book Arts, Minneapolis, USA
Date: November 1st 2008
Paper Presented by:Tom Sowden
URL Links: www.mnbookarts.org/news/news_08fall.html

Presenting an overview of artist's book publishing in Europe and further afield: contemporary artists’ books, Internet publishing projects, altered books, performance books, and use of digital and traditional production methods.