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

Tom Sowden

Professional Practice

Tom’s recent practice involves a knowing but light-hearted approach that references and mimics the aspirational work of American conceptual artists from the 1960s and 1970s. Instead of sharing their utopian ideals, his approach is more to do with the commonplace concerns - for example commuting, walking in the park and supermarket shopping - whilst still alluding to systems and processes that artists such as Ed Ruscha and Lawrence Weiner employed. His work is playful, yet undercut with suggestions of futility and failure.
Tom works across a number of disciplines, primarily with the artist’s book format and video but also sculpture, photography, drawing and printmaking.
You can see some of his works online at www.tomsowden.com

Artefacts and Art works

Artefact in Fluxjob, curated by Jeff Rathermel and Keith Buchholz, 7th February-6th July 2014, Star Tribune Foundation Gallery, MCBA, Minneapolis

Artefact in RUKSSIAN Artists’ Books: Artists’ Books from the UK and Russia. Curators: Sarah Bodman, Mikhail Pogarsky, Vasily Vlasov, Viktor Lukin - 14th March-18th May 2014, Tsaritsyno State Historical, Architectural, Art and Landscape Museum Reserve, Moscow
Artefact in 9th International Book Art Festival Correspondence - 28th March-11th May 2014, Kielce Institute of Design, Kielce, Poland 

Artefact in RUKSSIAN Artists’ Books: Artists’ Books from the UK and Russia. Curators: Sarah Bodman, Mikhail Pogarsky, Vasily Vlasov, Viktor Lukin - 1st August-30th September 2013, Pavel Kuznetsov Museum, Saratov
Artefact in 9th International Book Art Festival Correspondence - 30th August-22nd September 2013, Art Gallery BWA, Sandomierz
Artefact in To Have and to Hold, curated by Reed Contemporary Books, - 5th September-7th September 2013, Flow Gallery, London 
Artefact in DIY (Visits Chicago): Photographers and Books. Jury: Greg Harris, Karen Irvine, Jessica Cochran, Steve Woodall - 18th September-7th December 2013, Center for Book and Paper Arts, Chicago
Artefact in B.A.B.E: The Best Artists Books and Editors, curated by Frédéric Vincent - 21st September-26th October 2013, Immanence, Paris
Book Chapter: Some thoughts on the artist’s book in the 21st century, co-author Bodman S. In Book Art Object 2, Stanford University Press / Codex Foundation, USA, ISBN 978-0-911221-50-3, pp 22-24.
Artefact in DIY Cultures - 25th May 2014, Rich Mix, London
Artefact in PAGE.PRINT.POST: 50 years of Artists’ Books, curated by Debbie Hill and Geoff Wallis, 16th July-9th August 2014, Post Office Gallery, Ballarat, Australia

Lecture's and public talks

Conference presentation: Beyond the Book - Devon Guild of Craftsmen, Exeter University. May 2014

Invited lecture: Books Made by Artists, Edinburgh Printmakers, November 2013

Laser cutting Paper models imagePaper Models - results and overview of the project

Sowden, T
Name of conference: Laser cutting and Paper Models Symposium
Place: Bower Ashton, UWE Bristol
Date: 15.09.2010
Paper Presented by: Sowden, T
URL Links: www.ahrc.ac.uk

A one-day symposium chaired by Tom Sowden on Wednesday 15 September 2010 for seventy-five delegates presented the results of the AHRC funded research project, Paper Models: Investigating laser cutting technology to develop new artists’ books and paper-based creative practice for arts, crafts and design. 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.


This project created new methodologies for artists' creative production methods. As the technology becomes more affordable, laser cutters are a regular feature within secondary, further and higher education. This project explored the potential of the laser cutter as a tool for artists working with the book form and paper-based work, and examined how it may be able to replace the need for labour intensive manipulation of paper and card by hand.


The project also aimed to change attitudes to creative making and increase awareness of the advantage of new technologies for artists/craftspeople.

inside out exhibition logo05.2010

The art of laser cutting paper

Sowden, T
Name of conference: Doverodde Book Arts Festival ll
Place: Doverodde Book Arts Center, Finland
Date: 13-16 May 2010
Paper Presented by: Sowden, T
URL Links: doverodde-book-arts-festival

Tom’s talk discussed how artists are using the laser-cutter as a creative tool, with examples of artists works on paper and artists’ books.

Recent Selected Exhibitions

inside out exhibition logo09.2010

The Art of the Book: Journals Then and Now

international touring exhibition
venue: F-Block Gallery space
dates: 11.02.2010-12.11.2010
url: www.bookarts.uwe.ac.uk/artofbook10.htm

An international touring exhibition of artist book journals, diaries and letters. “The Art of the Book: Journals Then and Now” is a collaborative project between the Department of Art and Art History at UMSL, the CFPR at the University of the West of England Bristol, the Winchester School of Art Library, University of Southampton, St. Louis Mercantile Library at UMSL, Washington University in St. Louis, University of Missouri-Columbia and St. Louis Public Library. US curators Marian Amies; Alla Barabtarlo; Erin Davis; Julie Dunn-Morton; Yael Even; Jean Gosebrink; Mike Holland and Karen Witt and UK curators Sarah Bodman, Linda Newington and Tom Sowden.


Bodman and Sowden co-authored one catalogue essay. Bodman sole authored one catalogue essay and is co-curator of books for exhibition. The third in the “Art of the Book” series, “Journals Then and Now” features 500 years worth of priceless records and journals kept by a mix of established and emerging artists.

Works by John Bently, Sarah Bodman, Helen Douglas, John Dilnot, Salt & Shaw, and Katsumi Komata will be on display. The exhibit also will feature wall panel digital displays of items that cannot be moved due to their fragile conditions. These include a handwritten document by Michelangelo and ledger drawings by Little Shield, chief of the Arapahos. “The Art of the Book: Journals Then and Now” is sponsored by the College of Fine Arts and Communication at UMSL, the Center for Humanities at UMSL, the Center for International Studies at UMSL, the Regional Arts Commission and the Missouri Arts Council. Reviewed in the St. Louis Riverfront Times April 29 2010 84-page full colour catalogue, catalogue proceeds support The Art of the Book Scholarship fund supporting the study of book arts overseas by UM - St. Louis Graphic Design BFA students.

Exhibition venues:

11 Feb - 8 May 2010 Gallery 210, University of Missouri, St. Louis, USA
21 July - 27 Aug 2010 Special Collections Room, Bower Ashton Library, UWE
4 Oct - 12 Nov 2010 Winchester School of Art

inside out exhibition logo 09.2010

Drawing with Fire: An exhibition of laser cutting by book and paper artists

international exhibition
venue: F-Block Gallery space
dates: 14 - 17 September 2010

As part of the practice-led AHRC funded research project “Paper Models: investigating laser cutting technology to develop new artists’ books and paper-based creative practice for arts, crafts and design”, and to coincide with a one-day laser cutting symposium, there will be an exhibition of laser cut artwork in the F block gallery of the Bower Ashton campus of UWE between 14th and 23rd September.


The work on display demonstrates and represents some of the interesting and innovative ways in which the laser cutter is being utilised by artists and designers working with paper. Featuring work from national and international artists such as Hyperquake, Ingrid Siliakus and Jenny Smith, the work highlights good practice and how the attributes of a laser cutter can be harnessed in order to produce new works.


The exhibition will also showcase some work by the projects case study artists. Su Blackwell and Mette-Sofie D. Ambeck who each attended a four-day residency at the UWE Laser Studio in order to produce new work, and also new work by Tom Sowden the principal investigator on the project.


Image: ‘Goldfinger’ laser cut work by Tom Sowden

Laser cutting Paper models image08.2010

Arnolfini glass case showcase

local exhibition
venue: Arnolfini, Bristol
dates: 1 June – 31 August 2010
url: www.arnolfini.org.uk/whatson/exhibitions

Tom Sowden has curated exhibitions at the Arnolfini created by SME's and sole traders who have worked with the CFPR through the bureau service and residencies on prototypes, bespoke designs and artefacts. The work on show was just a small selection of work that has been produced in the CFPR labs including laser cutting, rapid-prototyping and enamelling. Artist’s exhibiting include: Rebecca Cowley, Janine Partington, Nylon Sky, Victoria Browne, Jenny Smith, Tom Sowden, Cartel, Tortie Rye, Sue Gregor, Jessica Turrell and Claire Phipps.

The main focus of research at the CFPR stems from the close relationship that exists between technology and ideas and making in the arts and crafts. The CFPR is committed to the dissemination of its research through education, training, professional practice, collaborative research projects, conferences, exhibitions, industrial collaboration and publication. The CFPR allows access to some of its facilities to artists and designers through its bureau services and artists residencies.

Sitting room exhibition photoSitting Room: An Exhibition of Artists’ Books

Exhibition venues: 20 May – 15 July 2006 Manchester Craft and Design Centre
4 Dec 2006 - 26 January 2007 Alsager Arts Centre Gallery
31 January - 18 February 2007 Permanent Gallery, Brighton
6 July - 2 August 2007 The Winchester Gallery, Winchester School of Art
21 August - 21 September 2007 School of Art, Media and Design, UWE Bristol
10 October – 10 November 2007 AKI Academy of Arts, Enschede, The Netherlands
13 December 2007 - 2 January 2008 The Ruskin Gallery, Cambridge School of Art, Anglia Ruskin University
7 March - 27 April 2008 K Gallery, Rhythmix Cultural Works, Alameda, California, USA
26 May – 7 July 2008 Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Mexico City
1 December 2008 – 28 February 2009 Gallery Martha Hellion, Empresa no. 101, Insurgentes Mixcoac, Mexico

Curated By: Lucy May Schofield and Tom Sowden
Catalogue ISBN: 1 900756 34 X, 44pp published by Righton Press, 2007
URL Links:

Along with Lucy May Schofield, Tom co-curated the touring exhibition Sitting Room: An Exhibition of Artists’ Books. The show presented artists’ books in a re-created sitting room within gallery spaces, allowing the majority of books to be handled and read by the viewers. The exhibition opened in May 2006 and toured nationally and internationally until 2009.

To Have & To Hold 2, FPBA show, Chapel Row Gallery, Bath, 13th February – 2nd March 2010;

Re-Shelving Initiative Four, Eyelevel Gallery, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 19th February – 28th March 2010;

Labyrint 09 - Writings and Observations, Botkyrka konsthall, Sweden, curated by Joanna Sandell and Pia Sandström, 7th November 2009 – 13th March 2010;

Closure, curated by weloveyourbooks, The University of Northampton, 8th October - 19th November 2009;

Å reise (to travel) Galleri VOX, Bergen, Norway, 1st - 25th October 2009;

Place Identity Memory, Stranraer Museum, Dumfries and Galloway, 26th September - 31st October 2009, a

INKUBATOR II curated by David Faithfull, Durham Art Gallery and DLI Museum, 12th September – 18th October 2009.