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All images courtesy of The Fruitmarket Gallery & Sally Jubb Photography

 

In conversation with Iain Morrison, Enterprise Manager, Fruitmarket Gallery

Discussing the Fruitmarket & Stills Gallery Book Fair

 

Andrea Allan: How did the Artists’ BookMarket book fair at Fruitmarket begin?

Iain Morrison: When I joined the Gallery back in 2010, there had been an ambition among the team to host a book fair, and starting in a new role responsible for growing commercial events activity, I was able to make this happen. Building on The Fruitmarket Gallery Bookshop’s track record of stocking hard-to-find artists’ books, we started with a Christmas event which grew the following year into the annual fair we love hosting today. Back then there were only 13 stalls; this year with our new partner Stills, we had over 60.

AA: What do you hope visitors will get from visiting the fair?

IM:: For the Artists’ BookMarket weekend, we want to be the place in the country with the widest range of artists’ book works and artist publications under one roof. We want to be the centre of the artists’ book world! And then we pass the baton on to the other excellent centres of artists’ book activity as it moves around the country stopping off at the established fairs in Newcastle, Liverpool, Bristol, and Leeds among others. So we hope we can give visitors this panoramic view of the book arts landscape, inspiring them whether they’re new to it or already fans who want to dig deep into what our stallholders offer.

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AA: This year you teamed up with Stills gallery, how did that come about?

IM: We were excited when our neighbour Stills approached us. It’s good to find ways to work with other arts organisations in Edinburgh. We thought from the start that rather than have partner events, we would mutually benefit from incorporating Fruitmarket and Stills activity under the established Artists’ BookMarket name. We would share audiences and marketing reach, and with Stills’ expertise in photography we were able to expand our representation of photographic book works drawing on their networks to reach publishers we hadn’t worked with before. The partnership also prompted us to think about how we could offer a more curated approach, clearly outlining all the areas of practice we host in the fair.

 

AA: What are some of your favourite pieces that you've seen at the book fair?

IM: It’s always exciting when someone new applies for the fair, but also good to see artists who’ve been loyal supporters of the event developing their work year on year. With those who’ve been with us from the start, I can really see how their ideas and making have evolved – I’m thinking of Helen Douglas, David Faithfull, Lucy Roscoe, Len McDermid among others. Then there are the groups from the art colleges, with departments often organising a table year after year, but each new group of students bringing fresh approaches. Will Spendlove was a precocious student at Edinburgh college of art a few years ago, and had to rethink his pricing structures when someone from the library at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art wanted to buy his work – he’d put a £10k price tag on a book, presumably not expecting the interest…. My shelves at home groan from book works I’ve bought over the years. I think my favourite might be a lovely foldout, hand-painted book about Antarctic adventurers that Catherine Hiley made a few years back. And this year I was won over by Mark Hamill’s Dick Tucker Drag Detective this year ­– one of the makers whose work sits within zine culture, another aspect of the fair. And of course there are always things I want but can’t quite stretch to. Oh for one of Jane Hyslop’s sculptural book works – that woman has patience and precision I can’t dream of.

AA: Similarly, with regards to workshops and talks - what have you found works really well for the audience? And do you have any favourites?

IM: We find running workshops in the morning’s good to bring in families who get out and about earlier. Rachel Hazell and Susie Wilson are always popular. And the talks draw people in in the afternoon. We had a massive hit this year with Still’s David Grinly, whose talk on Robert Frank’s The Americans crammed more people into the resource room than I’d thought was possible!

People love a bit of interactivity too. Handing things round is always a popular approach. I remember ottoGraphic’s handrounds being particularly colourful, and this year David Henningham literally enveloped his audience in a massive fold-out book.

The talks and workshops are also a welcome space to include participants who are in the artists’ book world but maybe aren’t appropriate for a stall. So we’ve been able to include the likes of Glasgow book sharing project My Bookcase and students and staff from programmes at Dundee’s art college, Duncan of Jordanstone, one of whom signed up for her course after hearing a lecturer give a presentation at a previous Artists’ BookMarket.

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AA: There are a lot of book fairs now happening all over the country, what do you think makes Artists’ BookMarket in Edinburgh unique?

IM: We have a good organisational set-up to run and deliver a book fair with a venue – now two venues – and a team that has control over a space that it programmes all year round. So we are able to think about how to cross-market to the audiences that attend our exhibitions and events, and to make connections between the fair and different areas of our programme. The opportunity to show in our gallery spaces seems to go down well with makers too. It’s a great networking event, and I enjoy seeing friends getting together year after year; Book Works and Moschatel Press always have a good chat! Our geographical location probably helps Scottish makers with costs in terms of reaching an audience, although we are impressed at how many makers travel from across the British Isles to be here. We’ve even had representation from Italy and Switzerland before.

Looking ahead, the new relationship between Stills and Fruitmarket is going to allow us to grow and keep finding interesting new shapes for what, as we were complemented by one participant, is ‘the major Scottish artists’ book fair’


Find out more about Fruitmarket on their website: The Fruitmarket Gallery