Featured Artist: Marilyn Tippet, book artist

Featured Artist: Marilyn Tippet

In 2015 there was an email circulated between local artists, asking us to head to a meeting at Liverpool Central Library for the first meeting of North West Book Artists. This was the start of a movement which is gathering momentum constantly, founded and led by Marilyn Tippet.

Having exhibited book art internationally, Tippet is a rare breed, making a career out of something she adores doing. It’s an easy art form to love though, especially if you’re the one with your hands on the paper.

Book art transcends the restraints of most mediums, never really fitting into any category other than its own. You can create book art sculptures, but they are first and foremost books. You can create book art books, but they are first and foremost art. It’s a path you can only take if you’re happy blurring lines, and one that can be incredibly rewarding if you do.

Talking to the artist ahead of her next showcase (part of Liverpool Book Art Fair 2018) it was clear that for most, herself included, making book art has practical benefits too. As much as we might like to dream of Louvre-like walls filling our homes, it’s neither affordable nor achievable. For art collectors, book art is a brilliant place to start buying, and for artists it’s a perfect place to start selling.

Tippet has draws full of old work, bursting to be seen and to be sold, but its work that was never intended for a draw, or a shelf. Books fold and, mostly, so does book art. Punctuating my own book shelves are various masterpieces that get brought out occasionally, which is exactly what they were made to do. They weren’t created as wall mounted things that fill your home, but as books that can be brought out when you need.

That integration with ordinary books is fascinating too, not simply the craft of creating the delicate work, but the understanding and honesty to the pages it fills. Tippet’s first exhibition of book art was at Cardiff Library, her next will be at Liverpool Central Library. These displays fill places where it helps us to think about books a little differently, not just things you read and dismiss, but things you explore, interpret and actually take part in.

Liverpool Book Art Fair 2018 fits that bill perfectly, not just with its place in the library, but each chapter of its story, evolving as it moves to Kirkby Gallery in September. Simon Ryder, the force behind the exhibition and fair, was one of the first to guide Tippet towards a wider network of artists when she moved to Merseyside, so there’s a symmetry to her part in this year’s exhibition.

This year the fair and accompanying exhibition are based around the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, one of the most iconic books ever written; a fact not lost on the artists this year, who have all taken the themes of the novel and turned it into something physical, and tangible, with their own unique spin on the classic.

For Marilyn Tippet though, there wasn’t an immediate connection, but in her own blunt words:

“Frankenstein has never been a favourite of mine, but the alternative title, The Modern Prometheus, sparked much research and a little bit of off the wall thinking.”

I can’t wait to see the off the wall thinking when this exhibition opens on 14th May, not just form Tippet but from every artist and crafter who has tried in their way to bring Frankenstein and his monster to life once more.