Ferrous: Working alongside Blacksmiths pt: 1; introduction and conception

Partnered with a blacksmith from the Ba (Hons) Blacksmithing, the task is to create some form of illustrated object, be it a zine, or other paraphernalia, to inform and/or depict information about said Blacksmith, showing either them, their personality, hobbies or even their work in general.

I have been partnered with Aaron Houghton, a level 6 Blacksmith with a interest in reenactment. He runs a viking reenactment society where he teaches other people to fight using a range of weapons, including bows, crossbows, sword, and spears (his weapon of choice). Aaron uses his blacksmithing skills to create his own armour and weapons that he uses; and can also make his own clothes. His recent work has featured a lot of snakes, a recently found interest that to quote “has become a bit of an obsession”.

After deciding on making a zine as the final outcome, the next task was to decide on a which aspect of my blacksmith I would like to depict within the zine.

Pinterest research:

x x

(note: second pinterest board was made on a partner account)

Initially the only information I had on Aaron was that he liked snakes; this mainly due to us using conflicting means of communication and not being able to find each other in person because of this. On our first meeting, I had nicknamed him “snakeguy” so my initial research and idea was based upon this; however this will not be developed upon as I now have more information to work with.

In thinking about what sort of zine to make, I developed a concept of the a concertina book with a snake forming the outside cover, that would join back round to the front forming a ring. This idea was based on the idea of Ouroboros, the snake that eats its own tail that originated in Egypt.


After finally being able to meet up with Aaron, he told me more information about himself. I ran the idea of the Ouroboros book past him, which he very much approved of, although he did mention that their was a similar Norse version of Ouroboros. Upon looking into this more I found “Jormungandr; the world snake”, it is similar in the fact that it is depicted eating its own tail, and it fits more with the Aaron’s interest in Vikings.

Using the idea of Jormungandr, I have started to design the outside of the book, and am playing with the idea of perhaps incorporating simplified blacksmithing tools into the design, although am unsure if this has been successful or not yet.

The mechanism for how the book will stay lock into a ring has now been decided on.


The tail will slot into a cut on an additional section on the back of the head. In testing this has both firmly held even when force has pulled against in and been relatively easy to slot and unslot.



Envelope book: The letter B

One of the first books we made in the Book Arts Module was an envelope book about either a single letter or the alphabet, I chose the letter B. An envelope book is literally a book made using envelopes.

The words I have Illustrated are:

  • Book
  • Boat
  • (Ice) Berg
  • Beacon
  • Bach
  • Beethoven
  • Brahms
  • Binary
  • Black Tie
  • Bio-hazard
  • Baroque
  • Blank
  • Blight
  • Breakdown
  • Beast
  • Blue Whale
  • Back

I have tried to use collage from this as it hasn’t been a way I’ve enjoyed working and thought I should give it another try. Although some pages like Black tie and the music pages have worked well others appear to be a little lack-luster.


Library Zine

Our task was to create a zine, a small book folded from a larger piece of paper, within the theme of libraries. As a pre-lesson task, we were asked to interview a librarian; after which i doodled a caricature of the librarians I interviewed. As one of the things they had into depth about was their favourite books I decided to focus on this. I interviewed a few other people, asking them what their favourite books were and drew small cartoon-like images of them as well.

I decided to play with the photocopier settings to create a background for the zine. By reversing the colours and setting to one colour I  created and double sided, block coloured paper to put my imagery on.

I did have some image placement issues. After cutting speech bubbles and writing my text I realised my images were too big for what I had originally intended them for. I decided to crop the images to just the top half of the head as you still got a fair amount of detail but could still read the text.


Carousel Book: Circus Animals

One of the best books I have produced is the carousel book, or Japanese star book, on the theme of fairgrounds. I decided that I wanted to do circus animals as I thought I would be able to create an interesting and fun book.

After drawing out designs for my animals, I cut them out of ink coloured paper, easily creating full colour textured images.

My book has ended up being rather nontraditional shape for this type of book, as mine is a tall, narrow, portrait book as opposed to a more traditional landscape book.


I have kept the background constant to keep the focus on the animals themselves. I think the fact that some of the animals stick out outside the boundaries has added more depth to the illustration, something that was perhaps lacking due to the narrow shape of my book making the 3-dimensional nature of carousel books almost nonexistent.

Japanese star books form a star shape when looked at from above and below, although because of the nature of my illustrations, mine only does this prominently on the bottom.


Book arts and Self-Publishing

(image from x)

When you make a zine or other small book, there are a few things to think about when it comes to either self-publishing or using a small press. The main points being make sure the quality is up to standard, use a good printer and/or printer company and most importantly make sure you are happy with the work. (info here x)

Getting work out into the world can be one of the bigger challenges but thanks to a rise in the number of zines and books being made, there has also been a rise in Zine fairs, for example the Bristol Comic and Zine fair that showcases work from around the Bristol area.

A list of zine fairs from around the world can be found here

After looking at some small “Indie” presses I found a few that interested me :

  • NoBrow Press– “striven both to bring fresh, young talent to wider audiences, as well as to remind the world of the great talents that have been producing stunning work for many years.”, NoBrow generally welcome a wide range of illustration styles and book themes with a specific interest in contemporary illustration and “has sought to make great design, ground-breaking art and narrative, luscious production values and environmental consciousness central to its mission.”
  • SelfMadeHero– ” a quirky independent publishing house committed to producing ground-breaking work in the graphic novel medium”, SelfMadeHero specialize in graphic novels with other genres on the side and they employ a fair number of in-house artists. They seem to take a subject and make a series of it in a different style to previously imagined.
  • Salt–  “one of the UK’s leading independent publishing houses, established in 1999”, Salt seem to deal more with larger novels and seem to be aimed more at adults in general, although they do have children’s poetry section.

Photographic Flip Book

Our task was to create a photographic flip book; IE make a flip book using photographs. I created a simple background on some paper and photographed the movements of some inanimate objects to make them appear to move… in this case i used a paper dragon and a lucky waving cat.


Although the story told isn’t particularly interesting I still think the flip book has turned out OK and the binding has worked well. It is interesting that I have unused an oriental theme in my book and because of how the imagery was placed in layout the book had to bound on the right meaning that it is read left to right like Japanese books.

I have continued the imagery theme into the cover and binding by using red card and gold thread, colours seen in the creatures in the book.I enjoyed the binding process and will hopefully have more chances to explore this in the future.


Encyclopedia of Fantasy Beasts

I decided to create an encyclopedia about mythical creatures as this was a subject I knew a fair bit about and could have some fun with the illustrations. After looking through lists of some different creatures I decided I would do:

  • Basilisk
  • Cockatrice
  • Dragon
  • Kraken
  • Leviathan
  • Pegasus
  • Unicorn
  • Werewolf

I chose as in alphabetical order in they bear similarities on adjacent pages; IE, Basilisk and Cockatrice are cousins, Kraken and Leviathan are sea monsters, and Pegasus and Unicorns are horses.

Each image is paper cut from ink stained paper with details added in black and white pen. The illuminated letter at the beginning of each title is also cut from paper and embellished with pen.

I have decided to keep the text a mixture of “serious facts” and small comical notes; for example, i have included in depth facts about dragon biology but also notes referencing video game developers Nintendo and a song from 1978 by Warren Zevon.

I wanted the overall feel of the encyclopedia to be like a travelers journal so have aged the paper using coffee and handwritten all the text. I have also included smaller pencil sketches to highlight parts of the text.

I feel that overall the book is successful but some pages are more successful than others. When the pages were bound some of the text was too close to the edge of the page and has been cut off.

Text cut off by the binding process

Despite this, however, the book has the journal like qualities i was hoping for, especially with the faux leather cover I have bound it in. The jagged edges on the cover and worn nature of the faux leather has given the book the ancient, old feel I envisioned at the start of the project.

Simple front cover

The book has been successful however if I were to make it again I would type the text to keep it uniform, make sure to leave a margin on the sides of the page to stop text being cut off after binding and add card to the cover to give it some form of stability.



How to Catch a Ghost

Given the task of creating a “how to book, I decided to make a book on how to catch a ghost. After discounting a few more serious sketches about how to catch a ghost I thought I would be keep pretty lighthearted and fun as some of the illustration I had been coming up with fitted more with the notion of it being for children.

After sketching out my final illustrations, I decided I would make them using paper cut. I photocopied pages from a book of random imagery and textures, as well as objects and clothing, to create backgrounds for the images. By over-copying  and doing them on the black and white setting, it created a grainy effect similar to old horror movies; an effect that added to the theme in a subtle way. The ghosts are made using tracing paper which has given them an eerie, translucent quality.

I feel that some of the pages are more successful than others. The most successful and interesting pages are “Snare ’em/ Cage ’em” and “Bottle ’em/ Bag ’em”; this is mostly because of the interesting textures and overall composition of the pages, as well as their simplicity. The least successful pages are probably “Hook, line and sink ’em” as the textures in the background are too dark to see clearly and just looks like dark grey, and “Rope ’em” as the number of times I had to copy the texture to get it right has left it particularly grainy and has drastically reduced the background quality.

I decided to add a cover to the book. The front cover image is an unused image from a project from last year. I decided to keep the back simple and added a little ghost in the vein of an icon.

This was one of my more successful books. This might have something to do with a) having more freedom in the subject matter and b) keeping the media and image making techniques constant through out the book.


Book Arts- Turkish Map Fold: Star Map

After deliberating a few different ideas, I eventually decided to do a simplified map through the zodiac star signs. 

As I created characters for each of the signs, I wanted to try and stay away from some stereotypes of how they are normally personified eg. Taurus who is usually shown as a masculine bull headed Minotaur and Gemini who are usually 2 separate beings.

I decided to have 3 characters per page which has helped to make them stand out strongly against the black background. To complete the image of a night sky I have punctured the paper to allow spots of light to shine through, I have done this on not just the background but at points along each of the characters to mirror traditional illustrations of zodiac and other constellations.

I feel the book itself is fairly successful although I am not sure of the best way to display it as I had originally thought I’d display it as more of a sculptural map with a light in the middle to highlight the “stars” however now the pages are complete I think I will add a cover in the same way I have attached the pages together, using smaller tabs instead of having the pages flat against each other as this would’ve stopped a lot of light showing through.


Book Arts- Accordion book: Puntone (A Journey book)

I want particularly inspired by the theme of “Journey”, especially when we were told that we would have go out into the college grounds and use that as a starting point; however after going on a little adventure with my friend, I found that a few of the photographs I had taken correlated to each other in terms of colour.

I was able to create pick aspects of our journey and apply them to a colour in a sequence… It just so happens that the images appear in the order in which they were taken/drawn, continuing the journey theme.

As I was making the book I found that I kept inadvertent making puns from some of the thoughts I had had during our adventure and decided to including them as text; culminating in the title “Puntone: a journey through colour and wordplay”