This weekend I’ll be off to the wonderful Bristol Artists Book Event.  It’s always such a good weekend – welcoming, inspiring and exhausting in equal measures, I highly recommend it. I’ll be sharing a table with David Armes of Red Plate Press so I’ll have a proper chance to look around this year.  I’m taking the hold, follow books made in response to walks around Staithes this winter.  Below is a spread from hold, follow – step, hollow, arch.

hold follow, step, hollow, arch

I’ll also be bringing a new booklet – Accumulated Data – concertina folded wood cut prints, in an edition of 10 – detail in image below.  This work is made in response to the John Rylands Library, Manchester.  The original wood block was cut in 2015 and references the incidental and intentional marks that craftsmen, readers and other visitors have left on the library and it’s furniture.  You can read more about the project in the blog post from the time here.

G Lacey landcsape 2



turn the page

June 22, 2016


Come along to turn the page artists’ book fair this weekend

Saltaire Inspired

May 9, 2016

Gemma Lacey.Longing Cabinet.wood print

I’m very excited to be showing work on the Saltaire Arts Trail over this May bank holiday weekend. There are open houses showing the work of over 50 artists , a Makers fair, participatory installations and photography exhibitions, workshops and all in a World Heritage Village to boot! As I’m new to the event I imagine I’ll be scrambling around to see as much of Saltaire and the art on show as I can without having palpitations. I’m full of good intentions to keep a diary of the 3 days as they’ll be so much good stuff to absorb. We shall see. The whole event is free and here is a mini map and guide. However you can pick up a full trail guide for £1 which also gets you into the Makers Fair each day. For more information see here .

If you want to find me I should be invigilating each day and showing some of my prints and books alongside Chrissie Freeth, Dave Gowers, Janis Goodman, Salma Patel and Steve Rayner at The Art Rooms in Salts Mill, underneath the Visitor Information Centre.









Just over a week ago I spent 2 fascinating days in the company of Artists, Poets, GP’s, Academics, Archivists, Occupational Therapists, Art Psychotherapists, Mental Health Nurses and Patients at the symposium and workshop organised by the University of Kent and the exhibition PRESCRIPTIONS.

The programme of events was built around the collection of books made by Martha A Hall, that were donated by the artist to be used as a learning resource at the University of New England.

Hall’s books focusing on her experience living with breast cancer are uniquely powerful as patient narratives. The intimacy of the book form draws students into relationship with the artist’s narrative, suggesting that the body and the text are inseparable. Handling such books, which contain intimate pieces of a person’s life experience, creates deep impact for students and is especially valuable for those planning to enter the health professions, which is the case for the majority of students at the University of New England. Hall’s books not only emphasize her struggle for voice and self- determination in the medical encounter; they demand that the patient’s perspective be heard. But beyond that, they invite readers into a partnership and reframe the encounter with the patient’s body in ways that radically shift students’ understanding of the health professions and of their own embodied experience as human beings.

The above text is taken from the symposium programme where you can read about the speakers and the abstracts of their presentations.  The symposium was organised by Stella Bolaki who had studied Martha Hall’s books for some time. Here you can find an in-depth article by Stella Bolaki on the subject.  Each presentation approached the symposium title from different angles: from the medical humanities looking for a way of rebalancing failures in the current health education system; as academics and artists making and curating work to express and document ill health; as archivists using the collection of Martha Hall’s work to educate new health practitioners; from sociology understanding society and the individual through the action of making. See below for some of my free flow notes taken on the day.

If you have time do watch Martha Hall talking about making and using her books in the film below. Aside from the experience of handling the books in person, this film gives a sense of the real practical use that artists’ books can offer.


Artists’ books only exist in the hands. Artists’ books problematise the way we read books, they force us into new ways of reading. ..spine of the book…Palimpsest – re-writing  / re-authoring narratives – power in healthcare.  Making a book is a temporal experience as is the reading of it… Artists’ books are made for 1:1 interaction but can reach many people.  The form matches experience: balances, enclosure / exposure, inward and outward. .. We need to be producing and redistributing sensibility capital…the production of insensibility by medical culture.. Walter Benjamin ‘how we sense is cultural’…Penisula appointed a Professor of Visual Art alongside Professors of Music and Medicine…Pity (greek compassion) v’s empathy..  ‘Patients want a good conversation, they don’t want to be told certainty for it to be wrong’… ‘I just want my doctor’s knowledge not their empathy’ The arts produce ambiguity…  Turning the page…the viewer is complicit in the action….  ‘I ‘d reach for what’s closest and make what I needed.’…  Making art to make sense…  ‘Painting the mural gave me the excuse to stand on the street and talk about the grief surging in me’…  Painted blazers were a walking gallery… Artists’ Books tell the truth…equal heft to science textbooks… Some want empathy, some want knowledge, all want respect and time..Doctors need to check expectations and learn to read what people are looking for….  ‘We have answers, but we don’t get trained to deal with situations when we don’t have answers’…  Increase visual literacy and increase self-determination and expression…  Rita Charon encourages parallel charts…art practice can be cathartic but not helpful for the condition…how to make a practice informed by health needs as a preventative..to maintain equilibrium?


The exhibition at The Beaney was co-curated by Stella Bolaki and Egidija Ciricaite who wrote a lovely post about one of the main strands of the exhibition on the blog collective investigations.

The show features the work of 78 artists alongside 15 books by Martha Hall you can see the online catalogue below for more information on each artist and book.  The work looks great in the display cabinets and offers fleeting glimpses into each experience captured. A frustration expressed by many was that none of the books can be fully read in this state. Due to issues of insurance and liability at The Beaney, the core message, that the handling of artist’s books can increase the ability to ‘read’ others sensitively, is trapped behind the glass.  Happily, the last I heard, the co-ordinating of handling sessions were being discussed. Many  of the artists have donated their books to the Artists’ Books and the Medical Humanities collection to be housed at the University of Kent for future handling, education and research.  I’ve donated the last of my home edition which can be seen being handled here.


The workshop gave the opportunity for a day of active reflection on the issues raised by the symposium speakers and books in the exhibition. With initial activities, led by Jennifer Tuttle and Cathleen Miller, linking the structural and material elements of Martha’s books to content, the large group very quickly engaged with the subject matter and once Andrew Malone had given the lead into the practical activity, linking technique and materials available with now familiar examples there was a visible surge in energy and focus in the room as people sought and found their visual language very quickly.  It was a very positive experience to witness a group of people, largely new to artists’ books take to the medium so quickly and with such potency. Scouring imagery and piles of materials is always fun but there felt a hunger in which we all sought them.

Here are some pictures of the book I made. I used the workshop as a chance to digest what I had heard and seen the day before and approached the book making as a reflection exercise, thinking about my relationship with health and healthcare and my role in the health of others through personal relationships and my job within healthcare.  Andrew gave us each a length of concertina folded paper which is a great place to start from and a lovely way of comparing and sharing experiences later. I used my own concertina as a dividing line between myself and healthcare, myself on one side, healthcare on the other, and used openings and translucent layers to suggest the links between the two. I don’t often use collage but found it a really helpful way to think things through, as visual metaphors continually jumped out at me from the piles of imagery and tactile surfaces! Lots of engineering diagrams, traces of past civilisations, Victorian style explorer illustrations and offcuts from Andrews’ own work – absent subjects hinted at by the contours of a backdrop. No epiphanies yet but it’s a start.








Image: Martha Hall, Maine Women Writers Collection, University of New England

This week I’m off to Kent for a symposium and workshop on Artist’s Books and the Medical Humanities.The symposium is linked to an exhibition of Martha A Hall’s work curated by Dr Stella Bolaki and Egidija Ciricaite at The Beaney,  see below for more details.

Prescriptions: artist’s books on wellbeing and medicine

with featured artist Martha A Hall in The Drawing Room at The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge CT1 2RA from April 22 – August 14. Preview April 21.

The exhibition focuses on the book art of Martha Hall, on loan from the University of New England, and linked to a University of Kent symposium. Hall’s books document her experiences with breast cancer and interactions with the medical community, and are accompanied by a curated show of artists books responding to themes of art, empathy and wellbeing. Supported by the Wellcome Trust.


I’m also really pleased to have some work in the supporting show.  home was made to give me time to reflect upon and share my understanding of my nan’s dementia, and how it affected both her and my relationship with ‘home’. Sharing the work at book fairs and exhibitions has opened up conversations with others in similar situations, has allowed reflection and disclosure of thoughts and feelings often censored in situations.  Along with some other exhibitors I’m donating my final copy of this edition to the University of Kent’s collection for future research by medical humanities students.  I’m really looking forward to hearing more about the project later in the week.



home, screen printed  flash cards 2009

In June 2013 Manchester Adult Education Service (MAES) cut it’s Arts provision completely. MAES had suffered cuts over 10 years along with most council services and in 2013 offered the remaining 12 tutors of it’s Visual Arts team the chance to move across to Family Learning, IT, ESOL or Jobs Group. Some tutors chose to move subjects, some took redundancy.

Having previously worked in the service for 10 years myself, I was saddened by the cuts and felt moved to make some form of document of a service that had an important role in our local community at the very least.  I also wanted to mark my colleagues, the last of the team, their roles as tutors and creative people.

I decided to take pencil portraits of their hands, the tools they used to teach and create with. Utilising classic ‘learning to draw’ exercises; drawing fast, without looking at the page, drawing with a continuous line, I made several portraits of each tutor. Whilst drawing I talked to them about their time in adult education, how they fell into the work, what they enjoyed about teaching and how the job had changed over their time in the service.

GL.Draw with it..image

After spending a good hour or two with 9 of the 12 tutors it seemed that between them they had told me the story of the development of the adult education provision for arts in Manchester since the 1970’s.  Taking visual cues from the old education aesthetic – old D-file dividers, a random selection of fonts, handwriting and photocopying – I compiled a book using the hand portraits and quotes from each tutor.

Apart from the history of the service, what I got from talking to each of the tutors was a sense of what it is to be a teacher, a creative person and a learner; a person who values people, community and social learning.  Also, what it means to be valued, discounted, be part of something bigger, ways to cope and ways to adapt and make new paths for sharing these skills with others.  I wanted to keep it simple but I hope something of that comes across in the book too.

Each tutor got a copy of the book and copies have also gone to the Local History section at Manchester Central Library.   If you would like to own a copy, or share your own experiences of adult education, get in touch or come along to Manchester Artists Book Fair at The Holden Gallery at MMU this Friday or Saturday. Draw with it, paint with it, point with it  will also be available to read in the Reading Room during the fair.

Draw with it.. cover

Friday 16th and Saturday 17th October

11am – 5pm

The Holden Gallery

Manchester School of Art 

Exhibitions. Artist’s tables. Reading room. Workshops. Suppliers.

see here for more details

June 24, 2015

Book Art A5 leaflet front 30_04_15

Book Art A5 leaflet reverse 30_04_15

I should be here with my books next weekend, click web and fb for more details. Also in Liverpool on the Saturday there is a vintage fair, fashion show and the QE2 is departing for New York!

Bristol and back

April 17, 2015


And with a blink and a rub of the eyes Bristol Artists Book Event was over for another 2 years.  As I had a table to myself this year I had very little chance to get out and see and speak to all the folks I might but I sat and watched and folks came to me and so did wonderful tea and cake, they are such very good hosts, the Bristol Artists Book folk.  Thank you to all of those who came and stood (one even sat) and took the time to free their hands to pick up and look, first one page, then another, through my books.  I know how thoroughly overwhelming a book arts fair with 80 stands can be. Overstimulating, exciting, exhausting. It’s a rare being who can give all 80 stands equal time and value and must be superhuman…a strange new sort of superhuman, purely evolved to cope with such a concentrate of book and art….I realised most of my books do need 2 hands to look at them, they rarely shout in colour or mark, they do need a bit of time. Sometimes people look indifferent, sometimes the books make people sad, sometimes I hear a little joy. It’s a strangely intimate experience and unlike showing work in so many other art forms. I cherish the moments I have shared at the book fairs and wonder if there are other ways I could do this more.

and then it was spring

March 22, 2015

And I wondered just what I had been doing since January…Well, among other things I’ve  been printing and gathering and now I’ve started compiling the books I intend to take with me to Bristol Artists Book Event in April and Turn the Page, Norwich in May.

Today I finally returned the box to the allotment after spending last summer cutting the one in the other or cutting the other into the one on the other….are we all following?!  I also brought one of the full textile prints I had taken of the box and hung it between canes to photograph. I’m making a book of the box prints on paper, these will be housed in a portfolio which should also include one of the stills I took today, to offer a little more context to the piece. It turns out that whilst taking stills my camera is also, without my knowledge (I really should have downloaded the manual) able to take film. So here is a brief preview of what stills may be available!