These images are of three exquisite picture books published and printed by Warren Editions. The picture books were created by leading Cape Town artists/illustrators Jean de Wet, Jordan Metcalf and Michael Taylor.
The artists, selected by Master Printer Zhané Warren, have taken the tradition of the picture book – a visual narrative in book format – and with their individual quirks and styles, have captured the intrigue of storytelling without words. Picture books cross the language divide and in the three artists’ work are to be found lovable characters, humour and some wistful lyricism and the mystery as to where these fantastical scenarios play out – their worlds between the hand bound pages. Taylor describes ‘The Gifted’ as, “a story of a fiercely independent woman and her isolated existence on a private island…how she strives for self-pleasure.” In de Wet’s words ‘Atlas Mons’ sees the Bird-man, “upon a mysterious perch, witness to the demise of another refugee and, the uncompromising brutality of the Forgotten Forests.” Metcalf’s delicate work is a story about memory, love and loss the subtle visuals revealing what words cannot. Each book has been silk-screened in the Warren Editions’ studio, each page cut and bound together by hand and, testimony to a real labour of love and to the Warren Editions ethos of producing the highest quality print work done by hand. As a result, Jean de Wet’s ‘Atlas Mons’, Michael Taylor’s ‘The Gifted’ and Jordan Metcalf’s ‘Forgetting’ have come to be and exist as gorgeous collector’s items to not only lovers of the tradition of picture books but, to those who treasure the skill and craftsmanship intrinsic to ephemera, stories and of course to print.
For the printing of the picture books silkscreen was employed. Silkscreen has a reputation for being an easy, if not quick commercial means of obtaining mass-produced items – t-shirts and posters are two such examples. The picture book project endeavored to challenge this reputation by embracing a fresh look at what can be done with silkscreen by pushing the quality of various aspects related to the medium.
The positives required to expose to the screens went beyond the stock-standard resolution (i.e.lpi) thus creating the possibility of broader tonal variation that veers away from the half-tone look and edges toward an ink wash aesthetic. The screen mesh too, was pushed to a finer weave count which, together with high resolution positives meant that in printing the imagery, no miniscule dot went unaccounted for. The water-based ink used is non-toxic and far healthier and easier to work with in comparison to solvent-based ink, which is generally recommended for such projects.In printing and binding the three books (each an edition of 150, signed and numbered), careful quality control of each page and the subsequent collating of each book demanded a high standard so as to achieve uniformity. Bearing in mind that everything is done by hand.
The books were bound using a pamphlet stitch. After having cut, scored and folded each page, they are knocked together to fir into a registration jig. Thereafter, with the use of an awl the holes for stitching are made along the centre score/spine. After having stitched together each book, the false cover was folded over and around the end page and neatly packaged – a labour of love.