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Category Archives: Creative

The fascinating world of letter locking

‘Letter-locking’ is a term coined by MIT conservator Jana Dambrogio, to refer to the techniques used to fold and seal shut letters. She has been investigating many different techniques by which this could be accomplished, ranging from the mainly decorative to the highly secure – so that the receiver could tell instantly if the letter had been tampered with. She has a series of videos on YouTube showing the various methods by which a letter could be locked, supplemented with detailed images on her website, and also this great blog post from the Folger which reminds us of the importance of making models if we want to understand a structure more fully. Currently she is conducting further research with Dr. Daniel Smith of Lincoln College, University of Oxford. Suddenly all those folds, creases and curious slits in the sides of old letters start to make sense…

Voyeuristic book-making

An author friend of mine Viccy Adams recently prevailed upon me to assist with a creative project at Hack the Barbican. The brief was to use (or ‘hack’) the Barbican’s spaces and facilities to create an installation, so our project book / jacket focused on ‘stealing’ overheard conversations and cctv-style snapshot images (both collected on site), which we then immediately printed out and sewed into little booklets. We hoped the books would be pocketed and slipped into coats and bags, and discovered again later, as a kind of voyeuristic record of a visit to the Barbican.

We wanted to make the booklets appealing and covetable, as well as maintaining an ad-hoc aesthetic in order to reflect their origins as collated material rather than created material. Using a Japanese-style stab sewn binding allowed us to produce these booklets quickly on-site with minimum equipment, whilst having creative input in choosing thread colours and different sewing patterns so each one could be unique. I think this made a really nice contrast between the impersonal ‘found’ images and text inside and the hand-sewn, crafted nature of the sewing. Viccy has written a post about the project too, which includes a very nice slideshow with all the images and text so I recommend having a look.  We were also interviewed by Laura Davidson, who has explained in more detail Viccy’s inspiration and aims for the project.

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