Hilke Kurzke is a mostly self-taught book artist, writer, printmaker and book binder. In retro perspective, there were many signs that the arts and crafts could be her vocation, but in the first half of her life this was not at all apparent, least to herself:
“I was born in 1976 in Germany, Lower Saxony. A broad variety of subjects were interesting to me, and when school came to an end, deciding on a subject to study was hard. Torn between the humanities (German literature, philosophy, …) and science (physics, mathematics), deciding against the recommendation of my guitar and general instrucment teacher to study music, the first choice fell on physics; – which I abandoned after a year to study mathematics and religious education to become a teacher (with philosophy and computer science as side subjects). I graduated with that degree in 2001 from the University of Göttingen. After a year in school as a teacher in training I was granted a scholarship at the University of Leipzig, accepted, and got my PhD in Mathematics in 2007.
During my years as a student, I taught myself how to bind a journal to satisfy my own demand, mostly, and to make gifts for friends and family. After having been granted a Phd, having just moved from Berlin to Bonn, still looking for a job, I found myself with a lot of free time, and thus decided to bind the presentation copies of my thesis for the library by hand. Since then bookbinding has taken over my life, and gradually became more important than to keep looking for a job. In November 2008 I finally took the plunge and founded Büchertiger, – and have been self-employed since then.
What now has to be viewed as first pieces of book art (I called them “books with holes”; essentially they were tunnel
books) were made in 2008 before I even discovered that book art was “a thing” and other people were doing it, too. Discovering a lively community online was a revelation, and has fuelled my work and self-perception since then.
As my interest and ambition in the book arts grew, so did my interest and love for printmaking. In 2008 I cut lino for the first time. – Another of these eye-opening moments in which I realized that this was something I wanted to keep doing.
In 2012 Büchertiger officially split up into Büchertiger Studio & Press and Büchertiger Supplies. So I now was leading two separate businesses. (This became legally necessary, as selling supplies generated more income. In Germany, being an artist and having a retail business have to be separate businesses.)
The thriving supplies business took more of my time than before, but also gave me the freedom to delevop my artistic visions and spend time on learning, as I needn’t make money with selling journals. Mostly I learned and developed my printmaking techniques. In an attempt to increase the intimacy between the author and the reader of a book, I am investigating simple materials that are widely available, resulting in printing with carboard and aluminium foil. In 2014 I printed a series called “fish and feathers” for which I developed a mix technique between relief and drypoint that allows to print several colours in one pass in the press.
In summer 2013 then, I closed down both businesses and resettled to Nottingham, UK. Later that year I opened for business again, Büchertiger Studio & Press and Büchertiger Supplies again reunited as two branches of one business (Büchertiger).