A very happy year 2023 to you!

I hope you made it well through the odd time between Christmas and New Years and came out well on this end of the Holiday tunnel. After an extended Christmas break, I hit the ground running, immersed myself in projects started before, and now realise that I’m late with this newsletter which was planned to go out in December. I hope it’s not too late for a look back.

I felt a lot like screaming this year

When a friend asked me how 2022 had been for me, I told her I was glad to leave it behind. And indeed, for our family it has been one of the toughest yet. Our daughter had an especially difficult year, with surgery and hospital stays, with a new diagnosis, SATs, and a transition to a new school where everything is different, including her support staff. I had to threaten our local authority with legal action for her to be assigned a secondary school in the first place, and it doesn’t feel like the battles are over. I fell through a rabbit hole this spring where I realised how thin disability rights are. What good is a right if it isn’t enforced? – You are always only advice to “plead” with those who are breaching your rights. And the worst that someone has to fear from breaching those rights, is to be ordered to stop discriminating against you.

You know how they say that as a mother you are only ever as happy as your unhappiest child? – I found this to be very true this year. If the start of the year was difficult in this regard, in autumn we hit rock bottom, and it affected Büchertiger insofar as I felt forced to close shop in November for the rest of the year. Because I couldn’t cope anymore with all shipping regularly in addition to all that I was asked to do by authorities and the school.

Lines, one of a kind artist book by H. Kurzke

However, in many ways 2022 has been a very successful and happy year. I started participating in the Are You Book Enough Challenges again and produced several smaller and bigger works over the year, some clearly others not obviously inspired by the topic. All of them can be found in my Instagram stream: https://www.instagram.com/buchertiger/ and are for sale if you are interested.

In January/February I worked on and finally finished the book Folklórico. I am very proud of this little book: The text is a short film script (written by me) following the view of a young British dancer with Mexican heritage. It is a story about the struggle to fit into the mainstream society when you have a different background, to be your original self and yet continue family traditions.

Folklorico, book art by H. Kurzke, open edition, digitally reproduced, handbound

For the page decoration I have made a number of monoprints onto which the text is cut and pasted. For the cover, I wove several bands that were stitched together. It is digitally re-produced and made into an open, handbound edition. Copies are only £19 plus shipping.

In February, I produced the book “Secret Love”. On first sight it seems to contain only abstract lines, but if you take the text block out and hold it against a light source, they make up a heart. – And it’s almost February again! It makes the perfect Valentine’s gift. This is a limited edition of 20, and copies can be had for £22.50.

Secret Love, Edition of 20 handmade copies. Artist book by H. Kurzke

Even if things seem to happen in passing,
Even if our minds hardly seem to touch,
Even if my touch is just tangential.
Please know that all this goes deeper

All those tangential thoughts,
All those brushing encounters,
All those gifts that don’t seem to hit the mark.
Please know that they all count.

I love you.

Hilke Kurzke (l) and Jenny Stevenson (r), organisers and founders of Notts Book Arts

Around spring, Notts Book Arts began to come out from the shadows of my application writing desk. We announced the first Botts Book Arts Challenge for Young people, and I produced a series of videos on instant books.

In May I had the chance to meet up with Sarah Tutt. She is a Nottingham artist who started out as a performer and writer, and makes asemic art now.

In June I held an Open Studio together with Clare from Curious Inky Me. It was nice to connect with visitors personally that day, especially after the break that covid forced upon us before.

September/October then held the absolute highlights of this year: we held the First Notts Book Arts Festival with a student competition, an exhibition and workshop at Wollaton Library, and the first Notts Book Arts Fair. Organising and participating was a huge buzz after the socially rather restricted years and a huge success with the visitors. For many it was their first contact with contemporary book art, and they were surprised and as delighted about the breadth of art that was on display as Jenny Stevenson, my partner in organising this, and I were.

Stevie, Artist Book by H. Kurzke

My book “Stevie” consists of a paper mache head that forms the case of a scroll spilling from its head. It was finished just in time to be included in the exhibition. It is a part of a body of work that explores neurodiversity, or diversity as such. “Stevie” is talking on one side of the scroll about different simple facts from projective geometry, and on the other side about just wanting to find connection and acceptance.

Another “just in time” was the completion of a limited edition of Beginner’s Bookbinding Tools Kit, and a bookbinding kit for absolute beginners (including children), both were finished to take with me to the Notts Book Arts Fair. Those left over from the event are now available for sale. The links take you to Etsy. Send me email and mention the newsletter, and you’ll get them for £25 and £12 respectively.
With the last bits of this colourful leather paper, I also made five bookbinding kits aimed at teenager/adult beginners; £35 each (only available via email atm). All kits contain all materials and tools needed to finish the book. I hoped to sell them in the Christmas period but then did not even manage to get them properly photographed. – But they make equally good Easter gifts!

Hilke Kurzke in her Backlit Studio, November 2022

For the next year, I have big plans. I hope our family situation settles to an extent that allows me to follow through with them. But that’s the beauty about living as a human: We don’t remember the future, and it is full of surprises, good and bad.

I am currently working on finishing seven heads and scrolls for the Outlook Gallery in Minneapolis, MN, US, where they will be exhibited next autumn. I have (almost) finished three heads now, one scroll. If you want to follow along the progress, check in on Instagram every now and then! I also have the prospect of my Milk, Blood and Thing with Feathers being exhibited in Loughborough this spring.

I hope we’ll get a chance to meet in 2023!