When we moved to Birmingham some years ago, our neighbour, Ray, asked me what I did for a living. Like a lot of people Ray thought contemporary art was weird, difficult or just plain rubbish! So when I founded The Library of Lost Books, my intention was to curate an exhibition that would speak to Ray.
The work would be shown at the Library of Birmingham and I knew that people of all ages and walks of life would visit the exhibition. I wanted to create an exhibition not only that Ray would enjoy, but that many people would love and be inspired by.
Library of Birmingham cleared out many old books when they moved to new premises in 2013. I was given many of the discarded books to share with book artists to make into new art, celebrating the opening of the new Library and the wonder of books..
The Library of Lost Books would enchant the audience through the magic, beauty, wonder, humour and mystery of the works presented. Artists were encouraged to be imaginative and playful; to create work that engaged with the book-as-object, or that was technically interesting and innovative or to explore the book as an historical object.
The project was partially funded by a public membership scheme and involved contributions of time and expertise from many people and volunteers. Sheaffer Pens funded the publication of a book about the project and photographer David Knight volunteered to take the photographs.
After exhibiting at the Library of Birmingham, many of the works toured to other regions of the UK. The collection is now archived at the University of Wolverhampton.
I intended for Ray to be my guest of honour at the opening event but sadly he never saw the exhibition as he passed away just a few weeks before it opened.
The Library of Lost Books was seen by over 15,000 people before it closed in 2014.