Taking a leaf out of what makes Sunderland a page-turner

Theresa Easton, the curator of the Sunderland Book Project, which is currently exhibiting at the Washington Arts Centre.
Theresa Easton, the curator of the Sunderland Book Project, which is currently exhibiting at the Washington Arts Centre.
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THE Sunderland Book Project has unfolded into a worldwide success.

Now on display at Washington Arts Centre, it brings together artists, designers, comic-makers and print-makers from around the country who have created some real page turners, taking Sunderland as their inspiration.

The project, led by print-maker Theresa Easton, asked participants to make a book using a variety of production methods with Sunderland as the subject.

Suggestions included looking at anything from the city’s rich history in seafaring, industrial heritage or glass-making to documenting contemporary land marks such as the Stadium of Light or the Aquatic Centre.

Entries were submitted from around the globe from Mackems born-and-bred to Brazilians who have never even been to Sunderland.

The results, which are on display until November 5, are a range of intriguing small editions in different forms including scrolls, fold-outs, concertinas or loose items contained in a box.

Theresa said: “The project initially came about through a trip to Washington DC with Sunderland City Council in 2009. It was part of an event to take artists and musicians over there to connect with other artists and musicians.

“I did a lot of networking over there and wanted to do a project that would connect the two cities. I spoke to artists back home who were really supportive of the idea, especially Anne Tye from Creative Cohesion in Sunniside.”

Through a series of workshops held at home and abroad, Theresa received 40 submissions of hand-made print books.

“The pieces are diverse. A lot of people looked at sport and have been football fans since they were kids, other people looked at Bede and some, who have never even been to the city, found the strangest connections with Sunderland,” Theresa explained.

“One artist in Italy found out that a ship owner from where she lived had bought a ship from Sunderland.

“A lot of entries were about what we can celebrate now, but the odd person connected with the city in a very personal way.”

She added: “People are a bit vague about the term artists’ books. They think it’s a book about an artist, but it’s actually a book made by an artist.

“There is a small artist book network internationally so it meant information about the project went worldwide.”

Artists from as far afield as South America, Italy and Spain posted artists books to Theresa for the project.

She said: “They popped these pieces of art in the post and receiving them was like Christmas. I never knew what I would get. Some are concertina-style, so they fold out and others are very simply-made.

“Others have a traditional binding and some are pamphlet stitch like an exercise book. The Brazilian artists were very creative in that they took an image of the National Glass Centre, cut into it, and reproduced it many times over.”

Showing alongside the Sunderland Book Project will be a selection of recent work by Sunderland-based photographers and artists.

Those taking part include Jo Howell, Nicola Maxwell, Roger Coulam and Paul Alexander Knox.

Each artist presents a unique view of the city, using the latest photographic and printing technology.

Paul Alexander Knox presents two of his prints from his series, Where Ships Were Born.

These images have been awarded first place in Architecture – Industrial at this year’s International Photography Awards.

Twitter: @sunechokaty

ONCE its stint has finished at Washington, the project will tour the country before hitting North American venues. Anyone interested in submitting artists’ books for the exhibition can find out more from Theresa’s blog www.theresaeaston.wordpress.com or can email her at theresa_easton@yahoo.co.uk