Tell us a little bit about the project.
The 21 Sketchbooks project is a collaborative arts project based in Oxford (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=151841541521224). It was born from a combination of two international arts projects: The 1000 Journals project and the Sketchbook project. Each book was given a different theme, and sent out to someone in Oxford, who then sent it on to someone else, who passed to to someone else and so on, until the books were filled and they were returned to us! Each book has around five people’s different interpretations of a single them, using drawing, collage, painting or photography to create a vibrant piece of art.
When and where is the exhibition?
The exhibition will last for the whole of 5th week, and the sketchbooks will be on display in Keble Cafe (Douglas Price room) which is open from 11 to 6 every day. We’re having a launch party too, which is pretty exciting, with jazz and drinks, and it will be an opportunity for people who contributed to come and look at the finished books! We’re hoping that people will be able to contribute a bit more as the week progresses…
Why did you decide to bring the sketchbook idea to Oxford?
The pidge-post system is a brilliant way of passing things around from one college to another, anonymously, freely. Oxford’s also got lots of creative people who have given up their artistic habits to concentrate on academics, and it’s the perfect way to give those people a chance to unleash their talents on a couple of pages, before they have to send the sketchbook on and get back to work! Collaborative projects are also far more personal, and accessible – it’s not one artist producing Art for general admiration, it’s a whole group of individuals combining their efforts for one result, often selflessly because no one gets to keep it.
What are the various themes of the sketchbooks? How did you choose them?
We have a different theme for every sketchbook, so it would be too long to list. Some of our favourites are ‘Ain’t no sunshine’, ‘blue’, ‘of books and beds and sealing wax’, ‘embellished’, ‘lost and found’. We chose them together, with friends from our art group, picking words we liked, lines from songs and poems, or just ideas that seemed like they would generate interesting responses.
What was the strangest spread that you saw?
Someone added a gold foil crown to a cabbage leaf for the theme ‘Of cabbages and kings’. That was pretty peculiar.
Did you both contribute? What did you put in your spreads?
We did contribute! We can’t say what we did because it’s supposed to be anonymous, but we can tell you that our themes were ‘Of books and beds and sealing wax’ and ‘Ain’t no sunshine.’
Did you think it was a success?
The project was meant to bring people from different colleges together on a project that was fun and would generate interesting, unusual, and creative results. In this sense it has been a success – some of the sketchbooks look amazing! They’ve been all over, some may never come back, some have come back inside out, others dripping grass, still more with lists and receipts left inside – it’s all part of the project, you can’t control what happens and that’s why it’s exciting!