In an idyllic part of Ireland, on Achill Island, a small limited edition publishers creates wonderful artist’s books for discerning collectors. Red Fox Press was originally set up in 2005 by a Belgian book artist Francis Van Maele in an old previously abandoned cottage in Dugort near Slievmore Mountain after he had visited and fallen in love with the location.
There is a longstanding literary and artistic culture in the area with writers Graham Greene and Heinrich Böll having both been inspired in their work by the rugged beauties of the countryside. The Böll connection is still marked by a literary memorial weekend of events in the spring; coincidentally the German writer also spent time in Dugort while he was on the island in the 1960s and 70s and wrote a volume Irische Tagebuch or Irish Journal about his experiences.
Van Maele has produced solo works for his press but also works in collaboration with his artistic and life partner, a South Korean book artist named Antic-Ham. The two artists met at a book fair in Seoul in 2005 and the rest, as they say is history. They now collaborate artistically as ‘Franticham’ working at the studio in Achill for several months of the year. The couple travel widely to book fairs in Europe and beyond to meet collectors and buyers. Early works now fetch considerable sums at auction.
The artists do all of the printing in-house and use about twenty different kinds of paper which are sourced from abroad. They also do their own bookbinding which is by itself a great skill. One of their art projects is the Blue Fox Collection which is a series of books in which Franticham collaborate with other artists. A painter is given carte blanche to develop a theme of his/her choice. The resulting book is produced on twenty pages of 10x16cm in an accordion format between two wooden covers. Each one is made as a signed limited edition series of around 50 to 100.
Many of the beautiful creations have found their way into the collections of museums and universities worldwide including in Ireland, though surprisingly only three institutions here hold Red Fox Press editions. Maybe all that will change in the future. In the meantime you can see Van Maele and Antic-Ham’s work in NCAD in Dublin, Limerick School of Art and the Wexford Artists Book Collection.
If you want to learn more about Franticham and Red Fox Press there is a short documentary on You Tube called Lost Seouls: Diary of Two Fish that was made in 2007 by Heather Fletcher from the University of Bournemouth, UK.
Or you can look at the Red Fox Press website, from which the illustrations used here were taken. www.redfoxpress.com
This post was originally filed at This Greedy Pig on November 17th 2011.