(Twelvemo; a book that has been made with 12 pages per printed sheet, making it a small book, and used as a term for a small person or thing. Sometimes written 12mo, 12º, or in Latin - duodecimo)
Some of the Twelvemo Figures are for sale on my Etsy shop:
An Amusing Assembly of Miniature Miscellany, Odd and Ends, Bits and
Bobs, Figurative and Other Artwork in a Spectacularly Shelfish and
Diverting Display Featuring Twelvemo Figures and Silver Dolossies
"It was so interesting my head nearly fell off" (Colin, aged 4)
Images from recent viewings held in my front room (November 2011) of a display on the wall. Great fun! Send an email and I'll put you on the mailing list to get an invite next time!
Here's some of the thinking behind this display and the Twelvemo Figures...
The work is human, figurative, female. It is autobiographical, fictional and narrative, obsessively produced, driven by compulsions to make, play, handle, examine, and re-arrange. It's rooted in the need to work physically with and master the materials, while simultaneously humbling and submitting one's own self to them. Working the way I do is a meditation, an act of faith, and a marathon of self absorption.
recurring themes include distortions of scale and surreal
juxtapositions, notions of bizarre narrative, female identity, and the
dense levels of detail and pattern, patina and age and the use and
exploitation of the female form to express abstract concepts. The small
human form is a very compelling thing (as many and ancient
cultures know) and this kind of object appeals on many levels. The
smallness of the work invites an unavoidable intimacy. The viewer
desires to get up close and to do so has to make themselves small, like
Alice, to appreciate it, to be among it. In doing so they become acutely
aware of their proximity, their relative hugeness, their breath on the
objects as a warm gale, their fingers itching to touch and handle but
fearing to disturb the arrangement or knock the whole edifice down.
The things are arranged partly by formal categorisation of size, colour, texture and so on. It is this that generates the opportunities for us to recognise things we didn't know were there. The White Gold part of the collection immediately recalled to a friend the altar of a some god (it's in my notebook) so there is a spiritual element to them. Because the human form is so universal (even though this one conversly is also so unique and tiny) and the things and props around it are so many and so varied, the arrangements often provoke memories in the viewer, causing them to look inside themselves as they look at the work.
The leading character in this theatre of strange props is the Twelvemo figure, a highly articulated model of the female form that has been made as an incarnation of my own idea of 'Everywoman'. She is a pocket mannequin, a lay figure that can be manipulated to evoke... who knows what? Real situations that you or I might find ourselves in, or impossible scenarios from dreams and nightmares. It's perhaps like Jungian dream analysis - a person posing the figure reveals a certain amount about themselves in the postures they cause her to take. Her postures can suggest sorrow or joy, fear or freedom, sleep or death. Part of my interest in the work is seeing the reactions and interactions of people that handle her. The strange thing is that she is of course utterly and entirely passive (it's just a model after all, an elaborate doll) and yet so eloquent and expressive that it's hard to be convinced that some of that doesn't come from her. It comes from whoever is using her at that moment.
Historically female form has been arranged, modified, decorated, worshipped, whipped, beaten and buffed and used to sell anything from to sex, to concepts of liberty or justice. I've just made my own woman to objectify. The term Twelvemo comes from an old term for a book, made from a printed sheet folded into 12 instead of eight pages, making the book a small one. The word came to mean a small thing or person. Both Angel and Harpy, this little Lilith is in my control entirely.
Significant Reading Material
Monuments and Maidens, Marina Warner
Oh What a Blow That Phantom Gave Me, Edmund Carpenter
The Case for Working With your Hands, Matthew Crawford
The Hand, Frank Wilson
Five Dolls in a House
Miss Happiness and Miss Flower