Sarah Grace Dye
Frankfurt-based Sarah Grace Dye creates books from all kinds of materials. Fibre Arts Take Two learned more about Sarah and her bookmaking journey.
Sarah Grace Dye’s Friday Feature Artist Interview can be found at the bottom of this page.
Sarah Grace Dye is a visual artist, curator, collector, storyteller and educator. Her art practice is about documenting, recording, collecting and sharing these stories through drawing, paper making and creating artists’ books. She describes these book structures as neat little packages to gather and explore ideas. The materials and objects exist in a format that can be folded away, kept safe and transported easily, finding herself often working on a tiny scale. While her ethos dictates that it’s essential to waste nothing, Sarah’s practice explores the notion that everything has a purpose in inherent beauty to be examined and discovered.
Sara says making books is very simply about touch; it’s about the feel of different paper and the joy of folding, cutting, and collaging them together; this makes her smile. Fibre Arts Take Two discovered more about all these sensations and discoveries as we welcomed Sarah, who joined us from her home in Frankfurt.
What is a book?
One of the first things Fibre Arts Take Two asked Sarah was, ‘What is a book?” “I think almost anything,” she says, “Maybe that’s a cop-out answer; I’m not sure. But because my background is sculpture, I’m all about shape and structure. In some way, it has to have a kind of beginning, a middle and an end. But that could be a scroll that could be steps, and it can be anything. Often it is pages. But even the pages can come in different shapes and forms and constructions and open in different ways. So really, I think a book is whatever your imagination can dream up.”
Sarah also finds ways to help her books to transcend the ordinary, “I use gold and silver thread a lot in my work because it’s precious,” she says, “My work is about elevating the ordinary, and when you add gold thread and silver thread, it’s like you’re saying ‘you’re special’ to some objects or an ordinary piece of material.”
Before settling into creating art books, Sarah was a teacher. Her time in education taught her the lessons that would lead to her current work, “When I was teaching at that Art Institute in Bournemouth”, she says, “I learned so much because I was in an environment of amazing tutors, who all were experts in all sorts of different fields. So I ensured I sneaked into many things, taught the students, and took on challenges. When somebody would say, ‘Can you teach this’ I would research it, teach it and then learn. That’s where I first did papermaking and also bookbinding. Really, I did a little bit of book alteration when I did my degree many years ago, but I’ve never actually made a book. So I owe a lot to being there to learn those processes.”
Using what was in the kitchen
Sarah has made some exciting strides in creating paper from unique items. Still, it all began at home,” When I started doing it, I was just using often the kids’ homework that they didn’t need anymore,” she says, “Whatever was in our Recycle Bin was coming out, so used printer paper stuff like that.
Then I started using what was in the kitchen, so red onion skins were one of the first things I used and boiled them up just to see what happened and then blended them with paper. I tried making them independently, blended them with paper, and started discovering amazing magical things. For example, when you put red onion skin with the kind of homework and printer paper, it turns green, so red onion skins make that beautiful green. And then I just got hooked and used everything in the kitchen. Whatever we were eating, I’d use leftovers. I made paper out of fruit salad that had gone off in the fridge. Bananas, strawberries and apples. I’ve done red cabbage paper, which is another magical thing; when you mix the red cabbage with the printer paper, it goes turquoise, and you get these beautiful blues. It’s all about experimenting and just using what was here.
Stuck in Frankfurt
At one time, Sarah found herself stuck in Frankfurt for months when she was only expecting a short stay. “I need to create every day, or else I get miserable,” she says, “So I’d got there with a suitcase for the two weeks with no materials really, just a tiny little sketchbook. But a friend showed me a free book exchange where people put books they didn’t want anymore. I got ahold of two really fat, beautiful Italian architecture magazines, which just had beautiful, thick paper, so I just used the paper, painted it white, and then made sketchbooks out of that paper so that that sketchbook is made out of the Italian architecture magazine that I found, and white paint. I then managed to buy a pot of ink and a dip pen, and I just drew out of every window in the apartment just as a kind of centring thing for myself.
No such thing as failure
Sarah brings up something from her days as a teacher when asked to share advice for aspiring artists.
“I always used to tell my students; there’s no such thing as failure because you’ve learned something’. So even if it hasn’t ended up how you wanted it to and you think it’s a disaster, you’ve learned stuff you won’t do again. So actually, you can take it as a win because you have still learned something.”
About the artist
Sarah Grace Dye collects objects, ephemera, and many related stories, some true and some imagined narratives. Her practice is about documenting, recording, collecting and sharing these stories through drawing and creating artist’s books. Sarah loves a process, especially if that process has some element of surprise in the outcome. She is a lover of ritual, particularly when it comes to drinking tea. Through the process and practice of playing, Sarah explores these objects and their associated memories. She predominantly works with paper, collage, ink, watercolour and cyanotype but often has a little meander into something else when a project requires it. Sarah frequently travels to collect ‘stuff’ and feed her ever-hungry creative core.
Sarah firmly believes that everyone can be creative and is keen to, wherever possible, provide the catalyst for that to be realised. She believes in the freedom to play and discover one’s own marks and is constantly developing this area within her own practice.
Sarah is proud to be a Yorkshire lass and is based in Frankfurt, Germany.