Leigh Art Trail 2023 – SEVEN Does the Seasons and More…

So, #LAT2023 saw a return to seven members of SEVEN Sketchbook Collective. Our third year showing at waste-free grocery store The Refill Room. And, 14 concertina art journals featuring our shared theme: the four seasons.

Amanda – Spring

Why The Seasons?

Well, saturated with visual inspiration and symbolic meaning, the seasons provide the perfect backdrop against which to ponder a variety of ideas. 

Life. Death. Growth. Decay. The transience of nature.  The stages of human life.  From personal memories to imaginative musings. Through hares, haiku, and beyond.  We took a creative trip through the seasons SEVEN-style. 

Helen – Autumn

Why Such Small Books?

Having handmade our books and gone all out size-wise in 2022, for 2023 we went small. Deciding on palm-sized concertina sketchbooks, which would feature two seasons per book making it a fourteen book display. 

While some might think a small book is a restricted book, in fact working within tighter boundaries can really help focus the creative eye. Plus, this particular book is ultra portable, making it not just easy to work in, but also to display, and for Trailers to explore.

Juliet – Spring

And, due to the concertina or accordion format, we had the option to work across pages.  In fact, this is how we began our seasonal explorations back in autumn 2022, working throughout one side of our first sketchbook, making random marks in ink. 

Kim – Winter

What Inspired the Window Display?

Our newest member Karen Christensen had introduced us to collage carpets at one of our workshop evenings. Inspired, we took this new technique  and used it to make seasonally-themed banners to hang in the window of The Refill Room, to help signal our presence beyond our LAT A-board and eco balloons.

After a lot of faffing, and with the help of some medical tape (we were MacGyver-ing it!), the window display turned out to be something of a success in its own right. Not only was The Refill’s Gemma pretty keen on it, some visitors likened the glowing banners to prayer flags, while others even asked if they were for sale…

Nicola – Summer

What About the Animation?

In other creative news, this year also saw SEVEN make a foray into animation.  A group excursion to the William Kentridge exhibition at the RA featured some fascinating stop-frame films, so when Nikki returned with her interactive, stage-set of an autumn-themed journal just before Christmas, last year, this seemed like the ideal way to present her vision. 

So, Jo — who’d decided to use William Kentridge as her inspirational guide for her winter journaling — took this opportunity to help Nikki create a magical mini movie. You can watch this nostalgic fairytale-esque film here.  

Never one to do things by halves, Jo also created a wee windy winter scene of her own, accessible via QR code from the pages of her journal. View the animation.


‘Windy day’ stop-frame animation

Windy day by Jo Bund

One of the key images that I love about winter is the silhouette of bare trees against the sky. So, as an addition to my winter sketchbook, I’ve created a short stop-frame animation of windy trees, inspired by William Kentridge.

SEVEN visited the William Kentridge exhibition at the RA last November which included a number of short, hand-drawn animations. I thought the simplicity of the animations was really effective and I wanted to try to capture this.

The first step was to draw several trees to illustrate the movement of them blowing in the howling winter winds. Each tree was cut out of card and photographed against my sketchbook, which I used as a background. I then built the animation and added a ‘wintery’ sound clip.


Leigh Art Trail 2022

Join us for our exhibition of handmade art books at this year’s Leigh Art Trail 2022.

Come, take a peek and discover how one theme – in this case, silver – has been explored and expressed in five very different ways.

Why Silver?

2022 marks 25 creativity-crammed years of the Leigh Art Trail, so for this year’s theme we chose silver.

“Silver (Ag), chemical element, a white lustrous metal valued for its decorative beauty and electrical conductivity.”

Slick. Stylish. Modern. Shimmering. Reflective.

From silver screens to silver bullets, silver is brimming with uses and associations — as you’ll see, each SEVEN member has picked a particular silver thread and run with it.

How to find us

Where: Venue 13, The Refill Room, 15 Elm Road SS9 1SW

When: Sat 3 September to Sun 11 September 2022

Visit www.leigharttrail.com/seven-collective for opening times and full details.

We look forward to seeing you!

Audience Feedback – Sharing Our Altered Books At Leigh Art Trail

While for some artists exhibiting their work is partly motivated by making a sale, for SEVEN it’s simply about sharing our books. So after the pandemic hiatus a return to the real life Leigh Art Trail was pretty exciting – what would people say?

Our comments book

Spreading the Sketchbook Love

“I love this[.] Would prefer to have a sketchbook than a piece on the wall. Beautiful, ever changing work – I love it!!!” – B Dred

Mention selling the books to Jo and she turns all shades of white.

For us the Trail marks the culmination of our yearly project – individual explorations based around a central theme. This is the end of the journey, a point to pause, reflect on, share our work and hear what you have to say.

A visitor quote

From Confusion to Curiosity

This year Trailers were invited to zero-waste grocery store The Refill Room to peruse our altered books. And, because our host venue is all about, well, zero-waste our group theme was Reclamation and we used altered (or reclaimed) books – find out more about that here.

Being old pros at this LAT exhibiting lark, nowadays we know to expect a variety of responses from backing out the door in befuddlement to Trailers who come specifically to see our books:

“Wonderful work – each one is so individual. A joy to finally be able to handle work again – especially such joyful, tactile pieces. Love what you did with my mum’s book Juliet!” – Anne L

Provoking People

We aren’t trying to be Bansky or Tracy Emin or anything…

Yes, our 2020 project began with the oh-so-serious zero-waste theme – really it’s shocking how much we waste! – but our yearly theme is simply a launchpad for creative exploration. That’s why we called our project Reclamation – the word gave us something beyond issues of waste to play with.

But, still, the very act of reusing old books proved provocative:

“Really liked what you’ve done with the Girl annual, but I struggled with it as well. If it had been done in an Eagle annual it would have annoyed me intensely, but maybe that’s a (small) part of the point…?” – Anon

And, if you haven’t checked it out already, find out more about books and landfill here.

A visitor quote

Words Matter

So some Trailers come specifically to see us (colour us honoured!). Some stumble upon us. Others back away looking a little bemused. While some stop and pour over the pages with a kind of child-like wonder.  Whatever the response – well, sort of! – we love to hear what you have to say.

Thank you to everyone who came along to Leigh Art Trail (2020) 2021 and took a look at our SEVEN art books, we can’t wait to see you again!

Pages from our comments book

Do Our Art Journals Have Better Adventures Than Us Now? – The Estuary Festival

We might not have been going anywhere much over the last year or so, but our SEVEN journals have been. First it was New York with The Brooklyn Sketchbook Project then it was much closer to home with Estuary 2021.

Collective Journaling Inspired By The Thames

One of the last things we did in real life, before Lockdown 1.0, was attend an introduction to The Water Replies art journal project, led by Heidi Wigmore at Metal Southend – back where SEVEN all began. 

Part of the larger Estuary 2021 festival, The Water Replies, aimed to create “…a collective response to life living and working by the Thames Estuary”. So, in between renovating houses and doing PE With Joe, SEVEN and hundreds of other Estuary dwellers were dabbling in their A5 sketchbooks.

A selection of sketchbooks for The Water Replies exhibition, on display at Chalkwell Hall

The Journals Go Online

Fortunately much of Estuary 2021 had the potential to be a fresh air festival, featuring a range of art works situated within the very landscape that had inspired them.

But by spring 2021 we were in Lockdown 3.0, or something, and book handling en masse was deemed a no-no. So, The Water Replies journaling project was reimagined as largely an online affair.

While, the real-life journals have been showcased (throughout summer 2021) in the windows of Chalkwell Hall, in a kind of carousel scheme, which sees books moved and pages turned intermittently by invisible hands. Here are some of our pages:

Helen’s journal
Kim’s journal
Jo’s journal
Juliet’s journal
Amanda’s journal

Memory Lanes + Murals

At the start The Water Replies project seemed a little like treading over familiar territory for SEVEN. We’d shown Estuary-themed journals at The Leigh Art Trail and we often look to the local area for inspiration. Yet, 2020 provided this project with an unexpected backdrop and more space for deeper exploration.

So, alongside a kind of visual record of our (then present) Lockdown experiences, more and more memories resurfaced. For me, the stories my mum told me about escaping the grey East London streets for the magic of a seaside town, and the flashes of glamour offered by the yearly carnival and the accompanying torchlight procession seemed particularly poignant.

Curiously, some of my words even managed to break loose the confines of my book, taking on a life of their own. First they became a mural on the wall of Chalkwell Hall, before leaping all the way to London – they were last glimpsed at London Bridge train station (really) making their way to some exotic place – I like to think anyway…

Helen’s poster

The journals will be on display at Chalkwell Hall until the end of August 2021.