Rachel Hazell sees books in everything. Repetition and order are for her stories and narratives, reminders of her favourite art form. Whether that’s the rows of clothes hanging on the rail next to us in the Kensington shop we meet at (‘like these clothes, the colours, the threads, the textures could be lines of runes or another language’)or the Antarctic icebergs that she was lucky enough to see on a number of trips as a mediating artist and resident photographer (‘the crevices, like pages’). The blog Books in Everything is updated daily with a new image in which Rachel sees order and narrative, and includes rows of buttons, piles of boxes, buttered toast and rows of scones. Literally, the whole world is a library for this lady. And one with no overdue fines.
As well as bookish photographer, Rachel is a book binder and book artist, and the urge to devote her life to the bound form stems from the belief Rachel firmly holds that everyone’s got a book inside them. Either my arched eyebrow, or the clarity with which my face exposes the fact that I’ve been trying for so long to motivate myself to write a novel, causes Rachel to explain. ‘It doesn’t need to be a 50,000 word novel…a folded piece of paper to make precious and some words to express something.’ As much the final creation, it is the opportunity to express a story. This story could be a two meter high book scultpture as commissioned by Helen Storey or a limited edition of love poems for John Hegley, the formation of a new book or upcycling of an old, a solo project or part of a collaborative workshop with the Royal Navy.
Blurring the lines between books being art and literature, Rachel’s work is a prime example of form and function combining to reveal an overarching narrative. As well as an exercise in exploration, the process of uncovering something new it is the repetition and order that not only attracts Rachel, but has her believe that bookbinding is a ‘divine calling.’ A fan of repetition and order, this is an art form that panders to the desire for pattern, but Rachel’s pieces and workshops focus on uniting the form and function, to express and expose something of one’s self.
Travelling the world to try and help people get that book out of themselves, Rachel has explored some incredible places, of which the aforementioned Antarctic has been the most dynamic and unusual and Rachel cites landscape, whether that is emotional or real, is a common theme of and inspiration for her work. Extracting from and adding to the book so much more than literature and language, the books there in become part of something much wider, as well as stories in themselves.
There’s also a practical benefit to being obsessed with books. Having recently moved house she jokes, ‘The removal men said they’d never seen anything like it, in twenty five years. I can’t wait to get them all out again. With so many books you don’t need curtains, and they’re very insulating.’