|Small Lodz tram|
The city of Lodz has many old factory buildings, some of them being renovated and divided up into bijou apartments. Some still await their reconstruction and are crumbling, and becoming host to a variety of flora.
The Art Book Museum is in a sumptuous grand old villa, a little down at heel, needing renovation but very far from being abandoned.
|Front of the Art Book Museum|
Two metal gates into the grounds are open, but there is no sign up to say it’s a museum. We thought it might be a private house and there was a sign on the gates that said Beware of the Dog. We went in carefully and a dog came out of the building, not a particularly fierce dog, but it barked assertively, guarding its territory. We left. But a woman, alerted by the dog, came out to close the gates. J spoke to her and discovered that it was in fact the museum, and we were invited in.
The woman’s name was Jadwiga Tryzno and she told us the complex story of the building. It was originally owned by Henryk Grohman, a Lodz factory owner and patron of the arts, who died in 1939, leaving no heirs. Since the early 90s a group of artists, Correspondance des Arts leased the building from the company who had bought it but because this company became bankrupt they want to sell it, which is no easy matter and court proceedings have been going on for years. The group of artists have remained as caretakers of the villa, and hope that the building can continue in some way, to house the museum.
|Large room where readings were held|
As well as housing artist books, the museum has hosted readings by British poets, with Polish translations, supported by the British Council, Poland. Jadwiga showed us round the rest of the building including the large room where the readings were held.
We then went down to the basement, which was full of old printing presses, trays of type, and other machines involved in paper making. Janusz Tryzno, artist and printer, showed us examples of his hand made paper, and the printed books, including a copy of a limited edition of a book he designed and printed, with illustrations, of poems by Seamus Heaney and Czeslaw Milosz.
I ask him, through J, who translates, how he makes the paper. He says the stalks of the flax plant is used. The finished product, after it has been put through a hand machine like the mangles that were used for squeezing water out of clothes, to flatten it, comes out as greyish brown. For a lighter effect, the paper is bleached. He says that in his youth, old clothes used to be used in the paper making process. He can still remember people coming round the streets shouting out for old clothes. These would be collected and sold to printers, to make paper.
You can find out more about the Book Art Museum here.
The existence of the museum is precarious at best, and the survival of these rare books as well as the printing presses needed to produce them, not to mention the building itself, is under threat. The history of this amazing venture and the efforts made by the people who care about its existence can all be read on their website. If you feel moved to befriend this group of artists and the museum, you can do so here.
|The Museum Garden|