A 19-2 View: Libby Scarlett in the Studio

October 29, 2014 by

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be following the development of Libby Scarlett’s artist’s book, A 19-2 View. This is the first post of the series.

libby-sketchbook-scan002-crop2Every night in Amsterdam, Art-in-Education Artist’s Book Resident Libby Scarlett would sit on her balcony, overlooking the maze of gardens and flats across the way. Regardless of the weather, she would be there, a cup of tea in hand, observing neighbors through their apartment windows.

As a recent college graduate, Libby had moved to Amsterdam and found herself with an unusual amount of solitude, in the midst of a harsh winter, and too broke to visit home. “I was feeling lonely, and I didn’t have all these people to talk to all the time,” she says.“It was my way of sitting on my own and still feeling like I had some kind of internal dialogue.”

After a few months, Libby composed letters to fifteen residents occupying the apartments opposite hers, inviting them to share a cup of tea and let her take a photograph from their balconies. Not a single one of them replied. Even after a second attempt in Dutch, nothing.


Her artist’s book, 19-2 View, tells the stories that grew in spite of her fellow tenants’ rebuff. A rug left on the balcony, a roof party, an untended garden, cheap plastic furniture—all of these observations became tiny clues for the stories Libby made up about her neighbors’ lives. Things they might have told her had they accepted her offer.

“I almost saw it as revenge,” she says with a laugh. “I get to make up all these stories about you, and it’s your own fault! If you’d just met me, you could have told me actual things about your lives!”libby-scarlett-2009-03Across drawings, prints, photographs, books, and alternative paper structures—using whatever medium suites the idea—Libby maps her quiet observations, following intuition and curiosity. One of her books, Mapping the Mundane (on display in the WSW Gallery), traces the gestures she made over twenty-one meals. Through elaborate patterns of dotted and solid lines, she color-codes movements by direction and type of food, numbering them in order of occurrence.

“It’s usually quite small, the things that interest me. Things that aren’t a big deal, but that I like to make a big deal out of,” she says, describing her work as “making mountains out of molehills.” Libby’s projects often shift her audience’s perception of everyday occurrences to foster connections and relationships. By sharing imagined vignettes of human oddity, laughter, and quiet sadness, A 19-2 View will be no different.

20141028-LibbyScarlet-583Halfway through her ten-week residency, Libby has spent her time developing a hardcover variation on perfect binding, working with the studio’s silhouette printer, and making plates from her own handwriting and drawings. Libby’s clean, minimalist aesthetic draws from her background in design and often incorporates elements from her own hand. The final book will be printed on the Vandercook press.

A 19-2 View’s structure will feature her neighbors’ balconies, rendered in simple, sketched linework, and revealed through peephole-like windows of fifteen circles cut into the pages. With each page turn, a new apartment and its corresponding story will be revealed between the grid of circles, which mimic the modular structure of her Dutch apartment complex.


From Libby’s balcony, one couple in particular stuck out to her. “I remember watching them one Sunday morning when they had one set of parents over and were toasting to their new flat. I remember sitting there eating my breakfast and thinking, Oh that’s really nice. I wonder if they bought it, or if they rented it. They’re having a proper celebration—they must have bought it.” She laughs. “I’ve made it all up! They may have been staying there for the weekend, for all I know.”

Humorously honest, poetic, and thoughtful, Libby’s voice is the guiding force throughout the book, narrating stories of love, loneliness, intimacy, routine, and dead ends. Stay tuned to Facebook and Twitter for more updates as A 19-2 View continues to develop in our studios.


Libby Scarlett is a London-based visual artist who holds a degree in Design & Art Direction from the Manchester School of Art. She’s involved in Parlour Press and Tej, two collectives which bring art to a wider audience and stage urban interventions. The biggest compliment anyone has paid her was saying that her work reminded them of Sophie Calle. View more photos of her residency on Flickr, and find more of Libby’s work on the web at: www.libbyscarlett.com.