How do you illustrate mud?
Every deluxe copy of Mud by Chris McCabe is dedicated to one of the 24 mud types, and accompanied by a unique mud print that is its namesake.
We wanted to illustrate the book in an immediate, concrete way. We wanted the dirt described so brilliantly by Chris to be present on the pages of the novel. But how do you illustrate mud? Depending on where it is from and how dense or moist it is mud has a lot of character. Yet it is also very amorphous, like glass. We decided to use our urban mud samples (taken from London gardens, graves and parks) as something between a printing medium and a sculptural casting medium.
It followed we needed something between a found object and a printing block. A mute, Orphic block. Chancing upon the wreck of a car crash (only the wall was hurt) we plucked a half-brick from the broken wall, an object mentioned several times in the novel, one time being thrown by Karissa at Borak. A car-crash relationship.
The great thing about using such a humble, mute and ubiquitous object was that it made the process of making more visible and important than figurative representation. There were also six faces that could be worked on. The most frequently used was the recessed face that Builders call the “frog”, a dip which holds mortar and locks bricks together. (A cheaply made wall is “frogs down” i.e. less mortar is used). The frog provided a mound shape when cast, a door-like image when its edges were printed, and a tray in which clay and wax could be set and cut like lino or scribed like a tablet.
We made eight initial artworks that became the Major Muds, an octave of dirt, and then subjected these to further examination by magnification to create artworks derived from them, eventually a kind of Periodic Table of Muds.
The Periodic Table of Muds
Below you will find the Major Muds given in order from Light to Dense. These prints are stored in a solander box with their copy of the book. Click on each image to explore its genus.