Vague Terrain

Vague Terrain

Following an artists’ visit to the derelict Spode factory in Stoke on Trent, Joanne Lee produced Vague Terrain –  the fourth edition of Pam Flett Press.

Dust Vague Terrain 1

Vague Terrain explores the notion of waste or edge-land, the derelict fringe that marks a transition between the urban and the rural. Sitting within Stoke on Trent the abandoned Spode Factory is slowly being overtaken by the rural, becoming part of the edge-land of the town. Having outsourced the majority of its production to the middle east in 2006, the Royal Worcester company went into administration two years later ending any remaining activity on the Spode site. Visiting the building, many of the offices looked as if they had been left mid­way through a working day, with paperwork and stationery strewn across desks whilst ivy, moss and lichen encroached upon the walls. Elsewhere in the factory mechanical fixtures were hanging from their fixings, their metal forms slowly turning to rust.

Terrainvague 1

Jo’s first hand encounter with the Spode site heavily influenced our design process. The publication was intended to replicate both the scenes of the abandoned offices and the colours of the encroaching dereliction. Working with a palate of blue and orange our designs mirrored both the identity of Spode, with its iconic blue glaze, and the burnt orange of the building’s rusting machinery. Throughout the publication multiple page sizes, stocks and processes were employed as a nod to the abandoned offices, replicating a bundle of hurriedly collected documents. Typographically, the footnotes Jo produced alongside her text were designed to bleed into the main essay, reflecting her narrative style and echoing with the suggestion of the edge-land – the terrain vague that blurs the margins between the urban and rural to create a new, often undefined, space of its own.

Terrainvague 6
Vague Terrain Crop

Jo’s work consistently manages to highlight the unexpected beauty in the unconsidered; the abandoned factory and empty offices that are slowly surrendering to the surrounding landscape. Through Jo’s photographic observations and written narrative the forgotten or discarded is observed in a new light, one which reveals an unexpected care and beauty.  In a similar vein, a simple brown office envelope or a sheet of newspaper can become an intriguing visual and textural encounter when found in the pages of a book. 

Terrainvague 3

The first version of Vague Terrain was produced for an exhibition in which Jo was displaying some of the photographs she had taken at the site. Subsequently, using an iterative design process, the full publication was designed at a later stage. The publications were hand bound in the studio, with the screen printed broadsheet and tipped ­in envelope being hole punched manually, then collected together and bound with metal paper fasteners.


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