Ross Hair curated the 2016 special exhibition ‘Avant-Folk – Publishing in the Vernacular’. Here he explains his choice of image for that year’s Small Publishers Fair card.

The image on this year’s card is of a scarf by Ian Hamilton Finlay. It carries the words ‘art is a small adjustment.’ Both text and object reflect the sentiments and ideas that underpin this year’s exhibition.

The scarf was produced in a small, limited number and distributed as Christmas gifts in 2001. It evokes a cottage industry of craft and textile work—a creative sensibility and a way of life—in which aesthetics and functionality, the unique and the everyday, are inseparable. This spirit extends to the way many of the publications in Avant-Folk have been made: with similar resourcefulness and by modest means. It also extends to the ways in which much of this work has been exchanged and shared within an extended community of poets,artists, and publishers working outside the mass market.

Given rather than purchased, cherished rather than fetishised, the modesty of Finlay’s scarf, like many of the publications in the exhibition, encourages a subtle modification—an alteration—of what we might take for granted, deem worthy, or value enough to be deemed ‘art.’ It is a matter, of not just what one makes, but of how one makes it and for what purpose. Just as the way one might wear their scarf, each publication in Avant-Folk might be seen as a small adjustment that, nevertheless, yields considerable effect.

Ross Hair, October 2016

Avant-Folk grew out of Ross Hair’s work on his book Avant-Folk: Small Press Poetry Networks from 1950 to the Present, which was launched at the 2016 Fair.