Based Upon: From sculpture to book

Five years of capturing the highly original and endlessly creative installations,bespoke artworks and furniture of Based Upon in print.

For those who don’t know, Based Upon is a London-based team of artists and designers creating large-scale artworks and sculptural furniture. Founded in 2004 by twin brothers Ian and Richard Abell, their work is inspired by natural and urban landscapes, explorations of archetypal forms and patterns and by the narrative histories woven within a place or group of people. The studio has developed a unique palette of mark making techniques in liquid metals and resins which are presented as a collection of award-winning hand-made surfaces which are used within the world’s finest interiors projects. Based Upon collaborates with architects, designers and brands to create large scale installations, bespoke artworks and sculptural furniture.

As you can imagine, to a studio where mark-making and recording plays such a vital part, noting and documenting the making of this art is integral to the process. Also, because the work is bespoke and, by it’s very nature unlikely to be seen again except by a relatively small number of people, Based Upon like to make a book to document the making of that artwork. Two or three copies are given to the client and a couple of additional copies are kept in the Based Upon library; both to inform other clients and also to remind themselves and visitors of a work, now long gone.

Such a very small number of books needed each time had led them to the usual on-line ‘solutions’ but to anyone with even the slightest empathy for materials and craftmanship, it is quickly obvious that such books are simply not good enough. Mass produced, crudely and impersonally made, they are the very antithesis of the work they were supposed to reflect. 

Knowing what Based Upon needed and what Hurtwood could deliver, we were recommended through another of our ‘Book friends’ and, after a short ‘interview’ involving what felt like most of the Abell family, we set about creating a set of books capable of doing justice to the highly creative work recorded within the texts. What later became our tailored books ‘Classic’ format was originally created as the standard Based Upon book. A wide range of cloth was selected from which to choose and, by regularising the extents (number of pages) at 96 pages we were able to develop the multiple slipcase idea. That means that we make a slipcase capable of holding one, two or three books together. If a prospective client needs to see some examples of work, up to three books can be selected of varied projects. The colours all work well together and create an interesting and intriguing impression. Because the books are always the same thickness, any titles will fit and because the cloths are carefully chosen, no one gets the same combination yet all colours work together.

Now, several years on and, as Based Upon forge into newer and larger markets, the books are beginning to have a new role beyond simply recording and reporting. Now they are acting as manifesto and catalogue.

Indeed, the latest series of books are just that. Much larger in scale in scale (330 x 300mm portrait) and extent (204 pages) they tell the story of Based Upon and demonstrate in a practical and beautiful way just why, how and what Based Upon do. Not just in the sense of the ‘object’ made but in the powerful way they gather the information upon which the work is based. No one can look at the intensely personal images within a work and not be moved; imagine how this feels when it is you, your family and your community that is being recorded? So much drama, love and wonder: emotions only a book can convey.

Visit the Based Upon website.

Words: Francis Atterbury