Library of Ideas

Collecting thoughts, creating perspectives

01 Charlene Scott

Artists constantly react and respond to their own immediate observations, experiences and thoughts. Research library collections, like those at the University of Edinburgh, offer students of art new ways of thinking, to learn and discover unexpected, enticing routes to follow which support and underpin their work.

Third-year Edinburgh College of Art School of Art students, working in collaboration with the Centre for Research Collections (CRC), were given the opportunity in the autumn of 2021 to delve into the University’s Rare Books and Manuscripts collection as a way to stimulate and extend their practice.

These students were challenged to consider how collections inspire their work by bringing an item from a collection of their own and selecting at least two items from the University’s collections, each from a different century, leading to the production of a work in their preferred medium. 

This exhibition showcases the diverse array of artworks that resulted from this collaborative project, with each student uncovering fascinating material from the collection.

This zine is created as a third-party expansion scenario for the tabletop skirmish game “Forbidden Psalm”. Warbands face off to retrieve the mysterious Black Ambrosia; a miraculous fluid secreted from the eldritch Flesh Monoliths defended by the maniacal Flesh Cult Troglodytes. The artworks are inspired by the woodblock prints of bestiary books of the 1600s. A mix of pen and ink paintings and linocut prints, they illustrate the enigmatic Flesh Monoliths and their thralls of Flesh Cult Troglodytes. The work also includes a tutorial of how to make the Monoliths using discarded Lateral Flow Tests.

order of service is the first instalment of works in a larger project titled when we gather, which seeks to explore the contemporary position of the Christian worship service in Scotland through art objects.

The work is a collection of materials designed to be used as liturgical instructions for organised worship, and has been created specifically in light of historical contexts and materials.

By ‘re-materialising’ a variety of traditional and contemporary Scottish liturgical resources, as well as creating new resources and artworks in response to the materials in the University Collections, my hope is that long-standing practices of Christian spiritual formation will have been made accessible in a contemporary context.

Rocks, shells, and organic matter find their way into my space through pockets and curious hands. Fascinated by this innate gathering of material, to bend or to turn, references ways in which samples are collected and presented. Raw material sits within a handmade collector’s tray alongside an artist’s book of watercolour paints that were painstakingly transformed from that same material. The work draws on my own collection of natural materials gathered within East Lothian and items held within the Centre for Research Collections that I chose for their shared referencing of natural materials and belief that tactile exploration sparks curiosity.

A small collection of mementos that encapsulate memories connecting my parents’ lives in a past Paris with my own experience of a present Paris, compiled into a small zine-book. This is a first edition of a hopefully continuous project that is intended to result in a pair of coffee table books as the collections grow.

The Illegal Objects project aims to be a striking confrontation with the reality of how the law has and continues to be written and enforced in the UK, producing troubling results for those who believe in the freedom of individuals to choose what films they watch, what books they read, and what substances they should be able to consume. It is also a project which asks us to consider the question of Anarchism, whether it is true after all that order can only be maintained by a central political authority.

A series of lithographs on a selection of paper in different inks, influenced by pieces seen in the CRC from Joan Miro, pieces of Chinese calligraphy, as well as my own mark-making in my painting practice. It explores the printing method of lithography while experimenting with expressive gestures. Constructing a single structural gesture out of distinguished lines with varying weights and widths, working with anomalies such as drips and splashes, and drawing with a sense of urgency, leaves me with a practice that works towards creating energetic and spontaneous paintings, and in this case prints.

This book is a taster of a collation of contrasting information uncovered about contraception and reproductive health from different historic periods over the centuries in the United Kingdom. It is interspersed with some personal commentary and people’s experiences with their own sexual health. The booklet highlights snippets of the attitudes and advice given during these past times and is complimented by playing with the text, type and materiality of the materials used.

Despite remaining a familiar sight on the outskirts of many Scottish towns, edgelands –the liminal space between wilderness and city -remain somewhat forgotten. Often regarded as places that must be passed through to reach somewhere else or somewhere better, my art practice aims to challenge this perspective by foregrounding the unusualness and complexities of these landscapes. Drawing upon examples of mapping, landscape illustration and photography from the University collections, my installation The Space Between will provide a small, contained sample of these in-between environments by way of found objects, video, and sound recordings.

This hand sewn corset with embroidered sexist quotes from modern day politicians explores sexist views and insinuates their old fashioned nature through the use of medieval floral embroidery patterns and using old clothing patterns. Through this piece I have reclaimed what is often referred to as a “woman’s art” and clothing that is seen as “provocative” to not only create my art but to actively stand against sexism within the patriarchy.

Using patterns from Making Soft Toys, I repurposed second-hand children’s clothing to create three new toys. These toys, alongside my own childhood items, then featured as characters in my collection of miniature books. These characters acted out some of the instructive stories from The Cabinet of Lilliput, as well as some of their own personal storylines to reflect the wonder of childhood imagination. My aim for this project was to animate contemporary childhood items which could be used to revive the morals and messages explored in past sources, many of which are still relevant today.

This project explores the idea of place and views we see in our daily lives, especially in Edinburgh which is filled with so much history. Most of the time I’m rushing around and never really take in the beauty of the city which I felt could be a universal experience and one I wanted to correct through this project. I wanted to also add a historical element to the project by exploring how the views in Edinburgh have changed over the past two centuries by collaging modern images I’ve taken of Edinburgh with old illustrations made of the same views.


This project was supervised by Jane Hyslop, Lecturer in Art and Illustration, Edinburgh College of Art, and Elizabeth Quarmby Lawrence, Rare Books and Literary Collections Curator.

The Library of Ideas as a project run as part of the course Presentation: Methods and Context 3.

The course supports students in refining their understanding of how context is critical to the development, presentation and reading of an artwork. Through self-initiated study and a range of externally focused projects they are encouraged to engage in a range of professional contexts.

Students on this project presented their work at Edinburgh College of Art’s annual artists’ book and zine fair, BOOKMARKS on 30th March 2022 and show it here in an online context offering legacy to the project.