Tom Sowden

Personal statement

Tom is Subject Co-ordinator for Photography in Bath School of Art, having previously been Head of Field for Design Field in Bath School of Art and Design. Tom is a practising artist, curator, lecturer, researcher and prior to joining Bath Spa University, Tom worked at the University of the West of England, Bristol as Associate Head of Department for Communication Design and Programme Leader for MA Design.

Tom’s artistic practice often involves a knowing but light-hearted reference to the book works of Ed Ruscha produced during the 1960s and 1970s. He uses Ruscha’s systems, processes and style to explore commonplace contemporary British concerns. He works across a number of disciplines, primarily with the artist’s book format but also video, photography, printmaking and sculpture.

For a number of years Tom has been collecting artists’ books that reference, mimic or are made in homage to the iconic books made by Ed Ruscha. He collaborates with the Berlin-based conceptual poet/artist Michalis Pichler, another avid collector of Ruscha-esque books, and together they have co-curated exhibitions of these books under the title Follow-ed (after hokusai).

This exhibition has shown at:

  • Winchester Gallery
  • Arnolfini, Bristol
  • gallery P74, Ljubljana
  • Cabinet du Livre d’Artiste, Rennes.

Tom’s artists’ books are held in a range of national and international public collections including:

  • Tate Britain
  • Kunstbibliothek, 
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Germany
  • Spazio Libro d’Artista, Catania, Italy
  • Manchester Metropolitan University
  • Winchester School of Art
  • Chelsea College of Art
  • Camberwell College of Arts
  • University of Plymouth
  • UCA Farnham
  • Mills College, Oakland, USA
  • Texas Gallery, Houston, USA
  • Wexford Artists’ Book Collection, Ireland.

Tom has been principal investigator and co-investigator on a number of AHRC funded research projects exploring the artist’s book and laser cutting technology for the arts. He is currently the Art Editor for the Artist’s Book Yearbook (Impact Press) and The Blue Notebook (Wild Conversations Press) and is one of the founders and organisers of the Bristol Artists Book Event held biennially at Arnolfini, Bristol. 

Tom has supervised PhD students through to completion at Bath Spa University and UWE.

Academic qualifications

  • MA Book Arts, Camberwell College of Art
  • BA (Hons) Fine Art, Southampton Institute (now Solent University).

External examiner

  • Portsmouth University - MA Illustration, 
  • Art Academy London - BA (Hons) Fine Art, FD Fine Art: Sculpture, FD Fine Art: Contemporary Portraiture

Teaching specialisms

  • Subject Co-ordinator for Photography

Areas of expertise

  • Artists’ books
  • Artists’ publishing
  • Printmaking
  • Letterpress
  • Laser cutting

Research supervision

Tom is interested in supervising students in the disciplines of artists’ books, artists’ publishing, printmaking and letterpress.

Research and academic outputs

Go to ResearchSPAce

Artists’ books at the Centre for Fine Print Research

Bodman, S and Sowden, T (2015) 'Artists’ books at the Centre for Fine Print Research.' The New Bookbinder, 35. pp. 73-80. ISSN 0261-5363

Click, swipe, download, share - digital artists’ publishing

Sowden, T (2014) 'Click, swipe, download, share - digital artists’ publishing.' So Multiples, 6. pp. 37-51. ISSN 1961-9618

Exploring appropriation as a creative practice

Sowden, T (2018) Exploring appropriation as a creative practice. In: Turn the Page: Artists Book Symposium, 24 May 2018, The Forum, Norwich, UK.

Interrogating the unspoken

Sowden, T, Mason, D and Partington, M (2017) Interrogating the unspoken. In: Research Through Design, 21 - 24 March 2017, National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, UK.

Make and think: the tacit knowledge of practice

Sowden, T, Mason, D and Rintoul, J (2016) Make and think: the tacit knowledge of practice. In: UWE Bristol Talks, 24th November 2016, Arnolfini.

Click, swipe, download, share

Sowden, T (2014) Click, swipe, download, share. In: Beyond the Book Symposium, 15 May 2014, Exeter University, UK.


Sowden, T (2017) Panacea.


Sowden, T (2017) Panacea. In: Redesigning the Medieval Book, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK, 1 December 2017 - 11 March 2018.

Shelfware [group exhibition]

Sowden, T (2016) Shelfware [group exhibition]. Line Gallery, Stroud, UK, 5 - 27 August 2016.

Pagination: the Book as Object [group exhibition]

Sowden, T (2016) Pagination: the Book as Object [group exhibition]. The University Gallery, University of Newcastle, Australia, 30 March - 30 April 2016.

Re: Follow-ed (after hokusai) [curators]

Sowden, T and Pichler, M (2015) Re: Follow-ed (after hokusai) [curators]. Cabinet du Livre d'Artiste, Rennes, France, 28 September 2015 - 3 December 2015.

Ed Ruscha: Books & Co. [group exhibition]

Sowden, T (2015) Ed Ruscha: Books & Co. [group exhibition]. Gagosian Gallery, Paris, France, 12 March - 7 May 2015 & 28 July - 9 September 2016. ISBN 9780262018777

PAGE.PRINT.POST: 50 Years of Artist Books [group exhibition]

Sowden, T (2014) PAGE.PRINT.POST: 50 Years of Artist Books [group exhibition]. The Post Office Gallery, Federation University, Ballarat, Australia, 16 July - 9 August 2014.

Fortynine coach seats travelling along the M4 (2003)

Sowden, T (2014) Fortynine coach seats travelling along the M4 (2003). In: RUKSSIAN Artists’ Books: Artists’ Books from the UK and Russia, Tsaritsyno State Historical, Architectural, Art and Landscape Museum-Reserve, Moscow, Russia, March - May 2014 & August – September 2014.

Tom Sowden: on book arts [blog post]

Sowden, T (2014) Tom Sowden: on book arts [blog post]. Artquest.

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