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"Collector's Edition" Artist Cover Bomb Series

Graphic designer Stuart Tolley invites artists including Sir Paul McCartney and photographer Alec Soth to redesign his book for a limited edition auction series

by Cajsa Carlson
on 10 December 2014
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Published in September, British design studio director and graphic designer Stuart Tolley’s book “Collector’s Edition” showcases some of the most mind-blowing and unusual limited edition graphic design and packaging ever made for books, music and magazines—including The Flaming Lips’ gummy candy “Gummy Song Skull” and Penguin Books’ collectible “Drop Cap” editions. Naturally, Tolley had the idea of creating a collector’s edition of "Collector’s Edition" from the start, but though he discussed it with publisher Thames & Hudson, there simply weren't enough funds. Unwilling to let that stop him, Tolley took it upon himself to curate the limited edition, and is auctioning off 10 copies with proceeds benefiting The Alzheimer's Society. “I felt it was the perfect way to complete the project,” he says.

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The result is the “Artist Cover Bomb” series, nine one-off copies designed by some of the world’s most respected names in music, art and graphic design. Art photographer Alec Soth’s "Collector's Edition" was inspired by his Broken Manual “book safe,” and sees the book safely hidden inside a copy of “The World History of Photography,” while Sir Paul McCartney’s copy features a hand-drawn “One Man and His Dog” illustration inspired by the cover title and artwork for his solo album RAM. Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips went all in, creating a wax skull and soap fetus that are attached to the book’s cover, and decorating every inch of it in glitter, paint and ink.

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All the artists taking part are featured or interviewed in the book and, as Tolley wanted the covers to vary in style, they all have different backgrounds, styles and disciplines. “From my own experience, working on personal projects with no parameters can be quite a daunting prospect, so I set the loose brief: to create an original handmade artwork directly onto the cover of the book that in some way reflects your artwork featured in the book. Each contributor could create an artwork in a medium of their choice, but the project needed a bit of focus.” The resulting book covers form a visual feast that should appeal to graphic design and art lovers everywhere, and provide the buyers with a unique opportunity to own a truly original piece of art.

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Though it’s understandably difficult for Tolley to choose a favorite cover, he says, “On a personal level I was stunned when Paul McCartney agreed to participate. People kept asking me if it was "the real Paul McCartney,” so I had to add the title Sir to the front, to make it explicitly obvious. I really like Nick Cave’s music, especially his latest album, so I was really happy he chose to reinterpret the cover artwork for his cover bomb. One of the highlights of the book was interviewing Stanley Donwood in his studio, so for him to contribute really rounded the project. Also, I cannot mention favorites without commenting on Wayne Coyne's contribution, which is incredible.“

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The book auction ends Friday 12 December, and raises funds for The Alzheimer’s Society in honor of Tolley’s grandmother, who suffered from dementia for over 15 years and passed away before his book was published. “I wanted to curate a project in her honor, that would also help The Alzheimer’s Society and other sufferers of the disease. It was a very personal project and something each of the contributors really responded to. I cannot thank them enough for their support,” Tolley says.

Bid on the Artist Cover Bomb series of "Collector's Edition" ($157 starting bid) through 12 December. Standard copies of "Collector's Edition" ($34) are available through Amazon.

Images courtesy of Stuart Tolley

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