Lily Abram, 2020

This is the next instalment in our lockdown digital exhibitions. We interviewed Lily as part of our proposal to offer insight into how practising artists were coping with these unprecedented times. She has provided us with a window into her current practice and inspiration.

1- Who are you? Introduce yourself

My name is Lily and I am a designer and image-maker. I’ve recently moved back to Sheffield after living in London for two years, completing an MA in Graphic Communication Design from Central Saint Martins.

2- What is your artistic practice?- What drove you to work as you are now? How has this been impacted by lockdown restrictions and the pandemic?

Throughout the final year of my MA, my research has been focused around the flat-bed scanner. I have been exploring how the scanner can be used as a generative, content-creating tool. Having always been interested in photographic, image-making techniques, I was initially drawn to the photocopier. Realising I wasn’t interested in the production of copies and their dissemination – which is inherent with the photocopier – I specified my practice to use the scanner. 

Lockdown came at a particularly pivotal time for my project. I felt my project was lacking focus and context as I was overwhelmed by the open access to so many objects and materials. The ability to scan any object made it difficult to decide what use and how to situate my practice in a broader context. As lockdown happened and my options were suddenly restricted, I found the restrictions to come with clarity. 

I began by using the time to fully experiment with the scanner. With objects from around my home, I experimented by using the scanner as a timing device, a surface to perform and record everyday tasks and a way to cut through objects and see them from a new angle. However, it was when I became more conscious of the scanner’s properties and I started to manipulate them that my experiments improved with more intention. Exploring how different movements, lighting, dpi and settings altered text led me to much more interesting discoveries. I learnt how to use the machine to distort and alter text in a way which I later used as a method of highlighting and excerpting.

The project ‘An Expanding Bookshelf’ began when it became clear my bookshelf was going to be the most interesting content to work with. I had a manageable collection of 38 books, including sketchbooks, novels, cookbooks, puzzle books, notebooks, magazines and library books that I intended to use to generate new content and grow my bookshelf. A person’s collection of books can say a lot about their personality and lockdown felt like an appropriate time for introspection. Also, I was conscious of the traditional relationship between books and scanners. Books are usually scanned so excerpts can be owned digitally for personal use, or sometimes to redistribute. Importantly, legibility is key. By using books as the content for my scans, I saw an opportunity to challenge this existing relationship.

‘An Expanding Bookshelf’ consists of many iterations of my bookshelf. Each bookshelf shows the development of a new scanning technique alongside the development of thematic content. The project acts as a self-portrait and words I had read before take on a new significance, reflecting my thoughts during lockdown.

3- What are you currently working on? (virtual exhibitions, creative movements, collaborative projects, maintaining production of work)

I am always looking for opportunities to exhibit my work so research and applications are currently taking up my time. I have been involved in a couple of exhibitions during lockdown, one being the Locked-Down virtual exhibition by Oddball Space ( My graduate showcase at UAL also went live, showing work from graduating student across all UAL campuses. (

4- What is next? – How, if at all, has this pandemic inspired further progression?

I’m planning on continuing ‘An Expanding Bookshelf’. The system and way of working I created during lockdown was effective for me at the time, but next I want to consider how it can grow and adapt with me as my situation changes. I have since left London and moved house, meaning my bookshelf and the content I have access to has changed. Similarly, the project reflected my thoughts and feelings at the time, which have also now moved on. I want to continue this project as a documentation of the passing of time, shown through my personal reflections and my bookshelf, whilst still pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved on the scanner. I plan on creating a new set of experiments, still using the scanner as a generative tool and thematically reflecting on societal issues, but also documenting my personal situation.

I think the pandemic has shown that to continue my practice effectively, I don’t need access to as much as I thought I did. With just my scanner and ordinary belongings, I can continue to make interesting work. It’s with this mind-set that I want to keep expanding the project, reflecting who and where I am.

5- Where can we find you? Extra projects you are working on, social media, website, exhibitions you will be in, etc.


An Expanding Bookshelf website:

Instagram: @lily.abram


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