Thursday, March 26, 2015

Thursday Thoughts...

“My grandfather always said that living is like licking honey off a thorn.” 

 Louis Adamic

I enjoy the process of my Thursday Thoughts - the regularity of it, the time spent scanning words to ponder, and the surprise and delight when I choose a quote I had no real intention of landing on whatsoever! This is one of those days.

I was thinking about life, but I certainly wasn't pondering thorns or honey or bees... but this was such a lovely pithy quote. And it made me nod my head.

I just loved the imagery of trying to lick honey - such beauty, such reward, such nourishment, such sweetness - off a thorn - so sharp, so pointy, so scratchy, so piercing...

Having seen the image in my head, I went straight to imagining the experience of it and the tentative way in which you would approach the task.

I'm not sure I think that life should always be approached tentatively - my fear is that you might miss moments of magic that only appear when you are bold - but I think it kind of captures the balance between reward and risk pretty well.

You know the danger is worth it, the reward will be great, but you know not to just dive right in oblivious and blind to the side bits that go with it. You know you need to take account of the piercing nature of the thorn; but it doesn't deter you; you simply find a way to achieve your goal whilst negotiating obstacles.

I could go on and on about how well I think these few words and this imagery and imaginary experience work for me on all sorts of levels, but I'll let your imagination join in instead!

And you'll need it here with a poppy, not a rose. No thorns but fabulous bees working to make honey!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

From the collection - Learning Absences

I have been thinking it would be nice to share some of the beautiful artists' books I have collected over the years - both those I have swapped and those I have purchased. So I think I shall begin an occasional series of posts called "From the collection..."

I am kicking off with my most recent acquisition "Learning Absences" made by Caren Florance (Ampersand Duck), based on the poem by Rosemary Dobson, as part of BookArtObject.

This serendipitous exchange came about when we met face to face for the first time in New Zealand at the ABCNZ Conference late last year. Caren mentioned how she often references my wee book "A Subversive Stitch" when she teaches and mentioned that if I had any left, she'd love one.

On return, I hunted one down and popped it in the post and then got to choose one of her books in exchange.  I love this book and was absolutely thrilled when Caren found a spare in the edition as she looked in the nooks and crannies of her studio.

As part of BAO each participating artist made an edition of books in response to this poem.  A poem about learning how to live without someone when they die.

To the book.

Black book cloth cover with hand stitching - the lovely combination of inky black and deep indigo, matched with highlights of cobalt(?), continues throughout in different ways.

The cover page.  The pages are mono print images on Kozo light paper, with letterpress hand set in 10pt Sabon.

Sublimely elegant.

The light as air pages are folded at the fore-edge, which is sensible given their fragility.

I love how Caren responded to the words...the marks and the images.

 Of course I haven't shown the whole book here, but it is a thing of beauty.

And this is the way Caren did her colophon at the back of the book - elegant yet again.

Thank you Caren for sharing this book with me; it is a treasure and I am so proud to own it.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Rural Journal

I realised I hadn't actually written much or shown much of this final piece - I got swept up in packing and sending it to Cairns for the 4by4 exhibition there.

Speaking of which, here is the display of artists' book currently on show at the Cairns Regional Gallery - what a visual delight for visitors!
Credit: Michael Marzik
We were asked to consider the book as sculptural object, so the books I sent had to not need their pages turned. This piece evolved over a period of time and ended up being a combination of many things - paper, asemic writing, wax, rust, wire...

I used rusted paper for covers and rusted fabric for a wrap.

It can be displayed in lots of combinations and permutations

And can be read in many ways.

I love the honouring of the old and worn.

Matching masculine and feminine - the machinery bits and stitching.

The final decision around how to pull the pages together was answered by some rusty wire I found. It doesn't make for easy opening or resistance-free turning or folding; but it does make it feel like a story of binding things together with whatever you can find - memories of old farms and yards and the stories they tell.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Thursday Thoughts...

"Once I’d started my art journey I was in it with a vengeance. I needed it so badly. At last life was full of possibilities". 

Rosalie Gascoigne

This week, Thursday Thoughts turn to art again and here I am back with Rosalie.

I have been pondering this life we live, the joy it brings to have a rich and varied life - living in a place of great natural beauty; working our garden and harvesting produce; making jams and jellies and pesto and chutney from the fruits and vegetables and herbs of our block. Taking the time for family and for friends.  And for art.

I came late to art as a companion to my life - I was so many other things before I was an artist, and like Rosalie, now that I am here, I live a life of art with a passion and a force I never knew lay within.
It fills me up. It calms me. It inspires me and takes away my breath. It amuses me. It gives me joy. It just gives and gives and gives.

I pinch myself often and I recall the life I used to live and how I scraped to catch a glimpse of art in the course of a week; to the life I live now where art is at the heart of what I do and how I do it. And I am filled with gratitude.

I spoke to a young woman at an opening the other night, she studies art at school but doesn't know what she'll do. I just said it doesn't matter. Having art in your life is a wonderful thing and it helps shape your world, no matter what you do with it.

My life is a life of art now and I am pursuing it with passion!

Rosalie Gascoigne - Summer Swarm
It's time to search for the Rainbow again - this month it's yellow. Join Jennifer and Julie as they showcase yellow and share yellow from around the world...

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The end of an obsession

Well, it all started a few weeks back when Susan and I visited the State Library and caught up with a bunch of book artists.  We all had lunch together, but just before we sat down we visited the magnificent book and gift shop.  And I bought a book of Japanese clothes patterns.

A friend had given me some money for my birthday last year and told me to spend it on something special; it took me a while but I knew this was it!  I was excited because I had looked at these patterns online before; but the instructions were all in Japanese which really scared me. Here it was with English instructions, and the exact price of my birthday money, so it was clearly meant to be!

This is the piece I finished today.  It has quite a funny story in that it will be the very first item in my wardrobe that is about Mother-Daughter wear.  I made my first one of these, a few weeks ago full of excitement and thrill; only to discover that it was too big for me. It looked beautiful and draped well and I didn't want to go thru all the fuss of re-sizing it, so I gave it to my mum. Who is tall and elegant and looked just great in it.

But I really wanted one for me - so I bought the same fabric, same colour and now I have my own; and this time it fits. It still needs a little bit of hand stitching to tidy a few things up.

The other piece I was finishing today was this skirt - scrimped out of some fabric I had bought to make a Japanese apron to wear in the studio - but I really have enough aprons, so I thought why not a skirt.  I am still hemming it by hand and finishing the waistband.

In between I made this soft and flowy top, and I enjoy the way it lets the air move around - important in summer here.

And of course my own first piece (after the failed tunic) was this cute top from Jennifer's rusted fabric.

I am no seamstress and have to make mistakes, unpick them, sew again, trim down seams etc etc; I am not a natural, but I have enjoyed the challenge and the time to think my way through the adjustments I need. And then laughing at myself when I have failed to consider one other thing and the waistband is now way too big for example.

I feel as if I have been just a tad obsessed for the last fortnight and now need to just stop - go cold turkey for a bit - and get on with other things...

But isn't obsession fun for a while?!?!?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Still playing with pencils

I was fortunate on Friday to have Helen Irving from the Buderim Calligraphy group drive up to spend some time with me (and with Helen V from Buderim), showing me a few more tips for pencils.  Helen does the most exquisite pencil work and has  such a gentle, light control - you can hardly imagine a person could do what she does.

We had a fun few hours with her showing me lots of extra things to do and think bout; and shared coffee, cake and lunch which was grand.

Here are my practice pieces - you can see how rough and ready they are; but it was all about testing and learning techniques, so here goes.

This bit has powdered graphite, liquid graphite, HB pencils and erasers all muddled together to test things out.

 I wondered about embossing - more powdered graphite, HB and erasers - love the polka dots!

Powdered graphite, erasers and liquid graphite

Powdered graphite and HB pencil

Liquid graphite

So you can see why they are called "roughs"!

These are from the week before - where I was testing printing fabric to see if it made a good background for a larger work; it didn't so I just chopped it up and made cards instead!

But just to delight you at the end - here are some of the pieces by Helen I am lucky to have received...
Whenever I teach at Buderim, Helen does the thank you card - how lucky am I?

The details are amazing...

 Big sigh.

 And I better go get practising I think!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Thursday Thoughts...

People might tell you that reading is a way to hide from the world, and sometimes it can be, but in my experience, people who love books are also interested in myriad other things. They love music and movies and travel food and (gasp!) even television. As a friend of mine says, books make you a glutton for life. They show you how much there is to be experienced in the world. So let them do that. Let them make you curious. Let them make you hungry. Let them give you more questions than answers.” 

 Rebecca Schinsky’s 5 Reading Rules for Book Lovers of All Ages

Sometimes reading certain newspapers or watching certain news shows I acknowledge to myself that one of the main reasons I enjoy them is because they are pandering to my biases - political especially.  There is nothing quite like having your views agreed with, celebrated and supported.

And so it is with this quote - it feels so good to be thought of so highly simply because I am person who loves books!

Don't we book lovers and readers just sound like the best, most interesting people in the world?!?!?

I think that for me, books have always been a way of exploring the world beyond my orbit; discovering lives unknown; and understanding multiple possibilities. They can make you curious and hungry for experiences.

Even tho my introvert nature means I need to sit quietly and read books; often preferring that to actually engaging or talking with people; it never feels as if reading is shrinking my world; it always feels as if it is expanding my world and my knowledge and my understanding. Reading has been with me every step of the way - books have shown me so many things, comforted me, explained ethical and social dilemmas to me; helped me understand different relationships and choices.

Reading often sparks off an interest in something new or something I never even knew about - music, movies, food, art,'s all there to kindle a flame in you.

We came across these drawers full of library cards in a university in Prague.  We had to pull them out, and rifle through the cards, wondering what wonderful books they related to, if they still existed or if somebody had borrowed them...

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

New work appears

I sometimes think artists could sound like new-age hippies with the way we sometimes describe how work happens, appears, emerges and is made.

I know I benefit enormously from doing something like rusting pages, and leaving them out in the studio for me to walk by, sometimes noticing them sometimes not.  When I do notice them they often seem to be suggesting what to do with them now. See - only hippies would hear blank pages talking to them right?

But this is kind of how this work came about - it is a coalescing of many things. Like my burnt squares, grids and watch parts, this work came about after thinking about grids again, hanging banners and floaty things.  Somehow, the pages I had assumed would be come a book have become something that hangs.  It's not finished yet, but what follows are some of the working stages.

The back story is that I mis-read the directions for a workshop with Olive Bull a couple of years ago go and cut up so many more pages of paper than were needed it was ridiculous - in the end I think we needed 15 pages and I had cut up 55. So they sat as blank pages in my paper drawer for a  while.  I was doing a big day of rusting - I had plans! and I did all I wanted to do but there was so much solution left, I really wanted to use it, so I rusted pretty much anything in sight - and I remembered these dark grey pages were lurking, so 24 of them got rusted too!  Then they just hung around for a few months, until the weekend, when it suddenly became clear they would make beautiful hangings of some sort.

These are some of the left over pages that I still haven't rusted - so yes, I did cut way too many!

The weekend was really about grids and hanging as I experimented with how you could attach bits of paper to each other without stitching or tying's a random thing I have left hanging on the wall. The bottom right card was also my first play with some lettering, which led to other things.

But from here, I thought about connecting the rusted pages and hanging them somehow. Barry loaned me a mobile so I could see what things hanging looked like. I don't have any early photos of this, just this one with some words, which kind of mucks up the sequence but I'm sure we'll cope.

Are you still with me on my somewhat random journey?

I realised I needed words and knew that the darker pages needed light - so I wrote some words about peace, with the sense that light can appear from dark  (a bit like Emerging from shadow oh so long ago), and then started to do the pencil layouts.

You can see I drew up the scale of the grey paper and tried a few layouts - for non-calligraphers I figure it's interesting to see some of the background work we do when creating a piece. Above, you can see me playing with how to capture the w and the e and the o and the f to fit the style I was playing with (and even the R); and deciding that I would emphasise the words DREAM, PEACE, US in capitals rather than lower case.

So from imaging a bound book, I have ended up with a series of hanging, connected pages.  I have only written four of them; the words for the other three didn't appear, even tho I sat with them and thought about them a lot. So instead, I let that go and will return when the words appear.

I used a white pencil to write the words and introduced a metallic on occasions for emphasis and highlighting.

And then wondered what they looked like stuck on a wall...

And such is the way work evolves in my brain and in my studio. Nothing linear about it at all, nothing that starts with pre-conceptions, nothing that necessarily makes any sense until it is done. And then it feels right.

I remain in awe of the process and so thoroughly love participating in it and observing it!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The burning book 'Endure'

As Susan has mentioned, these books evolved with loads of angst and a fair bit of confusion.  I had thought about this book as a burning book - in that we would give each other pages and then we would burn the pages we received in whatever way worked best for us.  Susan had thought we would burn the pages beforehand and hand them over! So the handover was pretty funny - she gave me burnt paper; I gave her pristine pages ready for burning!

Still, we wangled our way through.

I worked with the idea of book-burnings and how even tho people have burnt books throughout the ages, you just can't stop the ideas being transmitted and shared.

The quotes I worked with were:

Books can not be killed by fire. People die, but books never die. No man and no force can abolish memory... In this war, we know, books are weapons. And it is a part of your dedication always to make them weapons for man's freedom.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

Books won't stay banned. They won't burn. Ideas won't go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ideas. The source of better ideas is wisdom. The surest path to wisdom is a liberal education.” Alfred Whitney Griswold, Essays on Education

"Every burned book enlightens the world."
 Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Burning is no answer."
 Camille Desmoulines
reply to Robespierre, January 7, 1794,
 on burning his newspaper Vieux Cordelier

The paper burns, but the words fly away.” Akiba ben Joseph

You can burn my books and the books of the best minds in Europe, but the ideas in them have seeped through a million channels, and will continue to quicken other minds.” Helen Keller

My pages were large - we had agreed on the size - and I wrote in walnut ink using a syringe. An interesting tool which reduces your control as you form letters. It helped that I wanted the words to be there but somewhat indecipherable, so the tool was a good one to use.

Incorporating Susan's paper was hard, so I stained it with walnut ink and burnt it some more, trying to make the colour tones closer to the pages.

Unsure how to bring the burning into my pages - it could be as minimal as simply using incense sticks to burn in each O - or I could really destroy them - I ended up in the middle, with a gradual decrease in size of the page, burnt edges and with remnants of burning at the base of each page.  I was able to use Susan's paper for this and added some of my own burnt paper.

Detail of the base of a page.

Page 1 before riveting. I used three layers of perplex (as we do for the QLA books) with the inside piece having a cut-out to contain the elements.  We drill holes from a template and then together, Barry and I hand-rivet the perspex together.  This time I chose copper rivets to tone in with the book more. Once the 'sandwich pages' are each done, I then sew the book up.

I stepped the pages down as I moved throughout he book, which meant I had to fill the void above somehow.  I chose the words from one of the quotes "The paper burns, but the words fly away" and wrote them separately, then burnt around their edges and placed them within the perspex., floating, flying away...

The two covers are more solid, with edges burned and the Os on the other side of the pages burnt through and their remnants captured at the bottom.

You can get a sense of the scale of the book from these shots. Firstly laid out ready for stitching.

 Then me stitching, with some of the pages folded up.

And so to photographing the final book - I will get a professional to do this for sure as I really can't do it justice here, with my made up dark sheets over windows and table... but I hope you get a sense of what it might look like.

There are one or two things to fix before the work will be shown publicly, but I know now what I need to do and have the time to do it.  I think the books will be proud centrepieces for our exhibition of Pas de Deux at Noosa Regional Gallery in October-November this year.