Thursday, April 24, 2014

Thursday Thoughts...

“Books are the perfect entertainment; no commercials, no batteries, hours of enjoyment for each dollar spent. What I wonder is why everybody doesn’t carry a book around for those inevitable dead spots in life.” 

 Stephen King

This is so true of me and my family.  A number of us own what we call 'book bags'. Those sort of library-bag equivalents that allow us to carry a book or two with us for those moments, those 'inevitable dead spots in life' when a book will come in handy.

Mine hang behind the bedroom door and I select one depending on size of book, where I'm going and what I'm wearing and does it match! Laugh. I know mum never goes for a drive in the car without packing the book bag - often stuffing it with more books than she can possibly read, but knowing she might dip into all of them at some point during the trip.

It gives me great comfort to have a book bag with me, knowing that whatever delay or quiet moments, I can reach in and pick up my book.  Barry and I were on duty at the Printmakers' exhibition on Monday afternoon - the quietest shift of all; everybody was pretty much on their way home by 1-4pm on Easter Monday, so we packed our book bag with books and I also took my iPad just in case.  I think in the slow moments we both managed to read a few pages; but it was just nice to have something to do, that we wanted to do, when there was down time.

So true as Stephen King says as well - no commercials, no batteries and when on a plane, no need to power down during take off and landing!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Book meeting and anniversary!

Well, today is UNESCO World Book Day and as has become part of our tradition, Susan and I got together with our books to let them meet.

And my, what a marvellous moment it was to see the pair of these books sitting happily together, resolved and perfect for what they are, and who we are each are.

On World Book Day back in 2012, we met and decided to make a book together for the first time . From that random get-together a beautiful body of collaborative work has emerged, showing us both how far we can go; and what the nature of true collaboration can produce.

Last year we also met with our books, and so on our second anniversary of collaborating we met once more.

For whatever reason, and even at this point of the game Susan and I were still discussing and debating this today, we both really struggled with these books.  They were hard.  They did not want to venture forth fully formed and I know I just struggled and struggled.

But holding it in my hands and working my way through it quietly, my book is now my friend.

So here are our two books together.  Delightfully different yet still complementary.

Mine is wrapped in some very soft fabric…almost cocooned.

I love how Susan resolved her struggle with imagery - and the format of the book is wonderful. I love that the story can be told in so many ways…

 We thought that given it was an anniversary of sorts, we might also bring all of our books together - just to reflect on the journey; to remember moments and parts of the books that we may have forgotten. Each book represents a point in time for us as well - we remember what was happening when we made them and they are imbued with emotion and memories.

Here are our first books and our last books together - so soft!

And here they are all together, a gorgeous mix of this and that. So many lovely memories.

I look across them and know I would never have made mine without Susan's involvement. I would never have ventured places or pushed myself so hard to resolve something so that it was the best it could be, and I know I never take this time working together for granted.  It is special and whilst we both do our own things, together, we also do beautiful things.

The care, respect and gentle nudging and encouragement seems to bring out the best in us both, in a way, and for that I am grateful.

I'll take you through my book in detail next time...

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Daily Doings...

I had the best fun over the weekend; ignoring all the "must-dos" and "should-dos" for a day, I learnt how to bind a book.

So many threads to pull together in this story - but it starts with my daily "To-Do" lists.

I use recycled paper from the printer, then print 4 to a page, cut them up and make up pads of them. I write on them each day and then I was recycling them. But back in March last year I decided to keep a year's worth in a stack and do something with them. I think my note to self at the time said "scanned and photographed, collaged".

The stack grew over time until I had this bundle. They sat on the kitchen bench, and the odd spill occurred over the course of the year I'd say.

Another thread. Back in his youth, as part of getting through his first degree, Barry worked in a bindery, where they bound books. So when I got to the end of the to-do year I asked if he might help me bind these single pages into book, and he very kindly spent time showing me how to do it.

I had so much fun. In just one day we went from a random pile of pages to a bound book - such happiness and glee!

I clamped and sawed and glued and pressed.

Barry got all posh on me and suggested a leather spine..

And by the end of the day, still having done heaps of things in between, I had bound my daily doings for the year!

 And the next day I wrote on the cover.

You can even open it and turn the pages like a real book…

I had simply hoped to somehow capture my daily doings into something - and along the way, I have learnt how to bind abook and now have a prototype to remind for when I want to do a proper one.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Thursday Thoughts...

“Happiness is in the quiet, ordinary things. A table, a chair, a book with a paper-knife stuck between the pages. And the petal falling from the rose, and the light flickering as we sit silent.” 

Virginia Woolf

I am sitting here a bit weary, a bit tired and and thinking about this quote. Happiness is so much in the ordinary things of my life, sitting quietly and reading book, working in the garden; baking and cooking in the kitchen, chatting to my friends; savouring a really good cup of coffee or a glass of wine; companionable silence with Barry; laughing together over silly things. So many precious daily moments are the basis of happiness for me.

I often wonder about the overall pursuit of happiness - I'm not sure it's realistic that we are always happy or that things are only worth it if you're happy.  I like to think about contentment more - do I feel content with life and what I'm doing? I don't have to feel happy about all the time, but I like to check that I am content and not full of discontent about something.

I think I could have been happy alongside Virginia - sitting silently, a candle flickering as the rose petal drops.  I could be happy there for sure.

A verdant green vegetable garden also makes me happy - and it's green this week to join in with Jennifer and Julie's search for Roy G. Biv - the rainbow.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Easter exhibition

Easter seems to have come around quickly - even though it is later in the year than it often is. It feels a bit fast, because it doesn't seem all that long ago that Maleny Printmakers were having their November collectables exhibition, and here we are again with our Fine Art exhibition!

The exhibitions being held on the four days of the Eater weekend, from 10am - 4pm each day.  Once again we are transforming Sonja's studio into a gallery space, and the show will be at 37 Coral St, Maleny (behind Mukti).

I knew that the first few months of the year would see us away a fair bit and with other key commitments, so I had not really intended to enter any work. Then I said yes I would, and then later on realised that the piece I had in mind had recently been shown in an exhibition up here and therefore was ineligible. Eek.

Suddenly I had to do some printmaking!

The theme for the exhibition is 'Journeys' which leaves lots of room for interpretation. For some it will be reminders of trips and travels; for some it will reflect their personal or spiritual journeys. I think it will be an interesting and diverse range of works.

I gave some glimpses of where I was headed back in this post; and the works are now framed and ready to submit.

 Called "Weekend Getaway" the words are the names of towns along the Range here - and they are in the sequence of a Sunday drive or a weekend visit. As I say in my blurb:

"The hinterland is a wonderful place to visit for a weekend getaway; to drive amongst the lush green hills and valleys, stopping off at all the different towns and villages".

Perhaps they will be a reminder to somebody of their visit here over Easter; or perhaps some tourism folk might think they are a good idea!

We are looking forward to sharing our passion for printmaking again, and I for one am hoping that November doesn't come around quite as quickly...

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Slowly getting there...

It seems to be taking an inordinately long time to pull together this book, but I am edging closer to the end.

It is quite a charming wee thing and I am enjoying the look of it now as I finesse things a bit, fix things up and try to tie it all together.

Susan and I have continued to meet to talk our way through these books and to help each other out.  It has been a true collaboration of minds and support this time around.

The books are due to be completed by 23 April - World Book Day - and they will get together then.

It will be quite delightful to see where all this agony has gotten us, and to share the final results. I promise this will be the last tease so to speak…

My page inserts, all complete and ready to be stitched in place. Susan still has one of them to do her final bit on…so lovely to have her original work in my book!

The play of light on this page, the lovely soft paper...

Something recognisable at last!

An element of Susan's etching and embossing on one of the pages.

Feather-light and flimsy page detail.

Another shot of them waiting to be stitched…


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Thursday Thoughts...

“A lot of good things don’t get made because of too much thinking.” 

 Agnes Martin

As I was looking for a quote on art today, this one popped out of the list and said - I'm yours!  Susan and I spent some time together again yesterday working on our books - discussing where we have gotten to; how we have resolved what needed resolving, and what we plan to do for the next parts.

The agony of bringing these books to life is easing; but may I say, I really feel as if I over-thought this one and did way too much thinking about what and how along the way.

With regards to what Agnes is saying, I think it is possible to consider the quote in two ways - perhaps how I feel now - that I thought so much about this book that I nearly paralysed the process - that the thinking caused me grief and many reversals and moments of angst. That the left side of my brain got all analytical and instructive and really got in the way of creating.

I also think it can mean that we sometimes spend too much time thinking about work we might make; pondering and dreaming, and not actually making it!

I can be guilty on both charges; but am also lucky to have those moments when the creating happens in front of my eyes; without hardly a single thought and I almost watch on in awe…

Sometimes lovely things happen when you stop thinking. And hopefully, sometimes lovely things happen even after you've done heaps of thinking!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Of collective nouns and maps

I love collective nouns; so many of the real ones are so delicious and clever (an ostentation of peacocks, a parliament of owls, a skulk of thieves) with lots of puns at play.

A dear friend knows this and sent me the most wonderful book for my birthday - An Exaltation of Larks by James Lipton.  It is filled with the history of many collective nouns, and then the wished-for collective nouns. Some of my favourites in this latter classification include: a marvel of unicorns; an oxymoron of athletic scholarships; a discord of experts; a tug of kites; a blur of impressionists; a browse of readers… as you can see imaginations were on the run as these were written.

Which in a roundabout way brings me to an exhibition I saw on the weekend in Melbourne.  My bestie and I were there for a Helen Reddy concert (I Am Woman Hear Me Roar!) and in-between the chats, shops and coffees, we visited the State Library where Nicholas Jones had an exhibition called A Conspiracy of Cartographers.  I of course thought this was a collective noun and just had to go!

As it turns out, it was actually a quote. It comes from a line of dialogue in British playwright Tom Sheppard's play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, written in 1966.

Rosencrantz: I don't believe it anyway.
Guildenstern: What?
Rosencrantz: England.
Guildenstern: Just a conspiracy of cartographers then?

Which is pretty funny anyhow.

For his Creative Fellowship at the Library, Jones created a series of altered book sculptures, inspired by the atlas Theatrum Orbis Terrarum by Abraham Ortelius (1574).

Jone used some of these maps to inspire work with books he found and bought, to create a series of book sculptures.  They were displayed in cases in the beautiful La Trobe reading room - which has a huge dome and lots of windows, so I couldn't photograph them any other way than by putting my camera on the case and clicking. So you never really get the full book. Still you get an idea…

All of the books chosen for carving had a link to the area on the map, and every book was meticulously carved by hand. An enjoyable discovery on a quick trip south!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Thursday Thoughts...

The wonderful thing about books is that they allow us to enter imaginatively into someone else’s life …. But the real surprise is that we also learn truths about ourselves, about our own lives, that somehow we hadn’t been able to see before. 

Katherine Patterson

Books really are about firing up the imagination, and offering us moments and opportunities for our imaginations to let loose, to wander through other people's lives; explore other cultures and other times.

It is a real wonder and joy to me that books can seriously carry you away - to have you enter into the fear; the joy; the extravagance; and the desolation.  I find it remarkable that a book can transport me far away in my imagination, and in my sense of time and place for the here and now.

Books do let you go away without going away - I often feel as if I have to shake my head a few times and re-think where I am or what I was supposed to be doing after I have been totally absorbed by a book. Re-orienting myself to here and now can take a wee while.

But truthfully, when you react to to something, identify with something or respond in a certain way to something written in a book - it can reveal truths about you and the life you are living, not any imagined one. In these moments I often stop and write down the passage that set me off; that made me think there was more to the words than just the words themselves as part of the narrative - that they held meaning for me and my world.

A little bit of my sub-tropical world…

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Playing with printing

Lesley from Printed Material sent me some great information a while back about gum-arabic transfer etching, written by her friend and printmaker Sue Brown.

I have been meaning to try it out for ages and the other day thought I had to give it a go. I had an idea in mind and thought this might be the technique to help me get there. You see, as a calligrapher, it's quite hard to do calligraphic printmaking as the letters are always reversed.

If I write into or onto a plate beautifully, then if I print it, the lettering will be reversed. If I try to write backwards, well all the beauty of the writing gets lost and it looks a bit more like a child having a go at running writing for the first time.

It is possible to do, but I am yet to find the best method for me.

Which brings me to this transfer technique.  I had quite a fine time trialling and testing and apart from one plate which I left to bite for too long - it took everything away including the resist.

I won't go into the details, but a few descriptions might help along the way. I am NO expert as will be revealed…

A carbon-based print of a photograph began the day. Nice and dark and full of contrast. I had to get mine photocopied as I don't have a laser printer.

This was soaked with gum arabic front and back and then wet and placed faced down on the plate.

I used the press to push the transfer onto the plate and got a reasonable result. Not a lot of the resist transferred, but enough I hoped.

Then I etched in copper sulphate solution, and apart from one of the plates as mentioned; these two came out OK…

And then I printed, which was fun. I love the graininess of the image, and yes I learnt a lot about not smearing the wet resist with fingers!

The W didn't come out as well; I think I probably needed more contrast in the original copy as well as better-timed biting. So many things to think about. And more finger-smudging...

What I like about this process is if I started with beautiful writing and made a copy of it; then it would be transferred in reverse onto the plate, then would appear the right way round once printed.  Quite a bit of fun to be had here I think...

Friday, March 28, 2014

Continuing the dance...

Susan and I got together on Wednesday to continue exploring where to next with our books. As many of you know, during our collaboration, with each book we choose to collaborate differently, to explore the spectrum of collaboration to speak.

This time around we were right at one end; where the book is primarily all our own work, but at regular intervals we meet to talk and work through issues - peer mentoring I guess it would be called in the business world.  We take problems we are facing and directions we are unsure of to the meeting and chat and sort and sift and get guidance from a fresh pair of eyes.  In addition, we will also be asking the other to add in something to our book that we can't do our selves.

This time around we also gave ourselves a concrete notion - birds, nests, eggs and feathers. These are quite solid notions - they are real, they exist and people know what they look like!

Both of us have struggled and struggled with these books; I wonder if it's  because they are purely ours (we are dictating what the other will contribute) AND they have to be to a theme. I also think it might be that neither of us is very obvious in our work - so producing images of birds or nests or eggs or feathers feels a bit alien, and not really us.

Anyhow, my book is based around some words and the sense I have about nests being nurturing and protective things…

Here are some images of the work in progress...glimpses because even I don't know what the whole might look like yet!

Playing with words - to include or not I wonder?

More words - looking lovely I think.


Exploded words on the paper - creating beautiful marks, white on white.

Trialling some more words…

Loving the soft edges of an insert…

And where I left off today, feather-like thread and stitching.

It is going to be a quiet book; and not obviously one about birds or nests or eggs or feathers…but I hope it still has a connection.