Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Art a'wandering

As I mentioned, Barry and I spent a week or so in the North Island of New Zealand recently.  One of the places we visited was the town of Kerikeri.  We went here specifically because we had read about Wharepuke Sculpture Park (art-park.co.nz).  Extra bonuses included the Wharepuke Print Studio, Art at Wharepuke Gallery and a fabulous coffee shop.

You can imagine we spent quite some time there.

The Sculpture Park walk was a delight. I really love wandering through gardens and discovering art - having sculpture peep out at you or suddenly appear; being dwarfed by them or looking intently at the bark on a tree to find some.

And so it was here - a gathering of 42 artworks in different media, from all over the world.

Here are some of my favourites:

I loved the pencils. By Clare Sadler, and called Abandoned Old Tec they were made of stone. I loved the way she put the nicks in them, the bit where we used to scrape a sliver off and write our name on it; the way the lead was evident from top to bottom. Simply stunning.

But then the dandelions were just gorgeous.

By Jane and Mario Downes, called Stop the Clock, they were made from scrap metal and stood so tall, much taller than the dandelion field they stood in.  I loved the many stages they were displayed in - full blow, half-blown, spent. They did everything that blown dandelions do - encourage us to dream and play and wish...

Alice Burns' Brave New World took small pieces of fused glass and porcelain and wired them to tree branches. The work had fragments of fingerprints embedded in it, telling stories of people and connections across the world.

 In Wharepuke Revisited, Anton Forde carved recycled railway sleepers to create seven female forms, each an individual and with their own toanga, neck piece, reflecting important elements of life. They were very calm and felt like a family gathering in the forest, steadfast and timeless.

More carving, but this time of driftwood. Webber Booth carved driftwood pieces reminiscent of the burrowing that sea worms do - creating these lovely intricate tunnels. Patterns of Decay is its name.

And then you come across the gorgeous vibrant crazy kiwis by Di McMillan (Kiwi+ Stuff).
Constructed with all sorts of recycled materials - netting, cables, plugs, keys, pipes and more they each glow with individuality and just make you smile.

My final favourite was called Close to Natural - Tree Rings by Anna van den Nieuwelaar. Each of these tree rings has its own unique bark imprint on the inside and fits snugly into place on the trunk of the tree. Made of glass, they were simply divine.

After our walk we were lucky to spend time in the printmaking studio with Mark Graver - an amazing printmaker who wrote the book on Non-Toxic Printmaking. An excellent resource (and he signed the copy I bought!).

We really appreciated the time he spent with us, and were able to purchase this wee print - absolutely gorgeous.

A delicious day and I really do hope to go back. Printmaking exchange or residency anyone????

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Quietly and Gently...

I mentioned I have two teaching commitments so far this year, one is Black Beauty and the other is Quietly and Gently.  This workshop is a five-day workshop held as part of the Wrap in Rocky event.

Held in Rockhampton 26 June - 2 July 2016, this event brings together 12 fibre tutors from around Australia and lots of folk who love paper and textiles.

Here is the blurb for the workshop I am teaching:

Sometimes we just need to be quiet, to slow down and be peaceful.

This workshop will explore the beauty and elegance of working white on white. The limited palette provides both challenges and opportunities, with serene outcomes.

Working on paper, you will have the opportunity to explore a myriad of ways to create texture and meaning on paper, using different materials and techniques. Embossing, printing, cutting, lettering and stitching will all form part of the week, and bookmaking will bring it all together.

Participants will create a sample book of techniques as well as a more formal book in which they tell their own story. We will also create a light slipcase to protect one of the books.

Suitable for all levels.

I am preparing lots of samples and ideas at the moment; I think I have pulled together the book format and am enjoying exploring all the possibilities of white on white.  As ever, you learn so much when you teach.

Here is some of the play I have been doing:

Cutting trials...without rubbing out or tidying up much

With shadows!

An angel or a bird?

Mucking around with old typewriters...

And here are some examples of previous work that might entice folk to attend.





Head to the Wrapt in Rocky website or Facebook page for more information.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Thursday Thoughts...

“Kindness is in our power even when fondness is not.” 

 Samuel Johnson

I sometimes stop and think about the qualities I appreciate the most in other people (and therefore I guess, hope to be able to emulate in myself).

The one that most often burbles to the top is generosity.  I think I just really love people who have generous spirits; and whose instinct, and way of being, is to give.

But I also value kindness in so many ways.  In recent times I have been the recipient of so many acts of kindness, both large and small, and not one has gone unnoticed, even in my grief-haze. Kindness is so valued and appreciated.

And so I am reminded that small acts of kindness by me, can be truly appreciated.

It might seems strange to turn a beautiful experience around by having this quote, but I'm not trying to say people have been kind because they are not fond of me! My mind has just wandered around the kindness I have experienced, and then flipped to what this quote was saying.

This quote from Samuel Johnson acts as a bit of a reminder for me about how kindness can and should be made available to all, and not withheld from anybody, no matter our feelings for them.

Sometimes I may not feel fond of a person for whatever reason, but I am reminded that I can still be kind to them, and I have absolutely no reason to be unkind. I think my experience of recent kindness has been so valued, I am encouraged to consider being kinder, even when I may not be fond...

From beautiful flowers; to food hampers; to messages of care and interweb hugs; to meals cooked and delivered; to help with washing up as families have gathered; to photographs and memories shared, I have been surrounded by kindness and I am grateful.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

More Black Beauty

As I mentioned I was back in the studio for a few hours over the weekend, planning and thinking and sorting my head.

I have two teaching commitments so far this year - the first is in May and the second is in June-July.

First up I am teaching a one-day course for the Calligraphers of South East Queensland called Black Beauty.  It is all about exploring the vibrancy of colours of all sorts on black paper.

The workshop will have participants making lots of test swatches on black paper, doing some sampler ideas and then binding them all into an exemplar book. All in one day...

So I have been pondering the best way to structure the day; thinking about the best sort of book to create and doing lots of swatches using different mediums.

There will be coloured pencils.


Watercolour pencils.



I think it is interesting to see how different coloured pencils look on a white background and a black one. Black gives so many colours lift and life I think.

And here is the play table.

It is a good feeling to be back in the studio, sorting and sifting, planning and preparing.

I hope the workshop pans out OK - I love creating sampler books to keep as references and guides and I really enjoy the discoveries and experiments along the way. I hope that participants do too. I have developed what I hope will be great book style to use - now I have to go and make one from scratch and check that it works as well in real life as it does currently in my mind!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Printery in New Zealand

Barry and I have returned from a short visit (well 10 days) to the north island of New Zealand. We had planned it as a circuit breaker a while ago, and it has proven to be just that.

We didn't go far, yet did much.

One of the unexpected highlights was when on a visit to Russell, an historic town, we popped down to an old house and discovered that it had once been a Catholic Mission, had housed a tannery and a printery and that the whole place had been lovingly restored. We joined the tour a few minutes late and then had a ball discovering all about this gorgeous place Pompallier Mission - and the letterpress and book printing that had happened there.

 The tour began downstair with this mammoth press -

 From France, it was built in 1840 and transported half ways cross the world.

Every book, pamphlet and missal printed here, was printed in the Maori language only. No English version, no French, only Maori, and they were all given away.

This chase was set up downstairs. It is a double chase and would have printed eight pages. Here are four set up.

We went outside and learnt all about the tannery - where they treated sheep's hides to make the leather for covering the books. So many fabulous tools and images.

No idea what these were used for, but oh so delightful to look at!

Where you took the fleece off the hide.

Tools for pummelling and softening the leather.

Then it was upstairs to the First Impression room - with a different press. We would call this the proofing area probably where they checked the layout of the chase, checked for typos  and the height  of the type.

A stunner of a press.

Beautiful image of ink and brayer.

Daubers and a chase

Another locked up chase.

Now my favourite part. 

After proofing, taking the first impressions and checking that everything as fine - the chase was then hooked onto this hook and passed back downstairs to the real printing press for production. I loved the notion that a chase with type all locked up could be swung between the floors! I treat mine with kid gloves and much hope.

The room next door was the bindery and there were lots of lovely things there as well.

Quite an impressive book press.

Beautiful cords getting ready for gluing.

Another favourite thing - when each book was printed and ready to bind, they added bay leaves to it to prevent pests and mould. Lovely.

 One of those unexpected and brilliant moments in a holiday. My head has been such that we had actually planned nothing around this break - we had managed to book accommodation and hire a car and that was it. We had no idea what we would see or do and this was an absolute treat of an afternoon.

I have been back in the studio over the weekend - sorting my head, planning and thinking and am hopeful that I will be able to be making again soon. Looking forward to feeling a little bit creative again I must say!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Thursday Thoughts...

“Once, Picasso was asked what his paintings meant. He said, “Do you ever know what the birds are singing? You don’t. But you listen to them anyway.” So, sometimes with art, it is important just to look.” 

 Marina Abramović

This thought is a little challenging for me.

I often want to understand the work. I often get a lot more out of something if I know a bit about the artist's intention; or of their message or their hopes for a piece. I like to know what they were trying to say.  That may be because I have a solid left brain thing going on as well as my artistic right brain thing.

I have found with my own work that sometimes the message isn't at all clear until I tell somebody about it. They may find the work attractive or pleasant or beautiful; only to discover as I talk about it that it is actually quite challenging and represents for example the deaths of women killed by partners or former partners. So the telling adds another dimension to it completely.

And then of course, there are times where I just like and enjoy looking. Where I don't need to know what it's about because I simply respond to it; I simply embrace its beauty and sit with it.

Perhaps I can latch onto the "sometimes" in the quote - not all the time do I need to know the story, sometimes, just sometimes, I can just look.

A glass piece by Hannah Gason, seen in Canberra a few years back. I have no idea what it is about, but I just melted inside when I sat and looked at it. It was beautiful.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A rescue mission

My book Starry Starry Night suffered an injury as it was being packed up from the Pas de Deux exhibition.

It is never nice news too hear that one of your pieces has been injured, and given this book was based on a reduction lino print, I really really hoped it wasn't hurt too much, because as is the want with reduction lino printing, the block had been destroyed on the way through.

In some ways, the damage was minimal - it had been a bit bent and crushed and then torn.  No damage to the actual artworks involved as such, but a delicate operation needed to restore it to its former self. The main issue being that the tear was about 8cm long, and along a fold that was critical to the concertina nature of the book.  It has also torn across the page a bit, which would be easier to repair.

Barry and I worked on it together - two heads and two lots of ideas being better than one I figured.

The original tear from a few angles.

First of all we tried to iron some of the dents and creases out. Worked OK.

Then we tested a couple of glues with some black Japanese tissue type paper to see how they would go as backing for the fold.  It was the torn fold that worried me most - so we decided to use these strips of black along the height of the fold to create a hinge from behind.

And so the first job on the book was to glue down the flap that had been torn/lifted.

And then we adhered the strips to the back. The second fold had a small tear at the top as well, but we reinforced the length of the fold for strength and so they looked tidier.

And then the job was done. And the book folds up well and you can hardly tell from the front at all. For some unknown reason I didn't take many photos of the finished product - here it is before the final fold was tidied up.

There are signs that it has been mended, but the integrity of the book still holds, as does the reading of it and the turning of the pages. Big relief.