Thursday, March 23, 2023

Thursday Thoughts...

“Hope is optimism with a broken heart” 

Nick Cave

I recently read Nick Cave's conversations with Sean O'Hagan "Faith, Hope and Carnage". I have written briefly about Nick in previous posts, and his deep thoughtfulness, seeking, and generosity really do appeal to me.

I enjoyed the book, hefty as it was, because it was broken up into these conversations and you could pick it up and put it down and not lose the thread, because they kind of covered off different things in each one.  Honest and open, each with a thirst for knowledge.

The notion of hope has engaged me for a while. I think I remain in the exploratory phase, trying to come to terms with what it means; how it can be described; and what the point of it is?

So this is a new and different take on it.  I have come to think that hope is not optimism. Optimism sort of remains positive no matter what. Hope seems to seek the positive, whilst trying to do something about it.

So perhaps Nick Cave has captured my understanding of hope - optimism that isn't quite whole; that is a little bit broken, that isn't positive irrespective. Hope perhaps recognises that things need fixing and chooses to do something about it.

I guess it could also be read that optimism with a broken heart is actually hope-less; but that's what I like about these ponderings. I get to look at things from both sides and decide where I think I land...

Hope can be optimism that needs action to make it right again.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Learning Letterpress

Just before we headed off, Barry and I spent the day with a few representatives of the Warwick Historical Society who have been gifted the massive task of getting the old Warwick Daily Newspaper Press back and working. Not all of it by any means; but having saved the equipment, they would like to be able to use some of it.

Warwick is about 3-4 hours' drive away from Maleny so it was quite the trek for them.

We packed a lot in as we tried to teach the basics of setting type by hand, but also share with them some of the tricks of the trade about setting up a press and studio working space. Things we have learned like labelling, sorting, categorising etc. In the morning we set about learning about tools and equipment and setting metal type.

We discussed how metal type ranges from very small (8pt here) to large (72pt). Such a contrast!

We also had a 'teachable moment' when we were proofing a postcard - the s wasn't printing properly.  So we had a look and altho its hard to see; the piece of type had clearly been damaged and  couldn't pick up ink where it had been a bit flattened.

After lunch we printed the metal type on postcards on a platen press, (no photos sorry!) then set up wood type and printed it on A4 pages on a proofing press.

Lots was learned and noted.

I liked the playfulness of this; the bright colours, the random type, the variation in bottom and top lines and the touch of gold powder at the end. It evoked a carnival atmosphere for sure!

This was a tricky lock-up but B managed it beautifully alongside the maker.

Who also decided to have a play with different colours and diagonal rolling.

Of course I loved the minimalist nature of this one With the word set in the middle of an A4 page it looked stunning. When we did a quick postcard sized print it looked surprisingly different. Both good, and headed to the studio of the maker as an elegant, thoughtful, reminder.

It was a big day all round, but a truly satisfying one.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Continuing Making The Shape of Things II

 So I had worked out the format and the paper, and the folding and the layout and the writing.

The next phase was to select papers and decide placement of the various elements.

I tend to like odd numbers, and each book ended up with 5 cut outs, 7 embosses and 9 paper chunks.

I have mentioned previously that these collaborative books are for me, siblings. They are not perfect replicable editions of each other, and so I found that my calligraphy was larger in some places on one than the other; it went further across the page on one of them and the like.  And yet you just know they are related when you look at them.

Here I'm checking and comparing that I have the right number and same sizes of paper chunks. I think I was also comparing should one book be dark and one light? And you can see an error I made in the calligraphy underneath, as well as some variations on shapes where I thought something needed to be larger, and changing placement of bits for better balance.

A dark, a light and medium in progress...

And then converting to two light ones!

Folded with their title pages, ready to attach to their covers

Testing cover book cloth with card to make the slipcase, and thinking that the tonality is working.

Two sibling peas in their pods.

The siblings unfurled...

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Thursday Thoughts...

“It is craft, after all, that carries an individual’s ideas to the far edge of familiar territory” 

Mary Oliver

I daresay that Mary Oliver is speaking here of the craft of writing, poetry in particular.

Which doesn't stop me from thinking on how to apply this thought to making and creating.

In applying the word craft here, I am thinking of skill, wisdom, and knowledge that has been built up over time. I am thinking of techniques that have been finely honed, understandings of materials that are deep.  I am thinking about familiarity with the patterns and ebbs and flows of how work comes into being that experience has shown us.

This craft of making is definitely what takes us out to the edge; to the boundary; to the liminal space between the known and the yet to be known. That place where our work pushes through some barrier which we may not even have been aware of. 

The notion of breakthrough doesn't just happen. Even those moments where we think of as being struck by the muse; clear moments of inspiration, or  easy discoveries of the way forward, we owe to our craft. To all the things we have gathered in harvest as we have come to be where we are now. All that has gone before enables and facilitates these moments of breakthrough.

Those moments that happen on the far edge of familiar territory...

Like a rainbow comet over a familiar valley...

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Making The Shape of Things II

 My inspiration for the second book in this series The Shape of Things II, came from doing this quick calendar of the year.  I had struggled so much to work out what the shape of the year looked like. I need the shape, the outline, the blocks of time before I can settle and work new things in and around my commitments.

Once we had decided we would head back to Scotland wth my Dad for probably his last trip, the year began to take shape, quite literally here. Chunks of time were blocked out.

One of the challenges Annwyn and I have set ourselves, is to use unfamiliar or not often used book formats.

Way back when (in the late 1990s) I made my first book. It was part of the submission process for CLAS and I became one of the first Australian calligraphers to be accepted at Intermediate Level.  

Anyhoo, it was a fold out book, based on a 15th Century Doctor's notebook found in the British Library (the pattern and information is found in the book BookWorks by Sue Doggett).

I felt the format worked as the original book format was medically based (as is my sense of time warp due to Covid and its associated impacts); and it also seemed to work as a guide to the future.

I chose to work again with A4 paper; partly because it will connect a number of my books in the series; and partly because I am never sure where I will be when I am making and it may be all I have available! My previous book was made in Scotland where I only had an A4 pad of watercolour paper...

So based on my calendar, and modifying the folds to reflect the 12 months of the year - 2 x 6 month rows - I tried to reflect the chunks of time a bit too literally.

On a practice sheet, I cut out a chunk and realised I would have no book structure left if I continued along that path, so indicative chunks and blocks of time it became. With options for embossing, papers and cut-outs to represent the chunks.

Some embossing chunks being prepared.

It never ceases to amaze me how many mockups and tests and trials I do - all to make the final book look so effortless, as if it could only ever have been the way it is!

I chose my paper and tested my words. I cut large sheets of paper down into A4 size to work with. I only needed two books, but I prepared four just in case I stuffed up along the way. See earlier note about tests and trials above!

The five lines read:

 Some edges now frame time

Events are set more solidly

Things still get bumped or disappear

Shapes emerge and hold

I begin to the shape of things

The next steps were cutting, embossing and pasting. More to follow...

Sunday, March 12, 2023

The Shape of Things II - together!

 Well Annwyn and I have navigated the postal systems successfully and her book landed with me this week.

I love how a single starting point with a single theme; combined with an exchange of papers and a suggestion to try structures that we aren't too familiar with, can provide such diversity and interest.

Our first books showed this well; and our second books continue the trend.

Annwyn's book references a yard stick and her blog explains everything so well! It is a beautifully-crafted and presented book, I had such a lovely time with it.

My books retains the series title The Shape of Things II; but heads in a different direction. My first book referenced how tricky it was to find firm ground beneath our feet; to be confident of the future, to have any sense of certainty in commitments.  This time as I began to plan the year I could begin to see the shape of things!  

So my words describe that emerging sense of knowing and feeling sure about somethings, the shapes and forms come through a calendar, and the structure hints at medicine and health by using a doctor's notebook format.

My book is once again relatively small in the hand (11cm h x 5.5cm w x 1 cm d) covered in a grey book cloth, held by  band of the same material, nestled in a card slipcase to protect it.

The title appears on the first page you see, and then the book (a single page) unfurls to reveal its fullness.

My next couple of blogposts will explain my thinking and my making, but it is so great to see the pair of them together!

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Thursday Thoughts...

"I guess a big part of serious fiction’s purpose is to give the reader, who like all of us is sort of marooned in her own skull, to give her imaginative access to other selves." 

David Foster Wallace

Funnily enough this one resonated today because I had said to B just yesterday - "I know I spend too much time in my head...", when I could have described it as being "marooned in my own skull" which sounds far more dramatic.

I also responded to it because instead of using the default male; he chose to identify the reader as she/her and that is, in its own way, still kind of shocking. Can you believe?

The language he uses is also nice  "giving imaginative access to" is for me, an a great descriptor of what fiction can achieve.  It can spark your imagination. He doesn't over promise that fiction can get you a new life or let you be in another's life in a different way, but he seems to suggest that fiction can unlock a door, or flick a switch, or any of those notions which can then give your imagination access.

One bit I wonder about is his insertion of the word 'serious' before fiction.  I took it out and pondered doesn't all fiction give you imaginative access? Why does it have to be serious? Or perhaps it was the purpose of serious fiction, rather than the purpose of all fiction?

Not the worst place to be marooned... Heron Island, 2013.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Daily Words

Each morning Barry and I start the day with a fresh orange juice, selecting a word from our Daily Word bowl as we look out our window on the world.

We have had this practice for many years and the set of words within this bowl were written way back in 2004 when we were living in Hobart. As we have moved and had different lives and different vistas, we have replaced the bowl with one Barry made; but other than that these words have been our daily companions.

I just liked the look of them this morning and I liked the words. Beauty and thankfulness.

I am a bit stumped as to how I selected this set of words way back when. They are a muddled mix of nouns and verbs, some inspirational, some less so. I will sometimes say I think we should take all the tough words out - like responsibility and humility - and then I am reminded of the balance in life and how to try and make the best of some things.

The cards started out with crisp, sharp, knife-cut edges, but daily use has softened and rounded their corners; and a number of them have become foxed since we live in a high humidity and often rain-filled environment.

I remember making the marks on the back of the large sheet of paper by dribbling quite bright blue ink onto it and then blowing the ink around through a drinking straw! 

The bowl sits on this humble wooden curtain ring; elevating it slightly.

I have since made several sets of Daily Words for folk and they have morphed  into Rainbows. I have settled on sets of either 70 verbs or 70 nouns. 

I will often make sets with calligraphy words written in rainbow colours - ten words in each of the seven rainbow colours. For smaller orders I will do 5 words each in each rainbow colour.

Some of the sets and their making can be found here and here .

It is a delightful practice which we carry with us.  We randomly select a word, and then we think an it a bit, how might we bring it forth in the day? what might the universe be telling us? oftentimes thinking oh that sounds like a great day! when the words are lovely...

Sunday, March 5, 2023

The Shape of Things II bibs and bobs

 My book has made it Annwyn in the UK whilst hers is yet to arrive here, so I thought I might show some of my workings towards the second book in the series; then be able to show both of them together when it lands; and then give the full run down on the making later on as well!

I am not pre-empting too much here as Annwyn has already opened and read the book; but here are a few things that hint at what it became.

Some layout and design ideas.

Some text and paper combo ideas

Whoooo - cutting out that space was way too much!

I needed to look for not-transparent papers to use.

You can see that I was trying to use the lettering style I had recently developed and played with when doing Brody's online course.

When I'm making books as part of an exchange or collaboration, I oftentimes try to make reference to what was going on at the time, such as this workshop lettering style placing me (and the book's making) very much in the first part of 2023... Like when I used the southern sky constellations which were in the sky at the time we were making these books, in this book Starry Starry Night...when I added my bits to Susan's beautiful pages.

And bits left over and waiting to be re-used.

These tiny pieces made me wonder when is a scrap ready to be scrapped?

And then the other day as we walked into town, leaves had fallen and stained the relatively new concrete.  I love how they left their mark, and added an organic touch to a tough urban surface.

So many folk try to make this transfer happen on fabric and paper - and here Nature just does it ever so naturally...