Thursday, December 5, 2019

Thursday Thoughts...

“What we can or cannot do, what we consider possible or impossible, is rarely a function of our true capability. It is more likely a function of our beliefs about who we are.” 

Albert Camus

I imagine that this quote could pertain to two of my three rotating topics - life and art; but today I am pondering art so about art it shall be.

There is a certain truth isn't there in trying to understand how we limit ourselves; how powerfully our brain can direct and or limit our pursuits. And I think creatively we are often blocked by whatever odd little stories we tell ourselves about something; or about ourselves.

Whether or not we can do that, are good enough to, know what we're doing or should be doing something else.  All are stories we tell ourselves along the way at times.

Who know what we could do if we didn't tell ourselves a story but rather asked ourselves the questions what if or why not?

I pushed myself so many times when working with Susan on our Pas de Deux collaboration...

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Ode to Stones

So, I got my act together and managed to complete this Variable Edition of 5 books.

I had wanted to test and try a range of things when I began, so the books are on different papers, with different surface treatments and are different sizes.  In the end one of them has a completely different finished look as well.

All I know is that I know a whole lot more about letterpress and making now, than I did when I began making these more than 18 months ago.

I dismantled the ones I had stitched and prepared earlier because they were so flimsy.  I had tried to rescue them a few times with different approaches, but in the end all the covers were binned.

See what I mean by flimsy? An overhead shot of the spine with it nicely held at the tail but way too much play in between. To this day I don't know what I was thinking...

A couple of the earlier covers, ready for binning.

And the first look at one of the finished ones.

I prepared a firm-soft cover in Magnani Pescia Grey to act as a wrap around cover.

I unpicked all the stitching on all five books and started again - this time with a simple coptic stitch holding the book block together.

I stitched in a fly leaf both front and back and these slip under the inside fold of the cover to hold the book block in place.

 And so to the words and printing.

The books are all about stone circles  or standing stones which we love to visit and discover when in Scotland.  They are majestic and powerful and I really feel their strength and presence.

I did some naive type lino prints of different circles, wrote some words, sorted out the layout and printed the lino then the letterpress.

This one is on cream BFK Rives paper.

 You can see here how the fly leaves slip within the fold of the cover.

Four of the Variable Edition of 5 - the long tall one is Gmund Cotton 300gsm covered in book cloth to try something new and different.

The two tall ones have Grey Pescia paper for pages with some marks on the paper.

The fifth in the edition where I just taped the sides together to create a simpler journal sketch book kind of thing. Also nice in its own way, with grey rolled ink as the background.

 So many learnings, so many steps forward then backwards, but before the year is out they are complete!

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Little bits of making

So I have been trying to commit to more time in the studio - to engage more actively with my making; to try and have it become a bigger part of my everyday.

I have been tidying up the studio space as well as my sewing room and I am interested to discover just how much I am gripped by enthusiasm for the possibilities that now await, rather than responding to the sense of chaos and unfinished business everywhere.

Observing your own life at times can be intriguing.

So studio time this week has seen me testing and trialling some printing on fabrics; trying a wee lino cut for the first time in ages; picking up some books that had defeated me for 18 months and finding new paths forward; and stitching together a small pamphlet book for my sewing group.

Small successes.

I had thought it would be fun to try and do a small (7cm x 7cm) lino print of the cottage in Scotland. And so I reduced a photo to black and white, traced it and transferred it onto a 10cm x 10cm piece of lino.

And then began to carve. Enthusiastically I dug out bits in the sky, and then tried to work my way around the small details of the cottage, the fences, the washing line. the gables, the door, the stonework...

What was I thinking?!?!  Not the easiest of things to attempt after years of not doing it, but hey.

I did a quick ink, masking off with some tape I had recovered from around some tubs of ink.

And realised that I had clearly cut our bits that should have stayed, but this was a beginning and I didn't beat myself up.

I pulled a couple of prints and smiled.

So many learnings from that small and quick process. I think in part because I had started something just for the fun of it, that I had worked out a few tricks for myself, and that nobody was invested in it I could really look at it clearly and work out what I liked and what I would do differently.

It feels surprisingly good to have printed something that doesn't work, yet offers so much potential.

And then it was back to the books that hadn't worked out 18 months ago. So many things were tricky with them and the documented process is full of ups and downs and roundabouts from way back when...

I said to Barry it felt as if they had been sitting there for that long quietly criticising me. It was a fairly negative conversation so I was interested to see that I suddenly wanted to pick them up and do something with them; that in fact I thought I might have worked out what to do to rescue them.

I had been stuck with the covers.  For whatever reason way back then I just hadn't thought through how I would attach the pages and the cover and they had ended up being totally loose and flimsy and I must say, rather awful and rather disappointing. So they sat there in their flimsy, weakened state for over a year.

I tested the idea of a cover, and then thought to make it better I could emboss something so pulled out the lino I had carved for the pages and tried to emboss/deboss it.  Interesting result but not what I had hoped for.  However, the trials remain in the ether as options in the future for something...

And then to my wee pamphlet stitched book.

My sewing class is finishing up next week forever, which makes me sad, yet grateful for the amazing time we have had and the many many things I have learned and made.  A few weeks ago I thought to go early on a couple of occasions and sit with Narelle (seamstress extraordinaire) and get her to to tell me some of the things she knows and which she says in class but which we always forget.

I wrote them down and typed them up.  I could have just printed them on A4 paper, stapled them and shared them around with everybody; or simply emailed them through to people, but I thought they deserved a little bit more and created a booklet in Word, then printed them onto 150gsm paper, creased them, pierced them and sewed them with a pamphlet stitch.

They look and feel nice and will be a nice memento (and a useful one I hope) for all of us as we head off to be independent sewers (eek).

A few tips and tricks for those of us who will forget - like which direction to press your seams; the sewing sequence for pants; how to do french seams and so on.

As ever, spines and stitching, I  love.

Its fun to realise just how much I have enjoyed no major achievements, some resolutions and some fun exploration and learning.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Thursday Thoughts...

“For a while there I read mostly poetry, which seemed to ratify or at least dignify my outsized feelings”.

Nam Le

Reflecting back on his teenage years here, it feels to me like a lovely description of what to do with outsized feelings!  I even think its nice that he calls them outsized, rather than oversized feelings - it adds that sense of things just not fitting when you are younger and don't quite know what to do with them.

Anyhow, it is also a lovely way of saying how poetry can just fit.  Oftentimes I think poetry is a place where you can find what you need, when you need it and sometimes without even knowing that you needed it.

Poetry is so vast and so various, and yet mostly it's available and easy to get into.  You can flick through a book of poems and find out fairly quickly if they are for you or not.

Sometimes there will only be one or two which grab you - but my goodness do they grab.  They speak right to you, personally, and they help makes sense of your world.

And just for that moment you can sit with them and feel heard.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Reviving a commission

Several years ago I was asked to print a small wall piece as a farewell gift for the Chairperson of a Board.  A week or so ago I was asked to do another one - along the same lines, for another farewell.

I went back and tried to find photographs and other details of the work I had done but there didn't seem to be a lot around.

Eventually I found a proof which was a big help.

And so I set about replicating it. And it was slightly trickier than I had thought it might be; and I was grateful I had kept some pretty good notes.

So I went and found all the type - the different typefaces and the sizes, as well as quite a few spaces.

I measured the width of each line on the proof and worked out what I was aiming at - but it took several goes to get the spacing right.

My first carbon paper proof against the older work, and I realised that I must have left the metal furniture out between the lines of type in the original, as the text there was tighter.

At this point I wished I had taken a photo of the locked up chase previously so I would know for sure.

Note to self...

Here is the photo this time with the interlinear metal furniture.

Did I prefer the loose or the tight look? I inked it up and compared.

And went with the tighter look.

Here is the photo with the the interlinear metal furniture removed! Just in case there is a next time.

May I say those plastic tweezers are so helpful when lifting small bits of metal away from small type and trying desperately not to have the whole block tip over and scatter!

Inking was fun.  After proofing with black I thought it would be nice to go with one of the greens that form part of the organisation's logo.

I had done some calligraphic work for them previously with the green and it  had been well received.
And so to colour-mixing. A little bit of this and a little bit of that.

Because it is only the larger typeface that gets inked in colour I tried to make sure the ink didn't bleed onto the lines above and below.

Sticky taped paper barely works in case you ever need to know.

However, this non stick painter's tape is a dream to work with and goes on and off easily and doesn't move once in place. Another note to self.

Inked up and no bleed...

Testing the colour mix to the logo and deciding that it works fine.

And then ta da as they say in the classics.  A couple of prints that worked. One to the framers and two just to send in case they want to use them again as gifts in the future.

In case you are wondering.  The organisation (McAuley Community Services) provides services to homeless women.  They have four guiding principles: compassion, justice, community and hospitality.

Working with the CEO, we determined that the first three lines - family violence, women and homelessness are experienced, then their interaction with McAuley (justice) enables them to afterwards experience safety, home, wellbeing and a sense of feeling brave.

You may recall the work I did for their new building around the meditation and reflection room, and the life fragments...

It is always an honour to work with this organisation.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Slow days

I was a little bit weary and worn this week with not a lot of energy on a couple of days, so very sensibly opted for some quiet down time.

On Friday afternoon I was good for very little else than to sit and wind thread.

Whilst in Scotland I had bought some new 'dolly pegs' to wind the threads that I was dyeing over there onto.  I had taken some of my vintage pegs with me, but clearly got so carried away that I needed more pegs!

On return I thought I really did prefer the vintage older peg look, so went hunting and found some online.  I added them to my collection here and thought one day I will transfer those threads.

A little voice in my head was going 'yeah, as if you'll ever have spare time for that!'

Hooray for not feeling great.

There was something lovely about the line of pegs on the coffee table.

Looking this way and that.

And close up and low.

Here are the Scottish threads that needed transferring - quite a few in the end. The new pegs just don't have the same feel at all.

And here they all are on their new old pegs (pile of old new pegs to the side).

Fortunately I still have a good selection of old vintage pegs to work with - so more dyeing can happen!

The flowers that are featuring are our NSW Christmas bush.  It is blooming here at the moment and is such a beautiful cut flower.  I have it in vases all over the house and on window sills and ...

As the sun sets and streams through the windows it highlights it beautifully.

A really low red glowing smoky sunset gave me this against a timber post.

And also whilst I wasn't feeling too flash, I managed to finish this colourful and happy jig saw that I had been playing with in the studio.  I found it a nice way to empty my head before I began working and then when I wasn't feeling crash hot, I could just mindlessly add pieces to it and feel as if I achieved something!

It has been put away and a new project has begun in that space so all good.

Fear not, I am bright as a button now, just had a slow and quiet few days.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Thursday Thoughts...

“The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.” 

 Barbara Kingsolver

I think this one is interesting...

The more read it, the more deeply I delve into it.  To think that the least one can do is work out what one hopes for.  I feel a bit like, here I am, at the age I am, and I'm not sure I have spent too much time thinking about what I hope for.

Or perhaps I have and it's just that the word 'hope' jumps out at me as being a different verb to one I use a lot.

I do however love the way she describes the most that one can do (with whatever that hope or other word is) is live inside it, live under the roof, be really really close to it.

It seems to be an invitation to really live your life, to not wonder what if, or when, or maybe if then, but to live it.

I guess where I ended up is taking some time to really think about what I hope for, and to try and make sure I have it alongside me as I go...

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

General randomness

I have a few jobs on at the moment none of which are at an interesting stage so nothing much to show really.

However, the landscape remains intriguing given the fires and there are odd studio moments of wonder.

And to begin...

I wrote a note to self on a piece of paper at the studio, one that was on a metal spiral notebook, and tore it off.  I held it in my hand near my phone to carry some stuff back to the house and looked down at my phone's camera (which was open) and thought - interesting!

The perforated circular holes in the note left by tearing off the spiral, were acting as a kind of filter creating an interesting image and sense of what was what.

And so of course, I walked back to the house intrigued by how the world looked through the perforations...

Stopping to snap here and there...


And so to the fires. Our nearby one is out which is great, and it is the smoke haze from fires 200km away that is the main issue now.

At first we wondered if this was another storm front pushing through, but then realised it was the pillar of smoke from the fires near Toowoomba (200km away)

It kept coming and by morning we woke in a white-out.  We thought it might have been a fog-mist whiteout, but no, it was a total smoke whiteout.

Strangely of course, we are getting magnificent sunsets as a result...which all seems so wrong somehow.

It is a terrible start to summer - in NSW over a million hectares have been burnt, nearly 500 homes lost and 6 people have died.  In QLD the numbers are smaller, but the news is now saying the fires will not go out, they will just keep burning.  It is so awful that the areas affected now are already deep in drought.  Nearby Stanthorpe was supposed to run out of water for the town in December; and there is just no water around to put fires out. A deadly and devastating combination.

I hope against hope that those in positions of power pay attention to the changes in our climate and take steps to mitigate and respond.