Thursday, May 28, 2020

Thursday Thoughts...

How intently we serve, we who only sit and wait. 

Kathryn Mannix

My ponderings return to the theme of 'life' today.  I came across Kathryn Mannix's book With the End in Mind a year or so ago, listening to a podcast called GriefCast. She has a gentle voice and much wisdom gleaned after a career as a palliative care specialist.

This fairly simple and pared back sentence seemed to say so much to me.

I think it honours anybody who has ever waited alongside (or in these new times, distant from) somebody who is ill, injured or dying.  That place of simply sitting and being alongside somebody.  Knowing that there is very little you can actually physically do. Which I think explains her use of only.  Not to diminish us by saying you are only sitting and waiting and not doing anything important; but rather to acknowledge that in some situations it is all you can do.

Which can be so very hard.

Realising that simply accompanying somebody with your presence and your spirit and your care and your concern is valuable. The grace for us acknowledge and accept that.

I think her use of the the word intently gives a real sense of the focus and the energy that can be involved in waiting.  It isn't passive, there is a massive flight of energy from us to our person; the vigilance of watching, concentrating, staying awake even after hours of the long night.

I appreciate so much that she has put into words the honour and the important role of those who wait.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Still pottering - art and nature

Life continues along in its own re-emerging manner.  We are spending good chunks of time in the studio getting product ready for our Open Studio on 13 June.

Using up some spare ink I printed this thank you card (yet to be folded in this image). It is a nice big bold thank you - but I will be doing a more delicate one too I think!

I loved that rediscovering gold leaf moment a week or so ago, so decided to build on it with a few more shines for cards.  I can think of no nicer reminder than to shine.

I used some of my Caran D'Ache water-soluble wax pastel crayons as the base, to which the gold leaf adhered rather well. My little practice/sample card is at the back.

I selected six colours from the samples and then threw in a couple of marbled effect options as well just for fun.

And here are the results.  One got stuffed up along the way. I still have another 7 to attempt.

So that bit of pottering was quite good fun.  They have been sealed and will now be adhered to their cards.

The other pottering about was really more about pottering along and paying attention to nature.

I went for a walk at Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve (the place of Mabel's Scrub fame) early one morning and we came across this wee pademelon.  Like a smaller version of a wallaby and a much squatter and smaller version of a kangaroo.  They are so placid and lovely to see in their natural habitat.  It is literally just down the road from us (about 5km on our road).

We had a chilly day on Saturday. For us.  Making it to a maximum of 11 degrees (C) with a wind is quite cold in the sub-tropics.  But the gift came at sunset - this sky...

And to the west.  The light was phenomenal and we kept ducking out this way and that to see what was happening to the west, to the north, then  back to the south...

It filled me up.

My dad has planted quite a few orchids in the garden at our new studio space.  This spike of flowers was coming along well, but needed lifting up off the ground.  During the process of raising it, the stem snapped and so only one bloom remains on the plant.  I took the broken head of flowers inside and over a few days the stem has opened up to 5 flowers which I find amazing and so generous of it.

Pottering here and there...

Sunday, May 24, 2020


I mentioned back at the end of April that I had spent a long time wrangling  a piece of letterpress work.

It was one of those times when I wanted to work with some of my own words.  I wanted to print some poetry/prose I had written, begun when we were last in Scotland.

Whilst we were there (and ever since really) I have pondered and on occasions struggled with the notion of home, of places that call, of landscapes that are so dissimilar yet make me feel the same. The sense of yearning I have for both places I call home - the big sky and the emptiness...

In part this work also came from wondering how on earth did we end up with a cottage in the remote Scottish Highlands?

The full piece is not yet complete, but it did take so much time I figured I should note it down now in case it never actually gets completed.

The work is called open.  Once again my suitcase is open and I wonder about the decisions that got us to this point.

The plan is that this card of poetry will sit within a folder which will also be letterpressed - still a work in progress that part.

The trickiness about this work that took me three days to sort, was that I did not have enough small size type to be able to set it in one go.

Then when I did work out how I could set it, I realised I could only print it sideways in the big old Lightning Jobber; but at least I could print.

I won't bore you with all the details, but rather than be able to print it in one hit, I had to set out what I could; print; remove and clean the type then re-use it in the next part. Print that (hoping to align properly) and then repeat.

Everything about it was tricky, even to the point of trying to tighten the quoins evenly and in the same sequence as the previous set so that they didn't push a line of type higher or lower than intended.

There were many difficulties. But we prevailed.

The words began here and went thru many an iterations.

Setting the first lot of the verse.

I ran out of "n"s, so to save type, I removed the final word points and ended with decisions in the final work.

The first 'verse' down.  I even had to create 'verses' as I went along in order to be able to print.

The second 'verse' challenged me again, and I thought to indent it, in case it didn't align or register properly.

And even then, I didn't have enough type to complete it.

And so to the third 'verse' (and the last two lines of the second).

I realised (at this late stage of the game) that I didn't have enough "B"s to do each of the lines  "Before, beyond and previous to." So I worked out I would need to delete one of the lines, and its reference.

This was the stage that proved to be absolutely beyond belief challenging.  I serious contemplated giving up thinking I must have been bananas to even think I could do it being so under-resourced with type and all the trickiness it entailed. But I was so close!

This is but two of the dozens of attempts to try and get the indented second 'verse' to align with itself, as well as the third 'verse' to align with it and the first verse.  Seriously what was I thinking?

In the end I succeeded in printing about 20 decent ones and that, quite frankly, astonishes me.

I learnt a lot of lessons from attempting this.  I have another one in the series to do, so at least I hope I learned something.

On the other hand, a part of me revels in the notion that I had no idea what I was taking on, and the kind of naivety that let me even set out from shore should probably be celebrated.

Had I thought, or known, of all the difficulties I may never have even begun; and yet I blissfully headed off and problem solved and problem solved and problem solved my way through it.

I say "I" but Barry was alongside much of the way as well and kept telling me not to give up.

"Nevertheless she persisted" has never been truer for me.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Thursday Thoughts...

‘I was in analysis, and I told my analyst I wanted to be the best sculptor in the world, and he said “Richard, calm down”. '

Richard Serra

This made me chuckle a bit today, on a wet and pouring tropical downpour kind of afternoon in Autumn (weird weather anyone?).

I chuckled thinking about how his analyst maybe either didn't know who he was; or they had no idea how good he would be.  And for Serra, it is clear that he remembers that moment when somebody doubted.

For myself, I find that self-belief and confidence; and that scale of aspiration astonishing. In wonderment I attempt to imagine myself ever thinking those thoughts and realising never have I wanted to be the best in the world at anything and my life has not been the poorer for it.

That he has not forgotten that moment I guess can ring true for all of us - we can all remember moments where other people's opinions, views, statements, or criticism hurt or startled us. I can conjure up those feelings almost immediately when I think back on some events.

As I read his words, I hope that he is saying them with a bit of a grin and a chuckle himself, as acknowledges that he has ended up one of the best for sure.

Richard Serra, New York, December 2013.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

A visual diary of sorts...

Things are getting busier as we build towards opening the studio to the public - there are lots of behind the scenes things like stocktake and banners and signs and DL cards coming together as well as the making of many things.

In between art and life have also been places of many moods and many moments. Here are some from the past week.

Playing with my phone's camera I took this in the studio as I was reading and writing.

Early one morning in the studio - the gift of light.

I shellacked my cardboard plate.

One of THOSE mornings...

Dyeing threads with avocado skins.  We have a bumper crop at the moment, so why not dye while the avos grow? The gentlest baby pink emerges.

On a side note the other bumper crop is macadamia nuts...after roasting the house smelt divine.


There has been rain...

This fireball rainbow sunset back in April...

Has now become a jigsaw!

And whilst we stay here, the daffodils and broom and gorse are glorious at the cottage. Thanks to Anna our neighbour for the photo.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Stocktake time

Well, after I don't know how many years of making things, selling some things and filing away other things we realised it is well and truly time to do a stocktake.

This comes about in part because we are preparing to open the studio space to the public next month, and plan to have an Open Studio event on 13 June.  By that date we will be allowed to have 20 people gather outside and be able to have 20 people in our studio space given its size.

Unless of course, things go backwards before going forwards; but we must make plans of some sort.

So we realise that we had 'stock' at the house; in the garage; in the sewing room; in the new studio and even in a shop in town that we needed to gather together and get a handle on.

If you want to sell it, you need to know what, where and how much.

Not my favourite task; but a rather large sense of satisfaction that at the end of the weekend I know every piece that I have and where it is.  What it might cost is yet to be finalised... I dislike that part the most.

Stocktaking cards it became clear that we don't have any Happy Birthday cards. So I played around with colourful ink rolls and some numbers just to see.

But mostly I just sat at the desk counting and cataloguing and noting editions, framed, unframed, matted variations and details like that.

Having gone through them all it became clear a few pieces could do with a bit of renovation, so I pulled them apart and refreshed them.

One of the Gentle Journeys pieces was a bit foxed in parts so I removed the paper and made up new pieces and replaced them.

High tech way of getting the alignment right. As ever, I kicked myself for not photographing the work before I put the glass and frame back on and taped it down. Must do better.

This piece is deep and dark.  I forgot to take a before shot; but that central square was a bit boring, soI I removed it.  I wanted some reason for you to go in and have look that I don't think was there before.

So I played around with rusty washers, gold leaf and colours and decided that a scratched bit of gold leaf over red  really popped.  Again I forgot to take a shot of the piece before re-framing - this is  a progress/options shot but better than nothing.

The options that were tested and rejected.

But then a small card made out of one of the rejects with the word SHINE scratched into it. A bit of fun and a reminder than remnants too can have a home.

I was really pleased to have typed up a record of all of the work that I have, and also pleased that going through and re-visiting some of them allowed me to refresh and renew them and and bring them new life.  It was also fun to play a bit along the way, so all in all happy days. Now to pricing...

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Thursday Thoughts...

"One of the wonderful things about books is less that they influence one but rather that they seem to coax into the light ideas that one is already groping for. It's almost a magical process by which one finds oneself led to just the right book, making manifest inchoate feelings or ideas, at just the right moment." 

Jamie Seaton

I had to go a'googling to work out who Jamie Seaton was - and perhaps the quote is by a fund manager in the UK; a UK cyclist; an Australian  environmentalist; a US cage fighter or a US writer. And that was just some of pages 1-2.

It doesn't necessarily matter who wrote what I ponder; but occasionally context does matter so I try to check. In my head at least, it was the writer who said this.

UPDATE: thanks to an arty colleague, I can now confirm which Jamie Seaton I am referencing here!
Hi Fiona

I always read your posts although am unable to comment.  Thought I’d let you know who this particular Jamie Seaton is. He’s the UK co-founder of fashion and homeware label ‘Toast’.  Loved the quote and  your view ....including the view from Scotland.

Enjoy your new workplace...looks very functional.

Whoever said it clearly enjoys books and enjoys how they come into your life and what they do for you. At first I read swiftly and the word less jumped out at me and I linked it in my head to importance.  I re-read it and realised it was associated with the word wonderful. Which helped; because it let many things about books be wonderful.

I was talking to somebody in the studio about how often we feel led by the work; or that we deviate unexpectedly to explore a different or new path, and I guess this quote suggests as well that almost mystical notion of a universal force or a creative force leading us.  Perhaps it is our subconscious at play; but I do know it happens for me with making; and therefore it probably could happen with books as well.

Sometimes we really do find ourselves led to a book at just the right time...

The road leads to a our village in Scotland, where all are safe and well so far.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Still playing

As I promised myself I would, I kept on playing and fiddled and faddled which I must say, appears to be a very good use of time.

This included taking the time to watch the light and the shadow play on some of the studio displays.

Snow Falling in Daylight (L), Silence (with Susan Bowers, R) and The Library of Lost Words (front).

A Subversive Stitch (L), Too Many Poppies (R),  Dark is Hard, and some wee notebooks with embossed poppies on the covers

Pebbles and a paper cast of a large nib by my friend Lesley.

Back to playing - I took the Profound Change part of the Solnit quote and tested out some new wood type for the first time. Now to combine with the Becalmed part...

I decided I wanted to practise different printmaking things  - things I have never tried or things that I don't do well, or things I just don't fully understand (now that catalogue could keep me busy for a lifetime...).

So I tried to cut a greyboard collagraph plate.  Note to self - why choose so many thing things to cut? Why not a large simple square or something???

Still. I fell in love as I went along and saw the marks emerging.

By this stage I was wondering - do I keep making a printing plate of it or just have it as it is? Pondering.

And then because we have some lovely large wood type, and because I love ampersands, I wanted to play with them a bit and printed up some brown paper wrapping paper.

All drying around the feet of the Lightning Jobber...

And finally some snow pea tendrils attaching themselves to some hot pink nylon against a rusty piece of bracing. Fabulous fun in the garden too.

I feel refreshed, enlivened and lighter for a week of letting myself simply be, exploring some ideas and trying this and that.  I feel happy to head back and do some serious work, make some more product and have some more play.