Sunday, February 27, 2011

The journey begins and ends with home...

I started this white on white concertina book a few months ago. It started out as a 'stepped' book with different pages cut to different heights. I stitched my handwritten words onto it, I punched holes, drew ladders and made marks.

I didn't like it. I didn't like the clunkiness of the steps - too harsh or too obvious for this delicate piece. So I chopped it off! About  6 weeks ago I cut it right back to the shortest 'step' and made it much more like a stubby square book.

Much nicer! It felt more intimate and more interesting.

I then decided to make it another 'book in a box'. Partly because my latest one had been snaffled for the Southern Cross University's exhibition and therefore wouldn't be available for our own exhibition.

I like it more now. It snuggles in its box and the box is a combination of white, cream and tarlatan; to give it a really book-box feel. As a piece it reminds me of how the story/journey all begins and ends with home...

©Fiona Dempster 2011 TJBAEWH (box)
©Fiona Dempster 2011 TJBAEWH
©Fiona Dempster 2011 TJBAEWH (detail)
©Fiona Dempster 2011 TJBAEWH (detail)
©Fiona Dempster 2011 TJBAEWH - half opened

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thursday Thoughts...

Whenever someone who knows you disappears, you lose one version of yourself. Yourself as you were seen, as you were judged to be. Lover or enemy, mother or friend, those who know us construct us, and their several knowings slant the different facets of our characters like diamond-cutter’s tools. Each such loss is a step leading to the grave, where all versions blend and end.

Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet

My wanderings and ponderings for the exhibition have been touching in part on this concept of who we are and how we are in the world, in relation to others.

Salman Rushdie captures here that like a well-cut gem, we each have many facets and that different people may know different versions of us. He also makes the stronger statement that 'those who know us construct us'. I'm not sure that I am only the construct of others; but I guess that in many ways the different tellings of who we are, or how we have been experienced by others do build a story around us, a picture of who we are that we bear with us on our life journey.

I am captivated by the idea that when someone who knows you disappears; you lose one version of yourself.

There is much in this for me to consider and investigate. The concepts resonate at some level, for some reason, and so I will continue to explore them...

©Fiona Dempster 2010 - Finding my way home (detail)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Delicious book and bits

There are times when the interwebby thing really amazes me and makes me smile. I recently read this post at Velma's blog which made me think I have to go follow up this woman's work. I diligently went and explored the web to find Trace of soewnearth in a few places; and was then totally amazed to discover that she was Australian!

I love how you can travel half the way around the world (figuratively speaking) only to come back home and find what it was you were looking for.

I followed her to her etsy shop and bought a beautiful book, just like Velma's.  We had a lovely little email exchange - she was just as surprised to discover that I was who I was as she sometimes reads this blog! Small worlds, small wonders.

I was delighted to receive my parcel from her last week - with lots of gorgeousness and goodies. Here are a few of the pieces...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Another journey-book

I have had these pages lying about in the studio for over a year now. They were an experiment, a test and a bit of a play for me who rarely picks up a brush to paint anything (altho I am enjoying painting the shed).

About two months ago, I found them and decided to chop them in half. And then left them there for a while again.  So I picked them up recently, thought about how they could work as a book, thought about some words I could write, and wrote some pages to make them a book.

I wrote "We exist in relation to others, especially the important people in our lives, and their losses leave us untethered and no longer sure where our point on the map is now".

I wrote modern versals with black ink, and then used a fine black waxed linen thread to do a coptic binding.

©Fiona Dempster, Untethered 2011
©Fiona Dempster, Untethered (page spread) 2011
©Fiona Dempster, Untethered 2011
©Fiona Dempster, Untethered (detail) 2011

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thursday Thoughts...

Your art has to come out of your daily life. I really believe that if anyone is born an artist they've only got to look at what's round their feet and what's available to them. They don't have to be clever, they don't have to go to art school, they don't have to get the exotic stuff - make it with what's there. People think art's like you strike it lucky and you're famous tomorrow, but it isn't like that, it's a search for honesty on your own terms.  The journey to self-recognition took me decades.
Rosalie Gascoigne

Rosalie remains a bit of a hero to me - her honesty and down to earth approach to the world of art continues to inspire me . The fact that she never went to art school and her acknowledgement of how long it took her to find her voice and tell her own unique story encourages me.

This quote is very descriptive of the sort of work she made - by looking and scrounging and investigating the country around her, she found pieces that she could put together and make beautiful. 

It's the last part that really sings for me though - 'a search for honesty on your own terms'. I keep returning to this theme, and this quest to ensure I am making my own work and creating my own treasures. The more I do, the more I work each day on my art, the more I realise I have a well within me, of untapped and yet to be explored ideas and directions.  

Rosalie Gascoigne, White Garden 1995

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Happy Hearts

I'm not a very good Valentine's Day person; but I did want to share these lovely hearts that we bought recently to celebrate our anniversary.  We were in Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills (it was 42 degrees - celsius) and we were hot.

We popped our heads into the cool of the local community art gallery and found this wonderful rainbow of hearts! We had to search a bit and the shop assistant was wonderful; hunting here and there and out the back for green and yellow, and we came away with a beautiful rainbow and very happy hearts!

Something just to make us smile!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The story of the books

Barry and I had visited Ypres, in Belgium (Flanders Fields) in 2008 and I had bought some maps. It was kind of a pilgrimage for me - to visit the Menin Gate where my great-grandfather's name is listed as one among almost 55 000 Allied troops who died there and for whom there is no known grave. I had written the story of his enrolment, embarkation and battles in a short history for the family a few years ago. It was a touching and moving story which resonated down the generations. He never met his only daughter (my grandmother) as she was born 8 months after he embarked and I often reflect on the fact that we are all here (my family) because of the fleeting moments between when he enlisted and married (in May) and when he embarked (in August) in 1915.

The map I used is of Messines Ridge and surrounds, where he was killed in June 1917.  The colours became subdued. The marks about understanding my place with regard to him and all he did; and the journey the one from which he did not return.

The second book used the map to fill holes and gaps in another book (... the holes and gaps he left behind); and the blood lines drift through it as do the tufts of red poppies from Flanders Fields.

Whilst they are very personal to me; I hope they also work as art pieces that tell stories about journeys, places, marks and traces.

Here are some close-ups for Velma!
©Fiona Dempster - 2662(a) detail
©Fiona Dempster - 2662(a) detail
©Fiona Dempster - 2662(b) detail
©Fiona Dempster - 2662(b) detail

Saturday, February 12, 2011

This book is ready now...

I have finished my book which took me on such a wonderful wandering journey and taught me so much about working with a piece, being guided by it, being open to new ways of presenting it; and which gave me confidence in my intuition as an artist.

Each of the pages was printed with a map image, then folded in half and the cutouts or additions added. Unlike most books or pages that are folded in half; the fold is the fore edge here. This is because I thought that each page would have a cutout or two and I didn't want people to see the back of them. So I popped the back of the cutout inside the page so to speak.

That meant that in order to bind it, I had to treat each folded page as a single page and do a single sheet binding - altho each single sheet was in fact made of two. Not a great description but hopefully understandable. The folded fore edge meant that the book 'bowed' a bit - was narrower at the spine than at the fore edge, so I put a strip of extra paper at the stitching edge/spine to bulk that area up.

Towards completion, Barry also suggested I 'seal' the top and bottom of the pages. I had originally thought I would leave them 'open' so that people could peak inside, but I am really glad I did seal them - they look more professional and finished.

The covers are more of Barry's handmade paper and the inner cover is made from a spare map sheet. Perfect. Here it is happy and proud.

©Fiona Dempster - 2662(a)

If you look carefully you can see the clean edge of the inserted paper sandwiched between the printed pages...
©Fiona Dempster - 2662(a) stitching detail
A couple of page spreads...
©Fiona Dempster - 2662(a) page spread
©Fiona Dempster - 2662(a) page spread
and the view from in front...
©Fiona Dempster - 2662(a)

I'll tell the story of the two most recent books soon...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Thursday Thoughts...

A public library is the most democratic thing in the world. What can be found there has undone dictators and tyrants: demagogues can persecute writers and tell them what to write as much as they like, but they cannot vanish what has been written in the past, though they try often enough. People who love literature have at least part of their minds immune from indoctrination. If you read, you can learn to think for yourself. 

Doris Lessing

I love that Doris Lessing recognises that a love of literature doesn't totally immunise you from possible indoctrination!  I guess we are all vulnerable to the odd bit of illogical brain washing here and there, but I also love that she reminds us that reading means you learn to think and question for yourself, leaving you less vulnerable to the indcotrinators.

Public libraries are truly the foundation stones of democracy. They safeguard and protect and retain for generations, the words of truth spoken over centuries. They make accessible to all the writings and thinking of learned people and don't discriminate in making information available.

They are also usually affordable - to borrow, request or order books.  If you have the time, the public library system can help you find most anything. When I think of the things I would go to the barricades for,  protecting or saving public libraries would be one of them!

Maleny Branch Library, 2011 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Another book...

Life has been kind of late - despite much work-work and shed painting and gardening, I have managed time in the studio and it has been productive time.  I've had to tidy up the studio once or twice to make room for the next thing I had to get going on, but it has been a joy to make and create and to follow the muse.

I am still preparing the other beautiful pages for stitching into a book; they are ready to go now, the covers are made and I just need to be still and quiet and stitch.  You may recall the focus of that one had been the cut-outs (but other things also happened) and I wanted to create a companion book in a way, that used the cutouts. I suddenly saw cut-outs within cut-outs and drifting lines of stitching.

Despite seeing it in my mind's eye, I needed to do a mock-up to test if the idea would hold and how I would do the details. Because I am not always that practical and don't always immediately grasp the engineering requirements of my ideas, mock-ups are very good for me!

Here is what I looked at, and it gave me enough confidence to begin.

So off I went. I used a Hahnemulle bamboo paper - it is soft to feel, but has great rigidity as well and would hold the folds crisply and be able to stand. You can see I rehearsed stitching the cutouts into the diagonal corners, at the top and bottom, centred; and side to side also centred. The last one showed me that side to side ones would fall over like a spinning wheel! I realised the diagonals would be too hard to place accurately so it was all top and bottom from here on in.

I patiently cut out the bigger cutouts, sequenced my map page cutouts, pricked the holes and stitched all the cut outs in place.  Then for the thread. I liked the soft, light as a feather silk ribbon and some embroidery cotton to match. But when I got around to doing it I just couldn't use the blood red. It was back to white on white neutrals for me!  I also reduced the embroidery thread to one thread rather than two, making it more ethereal.

I (we) decided the lower stitching was too low; and needed to be slightly higher up to balance the page. I also decided that the stitches were too long and somewhat clumsy so went for tinier, closer together ones. I also felt the movement down below needed to be smoother rather than jerky; and that the punched stitching holes were too big; so I used an awl to punch multiple tiny holes instead. I used two threads of embroidery cotton and also made occasional knot 'tuffs'.

I then joined the two parts, folded the accordion and attached it to the covers I had made earlier. I don't usually make the covers first!  They are using handmade paper (by Barry) and a bit of other paper from my cupboard; the ties are the same soft silk ribbon, and then it went under weights overnight.

And here is where we got to...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

New art in our life

One of life's great pleasures as an artist is that you often get to hang out with arty-type friends who make beautiful work. Sometimes you are even lucky enough to be able to become the owner of beautiful work - either as a gift, as a purchase or as the lucky winner of a giveaway - which is the story of each of these pieces.

In recent times these three pieces have appeared in our home through various means, none planned, and I can't believe how beautifully they work together. Serendipity is indeed a wonderful thing.

Kim Schoenberger is a talented ceramist and sculptor - she goes from fragile porcelain to welding metal, but always works from the heart and is led by the process.  We have always admired her sculptural work and feel honoured to have it in our home and in our garden.

Ken Munsie is another talented ceramicist and sculptor - he works with paper clay and makes his own paper for inclusion in his sculptures. We have several of his pieces around the house and they always make me happy.

All Things Lead to One by Kim Schoenberger 
House of the Holy: Enlightened Ones by Kim Schoenberger
Sparked by Ken Munsie
Trio of works by Kim Schoenberger and Ken Munsie
Both Ken and Kim are busy, creative and generous friends, and I just love seeing what they do next! We are working on buying a slightly bigger table to display these wonderful pieces, to let them breathe a bit more...soon.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Map pages evolving

I recently wrote about how these book pages had headed off in an entirely different direction than planned. I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience of going down to the studio, sitting down at the desk and then just seeing what happens next.

It has been like my hands are doing the making - picking this up, moving that around, selecting these colours, images and marks and deciding that this little piece needs to be just here, just so. Each time it has been as if the pages are revealing themselves to me; as if they are already in existence somewhere and I simply need to peel something back for them to be seen.

That's beginning to sound all esoteric, but I have really enjoyed observing the experience. I wonder if it's like how an author of novels feel when the characters just 'write themselves'?

Here are a few of the pages as they emerge - not all of them ended up as cutouts which surprised me as well. I am sure most of them aren't yet finished either...but I guess I'll just have to wait and see.

©Fiona Dempster

©Fiona Dempster

©Fiona Dempster

©Fiona Dempster

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Thursday Thoughts...

You know, it is good to hide your brilliance under a bushel, to be anonymous, to love what you are doing and not to show off. It is good to be kind without a name. That does not make you famous, it does not cause your photograph to appear in the newspapers. Politicians do not come to your door. You are just a creative human being living anonymously, and in that there is richness and great beauty.
Jiddu Krishnamurti

What a beautiful reminder that life is not about fame or fortune; but rather about living a good life.

I sometimes try to capture what living a good life means or looks like; what sphere of influence makes the measure? Is it about breadth - how many people or activities or causes you got involved with? Or is about depth - how much support or care you showed to fewer individuals or causes?  Is it about doing good or simply doing no harm? Is it what you do naturally or what you think you should do?

Despite my inability to always sort it out - I think the ongoing quest to live a good life is a good start.

I think the main message for me from this quote is about how it is probably good for us to go quietly about our living of a good life - not trumpeting the successes, not drawing attention to the efforts we have made and not expecting recognition. But also that there is great richness and great beauty in simply being kind without a name, in being a creative human being living anonymously.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Letter a Week 2011

I have worked out my first alphabet for the year and have made a beginning.

I have decided to go with the multi-layered italic letters. Even tho each 'page' will look somewhat the same; I will get to do some lettering every week which is good.  After my trials and practices I have decided to go for the random, rather than the structured look; and have added a touch of gold to each piece. I fiddled with circles over squares, and ended up with the squares (or diamonds, depending on how I place them).

So here are the first four...

I haven't started making them into a book yet, that will happen over time, but I do have a plan which is a good start!