Sunday, May 29, 2011

A day of fun and experimenting

Well, we are home after a full, busy and fun day in Brisbane working with the Gold Coast Calligraphers, taking calligraphy "off the page..."

The group were fabulous and got into the groove and all had a play. No one was concerned to do it 'right' or 'perfect' - everyone just wanted to try the various tools and techniques, make notes and discover what could be done.

Some people felt that leather was the future for them; others were totally besotted by the marks and patterns they could make with Perspex; some enjoyed the pebbles so much; other folk discovered shim and could see 100s of ways of using it; some people could see the potential in metal stamping for jewellery; and others found the bending of wire words quirky and fun.

All in all we had a good time together - Barry was an enormous help with loading, unloading, organising the space and helping folk out with technical things.

I have included a lot of shots so you can get a feel for the playfulness and experimentation that went on. I think the next step seems to be a chance to put it into practice one way or another and create a piece using one or more of the techniques - now that sounds like it could be good fun too!

I have not credited the calligraphers' work you see - nor named names; but I hope you enjoy. I have to say some of the shots are a cornucopia of delights - all those little bibs and bobs the calligraphers use - so enticing!

©2011 Fiona Dempster - Off the page workshop, words in wire
©2011 Fiona Dempster - Off the page workshop
©2011 Fiona Dempster - Off the page workshop, group at work
©2011 Fiona Dempster - Off the page workshop
©2011 Fiona Dempster - Off the page workshop
©2011 Fiona Dempster - Off the page workshop
©2011 Fiona Dempster - Off the page workshop
©2011 Fiona Dempster - Off the page workshop
©2011 Fiona Dempster - Off the page workshop
©2011 Fiona Dempster - Off the page workshop, the group gathered to listen!
In closing - a big thank you as well to the GCCS for inviting me to teach, welcoming both Barry and I and for being so willing to explore, experiment and play.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Workshop preparations

Well, we're just about there with the preparations. Barry has sanded and oiled much timber and cut and polished much metal. I have got fabric and leather and pebbles and Perspex together.

Materials bags are packed. Handouts are printed. Samples and examples are done. Books and journals are tagged and marked. Laptop is charged. All tools have been checked, oiled, filed, sharpened and charged where necessary. Powerpoint presentation is finished. Glasses packed.

So early tomorrow morning we'll hit the highway and travel south for an hour and a half to teach the workshop I've called "Off the page...".

Some bibs and bobs for the packs.

The packs all piled up.

My samples and examples box.

An example piece underway - writing on a Huon pine wedge. You just have to love the weird and wonderful poses the timber gets into in order for you to have a flat surface on which to write.

I look forward to sharing the experience tomorrow!

PS Head over to Barry's blog for his Autumn giveaway - and good luck!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thursday Thoughts...

The multitude of books is making us ignorant.


I think Volatire lived a long time ago (correct! born in 1694 in fact); so I wonder how he would feel about the multitude of books we have at our disposal these days?

It never ceases to amaze me when I walk into great bookshops (I'm thinking Rosetta Books in Maleny, Kinokuniya in Singapore, Powell's in Portland for example) just how many books there are. How many books get published, how many ideas get written down and printed and shared.  I guess maybe the ISBN  could tell us something about how many book titles there are in the world; but I'm sure it would be a number beyond my capacity to imagine.

I replaced books in Voltaire's quote with 'information' and found myself in total agreement with the man! We were just talking the other day about how we wanted to balance some of our political reading matter - get both sides of the story more often rather than just the slightly biased view from here or there.  We thought of some options and then just went - when would we fit that in? We have enough trouble now sifting the information we receive in inboxes and on the web and in the mail and in the newspaper.

I fear a little bit that the oft-spoken about information overload will in fact make us dumber - we will be unable to keep up with it all and as a result may choose to withdraw or ignore information; filter it out using the 'no time filter' rather than having the time to ingest it, ponder it and debate it. Perhaps that is how it felt in the early 1700s with printing presses producing more books and people not being able to read them all in depth.

The more things change, the more they stay the same (John-Baptiste Alphonse Karr) perhaps?

©2008 Fiona Dempster - art in Copenhagen

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sneaky snaky business

It was a blustery day on the mountain yesterday and the 'breezeway' between the two pavilions lived up to its name. We returned from a trip to town and I glanced something playing in the breeze.

I looked out and realised a snake had shed its skin along the beams and had left it hanging there. It was moving beautifully in the breeze...I just wondered where the owner had gotten to!

We think it was a brown tree snake which is quite friendly; good news given that our house-sitters had to face-down an eastern brown snake that was living in one of Barry's junk piles whilst we were away. They are seriously venomous and aggressive so I'm pleased its moved on.

The skin was so fine and delicate - a thing of real beauty.

©2011 Fiona Dempster - length of snakeskin
At this angle it looks surreal and dream-like.
©2011 Fiona Dempster - surreal snake skin head
How perfectly it had rubbed the skin off over it's head.
©2011 Fiona Dempster - elegant snakeskin head
At rest on our kitchen bench it measured about 85cm long.
©2011 Fiona Dempster - snakeskin
Swaying in the breeze before being 'rescued'(or maybe harvested or collected).
©2011 Fiona Dempster - snakeskin in the breeze
I have only lived in the country for 6 years and am adapting to the wildlife; so I still find a snakeskin quite exciting! I am checking for snakes whenever I sit down outside at the moment - but I figure surely they are all on their way to hibernation? We saw none during summer which was interesting - too much rain for them perhaps.

I love the transparency of them and the subtle texture  and am pondering how one of us might put it use in an art piece of course!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Page folding

I have discovered the truth for myself of the notion that teaching takes you away from your own art. I am busy preparing for my upcoming workshops (Barry has almost been busier see here) and as a result my mind is full of the getting together of things such as collecting, collating, and preparing pieces for each participants's pack of materials to experiment with.

I've also been making sure I have the right tools for them to play with and that they are in working order - going out and buying extra things to be doubley-sure that there will be enough to go on with. Half preparing some demonstrations so that people can see where I'm headed with a piece and so on. And of course, writing the course notes and preparing the timetables/schedules. All normal preparation for teaching.

It's all in good shape and perhaps its just me, but I felt that if I was in the studio this weekend, then I needed to be doing preparation things, not creative things. So there was very little creativity - a few attempts at new fold for Book Art Object and a fiddle with folding a book into a sculptural piece.

Here's where the latter got to.

©2011 Fiona Dempster Folded travel guide
©2011 Fiona Dempster - folded travel guide detail 1
©2011 Fiona Dempster - folded travel guide detail 2
©2011 Fiona Dempster - folded travel guide detail 3
This is the first time I have attempted this; and I used an old travel guide to Cairo. I think I'd rather work with a hard cover book and one that doesn't have coloured pages in it - I found them distracting in the final piece. I enjoyed just making up the folds as I went along - with very little idea of how they would appear in the final piece.  I think there is an enormous amount of skill in knowing which pages to fold and just how to achieve the effect you are after.

I think the good news about this technique is that it is one you can play with by yourself and learn by doing, and if it's a book you don't really care too much about then you'll be happy exploring and having a go.

I really like the close-ups of the folded pages - a very architectural feel.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thursday Thoughts...

Greet each day with your eyes open to beauty, your mind open to change, and your heart open to love.

Paula Finn

I keep a book mark with this quote on it by my computer and turn and look at it and read it  quite often. It acts as a subtle and gentle reminder of things I believe in, and things I try to have with me in my daily life.

Keeping my eyes open to beauty - reminds me of the beauty that is present in the everyday; in the soft colours of dawn; the rich warm gold of a winter moon-set; the elegance of cockatoos silhouetted against the sky; the gentle drift of mist rising in the valley.

Keeping my mind open to change - reminds me to listen and consider other possibilities and ways of being; to try and understand that there are so many worlds out there and I only experience one of them; to realise and celebrate learning every day; and to gain a deeper understanding of something such that I can change my view or position. Ah, the getting of wisdom perhaps?

Keeping my heart open to love - reminds me to celebrate the joy of love; to let those I love and care about know that they are appreciated; and to keep investing in love; not take it for granted.

©Fiona Dempster - Morning Mountains
 I think she captured some wise words to live by.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The damage done...

I laughed. Just as that previous post went live, I was out playing netball and to coin a technical term, I "bunged my finger". My right forefinger in fact.

My first thoughts beyond 'boy did that hurt' were: 'at least I can still wear my wedding ring'; followed by 'I hope I don't have to do any calligraphy in the next few weeks'.  Hmmm and then I recalled I was teaching! lol as they say.

At the moment the finger is so swollen it won't bend; but hopefully it will improve in leaps and bounds as I rub arnica cream into it and take arnica for the trauma of it all. I am rather fond of my fingers and find them very handy when stitching books, writing, typing and the like and may need to think about hanging up my boots next season...after I broke a different finger last season.

PS netball is a game a bit like basketball; played with 7 players, no bouncing the  ball and no backboard. Usually quite non-violent I think I'm just getting a bit slower and my eyes don't let me time things quite as well.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Workshops coming up!

I am looking forward to teaching two workshops in the next little while.

First up I will be doing a workshop with the Gold Coast Calligraphers on Sunday 29 May in Brisbane.

I offered a couple of options and they chose a day of fun and exploration - taking calligraphy off the page and onto surfaces as diverse as timber, metal and perspex. Whilst I love beautiful writing and appreciate the skill and time and effort that goes into creating calligraphic masterpieces, I find that I no longer wish to pursue them for myself that much.

I am really enjoying getting words and text onto different surfaces and thought it might be nice to share and encourage others to have a go at what might seem daunting. So we'll be playing with engraving into perspex and metal, writing with ink on timber, burning into timber and much more.

We won't be attempting anything quite this big - but you can see some of the story of how it came into being herehere and here.

©2010 Fiona Dempster - Our Deepest Fear...
Engraving into rusted metal using a dremel tool - we'll definitely be having a go at this. I just love the contrast between the shiny letter and the aged and worn rusted surface.

©2010 Fiona Dempster - engraved C
More engraving fun - this time into Perspex. We'll be writing and tracing and engraving, and reversing and flipping as well! Again, not on this scale...

©2010 Fiona Dempster - Sentinels
I have also been invited to participate in the Buderim Arts and Craft Cottage's Winter School on Saturday 4 and Sunday 5 June in Buderim. The group has chosen to learn my personal heartbeat script and how to do a single page binding. It will be the first time I have taught my own script - so it will be interesting to see how folk adapt it. I am a huge fan of the singe page binding - it offers so  many layout opportunities and the book opens beautifully flat - that I'm really pleased to be able to teach it.

Part of my exemplar  book from last year - embroidered onto rusted braille paper.
©2010 Fiona Dempster - Heartbeat script exemplar book, y & z
An example of a single page binding, with a modified heartbeat script as well. 

©2010 Fiona Dempster
A more regular look at the heartbeat script exemplar...

©2010 Fiona Dempster Heartbeat script exemplar

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Back in the studio

Sigh. Could you hear that happy and contented sigh across the miles? I've managed to spend a few hours here and there over the weekend in the studio and it's wonderful to have that feeling wash over me again...of pure contentment and happiness as I potter and explore and try this and that; and take little steps towards something.

COMA (the Collaboration of Maleny Artists) is holding its next exhibition at Rosetta Books (a fabulous independent book shop in Maleny). The theme is "between the lines..." and the works need to be linked to or inspired by a book.  A couple of the nice unifying things about COMA exhibitions are that we a) have a theme (and I know not everybody likes having a group theme but for me it helps hold the story of the exhibition together when there's such a diverse and disparate group at play), and b) we all have to work at or on the same size.  A group exhibition with say 60 pieces all the same size looks quite stunning!

This time we are working with a 15cm x 15cm ( 6 x 6 inches) canvas or for 3-D pieces, within that same size cube.

I chose one of my favourite books "The Orchard" by Drusilla Modjeska. It's one of those books I read when I was about 30 and have kept with me, dipping back into it and using one quote time and time again.

To be gentle on myself as I rediscover the fun, joy and pleasure of creating, I went with something I like doing - burning holes with incense sticks and then played a bit with wax to bring it together.

The days are getting shorter and the lighting getting worse so apologies for the shadows here and there.

This is the white page with words burnt, sitting on the white canvas.

This is the same page, with a used, waxed teabag laid underneath the page...looking much warmer and welcoming.

By now I was a bit worried about the fragility of the page sitting on top of the canvas and felt it needed some sort of protection.

So I waxed some rice paper to make it a bit translucent and to act as a cover for the fragile burnt edges.

So, now it felt nicely protected, but it had taken the edge of the piece making it seem blurry and covered; rather than an integrated piece. So I popped some melted wax over the top and fused the rice paper to the page and teabag and canvas underneath. Protection, integration and still little pockets of mystery. Pretty much what I needed, so I stopped.

This is the quote that speaks to me often...

"And I say there are times when others can see the shape of our lives more clearly than we can ourselves, and then the great act of friendship is to turn us around so that we stand to face that way'.

Apologies to the folk who tried to leave comments whilst Blogger was misbehaving - I received them and can't post them; but enjoyed them all - thank you!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Thursday Thoughts...

The role of the artist is to ask questions, not answer them.
Anton Pavlovich Chekhov

I think this quote give us a real license to explore, to free up our thinking and our investigations and to not worry about what the final product is and if it solves some question, or puzzle posed by ourselves or somebody else.

Sometimes it feels as if a piece has to be fully resolved, with all its loose ends tied off, and a full stop placed upon it. In terms of its design and aesthetic value I think that  this is true. There is nothing more irritating than a clearly unfinished or sloppily pulled together piece.

But with regard to its meaning, its purpose, its reason for being so to speak, it's helpful to realise we don't always actually have to have the answer. We don't have to be able to use the piece to clarify or define or be the ultimate expression of an issue. We don't have to have an explanation that suits everybody. And sometimes it leaves our hands and it is still a mystery to us the makers - what it's really about or what it expresses.

Surely that is one of the beauties of the arts - that a work may have a story in its making; but that others can interpret it and find their own answer to its mysteries.  It starts with one story, but others may find or make their own stories from within it. And one of the joys of making is when we follow the trail of "what ifs?" that emerge along the way...

Its nice that art can encourage and provoke questions and reflection. I'm not sure all art has to be edgy and challenge people's notions, expectations or understandings, but it is good to know it can set up a process of personal enquiry, and meanderings of the mind.

©2009 Fiona Dempster "Postcards Home"

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Home, home on the Range...

Well, after a 6 week long adventure we are home on our mountain top. We left Darwin about 9 hours late - it was about 30 degrees still; and arrived back home in Maleny at 4.00am and it was very chilly! Well, chilly for us anyway; about 11 degrees (celsius). The contrast was striking.

Anyhow we have played catch ups and done washing and writing and shopping and banking and posting and paid the bills and the rest of it, and are feeling almost like we are a bit caught up now.

Some of my favourite memories of Umbakumba will be of the light - the sky at dawn and dusk was magic; the water in its many moods and our walks along the beach. Here are a few to finish with...

©2011 Fiona Dempster - clouds reflected in the lagoon
Anybody familiar with the famous "floating tori" in Japan will see what we saw, with this upside down table leg! 

©2011 Fiona Dempster - Umbakumba floating tori at low tide
©2011 Fiona Dempster - Umbakumba floating tori floats
©2011 Fiona Dempster - Tide mark mountains
©2011 Fiona Dempster - Dawn across the jetty
©2011 Fiona Dempster - Sunset on the lagoon
It's been wonderful; but its equally wonderful to be home. I'm heading to the studio now to see what I can find...

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mosaic magic

We have spent a bit of time at Umbukumba school during our stay - talking with staff and parents and in one instance undertaking surveys with the senior class as it worked with their curriculum. They had been designing  a survey themselves, and enjoyed participating in ours and sharing ideas about research.

In amongst the grey green of the grasses and gum trees; and the red dusty earth is this bright and magical mosaic at the entrance to the school. It makes me smile every time I pass it.

Umbakumba School mosaic
 The mosaic shows lots of images of local animals that are important in the people's lives here. Fish - there are so many fish around here!
Umbakumba mosaic - fish detail
 This part shows the turtles making tracks back to the sea after laying their eggs in the sand...
Umbakumba mosaic - turtle detail
 I think this might be mud crab - but I just loved he vivid colours!
Umbakumba mosaic - crab detail
There are also dugongs, tiger sharks and crocodiles depicted.

This is a photo of some of the school buildings all painted with traditional imagery. The school caters for children from 0-3 in a playgroup on site to 16 and 17 year olds and somehow holds it all together!
The entrance to Umbakumba Community School