Saturday, July 30, 2011

BAO - completed!

Here we finally are at the end of a wonderful journey. I was thrilled and honoured to be accepted into this latest edition of Book Art Object, having followed the progress of the first participants last year.

I loved the idea of working in a collective yet independent manner, to produce unique and individual books based on a a theme - a poem that was common to the participants - and to gather around me  a collection of these works. How special!

I have really enjoyed the collaborative nature of the group, the sharing and the support along the way. It's always good to know you're not alone when it comes to the struggles of creativity and I must say I am keen to go again!

I am hoping that by now, Australia Post has done its thing and dutifully delivered to those amongst us in Australia, and that others have transported them across the waters to Canada and New Zealand, so it is OK for me to show the whole shebang without ruining any surprises for anyone!

The mention of New Zealand reminds me that one thing I love in particular about this edition is that a copy of each book is also going to the author (in my case Claire Beynon in NZ). I think it would be quite interesting (and rather lovely) to receive artists' interpretations of your work...

So here it is, 1/18, each and every page...

I think that's image overload, so will keep any talk about the book and my interpretation to another day. I hope you enjoy it - I am happy to have made it (and it's 17 siblings...)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Thursday Thoughts...

There are books so alive that you're always afraid that while you weren't reading, the book has gone and changed, has shifted like a river; while you went on living, it went on living too, and like a river moved on and moved away. No one has stepped twice into the same river. But did anyone ever step twice into the same book?
Marina Tsvetaeva

I love this opening line - the thought of books being out there, whilst you're not watching, living lives of their own accord, visiting places and meeting people, changing their minds about how they'll proceed...just makes me smile.

But the part that holds true for me in particular is how you never step into the same book twice - either you have moved or the book has moved; I think mostly you have moved. So often you bring quite different experiences, understandings, expectations and wisdoms to a book when you re-read it.

I quite like re-reading good books; I often get so much more out of them the second time. It might be that I take a completely different angle on something or that I have had experiences that let me understand things in a different manner - allow me to empathise where previously I dismissed; or  enable me to share in angst or ecstasy I had never previously understood.

Barry and I regularly cull our bookshelves; we try to pass books on, re-circulate them, give them away or whatever; and it's always interesting to me to see the ones I keep - that I have either read a few times or know I will read again.

In a way, I also think that no two people ever step into the same book - and isn't a book group a great demonstration of that! Books that some have to race out and recommend to their nearest and dearest; others of us have to say please may I never be forced to read it again. Some of us find a book deeply moving and poignant; others think it was self-indulgent claptrap! So a book is never just a book is it? It's a heap of words and a story written down that we then get to interpret and bring our own loves, prejudices, dreams and fears to.

©2010 Creek at Lucas Parklands

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Nested rust

Barry mentioned over on his blog that as we tidied up the block in preparation for the Open Studios in August, that we got distracted and sat and sorted through his rust pile.

We grouped and categorised everything and just as I was about to toss all these left over fragments of rusted wire, I started laying them out, thinking to myself how they looked like a language, hidden, indecipherable text - glyphs from another land...

I started imagining using them as a form of writing; then I started to lay them over each other and make patterns.

And then I began laying them over each other in a more meaningful way - building up an upside down rust wire 'nest'.  I was thrilled and intrigued and loved it just sitting there upside down.

Overnight I started thinking how much I wanted to stick them all together, so in the morning we sprayed them in situ with a spray adhesive. Not with a great deal of confidence I must say, as I have really only ever used it with paper.

Barry let me know that after I went to the gym in the morning he checked on it and discovered that it had kind of 'set'. I couldn't believe it and when we got home today after chores and business around town he showed me.

I picked it up, I turned it over, I held it in my hand.

I had built a rusted nest.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Promoting and Publishing

I have been very fortunate this year to have articles and works published in a number of journals. Each of them has come about in a different way and the projects and articles are varied; as are the journals themselves.

I recently posted about the Australian Book Arts Journal - and an article I wrote that was linked to the theme Paper: the connecting thread and which included some images of my work which combine paper and thread.

A few weeks ago I received my latest copy of Colophon, the journal of the Australian Society of Calligraphers.  In this issue, I had a profile with lots of images of my work, a story about one of my Cartography pieces and an article explaining how I rust paper. One of my Cartography pieces also appeared on the back cover.

It's funny how you put in train, or respond to something else months apart, and then due to production timelines, they all appear around the same time.

I was approached by the editors of Colophon a while ago and asked to contribute some photos and an article which I did. They then mentioned they liked my Cartography pieces and could I explain a bit about them, which led to a discussion about rusting paper so I include my recipe as well. All of which got included!

© Colophon, front cover, detail, Yves Lettermes work
My profile story and spread - © Colophon
My article about Cartography I - © Colophon
Some time last year I approached the journal Bound and Lettered to see if they were interested in running a story on our A Letter a Week project. In March this year I got the go ahead and sent them some words and images of the finished second alphabets from 2010.  They made a selection, and published the article.

In a weird and wonderful connection, back in March I was approached by John Neal of John Neal Booksellers to see if I could send him some more images of my work. He had seen them in the beautiful ASC book Words Work and wanted to promote the book in Bound and Lettered. I dutifully sent them off, and then we took off to the Territory and I forgot all about it.

So what a delight to discover this issue of Bound and Lettered contains the article I wrote about ALAW - with images of some fabulous alphabets including Barry's and Ken's (pretty cool seeing as how I didn't make the selection!) and another article which features my own work. Wow!

©Bound & Lettered - cover and article/images Fiona Dempster
This is new territory for me and I have been reflecting on what I've learned so far, including:
  • it's OK to put your art out there for selection in books which call for work that is suited to you (Words Work); 
  • if you are selected, this publication can lead to other opportunities (like John Neal and BandL);
  • if you have an interesting or different project or piece - write to people and ask if they would be interested in publishing an article (ALAW and BandL);
  • If you see calls for article on a theme you can connect with - contact folk and ask if they are interested in getting a piece from you (ABAJ);
  • run a project, blog and interact, and folk might ask you to contribute to their journal (Colophon and me); 
  • it's a good discipline to sit down and think about your work or project and write about it in an interesting way;
  • once you are published, you are more confident to approach people for articles; and
  • taking the time to seek out and follow up opportunities, can be extremely gratifying when you see the results!
I probably could have made this two blog posts - there are lots of words - but the stories were linked and made interesting connections, and made me ponder how it all came about.. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Big bold and blue

I took one of these photos thru the week, and it got me started thinking about the sky.

At the moment its winter here in Maleny and on the best of winter days, we get this magnificent big blue sky - crisp cold air but clear blue skies. You almost feel as if you can breathe in this expanse of blue, and it feels good!

Whenever I go far away, overseas, I know I am home when I see that big blue sky - the colour and clarity and brightness of the light at home is different to other places; and it signals 'home'. I know other places have big blue skies as well - but something deep inside me recognises this sky as belonging to my place - my home.

That blue sky and the Southern Cross. I love flying through the night and crossing into the southern hemisphere and seeing the Southern Cross - home, home, home.

Here are some images that remind me of our big bold blue sky. I don't have a camera nor the skills to photograph the Southern Cross, but to celebrate the vastness of the blue sky, I chose some extra large images.

©2011 Winter buds Maleny
©2010 Winter trees - Stanthorpe
©2010 Longreach Cemetery

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Thursday Thoughts...

And another regrettable thing about death is the ceasing of your own brand of magic, which took a whole life to develop and market - the quips, the witticisms, the slant adjusted to a few, those loved ones nearest the lip of the stage, their soft faces blanched in the footlight glow, their laughter close to tears, their tears confused with their diamond earrings, their warm pooled breath in and out with your heartbeat, their response and your performance twinned. The jokes over the phone. The memories packed in the rapid-access file. The whole act. Who will do it again? That's it: no one. Imitators and descendants aren't the same. 
John Updike

As I ponder on Thursdays, I move between Art, Life and Books . Today's thought is one of those filed under Life, except that in reality I guess it speaks of death.

I don't consider myself a morbid person but I do think about, consider, discuss and debate death and dying a fair bit, and this quote really captured for me the absolute uniqueness of an individual that we lose when they die.

It's not just that you lose a colleague, but you lose the person you admired, who would seek you out after a difficult episode and check in a subtle, unobtrusive way if you were OK. From whom a glance or a nod with a wry smile could speak volumes about the meeting you were in. That was their special magic and gift.

You don't lose a friend, you lose the person who could be guaranteed to say "noice" in a tone that spoke of shared histories and moments, in a way that made you want to crack up even if it was seriously not the time or place to do so.

The whole act, that had taken a lifetime to perfect - the package that was that person in all their brilliant individuality and distinctiveness, stitched into all the bits that overlapped with your life.

Flowers on a grave, Umbakumba cemetery
In celebration of uniqueness and the magic so many people bring into my life.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

COMA weeds continue

Not quite a series of disaster shots; but as ever, art does stuff that you never quite imagine or anticipate, and then have to adapt to.

I tested the ink on a spare canvas - and it was bold and black. I started writing on this canvas and it was all washed out and grey - something was repelling it in places perhaps?  Once I'd made a start, I just figured I'd keep going and see where I ended up.

The contact held pretty well and the letters went down fine - its such a free and friendly script to play with. In the end I was OK with the variegated ink - it could almost be considered a design element if you half-close your eyes and think positive thoughts.

Here are some shots with the contact still on - I like the way the ink over the top leaves a residue on the contact. Why is it that it is so often the weird things that appeal the most?

After I'd done the writing I was worried that because there were quite a lot of large white spaces left, that the form of the weed (initially done in contact) wouldn't show up at all well when the contact was pulled off. I thought that the image would bleed into the surrounding white space and become quite non-descript and ill-defined. I spoke to Barry about the possibility of tracing a fine black line around the image to help it become more visible and 'legible' as weed, and then gave it a go.

So far I think it works, altho at times I am tempted to make the line darker and more obvious, testing the balance between 'obvious' and 'weak'.

And just to prove that if I can do it once, I can do it again - here's my right index finger AGAIN after netball last night. So far, initial reports are no fractures, but maybe more chipping of cartilage of bone. Barry is now chief helper in the studio when cutting, or carrying things. Hmm lessons to be learnt perhaps?

Monday, July 18, 2011

COMA - Weeds in progress

I can't quite believe how quickly another COMA exhibition has come along, but in August there will be an exhibition in our wonderful local Library along the theme of Weeds - to coincide with Weed Week.

Living in a rural township and on a block of land, weeds are often top of mind. They grow so fast in our climate (lots of rain and often warm) and can take over pasture and native vegetation swiftly and destructively.

Barry has finished his piece and I am working on mine. Both are focusing on the nasty creeping weed Ageratina riparia (also known as mistflower). It is a native of Mexico and was introduced to Australia circa 1930, by florists, for use in bridal bouquets! Things got out of hand and now it is a noxious weed along a lot of the eastern coast of Australia.

Here is how I am progressing...first of all I need to check if my ink will work direct onto canvas. Tick!

Next I try to work out how many words I can write - the canvas in 10" x 12". I want to use my heartbeat script written quite densely so that it forms a pattern, rather than a series of legible words. Yet at the same time, the words have to be real and about the weed, so I source lots of info about the weed and start writing.

Next I try to mask off part of the canvas using a silhouette of the weed. This was tricky and I used clear contact, but am now wondering if I should have used something slightly more heavy duty.

Next job is to mark up the guidelines I will use for writing. They still need to be rubbed out and lightened a bit, then after that I only have to put pen to canvas and write. Only!

Hopefully the next images you will see are a beautiful completed piece; not a series of disaster shots!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Book Art Object - so close!

Despite the trip north earlier in the week; I have managed to get down to the studio each day we have been home and progress the little books for BAO.

My efforts would appear to be very timely as I received two more books in the mail this week from Alison and Carol.  Both very gorgeous and I'll post on them a bit later.

I have folded, glued, stuck, stitched and beaded my books. I have ended up with an edition of 18 which I find quite remarkable.  I only have to wrap and pack them and post them off on Monday - yee ha!

As I say in my note to the other makers...

Reflecting on the journey, this book has been a constant thought companion for nearly a year; with sketches made here and here, ideas and options tested and trialled. At times I thought I would never settle on an approach and get started; but bit by bit, I narrowed down the options and made decisions.


The whole process was enjoyable, frustrating, perplexing and wonderful all at once and I can’t wait to do it all again!

Once I have sent them all off and given Australia Post and others enough time to deliver them across the country and over to Canada, I will give you a proper showing of the whole book. In the interim; here's a sneak peak of some of the bits. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thursday Thoughts...

Writing begins with ideas, but we forget ideas are whispers in our minds. They’re always there. The trouble is we overpower the whispers with the loud voice of what we think we want our ideas to be. It takes quiet patience to listen carefully and that’s what creativity often means: simple quiet courage.

“How to write 1000 words” by Scott Berkun

Scott Berkun is a writer and a promotional/motivational speaker and as an aside, I came across this wonderful video on his blog.

Whilst his focus is on the art and practice of writing; I thought these words rang true about much of the creating of art. The idea that it takes simple, quiet courage for each of us to listen carefully to the whispers or hints that art pieces or ideas are speaking to us; and not to try and drown them out with our own interpretations, demands or expectations.

How often does that happen - that we ignore the quiet muse or whispering intuition that is leading and guiding us and instead, turn up the volume on the left-brand analytical noise that starts directing and telling, questioning and over-riding?

When I reflect, I think my best work appears when I quietly let the work take the lead; when I allow the ideas to form and emerge and take shape and change direction and evolve into something; rather than sitting down and saying I am going to do this or that; or I think people would like this.

I am facing the challenge of preparing works for an exhibition in October and am feeling a bit directionless and uncertain. I have thought  "I will do this" or "this is how I will interpret the title of exhibition". And yet nothing is truly forming or taking shape in a way that feels right, just yet.

This thought is timely for me and I think if I can go sit in my studio over the weekend and listen to the quiet whispers, I will be taking a step in the right direction...

©2011 Fiona Dempster - grasses Umbakumba

Monday, July 11, 2011

On the road again...

We are heading back to the Northern Territory for a few days this week - a true 'flying visit' - and I am really hoping that the road from Alyangula to Umbakumba has been improved.

We last visited just after the wet and the trip took an hour and a half to do about 30km (18 or so miles) in a big 4WD. It was bumpy, loads of holes and washouts and water was across the road in about 8 places (we got to know them well) so you really had to take your time, and hold on tight.

It is now the dry season and there is a commitment to seal the road and we are looking forward to that experience - perhaps it will only take 45 minutes this time!

Here are a couple of small videos of our last drive up the can hear things jiggling and jangling as we hit potholes and the odd conversation about the best way to cross the water in the dark. Fortunately on this last trip most of the water had gone down and it wasn't too deep - the first trip the water came right up to the bonnet which made me take a few big breaths in.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Book Art Object - nearing completion

I am quite excited than in amongst it all last week I actually got time to sit down and get down and nearly finish my BAO books!  I hope that by the end of this week I will actually have them in the post to people which will be a big relief for me and for Ronnie (who needs them for the display at the Impact 7 Conference in Melbourne in September).

It has been quite a challenge for me to consider how to produce an edition of 15 or so books, when what I mostly do is pour all my love and attention into doing a single, one-off book - a unique edition.

There is the initial question about what do I want to do? Do I want to do a  rendition - i.e. reproduce the poem in full; or do I want to do a response to the poem - interpretation of it?

Having determined the content of the work I then had to think through the materials - what is readily available, reasonably cheap if I am making 15 of them, how archival will they be? Then I had to think through what it would look like and how readily that would reproduce; and of course what skills would be needed to reproduce it and would I have them! I also wanted to make sure I didn't trick myself into doing a super-complicated binding or structure that would take me days to or weeks to finish 15 versions of.

It has been fascinating and I haven't had the time to learn all the things I wanted to learn on the way through, but I am nearly finished and for that I am grateful.  It is a fabulous project to be involved with and I am sure the final books from all the participants will be exciting, wonderful and different. I already have two in my hot little hands - stunning!

Here are some sneak peek shots of me at work...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Thursday Thoughts...

Books had instant replay long before televised sports.
Bern Williams

I smiled when I read this as we are in the midst of much sporting madness in Queensland this week. Strangely enough its me who loves sport and keeps up to date; whilst Barry describes himself as "interested, but slightly sports-challenged". I always read the sports pages and make sure I get to watch the netball and rugby union when its televised; and you really don't want to be sitting next to me when a game gets tight and I'm passionate about the winner/loser!

The other reason I smile now is that I went and checked out who this guy was/is and its quite hilarious to discover that no-one really knows and that whilst there are plenty of quotes attributed to him (and most of them quite funny) nobody can definitely name or describe him. Some folk now put his name in "quotes" when they quote him!

But that's quite the digression...

Despite all of that, it's quite true. Books always let you go back over them, re-read paragraphs or remind yourself of something. Despite their traditional linear progress; they always let you go into reverse, press pause and clarify something.  They let you discover the world within at your own pace.

It's pretty special when you think about it. Nothing is actually lost or unable to be retrieved; you just have to go back and check.

Searching for an image about going back and checking, I came across this piece I did years ago - more about when too much information stresses you out; but it gave me the sense of "wrong way - go back" when I looked at it tonight and thought; yes a book lets you stop when you are feeling confused or chaotic, and just go back, sort and settle. Freeways on the other hand...

Monday, July 4, 2011

Acronyms anonymous

I was away for the weekend - having a fabulous break miles away from home with my best friend. We talked, ate, drank, walked, read, talked and slept.  As a result there is no art to show from the weekend.

What I do have is a couple of protypes of letters for my next alphabet with alaw (acronym one - a letter a week,) and some folded paper I have started for my BAO (acronym two - book art object) project - 'paper wrestling'.

With alaw I have felt the desire to fold paper and maybe create 3-D forms. I'm really not sure I'm anywhere near good enough to carry out 3-D paper folding, so I have started with 2-D paper folding and am working my way thru how I might create a 3-D effect. It's such good fun and a little bit of mind-bending goes along with the paper folding; trying to work out just what might happen if I do this or that...

I have had a day of work and admin and meetings and responsibilities and tonight I just wanted to do something. Anything that felt it began in my right brain not my left brain. So as Barry cooked dinner I sat at the kitchen bench and folded these little pouches for my BAO project. I took the photo in the worst possible condition - night time and lots of different light about so the colour looks nothing like this; but they looked so nice all folded and muddled up together they deserved their own photo.