Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Calligraphic happiness...

One of the nicest things about having connections to and with calligraphers is that you sometimes get very very lovely snail mail!

In the last two weeks I have received two gorgeously-addressed envelopes that have made me smile, and then want to show everybody near me!

The first is a thank you from Tania; a talented Gold Coast calligrapher, and the second is a thank you from Helen another very talented calligrapher, this time from Buderim.

It's such a happiness to receive these lovely envelopes and the handwritten cards as well - so thank you both. I just had to share these little moments of joy...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Creative Spaces - Open Studios IV

OK, its official, we're exhausted!

After another amazing weekend we feel tired, satisfied, weary and exhilarated - a heady mix! Today we counted 100 people coming through and visiting us which seems truly remarkable; after having seen around 80 people yesterday as well.

Yesterday, the mist and drizzle set in, offering visitors the very special mountain magic known as "mizzle" in the Dempster-Smith household, and still they came.

Today dawned sunny and bright and the studio looked great - photo taken from the house.

We found it very special to share our world, the way we think about our art, what we are hoping to achieve, and the different ways we go about it with the different folk who visited. Today I had lots of interest in the calligraphic side of things - from calligraphers, through to sign-writers, to young folk fascinated by Japanese kanji scripts to lots of people who have enjoyed picking up a pen a long time ago and writing beautifully.

I was doing a little practice piece throughout the day - writing each letter of the alphabet in layers on a single piece of paper so it became quite abstracted - and we talked about abstract versus literal calligraphic art. This piece offers me lots of options and in my spare moments I pondered if it would have watercolours added to it, if it would become a background piece for  a print or if I would add more letters or words to it in different ways. Just a joy to be fiddling and playing and pondering...

One of the nicest things to happen was as I turned around to start tidying and packing up at the end of the day; I realised somebody had left a message in the pebbles!

And here we are, two tired artists, with paper rusting mess in the background; rusted wheels and timber in the foreground, pleased to be sitting and having a quiet cuppa at the end of it all.

Many thanks to the many people who visited and talked and shared - our lives are richer for your visits.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thursday Thoughts...

An artist’s duty is rather to stay open-minded and in a state where he can receive information and inspiration. You always have to be ready for that little artistic epiphany.
Nick Cave

Nick Cave is one of Australia's most interesting exports...his work/music can appear dark and damned at times; but he has also written some of the most exquisite and sublime lines and songs, that make you stop and just want to be with him in that moment.

The bit I like in particular about this thought is the final idea of the little artistic epiphany. I can almost visualise it, see it appear, feel it happen and hear it go 'pop'!  Those moments when we suddenly realise this is it, it's working it's coming together and here I have made my own special brand of magic.

The epiphany can be an understanding as well - the moment at which we finally 'get' how this comes together, what it takes, what it is about the work that nourishes our soul. An insight, a truth, an ah-ha.

The other theme that resonates for me is the need for openness - to be willing to be empty in a way, in order for the inspiration and little guiding moments to make themselves apparent. A bit like needing silence in order to hear things.

Sometimes a regular routine of exercises might get us into this zone; sometimes just going and sitting in the studio can help; meditation, yoga, exercise, all things that help clear and empty our minds of chatter might make it easier; going places or simply choosing to be observant or allowing for a free-thought flows of connecting...all encourage us to be open to inspiration.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Creative Spaces - Open Studios III

Well, what an amazing weekend!

Saturday dawned warm and bright and after getting Barry down to set up the art4place placemaking art event in town and back, we settled in to meet and greet, show and demonstrate.

We had about 60 visitors each day, and everybody was friendly, interested and inolved. People wanted to know what we did, why we did it, how we did it. Cups of tea and coffee and biscuits were offered and people gathered around to watch Barry beat metal and fold-form leaves.

I did some monoprints, some stitching and some calligraphy; but there wasn't much time to pursue a single project and just have people watching you - we were talking about all the different aspects and elements of our art, and luckily hopping up and down to make sales!

As we had hoped, the pebbles and inspirations were a big hit and we both need to make more before next weekend. Barry's bowls and leaves and feathers all featured and a couple of my monoprint journals sold as well.

We got lots of lovely comments in our visitors book and lots of people interested in coming back for classes and workshops, so we'll be having a think about how we can do things...

We were amazed that people kept on coming on Sunday - the weather turned a bit foul and there was rain and mist and wind...but we love that folk persevered and came along and met us, shared our space and engaged with our work.  Here's to next weekend!

And thanks to Noela for taking the top two shots - we never got the chance to pick up a camera and snap - in fact we missed lunch all together on Saturday and worked out we had two breaks on Sunday - one for 5 minutes and one for ten!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Creative Spaces - Open Studios II

Here we are, the night before the Open Studios and we are rip-roaring and ready to go!

I really like that this is as much about showing people what we do, inviting them to enter our working and creating spaces and to share the experience of art in the making, as it is about selling work.

We are not sure if we will have hordes of folk descending upon us, or a trickle of interested souls who want to chat and talk about what it is we do, how we do it, why we do it...

I think we sometimes forget in amongst our madness and busy-ness and angst that other folk find the idea of an artist, and their studio exhilarating and exciting. That magic happens in there, and that somehow they might be privy to watching the process unfold.

I know I love looking at other artists' spaces; how they work, the little talismen they have around them to inspire them and keep them going; the tools they need, the mess they make.

Its  a privilege to share this time with the people who drop by, and we look forward to sharing our space with them.

Having said all that, we are also conscious of the fact that people often like to take home a little something; a touchstone or link to the visit and so have made a few pieces that folk can purchase without emptying their wallets. The wallet-emptying pieces will also be there should anybody feel moved to do so!

Here are some cards we had printed locally, using some of our own images of a few pieces.

And here are some of Barry's wee "Inspiration in your pocket" pieces - shiny bits of recycled metal with inspirational words stamped on them. In fact they are so shiny they pick up my skin reflecting like its sunburnt!

And my pebble letters - hand written on each pebble is a letter, and you can choose to write a word or just carry your initial with you...there are a couple of bowls full to play with.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Thursday Thoughts...

If someone suggested the idea of public libraries now, they’d be considered insane. If you said you were going to take a little bit of money from every taxpayer, buy a whole load of books and music and games, stick them on a shelf and tell everyone, ‘These are yours to borrow and all you’ve got to do is bring them back,’ they’d be laughed out of government.
Peter Collins, The Secret Life of Libraries

Brilliant! Don't you just love this thought?  In amongst the madness we call the sophistication of the 21st century, this is so true - people would say "no way, you can't do that!!".

And yet, the pubic library is the best thing we ever did (a big claim I know, and I'm on shaky ground to defend it, but it feels true to me).

I love that libraries are there for everybody; that they don't discriminate. I love that with the big institutions like the National Library of Australia they take it upon themselves to collect every single book published in Australia, so you know if you ever need to find it or read it - they will have it.

I love that public libraries have free wi-fi access and computers for folk who need to log on for half an hour - and it's free! I love that they are knowledge hubs for our communities and create spaces that welcome folk and encourage us to read, explore, discuss and feel happy.

OK so I'm a raving fan, but they truly are special places.

Our local library lets us hang art exhibitions every month and the place is filled with toddlers having story time and experiencing the magic of being read to; parents learning how good it is to read to their kids; older folk practising how to upload photos to computers and email their grandchildren; teenagers doing social media in the afternoon and borrowing music; middle aged folk reading newspapers in the mornings and everybody borrowing books left right and centre.  If you need access to a Justice of the Peace to sign your official documents, the Library hosts them, and if you want to volunteer to read at the aged person's home, the Library can arrange it. If you need practise with English skills - library volunteers are the folk to help you. They are truly good places.

In honour and support of public libraries!

This is a photo of me (with short hair) teaching a book making workshop in the suspended 'pod' in Brisbane City Council's library - how cool is this?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Spring is calling...

I heard Spring whisper it was on its way this week...

I popped my head around the corner and found this poppy had bloomed and was letting me know with all its colour and style that winter is on the wane.

Here it is getting closer, whispering louder and then gleefully announcing - Spring will soon be with us!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Creative Spaces - Open Studios

Preparations are well and truly underway for the Open Studios. Books are made and stitched, pieces are presented and priced and the shed studio has been given the once over and is looking stunning - you can even see the mountains through the windows now!

Here are some shots of the space getting sorted - it has been a bit of a mad time... these are in between shots (not quite before; it looked a lot worse, and not quite after; its even tidier now and a number of those covers are now real books)

and some lovely shots of some journals I have stitched, using Ken's handmade paper as covers... I did some monoprints on the some of the covers - feathers, string and ferns.

Ken is also on the map so to speak and I recommend anybody coming up our way also drop in and see the magic he creates in his studio space.

So August 20 and 21, and 27 and 28, 10am - 4pm - if you are nearby, drop by! We'll have the kettle on and some home baked biscuits if you want to sit and have a chat about what we do.

And sign our visitors book!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Book Art Object - the thinking behind it

I recently showed you all the pictures of the book when it was finished and promised to talk about the thinking behind it sometime. That time is now (altho if you also head over to the BAO blog you'll find a similar, quite similar, post over there!)

Reflecting on the journey, this book has been a constant thought companion for nearly a year; with sketches made here and there, 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.

These are some mid-process drafts...

The book is a response to Claire Beynon’s poem, rather than a rendition of it. If I had chosen a rendition I would have used the whole poem throughout the book and made it the focus. By highlighting particular lines or phrases I created my own personal reading of the poem in a calligraphic way.

There were certain words or phrases that jumped out at me, and told me the underlying story of the poem in a way, and I chose these words/phrases to include in my book.

I am fond of squares and chose to work within the square format. This choice was supported by the covers I found in a funny little art shop which then set the format and colour scheme for the rest of it. Sometimes I need a little push from outside to stop exploring and make the decision, then continue to explore within the new boundaries.

I wanted to give the reader some opportunity to wrestle with paper in the process of reading the book. I also knew I needed/wanted to include Claire’s complete poem somehow in the book; and so the idea of having it held within a Japanese tato on the title page came into being.

Choosing which of these little pockets to use was a fun time in itself; and I had the odd disaster here and there as I trialled them in a remote Aboriginal community where I had no ruler or measuring tool; and the squares are actually formed from rectangular pieces of paper which require specific dimensions and proportions - none of which I could easily or readily achieve!

I did one original calligraphic version of the phrase or line I highlighted and then scanned each of them individually. I had hoped to be able to print the scans direct onto the pages but I ran out of time to master the set up of the pages in the software properly; so they are individually attached to each page. In the end, I like the hand-made and crafted nature of their attachment.

Here is my first test page of writing...

I knew I had to do a simple binding if I was producing an edition, so used a three-hole pamphlet binding and the beads on the outside just added a tiny decorative element.

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

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Thursday Thoughts...

If you were to put aside what you know because of what other people told you, how much of what you know do you truly know for yourself?
John Tarrant

I actually found this idea, these words quite challenging. My life so far has been all about learning, reading, listening, absorbing, challenging and questioning information and knowledge that others hold or have published or spoken.

So what do I really know for myself?

I often say to folk - let me make my own mistakes, then I'll know for sure or understand.  I seem to be one of those real concrete learneres - for whom the experience of making or doing or seeing or feeling is what makes something real and makes that something stick in my brain.

I have learnt a lot from others, but have gone on to do things myself by which I can happily say - I know this. So after an initial concern that I knew nothing that I hadn't been told by someone else; I have spent time thinking about all the things I do know for sure, the truths I can attest to and the knowledge that is mine, pure and simple.

Its been a fun exploration, and in the end quite re-inforcing. Sure, I don't really know how electricity works for myself, but I know lots of things that are important and help me live my life better - not just make my life better.

©2008 Fiona Dempster, Library books at Cashel, Ireland

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Reward for weeding and pruning

Barry has already posted on this little fella, but I think he deserves a double spotlight.

On Sunday we were busy preparing for the Creative Spaces - Open Studios, which are taking place up here on the Range the last two weekends in August (20 & 21, 27 & 28). About 25 studios with 30 artists will be open from 10am - 4pm on both weekends, with lots of interesting things happening and doing. Both Barry and I are opening our studio 601 MVR, click here for Barry's page and here for mine.

One good thing about this event, is that we will be working; getting dirty, rusting paper, making prints, stitching quietly or whatever takes our fancy, during the four days which makes it a bit more interesting for visitors I think, but back to Sunday.

We had done a lot of weeding and pruning, had fished one leech off Barry's leg already, viewed an exquisitely bright green spider under the mulch and kept on going, when Barry said - "come and have a look at this little guy..."

I figured, a slug, another spider or maybe a bird, but I never imagined an echidna!

We spent a blissful hour or so following him or her around the block, trying to make sure it was safe from Sunday drivers, and just watching it at work, getting enough ants for a meal. It was a precious time.

I have never spent any time with an echidna before - they usually seem quite shy and in a hurry to get away from folk, but this one was content to go about its business in our company; coming about 6 inches away from me at one point.

Here are some shots and maybe a video...it covered a lot of territory and ranged across the whole block.

For some obscure reason, the video setting was on kind of black and white, which makes for interesting viewing...

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Letter a Week - beginning again

I am hopelessly out of synch with my second alphabet; it has been fits and starts and moments of chaos, but over the past few days I finally settled and sorted and got things back under control...

I have chosen to do a folded paper alphabet. I had hoped I might  be able to pull off a 3-D pop up alphabet but I don't have the time or head space to sit down and really work thru the logistics and logic of creating a stylish 3-D alphabet at the moment.

So I went for paper folding. I also reverted to one of my favourite things in the world - a rainbow - and am creating a rainbow of letters.  I knew I needed something on the underside of the paper to contrast with the plain coloured paper of the letter, and as I drove into town on Friday I saw spots, and decided I'd do spots! No idea where they came from, but I think they work.

I like the way the letter is plain and almost in the negative space, and that the pattern appears in the blank of the letter. An  interesting effect.

I also love them on the black background, and think I'll work with that in the final piece.

It's all good fun and just what I needed to get doing something.

I love that about this project, whenever I've been away for a bit and am back in the studio, it is a lovely gentle, small thing to get me back in the groove...no fear of producing a major work, no need to have hours up my sleeve...just sit down and play with a couple of letters. Perfect!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Thursday Thoughts...

Creativity is subjective, and your art will find its tribe. Your dream has its own heartbeat. Listen for it.

Patti Digh

I think the further I go along this meandering, occasionally rocky path called art, the more I realise the truth of these words.  I began in a place where I thought if I only had time to be an artist and make stuff, then the rest (fortune, fame and fabulousness) would follow.

Naive. Guilty as charged.

I had a major realisation about a year ago - that I work in a very very niche way. I don't do landscapes. I don't paint portraits. I'm not an abstract artist. I make calligraphic and printed and stitched books. I love rust in all its manifestations - on fabric on paper, on itself. Sometimes I make things for walls too. Oh and metal books are a favourite; and I like pebbles and timber as well.  Words and poetry and text and pondering make me happy.

Eclectic is me; yet there are also clearly markers that make the works mine.  This is my dream's heartbeat; this is the art that I make.

Blogging has been a wonderful way to discover 'my tribe'. In amongst the millions and billions of folk living on this planet, I have been able to find people who belong to my tribe; yet who live thousands and thousands of kilometres or miles away. Over oceans and mountains and prairies and deserts, through forests and canyons, and metropolis'. The tribe can be found in all of these places - we recognise kin as our works whisper "s/he's one of ours" to each other.

Its a great reminder that creativity is subjective - some folk will love it others just won't get it. Not many people will actually buy it. It's great to connect with the people who get your work and how you approach it and think about it. It's great to know you're not alone...

©2008 Fiona Dempster, Bush glyphs - heartbeat

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Rusted fabric scrolls in the making

I was playing in the studio with a beautiful old metal container a few weeks ago and thought how perfectly some paper scrolls would sit within it. I made some, and thought I'd encaustic them to give them some rigidity. And then I didn't really like they way they worked.

I started pondering rusted fabric scrolls and set about wrapping some muslin strips around rusty bits from Barry's rust pile , tied them up with string and soaked them in vinegar for a few weeks. Well, basically I forgot about them so that was a good thing - they got to rust well!

I took them out recently and left them to soak in the rain to wash some of the vinegar away.  Here they are post-unwrapping and draining.

Just what will happen next I'm not sure - I think there will be stitching; but beyond that is yet to be revealed to me.

Here they are hanging on our trusty furniture trolley - used mostly for moving Barry's large logs and sculptures and posts around the block! In the background his workbench, the rusty bits, some pumpkins and general 'junk' that will often become beautiful art.

A couple of close ups of the strips as they hung on the trolley handles...I like that the rust has really worn thru the fabric in parts; there is a sense of decay and disintegration happening.

Looking an awful lot like the snakeskin we discovered a few weeks ago; here they are lying in the rain on our driveway soaking away some of the vinegar.

It's moments like this I realise we take weird photos, but surely we're not alone...