Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thursday Thoughts...

I read like the flame reads the wood.

Alfred Döblin

Not many words were needed here to get his message across - so clear, simple and evocative.  I think I chose this one because it reflects how I read, and the message resonates strongly with me.

I am a fast and voracious reader, making my way through plenty of books and as often mentioned, I need the security of a few book-companions whenever I leave home for any length of time in case I get thru the first one or two too quickly! I can read whole books in one sitting if I'm on a plane for a few hours with no distractions, and often find myself turning off lights at night much later than anticipated, as I have been swept up in the urge, the desire, the need to read the rest of the story.

It has ever been thus, and I'm not always sure it a positive trait - the speed with which I get through books sometimes means I don't process the information fully or remember every detail. I often read and have a general response to a book - and might not be able to recall every character's name or place.

On the flip side; I nearly always finish the books in time for book group!

Alfred Doblin was a novelist and a man who must have loved reading by this description of his habits. 'Flame reading wood' conjures up images for me of total absorption, being engulfed, overwhelmed and utterly consumed. I think its that sense of being consumed by reading that fits for me - that the rest of the world can go by once I am committed to a book.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Letter a Week - a few instalments

I have been somewhat remiss in not posting my letters. I have been doing them, but not in any systematic way, I'd have to say that this year has not been a systematic kind of year.  I can hardly believe its almost the end of September, and we are beginning to make Christmas plans, end of year plans and well into next year plans - how did that happen?

But I digress...

Here are some more of my fun folded letters.  The rainbow effect is coming through and I am still loving the spots in the negative space.  They are certainly each unique and individual and I continue to enjoy the making of them. Its intriguing to see how the different folds will produce the different forms. Letters are a constant source of fascination for me and its been lovely to explore them in such a different way - no pen in hand..

I probably need to get my act together and start on the finished piece - in the sense of designing it and building it and then getting onto adding the letters to it.  I think they look good against the black and will hopefully use a black background for them - still working out if I can manage to make them pop-out somehow!  Even if I don't, I expect they will still make me smile.

There are some amazing and fabulous letters and alphabets appearing over at a letter a week 2011 - its worth a quick visit for a lovely wander.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Into the unknown...

I continue to be intrigued by the creative process and am sure I will never fully understand how it works, but then I guess therein lies the magic.

Whilst we were away recently we visited a couple of great 'tip shops'. That is, the shop they have at the dump, the tip or the waste transfer station - whichever way we currently describe where all the rubbish goes. People working there identify the odd bits and pieces that could possibly be used by others and rescue them, then sell them at a very small price at the 'tip shop'.

At one such shop I bought 3 old books - ratty and tatty and without their spine coverings, but I thought they looked lovely.

I brought them home with no real idea what I would do with them; I just loved the look of them.

They sat there and I thought about them, imagined them wrapped with thread, or wire. Envisaged them somehow showing tidelines in the sand and just enjoyed them acting as a small inspiration, something to focus on in amongst the madness of the work-work world.

Over the weekend I began to play with them, found some other books that were quite dilapidated and started to get those exposed spines together and looking good.

Barry and I have fiddled with them, looked at them and pondered where they go next...

I'm not exactly sure what happens next, but I am loving the process unfolding, no clear direction, but interesting options, and sharing that exploration with B.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thursday Thoughts...

A curtain is dropped once the sun disappears. I love a night of its own colors, where green becomes myrtle, blue becomes violet, and crimson, a maroon. But most of all, I love a night where the moon is the absolute white, like the course sail of a grand ship, and, I love watching it steer, like an infernal comet, into a sea of stars.

Bedlam 78 (was

First the apology for not being able to attribute the words and quote to anything or anybody real (ish). I came across it on tumblr a while ago and when I went to find the original posting; the page had gone, had disappeared and I don't know who they are or who they were.  But I liked their words.

I thought the imagery of this was beautiful. I stopped and imagined that a curtain does fall at sunset; a sheer, slightly dark curtain that changes how we see colour. That deepens it.

The curtain gets slipped over the landscape, like a sensuous or mysterious cloak and things appear somewhat altered. I am not sure what colour myrtle is, but I imagine it deep and rich and velvety dark green. Things go from blue to violet and crimson to maroon - each time a hint of black being added to create the new colour. But it still holds the richness and beauty of its origins. It is never completely overtaken.

And then the moon. What a wonderful thing it is; what a marker of time, of seasons, of days, of weeks, of months. I am sure I have gazed as it steers into a sea of stars.

I'm not quite sure where this one came from or why I pondered on it but I simply loved the way it let me stop and re-imagine my world; to remember those moments when I had seen or felt as they described. The way things don't disappear into the darkness, but take on a new life.

Strangely it speaks of darkness again, and in a way that is welcoming and friendly and another form of beauty. Perhaps I am just drawn to dark beauty this week...

©2008 Fiona Dempster Sunset from the deck

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dark beauty

I don't often get very dark for which I am thankful.

And I don't often stop to think about the beauty that lies within the shadows, the darker tones of the world that I pass through daily. I think I'm an optimist - not Pollyannish - I tend to see more the sun than the shadow kind thing.

When I mostly think of beaches I think of brightness, blue, searing gold and yellow... and yet on our recent trip the beach we visited most was closely connected to dark rocks and dark sands.

I found it beautiful to behold so much black in nature; and quite the contradiction to find so much dark at the beach. I wandered around merrily looking at the dark, where it joined the light, marvelling at the blackness of the black.

Here are some images of the dark beach beauty...

Sand on a black rock...

Black rocks at the base of the cliff...

Black pebble on the beach...

Early morning beach...

Monday, September 19, 2011

Travel Lines

We are well on the way to having all the bits and pieces together for our exhibition Light and Lines at Hand Held Gallery in October.

I had been thinking about what to do with some small wall pieces I had made for an earlier exhibition. They were lovely and intimate; but I wasn't sure they were ever going to sell or find new homes.  In the end I decided that I am mostly an object person, rather than a wall-piece person.  I thought that whilst the look of them suited me; the style of them didn't, if that makes any sense.

So, I took them out of their frames (with Barry's help) and re-made them into a book. I had to get a couple more pieces of mat board cut for covers but in the end it has turned out to be a nice sturdy book, which feels good as you turn the pages.

Many folk will recognise the pieces, and I hope you think they look OK in their new format.  It's a bit like recycling I guess...

The cover is the wordless piece; and I added a rusted washer...

I glued the mat board pieces back to back to make sturdy pages, and used a single page binding...two tones!

I interleaved the sturdy pages with some of my favourite rusted braille pages...

Which I reinforced on one side...

And just because I love it so...a close up of the cover piece...

The main technique is incense-burned holes in the pages of an old book, covered with used teabags and encaustic-ed (I know, it's a noun not  a verb, but I still like to think about it as a verb!).

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Glyphs and moths

I think I mentioned that  Barry and I ran away for a few days recently. We went to the beach; but there were lots of national parks around as well, and we went for a walk one morning.

We came across so many fabulous scribbly bark trees.  I don't know if anything like this lives anywhere else in the world; but here in Australia we have clever little moths, whose larvae live in this particular type of eucalyptus haemastoma (gum) tree and make these fabulous marks and glyphs and tracks in the bark.

These zigzag tracks are tunnels made by the larvae of the Scribbly Gum Moth (Ogmograptis scribula) and follow the insect's life cycle. Eggs are laid between layers of old and new bark. The larvae burrow into the new bark and, as the old bark falls away, the trails are revealed. The diameters of the tunnels increase as the larvae grow, and the ends of the tracks are where the larvae stopped to pupate. Thank you wikipedia.

I must admit I get amused by what appear to be completely random journeys; and where things go awry and they have to turn back and go around another way...but the marks they make are beyond beautiful.

And then the calligrapher in me was absorbed by how people also chose to graffiti these trees themselves. As if the handwriting of the larvae was an invitation for humans to try their hand as well?!?  Anyhow, despite my preference for them not to destroy or wreck the trees, I found myself a little bit fascinated by how the carved letters appeared almost like scars and I imagined their scabs falling off as the bark shed and leaving only  hint of the original writing.

Sometimes nature just gets it so right.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Thursday Thoughts...

Art is longing. You never arrive, but you keep going in the hope that you will.

Anselm Kiefer

It seems to me that if Anselm Kiefer feels as if he has never arrived then its probably OK for the likes of me to still be longing to.

Three simple words - Art is longing - encapsulate so much of the sense, the feeling, the experience of art.  They hint at the eternal quest, the pilgrimage, the seeking out of perfection or truth or beauty.  They make it very much a personal journey not a destination.

The longing is so real - that feeling inside which so wants to create or express the moment, the sense of something in perfect poetry, or with simple elegance, or for others, with a loud and exciting vibrancy.  Longing to feel as if our work that has emerged from within has made a connection and resonated with others in some way.

Longing to achieve the perfect expression, whatever that may be.

To know that we may never arrive, doesn't dampen the desire to try. And you certainly keep going in the hope that you will. For anytime we experience the moment when it does come together, when we feel fleetingly or briefly that we have achieved something special, those moments are worth pursuing.

Anselm Keifer, The Secret Life of Plants, 2002

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A flurry of fun

In between the serious business of preparing artworks for an exhibition, I have really enjoyed some play-time with letters and envelopes.

A young friend turned 10 on the weekend and here is the cover of his card. I was totally inspired by Jane Farr's envelopes for her children and even managed to buy some glaze pens here in Australia.  I didn't go back and look at Jane's post until after I'd finished; but there are some real similarities for sure!  Like the chunky letters and the coloured in letters...

©2011 Fiona Dempster Tom's birthday card (detail)
©2011 Fiona Dempster Tom's birthday card 
My brother Al and his fiancee Lorraine had their engagement party on the weekend, and we travelled to Brisbane and stayed overnight. We had a great night and I also had fun making up the gift-card-envelope thingy. Technical term.

It's Japanese-inspired and uses some paste paper I made as well as fragment of light Japanese papers that I did some Itajime dying of when we were in Calgary last year.

©2011 Fiona Dempster Al & Lorraine's engagement
©2011 Fiona Dempster Al & Lorraine's engagement
I sometimes need reminding about how much fun it is to play - to make folded envelopes, to write people's names for their birthdays. I know how much pleasure it give me to receive such hand-made and hand-written wonders, and I wonder why I don't do it more often myself? 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Lineal book completed

Despite a trip to Brisbane for happy Engagement Party on Saturday night I found time to make the final book that I posted about last week.

I was able to recall all the little things I wanted to do in the final piece (notes in journal helped) and I merrily set off to make it. It all worked out fine and with no dramas. But interestingly, because I was trying to follow the pattern, the idea I had created last week it wasn't nearly as much fun!

Even tho the final piece has all the same features of the trial piece - and is actually an improvement on the model - there just wasn't that buzz as I went about it. I figure NOTHING can replace that high, that sense of magic that accompanies those moments where the work is leading. Its definitely not the same when the work is following - even tho the product is better! I think that means I will continue to seek out those moments; those little epiphanies...

I really like this end-on shot of the book, with the rusted scrolls acting as ties.

©2011 Fiona Dempster Lineal (end-shot)
Here is a shot of the book open - you can see the weaving and the way I hand stitched around the edges, to enclose the scrolls and make it sturdy.

©2011 Fiona Dempster Lineal (open)
And here it is wrapped up. The colours aren't great here - the paper is strong and deep turquoisy green with dark mottling and a waxy feel. It looks strong and bold.

©2011 Fiona Dempster Lineal (closed)
This little book is now ready to join the others in preparation for our exhibition "Light and Lines" opening at Hand Held gallery in Melbourne on Thursday 6 October. I managed to make significant progress on three other books as well so I am nearly there...

Now THAT is exciting!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Thursday Thoughts...

For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you.

Anne Lamott

I am fortunate to have a beautiful good friend who captures thoughts like these and keeps them together  "for Fiona" and then sends them on. She knows so well what moves me and makes me think; and makes me smile.

I received this one this week and loved it.  We ran away for a few days - a mini-break to re-charge our batteries - and I received it whilst we were up the coast.  It made me smile because the one thing we did before leaving was go to one of the secondhand bookshops in town and buy 7 books just to be sure we would be OK whilst we were away. On top of the 3 or 4 other books we had as options - for three days away!

The other thing we packed was wine - says a lot really, but we felt prepared for the worst the weather might throw at us!

I really loved the description of small, flat, rigid squares of paper - so true so simple yet I've never thought of books that way. What she goes on to say about the unfolding worlds rings true, and is a source of ever-wonderment to me; that so many folk can put so many thoughts down in such a way that we are carried away to different worlds.

And that books can make you cry, fear, get fired up, laugh out loud, smile quietly to yourself - that ability to move people is one of their greatest gifts. To take us out of our world and our understandings and show us other places and other ways.

©2008 Fiona Dempster Ancora Imparo - I am still learning

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tantalising glimpses..

I began serious work on a prototype book over the weekend, working with those lovely rusted scrolls that in the end, didn't become scrolls...

It's nice to have the time to have pieces sitting around, letting you wander past and ponder what they might do next, what they might become.  These long snake-like strips told me the other day that I should pull threads and make lines.  The title of Barry and my show in Melbourne in October is "Light and Lines"; Barry is doing the light, I am doing the lines. So pull threads I did.

©Fiona Dempster - rusted scrolls, pulled threads
©Fiona Dempster - rusted scrolls, pulled threads
©Fiona Dempster - rusted scrolls, pulled threads
And then I began to dream about weaving them in and out of the pages in a book. I found some stunning paper in my stash, folded it and started snipping slits in it.  Then I began to weave the scrolls thru....ahhh the magic began.

©2011 Fiona Dempster - prototype for rusted scrolls
I played for ages with these pages, changing where the slits would start and end; pulling the fabric taut and loose; working out how much would show and how much would be hidden. Discovering how to finish it off and overall just having one of those magical sessions where the piece kept unfolding before my very eyes, within my hands, and I had to jot down notes as I went as it was all happening with such thrill and speed that I feared I might overlook something in the final piece if I didn't capture that moment of inspiration!

Here's a final tantalising glimpse of where the prototype got to...

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Brush with Silence... Japan

©2009 Fiona Dempster. Calligraphers tools - Tatebayashi Japan
I spent the half hour it takes to watch the video below turning my head this way and that, marvelling at the beauty of the scene, the setting, and the lettering that was appearing.

Modern, traditional, Japanese, Roman capitals, gestural writing, brushes, nibs, ruling pens - such beautiful expressions of language. The mastery each of these calligraphers has is exquisite to observe and has reminded me once again why I love lettering!

I picked this video up in a thread from cyberscribes - an international lettering group, and thought non-calligraphers might also enjoy the moments of beauty....

                                    文字書く人たち from Japan Letter Arts Forum on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Thursday Thoughts...

She seemed to have no inkling that life wasn’t as orderly as her pencil case and that everything is chance and at any moment any number of remarkable things can happen that are totally beyond our control, events that rip up our maps and re-polarize our compass –

Kate Atkinson, Emotionally Weird

This is such a pertinent quote for me today - when life got turned upside down in the nicest possible way and who'd have thought it would turn out like that?

I really enjoy Kate Atkinson's novels - she takes you to some interesting places and creates some good characters.  I love the use of the word 'inkling' here - I don't think we say it often enough! And I also love the idea of a very ordered pencil case where you can find just what you are looking for.

Life sure isn't always like that in this household. I seem to have a penchant for filing by piling - I get some degree of comfort from knowing that if something is within my vision I probably haven't misplaced it. Heaven only knows what things will look like when I really start losing my memory...

I guess here, she is also talking about those events that sideswipe you, lead you through a dark and difficult time, and again, who'd have thought? Who could see them coming?

But for us today it was a happy re-organising, an unexpected re-gaining of a lot of time. A job we had committed to do for work-work had to be moved and changed and in the end, that meant we couldn't do it. It was an intense load - over 5 weeks travelling all across the country, following by weeks of analysing and report writing so we are excited to now be staying home for a bit. Such pleasure and delight to be sitting on the mountain and not packing a bag to fly away.

So here's to those random happy moments when life gets turned upside down - to happy dances and tidy pencil cases!

Photo reblogged from tumblr; originally posted by labirintus