Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Letter a Week 2012 begins

Well I am feeling quite chuffed with myself as I have managed to get stuck into my letters early and am on track. Not ahead of myself, just comfortably on track.  I managed to get the first four letters done before we headed off for our holiday.

I am also feeling good about the alphabet I am doing and have some weird and wonderful ideas in mind for the final piece. So you can tell I am feeling happy and inspired by this little project this year!

As ever, with ALaW, there are two alphabets to complete in the 52 weeks, and one of these has some rule or guides around it. It has to be a polka dot or pixel or dotty alphabet.  That leaves things pretty wide open for folk; yet also gives a bit of coherence to the finished pieces if we ever get to display them somewhere.

I went for white on white (one of my all time favourite combinations) and pierced the letters through the paper. I only had the i-Phone over at the shed studio so the colours appear more dove-grey on dove-grey; but the sense of them comes through I think.

Here is where I have gotten to so far A, B, C and D

And this is what they looked like lined up together on a piece of blackboard - yum! Back to NY transmissions soon!

And then just because I am who I am - I took a shot of the multi-pierced piece of mat board I had been using to pierce into - the lovely pattern left was too good to ignore!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

You never know your luck...

In the big city!  We are having a wonderful time in New York, seeing so much and experiencing some very mild winter weather. But today was special; because not only did we go to the Museum of Art and Design - we went with Jennifer.

I felt lucky that we were able to connect - she came down from Connecticut and together we enjoyed a couple of exhibitions at the gallery and an open studio there as well.  It was a great reminder of how wonderful the world of blog is, as however else would we have 'met' and then been able to 'meet'?

We had coffee, we wandered, we chatted, we photographed, we had lunch and then we walked together thru the streets of NYC until our paths took us our separate ways.  Just special.

Necklace by Janna Syvanoja - used telephone directories
Fragment - Co-Twisted by Ishida  Tomoko
Fiona & Jennifer, photo by Barry
We have seen many sights and heard many sounds and here are just a few of the sightseeing variety...

Barry at The Cloisters
Winter on the High Line
Statue of Liberty - shrouded in mist
911 Memorial - a well of tears
New York Public Library

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thursday Thoughts...

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.

Melodie Beattie

I think that gratitude is one of the quietest yet most powerful of virtues. I tried to find a word other than virtue - it has some funny connotations - but in the end I couldn't quite work out what gratitude was - an emotion, a feeling, an attitude, an approach, a path, a way of thinking or being or ???  Whatever it is, it is quiet yet powerful.

It is also very personal - no one else can do it for you.

I like the bit "It turns what we have into enough" Isn't that perfect? I don't even need the more - just enough is perfect for me.  It helps stop the comparisons with others; the envy or desire to have more and keeps reminding me that all shall be well.

Melodie Beattie writes about alcoholism, co-dependenc and recovery from addiction and I guess she understands gratitude on a daily basis.  There's a whole bunch of folk out there who go on with "an attitude of gratitude" and I don't want to be part of some movement; I just think its a good way for me to try and be.

Calligraphy by Helen Irving. Photo and adjustments Fiona Dempster
PS A big bit of gratitude in my life - Barry. Happy New York Birthday B!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Red thread stitching

More red thread.

Once I started using the sewing machine to stitch on paper, I then of course wanted to experiment some more. I started stitching on heavy tracing paper to see what that would do. It was really sturdy and felt strong beneath the sewing foot.  I tried to experiment beyond my tendency for straight lines and did some swirls and curves and let it just wander around basically, making tracks.

Then I remembered I had just bought some glassine paper and I thought that might be fun to try as well. It felt really different to the tracing paper - it was much lighter and tended to want to crinkle more.

At the end of each run of stitching I was able to 'extend' the stitches (lengthen the threads) so the paper sat straight(ish) again.  That was just me running my fingers together from the middle of the row to both outside ends of the row simultaneously. I now feel as if I need to do a youtube video to explain myself better!

Anyhow, the experimenting continues...

We are on a bit of a holiday now so there won't be many progress reports on this work; maybe some nice holiday snaps instead!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Red threads

I have been continuing to stitch paper using the sewing machine - despite the fire-risks - and am happy to report it has all been plain sailing since the smoking paper episode.

I am making progress on the piece I am testing out and am really enjoying the process and some of the off-shoots of it. Mostly these wonderful red threads that dangle off the side.

As you can see, I've stitched a lot of lines on paper!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thursday Thoughts...

At some point in life the world’s beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint, or even remember it. It is enough.

Toni Morrison

I like this and I like remembering this at times when I think I need to grab the camera and take a photo and get fussy about getting it right and in amongst all the hoo-ha; I miss the moment. Not the "Kodak" moment; but the real moment. The realness of being present; of absorbing the beauty around me or the marvellousness of something I am seeing and just accepting it as a gift. For me. For now.  

We sometimes regret leaving our cameras or phones at home when we come across something; but in the end it's OK to not have a record of it. It's OK to have simply seen, experienced, reacted, felt and wondered.  As Toni says, I guess you don't even have to remember it - it is just what it is and it has been in your life.

Blogging has really changed how I see things and record things - I often think "I'll take a photo of that and blog on it". Things I might not have noticed before; or things that now seem intriguing or funny or worth sharing. 

I also think visual artists' blogs are about the images - the feast of beautiful things we get to gaze upon as we visit each other's blogs and websites. So I am totally for photographing, sketching, painting and capturing images and the sense of place or a moment.  I just think at times, we shouldn't get so bound up in the recording of it that we miss the point of it!

So how to come up with an image to illustrate that thought???? In the end I chose one of the first photos I ever took of our valley.  It was dawn, the clouds and mist were still pooling in the valleys and the mountains were serene.  I see a variation of this scene nearly every day and I never tire of it.  It is always changing, and every day is different; but mostly now I just sit and gaze, and am still.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The whiteness...

We are in summer here and it has been a topsy turvy one to say the least. Last week we sweltered in high and record temperatures; this week we are sitting inside with jeans on as we watch the white mist and cloud and rain surround us.

Last summer was very wet; our state was badly flooded, and we even had to rescue our local Library. We have just passed the anniversary of the worst of it.  This summer they also predicted a wet one so we have been lucky to have avoided it thus far.

In anticipation, one day I was at the hardware centre I collected a stash of white paint cards; thinking I could take a photo of the mist each day that we woke in a white-out and compare it to a colour card.  I had some cunning plan to put the imagery together somehow (maybe in a blizzard book!) and call it "The Unbearable Whiteness of Summer". This worked quite well in theory - I took a photo each day (3 so far) and then tried to compare to a card. I had seriously gotten ahead of myself.

My camera settings and my printer settings are not things I fiddle with much and to cut a long story short - the photos all printed grey (the same grey) and looked nothing like the mist or the colour cards! Laugh.

So in the end I just selected the cards that looked most like my mornings and here's the first couple scanned.

Saturday 7 Jan 2012 - Mink Scorpio Half
Monday 16 Jan 2012 - Silent Delight
Tuesday 17 Jan 2012 - January Dawn
Imagine my surprise when I saw that last one's name!  How weird - January in Australia should be blazing bright gold and blue (and being woken up at 4.30am by the sun streaming in...). Perhaps it's a northern hemisphere colour?

It seemed like such a fun idea at the time, and given I have this enduring fascination with paint colours, I thought it would be brilliant! Never mind. Don't you just love that it is somebody's JOB to name colours? To allocate words to describe a tone or hue? More Brilliant!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A miscellany...

Isn't miscellany just a lovely word?  It has also proven quite handy this weekend as it helps me do a blog post about stuff I've done and thought about, or found out about, without having anything really concrete done!

Thoughts about "A subversive stitch"
As part of BookArtObject this year I have chosen the title "A subversive stitch" to work with and have been thinking and pondering and bringing together all sorts of ideas. There are clear links to women's work and stitching, darning, samplers, garment making, and embroidering. There is something in it for me about censorship and letters written home during the wars where sentence were blacked out, leaving the safe words showing.  There is something about stitching to remove words and leaving others; and something about history where men mostly got to write it and women weren't featured.  What a ramble; but welcome to my head!  So it's been fun so far and a few solid ideas are emerging.

Some of these images have helped:

The Great English Letter Writers (detail) by Lauren DiCioccio, 2009
Red Tower, by Yuri Avvakumov and Yuri Kuzin, 1986
Hand embroidered newspapers by Lauren DiCoccio
Exhibition open
My next random mention goes to Gallery East in Fremantle - whose Artists' Book exhibition opened last night and where my book "Learning my Lines"is now on show. For anyone in the west - it is actually at Gallery East (not the partner gallery in Midlands).  They have promised each entrant a catalogue and I am looking forward to receiving mine.

A smoking machine
And for the final random instalment...there I was on Friday afternoon happily and totally engaged with my new found fun, stitching paper on the sewing machine when I began to smell a funny smell. A bit like baking/burning but not quite. Then I lifted my eyes away a bit and holy moly - the sewing machine had smoke drifting out of it all over!  A quiet "Barry do you have a minute? - yes, what for? - my sewing machine is on fire" brought Barry running downstairs with a fire blanket. Not needed, but an excellent precaution. I turned it off and sat it outside for a bit, investigating - but it wasn't an electrical burning smell and the machine wasn't hot at all. I think in the end some paper scraps ended up getting too much friction somewhere. It has been behaving nicely since altho the smell lingers.... I wish I'd had my camera handy, it was quite a sight.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Thursday Thoughts...

Books are frozen voices, in the same way that musical scores are frozen music. The score is a way of transmitting the music to someone who can play it, releasing it into the air where it can once more be heard. And the black alphabet marks on the page represent words that were once spoken, if only in the writer’s head. They lie there inert until a reader comes along and transforms the letters into living sounds. The reader is the musician of the book: each reader may read the same text, just as each violinist plays the same piece, but each interpretation is different.

Margaret Atwood

For those experiencing winter the sense of frozen voices and frozen music is closer to home than for those of us sweltering, but the images Margaret Atwood conjures up and the beautiful way she expresses them reach me wherever I am.

The sense that a musical score and black alphabet marks are inert until we interact with them make me think about the power of engagement; the power we have to bring things into being, simply by our playing or our reading or our speaking. I am sure there are whole arms of philosophy and/or science that seek to explore the idea of whether something exists without our interacting with it - at what point does something come into being of its own and so on.  I don't need to ponder the depths and details of that; I just want to sit with her ideas of readers being musicians; and how each reading or playing produces a different interpretation.

There is something marvellous in the written word and in the written music that leaves room for interpretation, and our own personal experience to be brought to bear and change the way the music or the book is understood. For that moment. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Leaving things out

For me, one of the absolute best things about having studio space, a separate place to work in and create in; is that I get to leave things out. I no longer have to sweep away and tidy up whatever I am working on in order to re-create and reclaim the space we call "dinner table".  When we built the house we made sure we had studio spaces and I am forever grateful that we did.

It's the ability to leave things out that I love. I work on something and then put it aside; not away. I leave things out and let them talk to me. I am intrigued by how often I find that something that has been sitting there for a bit, suddenly goes - this is what I need. And for some reason, having sat with it, walked past it and glanced at it casually over the time its been out; I have internalised something, made some connection and then it's good to go.

I was working today in the studio with a friend's daughter and we had a ball.  While she was doing her work; I kept glancing at these pieces. They have been there for a few weeks; waiting to tell me what they need doing with them.

For all true calligraphers out there; you will note that my italic is rusty and that's why I chose to do these little pieces. I figured I could get back in the swing of writing again if I just did words, rather than stress about doing a whole piece, with layout issues and regularity to worry me. Each piece is only 5cm x 1.5cm.

They were fun and enjoyable - and I am still enjoying them lying around the place, whispering to me occasionally - put me under semi-transparent fabric, stitch around me onto a cover; make me like pebbles swimming in the fabric. The conversations I have!

As ever, I'm not sure where they're going yet....but I'll keep leaving things out and listening.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sittin' stitchin'

We've had a weekend of recovery - restoring the house to a semblance of order and continuing the spring clean we began oh, back in Spring!  We sorted the office which was most necessary - all that work-work had just piled upon the floor; on desks and all over; so now we can start the work-work year in a tidier frame of mind.

I did a few wee bits and pieces - nothing major, mostly fiddling (non-musical) and playing which is wonderful. I have been too long away from the studio space.

I started stitching on paper, machine-stitching on paper, and discovered the many joys of bobbin tension and paper and keeping the machine clean. If anybody has any particular tips about stitching thru paper (its quite heavy, 200gsm) feel free to share!

Of course I kind of loved the mess I made...

With all the mistakes and cut threads left dangling...

Here I am writing notes to myself again as I go - keeping a bit of a record on the actual trial piece, but in classic Fiona style, actually stitching over some of my notes to self. Laugh!

And this is kind of where I'm going with this piece. Like the pages I burn holes in and leave particular words; I'm trying to stitch away the words.  Will see where this leads.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Thursday Thoughts...

The universe is a self-surprising arrangement, so as to avoid the monotony and boredom of knowing everything in advance.

Alan Watts

At the moment, most of my days appear to validate this idea.  It seems to me I have a bit of an idea of where they are headed or what might be happening; but in the end - off they go on some completely unexpected or unintended path and then they're done!

I had thought that the time between Christmas and New year would be quiet and empty and therefore ready to be filled by things and thoughts artistic. Instead our life and world has been filled by family and friends and visitors and entertaining which is all wonderful in its own way.

I like to have a bit of a plan; but I also think its good to be open to whatever appears; to take up unanticipated opportunities and revel in those serendipitous moments that magically arise.  I agree with Alan Watts - to know everything in advance would be akin to death by boredom for me. Despite having a preference for control (I can hear friends laughing and see family nodding) its good that life still surprises us and reminds us that we shouldn't, for a moment, really think we are in control!

This piece always makes me smile - it's called Budgerigar Dreaming by Ewari Nungala; telling the tale of a journey of the ancestral budgerigar spirits and the flight of the budgerigar.

Ordered paths with a little bit of chaos...

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Working things out

I adore other people's art journals. I love looking at what seem to me to be works of art and glorious colour and control. I probably suffer from journal-envy if the truth be told.

As I was working on the pieces for the nuns, I smiled to myself as I realised how I go about making a piece of work, and wished for the umpteenth time, that I was better organised and good at keeping things tidy and together.  I never seem to have the book I try to keep things in with me when I need it, and I'm too lazy to get up and go find it, so off I go scribbling ideas and jotting thoughts and sketching things in the most rudimentary way on pieces of paper and literally, the backs of envelopes.

Sometimes its not laziness - its just that I have to quickly grab the idea and express it before I lose it in the jumble of my mind.

This is typical of how a piece develops - Barry drew this on the back of an envelope and I know exactly what he means with his scribbles and hieroglyphics.

This one shows a few notes to self on the back of my daily To-Do List, which is on the back of recycled paper alredy. More scribbles and notes that I understand.

I wonder how other people work? Do they set it all out in a book - keep their ideas and plans together and make notes as they go along?

Does the piece emerge in a logical and sequential manner - with the next steps clearly falling out of what went before or is every step forward an opportunity to head off in another direction? Do other people have nice tidy minds or are they as jumbled as mine?

These two show my first doodles and notes on the printed out email where I was asked to do the pieces.

This is the bit that really made me think about my process. Laugh! Here on one of the little spare cut-outs I jotted down all the measurements for stitching the pieces onto the backing mat-board. It means something to me and I knew what I had to do and could happily refer to it when I came back to stitch another piece a few days after finishing the previous one.  What I plan to do now of course, is to collect all the scraps and paste them into the book for future reference. Fingers crossed...

I'd love to know that I'm not alone in my random and occasionally chaotic approach, but will still be OK if I discover that all the owners of those beautiful journal pages and all my other blogging arty friends are organised and ordered...