Saturday, June 30, 2012

Dark and Light

I mentioned this book that was causing me grief a week or so ago, and got a lot of helpful ideas about how to handle my response to it, and where to take it next.  In the end I borrowed a few of them and talked to Barry about it. I really did like the idea of a bonfire to start with, then I loved the notion of barbed wire.

In the end I decided to simply wrap it up. To bundle the pages and covers together and wrap and wrap and wrap until it couldn't be undone.  Somehow this made  me feel better - that the difficult stuff was all tied up and able to be put aside safely. It may be waiting for me again; or it may have found a new form.  Barry saw it all wrapped in black and asked me if I'd thought about weaving some white thread into it as a sign of hope...

So I did, because he is so wise, and it offers me a way forward and a way not to stay stuck in the dark stuff.

But I'm never there for long, so I thought I'd share some of the light things I have been playing with as well of late.

I have finished my last letters for the first ALAW alphabet. Phew, just in time. Sadly I haven't finished the piece yet - but the ideas are still there.

Secondly some lovely origami envelopes I have been making as I finalise my Unbearable I had planned that it would only be for summer, but I decided in the end to do a half-year, so today the collection of paint swatches is finished. Stay tuned for the final book.

And then, to find the balance between the light and the dark, I thought I'd show you a few bits from a wee book that the lovely Lesley from Printed Material sent me as a prize-gift.  It is a gorgeous book and has such beautiful paper in it, and Lesley encouraged me to "do something with it".  I think we all suffer from giving beautiful blank-paged books away only to have folk face them with fear and trepidation and never write or draw in them. So I decided I would make a little book of black marks.  Here are some of my pages so far...

What a ramble and rave, but the idea of light and dark shone thru this week. The week was dreary grey and white and misty; today dawned still and bright and blue!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Thursday Thoughts...

“Woke up this morning with a terrific urge to lie in bed all day and read.” 

  Raymond Carver

Oh yes. Today like quite a few others of late, dawned late. Light emerged gradually, slowly as if it was tired and heavy.  It was raining, the mist swirled all around the mountain and the wind had begun.

A day that begged to have one lie in bed all day and read.

My response was less positive than Carter's - I didn't want to get out and join the day as it was presenting itself to me. The notion of bed and warmth and books and quiet was much more attractive.  I sense from this quote however,  that he almost burst awake with the positive intent that staying in bed reading was a perfectly exciting and active option to choose; rather than my kind of fallback position.

I wonder what sort of life one would lead where the active choice of staying in bed all day reading was actually a reality?  It's a dream for many of us I think - the idea of being able to indulge ourselves like that is almost one of those perfect wishes. Spending a day with just books, disappearing for hours into their world, rather than the daily bibs and bobs that demand attention.

I know I've never done it, doesn't necessary mean I never will, but it does seem like a far-away idea. One day perhaps.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Out with the old...

And in with the new.

Being the less than well behaved calligrapher that I am, I have not looked after these nibs. Granted, they are nearly a decade old (I can hear the gasps of horror from around the globe, apologies for distressing you all) and therefore probably well past their due date.  Sure, I wash them after each use and try to dry them off, but sometimes I leave them to finish drying off themselves. Hmm.

But they have been working fine for me, the ink has flowed when needed, and they haven't been scratchy. Actually I think they look worse than they really are... but then I would say that at this point in the game I guess!  I'm also just not the type to toss things out until they really don't work any more.

On close inspection this week I came to the view that the last wet season REALLY took its toll on them and for the first time in my life I found I had seriously rusted nibs. I don't think even I could have attempted anything with them in this state. Probably also shows I haven't sat down to write anything calligraphic for a few months...

So it was time, and I sat down for an hour or so the other afternoon and changed them all over.

Here are the bright shiny new ones. They make me so happy I am almost not game enough to use them!

I am thinking it might be worth my while to buy an ultrasonic cleaner - one that really gets in to the crevices and removes the last smudge of ink.  Then I wondered if I could get an ultrasonic dryer because that would really help me, but I don't think they've been invented yet. Sigh.

I've also read that maybe I should rub them with olive oil after washing and drying because the oil would stop the rust thing happening...but it seems a bit weird to put oil on your nibs. I can only imagine it transferring onto the paper the next time I wrote because I would forget I had to wipe it off.

Maybe I just need to be diligent. Sigh again.

Does anybody have any good ideas about rust prevention and nibs?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Our next books begin

Susan and I sat down after we made our first collaborative books - back in April for World Book Day and talked about where did we want to go from here?

We have decided to try and make a few more books together, with a few different 'rules' or approaches each time to provide some guidance, but not dictate what the other has to do, and to add variety to the books we make, and to offer ourselves a bit of a challenge.

This time around we decided that we would do a two-step dance.  Our first book was a three-step dance. We each prepared pages, gave them to each other to work on, then we got them back to finish the book. For book two, we are each preparing some pages, and giving them to the other - and then they work on the book AND finish it. That is, the pages don't come back to us.

We also decided we would offer up suggestions for materials that might be used with the pages. We used words like guide and suggest, not dictate or direct. We are free to incorporate what the other gives us; or not.

We also agreed that this time we would swap pages well in advance - so we each have time to ponder, plot and if necessary purchase things we want to add in to the book.

So on Thursday afternoon, Susan popped over and we swapped pages. You can see what I sent her way and what she has started thinking about here.

These are the pages and pieces she brought me to work with.

The four dark chocolatey brown pages are the main pages - the rusted tracing paper and ink-marks on paper are suggested materials, along with the beautiful waxed linen threads...

I think they look sumptuous together and am already quite besotted by them. My mind is going this way and that and I am picking up things around the studio and asking myself "what if?" "what about?" "how would this work?". It's lovely to have the pages and pieces about and to keep looking at them and pondering...

And just because she is Susan and so beautiful and thoughtful, she also included a whole separate package of pieces I might like to use with the dark brown pages, just in case I didn't feel like working with the warm, strong colours. These soft watercolour pages and pieces complement the dark ones so well, but you can tell from my first five photos I'm planning to work with the stronger tones this time.

It's one of the beauties of this work - we get challenged, but in the nicest, most supported way possible.

Our planned Book Day is Friday 6 July, so we have a wee while to play with ideas before committing. I must say, I am looking forward to another day of studio delight!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Thursday Thoughts...

“That’s who you really like. The people you can think out loud in front of.” 

John Green (An abundance of Katherines)

I'm not sure when or how I came across this one - but it made me stop and nod to myself - 'yep, they're the best'!

I know I'm around folk who love me, know me, and still love me, when I can say out loud the weird or wicked things I am thinking.

Those people that I can take the handbrake off with and let the fun thoughts, hilarious thoughts, cheeky, wild, wacky and wonderful thoughts loose with.

Sometimes these are people I have known for a very long time; sometimes they are lovers; sometimes they are friends I have only just met but with whom I feel safe enough to say things.

It's most often these people too, who I feel safe letting my best or most special dreams out of their little boxes with, knowing that they will be heard, supported, critiqued kindly or enthusiastically cheered on.

It's good to have these folk in our lives.

On the third Thursday of each month Jennifer and Julie go in search of Roy G Biv (aka the rainbow). I try to join in by posting an image that matches the colour for the month - so no prizes for working out that this month it's orange!  This is a poppy from our garden last spring - the sense of vibrancy and delight matches my feelings for those I can think out loud in front of. Thank you.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Dark is hard

I did these pages a few years ago - when a few of us went around to Noela's for a play day. In this instance she had us splashing black ink onto big pages with brooms and dripping it on and generally just going for it. That's me making them in the last photo on this post...

I rediscovered the pages about 6 months ago and decided to do something with them. I found some words that seemed to match them, coloured in a bit here and there with red, cut them up and then glued them together to make book pages. I even made some covers.

And then the book sat there, for about 5 months, waiting to be stitched.  I picked it up again last week thinking I would just start stitching and found that I couldn't.

Perhaps the words were too raw - they start with "when you lose someone you love". And as I picked up the pages and turned them, the dark energy of them almost overwhelmed me. I hardly wanted to hold them let alone work on them. I kept saying to myself "I have to soften this, I have to soften this".

So I have been trying to, and experimenting with a few things. In  a way I think I am trying to take some of the hurt away that the marks seem to express, and just let the words speak their gentle truth.

I tried wrapping each page in another page of tracing paper. I thought about gluing the tracing paper onto the pages muting them and their message. I laid some Japanese tissue paper over them wondering if that would hide some of the sadness and grief within it. I tried making soft curvy and gentle marks into the tracing paper to counteract the darkness of the pages.

I'm not sure it will be possible to soften it sufficiently, and I'm not sure I will actually make this book.

It has been quite an intriguing process to go through - I had no idea when I picked it up thinking "that's a little UFO* I can get on with" that I would be faced with this raw energy that made me back away. I've never before felt that I can't complete a project because of how it makes me feel. So I'll wait and see what happens next.

Until another day perhaps.

*UFO = un finished object

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Pottering and playing

Unlike last weekend we have been experiencing beautiful sunshine this weekend and really, the word is probably basking. Just sitting or standing wherever the sun can be on your back and soaking it all up, feeling the warmth seep into your bones and relax you.

Things are still moving slowly here, but they are all moving in the right direction and we enjoyed time just pottering here and there on the block and dipping into the studio now and then.

I managed to get some things organised and tidied away and sorted and settled in the studio which made me feel better; and along the way played some more with rusty bits and tea.

I got some lovely marks and have enjoyed cropping parts of the paper and imagining book pages and details, burning and more marks...

Don't ask me why or how, but out the back I found these rusty old chains - for car tyres in the snow! Clearly not needed here in sub-tropical Maleny... but here is the after and the before shot.

Here is how the back of the studio looked with four pages rusting - on the table, on the concrete, on the pebbles and on the old rocking chair.

 And some of the lovely marks left behind...

I got a little over-zealous and over-enthusiastic about the tea. I just kept dripping it on and as result got some wild and almost fierce marks which was fun.  I am so grateful to everybody who made suggestions and especially to Alice who explained why tea works with rust! See here for a fascinating explanation.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Tread Lightly opening

We had a fine time last night down at the Arts and Ecology Centre for the opening of Tread Lightly. A beautiful setting, some delicious and exquisite creations and a fine group of friends, family and artists in attendance.

The exhibition space where my work was featured included work by a number of other artists, all celebrating paper and the re-purposing of paper and books.

My little nook
Showing my mum a few details... 
Good friends Edith-Ann, Carol and Liz
Arty friends - Kari, Kim and Mieke
Mr Coma himself Ken Munsie with Pam from Arts Connect
And a few of the pieces by other artists...

Part of Small Print by Corrie Wright
Part of 18 Cornerstones by Rosie Miller
The O'Brien sisters perform 
Fabulous dress and slippers (artists not captured, apologies)
The exhibition is open 10am - 4pm daily until 8 July 2012 at the Arts and Ecology Centre at the Maroochy Regional Bushland Gardens, Tanawha.

Thanks Noela for some of these shots...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Thursday Thoughts...

“Work on a good piece of writing proceeds on three levels: a musical one, where it is composed; an architectural one, where it is constructed; and finally, a textile one, where it is woven.” 

Walter Benjamin, One-Way Street and Other Writings

I like it when people think about one thing but can use other experiences to describe it.  Like how in this quote, he is able to give us a sense of writing, through our understanding of music, of building and of textiles.

I stopped and read this a few times, thinking it through, feeling it and testing if my experiences mirror his, and if what he uses to describe writing helps me understand his experience of writing, and I found that it did.

My next thought was to see if the same ideas and descriptors could apply to how I feel art is created, and in many ways I think they can.

Firstly the idea of composing - of dreaming up the ideas or the insights that create the sense of what comes next; the sense of flowing like a musical score as it lilts and drifts and takes its own beautiful course. I think there is a musical composition part of creating art. Muses and music.

Secondly the architectural and construction part seems very true to me.  We all know this part well; the actual hands-on doing, of the making or the painting, drawing, sculpting, stitching, felting, dyeing, printing, photographing that we each do. Sometimes this is the only part that some people see taking place. How often do you overhear folk saying "Oh I could do that" when viewing a piece? Like the doing is all that there is.

Thirdly the sense of weaving...I think this is the part that if often unclear to the eye but is held in the essence of the work.  It is for me the part where we try to bring together a range of ideas or concepts, and use our materials to express or support those thoughts, emotions or concerns. Like choosing the size of a piece to add to its story; or the juxtapositioning of things to create tension and ask people to react; or hiding messages so that people need to work their way into a piece, to discover the layers.

This weaving is the strength and integrity of good work I think. Without it the composing and the construction are almost two-dimensional; whereas for me, the weaving part makes it three-dimensional and fully realised.

I think this is wise advice to any young writer, and for any artist (whatever their age!).

Musical composition, architectural construction, textile weaving. Perfection.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Rusting thru the rain

Well, I left you all on Saturday night when I had popped my rust and paper and teabags out in the light gentle rain. Ha. I woke at about 11pm that night to driving, torrential rain and thought oh-oh, things are going to be totally soaked. And they were. in fact they were swimming and I started to worry that the paper would disintegrate with so much water. But it held.

I moved the table under cover on Sunday morning, but the rain kept coming from all angles so it had no hope of drying. Then I moved it inside with a log fire on Monday morning to let things dry out and to see what had happened.

And there was definitely some magic.

 Here's how things looked when I lifted up the rusty bits and took away the teabags.

I quite like the shadow sorts of marks that are left, and you can see the green tea (grey) and the black tea (rusty) colours that washed through the paper and the pieces. And some tea leaves that broke out of their bags!

Here are a few of my favourite  fragments...

I think I need to pay better attention to the weather and not leave my poor paper out in flooding rains.
I really like the way the chain rusted.
I love how green tea brings in the grey.
I'll definitly be trying it again with some of the ideas from folk and some better planning...