Tuesday, July 31, 2012

To celebrate a leaf

I love those moments in your day when you are wandering along and something catches your eye - and then you fall for it totally. It could be a shadow, it could be light, it could be a mushroom or a grate, or it could be a weathered leaf.

I came cross this leaf a few months ago and brought it inside and photographed it - just because of its fragile beauty.

I have often seen those bleached and munched leaves that they sell in packets in craft shops and thought they were not for me, but this one - one of the originals - just seemed so beautiful.

I could hardly believe that that tip shone like gold - as if I had reached out and touched it with some gold ink or paint.


The leaf has worn out more and is now more sad than regal - but I captured a moment of it glory for which I am thankful. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Emerging from shadow

I have called this book "Emerging from shadow" as that tells the story of the past few months and the sense of movement I tried to create as you move through the book.

I kept wondering what story I could tell with dark pages. It took me a while to realise I wanted to move from darkness to light and that that would be my storyline. On our first day together I got stuck into the idea and worked a line of dark grey running stitch across the bottom of each page.  I then selected seven embroidery threads that moved from dark to light colours and wove them into the stitching - gradually lightening up until the last page is threaded with a light gold colour.

And then I got stuck!

Then next light bulb moment was to select some Latin words for darkness and some for light.  I am not fond of using text and language I don't understand or know; but I feel that Latin lies at the heart of our english language and is a close relative and that feels OK.  I had 12 pages to play with and two covers. I chose 10 dark words and 4 light words. That was the right balance for the last wee while.

I was playing around with some letters I had left over from a project in 2003 (I know I'm not alone in hanging onto things just in case...) and was lucky enough to be able to spell the two cover words - Tenebrae (darkness) and Ignis (light).  I chose to gild the back cover word with gold leaf; but leaving little bits of dark still.

That became a theme to play out - to make sure that even in the dark parts there was some light; and even when there was light, there was still some darkness. Life is like that.

I wrote the words in metallic inks - again the early dark words are darker, the first two light words are lighter, and the final light word 'lux' is gold.

I kept trying to work out how to introduce Susan's other papers and just couldn't. I wanted to. I felt I needed to. I felt I should. But in the end I just had to listen to the book. Susan's papers were golden and lighter; but I needed to add more dark. Which was unexpected but nonetheless felt right.  I chose to add black paper to the dark pages, gradually reducing the amount of black as I moved through the book.

I added some embossed marks and some silver and gold leaf, marking each page with a cross and journey lines; two marks which I have used in quite  a few books previously.  They are personal marks about my journey, my life, my home...

Finally I chose to stitch it in a very simple pamphlet stitch; but using two strands of each of the embroidery thread I had woven into the running stitch. Once again I had planned to do something different (black and gold) and at the last minute it told me to do otherwise, so I did and I'm pleased I listened!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Thursday Thoughts...

“If you have a talent, use it in every which way possible. Don’t hoard it. Don’t dole it out like a miser. Spend it lavishly like a millionaire intent on going broke” 

Brendan Francis

This just sounds so joyful, so enthusiastic, so exuberant to me. It is just a good reminder that it is good to share your skills, your talent, your unique creativity with the world.

He doesn't seem to say show off about it, or gloat or squeal 'look at me'; but he does seem to say it is worth sharing and probably important that the world gets to see it and share in it.

Sometimes I think we forget how mysterious our world of creating is to those who don't understand it or who have never had the chance to play and explore.  I am reminded whenever we open our studios to the public how interested people are in the magic that happens inside it - how they love exploring what we do and watching how we do it. How they ask questions about where we get our ideas; or how do we find the time or a myriad of other weird and wonderful thoughts that pass through their minds when they get a chance to see art in action.

I love the idea of not hoarding our talent, and of spending it lavishly (isn't that a gorgeous word?). It seems so freeing and expansive.

Whoever did this (we looked but found no name), I am so glad they shared their talent with us!  We came across this sculpture in a paddock, by a highway, just outside a small town (Nimmitabel) last year as we drove back to Canberra after seeing Ronnie's exhibition. A wooden tree, with metal branches, and metal birds and a metal nest...and a real-life magpie who joined them happily. Exuberant indeed!

Addendum via Ronnie - the artist is Jesse Graham, but I'm not sure of the sculpture's name. Here is a link to a story on it...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The get together

As part of our commitment to making these collaborative books, Susan and I agree that we will have them finished by the end of the month they start in. It's good to have a deadline, and one that you really want to meet, because you are working with a friend and who wants to let their friends down?

So today we got together at Susan's studio to see each other's books and as is part of our tradition, to photograph them together.

We have both struggled at times with these books and we talked a bit about it today. In part we accept that we have both faced them at difficult times - with the death of Susan's father, and with me coming out of Barry's brush with death. So we have woven some tricky emotions into the thinking and their making.

The other more practical thing we touched on was that by preparing pages and materials and giving them to the other, we had in many ways set them off on path that they needed to follow. Altho we said guidance, not direction, suggestion not dictation, nonetheless we both felt that we had to respond to the pages and the pieces and work really hard to make them our own.

Unlike the first  books where we prepared the pages - chose the size, the paper and the imagery - and handed them over for the other to add to, and then received them back to finish them off in our own style, these books meant we simply had to work with different and challenging materials and make them our own, and we decided that added to the sense of difficulty.

Here are some shots of them together - and I will show you mine in full soon.

Both in their cases... mine is on top here.

Some details of the cases... I am loving Susan's metal and her threads

The opening begins...


Susan's from behind and mine at an opening...

Despite their obvious differences, they still seemed to fit together very well. This may be because we are quite different in our styles and approaches yet quite similar at the same time - there is so much to learn and observe as we go thru this. We meet again next week to work out where to next!

As we said goodbye, we laughed a bit that despite our ponderings, deep thinking and at times agonising over the books this time around, that they had developed just as they needed to and become just what they were meant to - almost despite us!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A table-eye view

As I was working on the collaborative book last week I was trying to take photos of different elements.

I put the camera down on the table whilst the lens was still open and saw what it could see - a jumble of a mess on my working table.

I thought it looked quite interesting from that angle and so I took a few more.

You have to laugh - you can see by the chaos surrounding me that I was trying almost everything I had to hand in an effort to work my way through the book!

I'm sure other people's desks are much tidier than mine. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

And then you fly...

I wrote during the week about the struggle I faced with my most recent collaborative book.  I sat down with it again towards the end of the week and it just flowed - everything went where it should, every idea I had was on track, every step I made worked!

What a turnaround it was.

It just seemed like I was in the groove, that things flowed rather than stumbled and the conversations were going "oh yes!" rather than "now what"?

It is so hard to explain what changed, what was different. Was it me and my head or was it the weather? Was it familiarity or was it that things had had time to seep into my brain and be resolved in a subconscious way? Was it that I had done the hard yards and this was always going to be the easy bit? Who knows. All I can say it's much more fun when it flows.

Here are a few shots of parts of it...

It felt good to get it where it needed to be. I even came up with a wrapping/packing for it that was simple and yet worked. Susan and I will get together soon to show and share and have a chat about how the two books have evolved - I will share the proper photos of the finished book after that.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Thursday Thoughts...

“Sometimes you read a book so special that you want to carry it around with you for months after you’ve finished just to stay near it.”

 Markus Zusak

I picked up Markus Zusak's book The Book Thief at a garage sale - and tumbled headlong into the world he created.  I was fortunate enough to re-read it for our Book Group last year and loved having the opportunity to talk about the writing and the story and the sad beauty of it all.

I liked that he had written/spoken a quote like this, as it is almost how I felt about his book - I almost did want to carry it with me for a while afterwards, just to hold it close.

I think it's a special feeling when people can bring characters and stories to life that make you a wee bit sad when they are finished; that make you ache and worry about them; that make you wonder how it all works out or what happens next.

It's a gift that someone can make us think, to consider how another world is or how other lives are lived...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Explorations and the odd wrong turn

I'm having a slightly different experience this time around as I work on the second book in our (Susan and my) collaboration.  The first book had me uplifted and carried away - this second book is taking a lot more ponderous thinking.

At times I have felt as if I am wading through treacle in gum boots. Heavy going. And I'm not sure quite why I am making such hard work of it this time around, but I keep getting stuck in those lengthy conversations with myself that end up going nowhere, going backwards or arriving at dead ends.

I think, I almost think, I have found the resolution I need to make it feel like me, but just out of interest, here are some of the twists and turns I have taken...

Trying some gold dots around a tea-rusted washer on paper...

Inking over Susan's gestural marks paper and then adding a gold highlight...

Trying some gold letters against the dark background paper...

Using oil pastels to adhere silver leaf and then scratching marks out of it...

Embossing the paper...

Adhering gold leaf this time and making marks and embossing...

Threads I had stitched into the book then discarded...

Susan's rusted tracing paper with graphite and gold rubbed onto it...

It will be interesting to see how many of these options and approaches make it into the final book!  I am wondering if it's simply the colour palette that I am not used to and can't quite find my way around...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A gorgeous gift

As many folk may know I was supposed to attend a big calligraphy workshop/conference event in Portland, Oregon in late June. Because of Barry's health situation we decided to cancel and I was unable to attend.

My good friend Gemma, was one of the tutors there, and it would have been a lovely way to catch-up, even tho we both agreed that travelling to the US seemed like extreme lengths to go to see each other! Gemma now lives in Hobart, Tasmania which is really down south for us and we rarely get to visit.

Anyhow, in the post on Friday a package arrived from Gemma and here is the little magical box within it... some tiny, gorgeous metal type!

I was so excited as I opened it  and I just loved loved loved it.  I also loved that to the side was a separate package with the ampersand in - I know how much Gemma loves ampersands. Gemma had bought it in Portland and sent it to me as a memento of the conference I couldn't attend.

I love all the little bits in it...hearts, clubs, diamonds but no spades? Some dollars and cents and more ampersands including a very funky one at the top. A lovely bracket on the right, some twirly decorations, a fraction and lots of stars.

This is a precious ampersand.

You can see how tiny some of the type is by the scale of the pen.

What a happy day!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Thursday thoughts...

“Loneliness is like sitting in an empty room and being aware of the space around you. It is a condition of separateness. Solitude is becoming one with the space around you. It is a condition of union. Loneliness is small, solitude is large. Loneliness closes in around you; solitude expands toward the infinite. Loneliness has its roots in words, in an internal conversation that nobody answers; solitude has its roots in the great silence of eternity.” 

  Kent Nerburn

Occasionally I come across words that touch me deeply, that let me sit here on my mountain, often late at night and feel as if somebody I don't know, thousands of miles away has reached out and said "yes, you're right, this is how it is".

I often don't even know that I had been feeling or experiencing or thinking along these lines, and then - it all falls into place and the words express it beautifully.

Now and again I ponder why I think solitude is such a pleasant way of being; how I feel it nurtures and renews me and is so often what I  crave after being in company for a while or in the city too much. I have always known it is never about loneliness, but about something bigger and more beautiful than that.

And so it is.

©2011 Fiona Dempster - Umbakumba lagoon
"...expands towards the infinite."
"... in the great silence of eternity."

I'm going to let these words float and flow around me for quite some time.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

From old to renewed

I wrote about the sad state of affairs of my nibs a little while ago.  I had lots of suggestions that really the rusty nibs were beautiful in and of themselves and that perhaps Barry could re-use them; or they might make little sculptures on their own somehow.  All great options!

However, I had a couple of other thoughts in mind to pursue, so with the idea of possibly resurrecting them I set off to discover how to remove rust from metal.  Funny how you can go so far down one rabbit burrow you lose sight of the path you have just been journeying on.  I went this way and that, searched here and there, found some whiz bang brush for car rust and the like and Barry just looked at me quizzically and asked "why don't you just try tea?"

I. Was. Floored.

Of course! I have been using tea to remove rust from chains and the like, transferring the marks to paper for the last few weeks - so why didn't I think of it?  So off I went, to see if it was possible to use the tea to remove the rust.

I made up a strong brew and popped the nibs in. Straight away the rust started to drop off in small bits and into the water - changing it to a lovely dark colour (mixed with some ink I think).  I left them in for a few hours, then dragged them out, painted some paper with the rusty inky water and placed the nibs onto paper to see what marks they might make. Added more tea as I went along.

I popped them into a new brew of tea for a bit longer, and they came out pretty well - the tannic acid did its gentle thing and removed much of the rust.

So far so good.

 Not sure why this middle one below didn't work so well - perhaps it was stuck inside another one.

Then I sat for an hour or so and gently rubbed them all with fine steel wool to remove the last bits I could see.

Barry asked me how much nibs cost.  I said they weren't that expensive, but I get mine from the US or the UK now so there is a transport cost factor as well as a time delay, so I wanted to see if I could retrieve this set and have them as back ups in case of emergency. The likelihood of a calligraphic emergency is probably not all that high, but you know...

I think the tea worked quite well, and am pretty sure these nibs have legs for a bit longer yet.

They are now safely stored, in a box, resting on some absorbent paper. If the whole experiment ends up failing and they go totally rusty again - then it's off to the sculpture, jewellery or assemblage department for them for sure.