Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Colour Trials and a Give Away

I have been working on a commission for a Library nearby and part of it has involved capturing the achievements of the Friends of the Library over about a decade.

I decided to print these onto 'library cards' and we spoke about gradually increasing the vibrancy of the colour each year to indicate growth and a positive future.

I decided to see how each of the colours my computer and printer can create using the Crayon part of the colour selection.

It was a good experiment - screens look very different to papers; and different printers make the papers look different as well.

So I have printed out each of the colours and now keep them in an envelope so I know what they might look like and what to choose next time.

Of course, what I really loved was how they all looked together!

And now to the Give Away part of this post.

Back some time ago I realised I had passed 500 posts and not noted, recorded or remarked upon it.  So I thought, oh well, I'll wait until I hit some other number. Today I have posted my 555th blog post (at 5.55pm), which seems like a very nice number indeed and cause for a celebratory give-away.

I am giving away a wee pack of goodies - a hand-stitched journal, a copy of Flight and some peace pebbles.  All you have to do between now and next Monday 5 November (Australian time), is to leave a comment telling me what it is about books that you like.

I will do some random selection process, probably involving Barry, some scraps of paper and a bowl of sorts and let you know next Tuesday who the winner is. I'm clearly still in the mood to celebrate books after such a happy weekend!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Celebration of Books 2

Today was a quieter day; although we were back at Cooke Park at 7am to replace the streamers that had come down in the wind or were a bit sad after the gentle rain we had overnight.

Then it was off to the Primary School to listen to the Panel Discussion "Do writers really care about their readers and audiences?"

There were four fabulous panellists: Sue Smith a multi-award winning screenwriter; Matthew Condon a nationally acclaimed author; Mary-Rose MacColl a Brisbane-based author and Steven Lang an award winning Maleny author.

There was a good turn-up (about 75 people) on a bleak Sunday morning, and after a delicious morning tea and good coffee, we sat down to listen and ponder. What follows is a bit of a summary of the discussion and the thinking; by no means comprehensive.

Each of the authors spoke to the topic and the whole discussion took us on a path where the answer to the question in the end, to me at least, was "Well, Yes and No".  And that seemed perfectly apt.

As a film and television screenwriter, Sue spoke about always having to have the audience at the forefront of your mind - if people don't watch what you have written, then lots of folk lose money, so you want to write stuff that audiences like. Yet there are gatekeepers (the financiers, commissioners, editors etc) between you and your real audience and this group constitutes a second audience. You have to write to convince them, that your audience would want to watch what comes from your script.

In the end tho, Sue was very clear that you have to write honestly and truthfully; people need to be moved and or confronted by things that have moved or confronted you.  You need that passion to write good scripts.

Matt spoke of how easy it is to lose sight of an audience when you are a writer, locked away, isolated undertaking such a solitary pursuit.  But he also spoke about how his most recent book has had the audience at the centre of it from the very beginning, as it is an important story about Queensland and one that he believes (and I agree) that people should hear and have the chance to read.  He feels obligated to write this book for the people of this state.

Steven indicated that he doesn't give a damn about the audience, yet like every writer he wants one. That sounds harsh, but what he was touching on was how impossible it is to determine who or what an audience is. An audience is an amorphous thing; made up of so many distinct individuals that you can't really classify or work out who 'they' are and exactly what 'they' want. He said that the act of reading is almost as creative as the act of writing - how every reader will read a slightly different book and I think this is true.

Mary Rose suggested she was the light hearted comedy part of the show, but said so many interesting things, and yes some of them were funny. In the end she too like each of the others, said writers all want to share the story that hits you here (the heart) and that if they do that well, then the audience will benefit.

After a good discussion and some brilliant insights by audience members (don't you love it when somebody crystallises thoughts into the perfect expression that just nails what you were thinking or feeling?) I came to a few conclusions:

  • that if authors write with authenticity and honesty, truth or passion about their subject; that is a great thing to offer an audience;
  • thinking about audiences as consumers and writing for populism is not what these folk are about;
  • audiences end up co-creating with the author - we each experience a different book; and
  • some writers (journalists and screenwriters) have a more direct connection with the notion of audience, but all writers and their audiences do best when writers write about things that matter to them; and readers read with an open, explorative and inquisitive mind.

To paraphrase one audience member (Kevin) "your job is to write something you connect with, with authenticity and sincerity of intent. My job is to read it and see how it awakens the humanity in me".

It has been a great weekend for soaking in books and all that they mean - celebrating books, readers and writers and I think it would be wonderful to do it all again next year.

©2012 Fiona Dempster - Ken Munsie, Feathers in a Lost Garden (detail)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Celebration of Books

We started the day early - 7am in Cooke Park setting up the Book Swap Tree, had a lovely breakfast and coffee in town then headed home for a bit. We returned to check out the Children's Treasure hunt, and the 27 local authors signing their books in the main street. Also talked to Susan B who was demonstrating her artists' books and prints. Home again for  a quick lunch then headed back into the Library to see the craft (book marks and door hangers) and to run our Bookmaking for children workshop.  An hour and a half later and Barry and I returned home - to sit quietly and reflect on a busy, beautiful day full of books.

We didn't get the chance to go to the poetry readings last nights; but did hear the young writers from the High School read their work.  Our workshop today clashed with two other events as well (the big book group and the performance about strong women in Australian literature) - but I hope they went really well.

Tomorrow morning we attend a panel discussion about "Do writers really care about their audience?" Should be fabulous.

We had 12 children in the workshops and it was full on fun and busy!  We made an accordion book with pockets and used the marbled paper I made during the Open Studios for covers.  The children made up their own stories; many on luggage tags, and decorated and wrote their books.  The results were stunning and joyful!

The Book Swap Tree was a success - people came and browsed the books and took one home, and swapped one.  They left a book mark in their book, explaining why they liked it. It was great to see new books appearing throughout the day.  It will be there again tomorrow and I hope more books get swapped! It was a lovely honesty thing - none of us were there to supervise during the day; we just watched people poking about or went and had a look ourselves at different times. They are book covers hanging in the trees just to grab attention - the books were in the boxes on the chairs around the tree.  In plastic bags in case it rained.

A couple of children's authors (Judy, Prue and Jill) devised a wonderful Treasure Hunt at the Library. The children were in two teams and had to go hunting for clues - once unearthed, the clue would send them to a book and a page and they had to find the word and build the final answer using these clues. The winners won something; but every child also took home a book or two which was wonderful and generous of our authors.  Our neighbour Gillian generously illustrated the two maps the teams used to find the treasure and they were stunning.

I was particularly fond of the Toilets of doom...

In amongst it all there were fairy stories for little kids and scary stories for bigger kids.

Lots of people have visited the Library to see the artists book display - and people are talking about how fascinating they find it all - great exposure and great for so many more people to come to know and love artists' books.

My sense of it so far is that it has been a great success - lots of people have had an interaction with books or writers and the sheer pleasure of reading has been shared widely.  I think the generosity of the community was also on display and it felt warm and wonderful.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Thursday Thoughts...

“May there be kindness in your gaze when you look within.” 

John O’Donohue

I've just finished a lovely meander thru the interweb as I tried to discover a bit more about the man who wrote these words.  John O'Donohue was a former priest, a writer, philosopher and somebody who honoured the quiet places and spaces.

The sentiment behind these words seems to me to recognise a truth about many of us much of the time, yet it does it with such gentle wisdom. There seems to be an understanding that we can often be harsh when we look within; that we can be critical and the opposite of kind to ourselves. And it offers us an opportunity to do otherwise.

There is generosity, wisdom and understanding of human frailty in these words I think, and I am touched that he reminds us of how important it is to care for ourselves and to be gentle on ourselves.  Sometimes we are far too tough on ourselves.

I guess in a way, and given who he was, this is a blessing or a part of a blessing, and it is a kind and caring reminder to leave people with.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Celebration of Books - Artists' Book display

This weekend is the big weekend - the Maleny Celebration of Books - and the first cab off the rank is the display of Artists' Books which we set up in the Library yesterday.

Six highly renowned local artists have produced a series of exquisite, distinctive and intriguing artists' books, showing the breadth and depth of the artists' book as an art form.  Featuring pieces in timber, metal, paper and fabric; and work using drawings, photography, embossing and printmaking there is a something for everyone.

Each of the artists has used the book form to provide a unique expression of their vision and craftsmanship with outstanding results.

It is a really beautiful display and I hope that lots of folk come by and are intrigued. We had quite a few interesting chats to people as we set up yesterday - their descriptions of why they liked a piece or wanted one were great!

©2012 Fiona Dempster - Ken Munsie, Feathers in a Lost Garden (detail)
©2012 Fiona Dempster - Ken Munsie, Feathers in a Lost Garden 
©2012 Fiona Dempster - Susan Bowers, He Loved the Ocean best
©2012 Fiona Dempster - Susan Bowers, He Loved the Ocean best (detail) 
©2012 Fiona Dempster - Noela Mills
©2012 Fiona Dempster - Noela Mills
©2012 Fiona Dempster - Peter Annand, Tides in the Brisbane River January and February 2011 
©2012 Fiona Dempster - Peter Annand, Tides in the Brisbane River January and February 2011 
©2012 Fiona Dempster - Barry Smith, Spiral
©2012 Fiona Dempster - Fiona Dempster, A Subversive Stitch and No Return (details)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thursday Thoughts...

“Let go of images of how you want it to be, or how you think it should be. Make room for the mystery, for the unknown” 

 via Zen Moments on tumblr

Sage advice for whenever I get too ahead of myself and think I know exactly how something should go.  I often find that I know what something will look like, how I can express it and how wonderful it will be when I have realised what is in my head.

And yet, I also know that much of the best work I do comes out of not telling myself what to do; not guiding or directing the work but rather by listening and responding and being guided or directed by  the work itself.

Walking the line between the two is often hard - trying to make something that you think is great happen, whilst also letting something great happen without thinking. Getting the balance right between the original inspiration and the best realisation can be tricky. Note to self, remember to leave room for the mystery.

Perhaps this muddled post reflects my seriously flu-filled head. Barry and I have both been laid low by the flu and are taking a long time to recover.

It's also the third Thursday of the month and so Jennifer and Julie go forth in search of Roy G. Biv (the rainbow) and this week's colour is Indigo.

Here is my thinking about the photos... Indigo dying is like seriously giving things over to the unknown - you can only control just so much.  And because I loved the whole experience I've popped a few more photos into Thursday Thoughts than I usually do. Enjoy.

©2009 Fiona Dempster - surface of Indigo vat, Hanyu Japan
©2009 Fiona Dempster - surface of Indigo vat, Hanyu Japan
©2009 Fiona Dempster - Indigo dying master and vats, Hanyu Japan
©2009 Fiona Dempster - Fiona's handkerchief ready for dying, Hanyu Japan 
©2009 Fiona Dempster - Barry dying his handkerchief as a landscape, Hanyu Japan

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Weekend bits

I had plans for an arty weekend - soaking myself in some work for myself; having a play with things, following up ideas that had been drifting through my brain for a few weeks, but it didn't really work out that way.

After the Open Studios and the busy month of weekends we had had, we decided a day off would be a fine thing and on Saturday we went to see the Silversmith Show at the Buderim Craft Cottage and the opening of our friend David Paulson's survey exhibition from the 70s to now at the Noosa Regional Gallery.  So we got our fill of art yesterday (and a great feed of fish and chips at Noosa) and I then planned to play today.

But I was foiled again a bit because I actually have a few more responsibilities to deal with - I have three workshops to run in the next month and I really needed to make sure I was on top of them, as well as the artists' book display I am pulling together for the Maleny Celebration of Books.
Interestingly, I guilted myself into the jobs rather than the play.  With the promise that if I worked today I could play thru the week. Only time will tell if I have been able to give myself some play time...and I daresay I am not alone in not giving myself the gift of play too often.

Next weekend's workshop is on 'Modern Versals' with the Buderim calligraphers - so I have been researching and photocopying and writing and planning what I hope will be a good day for them.

And last weekend I actually finished and hung my first A Letter a Week alphabet for the year!  The pierced white squares are strung on a silver wire, with silver crimps to keep them in place and then it dangles and hangs, and moves quite elegantly in any breeze.

As it was being put together...

And as it hangs - not easy to shoot!

And as it falls gracefully...

I am thrilled to have reached this point - maybe 3 months late; but then our life was on hold for 3 months with Barry's illness so I am trying not to be mean to myself or self-flagelate for not being on time.

Little bits of progress here and there...

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Thursday Thoughts...

“You cannot pretend to read a book. Your eyes will give you away. So will your breathing. A person entranced by a book simply forgets to breathe. The house can catch alight and a reader deep in a book will not look up until the wallpaper is in flames.” 

Mr Pip, by Lloyd Jones.

I just love this description of how absorbing reading a book can be! If you are a booklover or  a reader, I expect there have been times when you have become totally lost in a book, time has passed and you have no idea how long you were sitting there reading.

I know as a child (and still now) I would say "just to the end of this chapter", and often keep right on reading thru the next and the next chapter.  If I am engrossed in a book, dinner will not get cooked, washing will not get done and the temptation to not answer the phone is overwhelming. I have friends who have said when they are in a good book - "talk to your father, I'm not coming out of the bedroom this week".

I think it is also very observant to say you can tell if somebody isn't reading a book - something about the breathing and the eyes. The eyes are too busy and the breathing is more rapid perhaps.  I remember as a teenager trying to pretend to be reading so as not to have to talk to a boy or some such and realising that it was a totally hopeless act.

In the end, this was just such a lovely way to express an appreciation of those moments when you are reading a good book - when you are far far away in some other world. It made me smile and go "oh yes, I know that feeling..."

©2009 Fiona Dempster - Lost in a good book

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

One less UFO...

Sadly no, not a story of the paranormal, but rather one of the UnFinished Object.  One of those projects that has been hanging around my life for over a decade (as Barry pointed out that's a nice way of saying for more than 3650 days...). It must have made at least four house moves with me, across three States/Territories, and now, it has moved into a new phase of its life as an FO - a Finished Object.

I had some minor surgery last week which left me lying around in bed or on the couch recovering for two or three days and whilst there, I picked this piece up and decided now was the time to finish it. It only needed hemming, which sounds easy but each hemming stitch actually involves about six stitches, so it took a wee while.

It is a piece of Hardanger embroidery about 42cm x 28cm. Perhaps it is what started my love affair with white on white? I look back now at all of the stitches, all of the counting, all of the cutting of threads, all of the little weavings and think wow - that's a lot of work. It didn't seem like it at the time tho.

The next question of course is what to do with it? But that can wait for a bit. It takes a bit of time to adapt to being a FO after all, and you simply can't rush these things...

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Open Studio paper play

This afternoon we closed our doors after three very full weekends with Open Studio visitors. This weekend we had over 150 people visit, watch, enquire and play.

Barry is always busy demonstrating how he beats metal, heats metals, makes bowls, and makes leaves; I usually have a few projects going that involve paper. I might demonstrate burning words out of pages with incense sticks; how to emboss something using my milk carton template; how to rust paper; or a new one this time around - marbling paper.

I am running a book-making workshop with children in a few weeks time as part of the Maleny Celebration of Books, and thought it might be good to give the kids some brightly marbled paper to work with. In typical fashion I haven't worked out what sort of book they might make; but I suddenly thought marbled paper might feature!

So over the past few days I have been showing people how suminagashi marbling works - and creating our own patterns with colour and swirling and blowing - a version of suminagashi I guess.

Here are some happy paper shots of the outcomes - I think the kids will enjoy some of the psychedelic combinations.

I think I'll enjoy a good night's sleep!

With many thanks to all the folk who made the trek to our studios and who took the time to let us know how much they enjoyed the visit - it was wonderful to share our space and our work with you all.