Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 favourites

I find the end of the year offers the opportunity and the time to stop and think about the year just past, what has happened, how we made it through and what we made.

The year has had highs and lows, like any year, and less time than I would have liked to just make art; but as I sat and went back thru the things I'd done, I was happy to see that I had managed to make 10 pieces that felt like favourites. In fact it was good to discover there were more than 10 things so I had to choose! It had felt a bit like I hadn't done as much as i had hoped to do, yet once again, the process of stopping and reflecting helped me see that a lot had actually happened in the studio.

As part of my list-loving nature, here are my favourite ten pieces I made this year.  As ever, I can't honestly rank them, so they just get listed alphabetically.

It is an enjoyable process to be reminded of things that have been put away or moved on or headed elsewhere. A bit like re-visiting old friends.

1. A Letter a Week 1 a hanging book of pierced holes. I love the way it falls and its lightness...

2. A Letter a Week 2  the colours, the paper and the dos-a-dos binding just made me feel happy about this wee book...

3. A Subversive Stitch my first edition for BookArtObject this year - I loved the mad red threads and the feminist work that emerged...

4. Bound a book I never thought I would think I liked, but I found it powerful...

5. Emerging from shadow the second collaborative book with Susan, forced to work dark, but ended up in the light...

6. Memory Keepers the third collaboration, and a joyful travel memoir

7. Rusty apple an example of my newly discovered joy of rusting with tea both green and black...

8. Seeking Solitude the first collaborative book - random threads, beautiful words...

9. Snow falling in daylight my second edition for BAO - the elegant simplicity of the embossed snowflakes...

10. The Unbearable Whiteness... a marker of our wet and white summer earlier in the year...

Thanks for wandering a little way down memory lane with me...

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thursday Thoughts...

“We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses there is at last one which makes the heart run over.” 

Samuel Johnson 

I think this year has been a year when I have really felt the bonds of friendship and in many ways, I can't explain at what point connections became friendships, or how links across the globe can firm up to be friends, or how new friendships are defined in the era of the inter web, but I do know that I have felt the hands and hearts of friends many times this year and in many ways.

I like the way Samuel Johnson recognises its the little drops of kindness that combine to make a whole and from which friendship grows.  I know in a slightly alien work environment I recognised a kindred spirit who has been my bestie ever since - and her care and support is shown in so many ways thru acts of kindness, gestures of support and moments of sharing and laughter.

I know new friends have entered my life because we live nearby and share places and coffees and art and books; but others have appeared from continents and oceans away without a regular physical presence.  Friendships grow and mature thru shared experiences and care and concern I think, and at some point the connection or acquaintance shifts into something stronger and more lasting.

For which I am grateful.

©2009 Barry Smith - temple water vessel, Kyoto

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Peace at Christmas

As we pause to celebrate, reflect, share and enjoy, I wanted to say thank you to all who have joined me in this blogging adventure and who so willingly share their thoughts and ideas and art and words.

I have enjoyed your company along the way so much, and have been greatly enriched by it.

I wish all my blogging companions across the world a peaceful, gentle and joyous time at Christmas, with many wishes for a happy, safe and creative new year.

Wherever you may be, and however you may spend the time - may you travel safe, enjoy the moments and celebrate life.

Imagine peace.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Wrapping and decorating

Since we returned from New Zealand I have focused a bit more on Christmas.  I hadn't turned my mind to it all before we went away and at odd random moments during the trip I went "oh what will my colour scheme be this year?" and by the time we got back I still didn't have one.

Then Susan appeared and gave me a set of small brown paper luggage tags and I knew I had it! She had previously given me some large black ones and some medium sized cream ones and I thought - this wee one will top the tree!

The early morning light hits the wall and leaves some lovely shadows...

So the wrapping went along the same colour theme. Living in a small town I couldn't buy cream tissue paper, so went with black as the main game - which might look a bit sombre, but is lifted by the ribbons and threads I think.

Interestingly both Barry and I thought the tree was darker at the bottom and lighter at the top, and that was the sense we wanted as we parted from this year - lifting and getting lighter.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thursday Thoughts...

“All painting, but also all literature, is merely a process of going round and round something inexpressible."

Anselm Kiefer 

It seems to me that as artists and makers we are doing exactly this - trying to find another way, some way, a new approach perhaps, to express something we feel or need to communicate.

The fact that Kiefer suggests this something, whatever it is, is inexpressible, seems to say that we can consider the same thought or issue and find dozens of ways to try and tell its story - because the thought or feeling and our response to it, is at its heart not entirely able to be fully expressed.

I never feel as if a single work is the complete and total response to something. I imagine if I were to re-visit the different subjects I have made work about that I would find another way to go around it, another way to try and express what it means to me, how it has affected me or impacted on me.  My responses will also always be less than the definitive response.  I don't think such a thing exists.

In some ways, this thought gave me comfort to re-visit a subject and spend more time on it. Not feeling as if I were repeating it as such; but rather re-exploring, re-examining and re-discovering it.

©2012 Fiona Dempster, Peace dove street decoration, Auckland
Peace is one such subject. It needs revisiting and constant work.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Second alphabet completed!

Oh boy, I am powering thru the end of the year art commitments!  After a massive and lengthy period of time feeling as if I was going nowhere doing nothing, too busy to enjoy making and playing, I have found my groove again and am a happy camper.

Its nothing glamourous, gorgeous or wonderful, but I have met my commitment to completing my second alphabet for A Letter a Week 2012.

I used some paper I marbled during the Open Studios, wrote with a copper metallic ink in my own version of Modern Versals. Then I mounted the marbled paper onto copper metallic paper and created a dos-a-dos book.

Presenting the 26 letters of the alphabet well has proven a challenge to calligraphers over many many years.  Its not a number that divides easily beyond 13 and 2.

Still it seemed to work out well with this book - 13 letters in each half of the book and a cover and a title page for each section of the book.

It comes covered and wrapped in a little pouch, finished with a copper paper tie.

If you think you might be interested in joining ALAW 2013, feel free to contact me at my email address and I'll let you know how we go getting numbers...

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Memory Keepers...

In the end I called this book "Memory Keepers". It seemed a fitting title as within each envelope is a little artwork that captures some of my memories from our recent trip to NZ.

As I have mentioned previously I struggled with taking this work forward.  The theme and ideas were elusive - always just out of reach, slipping out of my visual field as soon as I thought I had sensed a response. In the end I really felt the need to build a coherent story, for me, and to try and bring the visually different, tho companionable and complementary, envelopes into a whole that was satisfying.

I promised myself I would think about what to do with the book whilst we were away. Our first night in Auckland we got to our room and it had a beautiful number on it and I thought I'll "photograph that and keep a record of all the numbers" with no real plan to link it to the book.  As I lay in bed that night I tried to work out how many places we were staying and how that matched up to envelopes, and I discovered that we were staying in 11 towns. We had 13 envelopes so I thought perhaps I could top and tail the trip with home, and use numbers as a theme. I had a plan.

I have never worked with numbers before and enjoyed them. I thought of all the different ways I could present them - braille, Roman numerals, morse code, sticks etc and was totally getting into it.  Each place we visited I recorded our room number and tried to note down the things I recalled or that had an impact. I figured this would all make sense when I got home.

Friday a week or so ago was the day I had to pull it all together and make 17 artworks.  I had decided we stayed in Auckland three nights, so I would pop three pieces into that envelope; two pieces went into Dunedin's and Queenstown's envelopes as well, covering the two nights we spent in each of those towns, hence 17.

601 appears twice - home is where we began and where we returned to.

The most significant and constant theme of our trip for me was rocks and pebbles so I knew I needed to incorporate these throughout the artworks.

As is often the case I start out one way and stop myself when I realise that it's not going to work. I tossed out the idea of using a variety of numbering styles and just chose to use my metal type numbers, somehow. I wasn't sure how I would use them but I decided I would!

Transparent envelopes reflect mistiness or fog, a bookmark might remind me there was absolutely nothing to do there but read, whilst delicate paper reminded me of the fragility of healing after earthquakes. It wasn't until I was halfway thru that I worked out I needed to add words, because I am a word person.

I hadn't planned to do much to the outside of the envelopes - but in the end I decided to unify them with a metal type number and am so glad I did! Practical too - if the artworks come detached from their envelope; they can be put back together.

Barry and I chatted about them when I was almost done and I said I was thinking about running a little journey line along the back flap of the envelope - again to unify - and he suggested I put 13 dots on the line, one each for the places I reflected on, and then hint at which one this envelope related to. So I did and I love that bit too.

In the end it is a very personal travel memoir, yet I think it offers the viewer a chance to enjoy the journey as well.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Collaboration get together

Well, in amongst the madness that is the end of the year, Susan and I and our books got together on Wednesday, but we both knew there wouldn't be an opportunity to post until Friday so here we are; better late than never!

It was once again a wonderful get together, and a fascinating experience as we explored each other's books.

It was quite interesting to discover how intriguing the books were, even tho we were both familiar with the envelopes given that they were exactly the same. We had also had a glimpse of where the other was headed last Friday; but wow - it was totally different to experience the completed books.

For now, they are bundled together using some of Jennifer's Habu thread that made its way across the world to us here and which is a perfect addition to the work. It plays a role and brings Jennifer into play  with our books as well! We are finalising thoughts for the final presentation - soft or hard? box or pouch? see-thru or opaque? We shall see...

Anyhow, both books tell their stories in unique and individual ways, and both books still appear harmonious and complementary, despite our different approaches to finishing the envelopes and making the artworks within.

We thought we might photograph a few of the envelopes with matching artworks just to share; each of us will no doubt tell our own stories on another post...

These pre-made craft paper envelopes were where it all began and they sparked Susan's imagination. Who would have thought this humble envelope would have led us on such a fabulous adventure?

I think we are both still going thru a bit of as crush-phase with tracing paper.  We were both so happy that we included a couple of transparent envelopes - they added so much interest and softened things, hinted at but didn't disclose...

One of my favourites was this soft grey envelope. I also love what we both put inside it, and what Susan did to the outside of it.

One of the things I have noticed about this collaboration is that we are both acutely aware of the process, and the experience we are both having. At times, we seem to step back and observe ourselves and comment on it and talk about. This time we were both surprised by how intrigued we were with the work; how we felt a sense of excitement, inquiry and discovery as we sat in front of the envelopes and began to explore. I let out little sighs of "ohhh..." and squeals of delight when something beautiful or unexpected was revealed.

Despite the early challenges, this has been another wonderful book to make together, thanks Susan!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Thursday Thoughts...

The time to read is any time: no apparatus, no appointment of time and place, is necessary. It is the only art which can be practised at any hour of the day or night, whenever the time and inclination comes, that is your time for reading; in joy or sorrow, health or illness. 

Holbrook Jackson

I having been thinking and writing about books in my Thursday Thoughts for quite a while now, and I still enjoy coming across quotes that characterise the pleasure and nature of books so well.

This one rings true in so many ways.  I think in order to read you probably needs words and light in which to read them, and not much more

This would have always meant a book to me - the physical book and a bedside lamp or a window or an overhead light or the sunshine. Nowadays it can mean my iPad which provides its own light. This approach comes into its own at night and in bed. I can continue to read long after lights out without fear of disturbing Barry's sleep. Pretty cool.

In general terms tho - you don't need a lot of equipment to set up to read. A good book will usually do it and you can pretty much do it anywhere, anytime. It's like reading can be an extension of yourself - it can happen wherever you are as long as you have something to read with you.

For me, the time for reading is most definitely in joy or sorrow, health or illness. Each of these times brings back special memories of reading - books as my companion, solace, or reward...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Wheels within wheels...

We hosted a wedding at our home a few months back and the groom and many of the guests were road cyclists.  These men really love their bikes and will ride literally hundreds of miles and think it is fun. An interesting definition.

A few weeks back, the now husband and wife dropped by with a box of "cassettes" which look to me like the different sorts of gears or cogs a bike uses.

They thought that Barry might be able to find a use for these ones which had been handed in to the bike shop as being old, worn and used.  We don't know if they will rust or if they will stay shiny, but they are nonetheless very good things to have around just in case!

I walked past them in their box the other day, with camera at hand, and what else could have happened but...

Wheels within wheels within wheels...