Thursday, January 31, 2013

Thursday Thoughts...

Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. 

 Thomas Merton

I am sure I have quoted Merton before, and I'm pretty sure I haven't used this quote before but it's been tricky to keep track away from home and with no power for days before I left.

This speaks to me as he so often does.  When I think about both the in and the out of art - it is possible to both find myself and lose myself within it.

I find myself when I go deep inside and find things of mine or my thoughts that need expressing - and the art lets me tell that story or get it out somehow. Inelegantly expressed I'm sorry. The process of making or creating is a means by which I discover and express truths about myself. I think I find a part of me through art.

Yet the opposite holds true as well. In the process of making or creating I very often lose myself, or at least my left-brain thinking, analysing and observing self.  I often feel as if I have been lost in my art as if I have gone many many miles away, and then I'm back.

It's quite a beautiful and accurate conundrum...

This is a part of a practice page I did with Massimo Pollelo at his workshop in Sydney. It is done with balsa wood as a pen and walnut ink. The intensity of focus as I tried to compress the letters and keep the strokes right meant I really was lost in myself as I did it; and I think the loose gaps feel a little bit like I found myself...

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A fortunate wife

Apologies for the quietness from this end - we have been inundated with rain and high winds as ex-tropical cyclone Oswald makes its way down the east coast of Australia.  We had no power for 2 1/2 days which is difficult for food in fridges and freezers, and because we are rural folk no power to our pumps which give us water for washing, boiling and flushing.  So after our extended camping episode, I am now in Sydney for a few days where the sun is shining and the toilets flush all by themselves. Barry is still on the mountain with power returned but no phone or internet connection and v flaky  mobile coverage.

But I'll turn my back on natural disasters to say that it is a very nice thing to be married to a man who makes jewellery. I was just looking around as I cleaned up my bedroom table last week and realised how many lovely things he has made me.

Barry has had a fabulous run at things in the past little while, and I have been the lucky recipient of some of his prototypes and special pieces.  In return, I thought it was only fair to do a bit of cross-promotion and let folk know that he has a heap of new work in his shop...

These are the first of my Barry earrings - I love the patina on the metal, the different colours of the metal and the rivets. These rate very highly on my list of favourite things, and I carried them to Sydney with me.

Before Christmas Barry made several sets of slim copper earrings for a young friend to select from. She was going to a formal and wanted to look beautiful and elegant.  After she had made her choice, I asked if I could keep these truly simple and elegant ones for myself. Lucky me.

These earrings came about by accident, but reflect the curly bark we often see along our morning walk. I loved them a first sight, especially the way the edges are tinged with the underlying copper. They too accompanied me down south.

The latest and true piece de resistance is this peace-book necklace.  Barry made this one with me in mind; it is book-like and carries one of my favourite quotes within it - Peace is every step.  I love wearing this and carrying its message with me.

Again, it was packed for the trip and i love it. All of his work is made with re-cycled metal and sterling silver posts.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Thursday Thoughts...

“Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.” 

Anna Quindlen

I think I should probably try to follow up some of Anna's books - they seem to touch on some interesting topics.

As Barry and I reflect that one year ago we were in New York for our first visit, and all the wonderful things that happened there; including catching up with new friends who feel like old friends, (Jennifer, Gabrielle and Brian and Mary Jane) my mind turns to trains, planes and automobiles. And books.

Books are a must-have accompaniment to any journey. They are the journey, yet they are home.

It's quite fascinating to me that an object or objects can be ascribed such disparate features and functions and yet that it all makes perfect sense to me!  Books can be the journey - the trip you go on with them as they tell their story and the manner in which they accompany you on a real journey; or they can be home - the way they make you feel. They can be the road - the path that guides you - as well.

For me, there is a sense of completeness to how she describes what books are for her, how they feature in so many different ways and provide her with so many different things. I liked that.

I know always feel at home with books no matter where I am.

A couple of hand-made books, on the couch at home...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Another dance...

Today was the day that Susan and I got together to work on our next books - the fourth book in our collaboration so far.

Each time we do a book, we try to collaborate differently. This has been one of the interesting discoveries for me - the number of ways in which one can collaborate.  I think we often use the term collaboration quite loosely, and so it's good for us to sit and think "well how else can we work together, but separately?" before we begin each book. I am also lucky that Susan is willing to engage in these sorts of ponderings - they would bore many to death I'm sure so I truly appreciate that.

This time around we chose to work to a theme or a title for the book "starry, starry night".
We chose to work on 7 pages, then hand them over to the other to work on each page, and then return them to us to complete.

The approach is a bit similar to our first collaborative book - but we have noticed it is much harder this time.  As we chatted today we talked about why we thought it was harder and came up with a couple of things - firstly we had worked on each page, so the book was already telling a strong story of its own before being handed over; secondly the decision that the other person would also work on 7 pages - kind of like half and half on each page meant we felt we had to add something special on each page; and then the fact that we had to keep the work to a theme. This was hard when you might have wanted to take the pages for a wander but had to keep saying, well no, it's starry starry night and I'd better make it look like that!

Once again the pair of us were both equally fearful and trepidatious about touching the others' pages. This fascinated me because I thought surely Susan would understand how I was scared of her beautiful pages which seemed complete to me already; whereas she couldn't see how she could add to the story I had already told! Funnily enough both of us had further stories to tell on our own pages and ways in which we had thought about taking them forward, yet the other felt the story had been told.  We once again convinced each other that the books we were making needed to show the hand of the other - they are not really "my" books, more like "my-our" books.

Susan had worked quite large, about 40cm x 40cm pages on rusted black paper and transparent tracing paper focusing on the vastness of the sky. Here are couple of her pages...

May I just apologise in advance for my photography of both dark and light pages - very tricky at times!

Here are a couple of my test bits...trying to work out if black ink shows up on black paper, how piercing and thread work, which pencil colours show up best and so on, and a few options I had for the pages before I began...

Despite my fear I made some marks. Subtle, ordered and a few other words that would describe my work generally.  But I made them.

 Now the pages are back home with me to continue to work with them, until we hand them back in a week or so's time.

It was another wonderful day of companionship and art - sharing, trusting and encouraging.  

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Rusting together

I spent a lovely afternoon today with friends from the Buderim Calligraphy Group - Helen, Helen and Greg.  We had a play day with rusting and my stained fingernails bear testament to the get down and dirty approach we took.

First of all we set up some tea - stained the paper and added rusty bits and then more tea.

As you can see sometimes, more is definitely more!

There will be some interesting marks left behind with these pieces, and the paper will no doubt get put to good use.

Then we turned to the other rusting of paper that we do - with tea, ferrous sulphate and caustic soda.

It's always good to do some test papers with the different results you get from dipping in different sequences.  Then it's time to just get down and play, with different papers, different patterns, different dips.

All in all a fun fine day!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Exploring peace

Over at a letter a week 2013, one of the alphabets for the year has to be about peace. Despite the beauty of the theme, I have been fiddling around trying to work out how to create an alphabet that supports or reflects peace. Dots and colours are so much easier to incorporate!

I have been down, and am still going down, many paths it seems. My first foray led me to an alphabet that might look like it came out of Woodstock and the time of peace, love and happy herbs.  I liked its brightness and bought some rainbow coloured cardboard and planned to stitch it together so it swung in the breeze like peace flags, but then...

I got some words stuck in my head "Peace is flowing like a river..." which is the beginning of a song.  I kept repeating and repeating these words and thought maybe I was supposed to do something with them. So I started thinking watery thoughts and saw fabric and hand stitched letters in my head.  I found some remnants of silk organza and set about changing the colour - using a Payne's Gray acrylic ink I had. They dried very quickly in our heat!  I liked the look of them, but then...

I got distracted further. One of those really hot nights, sleeping intermittently and lightly my mind started wandering around how to make it a weekly activity for me (clearly I am already three weeks behind by this point) and I thought about finding a peace quote each week, printing it onto paper and then writing my letter over the top of it.

I have no examples of this, just the notes to self I quickly wrote down after waking.

I think, just think, I might have fixed on what I need to do.  It will make it a weekly challenge for me as well as link to peace and the struggle for it. I'm just beginning and am hopeful. I'll let you know if it works out or not.

Sometimes it takes several steps this way, then that way and then in a completely different direction to find the right path. I hope I'm on it this time, altho I still quite like the early wanderings as well. Perhaps they will find their way into another piece another time...

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Thursday Thoughts...

Our capacity to make peace with another person and with the world depends very much on our capacity to make peace with ourselves. 
Thich Nhat Hanh

I think about this a lot.  It is pretty hard for me to actually, really influence world peace. I'm not in the UN, I'm not a conflict negotiator, I'm not in charge of any armed forces rebel or otherwise; and I'm not running the country. My contributions on a world stage are going to be very very diffuse and small.

So I think about where my sphere of influence is; where can I make a difference; how can I make a difference?

If I start with myself - trying to be more peaceful in my day to day activities, in my interactions and discussions and in my own thoughts. That's a start.

If I can expand this peaceful approach to my family and friends, to my relationships with others I come in contact with, then that helps as well.

If I can share peace through art and creativity, both locally and interwebedly, that also helps.

So I figure if I start with me, then what I bring to other people and other interactions will be better. And who knows how the ripples might flow out across the world?

Peace is every step is another favourite quote of mine by Thich Nhat Hanh, here it is overwritten and overwritten to reinforce its message.  It's luckily also in black and white as Jennifer and Julie continue their monthly colour search beyond the rainbow...

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A drift of feathers

A good friend and I often amuse ourselves with dreaming up collective nouns for things.  We both enjoy the real ones - like a business of ferrets, a parliament of owls, a stand of flamingos, a skulk of friars, a wandering of tinkers... but we also then enjoy making up our own.

So we have a slump of teen-age boys, a consolation of social workers, a chapter of writers, and so on. These email exchanges can be highly entertaining (at least to us) and last for days when we get on a roll...

But back to things artistic.

These photos were all taken in New Zealand.  So often on the beaches, there were mounds of driftwood - evidence of the rough seas and the raging winds.  In amongst all these logs and bits of wood I came across feathers. In my mind they became 'a  drift of feathers'.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Black Beauty

Like most of Australia we are sweltering and going thru what can only be called a heatwave.  A very long, dry, hot stretch where the only answer in the afternoons is to stay inside and read.

I had thought about heading to the studio in the shed, but it was too hot - and we had loaned our portable air conditioner to our elderly neighbours as the heat has been really debilitating.  Instead I got to fiddle and prepare some of the materials for a course I am working on called "Black Beauty".

It will be all about exploring the beauty of black backgrounds; and how colours can jump and leap out against them.

My starting point was to just prepare samples.  I have used Arches Velin Black here as the base and just gone thru my pencils, paints, inks and watercolours to see what happens.  Lots of lovely moments!

It intrigues me how well watercolours can show up against black...

I expected the metallic inks would shine and they did in lots of glorious colour.

The gouache also did well - lots of pigment strength I think.

Watercolour pencil also got a go - as pencils and also watered down..

As did plain old Coloured pencils - I do love them so.

And even the cheap pencils I have for when kids are around did a fine job...

It feels good to have  such a set of swatches at my fingertips. I often wish I had something like this at hand; but can rarely be bothered to invest the time it takes to prepare them. I'm glad I did tho!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Thursday Thoughts...

“Emptiness which is conceptually liable to be mistaken for sheer nothingness is in fact the reservoir of infinite possibilities.” 

D.T. Suzuki

He's a wise man Mr Suzuki, and here, he has expressed something that I often worry about, beautifully and wonderfully.

I have a fascination for emptiness, the sense of it, the nature of it and the potential of it.  So often in life, we can be tempted to view things in a deficit manner - that emptiness represents the absence of something, the loss of something. In a way defining it by saying it is the result of something being taken away; that 'it' used to be something before it became empty, and therefore is now lesser as a result

I often think emptiness offers the opportunity for something to happen, to take place, to take root, to begin...

I certainly think emptiness offers the chance to contemplate, to be quiet, to consider and explore. I think it has potential.

This links to my work in the way in which I sometimes fear that my 'less is more' approach may leave me with blank pages.  It's no surprise to anybody who knows me, that my work is spare and uncluttered. I like less, but I am also conscious of the need for the less and its accompanying emptiness to say something, not simply be the absence felt by me leaving things out. I fear things being perceived as lazy or unfinished, when in their spareness they appeal to me.

That's all becoming a bit of a complicated tangle, so perhaps I should simply stop and say "what he said".

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The little book that keeps on giving

I got an email in my inbox the other day titled "Sold out!"

It was from Laura at 23 Sandy Gallery in Portland letting me know that she had sold the two copies of A Subversive Stitch that I had sent over, and asking if I had any more to send her.

That was just the loveliest little Christmas present moment for me.

Like the post title says, this little book just seems to keep on giving. I got so much pleasure from making it and photographing all those mad red threads, and then sending it out into the world; it then helped me work out my NY card, which inspired the header over at a letter a week 2013 and now, it is selling in America!

What a generous little book it is indeed.

So late last week I packaged three more copies up and sent them on their way across the Pacific in the hope they'll find new homes.

I stitch up red paper pouches for them...

Still madly in love with those threads...