Sunday, March 31, 2013

A couple of weeks' worth of good news

It all seems a bit mad and round about or back to front, but first of all I don't seem particularly good at talking about my good news when it arrives. I keep it quiet, smile to myself tell one or two folk how excited I am. It  feels a bit weird to just do a blog post on it, so I leave it go quiet. And then I have the good fortune to get a bit more and I end up blurting it all out at once.  Which then probably sounds really weird as well. Apologies.

Anyhow I'll let you all know my latest bits of happy good news:

First of all a little while back I learnt that two of my books will feature in Lark Books' 500 Handmade Books Vol 2. I was, to put it politely, gobsmacked and really didn't think I'd read the email properly. Which I hadn't because I thought there was only one, and on second or third reading I realised there were two acceptances!  So "The Unbearable Whiteness..." and "A Subversive Stitch" will appear when the book is published in September this year.

©2013 Fiona Dempster - The Unbearable Whiteness...
©2013 Fiona Dempster - A Subversive Stitch
This is what the cover will look like so you can keep your eyes peeled and snap it up on release!

Secondly, that little book that just keeps on giving "A Subversive Stitch" has been bought by the State Library of Queensland to go in their collection - so I am thrilled to also have it in a collection here at home.

Thirdly, I was notified last week that I am a finalist in the Libris Artists' Book Awards. My recent book "Peace mends the world" was accepted for the Awards show.

©2013 Fiona Dempster - Peace mends the world
And finally, over the weekend, my little piece "Flight" was sold at the Printmaker's exhibition here in town!
©2013 Fiona Dempster - Flight
And so was one of Barry's "Lone Tree". A lovely piece.

So... quite a pile of happy delightedness. I might need to go and have good lie down to recover from the excitement of it all. Thanks for bearing with me.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thursday Thoughts...

“A bookshelf is as particular to its owner as are his or her clothes; a personality is stamped on a library just as a shoe is shaped by the foot.” 

Alan Bennett

I smiled to myself as I looked at this bookshelf in our office today.  It certainly tells a story about us - at least we can tell one story when we look at it, yet I am sure others would see or tell quite another.

I look and see the piles of books to be read or books which have been loaned to us. I see the art hanging around, standing on and above and also within the bookshelf. I see the little arty blank diary books that are always lurking, waiting to be picked up when we need something to take with us to jot something down. I also see a few netball trophies and some family history books.

I see our novels in all their many hues - some fast paced crime thrillers, some beautiful, poignant and moving stories, some non-fiction that has a political or Australian bent.  Across the way I see a well developed library on Indigenous Australia as well community development, early childhood, and family violence all of which form part of our work-work.

In its mad, somewhat chaotic and tumble-down way this bookshelf is a pretty good indicator of who we are, what we do and what we enjoy.

I know I always gaze along other folk's bookshelves to see if we have a common place to converse about a book...they definitely tell a story, or two or three.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Peace mends the world

A while back I was struggling with the wet weather and its impact on paper-based work and turned to metal. I enjoyed rummaging around in Barry's metal piles until I had collected a lot of discarded copper.

Copper is a pretty universal metal, found on nearly every continent on earth and this made me feel as if it was something shared by many peoples.

My book has seven pages, with fragments of copper stitched together to create a whole.  Step by step peace can mend the world. There are still gaps as the job is never finished. Each page is a treasure, contained within and protected by perspex, held together with hand-made copper rivets.

Fragile, strong. Peace can mend the world.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Black and white bits

Since returning from work-work down south it has taken a while to play catch ups and most of my art has been bibs and bobs here and there.  All very enjoyable, just nothing major.

I was asked by a shop to do some 'nice' sales swing tags for some of Barry's work.

So I played about with a few different approaches and knowing I had to do nine or so, my decision came down to less is more!

We plan to attach them using some of this lovely strong Habu thread.

Next weekend (Easter) is the inaugural exhibition of Maleny please do drop by if you get the chance.

I offered to do a visitors book so that people viewing the exhibition could leave comments and contact details, and I spent a bit of time with the lettering over the last few days.

The good news is that my extra materials arrived for my copper and I have done what I hoped to do and will be able to post on it very soon! 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Thursday Thoughts...

“The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention. A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words.”

 Rachel Naomi Remen

Those moments when you feel as if you are being heard, that somebody has taken the time to stop and be with you, and to listen. They are precious moments indeed.

There are some people in the world who offer that up nearly each and every time you speak with them. They are people who feel present, who make you feel as if they have put time on hold, who have turned down the myriad of buzzing noises in their daily life so they become muted, and so that as a person they can listen to you.

I try to do this, to be present, available to the person I am with. Sometimes it works, other times I know I decide to multi-task - like sweep the floor whilst I am on the phone, scroll thru emails if I'm on the phone. I try to catch myself and stop it, because I feel as if I am cheating the person of my attention, which in the end is something I can easily give for free.

There is no better feeling to have been heard, to have spoken and been understood. And sometimes there is nothing better than to just be with a person, to sit beside them saying nothing, just being with them in the silence.  I am amazed at what care, love and concern can be transmitted through silence.

I guess paying attention, listening...they're both about being mindful and in the present moment. It feels good when you can do it, and when people offer it to you as well.

We are just back from a week's work down south. One day we were lucky enough to visit the National Gallery in Canberra, and sit quietly within James Turrell's "Within, Without". It doesn't do the work justice to say you enter this kind of pyramid built into the ground and move through spaces until you arrive at the central chamber where you sit. And look up. And this perfect circle of sky makes you stop and just be.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Maleny Printmakers Exhibition

Barry and I have joined a newly formed group in Maleny - the Maleny Printmakers.

Whilst neither of us does printmaking in a full time focused manner; we do own an etching press and both enjoy making plates and printing when we can.  There is nothing quite like the moment of 'the reveal' - when you lift the paper to see what has happened as you print.

This small but dedicated group is holding their inaugural exhibition over the Easter weekend. Ten artists will be exhibiting and there will be a range of etchings, dry points, lino cuts, collagraphs and other printing methods on display and for sale.

We each contributed up to four pieces. Mine include one of my flight prints, two tiny dry points and a hanging book.


A terrible photo of one of my tiny drypoints - I promise it looks much better in the flesh!

Pandanus II - as a book and as a hanging...

Barry's prints look stunning and we are both thrilled with the power of good framing - how it can take a piece from 'nice' to 'wow'!

The exhibition also features several of Susan's Standing Stories.

If you are anywhere nearby, please pop along and see the show, and if you want to catch up with either of us, we will be there, looking after the shop to speak, on Sunday 31 March.

Full details of the exhibition can be seen in the first image or here

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Of rust and tea and soaking

I recently enjoyed ripping up some cotton, wrapping it around rusty things and popping the lengths into a boiler of green tea and leaving them outside for a few hours.

Funny how the mood just takes you isn't it?  I decided to try three variations - firstly rusty washers which give such lovely circles, secondly row upon row of rusty nails which often give good lines, and thirdly lengths of rusty chain draped and dangled across the fabric as it was rolled.

They each gave me different results, with differing degrees of happiness. Here they are for their first hang and dry outside the studio.

They have since been washed and ironed and two are keepers; one is going back in the pot to try again, to add a little bit more interest.

I loved that the little butcher bird must have thought I was cooking food and came over and perched on the edge waiting to be fed.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Thursday Thoughts...

"Naked I came into the world, but brush strokes cover me, language raises me, music rhythms me. Art is my rod and staff, my resting place and shield, and not mine only, for art leaves nobody out. Even those from whom art has been stolen away by tyranny, by poverty, begin to make it again. If the arts did not exist, at every moment, someone would begin to create them, in song, out of dust and mud, and although the artifacts might be destroyed, the energy that creates them is not destroyed." 

Jeanette Winterson

What a wonderful way in which to consider the arts - the music, words, images and pieces we respond to and participate in the making of. A celebration and a cry for freedom all at once. A validation of our heart's desire.

In this quote I think Jeanette Winterson captures the integral role that art can play in one person's life - how it nurtures, supports, protects and sustains; as well as the value of the arts to the world and the broader community.

It is a comforting thought to me, that the heartbeat of art continues to beat, that art will be created, will re-emerge, will be a constant in the world despite the darkness we sometimes face. That the drive to create and express and share that story will remain a part of being human.

Ben Quilty's 2011 Archibald prize painting of Margaret Olley.   We saw it in Sydney recently and I have to say the image sprang to mind with Jeanette Winterson's words "but brush strokes cover me..."

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Calligraphy commission complete

I was pleased to be able to send this wee piece out into the world on Sunday. I had been battling with the dampness in the air with all the rain and mist we have been experiencing; but with the help of a dehumidifier, candles and the odd fire the air in the studio was  dry enough to start writing.

The author of the quote in unknown, but it was a blessing read at a recent wedding and the piece is going to be framed as a gift to the bride and groom.

I mucked about with plenty of different layouts, nib sizes and possible designs before committing good pen and gouache to paper so to speak. You can see how the ink was bleeding with the moisture here.

So many design decisions!

Almost there...

In the end I was lucky with this one - I just sat down and wrote it and painted in the design and lo and behold it worked, and there weren't even any spelling errors - Barry came over and did a double check just to be sure.

It's always nice to finish a piece with a good feeling - and this one had that for sure.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

More metal

I am still waiting on some additional supplies to arrive so that I can get stuck into my copper project properly. They were due last Wednesday but I am yet to see them...Sigh. I must admit however that sometimes a delay can be a good thing, as it makes me really work thru in advance what I want to do; nut out a few ideas and not necessarily just go with whatever pops into my head on the day.

That is especially important when I am dealing with unfamiliar materials - taking some time to think things through really helps me work out what is actually possible (as opposed to what I hope and dream and think might work); and exactly HOW I can achieve something and so on. So really, the practicalities of what I'm trying to do.

I have done some planning this weekend, and have progressed it in parts, but it will all stand or fall on what arrives during the week and whether I can make it work!

Still, the metal is friendly and fun to play with - here are some of the bits I have been using...

The scraps that are the starting point.

The leftovers and discards from my work. None of these are even wasted, they go back into the serious scrap pile to be melted down at some point.

The collection of wee dots continues...

And some metal stamps.

And to finish - a beautiful piece of copper with a gorgeous patina. I love this piece.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Thursday Thoughts...

“No two persons ever read the same book".

Edmund Wilson 

Well ain't that the truth? If I ever need reminding of this I just recall nearly every Book Group discussion I have ever attended. Somedays I swear we had been reading completely different books.

It seems at times that I bring my feminist tendencies to the fore more than my other group members and will often be greatly annoyed by a male character which others have found very sympathetic.  They look at me a bit betwaddled when I launch into my reasons for thinking the character is flawed and/or objectionable, when really they think he's just a nice misunderstood man.

At other times, I am moved beyond words about something, and others have just skipped over it and thought right, what's next?

As an author, I guess you really are engaging in a dance of sorts with your readers - in part the full realisation of your work is made only when the reader responds and/or brings their bits to the reading of it.  You can assume it is complete when it leaves your hands to be published, but in a way it takes on multiple forms as different people read it and experience it though their own prisms of experience, bias, fear and hope.

I love that Book Group exposes me to books I might not get to read otherwise; and that it shows me different ways of thinking about a book, a writer, a story.

I am currently re-reading The Help for Book Group; and looking forward to next week's discussion. I expect there will be things I had missed or not noticed that get discussed. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A Peace alphabet

I mentioned earlier in the year that one of the alphabets over at A Letter a Week this year is based on the theme of peace. I pondered quite a few options for my alphabet and finally came up with an alphabet that is working, for me at least.

In case you haven't visited over there and don't know what I'm doing, here it is...

I ended up trying to set myself a bit of a challenge - to find peace each week. I usually read the daily newspaper on my ipad, but three times a week we buy the real thing and sit in our local coffee shop and read the news. I decided I would try to find the word peace in the three newspapers I read in hard copy.

It has proven to be a challenge and I am surprised in lots of ways that I can scan/read many many pages of the newspaper and peace appears only occasionally. Last weekend I only found it once, same with the previous weekend, so I really do have to stick at it and look hard and long.

I then chose to cut out the page on which I found peace and write a letter of the alphabet within the 7cm square. I also wanted to use pencil/graphite - a day to day material, not posh, not precious, not hard to find, and I wanted to feel as if peace could be all of those things.

The choice of hand (font, letter style) was another challenge - I didn't want it to be fancy but I also didn't want it to be easy, so I thought I would try to write my alphabet in Neuland. This is a hand with which I am not at all familiar and I have never previously written a single letter in that style.

Just out of interest (and probably because there is a work-work part of me that researches and analyses things) I am keeping a record of which page I find peace on in the newspaper and in what context.

I'm not the only one who has found 'peace' an interesting and possibly tricky theme to turn into an alphabet' yet there are many beautiful, wonderful and thoughtful alphabets appearing.  A part of me is thrilled to see so many people nutting out what peace means to them and how best they can express it.