Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Old posts hold stories...

Ken has got us all organised for another COMA exhibition - this one 'for the love of trees...' will coincide with the Woodies - the name affectionately given to the Wood Expo held here in May each year.  The works will be on show at the Woodies on 4 & 5 May, and also at the UpFront Club in town for a few weeks afterwards.

The size was 12 inches x 24 inches or the same in cm and either landscape or portrait.  I am not one for canvas, so looked around the block and started seeing things happening with some of the old fence posts we have lying around.

Given that old fence posts were once trees, I figured I had a link.

I described my vision to Barry and he helped me out by cutting the posts to size and assembling them.  It's the sort of thing I could probably have done for myself, but it would have taken me ages. Barry gets this stuff and does it with ease.

The fence posts I chose had lovely notches and niches and rusty nails in them. Loud sigh.

They inspired my fiddling with barbed wire that I wrote about here, and I knew that I wanted those niches to hold books.

So... I made lots of little books using my embossed and de-bossed pages, and popped them into their niches.  I knew I really wanted one niche to look like a bookshelf.

I gathered some more old barbed wire and cut it to size and held it in with rusty old spikes.

I love it when  a piece you imagined in your minds eye come to fruition in a way that pleases you. I like the contrast of the grey timber, the cream paper and the rusty wire; they all seem to work together somehow. There is warmth and strength, gentleness, tenderness even, and respect for worn and used old things.

So to see the complete piece, here's an inside shot and an outside shot of  "Old posts hold stories".

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The next stage in the dance

Susan and I were both somewhat trepidatious about our personal contributions to this book, and came together at her place a little bit uncertain as to how it would all unfold and what we would do.

Originally I had thought we would swap our pages/pieces and then sit together and stitch them into a snaky - type book, which you can lay flat or interact with and have as a mini-sculpture.

Susan also thought about maybe stitching the pieces together as a quilt, and somehow hanging it in perpsex so that both sides could be viewed.

As we sat and chatted and pondered what next, I was playing with the pieces. We talked about how would you choose which pieces to have up or down?  How with each piece there were two stories and for each up-side or down-side there were four options of design to consider - my travels, Susan's travels, my b&w graphics, Susan's b&w graphics. And of course, the orientation of each piece added another four choices.

So I played and we both felt good that even tho my travels side was different - it still worked well with the other designs. In fact our 'travel language' is markedly similar, so no matter what the design the two would look fine together we decided.

But how to choose?

A random selection of both sides of both of our pieces? In random placement across the grid?

Or do a random allocation of the black and white graphic design sides?  Even if you went this way, there are still so many ways to combine them - the sequence, the orientation of the pieces, the orientation of the full piece...

Try the reverse and randomly allocate the travel imagery?

With some scrumptious detail...

Or go a bit more organised and do a row of mine and a row of Susan's b& w graphic design side? But which ones combine across a line? Turn each piece around a few times? Alternate the rows or put Susan's two together then mine? Vertical or horizontal?

Can you feel the exhaustion settling in? Our minds were getting a wee bit warped as we considered all the permutations and combinations.

Alternating the travel pieces...

Oh, and back to the beginning again in a way, with both sides of both of us on show, but this time in a sort of a systematic allocation.

And with such lovely details.

So after we sat and chatted and played, it became clear to us both, in a shy but certain way, that in fact we had just collaborated on an unbound book.  Both of us work with the unbound book, and both of us felt that the interaction and play this book encouraged would allow so many stories to be told, would allow whoever 'read' it, to also 'write' it, and would take on so many lives and expressions.

To bind it in a sequence and leave the story limited to that telling, simply felt wrong.

It was unexpected in a way, but not a real surprise.  It is one of the joys of this collaboration that we often find ourselves doing something we hadn't planned, yet which is perfectly right.

So then talk turned to how to house this wee book; and we decided to get together another day, to make a box for this book and also one for our envelope book from the end of last year.

For me, I was thrilled with where we ended up and once again delighted with how well our work gelled and came together, given that we both worked in complete isolation and had no idea what the other would be bringing to the table.

I am calling this book 'Serendipity". Thanks again Susan - I think this one was perfect for its time and I really liked our gentle unfolding of it's true nature.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Thursday Thoughts...

“I lounge on the grass, that’s all. So simple. Then I lie back until I am inside the cloud that is just above me but very high, and shaped like a fish. Or, perhaps not. Then I enter the place of not-thinking, not-remembering, not-wanting. When the blue jay cries out his riddle, in his carping voice, I return. But I go back, the threshold is always near. Over and back, over and back. Then I rise. Maybe I rub my face as though I have been asleep. But I have not been asleep. I have been, as I say, inside the cloud, or perhaps, the lily floating on the water. Then I go back to town, to my own house, my own life, which has now become brighter and simpler, somewhere I have never been before.” 

Mary Oliver 

It often seems difficult to describe what happens along the creative way, especially those delicious moments when you are far away and the work appears, the ideas flow, the whole thing shines and maybe sings, yet I think this is a one of those that goes close.

I like the description of being inside the cloud, shaped like a fish. Or not.

It is not easily pinned down, and it is not easily repeated. It is slippery and mercurial. If we could market the magic 3 steps, we would all be rich and famous.  But I really get the sense, the feeling of how it happens for Mary Oliver, how it sometimes takes places and how it feels as she goes thru it, and what it is like to come back to earth earth.

In a basic way I sometimes say when I am soaking in my right brain, I go far away, and then I re-surface, come up for air and look around me at the world again and realise wow, I have been away, whilst I have stayed sitting here.

Not a fish cloud, but one I could go for a wander in...

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The dance is one year old today!

Susan is back from her travels and today is UNESCO's World Book Day so we had planned a get together to do bookish things again and to celebrate that on WBD a year ago, we first sat down to make a book together, and the collaborative dance began.

We had set ourselves a gentle, small book-making task this time around; one that could be managed whilst travelling, and one that didn't need too much to be done to it on return.  Susan cleverly thought of preparing 16 7cm x 7cm squares of heavy paper and together we agreed that one side would be black and white designs; whilst the other side would be about travels and journeys.

So off we went and I went in and out of the pages whilst she was away - pondering this, exploring that, wondering how it would hold together.

We got together this afternoon and had a lovely, slow time together, chatting and playing with the pieces.  I think we were both feeling that this was not what you would call an 'art' book; that we had decorated the pages rather than created 'artisticness' upon them. I think we were both a bit unsure about what we had done and how it would work. I know I felt slightly sheepish!

I am waiting a wee bit to show the lot until Susan is able to do her last 8 images - she has been sick and is slowly recovering, so it is best to take the time it takes rather than rush things right now.

Here are some images of how I worked on my pages and the stack I took along this afternoon.

No prizes for guessing this is my black and white design side! It felt like doodling and was a great way to just sit quietly and meditatively drawing lines, drawing curves, intersecting them...

I do love the graphic nature of them all piled in together like this.

And for reverse journeys and travels side, I went for the tea rusting over the whole sheet before cutting the pages/pieces down to 7cm x 7cm.

And then I spent some more time doodling, making marks, travel lines, map markings and so on...

Part 2 of this wee book will unfold shortly...

If you would like to see the previous books (there are four complete ones) and the process to date - just click on Collaboration in the labels list in the right hand side bar.

I have also put images of my first four books on my website - here in the gallery called Collaborative work. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Of paper and poetry

I promised some images of the paper I made, after I spent such a lovely time gazing around the block the other day.

I have since made quite a bit more, but here is how it has come together so far...

These sheets are about A5 size - a bit bigger than half an A4 page. I like how their whiteness reflects the quality of the paper I used to make the pulp from.

Lovely edges...

I made these wee squares and triangles using mould and deckles that I bought from Noela at an art swap/sale thingy a while back. Usually they sit in the garden as sculptural pieces of interest, but I put them to use and they worked! The squares are about 4cm x 4cm, the triangles are about 8 or 9cm along the base. I think.

They have been filling my head with ideas and inspirations - it is so wonderful to have them around.

And then the lovely ragged edges of pages that didn't work. I love what they offer in their imperfection.

And then to poetry...

Apparently it is National Poetry Month in the US.  Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord posted a few days ago about Book Spine Poems and I got a little bit absorbed and besotted.  The idea is that you visit your local library and make a free verse poem out of the titles on the spines of books in the library. Photograph it and send it to the American Library Association and you might win a prize. You can read those details here, but I didn't want to participate in such a big way.  I was jumping excited about this idea and despite having to get organised and drive to Goondiwindi, I just had to grab a few books from the shelves and make poem!

So here is my free verse book spine poem:

A Room with a View


The fog garden,

Snow falling on cedars,

Yesterday's shadow

The Remains of the Day

All that I am.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Thursday Thoughts...

"Books are not made to be believed, but to be subjected to inquiry. When we consider a book, we mustn't ask ourselves what it says but what it means." 

 Umberto Eco

Sometimes I find a quote in a round about way and decide to ponder it reasons I cannot explain!  this one is still in my head as I continue to work my way through it.

I guess in many ways it is a warning to not believe something simply because it has been written down and printed and published. By somebody.

In some ways I really like the guidance - that books are not made to be believed, that in fact they are there to be subjected to enquiry. What a great way to encourage people to think, question and challenge, not simply accept. I imagine that is a great key to give a kid as they are starting to read things that are a bit more challenging - ask the questions, check the facts or the premises, acknowledge or realise there are different views and opinions and that yours count.

The difference between what a book says versus what it means is a tougher one for me. It seems to say we need to get behind the book and try to work out - what does it mean in the current context, what does it mean given that it was written at that point in time, by a woman author? Sad to say, I am oftentimes just happy to read something, consider what it says, agree or not agree with it, be moved or not moved by it, and not worry about what it means in the big scheme of literature or whatever. Sigh.

On the other hand, I understand what this visual message says and I hope, what it means. I came across it in Toogoolawah on the way to Goondiwindi (both fabulous names) yesterday. It is a braille marker at the bus stop, so visually impaired folk know where to stand to catch the bus. That's what it says. Perhaps what it means is we as a society care enough that a visually impaired person in a small country town can work out where the bus stop is. That we respect people's rights and support their independence. Lots of meanings perhaps.

It is also a contribution to the ongoing search for RoyGBiv with Jennifer and Julie. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Making paper at our place

I've already mentioned I am planning ahead.  This time I am planning and preparing for something I don't even know about - I just have this 'just in case I need it" feeling.

It all started when I sold 'Flight' at the Printmaker's exhibition at Easter, and realised I was almost out of handmade paper. Knowing that it takes a bit of time and weather-luck I started a while ago, and almost finished today.

I save all my offcuts of good quality paper.  I pop them all in a bag that hangs in the studio and I collected about a year's worth the other day and headed to the shredder.  Spent a while shredding these scraps and then popped them in a tub to soak. I added a few drops of clove oil to stop mould developing. And then it rained, and rained and rained some more, and well you really need dry weather for paper making I think. I think they soaked for about a week or more.

Sunday dawned sunny and bright and I knew I had to get into it which I did. Of course I had shredded and soaked too much paper so here I am three days later with only half the paper turned into pulp and made into paper. Still, it's been great fun!

I make the paper down on the tiled deck off a room downstairs at the house, not over at the shed.  I don't often hang around down there and I stopped often to look around me and see the block from a new perspective.

So even tho I have done lots, I'll share my paper with you later. Today I just wanted to celebrate sunny Autumn days in a sub-tropical garden...

The view from the tiled deck to the south west. With evidence of paper-making.

Lush tree fern and camellias ablaze.

Standing below the tiled deck looking towards the peace bell deck. Jennifer's peace flags have wrapped themselves around their ties again! Oh and a couple of large water tanks to keep us well supplied.

A rusted old fire pit with tree fern reflection

Looking from below the tile deck north west up to the shed studio; with Barry's rusty pile along the drive and rust-stained asphalt!

A couple of timber cubes and structures along the gravel - which is becoming a sculpture path.

Looking to the house from below the tile deck - hand made paper drying!

Oh and a beautiful dawn on Monday morning...

I hope you enjoyed the wander - well not really a wander as I just stood in pretty much one spot and turned around, but it is beautiful down there and I think I'll work out the back more often!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Playing around with barbed wire

I am thinking ahead a lot at the moment, planning ahead, getting ready, making preparations.  It might all sound dull and ordinary, but I am actually finding it gives me lots of opportunities and reasons to go make stuff and play.

Each day I head to the studio with my head buzzing with thoughts and ideas and plans and options and I am enjoying myself immensely.

This weekend was an example - one day drizzle, rain and mizzle and another pure sunshine delight - so I went over to do a range of things - indoor one day, outdoor the next.

Here are some of the bibs and bobs I got around to with barbed wire in mind...

Quick pen and ink...



Rusty old barbed wire into wood...

All good fun!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Thursday Thoughts...

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” 

Mother Teresa

I thought about these words today as I read the Letters to the Editor in our local newspaper.  Two letters thanked a person for all that they did for a recent community celebration; another thanked the coaches and trainers at the swimming club. One letter thanked the number of drivers who stopped to check that they were OK after a punctured tyre forced them to the side of the road.

I really like reading these letters - knowing that somebody is being thanked and recognised and knowing that it is pretty special for them to have it done publicly.  And knowing that people value what they do or did, enough to make it known.

I often think folk can forget very easily to say thank you or acknowledge somebody's contribution; and it is horrid how slighted that can make somebody feel. It often astounds me how some very high level people forget that small recognitions go a long way towards loyalty and how they can act as an incentive for more work or more effort.

But other kinds words also echo - those ones where somebody notices you're not quite right, or takes the time to check with you how your dad is.  Somehow these kind words enter into your heart and resonate onwards.

Some of the thank you cards I have made recently.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

An oldie but a goodie...

I have entered a few exhibitions/competitions recently - it seems to be the time everybody wants your applications in - and one of them (East Gippsland) was about books that "revolutionalise the form of the book beyond conventional and conceptual boundaries". Despite the difficulty in that topic, I had a look around the studio for possibilities to include in the application.

One of the ones I considered, but later rejected, was this wee one called " From little things..."

I am quite fond of this book; it was one I made quite early on (circa 2008) for the very first artists' book exhibition I ever participated in, here in Maleny at Ken's former gallery Maleny Artworks.

It uses a black bean pod - and I have since learned that there is only one black bean tree in a public or open area in Maleny, so I was very lucky to happen upon it near the library and pick up some pods when I did! Inside is a hand-stitched book made using banana leaf paper. It sits upon a Japanese-inspired plinth, made from cedar timber left over from the window frames on our house.

"From pods grow trees, from books grow imagination and knowledge.  Hand stitched book, set in a pod and displayed on a Japanese style plinth. Elegant simplicity." is what I wrote for that first exhibition - and it still holds true.

It sits with me in the studio - reminding me of one of the pathways into this artists' book world that I took when I began, and reminding me that from little things, big things grow...

Sometimes it's good to look back.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Flags for Peace book

Last year around International Day of Peace (21 September each year), Ken the king of COMA (Collaboration of Maleny Artists) put out the call for local artists to join the Flags for Peace  project which had been started by Mary Jane.  Local artists were asked to make and fly flags for peace which several of them did.

We also got the local bookstore Rosetta Books to have a window display and we held a small artists' book exhibition of peace books in the Library here in Maleny.

We applied for small grant from the Sunshine Coast Council and were successful, and went on to publish a hardcover, coffee table type book of images from Maleny and abroad.  We were able to publish 40 books and have begun distributing them around local schools and libraries and to Councillors and artists. We have set aside several to take with us to Japan next month to share with our Sister City friends in Tatebayashi.

Here are a few snaps of the book - we are pleased and proud and happy to be sharing the idea of flags for peace...

Whilst Maleny artists feature, we also tried to include as many of the international artists' flags as we could.

The cover
Fiona Dempster
Christine Elcoate
Noela Mills
Ken Munsie
Barry Smith
Mary Jane's flags and other international artists' flags
Some more international artists' flags
Thanks to Ken, Noela and Barry for all their energy for the project and support for the book; to Mary Jane for her vision and support; and to all the artists near and far who contributed to peace in this small yet beautiful way.

If you would like to see the whole book (38 pages), you can preview it online here , where you can also purchase your own copy. No profit is being made - the book sells for the price it cost to produce it.

At the Flags for Peace blog, you can see that we are beginning again, starting to think about and share thoughts about peace and about making and flying flags again... perhaps you too might like to join this year?

Go well.  Peace.