Thursday, February 27, 2014

Thursday Thoughts...

“Every budding dictatorship begins by muzzling the artists, because they’re a mouthy lot and they don’t line up and salute very easily.” 

Margaret Atwood

For an author who uses words so beautifully, I loved how Margaret Atwood went for "they're a mouthy lot". It seems such a simple and accurate description of many artists - people who are trying to say something that might be challenging; people who are expressing concerns, thoughts, fears and desires in ways that require engagement and  exploration.

Not all artists do this of course - many times artists are expressing beauty, dreams and hopes; or reflecting their surroundings, the quiet corners of their homes, their live and their landscapes.

With regard to this quote, my mind does turn to the political cartoonists who so often tell us the truth with biting and aching simplicity. They can ruthlessly strip away the rhetoric and show us the real sentiments or outcomes that lie behind or below the obfuscation.

My mind also turns to the graffiti artists and the slogans that get written in protest. These public acts of defiance are what I guess she is getting to here.

I wonder what sort of protest art I would participate in, and I expect I am likely a quiet protester - making small works that say something; but which don't shout.

I think artists can also try to tell us of a better, brighter more beautiful future. They can remind us of the good in the world and can encourage us to seek out the best in ourselves.

Some lane way art in Melbourne.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

In just one little lane way...

Firstly I wanted to say thank you to everybody who left me comments on my book "Fragile Gains". I love this book and it was so nice to discover that it talks to others as well - so thank you very much for your kind words.

We have been on the road work-working in Melbourne and then onto Tasmania on a buying trip where we sought out metal for Barry to use in some of his commissions.

One Sunday we were wandering in Melbourne and cut through this lane way. This is the first sign I noticed and it made me stop and photograph it of course. I loved that somebody wrote a sign like this! I kept thinking of all the nuisance that folk were planning on committing until they saw this...

But as we made our way up the lane, a whole new world emerged. Unexpectedly, quietly and almost in an incognito manner.

There were industrial building with warnings about voltage, and lots of City Council signs about No Standing and so on.

But in amongst them we discovered these…

Made to look like any other City sign reminding us to not do this or only do that for a short time, the artist had reproduced signs and placed them along the walls.

It took us ages to walk the 50m (150 feet) of the lane way - we kept discovering more signs in amongst the regular urban messages. Such a delight.

So thank you Evangelos Sakaris and Melbourne City Council for such a wonderful chance encounter. If you want to find your way to these signs, (and there are many more than I have shown) they are in Heffernan Lane, between Lonsdale St and Little Bourke St, between the Greek quarter and Chinatown.

And in the same lane way, this book shop was closed on Sunday - but what a treat for the eyes their poster was!

 I love when unexpected art moments happen!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Fragile gains

I have finished my book! After the many steps and stages of pages and covers and possible bindings, I have managed to finish it and it all comes together.

But to go back a step or two...

Last year I chose to work around the theme of peace, and I used peace to guide me when I was making prints, books, doing calligraphy or whatever. It became the main focus of my body of work for 2013 and formed the basis of my work for Barry's and my joint exhibition.

Towards the end of last year I came across an article in Bound and Lettered Vol. 10 No. 4 by Carol DuBosch, where she shared work her students had undertaken as part of her assignment to them to be "activist scribes". I was awe-struck, stunned, dumfounded and inspired by this work and thought I would work towards something like that in 2014.

It soon became clear that women's rights and issues would be my theme for 2014.  It may be old-fashioned to be a feminist, but a feminist I am and there are so many stories where women are considered lesser, crimes against them are held as nothing, they still get paid less than men for doing similar work in many places and so on. I have a minor outrage button that gets pushed often as I read the newspaper or watch the news…

So this book is my first foray into that realm of work for the year.

It is called Fragile Gains - in my mind, many of the gains we have made remain fragile, and require vigilance to ensure that they are not lost.  In many places, the gains really are fragile and can be lost through a change in government or through less than democratic processes.

And so I worked with book I had bought in Portland (at Powell's, one of THE great bookshops of the world) - Nora Ephron's Crazy Salad. It was all about women's issues and had been written back in 1975. I read it, enjoyed it and then realised it would offer me something in terms of an art-book as well. It also kept the link to Carol and her students beautifully - I met Carol when we visited Portland on our last visit!

The words I found and kept were:


I ended up creating the binding and was pleased with how it worked. The pages are so fragile I needed to ensure they didn't rip, and that there was support for them when they are turned.

An awful lot of planning and thinking and problem-solving went into this book, and in the end…it says what I want to say.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Thursday Thoughts...

Books are the bees which carry the quickening pollen from one to another mind.

 James Russell Lowell

What a lovely image this conjures up - as bees move between the blossoms, touching lightly here, gathering pollen, moving over here, depositing and sharing…

Books do a similar dance I think - the writer writing things down, the reader picking the book up and gathering from it what is most important or that which matters most to them; sharing thoughts from the book or even the book itself with others.

Cross-pollination of thought, ideas and minds…


Close up of a poppy at our place - a happy hunting ground for bees!  This gorgeous orange comes to you courtesy of Jennifer and Julie's ongoing quest to find Roy G. Biv aka the rainbow! Head on over to their blogs to see other orangeness or simply join in and let them know you're playing...

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Letter A Week - still on track

So far so good, altho I feel as if I may be tempting fate by celebrating that I am managing keep up with my own project this year! I am possibly a bit in front, but when I did the calculation I realised that four letters a month only gives you 48 letters, not 52, so I need to stay on top of it and publish some a bit early.

I am still enjoying playing with the coloured pencils that Hiro gave me when we visited Japan last year.  and I am learning lots about how sand compacts - it is quite incredible.

E got me started again - with an Emerald theme

Here is F - with a theme of Fuchsia

Then G got hard. It has a Green theme, but my it was tough work poking the pencils into the sand as you can see!  After G I had to empty all the sand all and start all over again.

And so we made it to H - with a Hot Pink theme and the pencils were behaving again…

The things you learn. Pop on over to A Letter a Week to see some incredible and imaginative alphabets appearing!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Next steps

After I had worked out how to get my pages prepared for binding, I turned my attention to the covers.  I knew I wanted to use aluminium as the covers - it is light, yet a metal, sturdy, yet not too overwhelming. The colour would also match the shim I was using to bind the edges of the burnt pages.

I decided I wanted the back cover to look a bit like the burnt pages themselves.  So I did a sugar-lift etching to get the look.

First of all I painted the sugar solution on in a manner that was similar to the burnt page look. Kind of.

I let that dry, then covered it with bitumen. And let that dry. Patience Fiona, patience!

And loved the way it photographed from above - could become my new profile picture!

Then it was boiling water to get the sugar to lift (hence sugar-lift!), and into the etching solution, a copper sulphate and salt mix.

I wanted to use words on the front cover so I drew them onto the aluminium by hand - very freely - and then coloured them in with shellac. And let it dry. Then the front cover was popped into the same solution. Here is my test run...

Lucky for me and my patience, they both etched as I wanted, so I didn't have to repeat the process!
And then it was onto choosing which thread to use when binding it all. I can feel the finish line edging closer with this book...

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Thursday Thoughts...

“your handwriting. the way you walk. which china pattern you choose. it’s all giving you away. everything you do shows your hand. everything is a self portrait. everything is a diary.” 

Chuck Palahniuk

This made me stop and think for a bit.  And after cogitating, I came to the view that he's probably right!
Certainly handwriting is very individual and somewhat unique I think, the way you walk is pretty much 'you' as well, even tho you probably wouldn't know it, seeing as how you probably rarely observe yourself walking.  But you know how you can sometime recognise somebody in a crowd by the way they walked, held their head, waved their arms??? It does become very individual.

And then it comes to those moments when we choose and make decisions - where we often get to play out our preferences and styles, where more of us is revealed.  Not so much at those times in our life when you are trying hard to fit in perhaps; but often even then it shows up! I was joking with Barry the other day about how hopeless at fashion I was as a young person - I had no idea and of course I only got to buy the 'cool' clothes when they were on sale. Fo which you can read they were out of season and destined to be not cool as soon as I bought them. So even when you try to fit in your self portrait is painting itself…

I found it kind of nice to think about all these little bits and pieces as a self-portrait or a diary; tell tale signs of whom I am and how I am just me.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Studio chaos and mayhem plus good news!

I'm not sure if this happens to other people, but my studio looks like it has erupted and spewed forth bits and pieces of everything, from everywhere.

Not a good look.

I find I get totally engrossed or focused on something and keep having ideas about it, needing to jot them down, sketch them, grab some paper that might be needed, try a bit of this, make a bit of that. Compare this with that, then a new idea is generated from that comparison and it's off again in a new direction. That is the current state of the studio.

Which in its own way is good I guess - it means I am working - but there comes a time when the madness and chaos no longer offers me goodness, creativity and bursts of enthusiasm; when the chaos actually offers me strife. And so we arrive at tidy up time.

Take the time to step away, breathe in and out. Potter here and there, put things back where they belong, tidy, sort, create harmony all over again.

It seems to be a bit of a cycle for me - start tidy, make mess until there is only a small area left in which to work because every other surface is covered, then tidy. Repeat.

Before the tidy up began…

I can't even begin to explain what half those things are doing there - they simply represent my grasshopper-flea-like mind jumping all over the place!

This is where I got to with my tidy up - I can think clearly again now and approach the next steps and stages gently…at least until the next time.

And then this arrived in the mail!  Bound and Lettered Vol. 11 No. 2  features an article on the exhibition I coordinated and curated last year A Letter a Week - Artistic journey Through the Alphabet. What is even better, the fabulous photos taken by Anastasia Karyofillidis are used throughout the article and made the front and back cover! Congrats to Noela and Lisa for the featured works on the covers as well. Happy dance here!

Apologies for the shocking shiny photos; but I was too excited to worry!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Finally, I focus

I mentioned last weekend that I seemed to have a quite a few projects on the go - pushing this one forward, thinking about that one, beginning to make a move on the other…and how that works for me for a while.

Without deadlines or time pressure, I enjoy pursuing them all and driftily dreaming about them. But then something happens and I begin to feel a need to focus, to push one project along and complete it. Get it finished, tick the box and cross it off the to-do list.

It's funny, but I don't ever really know what clicks into place or why I choose the one to focus on, but it happens and then I turn into focus-obsessed person.

It has been that way with this book - suddenly it consumed my thinking and my time in the studio.

I burnt pages until I made myself a bit  woozy with the incense…and learned to slow down and do them in small bursts.

I read books and tried to work out how to bind my burnt pages. Didn't find anything, so had to go play and explore, did a few trials here and there...

I made up a couple of possible binding options, which I rejected.

But finally got the pages sorted…

Onto the covers next!