Friday, March 28, 2014

Continuing the dance...

Susan and I got together on Wednesday to continue exploring where to next with our books. As many of you know, during our collaboration, with each book we choose to collaborate differently, to explore the spectrum of collaboration to speak.

This time around we were right at one end; where the book is primarily all our own work, but at regular intervals we meet to talk and work through issues - peer mentoring I guess it would be called in the business world.  We take problems we are facing and directions we are unsure of to the meeting and chat and sort and sift and get guidance from a fresh pair of eyes.  In addition, we will also be asking the other to add in something to our book that we can't do our selves.

This time around we also gave ourselves a concrete notion - birds, nests, eggs and feathers. These are quite solid notions - they are real, they exist and people know what they look like!

Both of us have struggled and struggled with these books; I wonder if it's  because they are purely ours (we are dictating what the other will contribute) AND they have to be to a theme. I also think it might be that neither of us is very obvious in our work - so producing images of birds or nests or eggs or feathers feels a bit alien, and not really us.

Anyhow, my book is based around some words and the sense I have about nests being nurturing and protective things…

Here are some images of the work in progress...glimpses because even I don't know what the whole might look like yet!

Playing with words - to include or not I wonder?

More words - looking lovely I think.


Exploded words on the paper - creating beautiful marks, white on white.

Trialling some more words…

Loving the soft edges of an insert…

And where I left off today, feather-like thread and stitching.

It is going to be a quiet book; and not obviously one about birds or nests or eggs or feathers…but I hope it still has a connection.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Thursday Thoughts...

“There are all kinds of silences and each of them means a different thing. There is the silence that comes with morning in a forest, and this is different from the silence of a sleeping city. There is silence after a rainstorm, and before a rainstorm, and these are not the same. There is the silence of emptiness, the silence of fear, the silence of doubt. There is a certain silence that can emanate from a lifeless object as from a chair lately used, or from a piano with old dust upon its keys, or from anything that has answered to the need of a man, for pleasure or for work. This kind of silence can speak. Its voice may be melancholy, but it is not always so; for the chair may have been left by a laughing child or the last notes of the piano may have been raucous and gay. Whatever the mood or the circumstance, the essence of its quality may linger in the silence that follows. It is a soundless echo.” 

Beryl Markham, West with the Night

Probably one of the longer quotes I've ever used, but I love explorations of silence.

I love the silence of a sleeping city. As a teenaged Uni student I moved to Australia's largest city to study. It was big and fast and grotty and noisy; but at about 2am or 3am on a week-night; if you wandered along the city streets and by the harbour, the city was almost silent and oh so beautiful. I thought it was at its best at those moments.

I am very fond of the quiet, gentle silences; but this quote made me think bout the fear that can be in other silences; how silence can actually take many forms some of which are beautiful; and some of which are more sinister.  Some silences feel friendly, welcoming and enveloping; others remain mysterious.

I loved too the notion of a soundless echo - the mood or circumstance of the element before it fell silent; how delightful that it does not have to be melancholy; but can recall the joy and laughter and gaiety that was a precursor to its silence. But also a house or room can feel very silent after the death of somebody and that silence is different again.

To observe the many silences and try to understand them, sounds like a fascinating journey one could take…

I recall the silence as our bamboo bottomed boat glided effortlessly along these waters and between the mountains in the water in Vietnam...

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Of rusty fabrics...

A long, long time ago it seems, I was shown how to rust fabric by wrapping it around rusty things, tying it tightly, soaking it in vinegar and popping it in a sealed plastic bag and leaving it in the sunshine for 2-3 weeks.

My very first attempts were used in these three pieces called "Place" way back in 2010.

This rusting approach produced very vivid rusty colours I must say!  A lot of my rusting of things is now with tea and it makes for a much softer look overall.

Here they were in 2012 at the Tread Lightly exhibition…looking a little worn, but still strong.

Which brings me to today.  Barry and I are-arranging the garden a bit and the tree where these pieces had lived for the last few years is going. So before things got too serious we unwrapped the pieces from the tree, and had a look at how they had weathered.

I must say the last few years have really had an impact and I love all the changes on them.

This one 'belonging' is most affected - the rust and weather have worn through the fine fabric, leaving tufts and shreds.

The rusted leather on 'meaning' has aged nicely.

 And the rusty bits on 'connecting' have been home to somebody.

All the little cross-stitches are green; and the eyelets wearing thru.

 I turned them over to see what was happening there and they are soft and grey.

With remarkable moss-like growths on one,

And little critters making their home on another.

A part of me is still amazed that they are holding up as well as they are really. I have really enjoyed passing them each day (the tree was on the driveway) and now I need to look about and find another home for them; for their next instalment of ageing gracefully.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Playing with letters

We have had a very full week and the studio and I needed to get re-acquainted. So we set aside this morning to go and do some art-related stuff, before other commitments were due, and I had a half-day of playing with letters.

I purchased a set of random lower case type when we were in Tasmania recently. I do love type and one of my eternal quests is to have access to, if not ownership of, a letterpress.  One day maybe…

Until such time as that miracle occurs, and in the interim, I just play with them.  I inked the set up and printed them onto some A4 bond paper. Then because I am a seriously old-fashioned layout type of gal, I photocopied that page and then cut out all the letters, so I could play with different layout options.

Daggy I know, but I do like to do things with my hands!

I had to ink up the 'o' twice because I thought I must have done it wrong the first time; but no, the top and bottom of the letter are set much lower and don't really print even tho they have ink on them.

I had a lovely fiddle and came up with a layout that worked for what I had in mind.  Must admit I kind of fell in love with the layered cut-out pieces as well. In fact Barry thought I should just glue them down in situ and say that was it!

But sensibleness reigned and I tested out a print or two of a Sunday drive in the hinterland…

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Thursday Thoughts...

“I long so much to make beautiful things. But beautiful things require effort—and disappointment and perseverance.” 

Vincent van Gogh

This man understood the art of art-making; the journey, the highs, the lows, the disappointments and the bliss.

That longing and desire to create things of beauty can be a very real hunger and an ache; a yearning to express ourselves through the creation of simple, elegant, beautiful things; or through bright, bold and expressive beautiful things. But that longing and yearning is there no matter the style of our creating.

I think we learn as we go along our own path just how hard it can be to make beautiful things. So often we have a sense of an idea a vision in our mind's eye of a beautiful thing, and yet the creation of it in its most beautiful form can be a path strewn with boulders and potholes.

It so often involves disappointment when we take a wrong-turn; or discover that our expression of the idea is not as beautiful as it could have been, or in the manner which we hoped for.  And perseverance is needed; to stick with it, to learn over and over again how not to do something if that is what is needed. Repetition and practice until we have mastered the skill and can translate our longing and our vision into beauty.

And then, well the reward is priceless.

©2013 Fiona Dempster,  Wingreeguu 2012, by Shirley Macnamara

Not only did I find this piece beautiful at last year Asia-Pacific Triennial in Brisbane, it was also yellow (well ochre, but…), which is this month's colour as we search for Roy G. Biv with Jennifer, Julie and the gang.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Fiddling and stitching

Susan let me know about the exhibition 14-18 Pieces for Peace being held in Ypres in Belgium later in the year. It is highlighting bookbinding, artists books and calligraphy around World War I.

A couple of us are trying to pull together entries and I have been pottering about with ideas. Lots of ideas not necessarily getting me too far forward, just maybe reducing options at the moment. For example I wasn't sure if I should make a book or do a calligraphic piece instead - thought that might be quicker, altho why I would ever think that I don't know. My calligraphic trials always take forever!

I have decided a book is the answer I think, but just what to base it around remains a challenge.

I have a personal connection to Ypres - my great grandfather died at Messines Ridge, and his name is on the Menin gate in Ypres - along with the thousands of others who have no known grave. So it feels poignant to maybe make a book about him. Although I have previously made two.

I am also working on women this year and wondered if I could find a way to tell some women's stories around the war - somehow tell William's and Isabella's story? Not sure.  The book sections that are being sent out to artists for binding - true bookbinders - include lots of poetry from the war, mostly European altho the Canadian John McRae's "In Flanders' Fields" is there as well.  So with poetry in mind I went looking for Australian women's poetry around the war and have come across a few possibilities. I have bought one book and hope that it contains some gems that I can pursue.

If not, I'll keep pondering.

After all that, here are some shots of some of the ideas I have had to date - just playing around with imagery, embossing and a colour palette.

I was recently gifted a ream of some beautiful old, typewriter paper; all brown on the edges and almost rusty-looking. Isn't it wonderful to have friends who know just what you'd love? Thanks Christine!

So I did a bit of embossing and some de-bossing and then some painting on it. Decided I prefer my poppies without the weird sticky outy bits on their stems when I draw/paint them.

Looking at grey and rusted paper and shim (decided no) and some lightweight papers too.

Liking pencil marks on the brown paper and the barbed wire de-bossing from a previous piece.

And I have kept on stitching - a little bit here and there on my sampler piece. I am going with the flow completely here, letting the weirdness that appears remain, acting as a remind for myself about beginnings and learnings and what to try differently.  I love the pulled threads and the occasional line of stitching. Such fun and oh so mediative.

So nothing major happening in the studio, baby steps here and there, and enjoying gentle pottering. Not a bad way to be, altho I do have my birds, feathers, nests and eggs book to get finished!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Booked! in more detail

I mentioned last weekend that we were in Cairns for the celebrations around Booked! and International Women's Day.  We had a fine time up north and I was thrilled to be able to see the exhibition and to share in celebrating women in the arts.

Sometimes you see an exhibition and you realise it is 'so you'. It was that way for me with this one; I gazed upon it in awe and with such delight - everything was so beautiful, so thoughtful, so intimate and so wonderfully wrought.

As many, if not most of you, won't get the chance to get to Cairns to see them, I thought I'd share a few of them in more detail.

My favourite piece and the one I kept returning to was by Rose Rigley. Titled "A preserving nature: Family History" it explored how families hold memories in tangible objects and how these are valued and experienced across generations. Lovely threads and wax and shards of ceramics were held in this book.

Another intriguing piece was by Barbara Dover - Book of truth. Using a reconstructed book and horse hair it speaks about animals in warfare and how they have been used and abused.

I was also taken by the warmth and inviting nature of this book by Susan Porteous. It references how Gandhis said spinning could save India - by spinning the fibres for making their own cotton, the country could be liberated economically. This book uses an old spindle and a book about Gandhi where the pages have been spun into this continuous thread…a contemplative and meditative practice.

I loved the simplicity and elegance of Louisa Boyd's 'Pleat', part of a series where she explores paper and taking it from a 2-D surface to a 3-D form; letting the humble page of paper shine.

Vide Freiberg's "What to expect when you are expecting" considers how the truth around childbirth is shared between women, not always fully told, and how this information can be kept from women who haven't experienced childbirth.

In "Ci-Cz"Ania Gilmore uses torn English and Polish book pages, rearranged and structured to form the word Citizenship with the I connecting the two words. From the World Book Encyclopaedia, she discovered that a word that has been such a long part of her life journey, can be described with such a short description.

Mandy Gunn's "Between the lines" uses the Oxford dictionary and braille paper, torn and cut and reassembled onto cardboard in a 3-D design. It suggest how we all see and use information differently and that it is often important tot read between the lines, not simply accept something at face value.

And then just because I loved it so…more of Rose's book in detail.

You can see what a beautiful and serene show it was, how the pieces worked together so harmoniously and each held a story beyond their visual story.  I remain thrilled and honoured to have joined these women in this exhibition.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Thursday Thoughts...

"Reading is sometimes thought of as a form of escapism, and it's a common turn of phrase to speak of getting lost in a book. But a book can also be where one finds oneself; and when a reader is grasped and held by a book, reading does not feel like an escape from life so much as it feels like an urgent, crucial dimension of life itself."

 Rebecca Mead

Lost and found. In a book.

I have been both, often, and think this quote gives a sense of the true pleasure and delight reading can offer. Sent to me by a wonderful friend, it captures the enormous wonder that is possible, the revelations and expansions that can be experienced by participating in the marvellous past time of reading.

I know reading isn't possible for everyone, nor easy for everyone, but for those for whom it IS possible I would so love them to experiences the highs, the lows, the fears, the delights, the enchantments, the discoveries and the losts and the founds that can be savoured in a book.

©2011 Fiona Dempster, detail of "No Return"

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Play days and cards

I daresay I'm not alone in my desire, preference or maybe even obsession with using up scraps in my studio.  Every last bit of beautiful paper will find its way into something - bookmarks, cards, pages of books and when they are too small and scrappy, into my scrap bag for using to make handmade paper!

I sorted thru the many scraps a little while ago and had some play days and made a stack of cards for the year to come.

I think handmade cards are a lovely gift and I love receiving them, as well as sending them.

Here's the latest batch…

Mini cards using scraps of marbled paper and scraps of lino for the embossing!

They get delivered in these envelopes/pouches made of glassine paper that was used as a backdrop to me painting other paper - hence the wiggles it developed. I decided it looked too lovely to throw away and so it became envelopes.

These tiny pieces of handmade paper (using up other scraps of beautiful paper) went onto scrap paper after being stamped with thank you.

As we were making prints for the MPM collectables exhibition last year, Susan talked about how lovely it is send a print of a flower when somebody is not well or needs cheering up - instead of a bunch of flowers. I bought a few of the prints of flowers for just that reason; then came home and played and made a few flower cards for myself…

I found that last year, one of the cards I wished I could have sent was just a "thinking of you" card - when life was a bit too much for a few folk. So this year I made some of my own, quietly hoping that I might not need them…if the world is kinder this year.

I just smiled to myself when I looked at that palette - oh so very me!