Thursday, May 29, 2014

Thursday Thoughts...

“The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.” —

John Pierpont

Pondering life this week, I sat quietly with this quote and let it wash over me a bit; let myself think bout what it really meant.

I think it's about change.  And how you begin.

There is something quite powerful in the thought that by simply deciding that where you are, what you do now, the stays quo as you know it, is not going to be for you in the longer term.

It suggests that that moment of awakening, of acknowledgement and recognition enables us to move forward, gives us a sense that changes are afoot, or could be afoot.

I think it's quite deliberate however that you may still have to decide. It's not like you just follow along and realise I'm moving, sometime you have to stop and say, I am not going to stay this way.  You might not yet have the knowledge or tools or resources to head off somewhere else, but you know in your heart that you will.

For me, this quote resonates most about the pace of life, the commitments I make in all spheres of my life and the intensity with which I sometimes fill my days.  This year we have decided to actively and knowingly be slower. To commit to less, to take time in our days and let go of things that aren't really all that important in the long run.

We have spent many more hours in our garden, working the block and making it even more beautiful. Giving it the respect it deserves. We have planted, nurtured and harvested so much food and abundance; and we have made the time to process it to value add and to stack our cupboards with preserves and chutneys and nuts and coffee.  I feel fortunate to have found my moment of deciding not to stay where I was, without having to be hit over the head by illness or difficulty and then being faced with no option.

Cherry guava jelly on the boil...

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Pieces for Peace together

Last week Susan, Barry and I took the opportunity to photograph our three books for the Pieces for Peace exhibition together, before they head off overseas.

It was really nice to sit with the books and work through them slowly.  They each tell stories, with words, imagery and materials, and it was nice to have the time to really appreciate them.

Here the three are together - Barry front left, Susan's front right and mine back left.

We played with them a fair bit and quite liked this way of fanning them; with Susan's delicate poppy imagery at the front.

And then we liked the spines together - each so different.

And then the tops where you can see how the pages have been attached.

This is Barry's metal book. Made from a brass shell casing from WW2 and steel cartridge boxes, he has added buttons, bullets and casings we came across in Ypres when we visited there. On the inside pages he has stamped war poems and words of peace.

And yesterday, we popped them in the post and sent them off. This little wrap protects my book.

 We wish them well.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Open Studio preparations

My, how I love a list!

Barry and I are opening our  studio in a few weeks and the list of things to do in order to have a clean, happy, welcoming and well-stocked studio is quite long.

It ranges from clean windows and cob-web the outside; (thankfully not the inside), to bake food, print flyers and weed the garden, with many stops in between, such as make work, pack work, label work and price work.

The studio will be open from 10.00 - 4.00pm on Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 June 2014. 
You will find us at 601 Mountain View Rd, Maleny.

We do both really enjoy opening the studio - welcoming folk in and sharing what we do and how we do it. It's always a good opportunity to focus on making some new work as well as remaking work that is popular and sells well.

I have been lettering on pebbles a lot this week! They always seem popular, with folk selecting words, their grandchildren's names or whole alphabets to play with - even a scrabble set.

Peace in your Pockets are coming along - I am almost finished with the lettering, and then it's on to making.

I have packaged up some prints that haven't been shown before, and have been happily making art-cards as well.

A great way to use parts of prints that didn't quite work first time around…

I have also been hand-lettering labels  for some of Barry's work and my own. Phew.

Looking forward to it!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Thursday Thoughts...

“I believe it was John Cage who once told me, ‘When you start working, everybody is in your studio—the past, your friends, enemies, the art world, and above all, your own ideas—all are there. But as you continue painting, they start leaving, one by one, and you are left completely alone. Then, if you’re lucky, even you leave.’” 

Philip Guston

I love this way of thinking about the artistic and creative process; it seem to describe, with accuracy, the way it can sometimes be.

So often as we begin a project we are filled with things to do - ideas to test; techniques to apply; goals to achieve; definitive thoughts of what we are doing; trying to see how it all fits together and just how it might be.

And then gradually, the further we get into a piece, we shed these original purposes and concerns; they drift away, and we are left more with the essence of the thing. What it is meant to be, supposed to be and needs to be.

And isn't it just beautiful how at the end of the quote, he says, "Then if you're lucky, even you leave".

That describes for me the almost perfect state of creating and making; of having left your consciousness your ego, your thought processes, your awareness of other things and people, behind.

I liken it to "getting out of your own way". Bliss.

I remember this book as being probably the first time I really felt I got out of the way of a piece and just followed where it led me…

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Books, paper, letters, words...

I'm happy.

Books, paper, letters words - I've had  a happy few days playing around with these.

Today in the mail I received the catalogue for the show at 23 Sandy Gallery in Portland OR, USA.

I was thrilled and tickled to see a fragment of my book Fragile Gains on the cover and the postcard. How excitement!  The show looks stunning and I wish, oh wish, I could click my heels and head on over…

Over at the studio I have been playing with syringes and inks and paper, and writing letters and words.  I love the texture this is creating and am getting excited about the possibilities. Syringes make for more less-than-controlled letters and I kind of like the slightly random and wobbly and occasionally blobby version of events that occurs when I use them.

Barry and I are holding another Open Studio next month and I am working on a few "Peace in your pocket" books to have for sale then.  I am about half-way through overwriting "Peace is every step" on this page.

We will be open 10am - 4pm on Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 June. More to follow!

They are good days when you get to play with words and letters and paper and books...

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Pieces for Peace

I have finished the wee book I will be sending to Ypres for an exhibition based around World War I.  I mentioned earlier that I had shifted from women poets to nurses and the book came along quite nicely once I had decided that.

I chose a fairly subdued palette - but then how could it be anything else given the horror of that time?The soft grey-khaki paper, the rusted braille paper, grey thread and the red cross.

It seems likely that many of the books that will make their way there will use similar colours and imagery - crosses, barbed wire, and probably poppies will appear quite often.  I wasn't trying to be original or avant-garde with this book; I was just trying to tell a story and be part of remembering, reflecting and honouring.

I de-bossed barbed-wire into some old paper a friend had given me; then wrote in small letters along the wire. The black depicts words that describe the nurses and some facts, figures and official type stories. The red is all quotes by nurses about some of the hardships and horror they endured.

Interspersed between the brown pages are slightly shorter pages of rusted braille paper, where I have hand-stitched the word for peace in four languages linked to Ypres - English, Flemish, French and German. I couldn't do a book about war without bringing peace in somehow; interspersed as a reminder that it is an ongoing universal quest. Each page also has a stamped red cross.

Where I couldn't, or didn't, fit words into the barbed wire well, I came back and wrote a black cross (like a grave cross) and a red cross (like the red cross) in the extensions.  I think I must have been channelling Susan subliminally!

The covers are also simple - embossed barbed wire this time and a single red cross on the front.

Each book in the exhibition measures 14cm (h) x 18cm (w), that is 14-18, the years of the war. I think it will be an amazing exhibition.  Barry has also made a book - see here; as has Susan, here. Helen has also made one, so Australia (or at least SE Queensland) will be well represented. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Thursday Thoughts...

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” 

 Stephen King

I think books are like portable magic in two ways. One, you can carry them around and thereby take the magic within them with you, wherever you are. Secondly the magic within them can transport you away to another land, another place, another way.

So OK, maybe one is portable, and one is transportable, but still they're both good notions!

There are always pros and cons for the paper book and the electronic books.  I think paper books fare better if they are dropped or get wet; I think they are also good in that they never run out of battery power.

Electronic books on the other hand can be read in the dark (as they are often back-lit) and also its easier to carry several of them at once.

Whatever the pros and cons between them, the good news is that both forms are portable magic.

I am once again playing along with Jennifer and Julie in their search for Roy G. Biv, the rainbow and we are up to Blue.

This image felt to me like a book that has taken me away - so more like the transportable than the portable, but still...

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Treasures from our travels

Barry and I have spent a bit of time of late on the road, doing our work-work.

We headed west to the Darling Downs (lovely name) and spent a few days there working, and then drove further west to Goondiwindi where Barry had work in the Aspects Art Show.  It was a successful trip all round and Barry's beautiful work "Bending" was acquired by a collector in Goondiwindi, and also won 2nd prize in the Open Section, against 90+ other candidates.  He took home some nice prize money, and we were both so thrilled and chuffed. I was very very proud, even if it meant that the artwork I coveted would not be gracing our own garden…

©2014 Barry Smith - Bending
As is our want, along the way we stopped here and there, poking our heads into art galleries, coffee shops and collectables stores and found some wonderful treasures.

Here is a pile of boxes and rusty tins that I picked up. I keep imagining artworks in them, but for now they are stacked and tidy.

This is a wee treasure Barry bought for me on the way home. Is it not the most precious sewing machine? He just kept thinking that it would be perfect for sewing on paper.  He has lovingly cleaned it up for me, discovered the manual on-line and has explored it history (circa 1880). We are now on the hunt for some needles and then - off I go!

I also found these wonderful old hand-made nails; and these nibs.

But I think my real highlight of the trip was this. I was looking through some paper-ephemera and saying to the man in the shop how I loved the handwriting, He said, oh, if you like handwriting, you'll like this…

And I did.

He brought out a 1792 land transfer document from England.

I fell in love with the word possession and that was it.

The script is so lovely and the two pages of vellum are held together so beautifully I had no hope. Lucky for me it was not really expensive and I am thrilled to now have it at home, where I will at some point, transcribe the document and get a real sense of its purpose, and then see where that leads me.

Of course, there has been a fair bit of follow-up work-work to do; but that seems like a small price to pay for such a rewarding trip away!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Fragile Gains 2/3 complete

I have to send Fragile Gains 1/3 off to the US tomorrow, so I really wanted to finish Fragile Gains 2/3 so that I could make sure it was as close to perfectly the same as 1/3 as possible for the edition.

That might sound a bit weird, but I had never set out to make an edition of this book, and so things evolved as they went along. I documented and recorded some of them, but not all of them. I never thought I'd have to make another one, so it didn't really matter to me that I knew exactly what I had done or how I had done it; I was happy to have made it.

The manner in which my work often evolves as well can be tricky - my notes might say I was going to try this, and I end up doing that and that and that, and then don't write it down.

For example, as as I went to photograph the two books this morning I realised that in 1/3 I had burned the front and back of the header on each page where the names of the book and chapter were; so there is nothing legible at the top of each page.  If I hadn't kept 1/3 to check and compare with as I went along; I may well have forgotten to burnt out those extra letters in 2/3.

But the burning of the page has turned out to be the easiest part. Trying to recall exactly how I managed to do the binding was the hardest part. I spent an hour yesterday stitching then unstitching, then stitching again, and unstitching until I could replicate every step of the way. Etching the two aluminium covers is also a slow and painstaking task - and fraught with worry.  I spent nearly an hour trying to soak and scrub the shells I had used to write the title off the aluminium.

Yet, despite all those concerns, here is an image I never imagined I would see - Fragile Gains x 2!

When open you can see the pages were the same to begin with and have a similar look to each other now they are finished.

 And then I just got a bit carried away loving the transparency of the pages together…

Recognising the small variations that occur in anything hand-made, I am really happy that I have managed to edition this book effectively - one more to go and that will be it…

As a final PS - here is what I mean by etching the covers can be fraught; after preparing them and waiting ages for them to dry I etch them in copper sulphate. They never look pretty as you are doing it and at about this point I nearly panic…