Sunday, August 31, 2014

Days of this and that

Life is feeling quite busy at the moment - there seems to be plenty of work-work to do as well as several art projects and commitments that need me to pay attention and actually do something with.

So life is skittering from this to that and back again, with moments seized, activities scheduled and projects planned. Sometimes I achieve more when I'm busy and it has seemed a bit that way this weekend.

It has been one of those blissful weekends - with warm sunny days, big blue skies and the promise of Spring and Summer. We had breakfast with friends today and managed to do much about the house and garden and in the studio over the two days. One of our rules is no work-work on weekends.

Studio-wise I have been working on these pages...I love the patterns they make as I fan them out. Ten down, five to go.

I went on to print more feathers - here's a wee one on that lovely goyu paper again. A small love affair has begun between me and this paper I must admit. It is so generous and forgiving and  supports my fragile nests and feathers so perfectly.

I spent time trialling embossing marks - little pathways here and there, trying to discover what will look best against my printed letters.

I came up with this look - I think it works. I love that I can print beautiful letters now! This little piece brings together things I love so much - paper, embossing, letters and printmaking. Sigh.

But back out in the yard, we did a bit of planting, placing about 120 mini-mondo grasses at the base of our rusting Corten steel wall. The wall is about a month old now, and rusting beautifully I think.

We moved SuziQ's rusted irises around and now they frame the entrance to the vegetable garden and act as guides to the visitor's area.

And we dug up our potatoes (hence the bare earth behind the irises in the photo above). We were both a bit stunned at how many we got and how big they were!

Barry roasted some of our coffee, I stewed our rhubarb, and made a chocolate-beetroot cake with beetroot from the garden.

The cake was a gorgeous pink colour when it went in to the oven, but has come out looking far more chocolatey, altho still with a pinky tinge!

Life is full, and varied and creativity is everywhere...

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The joys of learning...

I love printmaking. I love the process. I love the results. I love that moment of the reveal when you lift the paper from the plate and see what has transpired - have you captured the perfect print?

After a funny old day in the studio I can answer that question quite emphatically - no!

I laugh.

It has been a very good learning process for me tho - as I had to look at each and every print and work out just what I had done wrong this time.

I guess that sometimes making art is like this - you do one thing, think you've got it, just need to tweak it and then it all goes horribly wrong and you seem to move further and further away from the happy place you started.

This wee dry-point print was like that. I sketched this willy wagtail (a bird we have here, not sure if they are elsewhere) and then dry pointed it in reverse onto the plate. I thought I had managed to capture the cheekiness of the bird with a few lines, so all was going well.

I inked up the plate, grabbed a scrap of paper, sprayed it with water, dried it off and went to press as the saying goes.

It came out pretty well even tho it had too much pressure - I liked the movement in the darker areas, and wrote a note to self - to keep the breast are white. Too easy I thought...

When I went to ink the plate a second time, I thought maybe I could make those dark areas darker - and I applied a bit more ink in a 'painterly' fashion (I am no painter) and printed. Well. Not what I hoped for!

So then I went back to wiping - but made a right mess of that. Poor old willy wagtail lost its eye in the process and had a very odd wing.

Sometimes the first one you do is the best...

So I kept on trying and made many a mixed mistake. One of these looked alright, but I had the plate upside down so the narrow part of the paper is at the bottom!  Gotta love it.

By the end of the day I had about 10 decent-ish ones, but only after many trials and many errors. Funnily enough I didn't get frustrated - I was more fascinated by the whole process, in an abstracted, objective kind of way which is a good thing I think. I hope I have learnt something!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

White Ribbon Day - the making

By way of background to the making of the book which features in my previous post.

I realise the topic of this book is tough and may seem a bit out of kilter for my work in general; yet women's work and women's stories are important to me and to my making and yes, sometimes the stories just aren't that nice. Nonetheless, I hope that I have brought to it my care and concern, and a fairly gentle way of expressing some really difficult things.

In terms of the actual process, it was quite challenging to work to a set of parameters; some of which really weren't in my comfort zone.  As mentioned previously, one of the ways in which we broke through our confusion was to sit together and do a mind-map. We listed each of the parameters and then tossed around how could that be interpreted? what might it mean? how could we represent it?

That was incredibly helpful for me to get the idea of miniature, multiple openings - with abstract photography within.

Gradually a set of ideas took place.

One sunny day I gathered as many pairs of shoes as I could find in the house that could appear to be women's shoes - several pairs of thongs and slippers that are Barry's actually made the cut - and I lined them up on our front path and photographed them.

From all of these photos came the images I would work with.

Trials to see if parts of shoes would work at this size.

In Melbourne Laurent had taught us about the golden mean and ratio and I wanted to put it into use, to consolidate it in my brain a bit, so each of the pages I prepared used this ratio. And I must say the result was very elegant.

I tried lining my pages up asymmetrically but that just didn't gel for this book - instead the fold-out openings are laid out asymmetrically as is the view when you see a single opening - with the back of each page a different colour and slightly smaller again.

This didn't feel right.

This felt better, yet the asymmetry is still there.

It was important for the book to have integrity and to work as a whole, and for me to be able to point out each element and how it linked to the recipe; but to not have people view the book as a collection of elements thrust together.

I printed the images on lots of different papers and found Hoshu worked best - it was not as heavy as say Fabriano, but not as light as the 10gsm Tengucho. It showed the detail but didn't bulk out the book.

Each image was cut, and then cut again - to show only a portion of the shoes within each opening.

Even tho I am a less is more kind of gal, the book felt sterile with just openings and shoe prints within, so I wanted to add some marks (I wasn't allowed to use text, which I figured also meant numerals) so I couldn't write about the issue or use the numbers. Instead, on each page I made different marks by way of counting the women. By embossing and de-bossing the female symbol on the back of each page, you immediately know it's a book about women.

Although the number is something like 72 women die each year; the words often used are "more than one a week". And so I used 52 as the number I would include throughout - 52 openings and 52 marks on each double spread.

A couple of names were options "More than one a week" or "Counting the women" but when I showed Susan the finished book and explained the white ribbon around the book - she suggested calling it White Ribbon Day - which helped people understand the ribbon, and set the scene for what followed. Another moment of collaboration!

Barry decided that if these books were really about collaboration then there should at least be some photos that show the two of us working together - and so here is one.  The tables are covered in papers and ideas and I am talking with my hands as ever.

When you look at Susan's beautiful finished book, you wouldn't think that we had worked to the same set of parameters would you? Amazing how two artistic minds can create such different works when the starting point is the same. A wonderful experience and much learning along the way.

Friday, August 22, 2014

White Ribbon Day

Here is my latest book in my collaboration with Susan.  The books we made to a 'recipe' we selected from Julie Chen and Barbara Tentenbaum's' Ideation Cards.  The book had to have the following features:

Text: None
Image: Abstract
Structure: Multiple openings
Paper: Multiple colours
Layout: Asymmetrical
Technique: High Tech
Colour: Muted/Pastel

Adjectives: Miniature, Photographic, Personal, Issue-based, Simple

It is called White Ribbon Day.

It tells a story of Australian women who are killed by their partners or former partners.
Each year in this country around 72 women die this way.
More than one a week.
Since January, 12 women have died this way in Queensland alone.

This was my issue.

White Ribbon Day is Australia's campaign to stop violence against women. I chose a white ribbon to wrap my book.

I won't show every page, but you get a sense of the work from these images I think.

At a gathering in our town in May to stop violence against women, a memorial of shoes was laid out. Each pair represented a woman who had been killed, and had a tag with details like her age, where she lived and who she cared for. This image stuck with me.

My book uses abstract, miniatures prints of shoes to represent women who have died. Through the small openings on each page, you find an image.

Markers on each page count the women.

The female symbol is embossed and de-bossed throughout.

I chose soft grey and creamy white and had to include black even though it isn't really muted.

It tells a story without words, but it helps to know the back story.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Book meeting day

I love how in my diary today it read "9.30am Books meet - Susan's". It might sound mad, but it has become a regular part of our collaboration, where after we have worked our way through the ups and downs and twists and turns, our books get to meet. We know what it means when we write it in our diaries, and it feels as if it's almost a necessary politeness to let our 'sibling' books meet each other when they are complete.

We always enjoy the moments - knowing a fair bit about the book the other has been making; or not, as the case may be. This time we had shared much of our thinking and process as we worked to find a way to make a 'recipe' book not look like it was made by throwing this and that together and hoping. So even tho we had a fair idea of what to expect, there were still lots of lovely surprises as well.

We both loved them both.

They tell quite different stories and have used the parameters of the cards quite differently; but once again, they seem to sit well together.

Artists' books are not always easy to photograph, and trying to show two together looking beautiful is quite difficult!

So in the end, we go for angles and interesting corners and elements...

They both offer the viewer a lot as you turn the pages, spend time with them, and look at the many details.

And to finish - an abstract shot of Susan's cover - delicious!

There was another satisfying sense of accomplishment and achievement today when we looked at our work together and reflected on how we had resolved issues, made tough choices and discovered lots of new ideas that we can't wait to test out! I'll tell the story of my book and show you it in detail soon.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Of nests...

I think like many others, I am enamoured of feathers and nests and eggs and birds as imagery and as symbols.  Somehow for me they feel accessible and friendly and something that we can relate too, something that brings out a certain gentleness in us perhaps.

I like the idea of flight, and of drifting; of new life and of nurture. Birds, feathers, eggs and nests offer these things I think!

Maleny Printmakers are hosting another Collectables exhibition in November - all small prints which fit in CD cases and cost $25 - so I have been trying to make some prints to show and sell.

This is an edition of nests I have made, on beautiful soft goyu paper from Talas in Brooklyn, NY.

The paper is light and feathery, yet strong, which reflects how nests are. So often when winds have blown and leaves have been shredded; the nest remains.

I wonder what the collective noun for nests is?

Such beautiful feathery edges...