Sunday, May 31, 2015

Of articles and aprons...

I do love going to the letter box and finding one of those large flat envelopes inside - knowing that it contains one of the journals I subscribe to, and that there will soon be time with a cuppa and a chance to curl up and read about letters, and books and beautiful things.

Two recent journal arrivals contained articles I had written.

The latest edition of Bound and Lettered has a short article about writing on pebbles and making pouches out of book pages. I have it on good authority that the instructions are easy enough to follow as some enthusiastic folk started making pouches straight away.  Thanks Jennifer and the urchins!

Its always a great journal and I was thrilled with how gorgeous the article looked.

The Australian Society of Calligraphers' journal Colophon, has a review I wrote of the "Pieces for Peace" exhibition in Ieper; and a short guide to things calligraphic in Brugge. There is also a mention of the best place to buy a good flat white coffee as well!

It was lovely to find the exhibition review partnering with a story on the Buderim Calligraphers.

Which is a fabulous segue into the next part of the post. I have just spent the weekend with a merry band of calligraphers from Buderim, attending  a workshop with Colleen Little in Brisbane. More on that to follow when I have sorted my brain and my images, but it did lead me to earlier in the week when I was making the BIG decision around which apron to wear to the workshop. I know, I know. Ridiculous.

You see, I have this old favourite which really really shows its age and much wear and tear. But it just feels like me.

You can see so clearly how I wipe my hands on my apron A LOT.

In an effort to look more respectable when I go out in workshop-public, I made this little one last year, out of scrabble fabric and based on a Japanese house-apron.  This one I like very much as well.

And yes, the ubiquitous hand-wiping marks are there again.

The third choice was this fabulous newly-minted, fresh-as-a-daisy, never-been-worn apron that I recently bought in Melbourne. It features the work of Rosalie Gascoigne and I think it looks great.

So which one did I take?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Thursday Thoughts...

“I would say the cultivation of silence is indispensable to being human. People sometimes talk as if they were ‘looking for silence,’ as if silence had gone away or they had misplaced it somewhere. But it is hardly something they could have misplaced. Silence is the infinite horizon against which is set every word they have ever spoken, and they can’t find it? Not to worry—it will find them.” 

How Silence Works: Emailed Conversations With Four Trappist Monks | The Awl

I'm not quite sure what it is about, but I have a yearning to understand silence.  I am intrigued by the notion; somewhat drawn to the thought of the experience.  It calls me and my sense is that it would make me happy.

Perhaps this is because it also speaks of retreat, and being alone.  I really, really enjoy my quiet time and the times I spend by myself. Being quiet is the way I renew myself and re-gather my thoughts and strength.

The other-way-in to silence that is expressed so beautifully by the man referred to as Father A in these conversations, is wonderful. Rather than having to work hard to find or discover silence, silence will find you.  Oh, what a delightful and uplifting thought - to know that in amongst it all, silence will be there, will be my companion and will work out where I am.

That sense of silence being a constant, quiet companion, there as the backdrop to every word spoken, an infinite horizon, makes me smile.

I love it when somebody can turn a thought or idea around and show me a different way of looking at it.

Sunrise at Kuta Tjula - the silence of the desert at dawn.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Tidying Type

Barry and I were on the road for a few days last week, and one port of call was the shed of an old printer who has hoarded lead type. It was a really great couple of hours poring over old trays of dusty, dirty type; rusty galley trays and re-conditioned composing sticks. Don't I sound like I know what I'm talking about now! Laugh.

It was really helpful to talk about the different things and items and I bought a few bits and pieces.

One of the weird pleasures on return was to fill my first trays in my set of type drawers.

I washed each and every piece of type, removing dust and grime and grease; dried it and placed it in the California job case as instructed.

There was such a remarkable sense of satisfaction in completing this first tray. You can see the mess left behind! It will be in for a wash and clean and then who knows what.

So, from this really dirty, messy tray I confirmed I had a pretty big set (not complete, but not bad) of Placard 48pt Bold and am so thrilled with how shiny and clean it looks in its new place of residence.

And I have punctuation...

I have another tray to go through (as yet un-titled) and then I pretty much have the type I now own in its rightful place; hopefully ready for use in the near future.

I made the unilateral decision to put a couple of very small, incomplete sets of type into drawers (that aren't configured in the California job case style) according to my own particular arrangement.  Upper and lower case in together; and simply running from A to Z.

I think (hope) this arrangement will work for me.

I got grew pleasure from using my two new 'Typeface recognition manuals" to ascertain just which typefaces these sets were.  I felt like a detective when I finally tracked Parisian Ronde down (noting that it's Q was slightly different to Typo Upright).

And after three attempts, confirming that my other typeface was in fact Falstaff and not Ultra Bodoni or Roman Extra, or ....

Up close and personal with Falstaff before placement in the tray.

And after - in my own peculiar storage approach.

It is clearly a highly addictive pursuit this letterpress world, and I am happily playing along!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Under Construction progresses

Towards the end of the week and over the weekend, I made myself sit down and DO something with the layout and body of work that is to become "Under Construction".  I have been staring at the possibility of the wall pieces; but was still feeling too scared to really have a go; so decided I would take the easier route for  me - I would start with the book.

I had chosen to work with BFK printmaking paper - a half sheet - and thought that will look good on the wall and will make an interesting book size as well.  I folded the pages and discovered that the layout needs to be different when you are working with individual pages; rather than simply the flat surface.

I bit the bullet, inked up the plates, registered them, put some paper down and printed.

To my great surprise they worked out pretty well - using about 4-5 plates on a single sheet is always a challenge re alignment and pressure etc - and then I had the fun part of adding other elements.

And the joy that process brought as I went from one element to a completely different, unheralded element to add in and so on - building and constructing this work in response to each layer placed previously.

I have written five short haiku-ish poems about nests as I hope to make five books and five wall-pieces (ambitious I know...). I enjoyed the gentle, whimsical and light script as I wrote with walnut ink.

What had started out as a promise of a test run had actually turned into an almost finished product.

The satisfaction was immense - these snippets show you some of its loveliness...

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Thursday Thoughts...

“When we engage in what we are naturally suited to do, our work takes on the quality of play and it is play that stimulates creativity.” 

Linda Naiman

I think I could be the number 1 card carrier for the need to have play time in the studio.  I started out thinking that if I wanted to take my art seriously, then I needed to get in there and do things seriously.  Sit down and write out perfect letters; make sure that every mark counted and went in the right place.

As I have gone along it has become abundantly clear to me that in fact, in order to get better at your art, you need to practise yes; but also to play.

The  amazing things that can appear from a session or two of 'what if?', and "I'd like to try that' can set you on a new course; add that extra element to work you already do or simply break through a time of feeling stymied, and offer you new ways forward.

By allowing yourself the freedom to simply explore, muck around, play and discover you can mostly leave behind the little critic who sits on your shoulder telling you that what you are doing isn't good enough. There's no role for the critic in play-time (except of course to tell you to stop wasting your time, which it sometimes does) and as a result, your creativity can just get on with it.

I don't think that play time is ever wasted; the opportunities it affords pop up in your work time and time again down the track.

These are the results of some play time a while ago. I was wondering if you could print on fabric; with fabric etc etc. and then, could you use scraps in small collages and....

I had a great time and the lessons from this play time are still appearing in work - today, there I was in the studio preparing to print onto fabric.

The gorgeous blues also indicate that it's that time again when we try to find the colours of the rainbow (Roy G Biv) and beyond.  Touch base with Jennifer and Julie to see who else has got the gorgeous blues this month

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Of rust and gunk and other things...

Barry and I spent a few hours on the weekend etching aluminium. Testing this and that and getting ready for some big projects. One of the things about etching aluminium with copper sulphate solution is the remarkable accumulation of "gunk" (technical term) that appears on the surface of the plate as you etch.

It can induce fear into the hearts of those etching - what on earth have I done? Is that right? That looks pretty intense - should I take it out?

Despite knowing it's going to happen, it still amazes me each and every time.

Of course when there are two of you doing it, one can take photos! Thanks to Barry for capturing these fear-inducing moments.

After a second dip in the solution.

And after all that drama...

Whilst Barry was etching, I took photos of my rust pile as we were working on the bench next to the ladder that holds all my rusty bits.  I had been taking the beauty of the rusty bits a bit for granted, so it was nice to get up close and personal with them again and see just how gorgeous they really are. Only the iPhone with me as it was also the timer, but they still make me smile.

Sunday, May 17, 2015


It is Family Violence awareness month here in Australia and I am constantly devastated by the many women who are killed by partners or former partners.  And it's not just the deaths.  I think about all the women who survive, who escape and make new lives for themselves.  I think about the shelter we have provided at different times for women leaving abusive relationships where they were controlled and dominated and made to feel fearful in oh so many ways.

And so I make books.

I am making 52 small books to mark and acknowledge that each week in 2014 at least one woman was killed by a partner or former partner.  That number has almost doubled so far this year to two per week and my heart is filled by sadness and despair at the thought.

I am counting the women on the front cover - hand stitching the numbers from 1-52.  I acknowledge the work of Destroy The Joint and the UK based organisation Counting Dead Women in keeping track of these deaths and increasing our awareness.

I worked out that there are 1,399 upright strokes to be stitched, and then a further 100 or so horizontal stitches to be made. It is taking a long time and as I sit and stitch I send healing thoughts to their families and to those who are living in fear.

Inside the there are pages which are embossed, and further pages that are letterpress printed. One of these pages also contains a page where I have drawn and burnt a pattern (similar to the grid I was working on). Each pattern is unique and marks each woman as unique.  I have added the clock parts again, to recognise that it is time for change. Lots and lots of layers.

I'm nowhere near finished. I have stitched 30 covers - lots still to do, then pierce the pages and cover and hand-stitch the books. And house them.

This is slow work. Painstaking work. Each single book takes time, but 52 take a long long time. I don't want to have to do 104 books next year, but I fear I may.