Thursday, July 30, 2015

Thursday Thoughts...

“People think of education as something they can finish.”

 Isaac Asimov

I love this thought!  It makes such perfect sense from the perspective of a half century; yet it could be hard to convince a teenager or a person in their early twenties that finishing high school or university isn't actually the end of learning at all; in fact it is just a marker along the way.  I guess they want to believe that studying is over and the rest of their life is just doing and being.

I have had great role models - both my parents were the first in their families to attend university; both had careers; and then both went back and did further degrees in their fifties and sixties.  And started new careers!  I love that learning continues for ever and that there is still so much to explore and understand.

An oldie but a goodie - Ancora Imparo - I am still Michelangelo.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The joys of type

Taking a slight diversion because I haven't yet had time to progress much on the Endure front...

Last Friday I was uber-excited by the arrival in the post of my first sets of brand new, shiny, lead type.  I had ordered some from San Francisco and was waiting patiently for it arrive. The woman at the post office noted that the parcel was small, but heavy!

One of the best things about buying brand spanking new type, is that it comes boxed, packaged and organised.  Not like the type I am buying or rescuing from old printers where I have to clean and sort it and it take ages to get going.

This will be just like "open it up and pop it in its type drawer", I thought.


As I went to open it, I noticed this...opened for inspection by Customs.

Inside a little note confirming this.  I wonder what they thought it was?

The first box I pulled out looked like this, and I thought that' s not too bad, they must have just had a peek and worked out what it was.

The second box I saw, looked like this.  A little bit sadder but holding together OK I thought.

Until I picked it up to move it...


The next few boxes were perfect, then right at the bottom I saw this.

Yep, an entire box spilled. Bummer.

I rattled round in the box and found these orphans in amongst the packing beads.

To go with the ones that spilled out from the second box. Aren't they shiny????

I guess, on average I didn't do too badly. But I do have quite a long job ahead of me sorting out and organising this box of type, which I had hoped to simply transfer across!  At least I don't have to clean it.

Sunday, July 26, 2015


Making and re-making. Sometimes, you just have to pull things apart and start over.

I'll take you back...The 9th book in my collaboration with Susan was the Burning Book. It is a huge perspex book called Endure.  I love it - it has presence and majesty and power about it.

I chose to use a style I have created for several other books.  I first used the perspex sandwich book back in 2013 when I made "Peace Mends the World" and Barry and I have gone on to use it with the Queensland Literary Awards trophies in both 2013 and 2014.

This 3-layered approach allows me to contain something - metal or pages, between perspex and have it settled within its own cocoon.  With Endure I wanted to have my cut out words floating across the page, and thought I could use the same approach. Barry tried hard at different points to suggest to me that the paper might be too thin to hold and that it could (would) slip down.  I was somewhat headstrong and keen to get the book done so ignored his sage advice.

You know where this is headed.

Of course, the words slipped.

We tried a couple of desperate wingle-wangle (technical term) approaches to push them back up etc etc, to no avail; and so the only way to make this book beautiful again, is to take it apart, pull the four pages with floating words apart, secure the words and then re-rivet the pages and sew it up again.

I'm not actually too phased by needing to do this, because I know the book deserves it.

And along the way I got to look at lots of loverly iterations of words and layering...

A while ago I got new Perspex cut. Over the weekend we drilled holes in the new trios.

Then I cut the stitching to release the pages from each other.

Such a lovely nest of thread remained.

Next steps...separate the trio of pages that are riveted together - means hard work and breaking!  Then gently and safely transfer the inside pages to the new trios.  Then firmly attach words! Then re-rivet. Then clean. Then re-stitch. Then clean again. So I know what I'm doing next week...

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Thursday Thoughts...

“Without passion, all the skill in the world won’t lift you above craft. Without skill, all the passion in the world will leave you eager but floundering. Combining the two is the essence of the creative life.” 

Twyla Tharp

Combining passion and skill.  This is one of those lovely simple dissections of what can be a complicated issue or discussion!  You need them both.  I wonder how she feels the best balance would be - 1/3 passion, 2/3 skill? Or maybe half and half? Or the good old 80:20 rule?

It's interesting to me that she determines passion is the ingredient that shifts work from craft to art.  I guess that means it has life. It gives expression to something. It is more than the thing itself; it says something perhaps.

I can often times appreciate the technical expertise of someone who has crafted or created the most precise print or lettering, but sometimes it is so perfect it can almost feel lifeless.  I guess it is different for each of us when we view a piece - what speaks to us, or what stays mute.

I wonder as well, if we feel it ourselves sometimes in our work - the job we "had" to do; the piece we created to a theme for a group show, which didn't appeal to us at all; or a piece we just couldn't get excited about along the way.  For me, works I do under these circumstances sometimes feel flat, or just don't "sing".

But I must admit, I agree completely that all the passion in the world doesn't crate good work!

A fragment of a favourite piece that combines passion and skill - Fragile Gains.  

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Pebbles, packaging and peeling paint

I have been fortunate to recently be able to sell my calligraphy pebbles through the Caloundra Regional Gallery shop. The Gallery has recently updated their display cases and the styling of the shop is lovely.

I was planning on taking down another round this week, but over the weekend some folk stopped by after seeing a big bowl of my pebbles at someone else's house and deciding they really wanted some for themselves!  What a hoot.

So I have had to re-package and re-organise the number I will be taking down, and as I did I enjoyed playing with the wooden boxes and trays that I use to store them here.

The pebbles I have gone through and that are sorted and ready for writing.

Peaking through the handle hole...

Packaged up, letter by letter, counted and numbered.

And just the lovely worn and peeling paint on the sided of the storage drawer.

Now to send them off and hope that folk at the Gallery shop enjoy them!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Conference Review...

Well, I am back home on the mountain after a busy few days in Brisbane attending ABBE - the conference hosted by the Griffith Centre for Creative Arts Research, part of the Queensland College go Arts.

It was a fabulous few days. So much information. I tried to absorb it all, but some of it really challenged my brain (in a good way).

There were some real stand out speakers - Brad Freeman who runs JAB was a keynote, along with Lyn Ashby and Sarah Bodman from UWE in Bristol.  They each covered so many wonderful elements of the book arts - reading artists' books, demonstrating how artists' books link to the virtual and beyond and linking handmade books to their literary legacy.

Other great speakers like Angela Gardner, Caren Florance, Sara Bowen, Tim Mosely, Kim Tabulo and Bridget Hillebrand, all captured my attention and sparked my imagination. I learnt something from each and every speaker and really really enjoyed myself. I am soooo looking forward to it becoming a biannual event (if that is the right way to say once every two years).

On top of the conference there was also a gorgeous exhibition, a Book Artists' Fair and for some, a visit to some major collections and studios in Brisbane. Oh, and a big dinner get together on Friday night which was great fun.

I came home buzzing with new ideas and thoughts about how to look at artists books in an academic and theoretical manner, pondering how to apply this thinking to my own work. This wasn't just a get together of artists' book makers; it was a conference where academics presented their research, and the next stages of their work after completing PhDs (I was one of the few non-academic speakers but did get some lovely feedback from folk).

I met some wonderful people, talked about all sorts of things and generally had a good time.

So, now to the visuals.

Me mid-presentation...

Photo by blogger_dad
A shot of some of the up the back with my mates Rose and Robyn. I am not bored! I am intently listening...

Photo by blogger_dad
The exhibition is beautiful. For more details see here or up in my Works on Show tab at the top. 

My sister-in law Lorraine put together this montage of me and my book A Subversive Stitch at the opening...

Barry examining my book...

And Al (brother), Lorraine (sister-in-law) and I looking at some fabulous books.

Photo by blogger_dad
The Fair was another wonderful showing of some of the best artists' book makers in Australia. Simply stunning and many happy hours could have been spent wandering through - engaging with these gorgeous books.

Robyn and I holding her books.

Photo by Doug Spowart
Lots of happy explorers of artists' books.

Photo by Doug Spowart
Caren and Angela at their stores/tables.

Photo by Doug Spowart
So, it's back to making now and less time for thinking, but it was a fabulous injection of thought-provoking material. Well done to Tim and Lynden who did so much to bring together a great bunch of people.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Thursday Thoughts...

“When you read, the world really did change. He understood this now. You saw parts of the world you never knew existed. Books were in the world; the world was in books.” 

Lewis Buzbee, Steinbeck’s Ghost

I sometimes feel that when I read, I may find that the world around has changed when I stop reading. That things could quite easily have happened without me being in the slightest bit aware of what was going on.  I get distracted by my reading, and the world goes on by without me pretty much.

I think though, that this quote is suggesting more. It seems to me to suggest that reading enhances your experience - it enables new understandings and it creates new worlds from new imaginings. You can imagine a different world because you have read about it.

In my earlier days, books were definitely a window on the world - through books I imagined cities like London and New York; wild places like the Scottish Highlands and Antarctica.

These days, the interweb is full of images of these places, but often books are the launch pad for me to go a-searching, to follow up on a place I haven't heard of before or something somewhere that has captured my imagination in the pages of a book.

As the months go by we continue the search for the rainbow and beyond with Jennifer and Julie.  This month we've reached Violet. These images are some of Charles Rennie MacKintosh's work in the White House in Edinburgh. I first learned of him through books, then crossed the world to visit his house...

Follow the links to Jennifer and Julie to discover what other gorgeous violets have been  discovered.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Type Detective

A little while ago we made another trip to the home of my new best friend - the old printer guy who has loads of type in his shed!

This time I was slightly more organised, and not quite so awe-inspired. I was able to ask more questions and get hold of some things I really needed and or wanted. I was quite purposeful, but also still filled with the joy of discovery.

On return, I have several more trays of lead type and quite a bit more wood type. So, any spare half hour is now spent washing type and allocating it to new trays; and/or becoming a type detective.

I thought I could be FD - FD (Fiona Dempster - Font Detective) but really, they are typefaces that I am looking to name and label, so I'm sticking with type detective for now. FD-TD.

One thing I have discovered is that there are a couple of key letters and numbers to select when you  are trying to determine what typeface you're dealing with. I am pretty sure that there are other excellent approaches to learn; but I'm a beginner and this is what I have found out so far.

This first photo shows a couple of typefaces that I now have in my possession which I cannot name. Yet. So I have used an ink stamp pad to print the characters out and am now spending the odd moment here and there rummaging through my type encyclopaedias to see if I can actually discover their names.

I have question marks against a couple of them - maybe this one, maybe that one; but there is always something that just isn't quite right. The height of the G's cross bar; how far the J drops down; the way the Q's cross bar is attached to or goes through the bowl - all of these little things make a difference and whilst everything else might look right - that letter doesn't. So it's time to go again, and see if maybe there is variant of that typeface where that little bit of action occurs.

And this one is my guide to checking for those subtle differences...

Here is a small set I have cleaned, organised, and named (Rondo)

And here is another one that is underway (Studio Bold). Before.

And where I am at after washing and re-locating.

And I now have lots of lovely wood type too!  I am never going to have full sets of it, so all my work will probably look like ransom notes, but it is so gorgeous and I am just so happy to have it in the studio! All washed and organised for now.

Next step, count the number I have of each letter and record it, so I know what words I can spell...