Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Printery in New Zealand

Barry and I have returned from a short visit (well 10 days) to the north island of New Zealand. We had planned it as a circuit breaker a while ago, and it has proven to be just that.

We didn't go far, yet did much.

One of the unexpected highlights was when on a visit to Russell, an historic town, we popped down to an old house and discovered that it had once been a Catholic Mission, had housed a tannery and a printery and that the whole place had been lovingly restored. We joined the tour a few minutes late and then had a ball discovering all about this gorgeous place Pompallier Mission - and the letterpress and book printing that had happened there.

 The tour began downstair with this mammoth press -

 From France, it was built in 1840 and transported half ways cross the world.

Every book, pamphlet and missal printed here, was printed in the Maori language only. No English version, no French, only Maori, and they were all given away.

This chase was set up downstairs. It is a double chase and would have printed eight pages. Here are four set up.

We went outside and learnt all about the tannery - where they treated sheep's hides to make the leather for covering the books. So many fabulous tools and images.

No idea what these were used for, but oh so delightful to look at!

Where you took the fleece off the hide.

Tools for pummelling and softening the leather.

Then it was upstairs to the First Impression room - with a different press. We would call this the proofing area probably where they checked the layout of the chase, checked for typos  and the height  of the type.

A stunner of a press.

Beautiful image of ink and brayer.

Daubers and a chase

Another locked up chase.

Now my favourite part. 

After proofing, taking the first impressions and checking that everything as fine - the chase was then hooked onto this hook and passed back downstairs to the real printing press for production. I loved the notion that a chase with type all locked up could be swung between the floors! I treat mine with kid gloves and much hope.

The room next door was the bindery and there were lots of lovely things there as well.

Quite an impressive book press.

Beautiful cords getting ready for gluing.

Another favourite thing - when each book was printed and ready to bind, they added bay leaves to it to prevent pests and mould. Lovely.

 One of those unexpected and brilliant moments in a holiday. My head has been such that we had actually planned nothing around this break - we had managed to book accommodation and hire a car and that was it. We had no idea what we would see or do and this was an absolute treat of an afternoon.

I have been back in the studio over the weekend - sorting my head, planning and thinking and am hopeful that I will be able to be making again soon. Looking forward to feeling a little bit creative again I must say!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Thursday Thoughts...

“Once, Picasso was asked what his paintings meant. He said, “Do you ever know what the birds are singing? You don’t. But you listen to them anyway.” So, sometimes with art, it is important just to look.” 

 Marina Abramović

This thought is a little challenging for me.

I often want to understand the work. I often get a lot more out of something if I know a bit about the artist's intention; or of their message or their hopes for a piece. I like to know what they were trying to say.  That may be because I have a solid left brain thing going on as well as my artistic right brain thing.

I have found with my own work that sometimes the message isn't at all clear until I tell somebody about it. They may find the work attractive or pleasant or beautiful; only to discover as I talk about it that it is actually quite challenging and represents for example the deaths of women killed by partners or former partners. So the telling adds another dimension to it completely.

And then of course, there are times where I just like and enjoy looking. Where I don't need to know what it's about because I simply respond to it; I simply embrace its beauty and sit with it.

Perhaps I can latch onto the "sometimes" in the quote - not all the time do I need to know the story, sometimes, just sometimes, I can just look.

A glass piece by Hannah Gason, seen in Canberra a few years back. I have no idea what it is about, but I just melted inside when I sat and looked at it. It was beautiful.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A rescue mission

My book Starry Starry Night suffered an injury as it was being packed up from the Pas de Deux exhibition.

It is never nice news too hear that one of your pieces has been injured, and given this book was based on a reduction lino print, I really really hoped it wasn't hurt too much, because as is the want with reduction lino printing, the block had been destroyed on the way through.

In some ways, the damage was minimal - it had been a bit bent and crushed and then torn.  No damage to the actual artworks involved as such, but a delicate operation needed to restore it to its former self. The main issue being that the tear was about 8cm long, and along a fold that was critical to the concertina nature of the book.  It has also torn across the page a bit, which would be easier to repair.

Barry and I worked on it together - two heads and two lots of ideas being better than one I figured.

The original tear from a few angles.

First of all we tried to iron some of the dents and creases out. Worked OK.

Then we tested a couple of glues with some black Japanese tissue type paper to see how they would go as backing for the fold.  It was the torn fold that worried me most - so we decided to use these strips of black along the height of the fold to create a hinge from behind.

And so the first job on the book was to glue down the flap that had been torn/lifted.

And then we adhered the strips to the back. The second fold had a small tear at the top as well, but we reinforced the length of the fold for strength and so they looked tidier.

And then the job was done. And the book folds up well and you can hardly tell from the front at all. For some unknown reason I didn't take many photos of the finished product - here it is before the final fold was tidied up.

There are signs that it has been mended, but the integrity of the book still holds, as does the reading of it and the turning of the pages. Big relief.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Some lovely news

Last year finished on such a sad note with my mum's sudden death, that it was nice to begin the new year with some lovely art news.

The State Library of Queensland holds probably the best collection of artists' books in Australia.  Back in 2013 they purchased my wee book A Subversive Stitch for the Australian Library of Art.

A few weeks ago I learnt that they have now purchased a further three of my artists' books for their collection. Don't you just love these stylised books as logos images?

I am thrilled that Fragile Gains will be held in an Australian collection. The edition of three are all sold and reside in collections in the USA but I really did want the Artists' Proof to be here in an Australian collection if at all possible. We had been negotiating about this book, so whilst I was thrilled, I had at least been hopeful.

On the other hand, I was taken quite by surprise when they also chose to purchase Time to Change the library of 52 small hand-made books around family violence. See here for its full story.  This is precious book to me and again, I am honoured that it has found a home in such a prestigious collection and will be available for others to examine and consider the issues it describes.

The final sweet part was they also purchased one of my Too Many Poppies books. This is a simple, yet elegant, book that reflects on war and death - too many poppies too many deaths - and honours the 42 Australians killed in combat in Afghanistan.

It's funny to think that I may have already peaked for the year, and it's only January, but it was such delightful news I just had to share!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Thursday Thoughts...

“Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.” 

 Mason Cooley

I have been posting my Thursday Thoughts on books for ever so long now its seems - maybe 5 years? And I must say, this notion of books transporting you, of creating escape, of allowing you to travel without leaving home has surfaced a few times, in different ways.

And each time I read a quote that suggests it, I just have to nod and agree and go yep, it still does that so let's go with it.

It is true for me that when I read I can go far away - in terms of the content of the book - the place I am reading about; where the person lives or visits; or where the novel is set. A book can give me a sense of a place I have never been, inspire me to visit somewhere else; make me think I never want to go there or help me remember fun and gorgeous times I may have had in that same place. All without leaving my chair.

Books can also transport me in terms of the process of reading - that luxurious sense of escape, as we would say in Australia of "wagging" life for a bit.  I can go miles and miles away in my head when I am stuck in a good book.

I am forever grateful that I learnt to read and that I love to read - for all it allows me to do and be, and for all the places it takes me.

A shot of Edinburgh - one of the cities I read about and longed to visit... and did.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Year of Print begins...

2016 is the 50th anniversary of the Print Council of Australia. Or maybe its the 50th birthday - sounds more like a party!

A small group of local print enthusiasts have been pulling together a range of activities, events, talks and exhibitions to all celebrate the wonder and the magic of printmaking throughout the year. We are keeping track of things and showcasing them over at You can subscribe to the feed to get all our updates too.

We start in March with an exhibition at the Arts and Ecology Centre at Maroochy Botanical Gardens Art Reflecting the Environment - a fabulous display of children's printmaking about the environment, all made at workshops throughout the school holidays.

In May we have our keynote exhibition - Regional Marks - a gorgeous show of local printmakers at the beautiful Gallery at the University of the Sunshine Coast.  Opening Night is 19 May at 6.00pm and it runs until 2 July.

I have two letterpress works in this show - most excitement!

In June there is a printmaking demonstration "Make your Mark" at Caloundra Regional Gallery and and Artist Talk at the Gallery as well - three of us talking about "Making your Mark" as a printmaker and artist. I will be one of those talking, 8 June 2016 from 6pm - 7pm.

In October we have a show called Nothing but the Print in the Window Gallery at Pine Rivers Gallery. This will be a collection of 2-D and 3-D works which will be a delight I think.

In November the Press Gang at Noosa are doing Rubbings by the River which will be a great activity to connect people to printmaking, and the results will be shown in Noosa Regional Gallery's windows for the month.

And then we spill over into January next year with an exciting postcard-style exhibition Interpretation of Nature Reserves (the place-holding working title at the moment) showing post-card sized works inspired by the three Nature Reserves on the Sunshine Coast.

Throughout the year the shops at Caloundra Regional Gallery and Pine Rivers Gallery are both encouraging the sale of prints so we hope to be able to keep them well-stocked and supplied.

Phew, I can get tired just thinking about it.

Whilst we are on the subject of printmaking and prints, towards the end of last year Barry and I were lucky enough to get to Brisbane to view a printmaking exhibition _scape which showed prints inspired the poetry of Angela Gardner. It was stunning. Here are few of the works I loved most.

 "Grey sky sneak-thievery" 
By? Apologies I photographed the wrong didactic.

 "Into the hot burden of a day"
By? Apologies I photographed the wrong didactic

 "All the steps of pride and loneliness in diagrams for ease of use"
By Judy Keogh

"What else but touch the moment of a death"
ByRobyn Bradfield

Sunday, January 17, 2016

A play day

On Friday Barry and I hosted three young teenage women for a play day. I was a bit worried when their mothers mentioned to us that they were looking forward to their "workshop" with us - hopefully we could meet expectations!

Barry spent a lot of time with them making stunning jewellery - see here - and I spent time with them doing some calligraphy.  A coupled of scattered hours doesn't really allow you to master calligraphy I must say, but they did enjoy themselves and saw improvements.

I just loved these ink spots we made!

Studio set up and waiting.

Practice sheets and play lines.

the Best M!

A book mark each

 My hands at the end of it, messy messy messy.

For me the best part was I got to play too! For the very first time EVER, I got to make my own form-folded metal leaf. Yay.

ta da.

 Have to confess Barry did all the polishing...

A gentle return to the studio.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Thursday Thoughts...

Remember the quiet wonders. The world has more need of them than it has for warriors. 

Charles de Lint

The quiet wonders.  The most important things. So important to notice them, remark on them, celebrate them and pay tribute to them.

I try to notice quiet wonders each day - whether they be the sky, the clouds, a flower, a spider's web, a bird song, a shadow play, a tattered piece of cloth, a rusty nail, a scent, the universe in a rock pool, a bird dashing by, new growth after winter, an act of kindness and goodness...

Life is better understood when we pay attention to the quiet wonders that open our eyes, our minds and our hearts a little bit - the ability to wonder and enjoy their special magic. They help make more sense of the world I think.

And yes, we need them more than we need warriors.

Central Park, Christmas Day 2013 - the beauty of the old.