Sunday, March 31, 2019

Darkness and Light

Martin Luther King Jr. once said:

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. 
 Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that".

These words reached out to me after the terrible shootings at the two mosques in Christchurch New Zealand. Helpless and stunned as I was, I somehow still felt I needed to respond in a small way. I started to make a book.

A small book, a book made with calligraphy, and using materials from dear friends.  Somehow holding love and beauty together felt necessary if we are to try and overcome the darkness that pervades.

So I sat and tested out how it might work.

And it was interesting how the process flowed. How the need to make this wee book was enabled and supported by the spirit of making.  Some days can be hard and you feel like everything you try ends up wrong. Not with this one, it went along the path and made significant progress in just a day.

And that is no mean achievement in my world of very slow making.

Testing script ideas, colours and pens.

Finding the metallic ink would not flow happily through the metal nib and onto the soft paper. The metal nibs just kept pulling the top layer of paper off. Not good.

So I turned to the ruling pen; and after a few goes, seems to get the thin lines I was after.

My view when I broke for lunch.

My first draft on white paper.

All the pages cut.

Such lovely edges.

So a lot of progress was made. Now to sit quietly and write...

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Thursday Thoughts...

“Art has always been the raft on to which we climb to save our sanity”. 

Dorothea Tanning

I liked this image in my mind's eye and something about the simplicity of the notion of a raft seemed manageable.

I don't come to art with any sense of high-faluting experience, wisdom or understanding.  I come to art with a quiet appreciation of what it can offer us - as makers and creators, and as viewers and experiencers of art.

It interests and intrigues me at times, how when I am shocked or angered; saddened or delighted, that it is to the making of art that I turn.  I turn to art as a means of expressing these feelings and also, to simply respond to the initiating factors in some way - to say something.

These words ring true as we face so many strange and difficult times - for many of us art is indeed a raft onto which we climb to save ourselves and others.

Dreamboat 'believe' - 2010

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Greys and Blues

A week or so ago we had some weather - a huge storm, lots of rain, overcast skies, then showers, drizzle and mist.

Walking to the studio one afternoon I turned back to the valley and saw this beautiful layering of greys and blues.

Whilst there I was working on the pages for another Compassion book.  It feels almost heretical to mess with these marks but I am.

The marks were made simply by having dipped the pages into some worn out ink and then leaving them to dry. As the paper for drying cockled beneath the pages, it created these lovely mountainous marks.

I wish I could draw or design marks like these myself!

I am also pondering entering some work into the printmaking section of an art show and pulled out these postcards, wondering if they would suit if I framed them.  I came down on the side of 'no'; but then realised I had probably not ever blogged on them.

Originally they were part of a postcard exchange with the theme of birds.  I back printed the words bird, feather, nest and egg in a really light grey using wood type; then I wrote some haikus to reflect each of those words, and printed them in black over the top.

The light was shocking on the grey day I tried to photograph them, so the best way to see what had happened, and the words, was to go for a low angle shot!

bird - how birds often appear to me as I look out over our block to the valley.

feather - my sense of the perfect design - how each feather works specifically amongst the whole; and how each individual feather is so beautiful.

nest - as ever my admiration for birds and their nests.

egg - an interesting one to try and think about and describe what is going on.

 I sell the postcards for A$15.00 with free shipping in case you are ever interested.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

I would have loved a sunburnt country...

A bit of context.

One of Australia's favourite poems is My Country by Dorothea McKellar.  In fact the whole poem is barely known; but most of us can recite verse two which goes

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of rugged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror -
The wide brown land for me!

For so many of us it captures the vastness and the wild variations of living in this country, the love we have for its glorious expanses and the way in which Nature determines so much of it.

This book is about something different.  In preparation for the Compassion exhibition at Nambour in June, I worked on this gathering of twelve small books.

I recently collected the perspex book case for them, and am hoping the work is now complete.

In case it isn't, I have three more covers ready.  I really hope that it is finished.

The book covers are rusted luggage tags. Symbolic of travelling, of moving between places and there rusty worn-ness looks to me like 'this sunburnt country'.

Hand stitched and held, they are simple. Each one is numbered.

Each book has one page and honours one person.

Australia has a difficult contemporary history of treating asylum seekers in the most inhumane manner. I can't at times believe this is my country. So in small ways, we ask for compassion. We ask for humane treatment. We are for decency. We ask for care. We ask for kindness. We ask that we remember.

Each book honours one of the asylum seekers or refugees (all men) who have died in detention on either Manus or Nauru islands.

I name them. I tell you their age, where they came from, where they died, how they died and when.
The paper on which I do this is light. It is fragile, and like these lives, can be easily damaged and destroyed.

The small books stand as individuals, or are gathered together in their case.

Since 2014, twelve men have died in detention. Some because our government failed to provide them with safety. Some because our government failed to provide them with medical attention. Some because they became so despairing and so hopeless that they took their own lives.

I hope I don't need to make any more books.

The title reflects that I feel sure that these men would have loved our sunburnt country, if they had ever made it here, reached safety, and been granted asylum.

We shall speak their names.

A note - I had made these books a few weeks ago, and had the title and the subtitle "we shall speak their names" documented. In the wake of the horror the Christchurch killings, it becomes more important I think to repeatedly speak their names; to speak the names of victims and to give the perpetrator not one word of recognition. Jacinda Arden is a remarkable woman and an exceptional leader.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Thursday Thoughts...

“But I know that I would never have seen a single university library if I had not grown up living a hundred yards from that library in Willesden Green. Local libraries are gateways - not only to other libraries but to other lives”. 

Zadie Smith

In times of economic rationalism and austerity and whatever other argument is at play to reduce access for all, to access only for those who can pay; public libraries are at great risk, yet their value is immeasurable.

I mean that. You literally can't put a figure on the value of a public library. You can try to quantify the benefits, argue this or that, but thinking about Zadie Smith's words, there is no accounting scheme anywhere in the world that could quantify the benefit to the economy for starters, but also to an individual (Zadie) and the myriads of people all over the world who have read her books, of her having access to that local public library. No accounting package could handle all of that.

The positives of libraries aren't always immediate or contained within their local area.  But their impact is definitely local and quantitatively you could analyse heaps of positive stories - from mums and bubs reading sessions, to school holiday activities; to exposure for artists; to safe havens for folk to sit quietly and read the newspaper; to the mobile library services; to providing spaces for groups to meet, to seniors learning how to use the latest technology; to free access to the internet; to just plain reading and getting educated!

Perhaps because a gateway is open, and things flow back and forth through it time and again, and what goes in one and and pops out the other end or recirculates is just too hard to measure or keep track of. But we know it as a truth. Libraries matter.

Edinburgh Public Library - for the Love of Books x

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

It's only a pocket, Fiona!

So sayeth Barry as I sit and fiddle and keep adding elements and details to a pair of pockets!

I am in a phase of renovating all of my clothes so that they have pockets.  I am getting seriously het up about pockets and the lack thereof in women's clothing at the moment and seriously excited every time I make clothes with pockets in them. I go about telling everybody "it's got pockets!!!".

I have decided I don't actually NEED to make any more clothes right now, hence my clothes renovation phase.

I have a pair of wild wonderful fisherman's pants as they are called, which I love wearing, but - no pockets.

Here they are draped over the back of the couch. I love all that crazy fabric detail on the right leg.

So I decided to add a pocket onto the left leg.

But then I couldn't decide which style of pocket to go for; so I decided to make two and then choose.
The first has grey linen underneath white cotton lawn. The trousers are unhemmed with fraying bits here and there, so I am keeping the style loose and frayed.

I sat quietly for quite some time, very meditatively pulling threads in the lawn. It is very fine and very fiddly but it was a delightful pastime.

You can see I became quite besotted with it.

The second one has the grey linen and white lawn again, but this time with strips of the lawn stitched down the middle, reflecting a design element on the pants. I am thinking I might add in some of the 'string' from the pants to bring the two side together more.

I really do love a frayed edge.

So here is where I got to. With a bit of help from Barry I decided on a single pocket, but blending the two styles a bit.

And here it is on the pants.  Just the right size and place for keys and a phone.

And a happy by product is this beautiful ball of thread.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

A mock-up of sorts

It is always a slow process for me designing a book, especially when I am trying to achieve all sorts of things in a single book.

This one I was hoping to make from a single sheet of paper.

It is a book about here and there - my love for my home here in Maleny; and my love for our home in the Highlands in Scotland. The single sheet of paper thing felt right - I am one person with a heart in two places.

Like many before me, I tried out one of Hedi Kyle's folds  from her most recent book Art of the Fold, co-authored with her daughter Ulla Warchol.  The Franklin Fold it is called.

I liked it because it is from one piece of paper, and seems to be able to tell two stories and bring them together in the centre.

I had made a plain paper mock-up a little while ago. And decided it would be nice to tuck the Title in the front cover fold. A little bit different.

I then wanted to add words and numbers and images, so I set about pulling the book apart and trying to work out the layout of pages and the direction of images and words.

 May I say it took quite a few goes to work out how to easily return the book to book format!

I labelled F for front and B for back and numbered both sides separately. Maleny on one side, Armadale on the other.

 As mentioned it took a few goes to get the rhythm back!

Trying to work out where I would  need to print in order to get a design on the front and back covers.

Good result!

And inside the cover - testing how the design would run.

And then looking at postcodes - imagining them in bold wood type on the back.

Standing it up to see how it 'reads'.

Alongside all the unfolding and marking and refolding I need to make copious notes for checking I had included everything - words, images, numbers...

And because it is a book of two; I need to make sure I have a matching pair so to speak. My brain was hurting by the end!

I also want to make sure of the overall integrity of the book, so am checking that the colours mean something; that some imagery is individual; some shared. Checking techniques and where they might be applied. Remembering that embossing must come last!

Trying to work out which typefaces I can use for names and lat/long etc. Calculations, calculations, calculations.

Next step is to test and trial if I can possibly print the marks and images and words I want in the direction I need; and in what order and sequence! Shall cross all my appendages and take copious notes!