Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Spring flowers and threads

 Life is funny when it comes to how you get an idea for something.

I was watering a pot of dark blackish hearts ease flowers that we have near our front door.  I flicked one fo the flowers and it left behind a purple stain on the tiles. And I thought ohhhhhh....I wonder if they would dye thread?

And just like that I was back at the solar botanical dyeing I was in a frenzy for two years ago!

Into their glass jar they went, and sat in the sun they were.

As I was preparing to throw this bunch of lavender out; I thought wonder if... so into a pot they went as well.

And this is how the lavender came out. A soft green from the stems. and the 'juice' smelt divine.

And this is how the hearts ease came out - so happy with that blue!

And here they both are wrapped around their old pegs, after having been rinsed and dried.

And so then, I wondered about the tibouchina flowers.

But I have to report that thus far, they are very uninspiring 

Sunday, August 29, 2021


 Our hearts feel so heavy, and there are layers of grief and sadness.

As the stories emerge from Afghanistan,  I feel deeply and achingly sad for the many women and girls facing who knows what. I feel scared and horrified. I feel so very helpless, and yet no hopeless. 

I wanted to touch something real and hopeful and beautiful and I reached for my book Two Trees.  It is a collaboration between a number of women book artists and some women in Afghanistan.  I purchased a copy several years ago; but it has always resonated as a beautiful connection of cultures; and the solidarity of women across the globe.

There are many, many people involved; but one touch point is the group SAWA (Support Association for the Women of Afghanistan) in Australia.  It is here that I purchased the book all those years ago.

The idea was that the Australian artists would make concertina books; and then through as series of wonderful people and relationships with organisations, women in Afghanistan would choose a book and respond to it by adding words. And then the books would be returned to Australia.

I sat quietly and went though the book from start to finish again; reading in more detail the stories behind the works; and behind the workers and artists who made it happen.

And I was thrilled to be reminded, that the books had been purchased by the State Library of Queensland for their collection. One day I hope to visit them.

And on the website I discovered a new book had been produced, after a new collaboration.

And more tears - the works that were exchanged and collaborated on were handkerchiefs.

Some hankies were sent and didn't make it back as the women's lives changed and they weren't able to participate or complete them. But many did and it is so beautiful to see how they added to the handkerchiefs in stitching. Sometimes minimally; sometimes in bold sweeps of colour and thick, dense stitches.

So if you can. Please go to the website and purchase one of these books (or make a donation). Three of the key women involved (including Gali the lead artist) have been working all the hours of every day to try to get a visa and safe passage for one of their colleagues in Afghanistan - a women's rights advocate whose life is in danger.

Having secured a visa; they wait desperately for her to be evacuated somewhere safe, as the opportunities for that close by the hour.

Go gently.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Thursday Thoughts...

"Pen poised, I sit to attention, in my suit, on the edge of my imagination, prepared for the beautiful line to arrive. Sometimes it does, sometimes it does not — either way I am powerless to influence the outcome. So often we stand bereft before our ingenuity, with nothing to show for our efforts. Yet at other times we are ushered in". 

Nick Cave

This is by Nick Cave the Australian musician, lyricist and author (not Nick Cave the American sculptor). I love our Nick Cave. I was probably a bit scared of him in his early music days - so dark and somewhat menacing; but in more recent times he has faced tragedy and from there he has opened up his big deep beautiful soul to people.

May I recommend Nick Cave's The Red Hand Files.

These are the words of a writer, on the magical process of writing. I love that image of sitting there, on the edge of your imagination.  That feeling that nearby; thru a shadowy door; sneaking by in a costume is the idea...the thing, the line. Just out of sight, just on the edge of your imagination.

It seems such an apt descriptor for any creative process; how one can never be quite sure that 'it' will come. The beautiful line, the imagery, the gathering of materials; the outcome...

It feels to me that he truly knows and has experienced that honesty of creativity - sometimes you can be ushered in; at others times you stand bereft.

And you wonder when a thing you thought might be the start of something, will ever come to fruition...

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

A wee small book

I am still pottering away thinking about what to make, why and how, for the small showing we are hoping for in October.  

I sat with a stack of business card sized bits the other day and played this way and that, and decided to test out an idea.

First of all i though about de-bossing or blind embossing a curl of string.  I had made a plate years ago which had worked out well and wanted to see if it still held up.

Tick that box.

I realised I needed a MUCH longer plate so made one about 45cm long and happily glued the string down. Much messier when working on this scale, and I probably ended up using more glue than I wanted to, it just kind of got everywhere...

So I merrily embossed away and then decided to put them all together like this, using a figure 8 stitch on either side of the card.

As ever, a huge fan of those slightly wild and dishevelled looking threads.

It stretches out quite a way.

And I am most happy with it. I have another one to trial and play with too so shall see what happens there before deciding if I will use them, or just keep them for myself and a record.

And then this was funny. Somehow I saw an ad for this app which did magical things to your photos - especially for online shops.  We are working hard to to try and make sure our photos look decent on the website and in the shops; but clearly we could be more professional.

I thought I would give it a try - it removes the background and lets the object float without distraction.


And after.  


I can see how it makes the object the focus, but does remove any context. But I laughed more at how unless you pay a bit of money for the Pro version of the app, clearly you get their branding on your images which nobody is ever going to want on an online shop1 Laugh, very clever.

I was also playing with how to add text so the title is not really the title, more about a work in progress...

And because Spring is springing, here is some lavender on the kitchen bench.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

My new shop and website!

 Of all the things I thought I might do with my life, building websites was never one of them.  But here I am...

I have given myself a deadline for building three websites - mine; our joint Deckled Edge Press'; and Barry's  and can now say  that 2/3 ain't bad!  I still have a day or two up my sleeve to get Barry's published and then I can let out a really big sigh of relief.  For the time being I shall release a mid-sized such sigh.

Here it is...fionadempster.com

I mentioned a week or so ago that we had published the DEP website and the story is pretty much the same for mine.  Built around our Square sales point that we use in the studio and at fairs, markets, shows etc we can link our inventory from the studio to our websites.

Never before have I found having an online shop so easy. Who knew?

We also have the choice to sell things on one or all three of the websites.  Mainly we have things available on one or two - for example my feminist posters are available on both my website and on Deckled Edge Press' website.   But some of my artists' books and calligraphy are only on mine.  

It's tricky to get the balance right, but we are working our way through it all...

My site has very much the looking feel I was after - soft and gentle.

I have reduced the number of works in my gallery to six and hope that I will add some more as we go along.

By clicking through you can see more detail; and link to the blog posts which tell their story...

And I have given my blog it's own page. I have been blogging since 2009 and this places is a true record of my explorations, and my process and I really treasure it. Along with the company I get to keep here!

I hope you might pop on over and have a look. 

Let me know how it goes, if it has any major mistakes or foibles and if there is anything missing or anything you think should be there.

I really hope that it will also make it easier for folk to purchase things they might have seen me blog about and liked the look of!

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Thursday Thoughts...

“Is that what writing amounts to? The voice your ghost would have, if it had a voice?” 

 Margaret Atwood

This one turned my head inside out a little bit. 

I think about ghosts appearing when you die; and so was not sure how how a present day person writing would ponder their words as the voice of a ghost.  In order to write you must be alive I assume? Even now I am still pondering!

The questioning of whether a ghost would have a voice made me wonder why one would choose this as a way to express something.

As I delved a bit deeper I realised that the words are in a novel called MaddAddam, and without having read the book, perhaps they make less sense to me - they maybe perfectly positioned within the novel and its characters and within that context make perfect sense!

Perhaps it is about the words being written being more like an echo through time when you die. That they are what remains of a person?

Perhaps that makes the most sense. I'm still not sure about any of it, but there you go!

Headstone, Canisbay Church of Scotland graveyard.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Women Friends

 I have mentioned previously that I was playing with some words by Scottish poet Pauline Prior-Pitt.

Her poem Women Friends is the loveliest honouring of women's friendships and it has warmed me from the moment I read it. My Dad was with me at the Scottish Poetry Library and showed me her book Be an Angel and suggested I might just need to buy it. True.

I wrote to her recently asking permission to use the words in some work; and she generously agreed and I feel so honoured to be able to do so.

I have begun working towards a showing around the theme of The Red Thread. Three friends and I are hoping, all things being equal, to be able to have a small showing in the Deckled Edge Press studio hanging space in October-November this year.  We all know that a thousand things can happen between now and then, but we are committed to giving it a go! 

I have been pushing ideas around and playing with things for a while and am only now beginning to bring my fuzzy outline thinking into some sort of focus.  This wee artists' book is the first piece that is finished.

I was actually doing something else when my eyes came across the tin.

Funny story - when we packed up our home and studio last year, I was going to throw the tin out. Barry thought he might be able to use it for something and it stayed. Last month Barry was tidying up his new workshop space and came across the tin again. Now knowing he wouldn't use it, he asked me if I could use it and I thought yes, I might just be able to! Circles.

But back to the tin moment. I dropped whatever mundane task was at hand; went and gathered up some scraps of the roll of paper Barry had been cutting (Arches Velin) and wondered if I cut them into tiny squares (2cm x 2cm) might they fit in the tin?

And then what to do with them if they did?

I thought about writing out the poem on large paper then cutting it up and stacking it; I thought about making each page of a stack a segment of the poem. And then I thought, what if I stamped the poem in four parts on the top sheet? So it could be read?

I tried to work what size type I would need to fit all those words on such a small page and found it was 8 pt. Tiny.

So I gathered the type together and taped it so I could hammer it in one go; rather than end up having bouncing letters with too many spaces.

And then there they were...

Four stacks of words,

Nestled in their tin, with the title and the poet tucked into the lid.

And the sunshine beaming in...

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Starting the second six months of stitching

 Having made it half way through the year in terms of stitching, the next six months are looming.  It's funny how it works, being a month or so behind in stitching; I can look back over the whole month and try to work out how best to achieve it.

July caused me grief. Too much happened and I did not think I had a hankie big enough to handle it all.

What to do? Do I re-design, edit or stitch two hankies?

I ummed and ahhed a while and asked Barry's opinion.

We both agreed that it had to be one hankie not two. 

Here I am comparing my hand written notes, with two of the 6 hankies available. Seriously, all those words will not fit in the bottom one. The top one has potential; but I think it would be crammed.

The other four options...

Also not looking good when the words are alongside them.

In the end, we decided to re-design. Firstly, I combined a few lines (e.g. rather than 'Perth out' on one line, followed by 'Darwin out'; I combined them onto one line).

Secondly I edited (e.g.Worst day yet - with hindsight this was pretty superfluous and added very little - except the innocence and naivety of the statement, which I often try to note as a reminder that we didn't know what was coming).

And managed to fit the words on - in-between some of the decorative elements and not as straightforward as previous hankies, but that adds to the message of increasing complexity and messiness I feel.

This is my thread palette thus far. I am sticking with 6 colours and definitely NOT re-using the thread for January as it is way too pale.

The first stitch was made during the week, and August is looming like another biggie here.

PS that is NOT the stitch that was made! Laugh.