Thursday, April 28, 2022

Thursday Thoughts...

“My grandparents were illiterate and I never expected to stand here before you in a grand hall in London as a writer being so honoured. Perhaps in consequence I do not share the pessimism of the age about the novel, [which is] one of our greatest spiritual aesthetic and intellectual traditions.” 

Richard Flanagan

Richard Flanagan is an Australian author and won the Booker Prize in 2014 with his novel The Narrow Road to The Deep North, a story about prisoners of war in Thailand during the Second World War; based on his own father's story.

I oftentimes think of him as Australia's conscience. He writes articles for newspapers; he writes essays for monthly publications; he writes books about our dark underside.  He so often writes with a deep understanding of our country; but with an objectivity that allows us to be turned around, to look at ourselves, our true nature and our true stories. 

This quote is part of his acceptance speech for the Booker. I love how it shows how education changes things. How learning to read and write and engage with the world opens up so many opportunities.  I love how he also honours the novel - the storytelling; the narrative; the imaginings of the novel.  

I think novels can be transformative - if you read the right one at the right time, they can change you.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Some words and thoughts

 I began these words the last time we were here - when bog cotton and heather were abundant.  I have played with them in the intervening times, and brought them with me again to see if I could complete the thoughts and these feelings, when I was in situ.

They are still draft,  but closer to final than beginning.

Here to there, it’s time already

What shall I take with me now as I go?

I’ll fetch the flight of those wee brown birds,

and  joyously sing it home in my hat;

I’ll pick bog cotton’s whimsy fleece,

and stitch it within the hem of my sleeve;

I’ll catch wee lochans gliding by,

and weave their shimmering into my scarf;

I’ll hold the light, the light, the light…

and thread it delicately though my slip;

I’ll look slowly on morning walks,

and keep the slowness tucked into my boots;


I’ll pluck the tiny, shy, heather

and happily hum it home in my heart.

take here there

Time here always makes me think and consider, to seek to understand why and how this landscape speaks to me. How and why does this feel like home? 

I will continue to think and write and make work that helps me understand…

Sunday, April 24, 2022


 Without a true space to call mine for making whilst we are at the cottage, it is sometimes hard to settle and spread out and leave things out as they percolate and I cogitate. I have come more to the view now that what I can do here is prepare. I can make some bits and pieces that may end being part of some other bits and pieces sometime down the track.

In doing this I am trying to make use of special things, from here, that I can’t take home with me or use at home. Last time I used horse hair brushes I made from the cropped tail of our neighbour’s horse Shadow. This time I am working with some of the stones from here as we have nothing like them back in Maleny, and also some of the rusty pieces we have found here.

This week was sunny at times so I made the most of the warm dry walls of the cottage, and took some graphite rubbings.

I tried about three of four types of paper, and at different times battled the breezes that kept wanting to lift the paper. I got some really interesting marks and I love what is happening.

The papers were mostly lightweight and picked up just the tops of the stone, and I occasionally went in deeper and pressed around edges. Interestingly different results.

As ever, I love how the light plays.

My fingers were shiny by the end!

The sunshine had us out and about, and in our ongoing hunt for brochs, we found our way to Thing’s Va broch just outside Thurso. It was a long haul but a great vista. This broch is apparently important as 2000 years ago it was built and inhabited, and then 1000 years later the Norse made use of it as their sort of Parliament.

Anyhoo, here Dad and I are at the top…

And the sky, rocks, wood and wire bring constant joy.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Thursday Thoughts...

"The problem with certainty is that it is static; it can do little but endlessly reassert itself. Uncertainty, by contrast, is full of unknowns, possibilities, and risks"

Stephen Batchelor

I read quotes like this and think to myself, I really am a middle of the road kind of gal!  I am soooo uncomfortable with extremes. Sooo uncomfortable with certainty.

I am quite fearful of people who are absolutely certain. Who KNOW. Who hold the truth. Who will not be open to considering another view.  Certainty can be so limiting.

I like that his quotes suggests that certainty is not very helpful; it is static, limiting and possibly even boring.

Uncertainty at the opposite end of the spectrum also scares the pants of me - being without any hint of knowing, being utterly unclear and simply left to try and solve everything as new information appears, to be forced to take risks based on assumptions. That too is fear-inducing to me.

The way he frames these two sentences suggested to me that Certainty is bad; and that Uncertainty with its risks and possibilities and unknowns is far more desirable.

I like the middle. I like some certainty - for example I'm confident that climate change is real and it is happening now.  I am uncertain of some things to do with it and am open to learning more.  I like not knowing how everything works out as I think it makes life interesting. I like exploring and occasionally taking a step into the big unknown. I like asking what if?

But I really don't like living with chaos, not having information to hand to help me make sense of the world. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Markets and Magnificence

 Barry and I were fortunate to be able to take part in the Watten Easter Market. Watten is about an hour’s drive away and full of lovely friendly people.

We had some of Barry’s work and some of mine and tried to make our table look interesting, without being as professional as many others. We had a really great day, sold stuff and bought stuff, and came home smiling.

Hand written price tags…

We went for a drive to Lairg (well, let’s be honest, the object of the venture was The Pier Cafe and it’s astonishing and dazzling array of cakes) and along the way, the light and the clouds were breathtaking. I was driving, so most of these are courtesy of Barry. Altho I did take the first one when we had stopped.

Amazing. As were the cakes!

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Cottage Post

 Having happily gleaned so many wonderful pieces of timber and rust as we walk together, I was inspired to make my own post of sorts.  The scale would be more me - smaller - and other than that I did not know much about what might happen.

I spent time looking at bits and pieces and putting them together, and in the end I stopped planning and worrying and just responded to what was in front of me.

Barry helped me solve the application issues - how can I make this, go with that, there? 

But it was truly mostly my own work.

A favourite detail from the back.

I did the hammering, drilling, gluing and sawing. Under supervision!

And here it is, firstly in the garden, showing all sides.

What I really loved tho was when I photographed it against the cottage wall, resting on a great find from a generous crofter’s stash.

The harmony of those colours, pure bliss.

I asked my dad where he thought it might go, and he simply said “in the lounge room”. I had been thinking the garden,  but we popped it into the windowsill in the lounge room, and it looks right at home. As I think about it, the front is to the street and the back is in the room, but that might not be right, and I might also turn it around sometime and see what happens. Fun!

Taken at night after a 9pm knock on the door with a hand delivery of a bottle of Bollinger from Australia! We have the best friends.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Thursday Thoughts...

“It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey.” 

Wendell Berry

I imagine this quote is equally apt for a pondering upon life; but for me it also speaks to art and the creative life, the maker's life.

For each of us as we begin and go along, we sometimes think we know who we are and what we are doing.  I am a watercolour painter. I am a ceramist. I am a calligrapher. For me, the gradual realisation that perhaps who I was in an artistic way; and what I making as a creative person had changed over time led me to think about myself more as a maker with words.

It seems to me that those points when we stop and pause and consider who are we? and what are we doing? are pretty important.  When we are no longer certain or clear, or have an inkling that something else might be going on, we are forced to stop and examine things.  And from the questioning and the wondering can come the real steps forward. As artists and makers and creators.

And as Wendell Berry implies, from here we may come to our real work; and begin our real journey.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Stones and gifts

 Where we are, on the far north coast of Scotland, the wild and heavy seas pummel the coastline. The northwest coast of Scotland also has some of the oldest and hardest stones on earth. This combination produces some amazingly round stones, and where we are, some lovely patterning.

I have oftentimes shown my ‘the world is a circle ‘ stone collection in a variety of ways. This time we have collected more, and for me one of the special things has been discovering overlapping circles within the stones and bringing them home.

These overlapping loops are forming the basis of some new work and my eyes really enjoying spotting them from a distance and wandering around their intersections.

Although the big one doesn’t really have overlaps, it was too gorgeous not to join the gang!

There is something somewhat contradictory or incongruent about what look like swooping, fluent swirls actually being made of the hardest of rocks.

The thing I like about this one is that one of the intersections ‘jumps’ down like a stutter in an old record when the needle skipped.

And then to gifts - I have the best friends. 

I was messaging a friend Lesley about her print scraps as she wondered what to do with them. Before I knew it, some of the scraps had arrived in the mail and I am now the proud owner of some delightful and delectable scraps - may I say I use the word very lightly.

Here are some details of just a few of the remnants for me to play with…

I can hear the sighs echoing everywhere…

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Thursday Thoughts...

"Anyone who says they have only one life to live must not know how to read a book". 

Author Unknown

Back once more to the realm of the unknown author; or anonymous.

I don't find this lack of acknowledgment too tricky with this quote as I get the sense so many people have probably thought this and possibly said it.

I think it goes to the fact that good authors - both novelists and non-fiction writers - can truly take us into other places and other lives and help us experience things well beyond our circumstances, our time and our place.

From reading books, we can imagine what it's like to working a hospital's emergency department; to be a highflying lawyer in a huge metropolis; to be a missionary in the Congo; to be a prisoner of war; to be a sheep farmer trying to repair and protect their land.  Through books we can get glimpses into so many lives, in so many places.

In some ways if we really go down a rabbit burrow of a certain type - we can get an array of insights and perspectives on other lives. Reading a dozen books on being a junior doctor in a hospital gives us a pretty good understanding of what that might actually be like as a life.

I daresay it isn't actually realistic or possibly to literally live another life though reading books; but we certainly gain a much deeper understanding of other lives through reading.

The gates to Auschwitz.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Slowly, slowly…

 Making emerges slowly as I re-adjust to where we are and what needs doing. I oftentimes find it hard to simply be in the artistic moments - time is given to the myriad of things we need to check, and to the walking and exploring, and then,  I seem to allow myself to think about artiness.

We have brought some of our wares with us and are booked to participate in two markets whilst here!

They are small and local, and the season is really just beginning but we thought it was another way to participate in community.

I have mostly brought cards and a few artists’ books bits, but as I sorted through my box of arty goodies left behind last time, I came across this beautiful stash of feathers a neighbour had gifted me.  Knowing I could use some of the larger ones for brushes and mark making, and also knowing that I couldn’t take them back to Australia given our tight bio security rules, I thought about using them somehow.

In my box of goodies I also found six cards I had prepared earlier - folded and with envelopes - and so I set about making feather cards.

A spool of black thread was waiting for the stitching

As a bunch of feathers spilled from their storage envelope.

And some cards emerged.

I have nightmares about this G but that’s life sometimes…

A lovely trio of cards.

Joined by another lovely trio today.

Starting small, starting slowly, but starting!