Thursday, April 17, 2014

Thursday Thoughts...

“Happiness is in the quiet, ordinary things. A table, a chair, a book with a paper-knife stuck between the pages. And the petal falling from the rose, and the light flickering as we sit silent.” 

Virginia Woolf

I am sitting here a bit weary, a bit tired and and thinking about this quote. Happiness is so much in the ordinary things of my life, sitting quietly and reading book, working in the garden; baking and cooking in the kitchen, chatting to my friends; savouring a really good cup of coffee or a glass of wine; companionable silence with Barry; laughing together over silly things. So many precious daily moments are the basis of happiness for me.

I often wonder about the overall pursuit of happiness - I'm not sure it's realistic that we are always happy or that things are only worth it if you're happy.  I like to think about contentment more - do I feel content with life and what I'm doing? I don't have to feel happy about all the time, but I like to check that I am content and not full of discontent about something.

I think I could have been happy alongside Virginia - sitting silently, a candle flickering as the rose petal drops.  I could be happy there for sure.

A verdant green vegetable garden also makes me happy - and it's green this week to join in with Jennifer and Julie's search for Roy G. Biv - the rainbow.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Easter exhibition

Easter seems to have come around quickly - even though it is later in the year than it often is. It feels a bit fast, because it doesn't seem all that long ago that Maleny Printmakers were having their November collectables exhibition, and here we are again with our Fine Art exhibition!

The exhibitions being held on the four days of the Eater weekend, from 10am - 4pm each day.  Once again we are transforming Sonja's studio into a gallery space, and the show will be at 37 Coral St, Maleny (behind Mukti).

I knew that the first few months of the year would see us away a fair bit and with other key commitments, so I had not really intended to enter any work. Then I said yes I would, and then later on realised that the piece I had in mind had recently been shown in an exhibition up here and therefore was ineligible. Eek.

Suddenly I had to do some printmaking!

The theme for the exhibition is 'Journeys' which leaves lots of room for interpretation. For some it will be reminders of trips and travels; for some it will reflect their personal or spiritual journeys. I think it will be an interesting and diverse range of works.

I gave some glimpses of where I was headed back in this post; and the works are now framed and ready to submit.

 Called "Weekend Getaway" the words are the names of towns along the Range here - and they are in the sequence of a Sunday drive or a weekend visit. As I say in my blurb:

"The hinterland is a wonderful place to visit for a weekend getaway; to drive amongst the lush green hills and valleys, stopping off at all the different towns and villages".

Perhaps they will be a reminder to somebody of their visit here over Easter; or perhaps some tourism folk might think they are a good idea!

We are looking forward to sharing our passion for printmaking again, and I for one am hoping that November doesn't come around quite as quickly...

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Slowly getting there...

It seems to be taking an inordinately long time to pull together this book, but I am edging closer to the end.

It is quite a charming wee thing and I am enjoying the look of it now as I finesse things a bit, fix things up and try to tie it all together.

Susan and I have continued to meet to talk our way through these books and to help each other out.  It has been a true collaboration of minds and support this time around.

The books are due to be completed by 23 April - World Book Day - and they will get together then.

It will be quite delightful to see where all this agony has gotten us, and to share the final results. I promise this will be the last tease so to speak…

My page inserts, all complete and ready to be stitched in place. Susan still has one of them to do her final bit on…so lovely to have her original work in my book!

The play of light on this page, the lovely soft paper...

Something recognisable at last!

An element of Susan's etching and embossing on one of the pages.

Feather-light and flimsy page detail.

Another shot of them waiting to be stitched…


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Thursday Thoughts...

“A lot of good things don’t get made because of too much thinking.” 

 Agnes Martin

As I was looking for a quote on art today, this one popped out of the list and said - I'm yours!  Susan and I spent some time together again yesterday working on our books - discussing where we have gotten to; how we have resolved what needed resolving, and what we plan to do for the next parts.

The agony of bringing these books to life is easing; but may I say, I really feel as if I over-thought this one and did way too much thinking about what and how along the way.

With regards to what Agnes is saying, I think it is possible to consider the quote in two ways - perhaps how I feel now - that I thought so much about this book that I nearly paralysed the process - that the thinking caused me grief and many reversals and moments of angst. That the left side of my brain got all analytical and instructive and really got in the way of creating.

I also think it can mean that we sometimes spend too much time thinking about work we might make; pondering and dreaming, and not actually making it!

I can be guilty on both charges; but am also lucky to have those moments when the creating happens in front of my eyes; without hardly a single thought and I almost watch on in awe…

Sometimes lovely things happen when you stop thinking. And hopefully, sometimes lovely things happen even after you've done heaps of thinking!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Of collective nouns and maps

I love collective nouns; so many of the real ones are so delicious and clever (an ostentation of peacocks, a parliament of owls, a skulk of thieves) with lots of puns at play.

A dear friend knows this and sent me the most wonderful book for my birthday - An Exaltation of Larks by James Lipton.  It is filled with the history of many collective nouns, and then the wished-for collective nouns. Some of my favourites in this latter classification include: a marvel of unicorns; an oxymoron of athletic scholarships; a discord of experts; a tug of kites; a blur of impressionists; a browse of readers… as you can see imaginations were on the run as these were written.

Which in a roundabout way brings me to an exhibition I saw on the weekend in Melbourne.  My bestie and I were there for a Helen Reddy concert (I Am Woman Hear Me Roar!) and in-between the chats, shops and coffees, we visited the State Library where Nicholas Jones had an exhibition called A Conspiracy of Cartographers.  I of course thought this was a collective noun and just had to go!

As it turns out, it was actually a quote. It comes from a line of dialogue in British playwright Tom Sheppard's play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, written in 1966.

Rosencrantz: I don't believe it anyway.
Guildenstern: What?
Rosencrantz: England.
Guildenstern: Just a conspiracy of cartographers then?

Which is pretty funny anyhow.

For his Creative Fellowship at the Library, Jones created a series of altered book sculptures, inspired by the atlas Theatrum Orbis Terrarum by Abraham Ortelius (1574).

Jone used some of these maps to inspire work with books he found and bought, to create a series of book sculptures.  They were displayed in cases in the beautiful La Trobe reading room - which has a huge dome and lots of windows, so I couldn't photograph them any other way than by putting my camera on the case and clicking. So you never really get the full book. Still you get an idea…

All of the books chosen for carving had a link to the area on the map, and every book was meticulously carved by hand. An enjoyable discovery on a quick trip south!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Thursday Thoughts...

The wonderful thing about books is that they allow us to enter imaginatively into someone else’s life …. But the real surprise is that we also learn truths about ourselves, about our own lives, that somehow we hadn’t been able to see before. 

Katherine Patterson

Books really are about firing up the imagination, and offering us moments and opportunities for our imaginations to let loose, to wander through other people's lives; explore other cultures and other times.

It is a real wonder and joy to me that books can seriously carry you away - to have you enter into the fear; the joy; the extravagance; and the desolation.  I find it remarkable that a book can transport me far away in my imagination, and in my sense of time and place for the here and now.

Books do let you go away without going away - I often feel as if I have to shake my head a few times and re-think where I am or what I was supposed to be doing after I have been totally absorbed by a book. Re-orienting myself to here and now can take a wee while.

But truthfully, when you react to to something, identify with something or respond in a certain way to something written in a book - it can reveal truths about you and the life you are living, not any imagined one. In these moments I often stop and write down the passage that set me off; that made me think there was more to the words than just the words themselves as part of the narrative - that they held meaning for me and my world.

A little bit of my sub-tropical world…

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Playing with printing

Lesley from Printed Material sent me some great information a while back about gum-arabic transfer etching, written by her friend and printmaker Sue Brown.

I have been meaning to try it out for ages and the other day thought I had to give it a go. I had an idea in mind and thought this might be the technique to help me get there. You see, as a calligrapher, it's quite hard to do calligraphic printmaking as the letters are always reversed.

If I write into or onto a plate beautifully, then if I print it, the lettering will be reversed. If I try to write backwards, well all the beauty of the writing gets lost and it looks a bit more like a child having a go at running writing for the first time.

It is possible to do, but I am yet to find the best method for me.

Which brings me to this transfer technique.  I had quite a fine time trialling and testing and apart from one plate which I left to bite for too long - it took everything away including the resist.

I won't go into the details, but a few descriptions might help along the way. I am NO expert as will be revealed…

A carbon-based print of a photograph began the day. Nice and dark and full of contrast. I had to get mine photocopied as I don't have a laser printer.

This was soaked with gum arabic front and back and then wet and placed faced down on the plate.

I used the press to push the transfer onto the plate and got a reasonable result. Not a lot of the resist transferred, but enough I hoped.

Then I etched in copper sulphate solution, and apart from one of the plates as mentioned; these two came out OK…

And then I printed, which was fun. I love the graininess of the image, and yes I learnt a lot about not smearing the wet resist with fingers!

The W didn't come out as well; I think I probably needed more contrast in the original copy as well as better-timed biting. So many things to think about. And more finger-smudging...

What I like about this process is if I started with beautiful writing and made a copy of it; then it would be transferred in reverse onto the plate, then would appear the right way round once printed.  Quite a bit of fun to be had here I think...

Friday, March 28, 2014

Continuing the dance...

Susan and I got together on Wednesday to continue exploring where to next with our books. As many of you know, during our collaboration, with each book we choose to collaborate differently, to explore the spectrum of collaboration to speak.

This time around we were right at one end; where the book is primarily all our own work, but at regular intervals we meet to talk and work through issues - peer mentoring I guess it would be called in the business world.  We take problems we are facing and directions we are unsure of to the meeting and chat and sort and sift and get guidance from a fresh pair of eyes.  In addition, we will also be asking the other to add in something to our book that we can't do our selves.

This time around we also gave ourselves a concrete notion - birds, nests, eggs and feathers. These are quite solid notions - they are real, they exist and people know what they look like!

Both of us have struggled and struggled with these books; I wonder if it's  because they are purely ours (we are dictating what the other will contribute) AND they have to be to a theme. I also think it might be that neither of us is very obvious in our work - so producing images of birds or nests or eggs or feathers feels a bit alien, and not really us.

Anyhow, my book is based around some words and the sense I have about nests being nurturing and protective things…

Here are some images of the work in progress...glimpses because even I don't know what the whole might look like yet!

Playing with words - to include or not I wonder?

More words - looking lovely I think.


Exploded words on the paper - creating beautiful marks, white on white.

Trialling some more words…

Loving the soft edges of an insert…

And where I left off today, feather-like thread and stitching.

It is going to be a quiet book; and not obviously one about birds or nests or eggs or feathers…but I hope it still has a connection.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Thursday Thoughts...

“There are all kinds of silences and each of them means a different thing. There is the silence that comes with morning in a forest, and this is different from the silence of a sleeping city. There is silence after a rainstorm, and before a rainstorm, and these are not the same. There is the silence of emptiness, the silence of fear, the silence of doubt. There is a certain silence that can emanate from a lifeless object as from a chair lately used, or from a piano with old dust upon its keys, or from anything that has answered to the need of a man, for pleasure or for work. This kind of silence can speak. Its voice may be melancholy, but it is not always so; for the chair may have been left by a laughing child or the last notes of the piano may have been raucous and gay. Whatever the mood or the circumstance, the essence of its quality may linger in the silence that follows. It is a soundless echo.” 

Beryl Markham, West with the Night

Probably one of the longer quotes I've ever used, but I love explorations of silence.

I love the silence of a sleeping city. As a teenaged Uni student I moved to Australia's largest city to study. It was big and fast and grotty and noisy; but at about 2am or 3am on a week-night; if you wandered along the city streets and by the harbour, the city was almost silent and oh so beautiful. I thought it was at its best at those moments.

I am very fond of the quiet, gentle silences; but this quote made me think bout the fear that can be in other silences; how silence can actually take many forms some of which are beautiful; and some of which are more sinister.  Some silences feel friendly, welcoming and enveloping; others remain mysterious.

I loved too the notion of a soundless echo - the mood or circumstance of the element before it fell silent; how delightful that it does not have to be melancholy; but can recall the joy and laughter and gaiety that was a precursor to its silence. But also a house or room can feel very silent after the death of somebody and that silence is different again.

To observe the many silences and try to understand them, sounds like a fascinating journey one could take…

I recall the silence as our bamboo bottomed boat glided effortlessly along these waters and between the mountains in the water in Vietnam...

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Of rusty fabrics...

A long, long time ago it seems, I was shown how to rust fabric by wrapping it around rusty things, tying it tightly, soaking it in vinegar and popping it in a sealed plastic bag and leaving it in the sunshine for 2-3 weeks.

My very first attempts were used in these three pieces called "Place" way back in 2010.

This rusting approach produced very vivid rusty colours I must say!  A lot of my rusting of things is now with tea and it makes for a much softer look overall.

Here they were in 2012 at the Tread Lightly exhibition…looking a little worn, but still strong.

Which brings me to today.  Barry and I are-arranging the garden a bit and the tree where these pieces had lived for the last few years is going. So before things got too serious we unwrapped the pieces from the tree, and had a look at how they had weathered.

I must say the last few years have really had an impact and I love all the changes on them.

This one 'belonging' is most affected - the rust and weather have worn through the fine fabric, leaving tufts and shreds.

The rusted leather on 'meaning' has aged nicely.

 And the rusty bits on 'connecting' have been home to somebody.

All the little cross-stitches are green; and the eyelets wearing thru.

 I turned them over to see what was happening there and they are soft and grey.

With remarkable moss-like growths on one,

And little critters making their home on another.

A part of me is still amazed that they are holding up as well as they are really. I have really enjoyed passing them each day (the tree was on the driveway) and now I need to look about and find another home for them; for their next instalment of ageing gracefully.