Sunday, January 22, 2017

Letterpress Commission

For the last little while I have been working on a beautiful letterpress commission - a poem in association with a new Poetry Prize.

The Poetry Prize is in honour of young Maleny poet Sophia Nugent-Siegal, who died in 2014 aged 22.

The work I have done is to select one of Sophie's many poems, and produce it in an edition of 22. The poem is presented on a thick 300gsm Gmund Cotton Linen paper, contained within a presentation folder.

Sophie had liked the spareness of my work and her mother entrusted me with the artistic license to create work that I felt was in keeping with Sophie's work and ethos.  I had previously rendered some poetry for her mother in calligraphy; and felt I wanted to include some in the final work; but was not sure that I could do it effectively 22 times.

So I turned to a photopolymer plate. I wrote out the poem title, vectorised it, sent it to Melbourne where they prepared the plate. I then found a local cabinet maker to cut some timber into a small block, type high and I was able to include it in the block for printing.

The presentation folder is made from Mohawk Superfine 270gsm and I used another photopolymer plate image on the cover - the poem references a blue sky smashed into novas.

The cover indicates the poem title, the poet's name and that it is part of deckled edge press editions (in fact the first).

I mixed the ink to a soft blue - the poem suggests Sophie's bluest of blue eyes - and the main text was printed in a soft grey - I couldn't do black. It meant I had to do two print runs on each page - the blue one and the grey one, so registration became a bit of a focus.

Cover detail.

Attribution detail on poem insert.

Poem within the folder.

The poem.

It has been an enormous honour to produce this work; as well as a great challenge to improve my craft  and to produce something of worth and value the will last through the ages.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Thursday Thoughts...

“Life has an inside as well as an outside. Consumer culture directs all resources and attention to life on the outside. What happens to the inner life? Art is never a luxury because it stimulates and responds to the inner life. We are badly out of balance. I don’t think of art / creativity as a substitute for anything else. I see it as a powerful expression of our humanity - and on the side of humanity under threat. If we say art is a luxury, we might as well say that being human is a luxury.” 

Jeanette Winterson

I have been re-listening to Jeanette Winterson on the ABC Conversations with Richard Fidler, and oh my, what a woman.  I really like listening to her voice, as well as being a huge fan of what she has written and how she writes.  My copies Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit and Written On The Body are both foxed, and dog-eared and it is interesting given all the culls of books I have had over the decades, that these two still travel with me - along with the subject of this interview Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Anyhow, of more recent times, she has also written several essays and articles on how important art is; after her own little moment of discovery.  And of course, because she is Jeanette Winterson she writes about art and beauty in a beautiful, insightful, heartfelt and accessible way.

I agree with her thoughts in this quote - that art nurtures and supports the interior life; that art is not a luxury that it is in fact what makes us human and makes life and living worthwhile. We need the arts - they shock us, they nurture us, they make us weep, they make us feel, they make us look again, they help us understand, the let us know experiences or emotions are scary a place we would face if we didn't have art in the world to help us make sense of it, and to make our way within it.

A detail from Jennifer Coyne Qudeen's Sketchbook Project book which we visited in Brooklyn Art Library in December 2013. An inside and an outside....

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A few teaching gigs

The beginning of the year is such an interesting time to stop and look at the shape of the year ahead.  I love having a sense of the year's shape - the outline, the sketched in bits that tell me a bit about where I'll be and what I'll be doing.  I'm not quite sure why that matters to me, given that the year usually takes me on a roller coast of a ride that I could never have planned for!

Still, I am looking at the year 2017 and there are commissions due, conferences to run and attend, exhibitions to view, an open studio to have, teaching gigs here and there and the Celebration of Books to help coordinate. Looks interesting!

A quick shot from my website page 'Workshops' where you can find most of the details.

I have three workshops booked in already - the first is next month in Toowoomba.  I will be teaching a new workshop "Building Narrative in Artists' Books".

Here's the blurb:

When we make a book ourselves we are often thrilled that we have made the container – and pay less attention to what is contained. This workshop will focus on building narrative in your book-making, encouraging you to find ways to use the book form to tell a story – short and sweet, simple or complex, political or fairytale. 

We will explore techniques to offer readers an interesting experience. The book will use a simple binding, and focus more on the content and sequence, using techniques to encourage enquiry and interest in the reading. We will make a small book with a cover. 

I think it is important for us to stop and think about what we are trying to say with a book; and to pay attention to Structure, Content, Materials and Sequence. I am looking forward to sharing my thinking with an enthusiastic group and to see what they do!

My second workshop of the year, is in June, with a return to Wrapt in Rocky, for a 3-Day Wrapt Retreat.

I will once again be teaching "Quietly and Gently" but modified from 5 days to 3 days.

The blurb goes:

Sometimes we just need to be quiet, to slow down and be peaceful. 

 This workshop will explore the beauty and elegance of working white on white. The limited palette provides both challenges and opportunities, with serene outcomes. Working on paper, you will have the opportunity to explore a myriad of ways to create texture and meaning on paper, using different materials and techniques. Embossing, printing, cutting, lettering and stitching will all form part of the week, and bookmaking will bring it all together. 

Participants will create a sample book of techniques as well as a light slipcase to protect the book. Suitable for all levels.

Feel free to contact Wrapt in Rocky here if you are interested in attending.

The third workshop of the year is booked in, but is a mystery workshop!  We haven't decided just what I will teach; but I am booked in with the Calligraphers of South East Queensland in October.

You can find updates and details on the 'Workshops' page here on my blog and on my website.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Collagraph printing

During the week a friend helped me print some collagraph plates.  I had made the plates as part of a two day workshop - day 1 make the plates, day 2 print the plates - but we had headed off to Japan before day 2 so I never got to learn how to print them.

Altho I love printmaking I am a real novice and certainly don't know any tricks of the trade like I do with say book-making, so it was special to be able to spend time with a person who knows how to think about printmaking. Even tho she is an intaglio expert, she could guide me thru this relief printing process as well.

I dived in and over-inked straightaway! Laugh. If I had paid attention I would only have inked lightly and left more of those lovely empty spaces.

We tried a viscosity ink approach and I thinned ink, and used hard and soft rollers. I'm not sure I really got it, but I could see a few of the things that happened and understand why.

Inked and ready to go. I loved seeing these centre lines drawn on the plastic over the bed of the press - clearly to help with registration! 

How it looked after printing.  As ever, some interesting bits and pieces and so much analysis needed to understood why some parts work better than others. The plate, the amount of ink, the thickness of the ink, where I applied the ink, the sequence of colours, and so on and so forth.

I do love some corners, with the their empty spaces and sense of embossing.

A few notes and a nice still life.

And so I tried NOT to over ink the second plate, which worked well for the first layer of ink. Tick. Except afterwards, I wished I had inked the lower half as well. You live and learn don't you?

This ink really needed to be thinned far more than I did, which was a shame - it overpowered things by the end.

As evidenced!

Yet once again, I loved a few of the parts and the lovely texture and patterns they provided.

So much more to learn and practice, but I have a much better starting place than I did before this week. I learnt about barrier cream,  some registration tricks, how to let the blankets fall from the drum, what tape to use to mask off and so many more things. Spending time with artists in their studios you always learn so many extra bits that just add to your knowledge and make things easier and better. Thank you my friend!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Thursday Thoughts...

“A good book is always on tap; it may be decanted and drunk a hundred times, and it is still there for further imbibement”. 

 Holbrook Jackson

Somebody who enjoys a glass of red probably wrote these words I reckon; or perhaps  a whisky drinker or a drinker of other spirits.

I imagine its about the decanter - which you can just keep filling up I guess - and that sense of ongoing renewal. Or the idea of beer on tap just flowing.

A good book does offer itself to you time and time again; I can, and do, keep books to read over again and I often enjoy them just as much the second time round, even if for different reasons.

Books can really be the gift that keeps on giving I think.

A well stocked wine cellar!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Fun with fabric

Not much actual art happening that can be shared and shown just yet; so it's back to the clothes I was sewing before Christmas.

It has been a bit of  revelation just how much I enjoy making clothes for myself and how much time it can makeup in my brain! It's also funny to observe how when I am in the middle of making, I am constantly trying to find ways to get back to the sewing machine, grabbing half an hour here, setting aside time there...I guess that's the definition of an addiction or obsession.

I haven't touched fabric this year except to pre-wash a stash that I hope to make up, but before Christmas I got a bit done, including my Christmas Day frock, as featured with chickens previously.

I liked the detail on the pocket, and the sort of underskirt in black - added some length and also added a bit of interest I think.

It fits really well and is a nice cool summer shift.

I whipped up some black trousers the week before Christmas - I like to wear comfortable black trousers when I travel and these are very easy and comfy and still look OK.  I turned the pocket fabric around so that I could use the selvedge at theta of the pocket as a bit of decoration - the selvedge was so lovely.

Nothing flash but very serviceable with a dash of interest.

I also completed this loose top in mid December. Another summer top, loose, cool and comfortable.
The fabric was some of my mum's stash that I kept and it's nice to have made something with it.

Back to hand stitching now - edging closer to completing the commission and sending it off.  Handing over another one next week I hope and getting words cut for a different one next week as well. Phew.

Sunday, January 8, 2017


Whilst Barry and I have been under the weather this week, not much art got done.

We mooched about a bit, continued the new year tidy up and clean up of the house, and generally took it quietly.

So this is a selection of random moments over the past few weeks.

We spent Christmas in Sydney, at Coogee beach and there were some lovely moments, early in the morning, looking out to sea. I love the way shooting into the sun changes everything...

The sea baths.

The quintessentially Australian Surf Life Saver flags...

My Dad heading through to the cliffs for a good look at the ocean

 and I got to go feed the chooks and hold one (in my best Christmas Day frock and all). No animals were harmed in the taking of this photo.

We returned home to a hydrangeas in full bloom. I love love love this colour.

Managed to quietly sort some type we collected in Sydney. Thanks Mo!

When I say collect, my Dad very kindly drove it home in his car - no way could we have posted it or carried it on the plane!

Today I started to play with mono prints - this trial used Caran D'Ache water-soluble crayons. Interesting!

I accidentatllygot some ink on my embossing tool that makes my mark, so I had to clean it off and the  it seemed easiest to just emboss, emboss, emboss and wear it off. I did so on a tissue and was surprised that it worked so well!

And as I left the studio this afternoon, I took this photo of the first flower ever on our ponytail palm - fascinating.

 I am still finishing two commissions; one is ready to hand over (yay), and new work is getting ready. But slowly, slowly...

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Thursday Thoughts...

“It’s impossible” said pride. 
“It’s risky” said experience. 
“It’s pointless” said reason. 
“Give it a try” whispered the heart.


A whimsical quote for the first Thursday Thoughts of 2017. As I cycled through art, life and books I am pondering life this week, and I've always liked these words.

They aren't difficult to ponder, they aren't earth-shattering in their depth and consideration; instead they are a simple way of recognising the dimensions we bring to decision-making and the dimensions we sometimes need to quieten.

How many times as we think about starting something new or doing something differently do we come upon voices like these?

I didn't know anything about Reason v Intuition as two ends of a spectrum until I was well into the workforce - it was a revelation to me that not everybody just instinctively 'knew' things!  One of my own favourite ways of describing how this happens for me is "I come to quiet knowings..."

I listen to my intuition; and I always have. My gorgeous mum was highly intuitive and I learned it was possible to make a successful and happy life listening to it.  Here, the heart encourages us to give it a try - and sometimes we just have to.

Stitching scraps of copper with wire - I just had to give it a try...

Peace Mends the World 2013.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017


I must admit I'm a sucker for a sparkler, and we surprised ourselves by staying up until midnight to greet the new year; celebrating Hogmanay with a Scottish friend.  Sparklers just make you feel better so it was great to have plenty to play with on the cusp of a new year.

In between Christmas and New Year's Eve I received some new type. An excellent Christmas present.  It is a set of caps - Delphian 30pt and I really like their elegance.

As part of our tradition, Barry and I make and send New Year cards, rathe than Christmas cards, and we both decided to do letterpress cards this year.   I thought what a great way to christen my new font, and to test myself with a different, slightly tricky, lock up.

As ever, I enjoy the back of the locked up chase as well - and this time the writing on my apron peeks through the spacer in the bottom left!

Once again the stairs in the shed studio performed well as a drying rack.

And in the end, I like the simplicity of the card, and I like knowing it was a bit tricky to do and I did it.

 It's always a nice way to start the year, with a bit of low key creativity.

With more wishes for a kind and gentle new year, filled with creativity, care and connection.

Happy 2017!