Monday, November 30, 2009


Yes , I know I've just posted something, this is a lovely thing!

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Well, thankyou, Sara, for being so brutally honest about your tribulations.

Time for me to fess up to similar self-doubt. And the worst of my wanderings is not sticking to my plan. I start out with an idea of what I want; I doodle and re-work lines and when I feel happy and ready to proceed I have an early night.

And toss and turn. And thump pillows. Get up and make coffee (strong) and find myriad things in my plan that will not work.

The things that "will not work" may be simply mathematical glitches (although, given my record with maths, that's probably the big booger!)

But what really bothered me with this piece was that I initially intended it to illustrate a personal absence. But I was too close to my subject.

And , taking that to its obvious next stage, means that none of you knows the background.

By now, the Dobson poem was lost in the mire!

So I have returned to the poem itself and will. not. stray...

(It's not all bad - the tangents, like that road less travelled, may yield other books!)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Getting there

There's a whole dialogue I have with myself when making anything, complete with sniffy asides, rhetorical questions and, if things are going badly, hand gestures. A lot of it concerns unfathomable questions about things like, "Is this any good?", "Why am I doing this?", and, "Is it finished yet?" which is relateded on its mother's side to, "Are we there yet?".

My creative processes might be described as stages:

Stage One: light-hearted failure to appreciate the deadline, coupled with a hopeful presumption that everything will be different this time around.

Stage Two: agonising. Non-stop. Usually involves a critique of my life so far, highlighting failures, minimising successes and feeling very gloomy.

Stage Three: half-hearted attempts to 'start', because I know that if I start 'something' I'll be a few inches closer to finishing.

Step Four: backing myself into a complete corner by allowing everything to pile up around me, literally and metaphorically, until I chase myself into the studio in order to avoid the mayhem on my desk.

Step Five: make something, re-make it and remake it again until I just can't take any more and then feel a small amount of relief. Usually this will be accompanied by technical failures and a realisation that I don't have the necessary equipment or materials and several frantic visits to the shops.

Step Six: deconstruct everything up to this point and slump. Start going round in circles and, after a while, profer whatever it is I've come up with on an outstretched hand to the audience whilst covering my eyes and feeling a bit sick.

I'd like to think that every time I end up with something I'm really, really certain about, but that doesn't often happen. This time for example I have ended up with something, but I haven't got enough distance from it yet to be able to look at it properly.

So what do I have? Well, it's about my mother's death. The shape - a rotating tetrahedron* - evokes for me the sense of loss in 3 dimensions, as it rotates around itself and a central space. The substrate is koshi handmade Japanese paper which has a rough side and a smooth side, and I've printed on both. I very rarely venture into digital, partly out of sheer technical ignorance and partly through a bloody-minded insistence on autographic mark-making but this time I've used text. At the moment I just don't have the wherewithall to etch text onto copper and so I've finally made use of my lovely Epson Stylus 2100 A3 inkjet printer which has been languishing in a corner, and it's done a good job for me. The paper is printed on the back and the front with the text of Rosemary Dobson's poem and a catalogue of words evoking loss and associated emotions, over a photograph of my mother taken in her early 20's, I think, on holiday in Norway.

I wasn't even a twinkle in her eye when the photo was taken but it's how I like to remember her: happy, smiling, young, beautiful. She died suddenly, 4 weeks before my daughter (her first grandchild)was born, just before Christmas 2001. It's not as raw now as it once was, but I find her death and my daughter's birth difficult to process, and this time of the year can be hard.

Despite the fact that I am rarely autobiographical in my work this piece does have an antecedant: I first made a rotating tetrahedron in 2002, printed with photographs of the woodland where we scattered her ashes. So in many ways this piece isn't an aberration, it's just had a long gestation. I'm not sure if it is fully resolved yet, but I need to stop working on it now and say "this is what I've got". I still need to design a box ("slipcase") for it, but the form of the 'book' is finished. I just need to make 9 more of them!

* developed by Tomoko Fuse and illustrated on p16 of "Origami for the Connoisseur" by Kunihiko Kasahara and Toshie Takahama, published by Japan Publications Inc, 1987. ISBN 4-8170-9002-2.

Monday, November 23, 2009

marbling up a storm

I've just returned from a very hot weekend in Sydney where I spent 2 days in a watercolour marbling workshop with Joan Ajala

Aside from picking up a wealth of valuable tips and tricks and info about watercolour marbling I managed to create some papers for the book-art-object project - and I'm really pleased with them - hope you like them too as I expect them to feature in the book edition...

I've created a simple stormant or stone pattern - in variations of blue (blues on blue paper - blues on purple - blues on white...) If I'm very very careful and thrifty I might have enough for the entire edition - if not - well I have a back up plan....

(when I recover from the long trip I'll post somthing about the workshop over at art & etc for interested bystanders.... right now I'm far too exhausted!)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

You may enjoy this

Beth Lee has posted a video on her Painting Speech blog which shows a book from go to whoa. Look here. If you don't see it while it's still first up, it's on Friday 20 November. To quote Beth " Wonderful stop-motion video of the making of The Complex of All of These, made by Abigail Uhteg at the Women's Studio Workshop in Rosendale, NY." Hope you like it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

In between folding my "scrappy" paper and re-jigging some plans and arguing with my printer...
I sometimes make some coffee and read other blogs.

And this is how I came across this (URL, in case the link doesn't work!)

I know some of you probably read the same blogs. This is Green Chair Press and if I ever make it to San Francisco...

Now, about "Absences." I have been messing about with some transfer prints. Note the word "messing" in that sentence. I have managed some interesting transfers in other work, but what I was aiming for in this case just aint gonna work.

I was hoping to get transfers directly onto some rather heavy paper (Fabriano Artistico, which is swoonworthy for lino work), but it's a bit too much for my printer to cope with. So now I must decide between transfers on lighter paper or some other method of illustration on my heavy paper.

Having a little more time to get this right helps!

After 5 aborted attempts to get a picture up here I have given up!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Do you know, I spent half an hour writing a long post about the whys and wherefores of what I'm doing at the moment and Blogger crashed and lost the lot. It was funny, too. Well I just don't have the energy to try re-writing it so here are the pictures...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Planning meeting

So... just in case anyone hasn't been paying attention to the comments of the post a few doors down, I thought I'd bring this debate up to the surface:

Have we decided unanimously to skip this looming Libris deadline and just make the book in our own time? If not, we need to work out a submission. Pronto.

...but... if we ARE releasing the pressure valve, then can we give ourselves another deadline? Otherwise I will never get around to doing the book! I need a deadline of some sort, you can blame my bad high school study habit of doing things at the last minute.

My suggestion is the end of March. If you finish before then, FANTASTIC. If you need more time by then, we'll have to get out the birch rods... That will give us time to work out how to put ourselves together as a group entry for anything, if we want to operate that way. And if we're all happy, we can then think about a something for our next project.

What does everyone think? That is just a serving suggestion: if anyone has a more significant and workable date, bring it forth!

Monday, November 16, 2009


Carol commented on my last post that she hadn't read the poem as being about the death of a partner, but more the absence of a partner through separation, divorce, or the slow decline of dementia. She pulled me up in my tracks a bit because I realised I'd made a huge assumption about the poem and I was compelled to re-read it and test out my idea.

We read texts with our own life experiences to draw upon, I guess. I'm no critical theorist (very ignorant about the whole process of reading) and cannot contextualise my interpretation of the poem except in terms of how it relates to my experiences. So for me it definitely is about death, but I wonder how the rest of you interpret the poem? Carol reminded me that it can be read in many different ways - thank you!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Crawling in Coffs Harbour

I was so impressed by Ronnie's picture of her workings that I thought I'd take a picture of my table too... no, the adjustable wrench isn't part of the process, except that I used it as a hammer to push in the map pin so I could assemble the transparencies in the foreground!

I'm finding my thinking on the subject quite interesting, actually, if that isn't a little self-absorbed! The structure of the book is crucially important and I can't work properly with the contents until I've resolved the matter of the 3-dimensional form of the book. In a way I think of books as 'containers' of all sorts of things, and the how of that containment is for me as important as the contents.

I'm also wrestling with a few personal demons. The poem we're using as a starting point is about death: getting used to the absence created by the death of a partner. None of my former partners has died (as far as I know, anyway), but there have been the metaphorical 'deaths' of relationships as well as suicide, vehicle accidents and nasty diseases. I've deliberately avoided looking into my own life as source material in my work except in the most sideways, glancing way but somehow this piece is personal. I just need to find a suitable form in which to express myself.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

state of play...

I thought I'd give you a sneak peek of how my plans are developing for the book edition....

... this is pretty typical of process of working things out - I have a pile of tiny bits of folded paper - that makes perfect sense to me (and the rest of the family assumes is rubbish!).

I've now worked out the basic idea of my edition and now - well I've just got to get my act together and get the things made - I'm still working on the assumption that we'll get a group entry ready for the Libris - so I'm going to try to get something photo-worthy in time for the Libris deadline (but don't expect anything finished until into the new year!)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Ok, I really like the idea of having one or two common elements to our group work. This unites us as a project, and gives us some sort of framework upon which to build over time.

Firstly, someone suggested an A5 format -- or no bigger than A5 for this piece. This is a nice size, and of course will be tweaked and pushed by those who like to work 3-dimensionally (you know who you are :)), and if we stick to it, allows potential collectors of our work to collate the books neatly if they so desire! Of course, we may not stick to this size for the next piece, if we get that far (of course we will!), but it's a precedent, and opens up discussion for size next time.

Next, it would be great for everyone to include a colophon, and I'll outline what that means, even if, as I said in the comments a few posts down, it is telling you how to suck eggs (mind you, I don't know how to suck eggs... do you?).

A colophon is the artist's book equivalent of the copyright page in a novel. It should, at the very least, contain the *printed* name of the artist (as opposed to an undecipherable signature) and the year the book was made. If more complex, it should contain the title, materials, place of making, any acknowledgements, etc. In a novel, the copyright page is at the start of the book, after the title page, but traditionally in an art book, the colophon is at the back of the book -- on the last page, or incorporated into the cover. It's best to have the information attached to the book itself rather as a loose sheet or label that might be separated from the book at some point.

I say this because I constantly look at really beautiful and interesting books produced over the years and archived at the art school where I work -- and I have NO IDEA who made them...

I've only just started planning my book, and I plan to start making it SOON. I always plan a colophon space at the outset, because it's so important. Many of my less formal books have very perfunctory colophons, and that's because up to recently I haven't taken them very seriously. I'm taking this one seriously, and this is what I've come up with:

Learning Absences, 1986

A poem by Rosemary Dobson, from her Collected Poems (Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1991), reproduced by arrangement with the licensor, Rosemary Dobson, c/- Curtis Brown (Aust) Pty Ltd.

Book design and production by Ampersand Duck: handset letterpress and [...] on Kozo Light washi, handbound.

This book is part of Book Art Object, 2009

[underneath I'll sign and write the edition number: unique/ 1 of 3, whatever -- see below]

I think it's very important to ensure that '1986' is obviously part of the title, and not mistaken for the publication date. The tricky thing with this poem is that it's one of her 'uncollected' collected poems (it wasn't published before the Collected), so there's no definitive date for it other than the publication of the Collected volume.

I've also included the URL for the blog, because while I'd like to explain the project in more detail, I'd rather let others do the research if they're interested! It's probably something you can leave out if you don't want to be too wordy. And as you can see, I haven't quite decided how to produce my images yet!

Feel free to use exactly my words (changing the bit about who made it and what the book is made from and with!), or re-write it your own way, but you do have to include the part about permission: 'reproduced by ... Pty Ltd.'

If you think the colophon should be different, let us know how in the comments. I'm very open to suggestions!

A question for discussion: are we making them all unique books, or can they be in small editions if desired? I'm thinking up to 5, but that's just because I tend to print in multiples since it's always easy to print them once I'm set up...

Monday, November 2, 2009

I wonder...

How is everybody? And how are you getting on...?

I shall be the first to confess that presently my contribution to the group exists only in my imagination (although hopefully it will get into the real world very shortly). Is everyone feeling OK about the project, or is it doom and gloom all around?

You know me, I'm just nosey...