Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Happy New Year...

My dear friends, I do wish you all a very happy New Year, full of love and laughter, good health and good fellowship, with lots of wonderful opportunities to make art or do whatever makes you happy, and there's that ever present wish for peace in our troubled times.
Well, I almost missed Christmas, although I managed to send out some newsy emails. But no Christmas tree up, no Christmas cards, no letters to those not on emails - I will get to the letters soon I hope and I'm very aware of the empty place where the tree usually stands. Plenty of excuses, most to do with getting older, but they all sound pretty lame now so I won't inflict them on you. In spite of that, we had a wonderful Christmas Day with family and friends, the children were delightful, and the food excellent. There was plenty to appease the meat eaters but I was pleased to find that they also loved the Festive Roast from Suzy Spoon's Vegetarian Butcher. Just as last year, it was delicious, and this year Suzy made over 400 of them! With vegan gravy, baked potatoes and several salads, it was a real winner.
On Boxing Day Suzy took me down to her house in Bundeena in the Royal National Park and I had some quality time with Basil, my Grandpup, and the chooks, Marilyn and Bob. Here is Basil Beagle recovering from Christmas!
There is a constant stream of birds coming to be fed, and though the cockatoos are discouraged by the humans, because of the damage they do to the timber work on the house, pairs of doves and lorrikeets are allowed to share with the chooks. This actually means the chooks tolerate them, just, but they won't allow the cockies near their food. This is Marilyn wearing her cross face.
I'm having a great time with the three kidlets during the 6 week summer holidays. Lots of painting, lots of mess, cutting, pasting, writing stories and poems, baking biscuits (cookies), growing crystals, swimming, playing, shopping and just lying around when the temperature gets too high. Oh, and I've unearthed the card games I had as a child and we are playing Old Maid, Comic Families, Schwartzer Peter, Go Fish and Uno - instead of watching TV. And Monopoly. I need to find Scrabble and we'll be set. My mother played all these games with me and then my children, so my son is very pleased to see his children playing with the same sets of cards that he remembers so well.

When I have a moment, and when it's not too hot, I do what I can in the parched garden. Last autumn I bought a Western Australian Eucalypt, hoping to get really red blossom, and to my delight it has flowered this summer, just as red as I had imagined. Only about a metre tall at the moment, it produced several branches of flowers and with any luck there will be some nice big gumnuts for crafting.
There was quite a garden disaster in November when a major branch fell straight off the huge eucalypt in my Secret Garden. A metre or so to the left and it would have whacked in the side of the house and luckily no one was in the garden because gum trees are not called 'widow makers' for nothing. Never, ever, set up your bush camp under a eucalypt. It did a bit of damage to the part of the garden it landed on, smashing and smothering a few things but a friend came in with his chain saw to cut it up, and my gardener used the bigger logs as borders for garden beds. I was in Queensland at the time so was surprised to receive a wordless text with a photo of the enormous branch across my beloved garden.
In spite of my neglect my garden thrives. Also thriving is a family of bandicoots, nocturnal diggers of grubs, and excavators of ankle breaking holes. Small native marsupials, they are very welcome in my garden but I do wish they'd keep their holes to the actual beds and not throughout the lawn. A hole as wide as a tea cup and up to 10" deep is quite a trap to the unwary. They don't eat mushrooms it seems, as these come up quite prolifically. Possibly edible but I haven't put it to the test.
I've recently bought some strawberries with very pretty pink flowers. I thought they may be purely ornamental but they are putting out quite large berries and they look pretty much like an ordinary strawberry. I'll be interested to try them when ripe, that's if the possums or flying foxes don't get there first.
Our undercover outdoor living area has become the place to be this summer and the pizza oven is just fabulous. The pool is right there, the snooker table set up, and if it wasn't for the mosquitoes I think we'd all sleep out there.
Peggy thinks life is just one long party and loves the visitors but she also needs her rest after helping with the cooking.
Hmmm... No art, no craft, no books. I think I'll have to get back to work. Until then, walk positively into this beautiful new year!

Friday, 7 November 2014

Gardens, new books and hammers

I think this must be my longest gap without posting. Lots of excuses of course, though none seem valid enough to actually put into print. So, off I go.

My trip to New Zealand was abandoned sadly, and from all accounts I missed a great conference. I will give links to it in my next post.

I think first I'll just show you some springtime garden photos. Spring veers from summer to almost winter, usually on the same day, but the garden has really enjoyed the weather - and so have the weeds. Hippeastrums, Wisteria, Peggy in the garden, and my tomatoes:

I've indulged in some more new books! No room on the shelves but that doesn't daunt me of course...
Nothing makes me happpier than books! Unless it's my grand children.
 The Art Abandonment Project, Michael deMeng and Andrea Matus deMeng. Read about it here.
The Spirit Books, Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord. Here to read about the Spirit Books..
 The Jewelry Maker's Design Book, Deryn Mentock. More here.
The Jeanne d'Arc Living Magazine, a gift from Art is You Down Under. See Jeanne d'Arc here.
Paint Mojo, Tracy Verdugo. LOVE! Here.
Brave Intuitive Painting, Flora Bowly. Link here.
 The Mixed Media Artist, Seth Apter. Book here. And Seth's DVD (have that too) here.

My favourite book of all was released in October - Suzy Spoon's Vegetarian Kitchen. Yes, my Suzy's cook book is out and we are very happy with it. Selling well... First photo is the seitan skewers I made and barbequed from the book. The meat eaters loved them. So did I. Link. And link for the book.

Now for my hammers. I'm kind of a compulsive buyer of saws and hammers. I just love the look of them and last weekend I found a couple of new ones. This shows just a few of my hammers.
And here is a closer look at my copper hammer. Looks gorgeous and well used. If anyone would like to tell me about it, I'd love to hear.
Well, lots of pictures, not much news but I am hammering and reading a lot. And trying to garden, aching body willing. Off to the countryside for a few days, leaving the garden in the tender hands of my family. I'll try to avoid bushfires and floods... both possibilities. Drought is a given. It just depends on which way I head.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Art is You Mixed Media Retreats Down Under

Big title but even bigger experience! For the first time Art is You is holding workshops in NSW, Victoria and Queensland. Right now it's on in Vic but last week was NSW's turn. Four fabulous days of workshops, special events and Art Trunk at Mercure Rafferty's Resort, situated on the shores of the Central Coast's beautiful Lake Macquarie, which is four times the size of Sydney Harbour.
With experience of running 11 years of Art is You in the US with Ellen Legare, Australian Sallianne McClelland, definitely a local girl, has introduced this amazing art retreat to Australia. Sal has brought four North American artists - Seth Apter, Andrea Matus deMeng, Michael deMeng and Kecia Deveny. Brilliant people. Also there's a bunch of Australian artists, some going to the three states, others teaching at their local events. In NSW we met Keith Lo Bue, Jen Crossley, Lovely Linda Lucas, Holly Eva and Jane Davenport. My classes were with Andrea, Seth, Michael and Keith. All fabulous and eye opening. The only disappointment was that enrolments were a bit low, but on the upside, we got fantastic classes and didn't have to share our teachers with too many other people.  Here's a little commentary and quite a lot of photos.
My first day was spent with Andrea Metus deMeng from Vancouver, beautiful, gentle and oh, so talented. Here is Andrea, Kaye Bicknell and Anne Squire. We are Collaging the Translucent, using transparent items to build up a picture. I used a photo of my father, Bruce, an artist and flower grower, and made this object, not quite finished yet.
My second day was with Seth Apter, from New York, and an artist I have been following and emailing for years. A great treat to finally meet him! The class was the Mixed Media Dossier and as I had never done much in the way of painting I was slightly apprehensive about using my wonderful Golden acrylics in a variety of mixed media techniques for creating layers, texture, and dimension. It turned out to be an exhilarating experience and Seth was a joy to be with. As I had expected, of course.
These are the metamorphosis of my pages, starting top left as virginal, and going clockwise until they were gleaming and quite amazingly transformed. Here we are with our finished Mixed Media Dossiers - Meg, Kaye, Carol, Seth, Linda and Annette. I took all the pics on my iPad, so they are fuzzy. Should have used the iPhone...
 Day three was with Michael deMeng, Vancouverite, and another person I've been following for years. I wasn't surprised to find that Michael in the flesh is just as wonderful and crazy as Michael online. And like the others, generous and inspiring and encouraging. The class was to make a Patron Saint of Discarded Objects, a subject I found daunting but impossible to ignore. I took a bunch of bits and pieces and with Michael's encouragement I've started my Patron Saint. It happens to be an elephant I've painted purple so I'm not sure where it's going next but it will evolve. The elephant may not stay purple. Who knows? The purple is not traditionally deMengian but it has a long way to go.
There was an evening class on day three and I've pinched the description - "Let found-object jeweler Keith Lo Bue take you into the world of submerging organic materials into pools of epoxy and polyester resins, learning the tips and tricks to get fascinating and beautiful one-of-a-kind imagery." This was great fun, and the three hour class just flew by. It was so good that I didn't remember to take photos but next morning found this spoon that I'd embedded with some tiny keys. I think I'm in love with resin... The pliers are keeping the spoon level.
Day four was spent with Keith again, Forging, which I'd done before but wanted to get better at whacking wire with a hammer.  I actually finished something completely in this class and I came away very pleased with myself. Thanks Keith, for a wonderful day.
I think the rest of my photos are of The Tribe. It was sad to leave them, though I was so tired that I may not have survived another day. Absolutely so worth it though!
This is my personal tribe: Hope Nesmith and Meg Mitsuhasi Nakagawa, Meg my housemate and Hope our very generous driver. Hope is a Central Coast weaver and jewellery maker and Meg is a weaver from Nelson, NZ. Such wonderful friends...
The Welcoming Committee: Jen Crossley, Lovely Linda Lucas, and Sallianne McClelland, without whom nothing would happen. Ready to welcome, hand out the hand made name tags and other fabulous gifts. A lovable lot!
The Crew: Max in front with Sal, (second row) Keith, Kecia, Jen, Michael, (back row) Jane, Andrea, Seth and Linda.
You can see what a serious event this was. Jane, Michael and Linda about to savage Seth!
Smiling but really sad to say goodby. Jen Crossley, Meg and Lovely Linda.
And this is where it all happened. On the shores of Lake Macquarie, with pelicans and kookaburras keeping watch and really, being a great advertisment for the beautiful NSW Central Coast. Where I'm lucky enough to live.

Right now Art is You is on in Melbourne and next week will move to Brisbane. Not too late to go to Brisbane if you think you'd like to. Thank you Sallianne for having the courage to bring this roadshow to Australia and many thanks to all the teachers.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Anita Larkin workshop

Last week I spent the most enjoyable 8 days, counting travelling time, with a group of like-minded people who really love to turn so-called junk into interesting sculptures. Anita Larkin, our tutor, is an acclaimed found object assemblage sculptor and it was a privilege to be in her class.  I had no idea what to expect and my usual shyness had me considering whether to abandon the whole idea and stay at home. The workshop was to be held in Liz Jeneid's studio and I had opted to stay in Liz's home for the duration. Fortunately, email conversations with Liz calmed my fears and within five minutes of arriving at Mount Kembla I was wrapped in the warmth and hospitality of both Liz and her partner Graham Bartholomew.
The house and studio is set on a beautiful parcel of land, hilly, grassed and treed, with horses wandering around adding to the agricultural feel, but once you reach the studio you are immediately immersed in the peaceful atmosphere that I think is Liz's hallmark.
For three days we worked with Anita whose initial approach was an eyeopener to most of us. Anita emptied out a huge heap of "stuff" onto the central table and told us to play. We'd each brought a load of potential treasures with us, and these we'd set out on our work spaces, but here we were being offered even more options, and with the instruction to let our hair down and not to be too precious about it.
I took the words "not to be precious" about my treasures very seriously. I'm pretty sure that what always holds me back from creating is my inability to let go of favourite objects, so I made an instant decision to cut up something I had clung to for many years. I'd brought an old sickle blade, rusted and curled at one end. With help from Anita I sawed it in half and then made two items from it. Neither yet finished but that will happen. One half is attached to a burn palm frond, the other has been bogged to a rusty wheel. Both objects in transition - and I learned that I could give a little to make more...
After three days of making, we had a day off. Most of us went searching the South Coast for tip shops, junk shops, anywhere we could find trash and treasure. What a satisfying day! I went adventuring with Liz Hutchinson and we filled her car with old tools, bits of metal and timber, jars of nuts and bolts... LizH generously offered to drive me home at the end of the workshop, which meant I could collect more than if I'd been going home by train. We ended the day with a visit to the Wollongong Art Gallery to see an exhibition of found object sculptures, including one by Anita Larkin. I will put photos of the exhibition in my next blog post.
We were treated to a demonstration of this amazing 3 metre, felted musical instrument made by Anita. Three musicians are required to play it, here Anita and Rachael are pressing the notes and Mark Holder-Keeping, the composer, is actually providing the wind. The notes were clear, musical and pleasant. A short film was made on the day and will be exhibited with the instrument as it goes on tour.
Above is one view of the studio with LizH working...
From top left, clockwise: Estelle Virgen, PaulK, LizH & Anita.
Difficult to take photos because of the plethora of materials in the background but here above are some examples of the very clever items produced by Estelle Virgen.
Cherry Corr's organic/mechanical object was meticulously built and it was fascinating to watch it come to life under her hands. I apologise that the photo can't do it justice.
The top photos above are of Liz Hutchinson's reworked clock and sculpture of timber and metal. The lower photos are of Rachael Cheeseman working and her pods. Rachael began with a story in mind and made her sculpture to tell the story.

Jan Kierzkowski worked on these figures above. Jan has a charming blog, do have a look.
Paul Kierzkowski with his mermaid. Jan and Paul had a magical stash and I couldn't help feeling a tiny pang of envy.
My own sculptures were quite varied. As well as my sickle pieces, I made a couple of box pieces, two possible brooches (see the fishy one) and several totem poles.
Packing up, and packing the car were quite hilarious feats but we did it. Saying goodbye was filled with affection, gratitude and tinged with regret. Liz and Graham were the perfect hosts, Graham was incredibly generous to two shed hunters, Anita is an inspired teacher and our group of students were filled with enthusiasm for the found object. Thank you so much, Liz H, for taking me to my door - we had a great time together.
If I've got anyone's name wrong, or any details, please let me know and I'll do an edit. Please leave a comment...