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...

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Yes, it is winter, but so far we are blessed with reasonably warm sunny days, and crisp nights. And joy of joys, we're almost up to the shortest day already! I'm not complaining about winter but I do love the days getting longer. To my delight my butchered Jacaranda tree has ignored the cold and is putting out lots of new shoots, and I think I'll just let it do its own thing rather than prune any of the shoots.
I've planted nearly 1000 bulbs this season, still a few hundred freesias to go, and the jonquils are already flowering. As are the pansies and pinks.
For the first year I've planted gerberas in many colours and of course, some old faithful primulas.
The garden is still taking a battering. First the tree loppers, then the trench right through the middle for the National Broadband Network connection ( and after weeks of waiting to be connected we remain in limbo!) and then, to add insult to injury, a row of camellias had to be removed for a new termite control trench to be put in. Oh, and my herb garden went the same way. HOWEVER my garden remains a great joy and maybe by spring it will be looking better than ever! This autumn our liquidambers (sweet gums) have really changed colour, adding a lovely and welcome glow to the borders. This one is behind the guest cottage and to the right is the purple tibouchina. Towering over everything on three sides of the property are the eucalypts, magnificent but a bit treacherous...
I did promise in my last (long ago) post that I would talk about my Keith Lo Bue workshop at Studio West End in Brisbane. One day with Keith is always a treat so four days was a feast. Adele and Wim are great hosts, the studio is beautiful, and of course, autumn in Brisbane was lovely. I'll just show a few photos that may give an idea of the atmosphere in the workshop. We started out with very tidy benches but organised chaos eventually took over. Some wonderful pieces of wearable art were made, though I don't have permission to use the photos, so you'll have to take my word for it. I do have a photo of myself wearing some "art" I made from found objects.

Here is the reason why my luggage was heavy - carrying drills, hammers, bench vice/anvil as well as many bits of metal...
Looks chaotic but in reality this was a hive of activity.
Some pieces I was working on... and my bench...

Next week I'm off to Mount Kembla to Liz Jeneid's studio for several days to do an assemblage sculpture workshop with Anita Larkin. Very exciting! Another heavy bag of tools but I'm sure I'm going to have a great week.

Posted using BlogPress from my iPad, edited 3 July 2014.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Autumn garden

Since I haven't blogged for ages, and I'm able to use the local library's wifi, I'm snatching the opportunity to put down a few words. Our internet at home has been down for ages and won't be back up for another week. Very frustrating. Thank goodness for the iPad and iPhone which work most of the time.

I know I haven't shown any photos yet of Keith Lo Bue's wonderful workshop in Brisbane but think I need my computer for that. So instead I have some photos of my autumn garden, where the bulbs are bursting forth ( and I still have several hundred to plant), the azaleas are confused about the season, and toadstools abound.

Next week, Keith Lo Bue! I promise. Oh, and I'm meant to be doing an online workshop with Michael DeMeng right now but so far have missed the first week and a half. Sigh... Fingers crossed our internet will be up before it's all over.

Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Erina NSW

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Be careful what you wish for...

My Secret Garden was seriously in shade, surrounded by overhanging branches. I had a plan, just to thin out the worst of them, loosening up the canopy, keeping the ambience and the Secrecy, but perhaps just giving me a wider selection of plantings. Seemed simple enough... So along comes the charming tree expert who takes one look, says the branches can be thinned - BUT my beloved, precious, magnificent, ancient jacaranda is seriously dangerous and must come down! Sure, it was leaning at a 40 degree angle, hanging over the fence and almost onto the road, branches were dropping frequently, and there was a massive crack along the main trunk but it was an interesting shape and magnificent when in bloom.

My first response was to argue of course, then I considered sobbing and jumping up and down on the spot but I could see that wouldn't go down well. My 8 year old grand daughter was as shocked as I, but we eventually decided to behave like adults and gave our permission. It was a dreadful day, very hot and humid, and I had to keep Peggy the Jack Russell indoors all day because she was delirious with excitement and in danger of getting squished. I couldn't watch the demolition so when the loppers finally left Peggy and I went out to find the garden transformed.

Top left, the jacaranda stump and agapanthus; top right, a 1 metre lilly now bent sideways; bottom left, my small azalea bed and ground covers almost destroyed by branches being pulled across it; bottom right, a pile of logs I still need to move.

The first impression is that the garden is now enormous. The jacaranda took up so much space lying across the garden that suddenly the big (surviving) beds of hydrangeas and azaleas seem suddenly diminished. The jacaranda has been cut off at about a metre, hopefully so that there will be regrowth that will flower. Fingers crossed!

Looking on the bright side, which I invariably do as I'm a born Pollyanna, I now have masses more room to garden! WooHoo! And now the branches have been thinned out I think my little garden/window house may be closer. All my collected windows are lined up along the fence just waiting to become a work of art. In the mean time, about 1000 bulbs will arrive in March so I'll be a busy gardener. Can't wait!

Always a welcome visitor in my garden is the native Triangle Slug. I hope it survived the lopping mayhem. The birds seem to be still around and one thing I now have room for will be more native plants to encourage more birds.

On a completely different topic, I'm going to Brisbane to Adele Outeridge's Studio West End to attend a four day workshop with Keith Lo Bue. I've wanted to do his Precious Little: Poetics of the Found-Object. This is at the end of March and I'm pretty darned excited, not only to see Keith again but to see Adele and Wim, as it is nearly 10 years since I was last there.

I'm posting this on my iPad so no links to anything. Remember I love to hear from you.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Wamberal NSW

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Happy New Year...

The first week of 2014 has slipped by and I'm guessing the rest of the month will fly. My plan to keep January free almost worked, though the diary is beginning to fill up and I can see this will be another busy year. I have no idea what people mean when they say they don't know what they will do when they retire! And as for those strange characters who get bored, well, I really don't understand that at all. The world is so full of things to do, places to go, people to see - BOOKS to read, STUFF to make, GARDENS to weed, PEOPLE to love...
A Bromeliad to bring joy to the day.

Many bloggers start off the new year with a word to guide them for that year and I'm impressed with their reasons for choosing. So many wonderful and meaningful words out there, but I think for me 'compassion' is probably the most important word, not just at the beginning of the year, but to live by, day in and out, always. (Oh dear, maybe I didn't sound too compassionate about the people who get bored! Fallen at the first hurdle!) However, I do try, and I despair at the apparent lack of compassion shown by my political leaders. And I should leave it at that, before I get out the soapbox.
A Frangipani to sooth my ruffled feathers.

Better late than never, I want to show you a couple of photos of the fabulous vegan Christmas dinner I had with Suzy, Tracy and Basil Beagle in Bundeena. Suzy invented a vegan Festive Roast to be sold in her shop 'Suzy Spoon's Vegetarian Butcher' - and was rushed off her feet with orders. We cooked one a couple of days before Christmas with my family at home and we all really enjoyed it, so I was looking forward to another a few days later. Baked in the oven with lashings of roasted vegetables - beetroot, potatoes, parsnips, carrots, sweet potato, pumpkin - and covered in gravy - this was a brilliant roast dinner and I must say I'm very, very proud of Suzy's creations.
Beetroot glistening amongst the vegetables and the roast as it came out of the oven.
Slices of Suzy's Festive Roast, vegetables and gravy.

This week at home has been pretty hot, though not as scorching as some parts of Australia. The garden has been in need of watering and as we have a lot of garden I've been kept busy shifting hoses. The preschool next door very generously (I think?) gave us two huge bunnies in a fancy bunny condominium, apparently for us to keep forever and ever. The children are thrilled, though Peggy, the Jack Russell, couldn't believe her eyes, and either quivers with excitement or hides and watches from afar. No decent photos so far because their pen has tacky mesh everywhere, but I'm going to inflict a couple of dodgy photos on you.
Big bunny, very pretty, very cuddly.
Big bunny, also pretty but very stroppy.

While I'm on the subject of guests, we had a visitation the other day. Two Emperor Gum Moths, huge, stunning, totally different colours. Just gorgeous.
Yes, those are cobwebs! No danger to such big moths but a trap for small players.

The garden is full of flowers but the heat has faded many of them, especially the Hydrangeas.
The Abutilons (Chinese Lanterns) are flowering though the chooks enjoy digging around them, moving the mulch and baring roots!
Remember my blue cicadas? Strangely we have never seen a blue cicada in daylight, which makes me think they change colour as they dry out. This is what I think they become. 'Think' is the operative word until I have a proper discussion with my favourite entomologists.
And Peggy gets the last word. This is her ball and she proudly struggles to carry it around in her mouth. Have a wonderful 2014 and like Peggy, don't be afraid to take on something BIG this year.