Monday, 23 December 2013

Christmas greetings...

Christmas greetings to all my readers, friends, family, new visitors to my blog!

Some of you will remember my little vintage tree, brought to Australia from Vienna by my mother in 1931. Now threadbare, I think it would have been binned long ago if it hadn't been in the possession of such a sentimental family as mine. Many of the glass decorations came with the tree in 1931 but there have been additions every decade since then, and for most of them I remember when my Nana, or my mother, or I collected them. (Not, I hasten to add those in the 1930s!)

Each year I'm very tempted to leave the tree up forever... I don't have any customary beliefs about when the tree should go up or come down, and as I get older I tend to wish to surround myself with the objects I particularly love. Books, family treasures, my Christmas tree...

To you all, my very best wishes for a wonderful Christmas and holiday season, and may 2014 bring us all what we most need, may be it peace, love, joy, and especially good health. Goodwill and compassion to all can only be a good thing.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Cicada mania hits Wamberal

Apology is needed here for some dodgy photos but my excuse is that I was juggling my iPhone and a torch and not doing it very well. It occurred to me hours later that I should have swapped hands and I may have had more success so I'll try that next time. I have been in love with cicadas since I was a small child. In those far off days we often called them locusts, quite inaccurately as they aren't related to locusts at all, and it was the custom of some of the real "old-timers" to call them cicadees. Whatever their name, to me they were magical insects, with an amazing life history and of a most satisfactory and manageable size to a small girl who was obsessed with the natural world.
A Black Prince, unfortunately in a deceased state. A late cicada.

Last year was almost entirely devoid of cicadas. They were all around us, shrilling and drumming, but not in our garden. I was devastated. I wondered what had happened 6 or 7 years ago (before we moved in) that may have killed them off. The few that appeared had deformed wings and it was very distressing to see them trying to fly. Our local cicadas spend about 6 years underground, unlike the US ones that seem to have 13 or 17 year cycles.
A newly emerged Green Grocer.

However, last night was a thrilling cicada event. Early in the evening little Jack Russell Peggy became very excited by the tiny holes that were appearing in the ground. She sat riveted to the spot, concentrating, and I think listening to the movements underground. Now and then she'd do a bit of frenzied digging but without success. About 8pm, on a very warm and balmy evening, the little brown nymphs began digging their way out. Very soon the ground around the trees had dozens of cicadas laboriously crawling, and as it got darker it was very necessary to keep the torch aimed at the ground in order not to step on them. Then they started to climb, on the trees, fence posts, garden furniture, barbed wire and metal. Not fussy, as long as they could get a grip. Once secured, the emerging process began.
A Green Grocer emerging to show off those beautiful wings.
A Blue Moon, new to me, so very thrilling, emerges. I've never seen this cicada before but having read about it today it seems to be a bit rare but still well known. Last night there were dozens of them! Can you imagine me, trying to take photos in the dark with my iPhone, while bouncing with excitement, and desperate not to stand on any cicadas still making their way to the trees.

This morning a quick recce of the garden showed that all had either fully emerged or been an easy breakfast for the baby Currawongs in a nearby nest. There were hundreds of split and discarded cicada cases, much to the delight of the children. Fia found a couple of dead cicadas, (one the pictured Black Prince) destined for a shallow garden grave where the ants can find them.
A Green Grocer with its split casing, and another smaller nymph still to start the emerging process.

I'm still hopeful of finding some other favourite cicadas, such as the Yellow Monday, Cherry Nose, Bladder Cicada and the Floury Baker. There are about 2500 different cicadas world wide and I think maybe 250 in Australia. What a cool insect!
A Blue Moon that chose to emerge on a piece of barbed wire! Soooo beautiful!

Well, now you know another of my favourite things. Sorry about the poor quality of the photos and I hope I haven't freaked anyone out with my cicadas.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

String theory, Primavera, and other wonderful things

Last week saw the celebrations for Navy Fleet Week. The Review is being held to commemorate the centenary of the first entry of the Royal Australian Navy's Fleet into Sydney. On 4 October 1913 the flagship, HMAS Australia, led the new Australian Fleet Unit comprising HMA Ships Melbourne, Sydney, Encounter, Warrego, Parramatta and Yarra into Sydney Harbour for the first time to be greeted by thousands of cheering citizens lining the foreshore. This was a moment of great national pride and importance, one recognised as a key indicator of Australia's progress towards national maturity. One hundred years later a huge visiting fleet of warships and tall ships (oh, and Prince Harry) came to mark the occasion with much pomp and ceremony, and of course with a whopping display of the famed Sydney fireworks. Although I'm a bit fireworked out after many years of watching us shooting pretty pollution into the sky, I must say even I was impressed.

So, with my friend GB, I went down to the Harbour's edge to sit in the cafe of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), ostensibly to eat food and drink wine, but also to take in Sydney Harbour in the midst of all the comings and goings of big ships, small ships and tall ships. I actually enjoyed the small ships best, the Sydney Harbour Ferries, varied in style and size, but all buzzing importantly in and out from Circular Quay. The view from the front doors of the MCA is wonderful.
The MCA is probably my favourite art gallery  in Sydney, though I'm a bit fickle and easily swayed. However, I don't think I've ever been disappointed by a visit to the MCA and on this occasion we were planning to take in the exhibition string theory. This link has many bios of the artists.
["‘string theory’ is a scientific term that speculates on the theory of everything. In this exhibition, we take it to mean the open-ended expansion and connections of ideas, stories and techniques." and "string theory, showing at the MCA 16 August – 27 October 2013 presents a wide range of artworks by over 30 of Aboriginal artists working with expanded notions of textile and craft traditions. Source: MCA websites]

Here are some of the works I particularly liked/loved/was impressed by. The first is a rush matt by Steven Russell. Rainbow Serpent 2013. I've always wanted one of these on my wall. Small chance.
More handmade string, absolutely beautiful and incorporating bird feathers, strung out around the gallery or on wooden reels. So tactile and desirable. Actually Mo Crow bought some, as she tells here on her blog post. I couldn't find any to buy but I do have some Pacific Island string from Funafuti so I can be happy with that. Raki by Lipaki Marlaypa [1932-]. Yirrakala, Northeastern Arnhem Land, Northern Territory.

Jimmy Pike/Desert Designs : Founded 1985/relaunched 2012. Jimmy Pike [c1940-2002] of the Walmajarri people. (This above is not a great link but at least gives a resume of his life.) Digitally printed silk crepe de chine. I've loved Jimmy Pike's Desert Designs since the 80s and still have a Jimmy Pike shirt from that era. This fabric hung from the ceiling and was just magnificent.
 This next is a wonderful figure from a much larger group of figures, trees, and their shadows. These were constructed by the Tjanpi Desert Weavers. Established 1995 by the Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara (NPY) Women's Council; NPY Lands, Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia. NPY language groups.
I was so impressed with the art works of these women that I bought (for Suzy) the very beautiful book that tells the stories of the women in their own words, sometimes in their languages as well as English, and is most generously illustrated. I knew Suzy would love the book - especially as work is taking all her time and visits to art galleries will be something to look forward to way in the future. This is the cover of the book. It warms my heart each time I look at it.
I very much liked the work of Laurie Nilsen [1953-] Manadandanji people. This is We used to catch fish 2013, mixed media.
A most stunning art work was the sculpture by Vicki West [1960-], an Aboriginal artist of the Trawlwoolway people from the North-East region of Tasmania. plamtenner/gathering 2013. Bull kelp, kangaroo skin, wallaby skin, tea tree, string. This absolutely glowed!
Also at the MCA was Primavera 2013 Young Australian Artists. This is an annual exhibition showcasing the work of young Australian artist aged 35 and under. This year eight artists were featured and here is just one of them, the cascading porcelain forms of Juz Kitzon [1987-] Sydney. Changing skin 2013.Beautiful and creepy at one and the same time...
This has taken me forever to compose, mainly because I've watched a performance of Carmen at the same time. I was fortunate to be taken to the theatre from a very young age and Carmen was my first opera. I was about 7, my dad took me, and we sat in a very ornate box looking down on the stage. I had seen quite a few plays, ballets and pantomimes, and I knew the music of Carmen, but this performance left a lasting impression on me. So, I've had a pleasant afternoon, writing to you, listening to marvellous music (and sneaking peeks), and, possibly best of all, staying cool in my darkened house while the temperature soared to an unreasonable 34C - in spring! Our crazy, wonderful planet!

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

A little rust and a lot of art

I've been out into the country briefly and come home laden with wonderfully rusty old tools and implements, and a couple of nice old (very old) boxes. On the right is a wonderful old two-man saw with very interesting teeth. It really is very easy to make me happy!
I'm spending about five days a fortnight at Suzy Spoon's Vegetarian Butcher, mostly helping in the kitchen where the hot orders are cooked, or in the preparation kitchen where the sausages, burger patties and schnitzels are made. Long days, but very enjoyable. I'm not tied to the kitchen sink (whew!) so I'm free to wander around Newtown, one of the most interesting shopping areas in Sydney. Very alternative and I love it.

On one of my excursions I took myself to Carriageworks, within walking distance of Suzy's shop. This was the venue for Sydney Contemporary 13, Sydney's new international art fair. Carriageworks (once part of the railyards of Sydney) is massive and in the four hours I was at the fair I think I probably saw about one third of the exhibition. I have way too many photos, many I can't identify, but I'll show you some of my favourites that I have found names for. I have long been very interested in New Zealand art and was pleased to find a range of favourite NZ artists. This is a detail from Bill Hammond's Midnight in the Mountains series.
This is one of Max Gimblett's quatrefoil series, a lush and luminous work. Max is one of my art heroes, from way back. A lovely man.
Not a Kiwi but at this exhibition presented by Auckland's Gow Langford Gallery, Damien Hirst's butterflies were stunning and unsettling. One painting is made up of real butterflies - wings and bodies - and as with much of Hirst's work, has caused distress to animal lovers. I think this is a painting, one of four on display and they were glorious but I couldn't help making sure I got as much reflection from the factory-like windows as possible. Perhaps a Damien Hirst butterfly making a gettaway?
This hanging installation by Lyndi Sales is titled Vesica Piscus, huge radiant perspex discs catching the light. This was just one of many works by Lindi Sales and I loved her precision, particularly in cut paper works.
Difficult to photograph, and one of a group of architectural forms by Daniel Agdag, these beautifully intricate girders are made of cardboard, cut with a scalpel and placed in hand blown glass domes. This one is titled The Decline, 2013, and measures 58.5 x 30.5 cm.
Chang'An Avenue detail 2013. One of 12 street lights by Liu Zhuoquan, which replicate streetlamps found along Beijing's Avenue of Eternal Peace. The crows are painted inside each glass shade of the lamps, painted with meticulous detail. The 12 lamps, dimly lit, were extremely beautiful.
For sheer sumptuousness, the contemporary folded screens of Maio Motoko could not be bettered. Using the traditional double hinge, and an amazing array of surface materials, these screens are completely stunning. I spent so long just looking, and still looking, that it's not surprising I didn't get right around the rest of the exhibition. There was so much to see here for a book binder, just getting my head around the hinging was a delight. Definitely one of my favourites.
Another favourite, and another that I spent a long time examining. Almost impossible to get a decent photograph as they were badly displayed on a desk full of gallery bits and pieces. This is a set of metal forms by Peter Zappa. If I could have afforded them I would have bought them in a heartbeat. However, sadly, they were way out of my price range...
Last, but certainly not least, is one of the few traditional Aboriginal artworks on display, though those that were there were wonderful. This painting is attributed to Jack Karedada, untitled (Wandjina) c. 1971. Earth pigments on Eucalyptus bark, 145.5 x 67 cm. Courtesy of the artist.
Mo Crow has a lovely post about this same exhibition here. Do have a look. Mo has links to many other interesting artists I haven't mentioned here.

Sorry I'm only managing one post a month. I have plenty I want to say but actually getting to sit at my desktop is becoming more and more difficult. Thanks for sticking with me, I do love to get your comments.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Hardly. Ever. Home...

Yesterday's post has vanished into a black hole so I'm trying again. As my title says, I'm hardly ever home these days, dashing from Sydney to Gloucester to Newcastle to Bundeena, and back to Sydney, with the odd night spent at Wamberal, where I desperately try to catch up with my emails. I'm off again in a couple of hours, on my way back to Newtown (and Bundeena) for a few days to help Suzy in her shop. And that's my big news - Suzy Spoon's Vegetarian Butcher has opened and is going brilliantly. So much so that they keep selling all their product and are flat out keeping up the production. The shop looks wonderful and is getting some great reviews.
I'm enjoying doing my bit, filling in wherever needed, helping the chef, packing and labelling product, and doing the washing up. Very exhausting, (could it be that I'm a bit long in the tooth for working in a cafe?), but very enjoyable and pretty exciting to see the enthusiastic response from the customers. Those same customers are able to look into the production room where they can see sausages, burger patties and schnitzels coming into being. Suzy, Kenni and Tracy perform their magic. I'm looking forward to a schnitzel burger tonight!
Where else have I been? To Jen's lovely property at Tibbuc, near Gloucester NSW. Jen has put the farm on the market so if you are interested in living in paradise, just have a look at this. Just glorious!
Jen and I went to Newcastle for the weekend and had a couple of nights in the luxury of Noah's on the Beach. We also enjoyed some meals in Noah's restaurant, Jonah's, with its beautiful view over the beach. This was the scene at breakfast.
When I spend my days in Newtown at the shop I spend my nights in Bundeena at Suzy's and Tracy's house by the beach. Last week I managed a few hours there to spend time with Basil Beagle and the chooks, to walk on the beach and to chat with the wildlife. This is a Sulphur Crested Cockatoo who has lost a foot to fishing line left on the beach. He is otherwise healthy but this is a terrible blow for a wild animal and the reason I trek along beaches collecting rubbish.
Within a few seconds on the beach I found this dangerous collection, just a tiny amount of what may  be found in abundance any day on any beach. Each and every piece a death trap. We. Are. SO. Careless.
Just to end, a photo of Cilla in her onesie. Apparently this is a fashion going gang busters with adults at the moment, to my amazement, and I want to know if any of my readers are onesie wearers.
This made Eddie laugh. Me too.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Melted crayon art with kids, and more...

I've been looking at melted crayon art online and this past weekend we had a go. Not sure how it would work, I'd bought a cheap $2 box of crayons and a book of water colour paper. I already had a heat gun (of course). The crayons surprised me - they melted easily and the colours were quite vivid, but the downside was that the wrappers, which had to be removed, (or so I thought at the time,) were incredibly hard to peel off. We ended up with hundreds of tiny scraps of paper, everywhere. Our first effort on water colour paper was a disaster. The paper curled from the heat and the wax left a nasty grey blur around the edges. Into the bin for that one. We pulled out a $1 stretched canvas and that was much more successful as you can see. Eddie excitedly said "That's a cupcake with a candle on top", so that's what it is.
The children then rushed to find canvases they'd already painted, in order to add some wax. From top left clockwise: Eddie's, the group cupcake, Sophia's, and Lucilla's. Much to my relief no child or grandmother was harmed in spite of the hot wax and the heat gun in use. Whew! Next time we'll try putting the crayons into the hot glue gun!
Triumphant hot wax artists! Perhaps triumphant isn't the right word for this photo...
I'm doing Keith Lo Bue's on line class Poetry in Motion, making mobiles and stabiles a la Alexander Calder. As usual, I'm lagging way behind, mainly because I am an expert at breaking the tiny drill bits needed, but also because I'm away from home a lot. (Tomorrow I'm off to Gloucester and Newcastle for 4 or 5 days to visit friends, go to a male choir recital and maybe even the Stitches and Craft Show.) But back to making things. My son, Andy, has made me a great outdoor workbench, so that I can hammer as much as I like outside, instead of in my inside studio. Andy recently found me some vintage vice/anvils, and two of them are attached to the bench. As you can see it is right beside some of my collection of lanterns and other rusty stuff. And cobwebs.
Just a close up view of my wonderful anvil.
And the very old vice with tiny anvil.
Oh, and Poetry in Motion is just fabulous! Keith is a gifted and generous teacher and as if that wasn't enough, he's also hilarious.

It's winter here down under, but you'd hardly know it. Chilly at night, which is lovely, but the days, with a couple of exceptions, are warm enough for t-shirts, and the garden is getting a bit confused. Buds are appearing early and I'm hoping we don't have a sudden cold snap to burn them off. There are even some baby birds around, chirping madly. My azaleas are thriving, which is as it should be right now, the cliveas are bursting out and the bromeliads glow with their amzing pink and blue spikes.
A visitor this week was the Black Jezabel butterfly, a female. Just gorgeous!
The chooks are enjoying the garden too, scratching everywhere, including new plantings, but doing a great job removing snails and slugs. I love this follow the leader thing they do. Lizzie in front, Ginger and Ruby II. Two more out of shot. All still laying well, I don't think they've noticed it's winter so far.
And just because I'm really excited, I'm popping in a photo of Suzy's new shop. Suzy Spoon's Vegetarian Butcher is ready to open, just waiting for the Water Board to give her a new water meter and thus the go-ahead. Yes, this photo of a cow's head is unusual for a vegetarian shop but there is nothing usual about Suzy Spoon. For one thing she has a great sense of humour and her take on the cow's head, so often a feature in 'real' butchers' shops, is that we don't eat cows so this cow is an honoured visitor in her shop. The cow actually has a sign saying "I'm a vegetarian!" 24 King Street, Sydney, corner of King and Queen Streets. Cool address.

 And for those wondering why it is called a Vegetarian Butcher, Suzy makes vegetarian sausages, schnitzels, bacon, pies, burgers - in fact, almost anything that she is asked for. And if you're wondering why a vegetarian would want to eat a sausage, well, why not. Sure, we eat lots of fruit and vegetables, in many delicious ways, but there is no rule that says we we have to stick with salads and steamed vegetables. My favourite food has always been Wiener schnitzel but now I can eat it, and Suzy's version is delicious, knowing that no animal has died for my dinner.  I don't mind who else eats meat, I just don't want to. Suzy's vegetarian cookbook is off to the publisher soon as a first draft and hopefully by mid 2014 the book will be published, chock full of great vegetarian and vegan recipes.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Binding, assemblage and Aussie birds

I've just spent a most enjoyable afternoon helping my artist friend Ray Maclachlan make a new sketchbook. [Do look at Ray's blog, not only because his water colours are delightful, but also because he paints on the NSW Central Coast, where I live. So if you are wondering just how truly gorgeous it is here, check out Ray's paintings.] Back to the sketchbook. I decided we should make a coptic and for a while there I think Ray thought it was just too fiddly, but he quickly got the hang of using four needles at once and with a lot of laughter we managed to get the book finished in two hours.
Above, just waiting to attach the back cover. Below, Ray with his new sketchbook. Ray will cover the bare boards with some of his water colours.
While I'm showing you Ray's book I'll add one of mine from the very early days of my binding career.  This one was given to my very dear friend Jen, who has used it for many years as a visitor's book, so I'm able to watch how it is holding up over the years. Very well, I'm pleased to say.

In a few days I'm starting Keith Lo Bue's on line workshop Poetry in Motion, making mobiles and stabiles in the style of the wonderful Alexander Calder. Do check out this link. In preparation for Poetry in Motion I've been sorting all my metal working equipment and gathering bits and pieces to use. Scraps of metal, plastic, wood - and I've bought some plastic dragons to try to make a mobile for Eddie. Though that's a secret, okay? Sophia took a great interest in the metal bits/junk, and asked could she make something, saying she thinks she wants to be an assemblage artist! Gosh, so do I!
This is Sophia's first attempt at assemblage, which she has attached to a canvas, to be decorated. She painted the white borders on the brass daisies. Eddie sat at the table and almost immediately made this:
It is, of course, a dragon. Dragons and dinosaurs are the animals of Eddie's choice. As quickly as he'd made it Eddie dismantled his dragon and was off to do some drawing. Lucilla announced that she was going to be an artist who paints. No metal for her.
Part of my recent "loot" was a $2 bucket of really dirty balls - billiard, pool, snooker? Not sure, maybe all of them. 51 balls! Now I'm trying to decide what to make of them.

We've recently had a couple of weeks of torrential rain and down in the Royal National Park the birds were sodden and bedraggled. The girls don't like to feed the wild birds but during this dreadful weather they relented as the Sulphur Crested Cockatoos and Rainbow Lorrikeets clustered around their door, looking pathetic. Notice the two Rainbow Lorrikeets perched on the chair on the back left - they were absolutely soaked. They had their turn at the seed after the cockies were chased off.
Here's another little fellow from that day. A Rainbow Lorrikeet with attitude. How lucky are we to have such stunning birds around?
That's it for now. If you'd like to follow me on Pinterest I'm there under Carol Cantrell. Lots of books, paper arts, assemblage and of course, dogs.