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.