Thursday, March 29, 2007

printing & binding

I keep complaining about being overworked and then neglecting to show you what I'm working on. Some of this is because I rarely think about using the camera in the thick of it, and some of it is sheer couldn't-be-arsedness. But that's not the attitude to have as a blogger, is it? My bad. So here is a sample of the things I've done today.


Editioning prints

I'm editioning an artist book by GW Bot. That is, she's done all the prints, and I'm printing the text. This is a delightful job that should really have been done at the end of last year, but thanks to my dodgy insides I had to postpone a lot of work, and I'm spending about the first third of this year catching up.

There are a few problems to work around on a daily basis; I've printed all the easy pages, and now I'm having to be resourceful with Bot's creative registration (which means that her prints aren't always in the same place on every sheet). There's one page where she has lots of lines running along the page, and I have to get the letters in between the lines...

Letterpress line dancing

but the lines aren't always at the same height or aren't always the same thickness. And because she's printed it first, I don't get many chances to make mistakes, or the edition will get smaller.

So I've developed a system where I print onto an onionskin paper (tougher than tissue but translucent enough to be handy) and use it to check my positioning. It's probably an age-old trick, but I'm pretty happy to have fallen upon it by myself.

testing alignment

I should finish printing three copies of the entire book by the end of the weekend if I'm lucky, and then I will bind them next week so that Bot can take the books to London with her. She wants a cased-in binding (ie, a hardback) of Tapa paper laminated onto bookcloth, which will be fiddly but beautiful. I'll do the other 16 copies while she's away, at a more leisurely pace. I'll show you more later as I get on to it.


I'm being a bookbinding student at night this year, because I just couldn't seem to fit it into my days, and I love it too much to relinquish it. Plus I see it as professional development. Tonight I've been learning how to sew a book into cords, or cords into a book, I'm not sure of the right terminology. You saw holes in the spine and insert jute or hemp cords, and sew them in, instead of using tapes.

I've never been comfortable with a saw; it takes a sure and light hand to do both the to-ing and fro-ing. I can usually only do the fro-ing. I can work with power tools happily, because they're all point and click, but never having been a boy, I've never had the mystery of saws explained to me. I asked a fellow traveller tonight, and he gave me a brilliant tutorial, which probably saved my thumb. He showed me the right way to guide with your fingers and I only lost a little bit of nail when the saw slipped. So here are my dodgy keyholes:

keyholes in the spine

The one on the right is the best one (the lines at either end are my kettlestitch stations, and don't count). The other two were decidedly lame, but the cords still fitted into them ok:

cord sewing

It's a lovely sight, a spine binding progressing beautifully. The thread locks the cord into the keyholes, and you don't wrap the thread around the cords in this version. Every few sections, you need to hammer down the spine to compress it, and tweak the cords the increase the tension. You don't pull the cords from both ends, or you may pull one out. Which is just what I did, a good way into the sewing, and I almost cried.

But. I am a resourceful person, and no stranger to problem-solving, and with the help of Neale, my fabulous teacher, we plugged the hole to our satisfaction:

substitute cord

That's as far as I got tonight, apart from rounding and backing the shoulders of the book with a hammer (it's a brutal business). Next week we'll add some endpapers and case it in (put a hard cover on it).

I'd like to think that's all I've been doing, but I'm also working on two catalogues, a scholarly journal and a cover for an upcoming novel that is so good that I can't stop reading and thinking about it. I'm also teaching a mini-workshop on sunday as part of the NGA's Print Symposium.

You can see why I really enjoyed just drifting around Melbourne, can't you?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Remember to breathe

Phew, another tuesday already. I've only just made this one, with 20 minutes to go. I've been burning the midnight oil every night, so maybe this should be called Remember to Sleep.

I thought I'd share a couple of odd photos from Melbourne. I didn't take many photos while I was there; I kept forgetting to get the camera out, because I was so busy looking and thinking and smiling. And the photos I did take are awful. I think I'm developing a hand tremor.


Anyhoo, these are from the very lovely and quirky exhibition by Gracia + Louise, in a little gallery in Flinders Lane which is just a row of old mailboxes in a building foyer.

mailboxes close up

I loved the little details in their work, and also the decorations on the walls around the boxes (a permanent feature, of course!). Gotta love those old buildings.

It's a collaborative production, like all Gracia + Louise enterprises, featuring original drawings and collage.

tassie devil

The exhibition is called If we stand very still, no one will notice, and it's on at Mailbox 141 (141-143 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, Mon/Fri 7am-7pm Sat 12-6pm) until 20th of April, 2007.

My itunes just told me that Awake is the New Sleep, but I think that's piffle. I'm off to get me some of that old-fashioned sleep.

Infernal Disco

My house is reverberating with disco beats at the moment (and I just want to issue this general apology to my neighbours) as Bumblebee continues his musical education, this time through the glitterballed halls of the 1970s.

It's my fault; when he was about four I decided that I'd had enough of the Wiggles and George & Monica, and made him a mixed CD of songs from my eclectic CD collection that I thought he'd like. I put two disco numbers on it: Disco Duck (I've blocked out the maker of this awful tune), and Happy Radio (by Edwin Starr), both of which I thought would be 'crossover tunes' from small people's music to big people's music. Actually, they were the bottom of the barrel; I used much better music as well -- 'Love Cats' by the Cure, and 'Starman' by David Bowie were two of the others. Songs with stories or themes that would appeal to avid little ears. It worked, and over the years I've been making him various mixed CDs. Some of it has been a pretty funny journey. (Like when he fell in love with Ben Fold's 'Song for the Dumped' and begged me to put it on one of his CDs and played it endlessly; I had to explain that it wasn't very suitable for the schoolyard.)

So when Bumblebee started exploring my CDs by himself recently, he pulled out the disco compilation album and fell upon those two tracks with great nostalgia, and then started playing the rest of the album. Over and over. And over. Then he noticed that I had at least three other compilations,* and has been playing those. Now he's fallen in love with the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever, and is practicing his falsetto and running up and down the corridor in his undies, trying to scare me, a-la The Goodies.

Actually, I've been taking this opportunity to talk to Bumblebee about all sorts of things... the vapidness of disco v's the grittiness of punk; the notion of one-hit-wonders; the fact that people in movies are actors who jump from movie to movie, and aren't out there wandering around the universe somewhere in character (unless you're William Shatner). He knows this last fact in theory, but still exclaims in wonder when he discovers that John Travolta is not only on the cover of Saturday Night Fever, but is also Danny from Grease, one of his favorite movies. I don't think he's really come to terms with the fact that Ewan McGregor isn't Obi-Wan Kenobi, even though he's seen him in lots of other movies. He pulled my arm excitedly during Miss Potter to tell me that Obi-Wan had appeared again...

Despite the disco bit, which Best Beloved and I are getting pretty tired of, we're absolutely loving Bumblebee at the moment, in terms of development. Almost ten seems to be a fantastic age; no instinctive rebellion, few tanties, just soaking things up like a sponge and starting to really process stuff as an individual, and happily taking on a lot more responsibility. It's still ok to talk to parents, and they still think you've got something to tell them. I reckon I've got a window of two to three years, and then he'll think know other people are cooler than us. So even if it's discussions about disco, I'll partake. You never know where it might lead. The other day somehow we got onto the structure of the Australian government, just meandering through popular culture.

And I'm working on some distraction therapy for the disco fever... I'm pulling out lots of (early to mid) David Bowie. I can live with that on repeat. For a while, anyway.

* OK, I'll 'fess up: I love a bit of disco when I'm really low on energy, especially printing into the night. But that doesn't happen very often. The reason I bought the bloody CDs in the first place is because I used to have a breakfast radio show with a friend on the Canberra Community Radio Station (2XX) about ten or so years ago, and I used to play a disco track every week at 8.45. This was before it was cool to do so, of course. I never get my timing right.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

One love, one nose, let's get together and feel alright

Dateline: 25 March, 1967.

My 21-year-old parents get married and merge noses. It was the last of their body bits to be cojoined, and although you can't see it here, my lovely mother is up the duff. My grandfather gave them 12 months.

one nose original

Forty years later, the Colonel and Lady Duck are still very happy, thank you very much, and still like trying to merge noses: the redbrick look on Colonel Duck somewhat spoils the illusion, but not the loveliness.

one nose revisited

And this time I am behind the camera, not inside the womb. So guess how old I turn this year? Heh. But this is not about me, this is about them, and how wonderful they are. They have been to hell and back in some ways, and still hold hands. They are a wonderful advertisement for having your babies young, and believing in each other. They can niggle, and nag, and get on each other's nerves, but there's never any question about walking out the door in frustration. You just don't do that when you're best friends. It's a hard act to follow, but I'm trying.

So late yesterday we choofed down to their prickle farm and spent today catering for a crowd of friends and family who popped in from 10am onwards to bask in forty years of love; we made pizza after pizza and sliced up all the gorgeous cakes made by Lady Duck and her friends, and served tea and coffee and later oodles of booze. Unfortunately we couldn't stay for the whole day, and no doubt the party is still going as I type. As it should. Forty years of happy marriage is a rarity these days, and they deserve every accolade they get.

Party hard, dudes, and may you be together for many more years to come...

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Running off the plane and into the fray

A really quick post to let you know a few things:

1. I'm home! Hooray. I will post about Melbourne some more when I can find some time, 'cause I've hit the ground running.

2. Don't forget that the Book Studio has it's own blog, and it's running again after a Xmas holiday hiatus.

3. A very astute ANU art school student has started a blog to keep students in touch and hopefully get them motivated about what is happening. I guess this is the next best thing to a union... all hail to her and I hope it works. Pass it on!

Many thanks to everyone in Melbourne who was hospitable, especially the good people at the State Library of Victoria. It was a terrific trip, and I'm very very inspired and motivated.

Back soon, I hope... I did remember to breathe yesterday, just didn't get a chance to blog it. Here's a mental picture: I took a lovely big deep breath of clean Canberra air, and then walked back into this stale, musty, damp art school. Hard to illustrate that, really.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Throbbing but smashing time

Still in Melbourne. My head hurts, which is probably a combination of walking around for days with an increasingly weighty backpack pulling my neck out, not enough water and too many things to remember, like names and witty lines and interesting sights. BRAIN OVERLOAD! I shall have to break this post into small manageable chunks just to cope. I'm in the same internet cafe as last time (I like to bond with places like this), waiting until 7 when I meet the SLV staff and colleagues for a slap-up nosh at a trendy inner-city restaurant.


Goodness, what a lot of people showed last night! I managed to sneak in and look around before many of them noticed I was there, but I think in the end I also managed to talk to everyone. Do I dare try and list them? I might forget people... but I'll try: Will Type for Food Tim, After Grog Blog, the inhabitants of Sills Bend (well, not Baz), Brownie, Lord Sedgwick (HEH), Jahteh (who has already blogged about it), Jelly, Genevieve, Barista, Nabakov, and many more... and I'm sorry if you're not listed here, I haven't forgotten your names, but my head hurts and I need to finish this post fast. You were all fun and the pub was loud and my ears are still ringing, even after we went to the best-named noodle restaurant in the universe -- the Kum Den. [erk!] I will have to write more about this later when my brain calms down.


Today was the big day at the State Library of Victoria. The exhibition looks fantastic; it's amazing to see all that noise and angst and hilarity condensed down into something so quiet and graceful.

The day's events seemed very successful, especially the bit where we got to see -- and touch -- some of the SLV's own collection. There were talks that ruffled feathers, statements that smoothed them, and lovely catering (v important!).

There was no mention anywhere that the Book Studio still exists as an entity, and I realised that very few people outside blogosphere know that. So I've resolved to get things moving again, not for my profile (god, I don't need anything else on my plate) but for the sake of the artists who are working there now, and to attract some new interest in using the space. So watch this space, or rather, the Bookstud blog space.

I also met Val today, and a few other zine and book people (hello Eloise!)... it's been a really social trip so far, and great for networking. I'm feeling far more 'connected' than I usually do!

OK, enough. I'm sorry, it's a wee bit whingy, but I'm sure I'll feel a bit more together next time I see this place -- or when I get home, whichever comes first!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Gazing at Melbourne

I'm typing from some internet cafe in the centre of Melbourne, feet throbbing from having walked around and around and around and frigging AROUND. All good fun, of course, and being from the BookStud I get to wander into galleries and art supply places and introduce myself and get friendly treatment. And I love the public transport here. Canberra public transport -- well, it shouldn't even be called PUBLIC, becuase there's nothing public about it -- sucks big ones. I love being able to jump on and off trams to get to and fro and not having to wait long for trains. In fact I'm sitting here because my next point of call is over to Chez Sills Bend (II), where Miss Lucy Tartan is shortly getting home from work and preparing to meet me at the station. HOORAY!

Yesterday I got off the plane and had to wait in a huuuugge looooooong line for a taxi, because as GoAwayPlease wrote in my comments a few days ago, Tullamarine is mad, thanks to the Grand Pricks. Still, I managed to get one and still arrive at Fluffy's house by 11am, which I'm sure was an estimate she'd scoffed at when I'd sent it too her.

Fluffy is lovely, of course she is. And so is Jelly, who was taking a studybreak when I arrived. Their house is in a classic Melbourne streetscape, and there was a smell of ripe figs in the air as I got out of the taxi, from Fluffy's fruit-laden tree, a nice smell that if I ever smell it again, will evoke Melbourne.

We went to the NGV and saw a great little exhibition called Picture to Print, which displays original drawings, paintings and even prints next to their steel-engraved reproductions.

There were lots of things to admire, and even to hoot over, and we did lots of hooting, but I think my favorite was the Knowing Goat, who is in this image by Boucher:

The Knowing Goat doesn't reproduce well here; it's right down the front, looking out. If you get a chance to see it for yourself, check out the eyes. That goat has seen things. Maybe saucy things. It wants to tell you all about them but that stupid frame is in the way. The fact that the knowing eyes haven't been lost between picture and print just shows that they're an integral part of that picture; there's a lot of writing about The Gaze in art, whether it be male or female, looking out or looking in, but what about when it's an animal gaze? Any discussion in the comments is most welcome!

After Fluffy dropped me at my luxurious quarters (I'm not kidding, I'm using a friend's Hawthorn flat, and it's very comfortable), I sorted out my gear then hopped a train back into town and wallowed in such great places as Sticky Comics, down below Flinders St Station, and all the great little shops in the laneways around there. I'm not much of a shopper, but it's nice to have the time to look. I bought a stack of zines, but that's about it. Today I've been hanging around Fitzroy, looking at prints and feeling up paper samples. Such fun.

I could do with a little less heat, though, Melbourne. We're promised a change tonight, and it would be most welcome. Bring on some miserable weather! Go on, I dare you. Oh -- and RRR is teh bomb. I've been listening to it ever since Fluffy's car radio showed me where it is on the dial.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Remember to breathe

This is the top of one of the Bookstud's wooden typecases. It makes me think of old school desks.

I don't know about you, but I'm a sucker for textures of chipped wood and flaking paint. It was distressing to have a metal workbench covered in rust after the recent storm, but I took a whole memory card of photos, trying to capture that glorious orange and the odd patterns that rust can make.

So here is something to tide you over until I can sit down at an internet cafe in Melbourne and tell you of my escapades south of the border.

First stop will be Fluffy's new house. We've never met, so knocking on her door straight out of the taxi from the airport is my first big adventure... well, if she's dangerous, at least I'll die laughing :)

Happy days!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Fluffy Mandala (spoiler alert)

Reading The Solid Mandala for the Patrick White Readers' Group was both wonderful and frustrating.

Wonderful because I realised well into the book that I had actually read it before, years ago, and I also realised that I'm at the right age to read White's books now; when I was young at at uni I enjoyed them, but now I'm appreciating them, and it's a big difference.

Frustrating, because it is not a book that can be broken up into manageable chunks to discuss in stages. This is possibly why discussion of the book at PWRG hasn't been as vibrant as when we read The Vivisector, which had a narrative that flowed in a straight line from the birth to the death of one individual. In TSM, we are reading about two individuals snared in a dissoluble partnership; perhaps really one life from two perspectives.

The structure of the book, as I mentioned in one of the PWRG threads, cleverly reflects this dichotomy of separateness and wholeness: There is chapter one, the 'introduction', akin to a Greek chorus, of the two women setting the scene and introducing the main players, twins Waldo and Arthur. They are seen as two friends, but White is already playing with a sense of unity permeated by discord; it turns out that they are quite new friends, and feel nagging doubts about the longevity of their relationship. This is a very short chapter, or, when you think about it, a 'normal' length of chapter. So far, so good.

Chapter two is the longest chapter of the book, and covers Waldo's perception of his and his brother's life. In my copy it takes up 191 pages of 317 pages in total. Chapter three, Arthur's chapter, is only 80 pages. Already White is giving us a physical clue to his themes. Waldo is full of self-importance. He feels he has a lot to say, although in reality he never gets around to saying it. Arthur has a lot to say too, but he doesn't need as much room as Waldo. And chapter four is short but deep, pulling strands together, and giving a balance that three chapters would not have managed. And it takes the essence of the book -- the existence of an inner life in the most mundane of surroundings -- outside of the twins, making it universal by applying it to Mrs Poulter. His last line sums it all up:

Then she turned, to do the expected things, before re-entering her actual sphere of life.

I don't know about you, but I sighed happily as I closed the book on that ending. But that's not to say I was as content during the rest of the book.


To be honest, I haven't got the time to give this post the depth I'd like to give it; I could write an essay on it happily. So I'm going to give you something a bit silly to illustrate a few of my thoughts. By the time I'd reached the end of the book I realised that Waldo and Arthur were very similar to two other characters in my life:

cat layers

Mr Pooter and Mr Padge, my cats. In fact, if I'd been reading this book when I got my cats, they would now be Waldo and Arthur. But we were reading Diary of a Nobody. I can't keep the names for my next two cats, because it just wouldn't work. These two really ARE Waldo and Arthur. Let me demonstrate:

hooray from the cats

See that? Mr Pooter (on the left, with a blue collar), is (relatively) small, thin and light. Mr Padge (on the right, smiling, with a red collar), is large and plump and heavy. I gave them the above captions last year some time for a joke, but they really do reflect the personality differences between these twin boys.

Waldo Pooter

Waldo/Pooter is the more 'intellectual' of the two. At least, he likes to think so. Saddled with a ridiculous name, he tries to make up for it by being smart and aspires to be respected for his intellect and creative potential. Of the two boys, he is the 'ideas man', but his ideas rarely lead him far. He likes to think of himself as well-travelled, whereas he never strays further than the next door neighbour's house. When the two boys fight, even playfully, he's the one that starts it, and he's also the one who takes it just that bit too far, thanks to his spiteful nature. When he sits, he sits tightly furled, with elbows poked out as if warning you away, and claws anchoring him firmly. He likes to get under the bedcovers, under my knees, and if I move he digs a claw into my flesh. I tend to think of him as my emo cat, because he's never happy, always walking about with an air of discontent and hard-done-by-ness, even though his life is one of absolute luxury and simplicity. He is sure that whatever is happening to him, he feels it more than other people, and he deserves better. He has hardly any physical voice, and his purr is so soft as to be almost inaudible, but he damn well makes himself heard when he wants to be heard. He can be insufferably smug if given a treat that his brother misses out on. He views his brother with a air of disdain and jealous that is underpinned by a desperate need for his love. He likes to lick his brother's arse. Literally.

Arthur Padge

Arthur/Padge is a very large, ungraceful cat with a warm, sunny disposition. He roams the neighbourhood widely and has friends everywhere who know his name. He likes to talk to you, with a loud, growly voice, and purrs like a tractor. His purr can take over a room with its joyfulness. He lies across a room or the entire hallway, stretched out openly, expecting a tummy rub if you have to step over him. He comes up to you and bangs against your leg with a hard headbutt, asking blunt questions about when dinner will be ready. He likes marbles. If he had a pocket, it would have at least one marble in it, but will instead chase one happily for hours over a wooden floor and then cradle it in his paw as he sleeps. He rarely starts a playfight, and tolerates his brother's aggressiveness, allowing him to win fights, even though he is obviously bigger and stronger. He allows Waldo/Pooter to lick his arse, but his tail lashes hard while it happens. I like to think he dances clumsily around the house when I'm not home, just for the joy of it.

Lamp-baking for two

They are co-dependent, my two pusses. They communicate with a sniff, a twitch, a tap. Often you will put one down next to the other, and they will look at each other and leap away in opposite directions disdainfully. When no-one else is in the house they will curl up together on the bed, comforted by the other's heartbeat. They have never been apart, and their owners live in dread of one dying in an untimely fashion, because of the loneliness the other will feel -- or would it be liberation?

dusty whiskers


Cats aside, my last point is that I really felt for Waldo, in the same way that Arthur did -- we see right through his self-important blusterings and blunderings, and wish he could fulfil the potential he feels he has. But in the end it's Arthur who has the potential, and the knowledge, and the sensitivity. His small chapter is stuffed with more meaning, layers, and questions than any of Waldo's meaningless meanderings. I admire and respect Arthur, but I relate to Waldo -- he embodies the fears of any person aspiring to be creative in the face of people who are naturally creative. They are White's fears, and this book, I think, is his way of acknowledging the struggle in many people, maybe in all people. Arthur and Waldo are one person -- White -- and also one nation -- Australia -- struggling to find its feet in the world. A huge pattern, a mandala, made up of many small, busy elements, pulled into one large shape, only discernable if you stand back to take a look.

Oh! So many ideas, so little time to gather my fuzzy braincells. I'll have to leave it there, but please have a chat with me about this here, or take it over to PWRG and let's get the discussion happening...

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Just a quickie

OK, some dot points. It's late, I've been running around all day, and there's still work to be done before I can get to bed. But some things are too good not to share:

-- I went to a little Canberra blogmeet tonight: TJ and Foo, Matt (more lurker than blogger these days but has good blog provenance), Enny, Crit, and Dean. We hung around Civic being nerdy and witty (can they co-exist?) and then managed to find a cafe for dessert that had a corner-of-the-eye view of (and say this next bit with your best deep commercial DJ voice) SKYFIRE 2007, a fireworks fest over the lake with accompanying soundtrack which invariably seems to include such gems as Afternoon Delight.

Dean and TJ
TJ and I taking a photo of Dean with his dinosaur-shaped strawberry. Dean should be blogging this in stereo when he gets the chance.

-- Before I went to this blogmeet I drove Best Beloved out to a friend's birthday party in Amaroo (waaay out in the burbs) where he still is; they started drinking cocktails and eating vodka jellies at 4.30 and it's now 10.30. The Singstar kareoke kit would have been broken out around 7 and pizza ordered at 9. Any moment now I expect him to stagger in and fall over the cats in his haste to yak in the toilet.

-- Yesterday Bumblebee and I barely managed to get him to school on time because we were completely absorbed in finishing his homework... he had to make every parent's nightmare, a DIORAMA of a scene from whatever book he's reading at the moment. When I asked him which scene he wanted to portray, he told me about someone rescuing someone else in a tunnel, from the book Fergus Crane. As soon as he said 'tunnel' I thought that we should really be working with our strengths here, and since I teach bookarts, we should get jiggy with it and make a tunnel book diorama.

So here it is:

tunnel book cover
Apparently the tunnels were in a ship which was also a school, and the students were doing a 'tunnel exercise'. You swing this cover open to reveal...

tunnel book
The tunnel! Complete with trapped girl, rescuing boy and cheeky worms.

tunnel book back
The end. Please excuse my dodgy photography as we were in a mad rush to get it to school on time.

tunnel book construction
This is taken during construction, so you can see how we made it. Lots of fun, and very well received by the class.

Damn. Padge just jumped on my lap and he's got a hole in his side, well-licked but gaping awkwardly. Looks like a trip to the vet in the morning. Bugger.

Ah well, back to work.

Thursday, March 08, 2007


Now that I'm home from my usual Thurs-mega-day (8.30am to 9.30pm with scant time to stop) I'm able to confirm the report on Sorrow that I'm going to Melbourne next week for five days. HOORAY x 5!!

1st Hooray = I'm getting away from the smell of damp that lingers in Canberra, a totally alien concept for a town that is usually so dry that my kitchen floorboards were shrinking. Now they're matching up nicely again, unlike the ones at the art school which are buckling and lifting.

2nd Hooray = the trip is work-related on a number of levels: the touring exhibition I helped put together* opens at the State Library of Victoria on the 17th of March, and stays there until 17 June, so I expect all you Victorian artists and booklovers to have a squizz at it somewhere along the line. I'm also meeting up with one of the illustrators of my own printing project, and doing a fair bit of artistic networking.

3rd Hooray = I'm going to catch up with some old mates, after many promises to come south that never seem to eventuate.

4th Hooray = BLOGMEET! Friday 16th March, I think about 6.30pm, at the Exford Hotel which (according to Laura) is on the corner of Little Bourke and Russell sts in the city. The meeting place is UPSTAIRS. The importance of this last point cannot be stressed too highly, apparently. I'll be the shy one who won't remember anyone's names until I'm too drunk to say them.

5th Hooray = somewhere in all that I plan to have some precious alone time, just to wander city streets and galleries and get my head back into some semblance of order and self. I haven't had unplanned free time for months.

* I'm the subtext, the unspoken truth, the invisible glue in the arrangement. See if you can find any reference to me anywhere in the advertising or the seminars. That's not a bitter comment, just a resigned one.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Looking on the bright side

OK. It's not all gloom and doom about the art school. Well, it's pretty manky and stinks to high heaven of mouldy ceiling tiles and rotting carpet underlay, but bits of the school are less damaged than others, and it looks like we'll be able to resume most classes from tomorrow, albeit with lots of corridors cordoned off and warnings to all about OH&S and sensible shoes and clothing.

But really, last week the university had a bona fide chance to pull the plug on the school, something people have been predicting for years if an event like this happened, and they didn't. They decided to support us and do the (substantial) repairs. Unbelievable, really. My faith in the system is partially restored. Now all they have to do is stop threatening to offload sessional staff, and I'll be really happy.

greening the art school

Anyhoo, from what we've been told, the rest of the semester sounds like it's going to be a big game of Twister. No one is encouraged to set up permanent studio spaces, as the repairs will be progressive, and room by room over the next few months we will be shifted and stored and renovated and repaired, and then shifted again. All this will hopefully inspire not only some healthy creativity, but also a renewed sense of community and camaraderie amongst students and staff in the face of adversity.

And happy hours will be celebrated with intensity. We can only hope.

If you're a student and you're visiting me because you've been told I'm the only one giving out info, welcome. I'm only telling you the stuff that won't get me sacked. Turn up tomorrow for the 9am meeting outside the library, and you'll hear all the relevant info about your particular workshop. Be gentle on your teachers. They've been doing their best to save your stuff amid the roaming electricians and floating workpeople and rising carpet fumes and flaking chipboard. It hasn't been very entertaining.

But truly, what more do we really need but some paper and a pencil? It's art. We don't need machines to have fun.

Remember to breathe

Lessons in life #3

No matter how weary, cranky and generally glum I feel,

Blue undies

my family always finds a way to make me laugh.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

orange is the colour of my true love's rust

Less jolly today, very tired and glum.

Book Studio

I've been at the art school all afternoon, documenting and assessing damage, in preparation for tomorrow's start at cleaning up and preparing an insurance report.

The art school is one of the most damaged buildings on the ANU campus, and it will need both a new roof and an overhauled electrical system, not to mention all the smaller stuff like furniture replacement and machine renovations. Nearly all the map cabinets are waterlogged, including the one in the Director's office, full of very valuable works on paper. Yesterday the floors on both levels were shallow pools of water, which were sucked up last night. Today everything is damp, and smells dreadful, especially the (mercifully few) carpeted areas.

There are a small number of blessings; we are only 2 weeks into term, so the students hadn't really moved a lot of their possessions into their spaces, although a few desks had soggy journals and library books on them, which we tried to spread out a bit to dry.

Also there are small miracles: the book studio roof leaked straight down the middle, starting at the tip of the wooden work table (which is peeling and blistered) and finishing at the end of my beautiful letterpress workbench (traditionally called a 'stone', but is metal-topped, and has completely rusted, but is salvageable), but the cascading water missed all the electric appliances at one end and the press at the other. The type cabinets are damp, but not waterlogged, with only two typetrays filled with water as far as I can tell.

rusted stone

There are, however, lots of heartbreaks. The school is full of beautiful artwork by ex-students, much of it damaged. The school has been struggling for some time, and workshop resources like printers and computers and digital cameras have been scrimped and saved for and hard won; it's not sure how much has survived, especially the computers, for which the advice has been to let them dry out and turn them on. Every workshop has post-graduate students who have lost major parts of their research, and every staff member has personal goods in their offices. Those who live in the school flats have a lot of property damage.

And shocks: learning that only the school's assets are insured; no personal possessions are covered, which means that (among many other tragic tales) the poor art theory staff, whose office libraries are mostly of their own books, will have to lump the loss of those books if they are damaged.

We're trying desperately to get the place cleaned up enough for classes to resume on Monday, but whether the actual building will be legally inhabitable is another issue. The other tricky factor is that water is still moving around the building, trickling down from the sogged roof. It's also still raining, at least once a day, and there's every chance that new leaks will spring forth, so damage assessment is ongoing, and we'll have to be vigilant.

It's weird to be part of a community that is very loyal to its environment and dedicated to making a tough situation work out -- as an art school under funding threats is -- and then suddenly have it almost destroyed around us, though no-one's fault. We're all trying to rally, but shoulders have drooped. The next few days -- weeks -- months -- are going to be a very hard slog.


Did anyone see The New Inventors last night on ABC? The 3rd invention was called cuffsafe, and is pitched as being "designed to make the potentially dangerous task of applying and removing handcuffs safer".


I found that there was a sense of discomfort to the segment, which I attribute first of all to the panel's (slightly squirmy) awareness that they were talking about something that has sensitive human rights issues, and secondly to the fact that the inventor kept using the phrase 'detainee', which exacerbated my first point. He also threw into the pot the notion that his market wasn't just Australia, but America and other such nations, which brought (to my mind at least) a number of unsavoury applications for the device.

Even in the final discussion, I found that the panel would start talking about cuffsafe, but then change the subject rapidly to something 'safer' -- or was that the ABC's careful editing? They certainly placed this invention carefully in with some pretty harmless and consciously cute inventions: the endearingly-named 'Move Ya Bastard' car shifter, and an endearingly homemade gardening buggy. A bit of camoflage around the tricky issue, and maybe, just maybe, it worked.

The feedback panel at the New Inventor's program site has nothing at the moment -- and I'd be very surprised if anyone does bring up any of this -- but I'll be keeping my eye on it, just in case. If you didn't see it, and you have broadband, there is a link to the segment on the cuffsafe page.

If you did watch it, what do you think?