Tuesday, January 08, 2008

School's in for summer

Hooray! Have come home from the Sturt Summer School feeling whacked but in an oddly energised way. And you can see why from this small selection of pieces made by my wonderful Artful Books class:

A selection of the books made

They were marvellous. I had eight students, ranging from printmakers who worked as teachers, to a girl about to do year 12 (and wanted to make books for her HSC art project), to an absolute beginner, to -- gasp -- a man. As book-arts is akin to an Austen bookclub, the latter was an exciting concept. He was terrific, and learned quickly that if he sat very quietly he would learn much more than book structures, until the 'too much information' stage, when he would say something and bring us back from wimminworld.

We had great fun, and they were full of energy. Between the eight of them, they made just over 100 book-forms in only 4.5 days! Many of those were made by the printmakers, who had lots of lovely print proofs to cut up and rearrange, but there were fabulous little moments from everyone: one person using pages from vintage books to make gorgeous little folded flipbooks; another finding a pretty rock and inventing her own book to feature the rock; another had amazing handmade papers she'd collected over the years but had never found a use for; another had never made a book before but within a couple of days she was inventing her own designs. Right at the end we had a little play with altering books, just a taste, to get them playing again at home.

Sue's altered book

We had a lot of visitors from other classes through the week, and the final display on the last day was much admired. I've said yes to the winter school in July, and I think we've had a few enrolments already!

If you want to see more from the course, I've set up a flickr set. Have a peek.

Sturt, and Frensham, in Mittagong NSW, is a beautiful place to hang out for most of a week, even if you do have to arrive for the Summer School on Jan 1, tired and blurry from New Year's Eve. Frensham is a private girl's school and Sturt is a craft centre, both set up by the amazing Winifred West.

It's a beautiful campus, full of little spaces like this:
stone steps at Frensham

Unfortunately the boarding houses are pretty typical of most boarding schools of a certain age. I went to a certain boarding school in the mid-west of NSW,* and I don't have fond memories of it. At Frensham I was given a dorm to myself -- I had the choice of 8 beds, and there were no doors anywhere for a skerrick of privacy. None of the beds had more than a metre of space between them. erk. Luckily, after a couple of very bad sleeps I was offered a two-bed room complete with door and window -- woo hoo! Luxury! I took the mattresses off their bedframes, stacked the frames, and made myself a double bed on the floor, sleeping (very happily) like a starfish.

Every morning I woke at 6.30 and went to the excellent tai chi class conducted by one of my students. Lots of allowance made for creaky bones and sore backs, and a very poetic method of talking us through the exercises. The movements were punctuated by the sounds of popping joints and my sporadic lung hurlings. I feel a lot better now!

I had to give a talk about myself during the week; I wrote a very simple powerpoint presentation about some of the more formal things I've made (to counteract the very playful informal things I was teaching) and then ad-libbed through it to cheer it all up. I can't remember half of the things I said, but it seemed to go down well and I got a lot of positive responses afterwards. 'Very inspirational' seemed to be the most common comment. I think I stressed the point that it's never too late to be getting on with things, and to learn what you need when you need it, rather than waiting for someone else to do it for you, but as I said, I can't quite remember! Anyway, it was a good rehearsal for the little talk I'm giving in Mackay in February.

Did lots of eating and drinking. There's a fabulous Indian restaurant in Mittagong that we went to one night (we being a few of the other tutors and I) but it has to be one of the slowest restaurants I've ever been to in my life. I arrived at 6.30 and didn't get my main course until 9.30. The boarding school food has improved a lot since my day. There's still tinned beetroot and tinned spaghetti (not together!) but there's a variety of salad leaves now, and they did a nice lentil bake one lunchtime.

The other tutors were terrific, really friendly and all very talented. I hope my class runs in July. I'd like to hang out there in the winter.

In other news:

Bumblebee harnessed the awesome power of teh interweb the other night by googling 'star wars toys' when we were visiting Bernice. He managed to find this on ebay, with only 25 minutes left on it, so I logged in and gave him a budget, and he and his mate (Bernice's youngling) spent 20 blissful minutes refreshing the screen and biting their nails until he won it (a bit of a given, since I think he grossly overpaid for it). He came out afterwards and gave me a big hug, saying 'this is the BEST night of my life to come' which startled Bernice and I. All I could think was 'I should NEVER let this kid know how to use my credit card...'

Speaking of flogging the card, today I visited my post office box and discovered a parcel of stuff that I'd forgotten I'd ordered: a bunch of publications by icecreamlandia. Very funny stuff and beautifully presented. Written in large friendly letters on the back of the parcel was SORRY FOR THE WAIT! No worries -- it was a great surprise and very entertaining. Their stuff is highly recommended for the student of human oddities.

And ooh! emails about more books! Books by Artists and The World of the Book. Damn, I'm going to be so poor after this holiday. These books will just have to wait until I've made a fresh batch of money.

Tomorrow night I am meeting Lord Sedgwick and clan for what should be a very fun dinner. Then we will be busy packing for our 3-week journey around Tasmania. Hopefully there will be time along the way to pop into internet cafes and post little postcards of our adventures.

And today's date is a palindrome. I love Palindromes. I almost named my son Otto, but Colonel Duck made a hairy eyeball at the thought of it and the other suggestions.

Here's another lovely little bit of Frensham to leave you with:
Frensham path

Onwards and outwards. Remember to breathe. Happy new year!

*I don't want to name names because I've managed to fall off their mailing list and would like to remain off it for the rest of my life. I don't want to go to another reunion until a lot more people aren't able to make it for reasons of age or death.


Dean said...

That ebay link just gave me a megaflashback - cheers! :) I think I still have my old Solo blaster in a box in Brisbane. Congratulate Bumblebee on an excellent find.

worldpeace and a speedboat said...

woowoo, a winter class... that's tempting... do you have to stay on campus?

Cast Iron Balcony said...

Talk about making things out of old things (from the post after this one, of course...) We live in a 1950s weatherboard which had a rather nice chimney out the front made of pavers from local brown and white stone, very 50s. Unfortunately, this fell down when the house was restumped. But I've managed to make a very funky looking crazy paved area like the one pictured, in the front yard, which is all native, and the pavers are more brown and white which goes nicely with that.

Apropos of your more-meadow-than-yard front yard, I'd recommend that as the way to go. Once you've killed all the lawn off and put down thick mulch and native poa grass, eucalypts and whatever else is appropriate to your area, once it gets established the maintanance is minimal.

chosha said...

The class sounds interesting. I like finding new ways to be artistic/creative, mostly because I the creative energy of a rocket, but sadly the drawing/painting ability of a sparkler. :( If it wasn't for photography and craft I'd have to despair.