Sunday, February 17, 2008

Focus on Books IV

This is what the centre of Mackay looked like about a week ago.

Mackay centre

This was Mackay only a couple of days after I got home:

As I got to the airport on Monday to fly home, the dash from the car to the airport door (all of 5 metres) made me so wet that the hems of my trousers were still sodden when I arrived in Canberras 5 hours later.

I guess that's the last time they do the Artists' Book Forum in the wet season! Poor buggers. Thanks, Adele, for letting me know (in the last post's comments) that the Artspace Mackay and Cathy's gallery are alright. Imagine if all the books got wet? My brain reels at the thought of all those wet houses and businesses.


I had a great time in Mackay. The team at Artspace Mackay always put on a good conference, and now that it's every two years (because, let's face it, Australian book artists are a very small pond), they have a lot more time to plan and arrange things.

I turned up on Thursday morning, because I decided to treat myself to a workshop and be a student instead of teaching. I did Glen Skein's Book, Box, Print workshop, which wasn't ground-breaking as far as techniques went, but was great fun for just getting my hands dirty and doing a bit of frivolous making.

On that first day we played with acetate sheets and ink, making monoprints and drypoint etchings onto various papers and christening the brand-new workshop intaglio press.

Glen Skein workshop

There it is, in the back right-hand side of the photo. Brand new! I said 'first person to mark the blankets buys the champagne', but that seemed to scare people off, and everyone was perfectly clean... bummer.

We also sewed a blank bookblock, and started constructing a box.

workshop 2

Everyone worked very hard.

On the second day we used collage and decoupage techniques to cover the book cover and box. Discovering what wonderful things dress patterns and Japanese papers can do was great fun. I'd brought a heap of letterpress offcuts and included them on my box; for the book I used that day's copy of the local newspaper (Best Beloved got me in the habit of reading local newspapers when travelling; you read the funniest things sometimes).

workshop book


workshop box

Unfinished box (needs its inner bits to be inserted). It's a long, squarish box, like something to store paintbrushes in, which is what I might do with it.

Friday night, after the workshop finished, was the opening of the 2008 Libris Awards, which is a biennial artists' book competition and exhibition. The winners were announced by judge Michael Desmond, and we admired the beautifully displayed 100 shortlisted books.

2008 Libris Awards [2]

(My book is in the foreground, the red & blue one next to the gloves.)

2008 Libris Awards

2008 Libris Awards [3]
(this is a bit fuzzy, but I love the shadows)

The conference proper started on Saturday, and the whole day was devoted to the topic of altered books. Speakers were curator Michael Desmond, artist Patrick Pound (who gave, IMO, the best talk of the weekend), artist David Sequiera (true to form, devoting a large part of his talk to Britney Spears), and Artspace Director Michael Wardell, who has a passion for all books altered.

When we emerged that afternoon, full of altered books, the fabulous caterer had laid out a charming high tea for us all:

High tea

That night, after an exhibition-related gallery opening with lashings of heat and beer, was the conference dinner. Again, the caterer and conference team outdid themselves.

red dinner

Everything was red, and glam. This was the foyer of an entertainment centre, which by day is just very functional, but they made it look wonderful. We were greeted at the door with trays of champagne and horses doovers and a lai each made of flowers cut from Mills & Boon pages (Michael couldn't resist asking us all if you enoyed being laid as he introduced the Mayor for a speech later in the night).

The tables had flower arrangements that also used book pages, to form the lilies.

arum pages

We ate a magnificent dinner, then were asked to partake of a parlour game. We all received a small part of a larger image, and had to draw only our part on an A4 page. When we'd finished, they reconstructed the image, and it looked pretty cool.

George drawing

Ace bookbinder and fine printer George wasn't very keen, but he did his duty.

conference drawing

Yeah, blurry, but so was my vision by this time. My photo of the entire construction failed utterly, thanks to a large injection of Verdello.

Did I mention that I stayed at the local backpacker's lodge? Because I'd spent so much money in Tasmania I chose a dorm experience over paying for a room of my own. There were a lot of other fun ladies staying there and going to the conference, and they were wise enough to have a room of one's own. I shared my dorm with some women who were more residents than visitors; one had been there 8 months, and was trying unsuccessfully to get a toehold into one of the 'good' mining jobs and a bit of the money that's flooding into Mackay (no pun intended!).

Let's just say that I didn't get much decent sleep in Mackay. I did, however, read the whole of The Sound of One hand Clapping, which I found in Mackay's excellent secondhand book shop, just up from the hostel.

Day 2 of the conference was a mixture of papers and themes. We had people talking about photography and books, architecture and book structures, collaborative book and paper works and making books as part of postgraduate research.

The final session was 5 x 15min slots, each person getting their 15 minutes of fame :) The speakers were Clyde McGill (winner of the inaugural Libris Award), Dianne Fogwell, Glen Skein, myself and Julie Barrett.

Compared to all the others I felt like a completely emerging artist, so I slanted my talk that way. I gave a basic introduction to Ampersand Duck as a private press for the 21st century, using the underlying meaning of a private press -- a press that prints what it wants, when it wants, without being restricted by commercial concerns -- and extended this to say that I will release whatever work I want to make, whether fine press books, zines, digital work, e-books, etc. and use the umbrella of Ampersand Duck to do so, without boundary or definition. It seemed to go down ok. I got a standing order from the State Library of Queensland out of it, which makes me very happy!

I also took a moment out of my 15 minutes to rap people on the knuckles for not including colophons in their books. I feel so strongly about this that I'm going to go on a personal public education campaign until lots of people know what a colophon is.

I stayed until Monday, and a group of us who had stayed that extra day got a special white-gloved hands-on look at the Artspace Mackay book archive. Yummy. Then I had to make the dash through a wall of water to get to the airport, and it looks like the wall didn't stop for a few days...

I met some terrific people, and made some useful contacts. The Focus on Books series is a worthwhile experience if you're into artists' books.

I drank G&Ts all the way home, and was in a very relaxed state when my boys picked me up at the airport. I also took photos all the way from Sydney to Canberra. I'll leave you with one of them. I love that sensation of being under the sky yet over the sky, inbetween layers of the sky. I also love the shadows of the clouds, which when I'm underneath them make me think of large animals grazing on air.

Poetic enough for you? Heh, back to the tax.



papergail said...

Good to hear about the conference, I'm sorry I missed it. I'm glad that the galleries avoided the floods. I loved what you did with your book cover and box.

meli said...

That last photo is gorgeous...

chosha said...

It's cool that you got to hang out with so many like-minded people. I must trawl back through the blog a bit, because I don't recall seeing the shortlisted book and that photo is too far away.

By the way, I just got some Japanese papers as a gift. Aren't they beautiful?