Monday, August 31, 2009

It was the night before set-up, and all through the house...

...was the sound of muffled snorts as I watched tonight's episode of Ashes to Ashes and tried not to wake up the boys. I haven't been wholly comfortable with this crass extension of Life on Mars up to now, but tonight's episode made me laugh like a drain, especially the scene in the police station with all the Socialist feminists. Brought back memories of all the Resistance and DSP meetings I used to attend when I was a horizontal recruit (don't get me started). I'd like to bottle that episode, bring it out whenever I'm glum.

(These are 'Let Go' kites, ready to stick on the wall in formation)

OK. I'm ready. Tomorrow is installation day, and will probably involve a fair bit of plinth painting before I can get everything in place, because I'm borrowing some plinths from my studio complex, and they have a completely different shade of wall colour to the Megalo gallery. It will be such a relief to stop thinking about this body of work, and to let it go out into the world.

(This is a detail of the book of the epiphany a few days ago. I'm very happy with it.)

Friday, August 28, 2009


Wow, Friday again. That week went fast.

No movie tonight. Instead, we went to a couple of openings, including this one. The photos don't do justice to the gorgeous gold-leafed floor that you were encouraged to walk upon with stockinged or bare feet. As you walked around the wonderful body-hugging shapes, the floor cast a golden glow around the walls. It was beautiful.

Some quick take-away, and then I went back to my studio to play some loud music and get into the right head-space for teaching at Megalo tomorrow (Simple Bookbinding: 2-day course). Once I'd packed all the bits & pieces and my mini-library and some supplies, I cleaned up a bit; I opened my 'recycle' drawer and pulled out something to put another thing under it... and SHAZAM! I looked at what I was holding and had a mini epiphany about how to use it for my exhibition. OH NOES! T minus 3 days (including a 2-day course, my usual teaching day and a visit from the parents) and I really really want to make this book.

So I set up as much as I could, and hopefully I'll get time on Sunday night and Monday afternoon to actually finish it. And then I have to write up the list of works and decide on prices and install and...

I feel like Frances from The Librarians. I want to whip out a paper bag and hyperventilate into it a few times a day.

It's a week of doom: old acquaintances dying, couples breaking up, lots of people around NSW having awful car crashes...

ARGHhHhh! The cat just pushed a whole heap of papers off the shelf behind me and scared me half to death. When I say 'the cat', of course, it is Pooter. He is so damn naughty. At this time of night, Padge is face-planted somewhere snuggly (he sleeps like a koala, with his forehead flat down on the ground, or pushed hard into something like the crook of my armpit or my elbow). Only Pooter stays up, to see what trouble he can cause.

On the UP side, my lemon-scented Daphne beside the back door is smelling divine. It's one of the first things I planted when I moved into this house 12 years ago, and it has thrived on ABSOLUTE NEGLECT. I adore it. I have a sprig in my (filthy) bathroom and the smell of Fruit Loops it gives off is wonderful.

Blimey, must get some beauty rest. Wouldn't be good to be yawning through my own course. If you get the chance tomorrow (Saturday), it's the Art School Open Day. I won't be there (sob) but there are lots of fun things to see and do. I've got raffle tickets, if you want a chance to win some Art.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

finally got my act together

Last night was very windy, and I couldn't sleep. The cats were scooting around the house wildly, responding to the wind. Not sleeping gives you time to think. I remembered things I'd promised to do: so here are some nice photos from my classes at CMAG. I can't show you the little tuckers themselves unless I get full parental permission, so they've been carefully cropped.




This is more a table decoration, really.

Please sir, may I have some more tape?



bright table

rocket book 2
Rocket book, closed but flaming

rocket book 1
Rocket book open. It's hard to see the pencil astronaut & other trimmings, but the centre has a secret pocket full of LAVA!

funny pictures of cats with captions
Heh. This is going on behind me as I ignore the cats.

And I just got confirmation that I will be teaching at the Woodford Folk Festival this Xmas-to-New-Year period. Coolio. I proposed two adult classes, but they have picked up one of my earlier applications (the one where I had to pull out thanks to a bad miscarriage) and have slotted me in for a few kid festival classes. Meh, no biggie. I get to use my awesum kid skillz again, now that I have nutted out the right moves...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Secret diary time

Friday night was Date Night. One of my friends insists upon Friday Night being sacred for dates with her partner, and I've decided it's not a bad thing, except that I don't hire a babysitter every week, I have Date Night every fortnight when Bumblebee is off learning how the other half lives. Alternate Friday nights we try to have a family date. So, last week it was Coraline and ratty, this Friday it was District 9 and aliens. I realise in my excitement I twittered SECTION 9, which is classic me, I get everything wrong even when it's printed on a ticket in front of me. I'm not usually one for gore, but this movie was terrific, funny and interesting.

I'd had a stressful making day on Friday, lots of doubt and fear about the impending exhibition, so aliens wreaking revenge upon gun-toting South African men was just the ticket. Bernice came over last week and we discussed the Doubt and Fear thing. It's not the 'exhibition' that worries me, it's the 'solo' bit. My playful work is fine when it's bouncing off someone else's theme, and interacting with other people's playfulness, but I'm not sure it can hold its own on its own, if you know what I mean. When I think about my opening, my mind jumps to my first 'grown-up' kissing experience: standing in the carpark of the local rollerskating rink with a ring of excited teenagers around us chanting 'SNOG! SNOG! SNOG!' whilst clapping. The pressure to be cool was enormous, especially when he stuck his tongue in and I had to gag inwardly instead of openly. I've been nervous of public expectations ever since, even though I know in my heart that I can usually cope.

ANYHOO, I went to bed on Friday night hoping that I would dream a few solutions to my immediate problems, and woke on Saturday feeling a bit better. I spent the day in the studio looking hard at what I've made / gathered / played with so far, culled some things and adjusted others, and came away feeling much better and with a determined 'f*ck it, they'll have to love me just as I am' attitude. Not sure if I can maintain that over the next ten days, but I'll try.

Today I had a lot of fun. I spent the afternoon at the Canberra Museum and Gallery (CMAG, pronounced Cee-Mag) teaching three book workshops aimed at 4 to 8 year-old kids in honour of Book Week. We made Secret Pocket Diaries, which are 'snake' concertina books folded down from one folded and slit sheet of paper, then decorated and stuck up with tape to make a special book all about the child, complete with a secret pocket to hide things from the reader. It was great. I'm kicking myself because I took photos, but left the cord for my phone at the studio so that I can't download the photos.

The kids had a ball, and they made fantastic books. Each group had up to 24 kids along with their adults, and the first group was having such a good time that we were finding it hard to get them out in time for the next session, when suddenly the fire alarm started. And kept going. And kept going, so that we had to evacuate. We all stood out in the square outside CMAG, wondering what to do. One of the fantastic staff gathered the children together and did an impromptu book reading on the steps of the Canberra Theatre, and by complete coincidence, two police officers were going past with Constable Kenny Koala for a separate event in the same building; they were stuck outside as well, so they put on a quick performance for us.

Later in the day, when we were all cleaning up, I glanced at one of the evaluation forms filled in by a parent on behalf of their child. In the space left for 'What was your favorite event of the day' was written 'fire evacuation'! What with book readings, Constable Kenny and the flashing, noisy fire engines, it was pretty exciting.

CMAG have an amazing team of really dedicated educational officers, and while today's events (watercolour painting, story readings, indigenous story-telling, face painting, book arts workshops; all completely free) were in honour of Book Week, they also have a regular CMAG on Sunday program on the first Sunday of every month, and I can't recommend it highly enough. It's one of those regular events that isn't well known, but once you've found out about it, you wonder how you lived without it (if you have children of the right age). I wish it had been around when Bumblebee was smaller.

I'd like to thank Ben, who was my very able assistant, and Amelia, who was a wonderful boss for the day. Plus all the other people in the amazing team. I haven't taught a dedicated kid's class apart from various school groups (as volunteer Mum), and I really enjoyed it. I rode home on the treadlie hoping I could do that particular class plan again somewhere/sometime, because even though I'd mapped it all out beforehand, it wasn't until the third and final session that I'd worked out how to REALLY teach it (or perfect it), and it would be a shame not to use that method again. Maybe it's something I could propose for Woodford next application...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

touched ups for everyone!

Last night after I mounted my solo show post, I hyperventilated a little bit and decided to cruise my blogroll in search of some diversion. I usually only glance sideways at Photoshop Disasters, since the quality of posting is quite uneven, but this time I struck gold... and leapt across to the source site to have a really good look.

If you have a pre-teen or teenage son or daughter (or anyone in your life who believes that women should look like models), this site is essential viewing. I cannot stress this enough.

It is a portfolio of images that helpfully showcases before and after with a roll of the mouse, and while some of the transformations are simple (wrinkles and skin smoothed out, curves reduced or enhanced), some of them are absolutely gobsmacking. It's an easy way to lose half an hour, and, if you have any feminist leanings, to raise your blood-pressure a bit.

These are some of my favorites:
-- woman with/without remote, and swivelling head!
-- Bikini girl, who was very nice to start with, but has been given extra butt and less waist, along with a new improved face.
-- Girl with a sad hairline suddenly has a perfect hairline! And really weird eyes, worthy of a video game.

Ribs are out, so are flat hair and low boobs. And if you don't want to expose your breasts, no worries, they can just do it for you anyway.


Monday, August 17, 2009


Another invitation, this time to my very first solo show! I've been part of squillions of group shows but never really thought about doing a solo show until nice Alison from Megalo invited me to be part of this year's program. It's a bit scary, having a show all to one's ownsome, especially when nearly everything you've produced in the last few years has done the traps over and over and over...

So I decided to have a playful show, full of things I've never shown before and things I've very rarely shown, some made as souvenirs of printing experiences and others made from recycled stuff. If you want to read my 'formal' statement, click this post's title and it will whisk you through the interweb portal to my Big Girl website. Otherwise, stick around here and I'll do my best to amuse you.

funny pictures of cats with captions

That's not a non sequitur. I've just spent two days cutting a weeny ladder out of paper, 9mm wide and (so far) 1000mm long. It's not a piece I could have made at home with the cats. I started preparing for this show with one idea, and I'm coming out the other end with something quite different as my imagination kicks in and my paper drawers are delved -- something akin to Indiana Jones looking for treasure. There are old pieces, and brand new pieces, but even the brand new pieces don't use brand new materials. It's like op shopping, or second-hand book buying: I'm making things that reuse bits & pieces redolent with my memories but they're hopefully going to resonate with other people as well. Gawd, I hope so!

No photos yet, only the invite, which will hopefully entice some of you to come and have (another) glass of wine on me, or to skulk in the gallery when I'm not there. Set-up is two weeks tomorrow, and every time I walk into the space, I get slightly panicky about how much room there is, and I go back to my studio and remind myself not to be scared of space. Space is good. Space allows things to breathe...

...things like me. breathe. breathe. make. make. focus.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

use the force, mum

Last night we got home from watching Coraline as a family, already creeped out by such an excellent creepy movie, to find the cats in Bumblebee's room, very, VERY excited and doing mad circles around the room, concentrating mainly upon his bedside table/filing cabinet thingy.

Uh oh.

I quickly closed the door of the room, with myself and the cats inside and the others outside, and proceeded to look around. This wasn't easy, because B's room was extremely messy, with a larger than usual floordrobe and lots of toys and comics everywhere. I moved the bedside cabinet, and a huge rat shot out and ran behind the bookshelf. The cats went crazy.

Uh oh.

I really don't have time to tell you a long and amusing account of my half-hour with ratty and the cats; suffice to say that I moved everything up onto the bed (which backfired when the rat got onto the bed) and away from the walls, which meant that the rat and the cats had a kind of circular race track with me leaping around trying not to encounter ratty myself. At one point it ran over my boot, and I had a vision of it running up my jeans leg.

Then it ran up the curtain and onto the rail; Pooter scrambled up onto the stereo but couldn't reach it.

pooter and ratty again

pooter and ratty

I had a brilliant idea: I opened the window, undid the wire screen, and attempted to knock the rat down so that it could escape out the window. Nice plan, but no banana, as it got to the windowsill, but then leapt IN and back onto the floor, and the race started again.


I grabbed a long pointy thing and tried to herd the rat towards the cats, hoping they would actually do the right thing and kill the bugger. A few times they had it cornered, and they growled and posed and acted like normal blokes in a bar-brawl: they chickened out and backed off.

Finally -- and I will apologise now to those who love rats, but I could do no more -- it leapt up on B's dirty clothes basket and I whacked it with the long thin thing I was holding. I whacked it a few times to stun it, and then scooped up the limp body and put it outside -- well and truly outside.

It wasn't until it was over that I realised that I'd been using a lightsabre!

Then I remade the bed, cleaned up a bit, and called B in -- and held a button to my eye and said "see? Your other mother can do anything..."

None of us had a deep sleep last night.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Doing things

I'm writing this at work from the BookStud, because I just can't find any other time to write. Excuse me if I get a bit disjointed, because I'll run off and do things and then come back in the spaces between jobs.


This is how life feels right now. It's been all go at this end, as I'm on the home stretch to a solo exhibition (opening 3 Sept) and there's still LOTS to do. The venue's been paid for, the statement written, the invitations are ready to pick up, and there's enough leftover booze from the studio warming to lubricate the opening, so I can't stop working, it's all too real and impending.

The best bit is that I actually like working under pressure. It releases all sorts of things from my brain that I'd forgotten about. The problem is that life goes on, and my family is getting a bit weary of all these working crises and deadlines. There's only so many times you can say 'Let's just get through this and then I can relax/fix that/help you organise that...' before no-one believes you. Even I don't believe me.

And it would be nice if I could drop everything else and just make things, but there's classes to teach, weekend workshops to run (I'm doing CMAG on Sunday for Book Week on Aug 23, plus another Intro to Book Arts at Megalo the weekend before I install the exhibition), old layout projects to finish off, and favorite television shows to watch. The latter is being solved by recording, but I'd rather watch them live, and the Spicks & Specks half hour is absolutely sacred, so much so that it is the time when friends drop around to spend time with me.

Huzzar! I just managed to arrange some last-minute framing; I thought my show would be all objects, but I happened upon a cache of prints I'd run off a couple of years ago when I was mucking around with some hell-type, and if I may say so myself, they're very pleasing to the eye. So now I shall have some 'real' prints on the wall! Goodness, how arty farty of me.

The staff show opening was fun, and the range of work is terrific.

Annie's rug

This is a shot of the speechy bits, with Annie Trevllian's wonderful floor rug on the right and Annie herself standing to the left of it. There are lots of good artistic personalities in the shot, and the man giving the speechy bits is School Head Gordon Bull.

There's a lot of good shows on at the moment: ANCA has an excellent tenant's show (I'm not in it because I seem to be in everything else. I'll be part of next year's show); and at M16 there's a marvellous show of mechanical art called REFLEX: A show of Mechanical Poetry that is magical and excellent for kids, both big and little.

It's that day of the year again for me today, but it's not having more than a passing thought this year because I don't have the time to indulge myself. The way I am indulging myself is by making sure I have a glass of wine every night, and peeking at delightful and therapeutic blog posts like this one, and this one, among many others.

OK, enough said. Tally ho, see you in the soup!

Friday, August 07, 2009

Show time

Sorry, this is a bit last minute, but there's an opening tonight of ARTWORK: works by staff members of the ANU School of Art. SofA Gallery, 6pm.

I'm in it, with both my fine press books together at once, with reading copies that you can touch with your -- gasp -- bare hands. After all, it's all about touch with books, isn't it?

-- Post From My iPhone

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Me again

I am so in love with Lucy English on this week's RN Poetica that I'm listening to her again for the third time.

Can you tell I'm procrastinating? I'm going fine with the exhibition making; it's the other stuff I have to do that I'm dithering about.

I adore Lucy's poem about being old enough to tell the truth to everyone, even yourself.

virtual watercooler post

Cruising through the webs at work, trying to work out how best to use some scraps of vellum I've been given; visited a fav blog and discovered this beaut site at The Guardian, comparing various cover designs for Wuthering Heights.

I particularly like this one, as it has repackaged Bronte's novel to fit the teenage Twilight zeitgeist:

Poor Jane has been going through this as well, with P&P plonked into the Chicklit market, from which I fear it will be hard to recover:

I must admit, part of the reason I bought Pride & Prejudice and Zombies was for the cover, which is lucky, because the book was quite disappointing. Latest news is that it's about to become a graphic novel, which is much more exciting, as I think that format will be a lot more interesting than the book or a movie.

In other other (pretty stale) news, there's a sequel to P&P&Z called Sense & Sensibility & Seamonsters. I don't think the cover is as interesting, but if it's going to be pitted, as the link suggests, against the latest Dan Brown yawn, then I'll root for it to succeed. Then again, it would be nice to have some real writing pitted against boring spin-offs any day.

If you have other 'repackaging' loves or hates, SHARE. Time we had a coversation (I meant to type conversation, but that spelling works in this context, doesn't it?) around here. I'll break out the iced vovos to go with the tea. Or would you prefer cashews with a nice bottle of white?

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

brass monkeys

Found on a bookbinding supplies website, in their listing of brass lettering fonts:

So what is 'normal' these days?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

remembering to breathe

I just fully appreciated why cats drop everything when they hit a patch of sun... I'm standing at my work table casing in a book, and the morning sun came out from behind a cloud and hit the back of my neck... aaaahhhh!

-- Post From My iPhone

Sunday, August 02, 2009

warmly received

Proud of the press

My studio warming was lovely, and very much like a wedding day: I dressed up, said a few formal words, passed on the baton for someone else to say a few formal words, and then spent the rest of the afternoon meeting & greeting until there was no-one left to talk to, while behind me a team of gorgeous people worked hard to make the event run smoothly.

If you have the time (about 15 mins), the patience and/or the bandwidth, and mostly the inclination, the speechy bits are recorded here (big thanks to Rikk!). I don't expect you to check it out, because it's a big file. I take up the first two or three minutes, and then Paul Eggert takes over.

Essentially, I thanked people for coming, mentioned that I'd had a wobbly moment that morning about whether a formal launch of the space was a pretentious idea, and that Zoe had steadied me with a wonderful spiel about how little ritual we have left in our lives and that we need to celebrate important moments, especially when we'd worked hard towards them, etc. Then I mentioned that I'd just finished refurbishing the Vandercook, and that I'd been worried that it would make a lot of noise and disturb my studio neighbour... so I turned on the press and the audience sighed along with me. It purrs like a kitten, so on the spot I dubbed it Kitty (much later on I joked with some stayers that I could call it Pussy, so that the spirit of Betty Slocombe could live on... but I think it will stay Kitty). Then I passed things on to Paul and stood back.


Professor Paul Eggert used to be my university lecturer, and he introduced me to letterpress. Then he became my boss for a whole lot of freelance and highly technical work laying out a series of scholarly editions of Austlit. Along the way he's shown me some amazing books and introduced me to some excellent people. He's been very supportive and collects everything I print. He spoke about all of this and more, and exhorted everyone to buy my books, especially the Nan McDonald volume, which he kindly said was going to be very highly regarded in the future. He said wonderful things while I stood and blushed, and didn't know where to look, because there were a lot of lovely people in the room, and they were all looking at me.

There were colleagues, old friends, new friends, family friends, bloggers, lurkers, interested members of the community (including a lovely lady who serves me in the bank, who took an interest in me when she first processed my weird business name -- thanks for coming, Susan!) and highly regarded members of the printing and writing community. Rosemary Dobson graced the studio, as did master printer Alan Loney and his partner, who came all the way from Melbourne to attend. It was fantastic, and I know there were a whole swathe of people that I didn't get to talk to -- especially students from the art school, who waved from a distance. I guess I'll talk to them during the week. At the end of his speech Paul got everyone to raise their glasses to the press, and we did.

Alan Loney didn't just attend, bearing a gift of his favorite ampersand sort, but he also gave me an impromptu lesson in how to dampen paper for letterpress printing (as opposed to printmaking printing), something I've never come to grips with, and we'd been talking about when we met up a few weeks ago in Brisbane. And then he bequeathed me the sponge, specially cut for the purpose, and which I will treasure.

For most of the afternoon there seemed to be two groups of activity: standing around in the space outside the studio (I cleaned it beautifully) eating and drinking and general partying, and walking around the studio itself, looking at all the things I'd arranged on the walls and on the workspaces. Wonderful Dale from the Sturt Craft School in Mittagong (yes I will mount the Winter School photos soon) came along, bearing the gorgeous little Gillian Broinowski piece I'd bought a few weeks ago when I was hanging around the Sturt shop. It will sit in my studio to remind me to think hard about familiar objects.

Welcome to Studio Duck

Zoe did so well with the catering. She's a top cook, and provided delicious and very warming things. Best Beloved dealt with the alcohol, and I think a pretty good time was had by all. I wasn't the star of the afternoon, my lovely studio was.

clean studio 2

clean studio 3

I know that it will never be this clean again (I messed it up this afternoon, of course), so I really enjoyed it yesterday.

Oh, I have to go to bed, it's taken hours to sort and upload the photos, and I have a printing class tomorrow. There's more photos in my flickr album, and there's a live-blogged account of our post-party party last night, where we were all so relieved it went well that we drank way too much and got friendly with some lovely Bhutanese neighbours.