Friday, July 30, 2010

Fare thee well

OK, I'm pretty much packed and ready to go. I've finished all the little jobs I had to do, and cleaned my studio up so that my friend Nicci can sublet it from me. Now I just have to sort out my daypack, and I'm ready to fly to New Zealand first thing in the morning. My plane leaves at 6:40am, and I don't get to my destination until about 7pm. It's not a huge distance, it's just a lot of sitting around at airports.

Here's my lovely clean studio:

clean studio

And here, just for the halibut, is the picture that inspired my working name:


It's a flock of flying ampersand ducks, printed in the year 2000 for an entry in the Noma Concours Illustration prize. I made a series of prints that made scenes and animals from wood and metal type. It was a proposal for a children's book, aimed at 3-4 year olds. It got an encouragement award, but it's never been published.

So, unless I get very bored at the airport tomorrow, next time I write I should be in New Zealand, learning how to compress my vowels.

See you in the soup!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


The old lady across the road must think I'm mad.

Nine times out of ten when I drive the car out of the driveway, I do one of the following things:

[a] stop halfway down the drive, jump out of the car and run, cursing under my breath, back in to the house, grab whatever I've forgotten, and run back out to the car and resume my journey.

[b] get a few metres down the road, stop, turn the car around, go back into the driveway, jump out of the car and run, cursing under my breath, back in to the house, grab whatever I've forgotten, and run back out to the car and resume my journey.

[c] drive away, get to the nearest traffic junction, stop, do some convoluted traffic movement to get back to my street, go back into the driveway, jump out of the car and run, cursing under my breath, back in to the house, grab whatever I've forgotten, and run back out to the car and resume my journey.

I'm getting there. The lists are getting shorter, but the sleeping is getting more restless as my brain goes over the lists and the options through the night.

T minus 4 days! Adrenalin starting to pump.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

chicks rule

When Ms Julia was plopped into position, I wanted to celebrate by making a t-shirt. But I got busy, and lost the moment, as per usual.

And then I thought I'd whip one up anyway, for the halibut. I pondered whether to wait and see if she was re-elected, but after a bit of marketing research (emailing some girlfriends), the consensus was to SEIZE THE DAY so that we could wear such apparel at election time, which is now.

So here you are. Chicks rule, right at this very moment. Huzzar!

If you would like a piece of this, go here. I've given lots of options, including stickers, mugs and tote bags. They seem to be having a bit of a sale at the moment, so now's the time to grab one cheap!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Time is flying, like my leisure, out the window

Yesterday was the two-weeks-until-leaving-mark. And I was suddenly hit with the 'two weeks today, I'll be...' thoughts.

Feels silly to be making a fuss about going to NZ, when lots of people I know go much further and to much stranger places. One of my friends is in China at the moment, and her partner has been getting bits of her emails, like censored letters sent home by the army. Scary.

Thanks to Caffeine Faerie, I know now that there is an arse-kicking Farmers Market in Dunedin. Won't it be nice to just go to a market to cruise, have a cuppa and sample some wares for brekkie instead of rushing in, doing the whole week's shopping and rushing home to get the family's breakfast? Yairs.

I'm surrounded by piles of paper, each pile a little bit closer to fine, each promising that once I have paid the proper attention to them, I can go travelling with a clear conscience. Some of the piles are going up to my studio this afternoon, to be put into other piles and somehow neatly put away.

I am *so* unorganised. I get everything that I have to do done, but I never get time to look back over my shoulder until the piles of abandoned projects and files threaten to topple forward onto me.

And my vague idea about having a quiet time when I get back from NZ until school starts next year has completely flown out the window, on huge glittery bat wings like the mythical creature it was. Suddenly I am spoken for, in many ways:

-- two workshops
-- speaking at the NGA Printmaking Symposium
-- making a BIG, nay, HUGE wall piece for said printmaking Symposium, thanks to Megalo sending me an invitation I can't refuse.
-- working with the Majura Women's Group as artist in residence
-- having three people come to do residencies with me in my studio. One of them is Pete McLean, who is my other broadside residency recipient. The other two are travelling from Qld, separately, to use my equipment and pick my brains.
-- I will be hopefully finishing a chapbook with John Pratt that we started a few years ago.

Is that going to be enough to go on with? I think so. I hope so.

In the meantime, the cats are happily enjoying the fact that we are all home because the car is making horrible steering column noises and is stuck at the mechanic's shop for the weekend. Bloody car. I hope it doesn't eat up our holiday money. Because I want to go somewhere where I can be snowed in and just read and eat and flop. Waneka sounds like just the place. The boys can go here and I can sleep.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

All tomorrow's waiting line

I'm sitting here at home, listening to Iva Davies' splendid version of 'All Tomorrow's Parties' from his cover album The Berlin Tapes. I decided to have a home day, since Bumblebee has spent most of his holidays away from home, and he's needing a good lie around in his pyjamas doing very little.

I also need to get myself organised; I have piles of neglected bills and receipts and taxy things that need sorting, and I hate sorting piles of stuff like that. New Zealand is T minus 17 days, and there is a lot to do before I go, not least sorting out my studio so that my friend Nicci can sublet it from me.

I finally defeated the Passport Monster who preyed upon my inability to pay attention to the quite obviously displayed directions and kept rejecting my attempts to get a child's passport. Getting B's father to sign the form once was amazingly seamless; having to get him to do it a second time was frustrating... we very rarely see each other when there is anyone else around not related to us (we do hostage swaps at roadside rest stops along the highway, etc), so when his car broke down I took the opportunity to drive up & get the boy and we got the tow-truck driver to be our witness. Sheesh. Anyhoo, now Bumblebee is the proud possessor of a passport, and he can travel to meet up with me later in September.

Yesterday I printed the first layer of some miniature posters for the upcoming Call of the Small exhibition at Craft ACT, curated by The Shopping Sherpa. Here's a pic:

call of the red

I'm using Warm Red, which always looks absolutely stunning on the metal rollers of the press. The posters will be about the size of a large postage stamp each, and they will all be black and white and red, one of my favorite combinations. They will each feature an animal (I have some lovely little image blocks bought from teh interweb a number of years ago) and have the first letter of the animal prints in large friendly red letters. Rat, Owl, Frog, Dragonfly, and one that is just an ampersand, because we all love ampersands.

Since it's cold and currently very damp, they'll take a couple of days to dry before I can keep working, so having a day at home is quite convenient. Best Beloved has gone to Adelaide for work for a couple of days, so it's just the two of us. Apart from cooking a nice overdue meal for The Shopping Sherpa tonight, we're going to kick back a bit and flollop (as much as my whizzing T-17days brain will let me).

My music has moved on to Zero 7, 'The Waiting Line'... mmmm. OK, I need to tackle a pile. Any pile.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

dancing with presses

Birdmonkey, aka artist Raquel Ormella, has been blogging about the work she was doing under my tutelage. She mentions that I use a driving metaphor when I try to explain the press to people... which didn't work with her because she doesn't drive. She found dancing a better metaphor, which also works for me because you need to get into a body rhythm as you move the paper and the pedals and the buttons. I need to think about this more; I've been asked to talk at the NGA's upcoming print symposium in October, and my allotted keyword is palpability.

She also blogs about her trips to Japan and her current obsession with Mt Fuji on her other blog, Magnetic Glimpses. She includes her encounters with cats, which I love as travel writing -- the tragically blog-quiet but twittering Lucy Tartan and Lexicon Harlot have done this too, and I hope to do the same in NZ.

Padge doesn't like the idea of me hobnobbing with other cats. He stopped purring for a millisecond as I typed that, but he doesn't stop for long. Ever. Pooter doesn't care. He's out with his BFF, the heater.

Bumblebee is delivered back to me today. I can't believe I've had most of the week to myself during the day and all I've had the energy to do is lie and sit and cough. I feel a hot bath coming on. Life is tough.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Healing purrs

funny pictures of cats with captions

This is exactly what happens when you have black cats. And also dark couches. And no glasses on in the middle of the night.

Speaking of pain, I'm still in bed. My butt hurts. I hate lying in bed this long. Can't I just get up and go to my lovely cold concrete studio for just a little while?

Dr Padge says No, I need more healing purrs. He gives them to me periodically through the day, lying on my chest and staring at me intensely, willing me to recover so that I will jump up and pour out some more crunchies.

Spoil sport.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010


One of the good things about being busy is that it tends to ward off sickness. Check my archives; I haven't, but I'll bet you that every time I get a bad cold or flu, it's when I've stopped moving for just a moment. I finished my Winter Type school, I cleaned up my art skool office, I ran around delivering books, and then on Friday afternoon I got to my studio and thought 'here it is, I'm free for a few weeks'. I got to the end of printing some little prints for the upcoming Megalo Loupe show (opening next week, Thursday, I think), and as I was cleaning the press I could feel my body releasing itself to the germs. My lungs filled, and my energy just disappeared. Snap! Just like that.

I was a puddle of snot on Saturday. As you can see below, I rallied all my remaining energy to get through Sunday, and yesterday only just managed to drive to Cooma to deliver Bumblebee to his Grandparents before collapsing into bed with extra sore neck and shoulder muscles from all the carrying and driving and extra snot from not resting, and I've been coughing up my lung linings any time I move. I've been in bed ever since, except for a quick delivery to Megalo today of the Friday prints. I'm very surprised to find that lying quietly in bed with lots of juice and fresh fruit (I'm overdosing on fresh strawberries) is actually working. I'm getting better.

I had a conversation the other day with someone about the essentials of life... one of those priority lists: which comes first? Rent? Food? Air? She (I think it was a she... sorry if you're reading this, it's been an eternity since now and last week) said something that stopped me in my tracks. I usually put the list so:


But she said the first (or second one -- we couldn't agree whether air was a given or not) was WELLNESS. That you just can't do anything without it.

And it made me think about the books I've been reading in the last few months:

The Spare Room (Garner)
The Plague (Camus)
Reading by Moonlight (Walker)
So Much for That (Shriver)
Tiger's Eye (Clendinnen -- reading this at the moment, and will probably finish it tonight)

All books about reassessing life and death and morality and memory in the face of severe illness. I didn't read them close to each other because of any agenda, they just fell into my path. And they all say pretty much the same thing about wellness. It's so hard to function without it, and I have the utmost respect for those people who do.

Being sick and muddleheaded, I can't say anything profound or meaningful about this: I did mark a few passages in the Shriver book but I've lent it, so can't find them... I'm very much enjoying Inga Clendinnen, as she's such a humane writer. She wrote a lovely line about grieving for her brother that now will stick with me:
It is more than thirty years since he died. Now he rests quietly enough, just below the breastbone, where grief has hollowed a place for him.
I don't know where I'll head when I've finished Tiger's Eye. I would like to read something without illness... I'm tempted to read Little Dorrit because I'm enjoying the show so much and have never read the book. Did anyone else shout out loud with laughter when they saw the visual depiction of 'Mr Ef's Aunt'?

And then I have to decide what to take with me to NZ when I fly at the end of July: I have a whole day's travelling, on 4 planes and lots of sitting around in airports. What will keep me enthralled but not be too heavy? I have a few ebooks, but I like the feeling of holding a book in front of me. Any suggestions?

Here's a nice distraction: my friend wrote to me today to say BRING ON THE FLUX CAPACITOR: Today is the day that Marty McFly arrived in the future after hitting 88mph in a pimped out Delorean in 1985...
OMG! How cool is that! I haven't been so excited since we moved into Prince's 1999!
Damn. Scurrilous email rumour. Real date is October 21, 2015. Oh well, cheered me up last night, so all good.

And just to finish, and get into a different definition of SICK:

vego cat

This is Mr Padge, rolling ecstatically in a box of fresh organic vegies, nuzzling the carrots especially. He just went for it, snout first, nuzzling his way through the delicious smells until his whole body was in the box, and he was drooling on the carrots. I videoed him as well, and will get it onto Youtube or I can has Cheezburger sometime. It's truly weird, and very funny, especially when BB tells him to 'stop nuzzling the broccoli, it's not Nice'.

The (other) Look

I'm sick. I'm hacking up chunks.

I'm going to blog about that more later, after I've finished watching Little Dorrit on iView, but I'm not allowing myself to watch it until I've blogged about Sunday.

Sunday was one of those days that you HAVE to do, because it's been planned and cancelled and planned and postponed and planned and planned until even though you're hacking up your lung linings and running a fever, you just have to go through with it.

It was also one of those days where you have to depend upon the goodwill of your loved ones. Halfway through days like Sunday, they look at you as if to say 'you'd better do something good with this' and you know that if you squander your life on playing the pokies or watching crap television, you'll never be forgiven. Anyone whose chosen path through life involves heavy, dirty machinery and equipment and doesn't have a big company or institution looking after them knows this look well.

So. Best Beloved, Bumblebee and I went to Braidwood to FINALLY pick up the four cabinets of type that I bought from the sadly extinguished Finlay Press. And to help my friend Andrew move the Arab platen press that he'd bought from them. We'd decided to share moving costs, and that meant putting in the hard work too.

A photo essay:

moving type

Julian (with his back to camera) and BB moving a type cabinet from the back of the house to the front. You can't move the cases with the type in them, because the type is so heavy and the vintage cabinets are so fragile that it would all fall apart... so you have to remove every case, one by one, move the cabinet, put it on the truck, reload the cases, move the truck, unload all the cases, move the cabinet... and so forth. Halfway through this you get The Look.

blue type

Doesn't the Polaroid setting make the type look jolly?

Arab press

This is Andrew with his press. All external bits have been removed, and the central spindle will also have to come out, because when stripped, this press is 76cm wide, and the door we will eventually have to go through at his house is 76cm wide. Ahem. yes, but first we have to get it out of this house, where there is no back ramp or step, just a half-made deck and lots of rustic things like stones and weeds and a well.

door and rails

Andrew and his (very practical, luckily) friend Alan had a lot of fun devising wedges of wood and rollers of metal pipe and taking glass doors off their hinges, while we moved trays of type.

rails & poles

It all got a bit hairy at times, and I kept getting flashes of The Look, but we persisted, because we had to. The alternative was another press being scrapped, and I say Not on My Watch.


And then along came Glen 'Moonman' Moon, blacksmith and crane operator, and my knight in greasy King Gees. He saved the day with his sensitive cranework, practical bossiness and excellent sense of humour. I love these men. I will never be out of parts for my press while he is in the world.


...and onto the truck. Sighs of relief all around... but they didn't know, like Andrew and I did, that the hardest bit was yet to come.


I volunteered to drive with Glen in the truck, to show him the way. That was lots of fun.

There's a whole chunk missing now, when we got to ANCA and had to pack and unpack all my type cabinets and then load some of the cabinets I didn't want to take to Andrew's place. My head was about to burst in pain but as we got started, who should appear but Bernice, who was visiting with her son, and Byrd, who'd dropped by to say hello, and who both rolled up their sleeves and helped, to my utter gratitude. It didn't stop them from giving me a variation of The Look, but I've had worse. Lovely peoples.


OK. So here we are, in Campbell, at Andrew's house on the hill, getting the truck to back down the steep slope so that we can get the press into its cubbyhole. See the nice cubbyhole, on the right? Eek! We'd whittled down now... everyone had gone home except Andrew, Glen and I. I wasn't fit to operate heavy machinery, but that was just a small concern.


I'd hoped to be finished and back in bed by mid-afternoon, but as you can see, as we were wrangling the press, dark had fallen. This is the press halfway in the doorway. I'm omitting a lot of running about grabbing bits of plank and brick, and unable to relate exactly how skillful and graceful Glen's cranework is.


Here is the money shot. The lovely Arab press, in it's new home, awaiting all the bits & pieces to be restored. I was very happy to pay my half of the cash and then get home to a hot bath, roast chicken and the boys.

Studio Duck, 100706

Here is the happy ending: four cabinets of gorgeous metal type, installed in my studio.

I now officially have ENOUGH TYPE. And yes, dears, I will try to do something good with it. Once I've recovered my health.

And now, for part two of Little Dorrit.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

caught speeding

OK. Now I really know that I have to SLOW DOWN and stop trying to think about or do zillions of things at the same time.

Firstly, I completely forgot about a meeting I was supposed to (albeit quite informally) chair on Monday. That was embarrassing.

Then, when I had the rescheduled meeting today, I realised when I arrived that I had forgotten to inform one of the other committee members that it was even on.

THEN. Tonight, Bumblebee and I rocked up, revved up, to the cinema to see Twilight and New Moon back-to-back as a promo for the release of Eclipse and were pulled up, short, in the lobby, at the absence of excited teenage girls.

That's probably because the promo was LAST NIGHT. Not tonight. Sh*t B*m P** B*gger W*nk.

I felt like the baddest mother in the universe, or at least the ditziest. And decided that the $40 I'd blown in cinema tickets should be considered a speeding ticket... that I deserved.

Bumblebee was very gracious. But disappointed. As was I, not by the prospect of watching the bloody movies, but by spending some fun time one-on-one with him doing something that he liked, as opposed to hauling him to my studio or some opening.


We ended up having a bowl of soup at a nearby Asian cafe and then seeing Toy Story 3 3D, which we both thoroughly enjoyed, especially the evil monkey. All the way home we chortled over our fav bits, and did evil monkey impressions along to some tacky disco song on the radio, so when we got home we felt like we'd actually had the evening we wanted. And he still got to bed at a decent time.

I hate letting people down. And feeling like I'm not all there.

I'm going to try to remember to breathe a bit over the next few days... and we're going to rent New Moon over the weekend and watch it so that we can go to see Eclipse next week. With a crowd.


PS. Isn't Best Beloved back? I hear you wonder. Where was he? At home, dear ones, with his particular brand of grumpy man-flu. Oh yes, it's truly been a faaabulouus week. Not.