Sunday, November 28, 2010


I'm amazed at this lurgy I have. It just keeps shapeshifting. I suspect I picked it up at the local hospital. At the moment I've got weird neck discomfort, a sore throat and the headaches persist. So, I've been flopping on the couch with lots of juice and cherries and cool jelly, and watching DVDs and playing here on the laptop. I'm trying not to be impatient; it's only been a week, and I have to let myself heal properly, otherwise it will only get worse.

I watched Melinda and Melinda by Woody Allen. The attraction to this particular WA movie is that Woody Allen isn't actually in it and Radha Mitchell is. Strangely, though, when I didn't look at the screen and just listened to the dialogue, everyone sounded like Woody Allen. Is it mandatory, when you work with a WA script, to mimic him? Or is it inescapable? As I listened, I had this vision of everyone being WA, a-la Being John Malkovic. {shiver}

OK. Here's some really exciting news. When we were planning what we were going to do in NZ, we'd decided not to go to the North Island because we had vague plans to be there next year for a wedding. Anyhoo, while we were travelling around the South Island, I asked (sideways, while driving, as you do with males) if we were still going to the wedding.

'Hmmm, I'm not sure,' said BB. 'I think I'd rather buy a new house.'

I nearly ran off the road.

Some context: I've spent the first 30 years of my life living nowhere longer than 4 years. I loved moving house; it gives me a chance to de-clutter and reinvent. When Bumblebee was born, Colonel Duck decided to put some of his hard-earned babyboomer bucks into an investment property and rent it to me.

And thus I started living at The Private Jetty. And I'm still here, 13 years later. When Best Beloved came on the scene, we bought the house from Colonel Duck. I've been trying to either move or knock the house down for a long time now, but BB is a very sensible fellow and insisted that we pay off lots of this one before we accrued any more debt. Good man.

You see, it's not really the 13 years that I dislike, it's the house itself. Actually, we've made the house quite nice, with a fab kitchen and various enhancements (detracted severely by our shoddy housecleaning and abysmal gardening skillz), but the floor plan is just mingy.

We have the classic Inner North Canberra Ex-Government House. It's like a small shoebox, divided into 3 undersized bedrooms, a teeny tiny bathroom and separate toilet, and what used to be a loungeroom, then combined kitchen/dining area. Nothing special. It's the same house-plan I lived in with my sweet ex-husband, many years ago, so I've not just lived in it once, but twice. And so that's longer than 13 years.

I'm not being ungrateful, I'm constantly aware that I'm freaking lucky to
[a] have a roof over my head, and
[b] be a homeowner (thanks, Colonel Duck)

but the spoilt white middle-class educated brat in me thinks about all the interesting, even grungy houses out there with personality and sags. I love a bit of personality. I'm not afraid of drafts and mould. I don't even want high-end renovations. I abhore spas and pools and black granite. I just dislike how mean-spirited these ex-govt shoeboxes are.

And I'm itching to declutter and reinvent.

So. You can imagine my joy when BB said this. I've been trying to persuade him that while we dislike the house, we love the position (walking distance to school and shops, walking distance to cool people we love), so why not knock down and rebuild?

BB's position is that we are not practical people. When we had the kitchen reno done six years ago for our wedding, the workers left us a couple of finishing-off jobs to do. They're still waiting to be done. Gah. True.

So. He wants to move, but into the same suburb. Who am I to complain? YAY!

On Saturday we scoured the papers for the first time, and I managed to drag myself up and out to see a couple of places (and then went back to bed).

The first place was delightful, belongs to an acquaintance, and we fell in love with it instantly. We're wise enough to know that we can't be mobilised in time, but it's motivated us to get an assessment of our own place ASAP. It's got so many things on our wishlist:

-- renovated, but not in a posh way, just smart, up-to-date and liveable
-- bigger than our house but not so much so that we'd be swimming in the place
-- a low-maintenance garden
-- a backyard studio which is about the minimum I'd need, and could be made bigger.

Sigh. I don't think we'd be able to land this one, and I envy the people who do.

The second one was hilarious. At the moment it's stuffed to the gills with overseas students, and it was quite obvious when we went through that the number of mattresses had been culled to two per bedroom with the rest of the living spaces gutted of furniture for the selling period. We liked the underpants draped over the curtain rail in one of the bedrooms. The entire backyard was cemented over, and there was a garage between the house and an external 3-room granny flat that would have made an amazing studio if we could have coped with the yard and the house. Also, an external kitchen wot for making jams & preserves! Too much renovation needed, though, way outside our capabilities, and I fear that the house will just go to someone else who will use it as a student farm.

The best thing about the house was that when I walked into the 'sunroom', there was a framed Monet print. I showed it to BB, and said 'Happy Anniversary'. We both laughed.

So here begins our house-hunting adventures.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Recovery mode

Best Beloved is spending two weeks acting in a higher position than his normal reasonably highish one. This means that he has an EA, or for those of you who, like me, have a dislike of acronyms, he has an Executive Assistant who answers his phones, which is quite disconcerting.

It is our wedding anniversary tomorrow, and I got this email a few minutes ago:

From: Linda
Sent: Friday, November 26, 2010 11:14 AM
To: BB
Subject: You received a Phone Call, contact Your wife.

Hello BB

Your wife called. Can you please call when you get a monet.



Is that what you're getting me for our wedding anniversary?

Ah ha
ha ha ha ha hahhhahaaaaaaaaaaa

I don't think so. I'm getting him something better than old French art. I'm getting him brand spanking new Canberra art! But don't tell him that, I can't give it to him until Teffany's exhibition closes next week or the week after.

I did forgive him for the Harry Potter thing. Of course I did. The fact that I was on the brink of sickness that felled me like a hammer blow didn't help my mood that day.

I feel so much better today -- I went through last night like I was in a sauna, thrashing and drenched in sweat, and woke looking like I'd been swimming. But my head is clearer, like someone cleaned my internal windows. I'm as weak as a kitten, and still have to lie down a lot, but I think I'm through the worst of it. Byrd dropped around this morning and said that I'm 'carrot-coloured' but if that's the worst thing he can say I'm pretty happy. He's an honest, observant lad.

I was planning to go to Sydney tomorrow for the day on a mission to link up some artists and printers that I like but I've had to cancel; I just can't physically manage it. I think I can manage holding hands in a movie though. That would be a nice thing to do to celebrate six years (which means that I've also been blogging for just over six years. Yikes!).

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


I'm not ignoring you. I'm really sick, and can only spend about ten minutes in from of a screen before my eyes explode. I have a viral infection, and have been bedbound since sunday night apart from a brief attempt on Tuesday to do something quiet in my studio, an experience which resulted in a huge temperature spike and a hot/cold experience last night that I hope doesn't repeat itself today.

While I'm aching and sweating and bored out of my brain (there's only so much radio you can listen to), go over and have fun with the wonderful Pulp Fiction exhibition at the University of Otago Library, curated by my marvelous Donald-the-Special-Collections-Librarian and finally digitised.

Then come back here & amuse me by telling me which is your favorite cover or title and why.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


I had the weekend to myself while Best Beloved and Bumblebee went to visit friends in the Southern Highlands. It was lovely. I had a few wines at a lovely ceramics exhibition by Teffany Thiedeman and then rode my bike to Dickson to get some noodlebox yum. I rented a few DVDs (looking at them the next day, I wish I had made some better choices, but on the most part they were good) and then bought a box of yum, put it in the back basket of my bike and rode joyously home through the night as is my wont when I've had a few wines. At least on that leg of the journey I remembered to put on my helmet.

When I got home I discovered that the box had fallen and opened and I'd trickled a Hansel & Gretel trail of spicy Nasi Goreng all the way home. Luckily there was enough to make a meal, but not the usual extra leftover meal...

So, I had a weekend of watching DVDs while I hand-sewed some envelopes for my Book Art Object contribution, plus good quality studio time. I'm making a type sampler which entails actually sorting through all the assorted typefaces I have. You'd think I'd have done this before, but no, there's never really been time. Now I'm making time.

Actually, there's lots of time in the day at this time of year, when the cats wake one at dawn's crack with pillow purrs and paddy pats on the face to be let out to catch the dratted wattle-eater that has been teasing them for years in the front yard. Sigh.

Best Beloved almost lost the right to that title this afternoon. He rang me at the studio to let me know they'd returned, and this was the exchange:

BB: I did something bad, I'm afraid.

&D: What did you buy? (This being the usual way he tells me that he's bought something large, expensive or frivolous, or all three.)

BB: No, worse than that, sorry.

&D: Did you sleep with someone?

BB: No, um, worse than that even.

&D: What?! What could be worse than that?

BB: Um...

&D: Spit it out, man.

BB: We went to see Harry Potter without you.

&D: [shocked silence]

BB: You still there?

&D: you utter BASTARD!

He's making me a nice meal tonight, has just given me some dark choc-chips to munch while he & B make muffins, and has promised NO SPOILERS.

I'm considering forgiving him.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

String string string string

Anyone who is on Facebook and Twitter and is connected to me will be glutted with this information, but I promised the gallery owner that I'd do my best to promote it, so here goes. (BTW, I'm not being active on Twitter, I just found out that the Facebook Networked Blogs has a syndication option that automatically puts your blog posts on FB and T, so I get to spray the love even further :0 )

I've been playing with some of the offset packing from my latest Book Art Object piece as my contribution. I called my book Skyhooks:


Here they are being tested on a makeshift hanging line in Studio Duck.
If you'd like to know more about them, I've put up a post on my website.

Monday, November 15, 2010

biting the Apple that feeds me

OK, this is proof that letterpress stationery has hit a peak in popularity: Apple is surfing the wave.

There was a thread of discussion running through the NGA Print Symposium about the way that letterpress is marketed in the design world, now that its original purpose (printing everyday items of information) has been made obsolete. This promo ticks all the boxes:

-- the essential sideways shot of the final product so that you can see the physical difference to an offset or digital print

-- the use of creamy pastel colours, to appeal to the (mostly female) consumer base

-- the language used in the video and blurb, with all the right buzzwords:

centuries-old process
one of a kind
physically pressed
beauty seen and felt
elegantly crafted design
unique letterpress elements

The last two made me guffaw: elegantly crafted design... WTF does that mean?

And unique letterpress elements... the mere use of the word element suggests that there is more than one building block that can be chosen, which negates the word unique.

Note to universe: if it's unique, there can only be ONE of it. Something cannot be quite unique. Either it is or isn't.

There is NO WAY anything printed in multiples is unique. You can personalise it, but it will still only be unique if you only ever print one. Every time I see a site where you get to pick out pre-designed elements to put something together that is 'unique', I always think of that bit in Monty Python's Life of Brian:
Yes, we are all individuals!
I'm not.

I'm very interested in the emphasis on printing being physically noticable, as if embossing/debossing is a signifier of taste or cultural difference. A number of years ago, embossing was something tacky done to Christmas and birthday cards and then covered in glitter. There seems to be a deep need to resist the flatness of contemporary printing... or maybe the flatness of contemporary consumerism? That would explain the whole craft industry.

I cannot set myself apart from this trend; I take the sideways shots, I have been know to create deeply bitten surfaces, and occasionally I use photopolymer plate to print from. I'm also working on a line of cards to sell at exclusive venues in Canberra. I am part of this. But I've never been one to just jump in and join; I have to understand why it's happening, and to try to participate meaningfully.

Actually, the way I am different is that I'm not a design/craft studio, I'm repurposing letterpress towards printmaking rather than design, which is the other way that the equipment is surviving in Australia particularly. I don't make these exquisitely clean surfaces, because to me that would be no different to making a digital or offset print. I guess I use the ink in the way these printers use embossing plates -- to differentiate myself from contemporary commercial printing.

There is a conference in the UK about this on Friday that I would kill to be at, but I don't have the money to get there. I'm hoping to get the papers afterwards for a jolly good read. One of the reasons why I'm thinking through this stuff aloud to you is that I'm trying to write a paper on this for a printing conference in Melbourne next year. So any (constructive) discussion in comments would be most welcome :)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thanks but no thanks

As much as it's a thrill to be linked as Blog of Note on the Bloglines page, I'm not enjoying the sudden influx of spam commenters.

I love blogging, I love bloggers, but trolls, spammers and anyone who says 'Follow me' will be deleted from any comment stream they pollute.

You have been warned.

Genuine pedestrians, welcome. I hope you enjoy what I have to give, whatever that happens to be.

Today I am particularly enjoying the Canberra cloudlife, although I can't share because I still haven't found my camera cord (GAH). We are predicted to have thunderstorms later today and the clouds are going nuts out there. I found a cloud chart to tell me what they are all called (the most excellent one in the world, free to download, is here) but the names just don't match what goes on in my head when I look at them, so I'm not bothering to memorise them. Still, the cloud chart now lives in the loo with the Times Tables chart, so osmosis might just happen.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Head space

"Thursday. I never could quite get the hang of Thursdays."

"I remember. I remember. I remember everything."

I had lots of time to sit and muse yesterday. I won't call it 'thinking' because it was too scattered. I spent a lot of time sitting around in strange, busy, lonely places as I ferried a friend from her Aged Care Facility (you just can't call it a Home) to a hospital bed.

Nothing too serious, just intervention.

Before I left I'd been stuffing my head and heart with Paul Kelly's How to Make Gravy. On the way I stopped at my post office box and discovered the latest Meanjin, which I threw in my bag. You can't do that with a digital file.

Before the intervention, I'd tried to read her some new poetry by a poet I'd met in NZ, Brian Turner. He's a fab bugger, deeply entrenched in the heart of the southern island and its landscape. He writes poems that can rant like Lear on the moor and then go quiet so that you have to lean in. At his most succinct he does this:


If the sky knew half
of what we're doing
down here

it would be stricken,
and we would have

nothing but rain*

(My friend Pete and I like it so much, we have just received permission to make it into a broadside.)

I'd read a few poems to her, but quickly realised that she was incapable of taking in new material. So I turned to her own writing, and read her a poem from 70 years ago.

That's good. Who was that?


Oh, good.

It was good. I read them to her for a while, sticking to the ones that had background pictures for her to focus upon.

Later I wrangled her wheelchair with one hand, the other arm stuffed with supplies, and took her to the local (private) hospital, where we (I tag-teamed with another friend, and we negotiated our kids around her) waited over five hours for a drip to be connected to rehydrate her. She lay quietly on her side, full of mental pictures that I'd provided that she'd provided. I read Meanjin.

It's lovely when thoughts in your head collide with thoughts on the page.

Twenty... no, twenty-five years ago I had a friend who dressed as Paul Kelly. I remember when he walked back through my door, short back & sides with a slight quiff at the front, faded blue jeans, check shirt. He/we were so inspired by Kelly's music that it was the soundtrack to our constantly briefly-shared lives. I made my first adult trip to Melbourne to join him for a PK concert, then we walked the streets of Melbourne to his door, where he discovered his mattress out on the street because he hadn't paid the rent. He charmed his way back into the house, and we lay on his floor on the bare mattress for two days, full of Randwick Bells. We used to meet irregularly, in leaps and bounds. There were always others, and we never quite made anything work properly, but he was a major player in my 20s, as is Paul Kelly, and for that I'll always be grateful.

That's the way I remember it, he may have different memories. He's still in Melbourne.

I have rediscovered the tape deck on my studio stereo. I pushed my way into the back of my garden shed and dug out my old mix tapes. There's a lot of them, each with vestigal titles but the essential date of when I made them. They are mental time capsules, full of time bombs. Paul Kelly discusses the making of such tapes. So does Christos Tsiolkas in Meanjin. I thought a lot about music mixes and mental states yesterday.

I have moved to CD mixes over the last 15 years, and I still make them and date them, even though my ipod is easier to mix. I like the trace of thought and feeling. I need hard copy, even though you can't connect with them unless you have the equipment to play them. I wish I could make art like I make music mixes.

I had my annual asthma attack last night. Hospitals are stressful places, even when the patient is not in danger. I sat up late/early in my loungeroom, coughing uncontrollably, chest aching from the spasms. I read Pollyanna, which isn't as good as Anne of Green Gables for inspiring reassurance, but it was there.

Today I'm making a music mix. Here's what is on it, and I'm not justifying or rationalising any of them:

Don't get all psychological on me, it's just a head space.

*Brian Turner, from Just This (Wellington, NZ: Victoria University Press, 2009), winner of the 2010 New Zealand Post Book Awards. Do not reproduce past this point.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Matters of economy

funny pictures-ME-OW-SIS*

Because Mr Padge keeps losing his collars and Mr Pooter doesn't, or rather, Pooter does shed them, but in places where they can be found again, Padge is now wearing an old collar of Pooter's, which means that they are now both black cats in blue collars. And even though one is very fat and the other very thin, sometimes, especially when they sit in the Roast Chicken position, it is very hard to tell them apart.

Except when they lie on their backs, as in this shot where Mr Padge tried his most helpfully to be a paperweight this morning as I worked in bed.

helpful Padge

Actually, the fact that Padge doesn't lose the crappy old blue collars makes me highly suspicious that someone in the neighbourhood is souveniring his own collars, which have traditionally been red. The last one was Barbie pink (I mistyped oink there, and was sorely tempted to leave it) as a joke on Best Beloved, but didn't work because his red-green colourblindness makes him impervious to shades of pink. Damn. Collars are expensive, and getting little tags engraved even more so. So for reasons of economy, Padge can be Pooter for a while in the wider world. If there's food involved, I suspect he'll answer to anything.

I'm writing this while I print out a little promotional flyer for my wares. With the time and energy and ink cannisters it's taking up, I might as well have handset and printed it, dammit. Up to now, I've been sending out an infrequent but free print newsletter to a growing mailing list. I got back from NZ to find that stamps had leapt to 60c!! Egads, people, snail mail is expensive!

So I've decided to regroup, and now want to offer to people the chance to subscribe to a regular (twice-yearly) newsletter/zine thingy for $5 a year. It will not be all letterpress, because that would blow it out of the water, but it will have a touch of it here and there. Anyone want to join up? I'm calling it SNAIL, since the last batch were called SNAIL MAIL. If you do, fling me an email to ampersandduck (at but I bet the spammers scan for (at) these days) and I'll let you know how we proceed with payment.

I've almost, but not quite, shaken off my horrid cold. It started as a sore throat, moved up to my sinus, and then settled happily in my chest. I'm hacking up all sorts of blah, which catch in my throat on the way up & give me a great husky blues voice that sounds very dramatic on the phone. This is one reason why I'm on Facebook such a lot, for those who care, and also why I'm working from home a bit rather than standing in my still quite cool concrete studio.

Mind you, I did find the energy to complete the printing for my latest Book Art Object piece, and it should be dry enough today to finish... huzzar! Then I can send it out, and then, only then, can I share some photos, because the whole point is for the recipients to work it out for themselves. It's a one-trick pony, but I've had fun training it.

Another thing I've been working hard on is helping to rebrand ANCA, my studio complex, with a new logo and website etc. I haven't been responsible for the actual graphic side of it, but as I'm on the ANCA Board, I'm getting my hands dirty in other ways, like making decisions, letterheads & party planning. If you're interested, save the date of the 9th of December for the launch of the new ANCA look. Very exciting!

That's also the date, as well, of the Christmas Party of the Canberra Craft Bookbinding Guild, so I'll be party-hopping. If you are interested in that, it's a Show & Tell, Bring & Buy evening, so everyone needs to bring something to sell or show. Or just come & chat & buy, all good.

Still inkjetting. Might as well get out of my pyjamas and have some lunch :)

Monday, November 01, 2010

Lucky indeed

I received an email today from my lovely Aunty Lou, who often comments here. She mentioned for the first time that her son, my cousin, has a blog that is documenting his and his partner's journey through surrogacy to have a family. I just sat and read it through from the start, and I dare anybody to read it and say that gay men should not have children or that they are incapable of having a solid loving relationship. Especially in this post; if I could write like this about my own marriage (and yes, these two are the most 'married' you could be), I'd be a lot more confident about my old age. Not that I'm not happy, it's just that you can feel the confidence palpably between these gorgeous and open-hearted men. I'm such a slack cousin; I need to be in touch more. And that goes for anyone in my family. If you're writing a blog, TELL ME!!!

This seems like a good moment to say how much I'm enjoying my new feedreader now that Bloglines has imploded. I'm now using Feedly, which compiles and presents all the feeds like an online magazine. It makes everyone's blogs look very important and glamorous, and I love the ease of reading everything! Just in case anyone out there isn't a seasoned blogger, feedreaders are the reason why you think no-one visits your blog. Using a feedreader doesn't show up on your visitor stats, so you might have lots of lurkers who don't comment reading you behind the scenes! I like to dip my toe in every now and again and leave a comment just so that people know I'm appreciating them :)

I'm working at home today, doing a bit of writing and trying to ignore BB's manflu whilst still managing to look after him in a very rudimentary way (tea, lunch, occasional cuddle). I taught a small and lovely bunch of women some book arts on the weekend, which was lots of fun, especially thanks to their enthusiasm. So today is a quiet day, with periodic treats.

Speaking of periodic treats, thank ceiling cat that Halloween is FINALLY over. Although I did go to a ripper Day of the Dead party on Saturday night, with everyone putting a lot of effort into their costumes.

And next time I have any money, I'm going to buy one of these:

An ampersandwich!

OOh! I just remembered that I have a bag-full of purple petunias waiting to be potted that have been sitting there for days. Poor things, I'll do them now. Ciao.