Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Print to Book

Humorous Pictures

I just thought I'd let you all know that on the weekend of the 9/10 of August I will be in Sydney, hanging out at the excellent Warringah Printmakers' Studio, teaching a lovely little weekend course called Print to Book.

It's really a course for printmakers who want to extend their practice into the form of the artist's book, to teach them some practical making and binding skills and throw around some ideas on form and content.

If this sounds like your cup of tea, there are plenty of places left, and the more of you in the class, the more money I get. Heh, no, bugger the money. It's always fun to get a group of people together and encourage them to take a blade and needle to the pile of print proofs that have been sitting in the bottom map drawer for years. Be brave! Be bold! is the credo. There's no such thing as a mistake, it's pure serendipity and a large whack of derring do.

And actually, even if you're not a printmaker -- if you just want to muck around with simple book structures, come along. I'm very accommodating :)


Big thumbs up to Michelle! Up against the big guns! How excitement!

[snaps to Pen for the news-breaking!]

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Learning Journey Strikes Back

I'd like to say that I've been as flat out as a lizard in the sun, but it makes me think of flopping lazily getting toasted, and that is definitely nothing like my life.

I've been so preoccupied I haven't had time to check my lovely Post Office Box, the one that gives me fantasies of just pissing off, leaving this all behind, and having this one point in space at which I can be contacted. I know that will never happen, but that's why I love having a PO Box.

The nice people in the PO send me emails every day to say

Dear Valued Customer,
Please be advised that there is mail waiting to be collected in PO Box 392.

And if I'd paid attention and taken five minutes to check, I would have found, a lot earlier, a card that lead to this:

3D darth

Something that Bumblebee thinks is amazing and I think is incredibly generous -- sent by Lord Sedgwick and his delightful granddaughter. I'm assuming this is the down payment of her dowry, but B thinks it's heaven. I can't thank you enough.

Which leads me to the other thing I haven't blogged: the response from Hasbro...

A couple of days after he sent the letter, I got an answering machine message from a nice young lady wanting to speak to me about B's letter. The next day I rang them back, got their answering machine, and left my mobile number. Within an hour I got a call from a woman who told me that they'd got B's letter, and they'd all had a lovely giggle about it, but that they felt dreadful, because as a distributor of international goods, they couldn't actually do much, and they felt they should warn me that the letter back would be a bit impersonal. They wanted to do a bit more than that, so do I think he'd like a little something popped in with the letter?

'Yes, I think so, that would be lovely,' I replied, with the polite side of my brain whipping out its lightsabre and cutting off the hand of the other part, the part that wanted to yell 'don't be so patronising, you multinational stooge!'

'We will be sending his letter on to the US branch; they always like to get feedback.' ['About how crap their toys really are, but of course they'll do nothing about it,' muttered ex-Resistance member part of brain, clutching its arm stump valiantly.]

'OK,' said nice brain. And so I waited a few days, not telling B much more than a letter was coming.

Those multinational stooges are wily. They know how to bribe kids. They sent a large parcel (not as large as the nice Lord Sedgwick parcel, but) that generated a lot of happiness. Apologies for the poor photo quality that follows, but it was hard to keep things still.


Inside the parcel was a Darth Vader figure -- one that B hasn't got, even though he has at least 5 of the buggers -- and the piece of resistance (heh), a George Lucas figurine in fancy dress as a stormtrooper.

The goods

I remember seeing this in the shops and thinking 'that's one for the fans'. Well, yup.



happy 2

['Probably wasn't one of their bestsellers,' grunts uni-educated Lefty brain, watching its new silver hand being attached.]

And, true to his Collectors-watching instincts, B has decided that George should stay intact in his box, forever. (He plays with him like the old Prospector in Toy Story 2, making him direct proceedings from in the box.)


Darth, however, came straight out of the box, and hasn't left his side since.

Sigh. He's learned a few things: complaining is worthwhile if something is substandard; that if you REALLY want to change things, your options include: go straight to the top, make a lOT of noise, boycott, or infiltrate and change from within (we've been talking about this a lot).

He's also learned, and this is the most valuable thing in my mind, from reading your responses, that a problem is worth sharing, and that for the most part, people are really, really kind. And he's uber-impressed with Lord S. B is a very lazy writer, and it takes a lot to get him motivated, but there'll be a letter in your mailbox pretty soon, I'm sure, Lord S. Thanks again. And thanks to all of you who got riled upon his behalf. I guess the best we can do is keep complaining. And don't buy those shitty BIG transformers! (The little ones are pretty cool, though...)

POSTSCRIPT: Here's another reason to get cranky at Hasbro, at least for US and Canadians...

Sunday, July 27, 2008


I've been busy as busy, more so that usual, but should have time to blog properly tonight or tomorrow. Or the next day. In the meantime, I'm taking a leaf out of other esteemed bloggers' books and reposting an old post from 2005 that I stumbled upon today whilst searching for something completely different. I'd forgotten about this one, and hope it makes you both guffaw and cringe that way it did me. (For non-Canberrans, Queanbeyan is a town so close to Canberra that it could be a suburb, only saved from such a fate by being across the state border in NSW. It has a reputation of being 80% Bogan and 20% artists.) Enjoy!

An overkill of email charity requests makes me enjoy [in a guilty sort of way] this hard-hearted little piece that came through on the ether the other day:


A major earthquake measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale hit in the early hours of this morning, with the epicentre in Queanbeyan, NSW.

Victims were seen wandering around aimlessly muttering, "F**kinell" and "Whadda carnt". The earthquake decimated the area causing approximately $30 worth of damage.

Several priceless collections of mementos from the Torana Appreciation Society and the Queanbeyan Progress Hall were damaged beyond repair.

Three areas of historic burnt out cars were disturbed.

Many locals were woken well before their welfare cheques arrived.

QBN Radio reported that hundreds of residents were confused and bewildered, still trying to come to terms with the fact that something interesting had happened in the area.

One resident - Tracy Sharon Smith, a 15-year-old mother of 5 said "It was such a shock, my little Chardonnay Mercedes came running into my bedroom crying. My youngest two, Tyler-Morgan and Megan-Storm slept through it all. I was still shaking when I was watching Jerry Springer the next morning".

Apparently though, looting, muggings and car crime carried on as normal.

The Red Cross has so far managed to ship 4,000 crates of Vegemite to the area to help the stricken locals. Rescue workers are still searching through the rubble and have found large quantities of personal belongings, which include benefit books, Canterbury shirts, jewellery from Priceline and bone china from Woolworths.

***************** HOW YOU CAN HELP******************

This appeal is to raise money for food and clothing, parcels for those unfortunate to be caught up in this disaster. Clothing is most sought after. Items most needed include: baseball caps, tracksuit tops (his and hers), Shell Suits (female), white sport socks, sturdy boots and any other items usually sold in Op Shops.

Food parcels may be harder to come by, but are needed all the same. Required foodstuffs include, Fruit Loops, Steve's Kebabs, McDonalds, KFC, icecream and cans of Red Bull, VB, Bacardi Breezer, or Special Brew.

If you would prefer to donate money, 25c buys a biro for filling in the compensation forms; $5.00 buys chips, savaloys and gherkins, crisps and blue fizzy drinks for a family of 9; $10.00 will pay for a packet of Benson & Hedges and a lighter to calm the nerves of those affected.

PLEASE do not send tents for shelter, as the sight of posh housing is unfair on the population of the neighbouring areas.

********************* BREAKING NEWS*********************

Rescue workers have found a girl in the rubble smothered in blood.
When asked "Where are you bleeding from?" the girl replied "Queanbeyan"

[PS: forgot to mention that this ties in beautifully with TimT's bogan post.]

Thursday, July 24, 2008

deathly thoughts

I've always enjoyed the concept of Danse Macabre, mainly for the sheer equality of it, the contentment in knowing that no matter who you are, what you do, what you accumulate, you'll still get to meet Death.

I've just followed a few links to a wonderful blogpost about the history of Death in Art (via Morbid Anatomy), a serendipitious find because my brain is in this space while I read Jose Saramago's Death at Intervals.

Saramago is sometimes a tricky read; I love each premise with which he starts a book, but during the read I find myself skimming because his writing can get a bit... dense isn't the word, neither is waffly. But it's a mix of the two. His punctuation is intensely personal. He's very much a philosopher, and brings this into his fictional speculations: what if? What if everyone in a country (they're usually anonymous fictional realms with hints of South America or Eastern Europe)... goes blind (Blindness) or stops dying (Death at Intervals)? Each time he gets a chance to poke fun at authority, pick holes in their pretentions, and celebrate the richness of an everyday life.

I haven't finished Death at Intervals, but I'm enjoying the idea of death (the lowercase is not only deliberate but essential) announcing her arrival with violet-coloured envelopes and hand-written notes. Overtones of Terry Pratchett's Reaper Man but with a lot more seriousness in its aims.

OK. Back to printing. Only two more sessions and I have a completed book (without a cover as yet)! I promise I'll write properly about that soon. There hasn't been enough printing on this blog for a while, but there's been plenty IRL.

Sunday, July 20, 2008



This is what I looked like after I rode home today from the BookStud on my bicycle.

I'd rung home first to see if anyone felt like giving me a lift, but they were all warm and snuggled in front of the heater and tv where they were catching up on the first series of the Catherine Tate show which they'd bought that day when driving around in the nice warm car and they were disinclined to go out into the nasty freezing cold wet rain again... I made sure I gave everyone a big wet cold hug as I walked in the door. And then I jumped into a very hot bath.

Friday, July 18, 2008

I am writing from a far-off country

We were meant to hang out with the Aged Poet this morning, but Bumblebee woke up with a deep fruity cough that I thought was best to keep away from her, so we stayed in our pyjamas until lunchtime. He played with the Darth Vader half of his new toy -- he really does love that incarnation of it -- and I tweaked my website a bit more, adding a book that I made as a student about eight years ago called I am writing to you from a far-off country: Experiencing Henri Michaux (I was fond of long book titles as a student).

I've lost this book -- I gave it to an art dealer not long after it was made and I've never seen it or heard from her again -- and I found I had all the files on some old disks. So now it exists again in virtual form, which is great because I put a lot of work and thought into it.

It's a response to a body of writing by French writer Henri Michaux that took my fancy, and also a response to the frustration I feel when I read something in translation, because I always get that sense that I'm missing out on the gravy of the text even though I'm eating the meat. I did this project before I made my Akhmatova book, and it sort of gave me a practice run with this issue, although I quite like the personal touch I gave this particular effort; it's almost a series of blog posts.

When I read these -- written four years before I started blogging -- I know why I started blogging.

A natural, aren't I?

I don't expect you to go and read all these postcards, but if you're interested, I'm very proud of the way my anecdotes respond to Michaux's whimsical ponderings. Michaux himself used his language very loosely. I remember reading somewhere that he offended many by breaking lots of the very strict rules of writing French, so translating him must have been a task and a half. I think he would have enjoyed what Babelfish did to his words.

(A note for anyone wanting to use that email for spam: it's completely out of date and you'll never get any joy from it.)

Sigh. It's nice to see it again. It's a lovely time-capsule.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

today's learning journey

deathstar 1


deathstar 2


deathstar 3


Complaints Department
Hasbro Australia Ltd
570 Blaxland Road

17 July 2008

Dear Madam or Sir

I saved up $60 to buy the Darth Vader transformer which turned into the Death Star, and was really happy when I took it home to play with today.

It works well as Darth Vader, and I really like the glowing lightsaber and the sound effects it makes. But when I tried to make it into the Death Star, it wouldn’t work because of its crappy design. We did all the instructions, and tried to make it fit together, it just wouldn’t work and won’t close up properly, even though we have tried everything possible to make it close.

Because of this, I feel really, really, really angry. If I could say lots of swear words right now, I would be shouting them at you. It has broken my heart that I can’t make the Death Star. I feel like I have wasted my money and that really hurts my feelings.

Next time you make something like that, I hope you get a kid to try it out because I don’t think you did this time. I don’t think I will buy another big transformer ever again!

Yours sincerely,



Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Welcome to my morning, welcome to my day*

...everything but the baseball bat this morning, thanks to Padge. Other mornings Pooter joins in with his sharp little claws.

Sent to me by my lovely friend Lara.

*John Denver earworm, often played (loud) on Sunday mornings by Colonel Duck when I was a child.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Making in Mittagong: Sturt Winter School

Ampersand Duck's Sturt Winter School 08 photosetAmpersand Duck's Sturt Winter School 08 photoset

Goodness, we made a lot of booky things last week. Nine keen students, one keen teacher, and we were off. I think the average number of books per person was 13, but that is just an average. If you click on the photo thingy above you should get taken to the set I created on Flickr to see what we did. That link at the beginning of the paragraph will take you to Sturt's own collection of images.

I like this course. I called it Artful Books because I'm not teaching straight bookbinding, nor am I teaching how to make artist's books as such. My aim is to cover some basic structures and skills, as a starting point, or a leaping platform, depending upon the ambitions of the students. I know two of my summer school students --also printmakers -- have started exhibiting their book work; I'd be just as happy to hear that my students have never bought a sketchbook or photo album again.*

I like to build up skills and confidence through the week, so I start on the first day with concertina bindings, which involve lots of play and folding and a bit of stitching. Day two is Asian stab bindings, which involve more folding and slightly more complex stitching, and day three plunges them into the deep end of stitching and glueing with coptic binding and making their own covers.

By day four they're eager for the 'real' stuff, which is making their own hardback sketchbook using traditional Western (that naughty Pell word) sewing onto tapes. And by this time they have built up enough confidence and skills to complete the book in a day. It's a great thing, watching them take their books out from the light weights on the last day and beaming proudly.

Each class I teach seems to have an aesthetic theme, driven by the more confident students. Last time it was print-centred, but this time, thanks to two young art students with a retro bent, and also to a donated bag of lovely old battered books (thanks again, Dale!), we had a vintage book theme. Lots of yummy collage and reconstruction.

Staying at the boarding houses of Frensham was entertaining as well, although they were hideously overheated. They don't seem to be doing a lot for climate change, what with huge heating bills and wide gushy shower roses in every bathroom.

I made a suggestion last summer that they might have a film night or two just to help pass the evenings, and they suggested back that I might like to organise one. So I did. There's a lovely Drama Theatre with a DVD player and large screen, so I brought up An Affair to Remember and Harold and Maude, both of which went down nicely since they're such silly but lovely films in their own ways.

I also gave a wee talk about myself and my work, as did other tutors like Annie Trevilian and Monique van Nieuwland, both of whom have work in the Sturt shop, Annie also showing in the Sturt Gallery (highly recommended for a fab daytrip from Sydney, but only for another week).

I can't teach the next Summer School, but I'm hoping to make it to the next Winter School. The Southern Highlands are a lovely place to be in Winter (although I'm disappointed there was no snow...).

So thanks to my lovely class, who all interacted beautifully and made the week a lot of fun! And thanks, too, to the other teachers and the fantastic Sturt team. I really had a good time. I'm still getting over it! Only a few more days until uni starts again, so I'm going to chill out for the next couple of days with Bumblebee and his mates.

*Having said this, I buy them all the time. Sometimes there's just no time to make these things when you need them.

Monday, July 14, 2008

None of these things are related

but all of them cause happiness.

1. Earworm of the fortnight has been The Captain & Tennielle's 'Love will keep us together', so much so that I was compelled to download it from the iTunes Shop and learn the lyrics whilst lying in my boarding school dorm in Mittagong last week. I've now moved past the lyrics (which are great for bellowing in the shower) and am listening keenly to the background harmonies, some of which have Carpenter-like qualities and others are just darn fruity.

2. Browsing in a bookshop on Saturday, I was thinking that I'll be in another reading lull once I've finished my latest book (Diana Wynne-Jones' The Pinhoe Egg), and wondering if there was an author out there in whose writing I can submerse myself for a while, you know, read everything in their backlist. I found a book that I'd read a review about that day: Kate Cole-Adams' Walking to the Moon, and noticed it was published by Text. I didn't buy it then (I'll go to my local Co-op bookshop and get my member's discount) but I realised that I've read a lot of Text books and they've all been fabulous. So I made a decision there and then that over the next 12 months or so I'll catch up on the Text backlist. And that decision makes me very happy and excited.

3. This fabulous piece of video by artist Ellis Hutch:

4. And printing. My ink is behaving itself today. That makes me very happy.

I'm still getting my Sturt photos together. Not long now.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Slowing down... temporarily

I got back from Sturt on Friday night, and was oh... so... tired. What a week! It was lots of fun, and my students were terrific. I'm just downloading my photos, so I'll post more about that tonight or tomorrow; I'm having a go-slow weekend at the moment. I'm writing this at work, in between printing a token batch of pages just to stop my chest from tightening, but I'm printing at half-speed and taking breaks to do things like write this.

Yesterday I slept in for the first time in ages. And it was a delight to wake on a familiar mattress after the beating my back got from sleeping on a boarding school bed. What else did I do? I went over to Belconnen Mall and had a brisk, brusque but effective Chinese massage from the no-wait Dave Lim clinic, then I had a fabulous walk up Mount Majura by myself and watched a large number of kangaroos jump alongside of me in perfect timing to Al Green's Let's Stay Together. Only in Canberra, truly.

Last night BB, Byrd and I caught some hot anime Batman action and then devoured some salt & pepper soft shell crab among other things at a new el-cheapo noodle house in Dickson called Kenny's. Tonight I intend to flake out to Donna and the Doctor with some Lamb Shank and Quince Tagine. The joys of being at home!

Bumblebee doesn't get home until Tuesday, so I've still got a couple of days up my sleeve to get busy. In the meantime, I'm enjoying not talking to anyone (something BB understands, bless him). Except all of you, obviously. I might even get around to some scrabulous later.
[happy sigh]

OH! BTW, I *highly* recommend Olive Leaf Extract to fend off lurgies this winter. It kept coldie death at bay all week -- I could feel it lurking down deep, but the OLE kept me upright. Now that I have time to rest, I can feel my body joining in to help beat it totally. It's fabulous stuff. I had a student with a bad cough, so we added some to her water bottle and she stopped hacking. I'm a convert.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Remember to [BIG BREATH]

Well, it's not me. And I don't care. I'm not 14 and I don't feel insecure when I read it, but it sure makes me hate whoever mounts that crap on Facebook.


Just had to share that with you.

stone steps at Frensham

Anyhoo my lovelies, I'm off tomorrow to climb these steps again for a week at the Sturt Winter School. I think I'm ready, but I'm on my rollerskates and have very insistent flu symptoms, so it could all go horribly wrong.*

The first line of the Winter School promo says it all: Rug up and get creative this winter! All I can think about is the bloody communal bathrooms with stone floors and no heating. Although I did discover staff bathrooms on my last day of the Summer School and will be hunting one down in whichever boarding house I'm allotted to.

I won't be online at all, as I discovered last time that there is an extremely vigorous net nanny on every computer at Fresham within reach of innocent schoolgirls, which brings me back to that horrid Facebook ad above. It's not perverts you need to protect kids from, it's those revolting snipes at users' self-esteem. Built-in internet bullying... good on ya, Facebook! I'm going to think very carefully over the next week whether I want to stay on it, fun games or no.


So yes, I'm just about to sit down and sort out my materials. Best Beloved is cooking up an Indian storm, and we're quaffing a rather gorgeous red given to us by a loved person who has very good taste. Bumblebee has escaped down to Colonel Duck's prickle farm, where apparently he learned to drive the ride-on mower all by himself today. He told me he's allowed to drive it anytime, as long as he lets an adult know first.


So have a nice week, do lots of internut persnickery without me, and I'll be back before you can take a full yogic breath.

I'll just leave you with this:


And this one, because I'm wishful thinking...


*I have brought out the big guns: olive leaf extract and lashings of my special sick soup. Take that, evil germs and bugger off.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Artists Books 3.0

A wonderful new Book Arts resource has sprung out of the forehead of the SLV's Robert Heather (former Artspace Mackay Director): Artists Books 3.0.

If you have ANY interest in book arts, either as a maker, curator or chronicler, get thee hence and join up. And interact. What it needs is a little more conversation (uh huh huh).


It's like a book arts Facebook -- you get your own page, your own blog, and there are groups to join. There are already lots of interesting people in there from all over the world, so come on in, the water's fine!