Tuesday, November 25, 2008

7 (working) things

Wow, I forgot about memes. What a perfect way to blog when you're thinking about things to blog about. Christie brought this one around again, and I've been saving a few others up my sleeve, so prepare for some serious meme time over the next few days. Hopefully I can find something fresh to dredge up (that doesn't work, should be 'rank and dripping', shouldn't it?)

And welcome, anyone who has found my blog via the article in the Age on Sunday. I hope you find some amusement on this scrolly thing. If not, follow the links, find your bliss elsewhere and no hard feelings. It's a wide blogosphere out there.

OK. Seven Things Meme.
Rules: Link the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog. Share 7 random and/or weird facts about yourself. Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links. Let each person know that they've been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog (this is the only thing I hate doing with memes. It's so 'name ur frenz').

1. I'm insanely messy. It seems to be one of the fundamental things about my personality. No matter how hard I try, in various ways, to institute a cleaning routine, it always lapses. I tell myself it could be a Buddhist discipline, and if I mastered neatness I could move on to a Tai Chi practice, but I always fall by the wayside and end up beating myself up about it. Luckily I married a messy man, but every now and again we beat ourselves up about it. I still have hopes about the Tai Chi practice (just have to find a class that fits the flight path) but I'm afraid I will always have a floordrobe.

GAHHHHHHH. Apart from KNOWING that I've written something close to that para somewhere on this blog before, I think I need to take a different tack today. I just went out to the lounge, where I patted Mr Pooter for a while (curled up asleep on the airbed, giving me the perfect excuse not to put it away yet) and thought. And I've decided to use this meme to write about seven things about my art/craft practice, if only to remind myself before I can get back to it. Here goes:

Seven things about my working processes:

1. I believe in the power of the hand. Something about everything I make has to be done by hand. I can't see myself designing something and then handing it over to someone else to produce. I do that with my freelance money work and I hate the loss of control. With my own, personal output, it needs to have something personal about it. So, for example, if I make a photocopy zine, it will be hand-stitched, not stapled. Also, in a more direct sense, there's nothing quite like using your hands when making. Using your hand to smooth cloth onto a book cover gives you a control that you can't get with a bonefolder, although you need the bonefolder afterwards to attain a crispness you can't get by hand. But never under-estimate the importance of touch in relation to art and craft. It's primary.

2. I love the notion of the multiple; it is the reason printmaking developed, to be able to make many images out of the one matrix. Over the last few decades, printmakers have been exploring ways to make multiples that are also individual, so that they start with a set matrix but then 'progress' or 'vary', either by varying the inking or printing methods or they are then pushed past the initial print stage by folding, cutting or touching up in some way. This is a way I try to work, and it is very easy with letterpress: you can vary the material upon which you are printing; you can print text and then add hand-printed elements; you can hand-colour the text and print upon the same background, the varieties are endless. Even when I make traditional image prints, I like to vary them somehow. It's never boring.

3. I try to make books and prints that are hard to reproduce photographically. That is, they can reproduce, but the images are nothing compared with holding the original. For example, here is a scan of front cover of my upcoming book (it will be available late Jan/early Feb):

Poems to Hold or Let Go, front cov
I'll show you more of it and the book later, but for now I just want to talk about its reproducable qualities. This is the front of the dustjacket, and it's printed in two shades of metallic ink on dark blue Wibalin bookpaper, which is a reinforced paper product suitable for bookbinding purposes. Both shades look dreadful here, because they're flattened out and caught in one pose so to speak. When you hold the paper or covered book in your hand, the printed woodtype of the typographical pattern has a grey-blue sheen that shimmers subtly as you turn your hand, and the yellowy-green metal type title pushes itself forward out of the dull navy blue. It's a combination that calls, not shouts, which suits the modus operandi of the poet herself.

4. I like to use materials, tools and processes that give my work secret properties, load it with layers of meaning that sometimes I'll be the only one who knows and cares, or can be unpacked if anyone wants to know. How would anyone know that the metal type used on the cover shown above once belonged to the poet's late husband, unless I told them? Or that the cover (back and front) contains the entire alphabet, because it is an important symbol itself in the poet's work (she has written a number of poems about type and the alphabet, but the whole notion of literacy spools through her oeuvre like a glistening thread), but the letter O shows twice, because it is so present in the title? And that the poet goes by her married name by day, and I have arranged the letters so that her married initials are on the dustjacket and pare down to her working initials on the book's actual cover? There you are. All my work has these physical notions, they appeal to the fiction reader in me.

5. I am a messy worker. It's my biggest fault, and working clean and neat is such a challenge. But I do devote myself to this challenge, and maybe forcing myself to do everything -- paper preparation, design, setting, printing, folding, binding, publicity, accounts -- is akin to the Tai Chi practice I aspire to. It's not efficient (dear Ceiling Cat I wish I had an agent or dealer of some kind) but it's deeply satisfying, and very faithful to my yearning for the slow making life, even though it seems to push me faster and faster.

6. I yearn for a Room of One's Own, because I find trying to do all this making in a very public space quite stressful. I know that when I have a studio, my output will be better, because I will have the mental space to concentrate. Unfortunately, the hints I'd got about getting a space in the next few months turned out to be wrong; I'm back in the realm of Waiting, for who knows how much longer. I found this out the day before 'me op', and I spent a few therapeutic hours sobbing out my anger and fear. I'm ok now, just resigned to another possible 12 months or longer living cheek to jowl with my printing equipment around the house and having to find space and time at the art school to get things done. Sigh.

7. I know that this is a Bad Time for producing luxury goods for the sale of, but money has never been an issue with this endeavour. I contacted the National Folk Festival a few months ago, to see if they were interested in some letterpress demos in return for a free ticket. They were very interested (it's not going ahead, for reasons I can't divulge, but may happen the year after) and said that they were ALWAYS keen to hear from 'tradition bearers'. After the call I sat for a while and thought about that. Australia has a funny relationship with tradition. We like to dispense with it, yet revere it when it manages to survive. I'm very happy to think of what I do as tradition-bearing. Makes up in a way for the failure to bear other things :)

I said I hate tagging, and I do. But I'd like to know seven working things about other people, so I'm going to throw a few blogs in the mix: Poppy Letterpress, Rainy Planet Press, Artnoose's Sitch, Double Elephant, Viminalis, Strange Fruit, and May Day Studio. Tell me/us seven things about your working or creative processes. Please... or not. It's totally your choice.


Anonymous said...

The image of Rosemary's jacket does not do it justice. My copy now resides on the "touch & die" shelf of one of the bookcases with the first edition Pritchards, Franklin & Woolfs. (yes that was a wee gloat but the Woolfs are the scruffy late works)

It is beautiful - both as object and veneration of the printed word poem.

fifi said...


you are such a treasure, you know that? In many senses of that word.
I love your ethos and I love that book and I love everything that you make and if its the last thing I do before I die one day one of those will have my name on.

I swear to ceiling cat, oh inky one.

Anonymous said...

3.30pm - the phone rings.... YAY!!!!! YAYYYYY!!!! go the duck, go Ms Ampersand!!!

And more champagne... you KNOW you'll have to have a warming in party

Poppy Letterpress said...

Excellent meme. I'll really have to do some serious thinking about mine.

pk said...

I wants one o' they books, if it please ma'am: be there any available to the common folk?
I love that you like variation: I did a little bit of printmaking years ago, and was even in a limited edition book, but the guy in charge was very sniffy about all the prints being exactly the same, which in my case was never going to happen

Ampersand Duck said...

Betty, they are even available to the special folk, once I've recuperated and bound a batch, and I'll let you know when they're ready. I'm glad you're interested!

I managed to bind a batch to give to the author and illustrator before I went under, and buggered up one of the bindings, so I gave it to Bernice as an out-of-series volume as a sort of all-encompassing birthday present, since she's never told me when her birthday is. Luckily she didn't mind the botchy binding :)

pk said...

I thought recuperated was totally grouse bookbinding word: then I realised you meant 'recuperated'. Der.

meli said...

the detail you put into designing that book cover is really beautiful.

worldpeace and a speedboat said...

so much of that rings true, MsDuck, 'cept I'm anal as all get out, so number 5 is totally alien ;-)

doorbitch: thamph. I love the way her mind is working at the moment.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this wonderful post!

I am so with you re the doing by hand. As someone above has already posted, we stand in awe of your ethos.

I am so glad also to hear of your studio 'becoming'.

I am an absolute beginner at the whole bookmaking process, but I am determined to learn more, as I have experienced the deep joy of hand making a water colour journal (abeit rather badly - in ways which would probably amuse you greatly ;-) ). Once you get a taste for it...

Congratulations on the studio again! A huge "Squeee" going out for you!