Friday, May 29, 2009

Piking is for pikers

I'm blogging this now, at 11.30pm while BB sleeps and the cats wrestle each other in the loungeroom because I'm not paying them enough attention, because if I don't, the weekend will run away from me and I'll forget to do it later.

I went to the Canberra leg of the Baterz tribute concert; I almost didn't go because I'm pretty tired and felt like piking, but Crit egged me on (one of our friendship glues is a mutual love of Baterz) and so I went. And I'm really, really glad I did.

Baterz was the most amazing... um, I want to say musician, but he was more than that. He died in 2002 in his Jesus year (33) after a long struggle with various illnesses and conditions he'd developed after picking up Hep C from a blood transfusion that he'd needed as a haemophiliac. In that short life he lived with such a capacity for joy and humour and such an articulate insight into society's dark bits that he was a underground (and consequently cult) role model for many, including me. I used to go to his Canberra gigs as often as I could, which was actually fairly often, as he would appear at the Folk Festival, and then do extra gigs, because his family was in Canberra.

Speaking of family, remember how I was rapt about finding The Lighthouse Keepers on eMusic? Well, Juliet, the lead singer of TLK, is the big sister of Baterz, and she was one of the powerhouses behind the tribute show and the tribute CD, Great Big Squiddy Fun. She was up there on stage tonight, singing with the likes of Phil Moriarty (nee Gadflies), Mal Webb and Soursob Bob. It was brilliant. And we all sang along, to every word.

People were asked to tell Baterz stories; a lot of people in the room had Baterz stories, since this is the town in which he grew up, but I think they were fairly shy. I took the chance to ask: At many of his Canberra gigs, there had been a coterie of young lads who were absolute fans. They used to make their own fan t-shirts and hats and sit right up against the stage and sing along adoringly. Whatever happened to them? Are any of them here now?

A person sitting behind me said: One was my friend! He had a Baterz-themed 18th birthday, and we all had to turn up as our favorite Baterz or Bedridden (his band) characters.

How chuffed was I to hear that? I love getting a result.

If you want a piece of the action, or wonder what all the fuss is about, you can buy the Tribute CD that has just been launched. It's called GREAT BIG SQUIDDY FUN and it is a double CD with a bonus extra 3rd CD called BATERZ FOR BEGINNERS and all three are less than $30. You can get it in Canberra at Landspeed Records, probably somewhere cool in other capital cities, or from here (that link is worth clicking for more info on B). If you like a big laugh while you're crying, I highly recommend it.

Gawd, off to bed. I have to get up for the markets in the morning!

POSTSCRIPT: I've spent all day listening to the tribute album with complete enjoyment. I thought it was going to be a bit lumpen -- good-intentioned but amateurish (last night was fun in a very let's-make-it-up-on-the-night way, and I thought it was setting the tone of the recording) -- but I was very happy to discover a really well-produced and fantastically broad interpretation of the wonder of Baterz. Please, if you like alternate fun and weirdness, buy the album. All proceeds go towards re-releasing (and thus keeping alive) both Baterz and The Bedridden recordings, which is a GREAT cause.

im in ur newzpaprs

Total coincidence, but I happen to be in both the Bega Times and the Canberra Times on the same day, for totally different reasons.

Canberra Times, in a review of my bookbinding exhibition (which now has my exhibition essay up on the gallery website):


and Bega, to promote the upcoming workshop I am hopefully teaching if they get the numbers:


Trying to look casual and approachable, don't want to scare off the punters

If you want to read the words, just click on the images to get somewhere that will make them bigger. I'm chuffed that Megan is billing my workshop as 'entertainingly invaluable'. I think I'll pop that on all my promotional material.

Colonel Duck has been ringing me excitedly through the morning each time he found an article. I'm going to appoint him my official Press Secretary.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

MMOPping up*

Looks like the fundraiser for the Melbourne Museum of Printing went well... I hope it made enough dosh to keep it running.

I must confess that I've always been a bit reticent about the Museum, ever since I visited it years ago and all I saw was masses of hoarded machinery, no sensible plan to do anything with it and a brief meeting with the very depressed and increasingly unsolvent owner who left me feeling that if I got involved, it would have to be a VERY big involvement (and I wasn't in any position, at the time, to do so).

But it seems that Melbourne has embraced the concept, and the increased yearning of graphic designers to get their hands dirty off-screen is paying off, so maybe there's hope for the Museum after all. Which is a VERY GOOD THING INDEED. There is a future for Australian letterpress!

The new generation of Keen have also started a blog for the museum, and the first batch of posts includes an excellent overview of how they came up with the Museum's new logo.

Myself, I am planning a huge de-rusting weekend or two and then an open studio afternoon in early July. I don't think my gear will be fully operational by then, but I'd like to 'launch' my space sooner rather than later; if I don't do it then, I won't have a chance till way later in the year, and that's a bit ridiculous. So if you'd like to come and have a glass of bubbly with me and my presses, pencil the 4th of July in: Studio Duck Independence Day! [POSTSCRIPT: now 1 August!]

*a blog post title that at present is impossible for Pav's Cat.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Sorry if it drives you batty... was given this link by my latest visiting artist, Laura, who is deeply into flipbooks. It's very, very addictive.

Not that I'm letting myself be distracted, no no no. It's taken me most of a week of little visits to make this one little flippy thing.


I heart Tuesdays. If all goes well, I get to work from home for part of it, and then the studio for the rest. I think all is going well today.

We went up to the Blue Mountains for the weekend to visit Dr Sista Outlaw and warm her beautiful house. From the moment we got to the outskirts of Sydney until a couple of hours before we left to travel home, it POURED with rain. Mountain residents seemed very blase about the incredible amount of water falling upon them, but we felt like the fish of Lake Eyre. I haven't had an entire weekend of heavy rain for YEARS. The rain was so hard on my in-laws' tin roof that it. kept. me. awake. Both nights. I feel moisturised. I feel hydrated. I am secretly quite glad to get back to cool dry climes.

The housewarming party was very good as well, despite all plans having revolved around outdoor activities like BBQs and bonfires. We all managed to squeeze into the lovely 1940s metal-clad fibro gem and no-one scratched the floorboards too badly. There was a fantastic array of interesting people, and the kids managed to stay reasonably out of the way.

We spent Saturday morning cruising the main street Katoomba, and I visited my favorite junk & antique arcade, Macarthur Arcade, a conglomerate of dealers wrangled by Mr Pickwick of the famous bookshop next door. I was trying to find Bumblebee a cheap leather jacket, as his heart yearns for one, but instead I found one of these:

It's an Adana five-eight tabletop press. I couldn't help myself, I bought it. I'd just borrowed one from Poppy Letterpress (who is about to pop a sprog at ANY minute) to try and get some batches of small printing done, and now I have my own. I won't say how much I paid for it, because I probably paid a bit too much, even though I haggled and won (and Mr P threw in a handful of comics for Bumblebee), but when I later figured out auction fees and freight if I'd bought it on the net, I think I probably did ok. Now I just need to make time to clean up all my presses and get jiggy wiv dem.

I'm still waiting for my room brochure essay to arrive on the Craft ACT website, and apparently the Canberra Times is writing about my bookbinding show some time this week, so I'll keep you all informed when that bunch of excitement happens.

In the meantime, I have a whole other bunch of excitement to get done such as a PhD layout, an exhibition brochure, masses of photos to resize for a book and an index layout. Not cutting edge stuff, but they will, thankfully, pay for the press. I'd better get down to it, if I want the day to go well and get me to the studio...

OH noes! Have been derailed by snortingly funny post called Pride and Twitterverse!! must. get. back. to. work.

Friday, May 22, 2009

teh evils, they are chipmunks

Bumblebee has been (re)discovering my box of 45 singles from the 1980s: Adam Ant, The Dugites, Gary Numan, Culture Club, Belle Stars, Lena Lovich and many very daggy others. He especially likes the sound that the needle makes when it hits the vinyl, and is learning, from my distant squawks, to refine his technique.

He then discovered what Michael Jackson's Thriller album sounds like on 45: he joyously calls it 'Teh Evil Chipmunks', and laughs wickedly himself at Evil Chipmunk Vincent's chipmunky evil laugh at the end. Ah, youth isn't wasted on this young one.

We're off to the Blue Mountains today, to warm Dr Sista Outlaw's house tomorrow night. Have a good one yourself.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

lovely nora

Lately, I have being enjoying Nora the Piano cat:

Also Nora in a mood many of us can probably relate to:

She plays piano the way I do: longingly, wishing she had the skillz of others. I learned for about a year, with a boring and knuckle-rapping Englishman whose main claim to fame was that he'd played the organ at the Queen's coronation, and the piano I learned on had missing keys, including the note at the height of the main William Tell Overture riff, so it was an agonising year for the whole family. These days I constrain my live musical longings to the occasional picking up and strumming of an acoustic guitar. But Nora does it better.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

the book in your art

While I'm sitting here thinking about it:

Bega workshop

Click on the image if you need to see it embiggened.

Friends in that region, spread the word! I'm also giving a public talk at the Bega Regional Library on Thursday night, 4 June, on the same theme.

If you're tempted and interstate, the phone prefix is 02. It's a very good value workshop, with the price pitched at affordability for local artists. But all welcome, for sure.


Nice weekend, but emotionally all over the place. I guess I was a bit tired, what with losing two weekends straight to the press, and all the excitement of the exhibition set up and opening.

Saturday morning, I went to the markets, and stood in the line for fish with Annie Trevillian, where we chatted about the opening and then, overworking women that we are, discussed ideas on some workshops we could hold together -- printing your own bookcloth and then using it. Doesn't that sound yummy?

Then I grabbed the chance to go to my life drawing group, the first time this year! I got there late, which was a shame because our model was a fantastic man who understands artists (being one himself) and gets into uber-interesting poses, and I missed the really short poses. Still, the rest of the session was brilliant, and I wished I wasn't so rusty. It made me determined to turn up as often as I can, and I think most of my upcoming weekend teaching commitments are on the alternate weekends: phew!

Saturday afternoon was the floor talk for the exhibition, and it was lovely, of course. We counted 36 bodies, which is fantastic for something only advertised by email and this blog, and Rosemary Dobson herself came, which made the afternoon really special, and I'm pretty sure the group knew it.

That night Best Beloved and I just flopped with a bottle of wine. We went to bed really early, because we were both buggered, and I read to him while he played his gameboy. A friend had emailed me during the week and asked if I'd read Rosaleen Love's article in the latest Australian Book Review. She said it was really, really good. I had the issue, but I hadn't even looked at it, thanks to busy-ness. So I thought I might read it, and that I'd read it aloud for BB.

The essay is called 'Treasure Hunt', and it's been longlisted for the 2009 ABR Calibre Prize for an Outstanding Essay. I've always loved Rosaleen Love's writing: she's normally a Sci Fi writer, and a very good one. I have a signed copy of her Total Devotion Machine, and that's because I used to work with and for her late husband, Harold Love. I've only met Rosaleen maybe once, maybe twice, and then only briefly, and I'm sure each time I gushed slightly.

Harold and I and his research assistant, Meredith, once worked on a scholarly edition of poems by John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester. They did all the really hard work, and I got to make it pretty, using Caslon and working out the correct usage of obscure ligatures like 'st' and when to use the long 's' that looks like an italic 'f'. It was painstaking, nit-picking work, but hilarious because of the subject matter -- John Wilmot was the bawdiest poet on the planet.*

Harold died a few years ago, after a long bout of cancer. It's one of those situations when most of your sadness -- as an outsider -- happens at the early stages, and by the time they die, you're almost used to the idea, and so you're sad, but not overwhelmed. I took the news of his death shamefully easily, considering how much I'd liked working and talking with him.

On Saturday night I started reading to BB a few paragraphs of an essay that promised to be very interesting: about the aftermath of living with a book-collector, and realising that the books will lead you to discover more about your former spouse. Then I startled him by faltering, pausing, bursting into floods of tears. He didn't know what to do. I didn't know what to do. Eventually I pulled myself together and kept reading, but kept stalling as fresh gales of tears stormed through me.

I thought at first that it was a delayed reaction to Harold's death, and it was, in part. I'd been told about it second- and thirdhand, in abstract. I didn't really take it in properly. Then I realised that it was a lot more to do with the main theme of the essay: how little one can really know the people you're supposedly closest to, and the loss that one can feel when one realises that there will *never* be a chance to change that situation. And I also know that I cried (and still cry) at the excellence of Rosaleen's exploration of these things. It's SUCH a good piece of writing.

Poor BB doesn't cope with crying very well, it makes him uncomfortable. Is that a male thing? So I pulled myself together again as much as I could that evening, but it's very hard to close the door on a room stuffed to the point of overfull with grief, both old and new. My door stays closed much of the time, but if something -- anything -- turns the doorknob slightly, the door starts bending and threatening to fling open. I start leaking.

We went to the movies on Sunday morning, to see The Baader Meinhoff Complex. I sat in the cinema waiting for the movie, and leaked rivulets of tears down my cheeks, silently, wishing they'd turn the lights down properly before anyone noticed. Luckily the movie was too rivetting to encourage tears, but back in the car driving out to Fyshwick (to buy BB a deep chest freezer for our newly-emptied garage), the leaking started again. It's subsiding now, but I still feel that there's a really good cry left to schedule in sometime this week. Maybe I'll find a quiet place later in the week and read the essay again... And you should all rush out and buy a copy. Then tell me what you think. Did you cry, or is it just me?

*Funnily enough, this ties in beautifully with the launch of the new Trunkbooks volume, 'Hair', which I'm in, because my piece is completely informed by my time working on the Rochester volume with Harold and Meredith (not the same Meredith who edited 'Hair'!)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Funny, in all the wrong ways

If you've ever been married, you'll relate to my experience of last night's exhibition opening. It was a lot like being the bride on the day: all the running around beforehand, the stress of wondering if it will all go well; and then the event itself: making sure it goes smoothly, trying to talk meaningfully to everyone in the room (and failing), and forgetting to have another drink or a loo-break because you're too busy smiling and hoping everyone is happy.

I think everyone was happy. All the binders I met and saw seemed to be smiling, and I hope they told other people they were the binders so that they got their fair share of praise.

Of course, I didn't get a chance to take photos, but I saw other cameras out and about, so I'm hoping I'll get some eventually. I did take a couple of shots right at the end, just before we left for dinner. The CUPCO people had put out some stickers, which some of the kids thought were really cute and stuck all over themselves. Cute, sure, until you looked closer (and I'm sorry about the quality of these, I was just. so. tired.):

CUPCO kids


We now have the larger sticker on our fridge, alongside a less explosive CUPCO Dali Lama sticker.

A lovely part of the evening was the arrival of For Battle's World Peace and a Speedboat, otherwise known as Speedy, with her friend Sarah (with whom I'd once worked on a very painstaking publishing project). They'd driven down from Sydney (and were going back later in the night) just to catch the opening! Champions. They came out to dinner with myself, BB and B, bookbinder Elke and other friends. Classic after-big-event dinner at a really crowded, noisy restaurant that took ages to take our order, and we couldn't split the bill. Still, it was great food, and it was nice to sit and natter face to face with Speedy, Sarah and Elke.

Then we went home and CRASHED. All three of us, out like a light within minutes.

I'm off the hook for a little while now, apart from a floor talk happening at the gallery tomorrow between 3 and 4pm -- all welcome, of course -- with myself and a couple of the binders talking about our work, and two excellent poets, Geoff Page and Alan Gould, reading Rosemary Dobson's poetry straight from my book, combined with lashings of afternoon tea. Oh, do come, if you're around. Then I'm going to relax for the rest of the weekend, because I haven't had a weekend for the last few weekends -- I've been helping print someone else's books as a type of 'ghost' printer.

And today, as I type, I'm getting a new toilet. That's right, a new toilet. See? Glory, wonder, beautiful books, good times, and it all ends up with a toilet. Or toilet humour (thanks to Speedy, and definitely NOT SAFE FOR WORK).

[A big THANK YOU to Craft ACT, and all the bookbinders, and to ANNIE.]

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

open invitation

Finally, I get a chance to put this up:

BTHOLG invite1

BTHOLG invite2

You're all invited. It's on for five weeks, so if you're anywhere near Canberra in that time, I won't forgive you for missing it. Even if you don't like bookbinding, there's an awesome show of 'animated softies' next door.

Here's a sneak preview of the show:

up the left side

up the right side

And because all the books have the same text, we put the text up on the wall, so people can read it for themselves:

The whole book

And here is a view up through the other gallery (G1), where you can see a glimpse of the CUPCO softies:

back towards the softies

There will be an official website page at Craft ACT, but it's not ready yet. I've got a post on my website, which I'll keep updating as I go. At the moment it hasn't got any images, but it will, soon.

There is also a floor event this Saturday, 16 May, at Craft ACT, from 3 to 4pm, featuring floor talks by myself and fellow participants Genevieve Swifte and Linda Newbown, and readings of Rosemary Dobson's poetry by Canberra poetry overlords Geoff Page and Alan Gould. Sexy! How can you resist?

Delightful infestation

EepyBird's Sticky Note experiment from Eepybird on Vimeo.

Such a great way of making flip books!

Via Ironic Sans

Here's something to get excited about

especially if you live in Melbourne:

Save the Melbourne Museum of Printing!

Looks to be a very good day, wish I could get to it.

AFTERTHOUGHT: And this is ACE, thank you to Dogpossum, who mentioned it when I was in no fit state to take notice. The fellow is working on a press very similar to my new one, and Bumblebee now wants me to teach him to print, thanks to this video! Huzzar!

Letterpress Poster Printing from Joshua Gerken on Vimeo.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The pictures say most of it

Sorry, in a rush, just thought I'd show you a couple of things


garage before

typecase move

press moving

press move into studio
This one has notes if you click on it.

Ceiling Cat, bless the nice guys of Beethoven Piano Removals.


opening on Thursday night at Craft ACT! Here's a sneak preview of my exhibition binding:

momigami book

Back soon!

[rushes out]

Tuesday, May 05, 2009


Something else to keep you busy while I'm still busy.

BTW, it's Best Beloved's birthday today. I got up at 6am to make him porridge just the way he likes it: slightly salty, cooked from whole oats, served with a drizzle of milk, golden syrup AND brown sugar. And a cup of tea, of course. Always tea.

Saturday, May 02, 2009


Sorry, I'm rather engrossed in some fun but challenging art thingies at the moment, so here's some fun things to keep you happy while I'm absent:

mind reading kitteh seez your thoughs  kitteh dissaprovez

Wuznt me, it wuz teh Cat.

with breathless anticipation the crowd awaited the unveiling of the Bush statue

orange and white outfit - check<br />soft and cuddly  - check<br />cute pose - check<br />covering of own spit - check<br />annoying cries - check<br />buries own litter - I WIN!!

(Oh -- I did manage to get to a really fun baby shower this morning. Most of the time I just felt glad it wasn't me about to embark upon that journey... but there was fun things to do, and very yummy food. Thanks, Lou! Good luck!)