Tuesday, June 30, 2009

not quite, but

funny pictures of cats with captions

no, not sick, not dying, just spending lots of time in the studio, cleaning and sorting and making.

Yesterday I channelled Annie (my very clean late nana) again and cleaned out my paper drawers so that I could actually store paper in them. Up to now they've been holding all my old art student work, actually the stuff that survived the last cull, but this time I was ruthless (or Annie) and chucked out nearly everything that couldn't be made into a sketchbook cover. I only kept three life drawings and two prints. And now I have a dedicated boxboard drawer, plus one for white paper and one for coloured -- luxury!

Today I'm waiting for the closest thing Canberra has got to a press mechanic to drop by. He said Mon or Tues, and if he doesn't show today I'm going to be sad. For the art school presses we use a guy from Sydney, but i don't think I can either afford to bring him here or wait for his next art school trip. I have leftover wariness from the process of moving the press -- I'd been waiting for a recommended group of removalists to show up & quote for me for weeks, and they just never showed, but then someone else recommended the beautiful Beethoven guys and they were fantastic. I'll just hope that this fellow is more the Beethoven than the other bunch.

I have less than two weeks before I go to the Sturt Winter School, and then I'm flying to Brisbane to see my darling friend Sacha and attend a conference all about books. Then I have another week, and then my open studio, and then I have a month until my first solo show. EEEK! So my entries here will be even more sporadic than usual. Sorry.

Even BB and Bumblebee are getting out of my way -- they're going on a roadtrip next week around the mountain country, visiting caves & snow and beaches and whatever, just the two of them, equipped with audio books and gameboys and no doubt an icecream every day. Sigh. I think I'll book a cottage by the sea for October, when I can relax again.

In other news, Bumblebee has been gorging himself on Michael Jackson videos and songs. I managed to record a three-hour 'Top 50 MJ' fest on VH1, and B is discovering the lovely high highs and absolutely low lows of the MJ oeuvre. We had a big discussion about living out your fantasies on screen, and I think he's starting to really understand the difference between constructed reality and lived reality (unlike MJ!). And we're having great discussions about why certain videos work and others don't. There are some ripper live clips, I can see why his concerts sold out instantly, but FIFTY of them? That's a bunch of vultures in charge, poor bugger.

IMHO, the best MJ album is Off the Wall, but even so, I'm getting pretty sick of it now. Damn, I'd just weaned B off these albums before MJ died, and he was showing some progress, he was hooked on 'Ziggy Stardust'. Now we're back a few steps. But only for a while, I hope. All this too shall pass. I keep repeating that, constantly.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Just last night

I was telling Best Beloved that I want to track down a copy of The Wiz.

Why? he asked.

Because Michael Jackson makes my heart ache when I watch him before all his insecurities erupted in a bodily fashion.

Well, obviously you can.

Oh rats, I always said he'd never make it past 50, and I also made a small bet with BB that he'd never fulfill the highly ambitious (and debt-fuelled) plans for a ginormous comeback tour.

So I guess I was right, but I don't feel smug about it. MJ has always made me feel sorrowful, maybe because I grew up watching him from wee one to weird one.

Poor old Bumblebee is a bit shattered. He's had MJ on high rotation for ages, and it's been vaguely disturbing me that the man had the power to attract 11 yo boys from such a geographical and chronological distance. But now he can stay young forever, and be worshipped from afar, which is exactly what he's always wanted.

I wonder if he wanted to be preserved or something? I guess we'll find out soon enough.

Postscript: Cheered immensely by a lovely silly bit of chemistry thanks to Coconut with a Motor. Absolutely nothing to do with MJ, but just the ticket, nonetheless:

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I don't usually use drycleaners

but sometimes there's no avoiding them.

cat vomit stain

I think if I ever start a band (in my old age, when my hands seize up), this will be its name. Punk will be fully revived, we'll all be too old to care what the young ones think, and we'll be angry about being ditched in cavernous rest homes (recovering from the mighty wave of babyboomers). Any leftover babyboomers will be too deaf to hear my musical shrieks, and come to think of it, so will my child's generation. Ahh, you've got to plan ahead.

And no, I don't know which of my cats yakked on my favorite winter coat. Both of them look guilty. Constantly. Actually, it's probably Mr Pooter, because of the combination of guilt and smugness.

Monday, June 22, 2009

goings and comings

Today Bumblebee and I had a mental health day. He stayed home from school to nurse his hacking cough, and I spent the day de-cluttering. It was ace.

I went through the house and found all the books that were lying around waiting to be read, and made an on-the-spot decision about whether I would EVER get around to reading them. Then I went through my shelves (not BB's, I wouldn't dare) and culled all the books that had accumulated that I didn't want to read again.

There's been a big pile of old clothes lying in the door of my study for AGES. That was sorted into various piles: hand-me-downs for littler boys, a bag for Vinnies, a bag for Aussiejunk.

And then we took them away and gave them to various organisations. And felt great.

When we dropped into Vinnies at Dickson we discovered an excellent winter sale. We found Bumblebee a very cool demin jacket and I got two nice cardies. We felt ok about buying them, because we had space.

Then when we went to Woollies to buy toothpaste (something the local organic vegie store doesn't provide), they gave us a big slab of chocolate cake each as part of some Quaint-arse frequent flyers promotion. Bumblebee was stoked, and claimed it was our reward for finally doing the clean-up.

I was so inspired, I went home and wrote some important emails I've been forgetting about. I applied for a residency in New Zealand, I followed through on a tip about the chance to buy some new type. Both of which are chances, but you've got to be in to win, haven't you?

Inspired by those, I made some useful phone calls. I'm a phone-shy person; I hate making calls and I hate talking on the phone for ages, it makes my ears sweaty. I used to have eczema behind my ears, and I think a lot of my aversion stems back to that time. But today! I had one of my EUREKA! dreams the other day, about how to find a press mechanic. So I acted upon my dream and found a fellow who is going to visit my studio early next week. HUZZAR!

So there is a chance that my press will be operational by the time I have my studio warming -- which, by the way, has changed dates. I remember promising the 4th of July. But that date went squidgy when I discovered that it clashed badly with a paying function in the complex's gallery -- a function that ISN'T very compatible with a joyful launching of a space.

So the new date is 1 August:

I'm sure I won't have the press running, even if it is operational, but it would be nice to have it a bit cleaner than it is now (it's already cleaner than it was when it moved in, thanks to Bernice's dexterity with sandpaper and oil). I won't be able to do much at all other than stand around waving a glass and talking to people as they wander in and out, but what fun! This date also coincides with an exhibition in the ANCA studio by John Loane of Veridian Press (he prints all of Mike Parr's prints, as well as many other Aust art biggies), so it's a double-barrelled fun time.

And according to Progressive Dinner Party, it is time to plant garlic! I just bought some local garlic the other day, feeling like I wanted to grow some, and now I find that my urge is BASIC and ANCIENT and INSTINCTIVE. I love it when I get things right. Now I'm going to act like a real woman and make some vege nachos with real (pressure-cooked) kidney beans. W00T!

Sunday, June 21, 2009


I have a lovely man yawning pointedly from the bed in the next room, so I'll keep this short and sweet.

I've been teaching a box-making workshop all weekend to a small but thoughtful group. They all wanted to make at least a clamshell box, and I told them it would take the whole weekend to do it. They couldn't believe it, but by the end of the first day, when they'd just glued together their second internal tray, they understood why.

But lo! They made things of beauty! Look!


(also a little paper box we did at the end for fun)



(inside of above box)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Fixing a hole

I finished my Barbara Hanrahan Diaries this morning, and had a little cry. She dredges up so many fears about quality of life, productiveness, happiness, etc etc. Then felt a little lossy hole, that one you get when you're in between good books.

Decided to cheer myself up by going down to Dickson and checking my mailbox, and lo! found a surprise parcel from Wendy James, with her latest book, Why She Loves Him. Am very excited. I tried to email you, Wendy, to say so, but my email bounced back. So here I am, hoping you'll read this, to let me say THANKS.

No hole! Feeling a delicious tingle of anticipation. Lovely.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


I've decided that sometimes the spaces between blog posts are called bogging. They're the times when there is so much to do -- usually for other people -- that I feel guilty about blogging because it means I'm spending time on me and not on them, and they might see the blog and wonder why I'm not doing their job/quality time. What an awful, boggy thought.

I'm re-reading Barbara Hanrahan's diary, and she has lots of awful boggy thoughts, interspersed with such moments of resolve and enthusiasm that I'm glad I'm wading through the boggy bits. I'm also trying to remember to mark down the bits I want to send Thirdcat, because I can see why she wants to have them nearby.

Anyway, that's all I can write at the moment. I'm going to have a big day of running around sorting out things and maybe finishing something, anything, that gives me a sense of crossing something off a list. I'm teaching again this weekend, at Megalo: making boxes. Still spaces left! Plus now I've got six weeks of uni break, which gives me some time to cross off a whole lot of other things from the big list floating in my head. But first I have to write up my assessment report cards... back to it.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Not complaining

It was quite a jolly ride into art school today, the first time I've done the bike thing since our local weather decided to take an nude icy plunge into Antarctic air flows. It was -5 degrees last night -- take that, Thirdcat!

So I rugged up well for the peddle: Nepalese fully-lined woolly hat, polo-neck shirt, weird long mini-cardie that I got heavily discounted at Tar-gey the other day, jeans, Blunnies with thick socks, and a fantastic faux-suede padded coat I bought in the sweat of summer at an op shop that I KNEW would come in handy just about now. Topped off with a possum-fur/wool mix scarf and some leather gloves, I looked like a dark marshmallow, but I felt great. Except for the hands. Tomorrow I will need my microfibre glove liners as well; my fingertips, vanguard of the ride, were freezing. I'm just warming them up now with a little keybort exercising before I start work ;)

In other news, yesterday's workshop with teh Women of Majura was fun, because they get into things without stressing too much. Lots of tea and slice, babies to coo over (and reinforce the rightness of one's decision to draw a line in the sand) and things quietly made amongst gossip and other conversation. I was teaching them simple Japanese binding techniques, with a few more complex patterns drawn up on a board for those who wanted to go further, and we talked about how it was a great stitch to collate kids' drawings, or make cloth baby books, or photo albums, or to teach kids so that they can make their own little notebooks etc. If you are a mother in Canberra and need something to do once a week to get you out of the house, I highly recommend this group. They meet in Downer, which is very easy to get to from anywhere, I like to think.

On the way back to my formal day job yesterday, I stopped at an intersection in Civic where I normally chat to a windscreen washer. But he wasn't there, someone else was. He is a part of a new wave of windscreen washers in the inner north who are completely annoying -- they don't have the rhythm of the lights worked out, so they approach you just before you know the light's about to change, and/or they approach you and ignore your shaking head, and give you a 'freebie' in the hope that you'll then change your mind about flinging cash at them. Yesterday the dude tried both things, and I yelled at him. I was shaking my head, knowing the light was 20 seconds off changing, and I had people behind me who wouldn't appreciate waiting for him to finish my already clean windscreen (the wonders of rain!). So I yelled NO!, but he kept lowering the dripping wiper, grinning, so I lowered my window and yelled again: WHAT PART OF NO DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND?!

He backed off. I got a few thumbs up by people as we all drove off, and I hope he starts to look at the lights a few times before he does it again. I miss the other guy. I hope he comes back. If I don't want a wipe, we have a chat, and I give him whatever I have, which is usually lollies. He never refuses them.

In other other news, one of my son's Photoshop efforts from a few years ago has made someone's 'bad Photoshop' blog. I don't mind, really, but I don't like the assumption that [a] the parent has inflicted these effects upon the child against their will, and [b] it's a male parent. Yah boo sucks to you, tumblr, whoever you are. Bumblebee had a great time exploring Photoshop, and I thnk he did ok for a nine-yo, or whatever he was.

Anyhoo, my fingers are now warm, better do something constructive around here. It's assessment time, the place is so quiet, it's spooky. I might put some music on for starters.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Bega bindings

I'm out of love with my red digital camera. I bought it on the way to Korea in 2004, so I suppose it's given me five good years of service, but it's either succumbing to inbuilt obsolescence or I'm getting bad eyesight and shaky hands.

Anyway, I'm starting this way because I took lots of photos of my weekend workshop in Bega, and only a few of them actually came out ok. GAH!

Here they are. All of the following images are of work made by participants:


I kept the weekend very broad and quite simple -- a few fun kinds of book structures, a lot of talking about what constitutes a 'book', a demo how to do eucalyptus oil photocopy transfers, stuff like that.


I showed a couple of Powerpoint slideshows, one about the work I'd done by myself and with other artists, and another using what I'd put together for what I thought would be my talk at the Library on Thursday night.


The talk went really well,* with me pulling out a lot of my books and talking about them, and letting everyone (there was about 15 people there) pass them around and look through them (which is the point of making books, isn't it?). One of those looking was once the proprietor of a favorite secondhand book shop, Candelo Books, which used to be located along the way to Tathra Beach, taking up most of an old cottage along the highway. The shop is no more, but he survives, and is a lovely articulate and fantastically-educated man who helped keep the conversation flowing.

landscape coptic

The workshop had 13 members, and we were hosted in a room underneath the local lawn bowls club. I'd had a day between speaking at the library and starting the workshop, so I did absolutely nothing other than flop around, read (Georgia Blain's Candelo, winkled from the Bega Library, since I'd just finished her Births, Deaths and Marriages), and play Gameboy, trying desperately to fit a weekend of leisure into one blessed weekday. I did manage to cook a cake, one that Zoe had fed me a few days earlier, from this recipe. Lady Duck had a big bag of persimmons, so I couldn't resist. It's the scrummiest cake. I didn't have the right persimmons, you're meant to use the astringent sloppy ones, so I didn't get the magical alchemy, but I want you all to know that even the hard non-astringent ones work if you cook them up until they're mushy first (I used the microwave).

That's my persimmon and walnut cake in the centre, almost gone before I thought to take a photo. All workshops need lashings of cake. The one below was a shop-brought choco sponge roll (brought by Rhonda), and the one above is polenta and poached pear (brought by Anna). There was also a lovely coconut cake the next day, and I can't remember who brought that, but it was also delicious. We were happy females.

velvet coptic

I encouraged everyone to pull apart old hardbacks and find sheet music and maps to play with, and they all did really well. People had all sorts of backgrounds (getting them to talk about themselves is the best part of the start of the workshop), from art to graphic design to costume design, and some had no art at all, just wanted to try something new. Fabbo!


I also liked seeing what people brought to play with, and they didn't disappoint: vintage boxes full of thread,


not so vintage boxes full of thread:

brand new contraptions that do dye-cuts and embossing, old stamps and woodblocks, and check out this exquisite needlebook:


The woman who owned this is a Oscar-nominated (and AFI winning) costume designer who has spent years scouring op shops and junk shops for props and costume embellishments. That needlebook was used in the TV series Under Capricorn. She has a regular stall at the Candelo markets, and also has lots of interesting stories.

Sharon & Ali
I promise you, I took lots of photos of people, but this is the only decent one, and it doesn't do the poor girls justice. On the left is Sharon, who has a lot of fabulous jewellery in the new Craft ACT shop, and on the right is Ali, who is learning to wrangle silver under Sharon's tutelage. I am wearing a pair of Ali's earrings as I type, and have been wearing them non-stop since she sent them to me months ago. They are working very hard on their bookiness.

wee book

The whole mob were a great bunch of women, and we had a lovely time. I went home on the first night tired but happy. Well, I didn't go straight home, I first bought a bottle of cold white and a pack of Bega cheese crisps and went around to my lovely nana's house and watched the lawn bowls (!) with her and her crazy dog. Then we all went to the pub for tea.

On the second night, after cleaning up and saying goodbye to everyone, I got back to the farm exhaustipated.** I couldn't string many words together, and I certainly couldn't drive any further. I'd been invited to cracker night at Chez Megan, which was a fair drive up the road... but Lady Duck was not well, and Best Beloved, bless him, is not a confident driver (or he thinks he is, but I'm not confident about his driving) so I did the unthinkable and PIKED. I felt awful about it, because iconophilia had made the trip from Canberra, but what to do? Enough was enough. I curled up next to the cats and nodded off in front of the tv. A big night's sleep and then we went back to the first proper day of Canberra winter... and today was even colder.

Tomorrow I'm running a Japanese bookbinding session for the Majura Women's Group, which should be lots of fun. But I hope they have heaters!

[Many thanks to the Bega Valley Shire Council for giving me a reason to visit my parents! And to all my lovely workshoppers.]

* If you click that link, you'll get Meg's post on my talk. It's the first time I can actually see why people keep telling me I look like my mother.

**Exhaustipated = so tired that nothing comes out easily.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

the life and times of books me

My doppelganger sister-in-law (whom I am proud to look like, since she is extremely lovely) is travelling solo around the world for a while. She's a veteran traveller, but the urge to travel alone came on strongly a couple of years ago when she turned 40, and I guess she's now got the bug. And her fabulous family is happy for her to go forth and be happy while they maintain their normal daily routine of school and work. Isn't she lucky?

Anyhoo, she's started a travel blog, based on a pair of pants that she gets people to wear and photographs in different situations. She's always got fun projects like that on the boil, sometimes many at once.

I'm travelling myself, tomorrow... all the way to Bega. Not solo, but with Colonel Duck, who has kindly come up to Canberra to give me a lift down to the far south coast. In return I will give him a personal tour of the bookbinding exhibition. (Gee, thanks, Ca, I can hear him say sarcastically when I tell him that.) And then I'm going to the Bega Library to sit around a table and do a bit of a show & tell with some of my books.

I had originally started writing a much more elaborate and general talk about books in art and art in books, starting way back with papyrus and Iraqi illuminated manuscripts and working my way through to now, exploring how books started with structural concerns, moved to a generic structure (the codex) and how most artistic challenges to the book form concerned experimentation with page design up to the late 20th century, when suddenly there was a major shift back to structural experimentation. I was really getting into it, had found all these great images on some of the databases we have access to at the ANU, when I talked to the Bega library staff on the phone, and asked them what they actually wanted me to say.

'Pretend you're a book,' they said. 'Describe yourself.'


Ok, maybe I'll save that other talk for something else, like the Sturt Winter School.

So I've packed a box of things I don't mind being handled, and I'll stick to what I actually know about. Myself.


In other news, the workshop is totally booked out. Fun!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Influenza MF

I'm getting pretty tired of Swine Flu being treated as if it's AIDS. It's an interesting exercise in how germs spread, but that's all.

We've got Man Flu in our house at the moment, which is a much more serious affair, and I wish they could hurry up with a vaccine for that. Poor chookies, wearing their bums out for something that doesn't have a tenth of the domestic impact of Influenza MF...