Saturday, May 29, 2010


Every night, before we go to sleep (and every morning, as soon as we wake up), Best Beloved turns on his little tranny to listen to the ABC news.

Tonight, after the usual signature tune, the news started reporting the arrest of a large number of people for drug smuggling.

'Why is this more important than the death of Gary Coleman?' BB suddenly demanded. 'It should be like the death of Diana, people throwing flowers into the street and all.'


This is why I love the man. He's just so... odd.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

crash & burn

Oh goodness, I've only just managed to stop laughing and wipe a tear from my eye.

If you want the same experience, go here. Safe for work, I guess. I'm sure my workplace already thinks I'm mad.

Snaps to India Ink for the link (see, I'm a poet and I didn't know it)

Travelling with the Sherpa

Oh, one of things I forgot to add to the list was another swag of encounters with the Shopping Sherpa. She went to Melbourne for the weekend and got a lift with her regular cat feeders, so I offered to feed Mr Nibbs for her (since I didn't manage to help any when her house got robbed). It was fun, apart from the fact that Mr Nibbs was initially a scaredy-cat and ran from me any time I tried to be nice to him (which I think was trauma from the robbery), but by the end of the weekend we were reasonably friendly with each other. I also got to explore SS's CD collection, which included Lady Gaga and the entire discography of the Pet Shop Boys. I quite like Ms Gaga when I'm not distracted by her art direction.

Shopping Sherpa is also curating an exhibition of miniature craft pieces called 'Call of the Small', showing at Craft ACT in August (when I'm in NZ), and I'm making teeny letterpress posters for it. She came for a studio visit on Tuesday, and has blogged an account of it, something I gather is part of a series of studio visits to the artisans in the show.

I gave my talk last night, too fast, of course, but I think I said all the right things. The artists looked happy with what I said. Then I took the Aunties back home for a big pasta dinner, cooked in front of them while they talked and watched Spicks & Specks. Bacon, olive & tomato pasta, pesto gnocci, green salad, garlic bread, followed by fruit and a cheese platter and a glass of cumquat brandy.

I'm feeling a touch floppy today. I'm sure I'll rally in time for my excursion to Tuggeranong.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Yeah yeah, catching up

Yeah, yeah, I know that I haven't blogged for a week or more, my dad keeps nagging me every time he sees me, which is a lot this week, because he's in town.

Partly it's because of my addiction to Farmville and the nice things I can do on it:

Maynard and Rory held their breath:
were the stories of Grandpa's secret collection of 1950s p0rn really true?

Partly it's because I don't seem to have time to scratch myself, and in the spaces in between, I just want to plant and pat and harvest (see? Farmville again).

But here I am, feeling a bit worn out and off-colour at work, not wanting to operate heavy machinery, so in between small helpful tasks, I'm going to get you up to date.

Where was I? Goodness, I left you at the point when I was joyously riding my bike at night. That was a while ago.


I gave a public lecture at the Art Skool's regular weekly lunchtime lecture series, Art Forum. If you're ever scratching around for something to do in Canberra at 12 on a Wed or 1 on a Thurs, there's usually a visiting artist or staff member talking about their practice. I missed one a few weeks ago by someone who went through Sculpture when I was a student who has become the technical assistant to Bridget Riley (Op Art queen)! O wot fun.

My talk was about the work I do with other people, and explaining that shorter projects with driven people or making smaller pieces for theme-based group shows always get precedent over my own larger projects because they are easier to juggle with home, work, Farmville, etc. Well, I didn't mention FV, but many of the people listening are Facebook friends and must be inundated with the stoopid notifications that get generated and published (that can be hidden, quite easily, if they are too annoying).

Of course, I talked too fast. I always do unless I can remember to slow down. I always feel like talking slowly makes me sound like I have a speech impediment, but if I hear a recording, I sound quite normal. When I hear a recording of what I think is normal speech, I sound like the tape has been sped up. Sigh.


Bumblebee was sick that day, and I made him sit up the back of the lecture theatre and listen. He's been ill for about a week now, with a really horrid head cold. I had to teach on Saturday and Sunday and Monday, so lovely Best Beloved did the nursing honours. It made sense on Monday especially, because he gets paid regardless if he stays home to mind sick child, and I don't, being the absolute bottom of the food chain and paid by timesheets.

I have been fighting off his cold, but I think it's tightening its grip. Olive leaf extract and masses of VitC is helping, but I may have to spend some of this weekend actually resting. Such an alien concept!


I taught a course at Megalo on Saturday and Sunday on Asian Stab Bindings and Coptic Binding. It was a lovely group of women who got on very well together, and that makes all the difference. If the class dynamic is good, everything is smooth and jolly, and if not, it's a slog.

The funniest part for me was that one person (whose name I shall not mention but she works with me here at Art Skool and you know who you are :) ) forgot her glasses EACH DAY, and discovered that another woman's glasses worked with her eyes, so all weekend they were passing the glasses back and forth as if they were the Graeae passing around their eyeball. If I ever get the sustained time to write a short story, I'll have characters doing the same...

I was very honourable, as always, when the participants filled out their feedback forms, assuring them that I wouldn't peek so that they could be totally honest in their feedback. I always keep my word about that, and juts popped the envelope under the office door as I was going home. On Tuesday, when I went to collect my gear, the Director of Megalo was really pleased, and sat me down to read the feedback, which was all really, really positive. Yay! Again, mostly to do with the luck of the class dynamics, it's always great when everyone helps each other and enjoy themselves.

I'm teaching a one-day course on concertina books at the Tuggeranong Art Centre on June 5th, if anyone fancies it. Should be lots of fun.

I'm also doing (as a student) a one-day course at Megalo on woodblock printing on June 12th, which should be ACE. I'm keen on collecting skills that don't need large and expensive equipment, and have always wanted to learn Japanese image transfer and inking techniques.


I don't know if you've ever noticed, but my dad isn't the only family member who actively prompts me about my blogging. I have an auntie from WA, Auntie Lou, who reads and works up the courage to leave comments quite often.

Well, this week I am having a visit from The Aunties: Auntie Lou (my dad's youngest sister) and Auntie Jan (the oldest sister). They are doing a Grand Tour fuelled by the immense number of frequent flyer points accrued by my miner uncle, Bill: enough to go around the world four times, apparently, but instead are getting L and J here business class and hiring a car and staying at some pretty swanky venues. They're also having a visit to Mary MacKillop's grave or some such thing, to celebrate her saintliness.

Auntie Lou is not well, with many dramatic health problems that keep her mostly housebound. Uncle Bill refuses to travel with her because the risk of things going wrong is fairly high (last time she visited us, when Bumblebee was a little tucker, she ended up in a Canberra hospital, ferried by an ambulance in the middle of the night, which was a bit scary!), but Auntie Jan has been persuaded to accompany her, and is a perfect companion: efficient, supportive and completely calm. And able to laugh in the face of anything, a family trait.

Last night I went out to dinner with the Aunties, Colonel & Lady Duck, and their friends, my godparents. The visitors are staying at Uni House, so we took over the posh restaurant there, Boffins. As their ad says, Boffins 'exudes quiet sophistication', an atmosphere that we shot to pieces with our raucous family banter, swapping stories about grandchildren and nostalgic recollections of their children (including me). I learned a fab new word for a woman's bagina (as Zoe calls it): a 'minnie', used by one of the WA grandkids, recounted to our tearful howls of laughter.


Poor old Bumblebee saw more minnies than he'd planned to the other day. I'd set up his laptop with basic parental controls, and meant to do some more stringent things when I had a moment, and he and I had agreed that besides typing his homework, he could only check his gmail and play on Facebook. Anyhoo, he's been playing this game on FB called Wild Ones, and loves it. He hadn't bookmarked it, and one afternoon decided to find it by googling it. Well. You can guess what happened, can't you? I was sitting nearby and saw him looking at his screen with a weird look on his face: shock, confusion, and concentration. He saw me looking at him, and lowered his laptop screen slightly. I said jokingly, 'what's up, you looking at pr0n?' He lowered his screen even more and looked even more uncomfortable.

Oh noes! I thought. And got him to close the laptop.

Colonel and Lady Duck were visiting at the time, and we all sat around and talked over the issue. It was an interesting afternoon, and I think we handled it well, with sympathy and humour and not making him feel too shameful about having accidentally found the site.

Later on, once I'd spent a long overdue while setting his Google search settings and set up stronger parental controls (snaps to Bernice for the help), I had a look at what he'd been looking at. I could understand his confusion... thanks to our modern predilection for shaving, it was very hard to work out exactly what you were seeing, and it was like a very odd game of twister.

When I told him the next day that I'd set the computer up so that it would be very hard to recreate the experience, his response was genuine relief. But his cred has gone up a bit with his friends... and it has allowed some very frank discussions about what women *actually* look like and what an industry like that entails.

Took a while for my heart to settle down... breathe, breathe. Shows how easily this stuff can happen. I'm very glad that I insist he uses the laptop in a shared space, not locked away in his bedroom.


So tonight there's an opening at ANCA of a show of the work of two lovely friends, Genevieve Swifte and Nicci Haynes, called Shifting Signs. They have collaborated on the works, showing two separate bodies of prints & drawings and a few shared pieces. And there's even drawings on the walls themselves. The opening is at 6pm, and I'm the opening speaker... So I have to remember to speak. slowly.

Also, I'm featured (along with two other artists) in this week's issue of the Canberra Chronicle, or Chronic, as Crit calls it. I haven't seen the piece yet, as I've only just won my battle to stop having the community paper delivered. It wasn't the paper itself, it was the bugger who delivered it, and the weird ways it was deposited on our land. I started with an official sticker saying 'No junk mail. No Chronicle', which was ignored. Then I moved to handwritten notes, stuck onto the postbox, and then nailed onto the front verge in the last place the paper had been dumped. I was collecting a stack of them in their horrid plastic baggy things, ready to spell 'NO CHRONICLE' on the front verge in newspapers, just in case they were being thrown out of a plane, but then I noticed that they had stopped, and now I'm happy. But now I'm in the paper. So I'm asking people to save me a copy. Crit's doing it, so I know I'll get one.

The article itself is about an exhibition down at the Tuggeranong Arts Centre (Tuggeranong means 'Land of the long grey tracksuit') called The Story is the Thing, featuring artist's books featuring storytelling. I have a piece in it, but I'm featured in the article mostly to promote the associated workshop on concertina books that I mentioned earlier.

Phew. I think that's about all. I'll leave it at that for now.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Happiness is riding my bicycle home late on an autumn night through the streets of suburban North Canberra, underneath canopies of still-leaved deciduous trees that muffle the street lights and allow brief glimpses of starry night, no traffic to endanger me as I ride looking up, listening on my ipod to Grizzly Bear and breathing long curly breaths of pale dragon smoke. It's cold enough for the hat, scarf and gloves to be comforting, but doesn't leave the tip of the nose frozen. I've had enough wine to be enchanted and dreamy, but not so much that I stray from the left hand side. The shame is that home isn't very far away, so it's only a ten minute ride, and I'm trying to ignore the reality that dragon smoke sometimes fogs up my glasses, but looking up helps a lot, and knowing my way home so well, it's a bit like walking around the house with my head in a book.

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but when I remember, I collect amusing baby names from the Births column of the Canberra Times. Having named my own baby something suitably amusing but interesting, I'm always on the look out for other examples, or quite the opposite: disturbing trends. Today, reading yesterday's paper (after BB left me to sleep in -- until 9.15am!!! Bliss!!) I felt quite disturbed.

A few years ago (I don't date my finds) there was a Saxon and a Jaxon in the same day's newspaper. Yesterday also had a Saxon and a Jaxon! [hums theme to the Twilight Zone to herself.]

Also: two different families calling their baby girl Mackenzie, with a little brother called Liam!! Is there some famous partnering of Liam and Mackenzie that I don't know about? Seems very odd.

I was working on my monoprint editioning yesterday, trying to draw hands on my inked up plate fifteen times in a row. I like drawing hands when I do life drawing; they are the weirdest things when you look closely at them. But reproducing them from pulling back ink (a bit like burnishing back from a mezzotint plate) and thinking in reverse while doing so is a bit past my dubious drawing talents. The hands always looked good on the plate, but when printed went all lumpy and odd. Sigh. I'm going to go back in today and agonise over yesterday's efforts. Still, they're meant to be old hands, so maybe I'll be kind on myself and let them pass the spiky gates of Doubt.

hands plate
This is the plate, rolled up with ink and then 'drawn' on by using a rag and some cotton buds.

learning hands
And here are my various wonky hands. Not brilliant (especially my first attempt at the top left), but actually not so bad now that I look at them rather than recall them, and they are meant to be old, gnarly hands... My consolation is that the book readers only get to see one print at a time, not a batch like this.

One more printing session, and I'll be through the images, which are always the least amusing part of book making for me (one of the many reasons why I collaborate with others). Then I can print the text and bind it, and that's another tick off the List!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Game Over, dudes

Yesterday Natalie, my excellent studio resident, and I sat down and scanned the fruits of her labour. How's this for eye-popping?

I've just written a couple of posts about the student residency itself and Natalie's working process, and put the posters up at my Duckshop, which is where you can buy much of my work, and now the work of people who make things with me. Fun! If you can think of anyone who would like to support Natalie's work by buying or promoting these broadsides, please spread the word.

So. Next I need to finish my Book Art Object edition, make solid plans for my NZ experience, teach a few workshops (Megalo, Tuggeranong Arts Centre, Book Studio Winter Typography School. If you'd like info about any of these, head to my website) and organise Peter's broadside residency. Amongst other, more domestic things that need to be done. Is that enough to be going on with? I think so...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Coming soon

broadside peek: Space Invaders

broadside peek: Mario / Pacman ghosts

Coming soon to the Ampersand Duck website: four broadsides by my student resident Natalie Azzopardi. She's been working hard, splitting the one ration of Fabriano Rosapina paper into smaller piles so that she could work on a few different designs and allow herself to play with my orsum (the way I hear my son say it) equipment.

She's built up a 'Game Over' theme, and all of these figures have been painstakingly handset from individual metal type ornaments. The Mario broadside is particularly hard to reproduce, because his face and hands are embossed rather than printed with ink.

Aren't they cool? We're scanning them today, and they'll soon be up for sale on my website for $50 each plus postage and handling. These photos are just taken with my phone camera, so the scans should really make the colours pop.

Next resident, Peter McLean, will start working either in July, before I go to NZ, or October, when I get back from NZ. Either way, I can't wait to see what he does -- he's a printmaker who loves type and wood engraving, so I think his work will be a little bit more traditional than Natalie, who is a photographer who dabbles so well in the book arts & print that I think she should keep her practice broad and papery :)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Oh my goodness, this seems to be my Year of Standing Up in Front of People.

Just when I thought Mackay was done and dusted, here comes an Art Forum (which is a public lunchtime lecture presented at the Art School, usually by visiting artists but sometimes by staff if they're doing anything interesting -- or filling a gap, like I am!) and an opening talk at the exhibition opening of two wonderful artists who happen to be good friends and very lovely women.
I'll mention this again closer to time (just in case you're around) but just for now I'm mopping my brow and feeling a wee bit nervous. But that's a good state of mind; it generates jokes, which seem to be essential for my speaking gigs, if only to keep myself amused.

Monday, May 10, 2010


Did anyone else have offspring who whooped & hollered on the edge of the couch last night during Dr Who and then who woke in the night, freaking out at every slightest noise and asking if they could sleep on the floor of your bedroom?

We settled for him sleeping on the couch in the loungeroom, with Ultimate Cat Protection.

And now my eyelids are finding it very hard to stay open.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Muvvers day

Damn, did it again. Every year I buy my mother a present and every year I forget to send it to her, so every year my Mother's Day morning phone call starts with

I'm sorry, I did it again...

Luckily her response is usually along the lines of

That's ok, you know I don't mind!

I heart my mum.

Luckily BB and his mother don't celebrate the day, or that would just be two lots of things to forget!

Myself, I was woken with a menu that offered me sensible choices like

Eggs Benedict (poached eggs with bacon and hollendaise sauce on a bagel and a side serve of rocket)
Eggs Florentine (the same, but without the bacon)
Eggs Cochrane (a family name): rotten eggs nestled on a fly-poo bagel, layered with rancid bacon fat, and served with chocolate ice-magic, with a side serve of cucumber and orange peel.

Banana pancake
served with yogurt and maple syrup
Quince pancake served with quince syrup and cinnamon
Snail pancake served with slug slime speckled with wasp droppings

and for beverages

White wine
Twinings Prince of Wales tea
Peppermint tea
Grapefruit fizz
Cup of cold sick

Ahem. I chose Eggs Florentine and a cup of tea.

Now, if you watched Spicks & Specks on Wednesday night, you will not be surprised to hear that I asked my family to buy me a copy of Bat out of Hell on CD for M's Day, to replace my quite-forgotten, once-well-loved and completely played-to-death adolescent cassette.

What did surprise me was my mother's response to my telling her this:

Oh wow -- can you make me a copy??!!


We spent the day today driving to Bundanoon (Bumblebee and I roaring along to Meatloaf at top volume while BB concentratedly listened to ABC RN podcasts on his Blackberry with a stiff face) to visit my darling Sasha, who was visiting from Brisbane, and driving slowly back, popping into whatever Antique and secondhand book shop we passed. Then tonight I'm cooking a very slow-cooked Hoggett stew with preserved lemon-stuffed green olives and lemon-roasted potatoes. Yum!

...and it's ready just in time for Dr Who.

Saturday, May 08, 2010


Never underestimate the crappiness of getting 3/4 of the way through a job only to discover that you've done it wrong.

I sat in my studio today, happily sewing books to Radio National until about 3.30, when I discovered that I'd not sewed on the endpapers, so they'd have to be completely unpicked and resewn. DOH.

Luckily, soon after, I had some visitors: Elsewhere and friend, who sat with BB and I in the autumnal splendor of the ANCA courtyard and supped wine and chortled. It was a glorious evening. Thus I don't really feel like it was a totally wasted day.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

mucking aboot on the farm + hippo barfday to BB

Justin sighed. It was hard to follow your dream when all they did was mock you.

I've been having fun with my Farmville site on Facebook. There are times when you've done all your chores, and there's nothing much else to do. So I've started making little scenarios with my livestock.

Chatting around the grain silo at lunchtime, they were incredulous that Bruce had managed to get an iPad on the weekend.

While I'm creating, here's a birthday appearance for Best Beloved, who turns 39 today. (He's 3.5 years younger than me -- does that make me a cougar? or just a kitty?) I thought, even though (or maybe especially since) he doesn't read my blog, I'd give you a sneak peek at him:

This is probably as close as I can get to portraying him, anyway. I thought about putting him in a shirt & tie, to denote his Servant to Teh Public status, but he does love his Cartman, and his present today from me was two very silly and quite rude tshirts, including this, which delighted him, but we both agree that it will be hard to find places in which to wear it.

I remembered to buy him a birthday cake to eat last night when we went out with mates, and I cooked him a nice breakfast this morning. Tick, tick, tick tick, most of the birthday boxes ticked. Phew!

Sunday, May 02, 2010


Yesterday I discovered that if you go to the farmers market with a friend you haven't seen for ages, you spend a lot longer shopping than on normal weeks. But it was a lot of fun giving her a conducted tour; at one point I was showing her one stallholder's exquisite gypsy ham and explaining that it was ok to buy a big lump all at once because you could cut it up and freeze chunks, when the woman next to me thanked me for the tip and bought a nice big chunk for herself. Public service in Canberra is so much more than being in KRudd's employ.

It was such a beautiful Autumn weekend, one of those times when it's positively criminal to stay indoors... but I had a book to make, and I've been putting it aside in favour of other tasks for so long that I just had to get in there and do it. Luckily the first stage of making meant that I had to go to the Book Stud at the Art School, and that meant that I could see the trees and the sky from its wonderful large windows, and even in the inking slab.


I was making monoprints. I was making monoprints all weekend, editions of them, which is a strange thing do really. I talk more about it here, and I also explain why I'm editioning them. However, right here, right now I've got other things to share before dragging myself off to bed.

I love working at the art school, for many reasons, not in the least that strange things happen at random times. On Wednesday, I looked out of the window and saw the usual view down to the Sculpture workshop:

sculpture, ANU

Except... except. Something was different, and I went down to investigate further. This is what I found, instead of the usual OH&S signage:


Installation piece? Protest? Prank? I have no idea. It had a companion piece:


All I know is that the next day, they weren't there.

Anyhoo, last night I cooked a stupendous yummy:

pasta sauce

This is my pasta sauce just before I poured it onto hot spiral pasta: home-smoked chicken (BB's latest craze is home smoking), mushrooms, Russian garlic, leeks, baby spinach, white wine and thick cream (cleaning out the fridge, normally we'd have used plain yoghurt). It was sooooo nice that I thought I should share the thought of it with you.

Anyhoo anyhoo, as I rode my bike home from the art school in the dark tonight (without a front light! Naughty! Note to self: batteries for bike light. My back red flashy thing still works fine), the thermometer outside the ABC showed that it was my all-time favorite temperature: 13 degrees. Cold enough to need a jumper or jacket but not cold enough to make your teeth chatter or to need gloves on the hands. Lovely. Ah, Autumn, how I love thee so.

BB bought the first series of Six Feet Underground while he was in Melbourne, so we started watching it. I'm such a late starter on everything, it means that when I want to rave about something, everyone else is just so over it. Sigh. Luckily I don't care too much, it's still pretty fun.

What about the hipster daleks on Dr Who tonight? Bumblebee went nuts, was so excited, and all I could think was how clever they were to produce 5 or 6 separate collectibles rather than one. How can I get mistily excited about a tree in my front yard that drops its golden-yellow leaves to reveal the nattiest little brown baskets full of black berries, and yet feel so cynical towards a bit of redesigned cult product?

I'll ponder this in bed. Might get me to sleep faster.