Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Booking our travel

Yes, yes, busy busy busy. I haven't abandoned you totally, although it must feel like it -- sorry.

I've just had most of a week at the beach, so I'm feeling refreshed and only slightly daunted by the demands of the next few months. I booked the Depot Beach cottage (the same one where we were married) because I'm always completely exhausted and unable to talk to anyone after teaching at the Sturt Winter School, and so I decided to be exhausted and taciturn at the beach. It was a good call.

 This was the view from our bedroom (the beach is through the trees, and the trees were our wedding chapel). There's one bird, as you can see, but through the week we had many, many more, attracted by our bags of 'wild' bird seed. BB was hand-feeding kookaburras and butcherbirds mince as well. There was a lot of poop to clean up at the end, but worth it.

This was the weather, cool but sunny, perfect for long walks along our beach and around to the neighbouring beaches (this is Pretty Beach) and no pressure to go into the water. Winter beaches are the best! A certain member of my family who doesn't want to be blogged is here just starting one of the many large holes he likes to dig...

Anyhoo, let's talk about why I was tired. I like teaching at the Sturt Winter Schools: you spend a whole week with your students, living in at the Frensham School and eating the more than adequate catering. The classes run from 9 to 4, but it's rare that we finish on time, and so it's a lovely intensive week of making.

This year I thought, instead of just pitching a general book arts class, that I'd give people a theme, because most years the feedback is that people didn't really know what materials to bring. (They still made those noises this year, but only little noises, since they all responded to the theme.) Having just been to NZ myself at the end of last year (when I had to pitch the class), I thought of a travel theme, since everyone travels somewhere, even if it's just along the timeline of your life. So it was called Booking Your Travel, and it was such a success I think I'll run it again sometime. The class had eight participants: Avril, Putch, Pip, Elizabeth, Ros, Toni, Liz and Cindy (in order of their seats around the space!).

Here you can see (l-r) Ros, Elizabeth, Pip, Avril.

Instead of moving everyone through a progression of binding styles, instead I let people play, and introduced techniques as they suggested themselves. The first day we still played with concertinas and concertina bindings, because it's a great way to loosen up, and works really well with scraps of things. It's also a great way to determine skill levels, and to ascertain everyone's sense of aesthetics. It's no use exhorting someone to let loose with trimmings if their preference is to be streamlined and spare with their designs. Each student is an individual, and their work should reflect that.

Avril's postcards, which fold out to make a big wall-hanging/poster of Hawaiian vintage cards backed onto momigami paper.

Cindy's cards, tickets and receipts, machine-stitched with orange thread using a sewing machine we sourced at the school. 

The best part about a class of women of a certain age is that everyone has experiences and various skills, and book arts is all about utilising any skills available. We had a professional graphic designer (Avril) who makes artists' books in a group with another class member (Cindy), so they had lots of ideas and skills. Plus we had Liz Jeneid, a very respected artist who makes books in her practice (that was a wee bit scary but Liz is GORGEOUS) and spent many years teaching art, so she was able to share a lot of ideas and show us some gorgeous work. But there were others who saw themselves as new and raw, but who had fabulous sewing skills: Elizabeth (whose family called her 'the mender' because of her sewing skills and her ability to fix things) Pip and Putch. Sewing skills are hard to come by in younger people, and I don't think these women should underestimate their abilities. Toni turned out to have a head for construction and Ros, who is a south coast artist, has an eye for colour and desire to flow things that permeated through her books.

Elizabeth's coptic-bound and fabric-covered book, complete with evidence of her mending skills...

 Putch used coptic sewing to make a spiral of her grandson's congratulations (on being born) cards...

Ros discovered that snakefolds can completely transform drawings.

Toni just made up the most excellent stuff.

They all bounced off each other beautifully, learning not just from me but from each other, and I learned from them, which for me is the perfect way to run a class. And they all got along swimmingly, which is very important when you spend all day together for a week! I would like to thank all of them for that.

One of the exciting books made was by Elizabeth, who brought along a bundle of pen and watercolour sketches of Venice, and we spent a bit of time looking at them and thinking what to do with them. They would have been perfectly pleasant sewn together as a book of some form, but what we ended up with, because Elizabeth was open and daring, was a spectacular tunnel-book that pushed those sketches into something magical. We all went crazy when she finished it, and Cindy made a video. Elizabeth even made teeny tiny strings of bunting for it, and used some glorious old maps of Venice to augment the drawings. Great effort.

I could feature all the books, but alas I haven't got enough time. I've put together a flickr set of the books, and I think you'll agree with me that everything is just amazing.

I made one resolved bookwork while I was there, as a present to Dale Dryen, who has been organising the School for years, and who is stepping back and taking a different role. I'm pleased to say she liked it :)

The covers are a vintage front cover cut in half then coptic-sewn, and I made a little slipcase for it.

Last piccie: the beautiful old tree that stands outside the Headmistress's office at Frensham, I love walking past it, and it always makes me think of the Aged Poet, who died around this time last year.

Stay tuned: new exhibitions coming up in August and September!

PS: I promised you cats: Padge, of course, wanted to come to Mittagong as my teacher's aide. Oh, I wish.