Friday, December 18, 2009

The Garden

Having been on leave this term one of my aims was to get stuck into the garden.  I took a walk early yesterday morning, camera in hand, hoping to capture the hardwork and ultimate reward of cucumbers and zucchinis and pots of flowers and herbs. 

The beauty, however, seemed to lie in the haphazard arrangement of gardening paraphenalia, ............


raku pots

empty containers

a family of bins and barrows hanging out with the wood.

I know I am accidental gardener...I very rarely remember the names of what I plant ...I plant seeds out of season....I prune to soon or late....forget to feed the citrus and I make it endure weeks(months) of neglect when my focus takes a different turn. 

Maybe that's why the piles of detritus are the truly impressive objects growing amongst the plants...

...appearing amongst the rocks.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Film Review - Genova

I watched the film Genova when I was in Sydney and haven't been able to stop thinking about it.  I went into the Denby under the Opera House, really to get out of the dust and smog and into a dark air conditioned space - a bit like a hobbit.

The film that was about to start was one starring Colin Firth and I thought to myself .... 'Gee, lovely, a period drama/romantic/comedy based crudely on a Jane Austen, novel.  This will be nice.' 

So, in other words, I went into the theatre with no background information about the film And that is what made the experience so memorable.  So therefore, not to ruin the experience for anyone else, I am not going to say anything in this review except:
  • it is not like Jane Austen,
  • it is not a comedy
  • Colin Firth has broken out of the Mr Darcy mould and is showing himself as a pretty good actor
  • it is about creating emotions
  • the camera work, editing, mise en scene, sound etc is worth seeing
I keep thinking what a great film to teach technique - and then I kick myself.  Enjoying a text is not about breaking it down into its multude of parts and wringing the life out of them.  It's about sitting in the theatre for 90 minutes and taking everything in. This is a definite downside of being teacher, but I think we are all guilty of it at times.

 (Anyone been to a gallery lately and just loved the piece in front of them and next thing your  looking for colour and form and context and motif and meaning (whatever that is )etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.)

(I just put bracket inside a bracket - is that allowed?)

 Anyway .......a poem by Billy Collins always comes to mind when I start analysing things to death:

Introduction to Poetry

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light

like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

I enjoy Billy's  poetry because this is the first poem of his that I ever read.  Sort of takes the pressure of doesn't it.  I think he was poet laureate  in the USA a few years back. If you follow the link above you get to a site that has a number of his poems on it. A lot of them have a cheeky feeling, you know not taking themselves too seriously. Check this one out:

Child Development

As sure as prehistoric fish grew legs
and sauntered off the beaches into forests
working up some irregular verbs for their
first conversation, so three-year-old children
enter the phase of name-calling.

Every day a new one arrives and is added
to the repertoire. You Dumb Goopyhead,
You Big Sewerface, You Poop-on-the-Floor
(a kind of Navaho ring to that one)
they yell from knee level, their little mugs
flushed with challenge.
Nothing Samuel Johnson would bother tossing out
in a pub, but then the toddlers are not trying
to devastate some fatuous Enlightenment hack.

They are just tormenting their fellow squirts
or going after the attention of the giants
way up there with their cocktails and bad breath
talking baritone nonsense to other giants,
waiting to call them names after thanking
them for the lovely party and hearing the door close.

The mature save their hothead invective
for things: an errant hammer, tire chains,
or receding trains missed by seconds,
though they know in their adult hearts,
even as they threaten to banish Timmy to bed
for his appalling behavior,
that their bosses are Big Fatty Stupids,
their wives are Dopey Dopeheads

and that they themselves are Mr. Sillypants.

Anyway.... If you get a chance to go and see Genova remind yourself of Introduction to Poetry by Billy Collins and just waterski across its surface.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

new directions

The honest accounts of the members of bookartobject has been inspirational.  Following the varied responses to Rosemary Dobson's poem, Learning Absences, has been an invaluable experience and is having an important effect on me as an artist.  Reading how others are approaching the text and using it in their books is just a great thing to be participating in. 

It has been interesting to read the various interpretaions of RD's poem.  I  must say I haven't formed an opinion about whether it is a death or separation.  For me the overwhelming aspect has been the huge impact the poem had on my senses.  Mainly visual,  the sight of the clothes on the line and the cumquat tree and Hayley's comet in the dark sky, the milk bottle on the door step,  but also the smell of the bread coming out of the oven, and the deafening silence of no one to talk to. The most significant image for me was the shutting of the windows and doors and these have formed the basis of the motifs used in my book.

I have been developing a folded form...and it has taken a new direction.  But I have finally finished one completely.    When the book is folded shut it actually looks like a house.  This is what prompted the change in direction. Learning Absences, for me,  is all about the domestic world of the house/home.

This is the finished book!

and standing up.

The open book.

I am going to change the size and prints for the exhibition but the format will stay pretty much the same (maybe 2 'pages' instead of three).

 It is based on a turkish map fold - 3 folds - that I have sewn together.  Each 'page' has a series of  lino prints sewn onto them.  Some of the prints have been done on mango paper, some on hemp paper and some on the pages of an old book. 

Here are the individual pages before sewing them together.

I hope you can see the stitching around each print.

These corner prints were done on the pages of an old text book. 

The contrast between the orange mango paper, green silk and the black ink has worked well.

The stitching took ages and was quiet tricky at times but it has been worth it.  I feel inspired to do a whole series of books on windows and doors!

Monday, November 30, 2009


Have been in Sydney for the past week - doing the big smoke things.  Trouble was it felt like the big smoke, literally. Dust, dirt, smog - surely I haven't become so old that the city no longer holds an attraction, even for one week, and just becomes a receptacle of physical discomfort.  But it seems I have.  When the plane touched down at Merimbula airport I thought I would explode with joy. Oh, to be nearly home.

the dust blanketing everything increased the temperature by 10 degrees and made it extremely hot and sticky. Was it all!

 It was wonderful to go to the MCA (Fiona Foleys retrospective had some very powerful pieces).  It was great to go to the cinema under the Opera House and watch Genova (which too, was very moving).  It was good to get to Amazing Paper and buy some paper for my Learning Absences book. The English Teachers Association Conference had some excellent workshops.  Shopping was fun.  But most of all it was fantastic to get home to to rain washing the tarmac and kangaroos bounding across the road, the corner shop, vegie garden and the blue, blue ocean.
For god's sake....I was only gone for a week.

I am getting old aren't I.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

makoto yabuki

Here is another video - i love this. does anyone know anything about the composer?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Book Art Object and Out of the Box

Have been working on the following books for two exhibitions.

Book Art Object - have taken the sketches and been working on a mock up.  I have cut out the small lino prints and collaged them onto the inside of the book.  This will give me plenty of scope for printing on a variety of papers to achieve the fragmented effect I want.  I am pretty happy with how things are going, but still a long way to go. Haven't done any of the stitching, or the images for the cover and back or the colophon yet, but the overall look and feel of the book is coming along.  Last night I completed some smaller lino carvings and will do another couple of mock ups today.  What do you think?  Feedback is very welcome.

This book folds out like a map.  This is part of the centre fold. A repeat motif of a window (lino print) has been stamped across the inside. Could put the colophon here instead or on the back - what do you think?

Inside - opened. There will be stitching along both edges.

Totally opened.  Sorry about the messy background.  Two quotes from the poem - Learning Absences - have included. Gouche, pen and ink and acrylic make up the inside image.
Out of the Box  - my work in progress for an exhibition at the Bega Regional Gallery- something much more sculptural.  I don't know how happy they will be about constructing this entry. 

Needs a bit of tweaking but could be ok.  It is a book! - again I will collage prints around the petals and add embroidery.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Cleaned My Studio and It Looks Great

This could be the name of a song  on an album of artists laments.  Other tracks of course being -
  • When You Wish Upon a Kiln
  • New Book, New Book
  • Somewhere Over the Roller
  • Glaze Slops Keep Falling on My Head
............and of course the all time favourite..........
  • I've Been Through the Gallery on a Horse with No Name. 
But seriously, I am so chuffed with my tidy space.

I should of taken some 'before' shots so you could really appreciate just how de-cluttered this is.

I can't wait to get in there tomorrow.

Book Review - The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

Finally finished and it was worth it - a wonderful ending (but I won't tell you about that).  An interesting book.  I can't stop thinking about Renee and Paloma and the ending. That is always a good thing. You don't want to spend hours reading 300 + pages to forget it as soon as you finish the last page.

You can definitely tell Muriel Barbery is an academic with plenty of philosophising to pack into her story.  At times this becomes a little a heavy but overall lifts The Elegance of the Hedgehog from being just a story into a story that has something important to say. (Is it old fashioned to like this sort of story?)

What makes it  a good read is that while it does concern itself with life and death and love and beauty and art etc (all the BIG things) its main focus is on class and intelligence. Barbery writes an allegory of equality and acceptance during a time of global inequity. I found it refreshing to read something that wanted you to make the connections and explicitly commented on the condition of the world.  Not very post modern, I know, maybe there is still room for the grand narrative afterall. 

 BUT it is allegorical.  A lot of readers, I suspect, will not like the soap box she uses as her writing desk.  But I did.  Mainly because the characters were well drawn and she created a wonderful microcosm within the French apartment block where they lived.

I would rate The Elegance of the Hedgehog - 4/5. definitely worth a read.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Book Art Object

I am part of a group called Book Art Object.  Eight women who make artist's books. We are planning our first group entry for early December.  That is only 4 weeks away!!!!
One of the main issues about the design  is that I need to do a run of 12 - 15 books.  I know for the letter press printers this is a tiny number but for me that is pretty big and is playing a major part in the design process.
We have a couple of common elements to link the entries ie size - A5 landscape, and the poem by Rosemary Dobson- Learning Absences.  I have tried to separate myself from the English teacher and respond to the poem instinctively instead of analytically but I was glancing back through my sketch book and found the following pages.

I know they're very hard to read but they show how hard it is to break old habits. Analyse, poke, prode and probe until the poem falls apart at the seams.  (I hope I don't do this as a teacher but, if I'm honest, I suspect it is the fall back position I take in a desperate scramble for HSC success.)

I have, since then, been  doing heaps of  drawing and am starting to produce some ideas I feel comfortable with......tearing myself away from the analytical, literal reaction.

Anyway I will continue on.  More drawings...less thinking.  Does this go with my last post????? Learning complication. HYPOCRITE??? I am laughing now. There's nothing like a bit of tasty hypocracy to keep you on your toes.

 If you want to have a look at the group go to

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Learning complication

Yesterday my school had a study day for the HSC students. About 50 turned up.  Sounds good in practice but as i suspected it became a bit of a social/stress/panic/procrastination exercise for some of them. Not all.  I had a little band of 6 from my English class who wanted to revise Hamlet.

I wasn't expecting it, I thought it would be more like extracting teeth. I was pretty chuffed that they still wanted to write an essay that somehow reflected all they had put in.

They have been struggling with the bard all year.  They DO understand him when we're reading it (funnily enough - because the general consensus is that reading him is the hard part) but when it comes to writing about him that's another thing. I'm sure anyone who has done the HSC can remember that feeling clearly enough.

We found a study room in the library. My stomach felt a bit twitchy and I knew it had as much to do with this being the last time i would ever teach them,  as the sushi  lunch that had sat on my desk since 9.00 am.

Where to start.  We don't want to panic them now. These flighty yearlings.

I asked them what the big issues were and like well trained monkeys they rattled them off - revenge, life/death, love, appearance vs reality, action vs inaction etc. etc.  But when it came to writing about it in any depth they stumbled as usual. The model mapping, scaffolds, smart boards and numerous other visual tools, promoted as the next leap forward in the education revolution, only valued added to a certain extent.

Nic said in frustration,  "They are all so complicated." The rest nodded and sighed in agreement.
I could sense growing anxiety.
I didn't want them jumping ship.
"Let's look at the complication...How does Shakespeare make these ideas complicated?...Just how complicated is it?....Let's take revenge ...the sons....Hamlet, Laertes,"

A discussion followed that, while it might not make them write better essays itshowed that complexity can be a way out of the darkness. Certainly a way out of the black, inkiness that colours the darkness.

Revenge turned into murder, turned into lust, turned into guilt, turned into action, turned into inaction, turned into reality, turned into appearance. And very soon turned into jokes and laughter and a certain comfort in our own ability to dress in Hamlet's clothes.  Black though they may be.

Are we meant to grab hold of complexity, complication, confusion and chaos? Build on it - not deconstruct it.  Let it take off.
If out of the darkness comes more darkness  than learn how to make lemonade (and candles).

And maybe....if all else fails.... upgrade your search engine.???

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Slept in - no vodka needed

No I'm not trying to rewrite War and Peace. Just trying to break a years worth of being head teacher administration and waking at 5.30 to receive calls from sick and worn out teachers.  I was threatening to start drinking (at 5.30 in the morning) but, alas, it was not needed. 

Yesterday and today I managed 7.00 am with no problems at all.  Might have something to do with the FREEZING weather we are experiencing down this way at the moment.  Not that i want to become a slug - I have always enjoyed getting up early - I just don't want to be a slave to habit. Anyway I slept in, got up to fatty, lavish breakfast of bacon and eggs,  did very little exercise and made a new and delicous batch of chocolate chip biscuits (cookies???)


The recipe is:
1/3 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
125 gms butter
1 egg
vanilla essence
1 1/2 cups SR flour
1/2 cup white choc chips

1. Preheat oven to 180 C and line trays with baking paper.
2. Melt butter and combine with sugars.
3. Add egg and essence and mix well.
4. Stir in flour and chips.
5. Place teaspoons of mixture on trays and bake for 12 mins.

Hope you enjoy them as much as L did.  Good study food. 

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Year 12 farewell

Finally the year 12 school year has wound up and they have had their luncheon, their assemby, their muck up day and their graduation.  I think Virginia Woolf might have called it a 'moment of being' (or maybe moments of being might be more accurate) -but on Tuesday at the luncheon i was quite overwhelmed by the thought of not just L finishing (mind you I did not say 'leaving') but all of the year 12 kids.   they have been a crazy/cool group all the way through.

Anyway needless to say I bounced back fairly quickly and the prospect of starting a whole terms leave banished any sookiness to the outer playground. However  it is now day 2 of the holidays and the idea of freedom has not relayed itself to my body. I am still up at 5.30.  Waiting for staff to ring, looking for marking, doing a quick load of washing, trying to make the house look like a small whirly whirly came in through the window and danced around the loungeroom - rather than a tornedo.

And I am still gazing longly toward the studio with some sort of mental dingo proof fence forbiding entry.

Here's a solution- if it happens tomorrow - take a bottle of vodka - and sit on the deck and watch the sun come up. If at anytime I think of any of the above jobs I am to take a couple of swigs from the bottle  That will surely tell my mind and body things are now different!! and by 9.00am i am most certainly going to be back in bed!

Or better still I could get up and get that exercise i have been promising myself for the last 6 months? Nay  best we not rush things too much.

........Hang on.........finally my mind is slowly flicking channels  ...... i just got up walked into the garden and pulled out a weed that i have looking at through the window for the last 3 months.......maybe i won't need the vodka afterall.   Better try it ........just to be sure. 
After all it's better to be safe than sorry.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Adding an image

Still sussing out how to add, delete and generally create a blog. Thought I might try to add some photos to my post ... so here goes. i made these pots in 2007 for an exhibition in Cooma... hope you like them.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

the HSC and making excuses

Have you ever helped a child prepare for the HSC?
The trial started yesterday - and the weekend was spent cajoling, bribing, begging, swearing, crying, tempting, indulging, eating, drinking and finally collapsing in an exhausted heap. (I am talking about me and not Louis our second son who is about to be blooded on the altar of exams).

I remember all too clearly that sickening feeling growing in your stomach as you approach the hall armed only with a felt tip pen and a bottle of water. Problem is Lou doesn't seem to have the sickening feeling. Not only is there no sense of desperation he seems to think theyare going to test him on Nascar playstation and the content of a bizarre You Tube instead of As You like It Kenneth Slessor and Jane Austen. mmmmm.

If I have said the phrase "after all it is your HSC" once (in a very nurturing tone of course) I have said it a thousand times............Yes I am at great risk of turning into my mother.

I challenge anyone who has been the 'mother of a HSC student' to say they have not had a moment of parental regression. No?.....really?....think again. Do the following sound familiar?
'stop thinking about it and just get on with it'
'you have had all year to do that'.....
'no you can't go to the pub'

Yes he is 18, legally able to vote, fly a plane and marry multiple women in Utah. I suppose i should be greatful he asked actually asked if he could go to the pub.

Can yo u see now why I was exhausted? And this is just the trial. I promise to remind myself that yes, this is his HSC and to move on.

After all this has been one big long excuse for not getting any photos on this blog. (Lou is my digital/techno assistant). weekend I promise.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Hi to Sara, Carol and Moreidlethoughts who have commented on my blog. It took me a while to realize anyone had commented but I am slowly getting the hang of it. ....would definitely not call myself a 'blogger' yet..........

Am so busy with year 12 at the moment haven't really got time to play around with it but I promise to put some photos on this weekend.

At the moment I need to go and prepare a mindmap for Hamlet and the graveyard scene, you know the one...... '...Alas poor Yorrick! I knew him Horation, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy,...'
not a bad thing to be doing, the kids love reading it and Ialways find something new (?old) to think about.
Imperious Casear, dead and turned to clay,
Might stop a hole, to keep the wind away.
Oh that that earth which kept the world in awe
Should patch a wall t'expel the winter's flaw!

It is just a shame you have to test it....squeezze it into an essay ........pull it apart to within an inch of its life? but I think I will need a whole other blog if I start down that road.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Am reading a wonderful book at the moment. Will try to do the book thing on the gadgets later but in case I don't jag it the title is The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. It is set in France and tells the story of Renee, an elderly concierge of a Parisian block of apartments and Paloma, a twelve year old girl who lives in one of the apartments and is determined to end her life before he thirteenth birthday.... sounds morbid but so far it is quaintly the moment I don't quite know what the title means ....but i'm sure it's going to be worth waiting for.

So i'm juggling my spare time knitting vest for B (husband) and reading this wonderful book... at the moment neither are winning.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Oh i sound so vague. Reading back over my last posting ..... crazy ramblings of a mad women.......

The poem I'm talking about is one chosen as inspiration for a book art exhibition. Please follow the link to bookartobject to read it. It is by Rosemary Dobson and very beautiful. It is called Learning Absences and has beautiful words one after the other that gives a glimpse into loss. It ends like this......

"...At night, at this season, lingering at the window Not being certain where to find Halley's Comet, And looking a long time at the darkening sky."

It makes me think of all the things I would no longer be able to find or remember to do if I was left alone. Very moving.

Book art inspiration

Didn't get back to take that photo of my idle scribbles. Nevermind I promise some photos this weekend.
Am really excited about the bookart project. It will be a great opportunity to make books and develop my blog. And what a lovely poem. Each time I read it I gather something else from it.

At the moment i am linking it to an accordion style binding with linoprint and sewn thread. But this is just one of many thoughts jumping around my skull. Very simple and stripped back....just like the poem. But I'm sure before I'm finished a number of ideas will compete for their chance to be the finished books on my desktop.

I have been making stab bound books using some lovely silk thread I bought at the Sturt Winter School and I keep wondering how these could be incorporated into the project. Half the fun is in imagining and planning what you will do.

Monday, July 27, 2009

janealiendi sent you a video: "Ken makes a mini-book"

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Ken makes a mini-book
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Back to work

Holidays ending is like saying goodbye to an old friend. You physically feel the loss and a mild melancholy slips over you... a deeper version of Sunday afternoon blues. I'm glad it has happened, because like all unwanted anticipations the event itself is far less traumatic than the build ridiculous does this sound? Of course it is not that bad. What I'm really going to miss is not the holiday but the 'making' that my holidays entail - books and knitting at the moment....sometimes I 'work' harder on holidays than when I'm at 'work'...and I love an old friend.

First day back today. Pupil free day - lol. The layers of meanings embedded in that phrase are infinite and somewhat ironic. Needless to say they are a waste of time, (the days not the pupils). Not really but .....what is a teacher without a pupil? Probably someone in a meeting listening to a bunch of other teachers talking about how to better engage the 'pupil'....and the lucky little buggers are off running free.

During one of the workshops today boredom induced rebellion led to me fantasising about making a book. The bookclub workshop proposed by doubleelephant manifested itself on the back of two coasters (the only blank writing space available at the local bowling club0. I have set myself the challenge of photographing them and putting them on this blog for tomorrow. hopefully this will be the start of documenting the process of producing the books for the exhibition.
Gotta run now. Wag the Dog lesson preparation is waiting. The pupils can't be left to run free for too long.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Managed to send this film to myself after a lot of stuffing around!! Not really how i wanted it displayed but never mind...will keep trying . I found this little gem while preparing a unit for year 12 on 'meaning and representation'...whatever that means.

janealiendi sent you a video: "The Most Beautiful Man in the World"

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the most beautiful man in the world
© 2009 YouTube, LLC
901 Cherry Ave, San Bruno, CA 94066

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Third time lucky

Phew! managed to get something posted.
Just back from Sturt Winter School and my first aim was to set up a blog. Even before i start making more books. The bloggers seemed so in touch with what is going on. A great thing for anyone who makes anything and wants to share their ideas.
Experienced bloggers talked about having some focus for your the moment i just want to get it on the screen but basically i think I'll share ideas to do with:

and eating.

Pretty much covers everything.
Sent my first post this morning but something went badly wrong!! Will stick to things short and sweet until I figure out what I'm doing.

1st blog