Monday, August 1, 2016

finding your mark

I remember my ex-husband Graham talked a lot about the need for artists to "find their mark." I think he meant by this that an artist needed to experiment with a lot of different techniques until they arrived at a "mark" that they knew was truly their own, and one that would sustain them for many years. 

I've been thinking about this idea lately, and thought that a good way to demonstrate the claim might be to document Graham's painterly marks in a chronological photo-essay of cropped details from the artworks of his that I have at home.

The first two images are details from a painting called Mapusaga (1996) produced when Graham was still at art school Auckland's (Unitec). Marks made with brush and stick.

These two works are from his Mistint series (1998). 
Marks made using a squeeze bottle and letting the paints bleed into each other.

Detail from Jungle Painting series (2002). 
Combination of brush work, dripping and bleeding.

Detail from Wish Landscapes (2005).
Marks exploring the sculptural properties of paint.

Painted sculpture from The Eternals (2007)

Detail from a collage produced during Graham's Doctorate in Fine Arts (circa 2008). 
Marks made with pastel and cut paper.

Detail from Lounge Room Tribalism (2010), Graham's graduate exhibition.
This is the point at which Graham found his mark. 
Look at the duck figurine on the bookshelf.

Now look at it more closely and you'll see that it is made up of a few loose patches of paint.

The same is true of the books on the shelf.

Close up, they almost dissolve into abstractions.

So does the vase of flowers on the table. Gorgeous!

I've found it really interesting to document the circuitous route that Graham took in his painting from the mid-90s to 2010 - that eventually led him back to good old brushwork on canvas. In the process he found his mark (or rediscovered it at least), and the joy of that realisation is present in every painted mark he makes. At least, that's what I think anyway.

I guess the reason I've been thinking about this lately is because I wondered if the same idea about finding your mark could be applied to crafting. I've worked with many different materials and techniques over the years - I've bound books, collaged, paper engineered and hand-printed on fabric and paper. I've baked cakes and bottled fruit. I've embroidered, quilted and appliqued. I've sewn clothes, bags and cushions. But of all the crafting activities I've undertaken, nothing has given me more pleasure than making my own felt.

There's something deeply satisfying about transforming wool into fabric with water, soap and friction.

When I'm playing around with felt I can see infinite possibilities for projects using different colour combinations, shapes, and thicknesses, and I can see art works, accessories and jewellery...

I think that maybe, just maybe, I have finally found my mark!

Monday, July 25, 2016

felt abstracts

Sometimes there are strange and serendipitous overlaps between my writing and crafting activities. The other day, for instance, I was drafting a short story about a young woman artist. In the process of writing the story, I needed to imagine what kind of artist she would be. I thought she'd be a textile artist and (naturally) that she would make her own felt. 

But what would she do with her pieces of handmade felt?

 She'd make small abstract compositions of course!

One thing led to another and I found myself out in the studio, which was pretty "cobwebby" after neglecting my crafting last semester due to a full-time teaching workload. I fished out my wet-felting and needle felting bits and pieces and spent a good chunk of the weekend soaping, rolling, rubbing, and stabbing various shades of wool roving, and then putting together some colourful stripey combinations.

Here's a four-piece felt abstract (inspired by Sean Scully's paintings) on the wall above the mantelpiece accompanied by a trio of striped German vases.

I've just ordered some more subdued shades of wool roving so that I can make some cooler combinations to go with these hotter colours. I feel as if I'm getting one step closer to actually making something stylish with felt rather than those hideous Wilma Flintstone style holey felt garments that you see in craft shops around the country!

Now, I need to get back to my story!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Hotel de la Bibliotheque (aka the Man Cave)

There are two small buildings in the backyard behind the main house. One of them was the surgery used by Jack's dad when he was the local GP in Mairangi Bay, and which I now use as a writing and crafting space. The other is a bach built during the war, which was intended to be demolished after the main house was completed, but never was. Jack has been using this building as his writing den (man cave) for the past 20 years or so, and for the entire ten years I've known him, I've been dying to give it a make-over. A seriously leaky roof needed replacing after the recent storms, so I seized the opportunity to redecorate!

Here's the bach with its lovely new roof, a few plants bought from the Browns Bay market, and a cafe-style seating arrangement outside.

A clay bird, bought from an op-shop many years ago, has found a new home on the side of a wooden cupboard outside the bach.

A lovely old painted oar from the Ross family's dinghy sits above the cupboard.

Here are a few 'before' shots of the interior living room, with horrible water stains on the ancient wallpaper, old venetian blinds that stole all the light, and books, books, and more books!

Here's Jack in the midst of redecorating. His look says it all! We certainly questioned why we were doing this when the humidity in Auckland over the past couple of weeks has been so extreme that the least amount of exertion makes you sweat buckets!  

But the result was worth the effort.

The blinds are gone, replaced by lightweight curtains, and a fresh white ceiling, and walls painted in 'Moscow Snow', have brought the room to life again. A drawing by Ellen Portch, from her series Wall, is hung next to the bookcase.

I repainted the stained top of an old Danish coffee table and set up a small sofa beneath the window.

A Lundia shelf obscures the view to the narrow galley kitchen.

Below are two before shots of the bedroom.

When our friend Katharina stayed here once, she named the place 'Hotel de la Bibliotheque', inspired of course by the crazy wall of books you can see here. We left them where they were when we painted the room thinking that other guests might like being surrounded by so many books. 

Below are three views of the bedroom, with new bedding and curtains, a very cool old lamp from the surgery and books galore to choose from.

So now we have a comfy self-contained haven for writer friends and longer term guests to stay in when they're in town. Very satisfying!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

sewing sis

I was going to sew my sister Therese a summer dress for Christmas, but I decided that a better gift would be to to teach her to sew. There's an age-gap of seven years between us and for some reason Mum taught me to sew but she never got round to teaching Therese, so I thought it was high time we rectified that! We got her a second-hand sewing machine for Christmas and she completed her first two projects while she was here: a gorgeous bat-wing sleeve top and a simple A-line skirt.

How chic does she look in this ensemble with her pale grey culottes, gold Minnie Cooper sandles and her new ceramic bangles!

 And for a casual beach look, a cute skirt in a bold tropical print.

The skills she learned through these two projects were sewing a neck facing onto a top, sewing darts to shape the waist-line of the skirt, and inserting a zip. She's a natural!

antigone in place

Jack's Christmas special (see last post for details) is now in place on the wall up the stairs, with Michele Leggott's "Matapouri" on the landing above. I like the idea of a stairwell of poetry!

Monday, December 21, 2015

special edition

Every Christmas I make Jack a special edition of one of his poems or stories. This year I picked his poem "Antigone." If you're not familiar with Greek mythology, Antigone was the daughter of Oedipus and Jocasta. The poor woman attempted to secure a respectable burial for her brother and the King punished her by entombing her alive. Very harsh!

Jack's poem references the story obliquely by talking about a visit to a former colonial prison in Tasmania and his experience in one of the tiny cells. I've pasted the poem below. You read the left column first and then the right.


Tomb, bridal-chamber, eternal prison in the caverned rock, whither go to find mine own?
– R. C. Jebb

When I woke up in
the melancholy city
everything was the colour of rain        all of the garish
of the previous evening
obscured by
the pitter-patter
of dread                                          The books I was reading
dissolved into pulp
those volumes of
lapidary thoughts
intangible as fog
as that happiness                              oh so elusive
what’s new
you say
Once in Tasmania
at an old colonial prison
I walked into one of the cells             there was no-one around
so I closed the door
just to feel what it was like
I lasted two seconds
people go mad
they say                                          Imagine a room
a white room
no doors
no chairs
too narrow
to sit down                                      too low
to stand
my marriage bed


For this design project I decided to go for a very simple altered book, inspired by the example below from Workshop Press where Richard Killeen's Sampler catalogue, with an essay by Francis Pound, was reworked into Interiors, with an essay by Anna Miles. The original text was effaced with a marker pen and large stickers printed with the text of Miles' essay.

Here's the catalogue I'm working with:

You'll see that I'm deliberately not mentioning the artist's name in case she happens to be googling herself one day and comes across this post. It's just possible she mightn't appreciate having her catalogue cut up! The catalogue is filled with eerie circular photographs of the now empty rooms of an abandoned residential treatment facility for alcohol and drug dependency on Rotorua Island. It seemed a perfect fit for Jack's poem!

Firstly I cut out each page, selecting the nine pages that had an image on the front and the back.

I broke the poem into nine sections and typed each one on my trusty vintage typewriter, trying to arrange the text on windows and walls of the rooms.

I cut out the circles leaving tabs on each side

 then I taped together the tabs in sequence to form a frieze

the poem can be hung on the wall by pinning the tabs at each end

 I used the catalogue cover to make an envelope for the Antigone frieze

 and I added another room on the front with the title and Jack's name

And there you have it - Jack's 2015 Christmas edition.
I'm pretty sure he's going to love this.