Sunday, April 2, 2017

A Day of Papermaking

Yesterday I gathered together with members of Papermakers of Queensland (POQ) on the Sunshine Coast to make paper.  These papermaking days - known as 'Hands on Paper' (HOP) days -  are a POQ tradition spanning 25 years.

Making paper from botanical sources (ie plants) rather than recycled papers is a labour of love. Here's a rough guide to how its done:

1.  Collect fibre - prunings from plants, chop up into small pieces.
2.  Put into old pillow cases.
3.  Boil in a solution of caustic soda (or soda ash) for several hours to break down the fibres.
4.  Rinse, rinse, rinse in water until it runs clear.  I usually do this over several days using a soak then rinse method.
5.  Beat the fibres to break them down into a pulp.  This can be done by hand with a mallet, a garbage disposal unit, a blender, or (the best option) a hollander beater.

The fibre is then ready to be put into vats of water and sheets pulled.

I had the opportunity yesterday to use a hollander beater for the first time, and Helga kindly showed me how it worked.  It was great to see my chunky fibres gradually beaten down to a fine fluffy fibre which hung suspended in the water beautifully.

Our HOP day consisted of members sharing vats of different fibres including Hamil grass, cane, banana, philodendron, lemon grass, and my mixed vat of daylilly, geranium and pineapple leaves.  I also like to add a bit of recycled printmaking paper pulp to my papers to reduce shrinkage when drying.

Once the sheets are formed and the couching stack is high, the sheets are pressed with a hydraulic press to extract the water and compress the fibres.  Then the papers are laid out on boards until dry, then ironed and pressed under weights to get them flat.

Phew!  Lots of hard work but the papers are beautiful and yesterday there was a great vibe of energetic fun making paper with a group of like-minded papermakers.

The Hollander Beater

Lemon Grass fibre n the beater

The Lemon Grass fibre is ready!
Pulling a sheet of mixed fibres, using a mould & deckle

Here I am couchng a sheet

Pressing the couched sheets using a
hydraulic press
Laying the sheets onto boards to dry
The happy papermakers !

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Big Smoke Little Smoke @ Dogwood Crossing, Miles

It's been a while between posts, as I've been busy preparing artwork then traveling out to Miles for installation of my joint exhibition 'Big Smoke Little Smoke' with fellow artist Joanne Taylor.

Here are some photos from the exhibition -

The Gallery building at Miles, based on the iconic Bottle Tree

"Interconnection" made up of
hexagons of prints and papers.
Its a comment on pollination, with the pattern
reflecting the brood of a native bee hive.

Detail of my installation, "Interconnection".

One of my new works, "Natural History", using blueprints
on wooden insect shapes.
Once again my artwork reflects my fascination
with museum collections.

Another new artwork, "I'll meet you at the Mall",
completed during my POD residency last year.
Its drawings of urban birds on takeaway bags,
with textures inspired by the landscape.

Joanne and I at the opening night function.

Thanks to Lyn and Paul for the photos.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Research and Reading

Its been a month since I returned from my residency in Tasmania, and since then I've been busy finalising artworks for my upcoming exhibition.

I'm exhibiting 'Big Smoke Little Smoke' with fellow artist Jo Taylor at the Dogwood Crossing Art Gallery at Miles during February and March this year.  This is a follow up to our exhibition at Tambo early last year.  The exhibition space at Miles is bigger than Tambo so Jo and I have both been working on new artworks to make the most of the new space.

My focus for the exhibition is on my favourite theme of urbanisation of nature.  I've been reading a lot of books relating to introduced animals and historical accounts of how today's Australia was shaped by a lot of bad behaviour by colonial settlers.  I've been blissfully diverted by tales of Tasmanian Thylacines (extinct or roaming Tassie somewhere?) as well as reading about how our national identity is linked to the animals around us, both native and introduced species.

As part of my art practice, I read a lot of books that focus on the conceptual side of my art. Gone are the days where I just read novels and technique based books.  A wide range of reading sources have really helped me to develop the ideas or conceptual side of my art practice.  I've been able to use my research to spark interesting ideas and lines of investigation which I then develop further into artworks.  I learnt this from attending workshops with artist/writer/educator Ruth Hadlow.

As I read my books, I flag interesting paragraphs and sentences. Then after I finish reading the book, I refer back to the flagged pages and write notes in my ruled A4 notebook, its nothing flash or visually exciting.  I write down details of the book, where I got the book from (eg local library or my bookshelf), and the page numbers of each note that I make so I can refer back to that section of the book if I need to.

These notes then become my resource when developing artworks or writing exhibition/grant proposals.

Ruth Hadlow also had another great tip which I use frequently - read the references section at the end of each book, it gives hints on other sources and books to look at on related topics.  Its almost like a rainy day spent on the internet, where you go from one YouTube video to the next, drift along happily in Pinterest etc.  You never know where it may lead you.

For me, I don't just want to make an artwork that may be decorative or pretty.  I now take the time to research and read widely to broaden my thinking and develop my ideas from external influences.  Its not just all about technique, which of course is the fun bit, but I also want to have a story worth sharing with my viewer.

A4 Notebook and books I'm currently reading

Sample page from my Notebook

You can see the flags I use, like
mini Post-It notes
Invitation for my exhibition (front)
Invitation - reverse side