Friday, July 30, 2021

The Buzz of Bees - a new Artist Book

I'm continuing on my pledge to reduce my stash of reject prints (as seen in my previous posts).

My latest artist book was inspired by my love of pollinators and native bees.  A couple of years ago during experiments with polyester plate lithography, I created a bee drawing using crayon onto a litho plate.  I wasn't real happy with the image, so I printed off a few test prints and never used them.  Hence they ended up in my stash.

Recently I was re-introduced to a Winged Book structure.  I remembered that a few years ago I had made a model based on instructions from Alisa Golden's wonderful book 'Making Handmade Books'.  

So began the idea of my 'The Buzz of Bees' artist book.  As well as prints, the book features a short piece of my writing 'The buzz of bees is the melody of the garden'.  I wanted a positive message in my book, perhaps to offset all the negativity of recent world events.  I used traditional letraset, the action of rubbing on the text is a cathartic experience as well as justifying my growing stash of letraset templates....!

Below are some photographs of the completed book and a discussion of my thought processes.  Enjoy!

The model book I had made.  Very useful
to refer to when making my artist books.

'The Buzz of Bees' closed
with slip-band

The book open.
There are 2 panels of bee prints and the
hexagon patterns were made using
hexagon stencils and gelatine monoprinting.
Simple repetitive printing, and I used a paper mask so I didn't
print over the bee images.

I think that the 3D geometric structure of the concertina with the 'wings'
describes the movement of the bee in and out of the hive.
You can almost here the buzz in the air as the bees go about
their daily routines.

The concertina is made up of square papers, joined at
the 'wings'.  The difference between the model and my book is
that I didn't fold down the top  of each square. The bottom
is folded up, with the reverse side showing, that's where the text is.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Sketching Banksias into life

Banksias are a favourite native plant amongst many Australian artists.  Their amazing shapes, colours and textures inspires a lot of obsessional art making!

As well as discovering Banksias in the bushlands where I walk and ride, I grow them in my garden.  I love how their sculptural forms rise majestically above the other plants.  They command the attention of the various honeyeaters as well as the human-sort of visitors to my garden.

Banksia flowering on one of my walks.

The lines of yellow 
remind me of the segments of an orange.

And when the colourful show is over,
the pods remain.

One of my interpretations.  This is a snapshot from a concertina
artist book on Parchment paper, the watercolours I used on the paper
shine brightly like the banksias in flower.

Another Banksia artist book, this time on Kraft paper
using muted colours in my favourite combination
of blue and brown.

Another artist book, this time I played
with more intense colours,
and brought out some textures with
waxy pencils.  This one is also
on kraft paper.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Making a Collage out of a Mountain of Papers

I have a lot of prints that I have made over the years - monoprint, drypoint, relief, cyanotype, eco-dyeing.  And a lot of collected and gathered papers in my drawers - ones that I have made myself from plants, as well as those from more exotic 'far-away' places like Japan.  And I can't ignore the growing stash of old books sourced from thrift shops - bird books, garden books, insect books, dictionaries and thesauruses.

I came to realise the extent of my stash during the COVID lockdown last year.  OMG.  I have a lot of paper.  And I need to use it.

So my new series of works have been focusing on creating collage works incorporating all those lovely papers.  Well probably not all, but some of them at least.  And I am going to try not to bring home any more paper......

So I've been busy creating a small series of works mounted on a board base (used for painting).  I spent many happy hours shuffling through my papers, finding just the right ones, then figuring out the right composition (like sweating over a jigsaw without a reference photo), before gluing them on the board and finishing off with a light coat of encaustic wax.

Hopefully some of them will be off to new homes soon, and my studio and I will feel a bit lighter for a while (until I come across more paper which I can't possibly resist!).

So how's your stash? 😁😁😁

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Listening to Kozo and Kangaroo Grass

Late last year I participated in an international online kozo papermaking workshop with US artist Amy Richard.  Read about it in my blog post HERE.  Amy is offering another round of workshops during May, you can find information on the workshops HERE.

I have made kozo paper both in Australia and Japan, but never from the point of collection of the fibre from the Paper Mulberry tree, so Amy's workshop was very enlightening as to the whole process.

From the kozo paper that I have made, I created an artist book.  I wanted to capture both the long meditative process of kozo papermaking with the soft rustling sound of kangaroo grass heads waving in the breeze.  Kangaroo grass is a native grass that I grow in my garden - its leaves make nice paper and the seed heads are wonderful to use in my monoprinting.

For this book, I chose white oil based etching ink.  Oil based for a long drying time which extends my working time, and white so that I could play with the idea of ephemerality and the gorgeous transparency of the paper.

I have titled the book 'Silent : Listen' which is from a poem I wrote during a kayaking trip amongst the mangroves:

I cut through

jagged reflections



then with the exhale

of the full tide

my ears 



Even though the poem describes a moment in a kayak journey, it also speaks about the healing power of listening.

And this is my artist statement:

This long landscape format book is a meditation on the beauty of the kozo fibre and the native Kangaroo Grass which grows in my garden.  I have gently layered the transparent kozo with the pale ghost imagery of the seed heads waving gracefully in the breeze to honour a quiet moment of contemplation.

I embedded thread into some of the papers 
when I made them.
The grass imagery is printed over the top
when the papers were dry.

The book is a long landscape format
with a machine sewn spine, like a stab
binding.  Its meant to be loose and casual to
reflect its meditation on the grass and fibre.
The long soft pages slow down the
experience of the book.

I machine sewed the book title
which is printed with letterpress.
I'm aiming to print the whole poem in letterpress
one day, just need to get back into
Fiona's studio as I don't have letterpress equipment.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Mangroves, arts practice and sense of self

My direction in art over the past 12 months has been shifting to a mode where I am getting to know my self better through connection with place.  For me, that place is mangrove creeks and tidal zones.  I have a strong history of family connections to coastal and tidal zones - my Dad was a keen fisherman and now that he has been gone for over 10 years, my memories of him are found amongst the mangroves.

I don't consider myself to be a writer, but I am using words to explore and discover more about the connection between myself and place.

My casuarina skeleton lies like a bridge
connecting creek water to eroded bank, 
my strength devoured by the hunger of a full moon surge,
my roots parched and shriveled, straining
against the ash of salt-laden air 
holding both my breath and reclamation.

-  I will return to the earth one day


This work is a study of mangrove leaves found washed up on the high tide mark.
I was amazed at the variety of colours, so I made a long
concertina of watercolour paper, with watercolour, pen and pencil
drawings.  I also added a few words of poetry that I had
written - the words flow between the leaves along the 
length of the book, a celebration of detritus and decay.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Mangroves, Mud and my obsession

I have come to the conclusion that I have a bit of an obsession about mangroves.  I'm drawn to tidal creeks, the sculptural form of prop roots, the tang of decaying leaves in the mud, the song of honeyeaters.  Over the past 12 months, I've been doing a lot of writing about my relationship to mangroves, trying to figure it out, and as a consequence my arts practice has become increasing tied to my sense of self and mangroves in tidal creeks.

My next few blog posts will focus on how I have used words and creative play to explore my experience of these magical but often unappreciated places.

A forest of putrid ugliness.
you think it
you say it

but I hear
whispered pulses of the rising tide,
soothing hands stroking the casuarina,
a heron’s beak striking the fingerling,
a lone mangrove seed falling,

I do my best thinking on my
bike or in my kayak,
the notebook is always ready!

Cotton Tree leaves - my
other obsession!

Cotton Tree leaf drawing -
coloured pencil and white pen
on toned paper

Work in Progress - using watercolour
over the top of a rejected monoprint.
I used myself-made colour chart to
figure out what colour would
sit best against the busy background.

Completed artwork (detail photo)

Another one - using ochre colours

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Forming the sheets - papermaking with local kozo

Hello everyone!  Welcome to a new year, a new start, full of new opportunities and continuing challenges.

In November last year, I posted about an online papermaking workshop that I have been participating in.  Read about it HERE.

Since then I've progressed further with my process - including cooking and beating, as well as the most exciting part - the forming of the sheets.

It was a long, very physical process, different to my usual fibres of native grasses and banana trunks.  A surprisingly meditative process (in other words, lots of patience and attention required!).  Not something I'd do if I was in a rush.

I produced a small series of sheets, using both a Japanese-style sugeta and my western style mould with a circle deckle.  I've very happy with completed sheets - they have the softness and strength of kozo, though a little more beige than the white sheets I made in Japan a few years ago. That's most likely from contamination from the outer bark.  But I'm very proud that I made it myself - from the sourcing, the collecting, the peeling, the stripping, the cooking, the hand beating, and the forming of sheets.  An intense journey over a couple of weeks!

During the workshop I enjoyed connecting with papermakers from the other side of the world (Northern hemisphere) and listen to their own journeys with this beautiful fibre.

Many thanks to Amy our tutor in Florida for her documentation and videos which will continue to assist me as I work my way through the rest of the fibre that I have collected (I have only used a tiny fraction of what I collected so far!).

I'm planning on using my kozo sheets to create an artwork for submission to the International Paper Fibre Art Biennial Exhibition Kozo Contemporary exhibition later this year.

Paper Mulberry inner bark fibre during cooking.
I used washing soda to break down the fibres.

Hand beating with a mallet, an art in itself
as well as a work out!

The beaten fibre.  I preferred my fibre
with a bit of texture, so I probably didn't
beat it as long as I should have....

I used okra to create my formation aid,
which is a viscose liquid added to the vat
to help the fibres float in the water.
This helps to create more even sheets.

My circle sheet of paper on my
western-style mould,
ready to couch off.

My homemade Sugeta,
using an old sushi mat.
There's a sheet of paper on there ready to couch.
Luckily I used one of these in Japan a few years
ago so I had some idea on how to form the sheet,
but its still very tricky as I remember!

You can see the beautiful textures
of the dried kozo paper.

Circle sheets drying on my board.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Trying out Letterpress

Anyone can print text onto paper using their computers and home printers, but there's something special about type that has been pressed with ink into paper.  For me, there is a mystery and allure of letterpress, the serendipity of slight imperfections of old wood type, the breaking down of words into single letters arranged and printed by hand.

I've been working with artists books for many years, and have been wanting to try out letterpress as a way of incorporating text into my work.  I like the idea of hand printed type sitting alongside my monoprints and lithographs.  I've also been working on some creative writing projects this year, so would love to print some of my poetry using letterpress.

So, once Covid-safe restrictions allowed, my first step was to spend a day at a letterpress studio, to see what the process of letterpress was.  I visited Deckle Edge Press, run by calligraphic and book artist Fiona Dempster in the hinterland of the Sunshine Coast ( The moment I walked through the doors, I knew I was in art heaven. The walls of her studio are lined with an assortment of large wooden cases, with long narrow drawers packed with metal and wood type, as well as various printing presses, rubber rollers, papers and plenty of inspiration in the displays of  Fiona's beautiful and thoughtful artworks.

For my first go, I picked a couple of words from one of my poems ' Silent : Listen '.  It was exciting to be able to select the font, then find the tray of type, then set up my 'chase' - which is the metal frame which holds the type to be printed.  There is an amazing letterpress language which has been developed over the centuries - for example, forme, fount, furniture, galley, leads, make ready, pica, planer, quoin, reglet, slug ...the list goes on!

I was able to print my words onto a variety of papers, including my handmade papers.  I plan to use the papers as a basis for prints, perhaps a series.  And I'd like to go back and print the rest of the poem now that I have some experience with handling the type.  I'm trying not to take on any more art techniques, but I can see that I'll be right at home working with letterpress in Fiona's studio when I'm ready to take the next step.

One of the trays of metal type

Setting up the type block with my chosen font,
I had to remember to put it in backwards/upside down.

Yay!  A successful print.

Soooo beautiful

Soooo organised

There's something so lovely about
old ink-stained wood

That's a BIG H....!

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Papermaking in a Pandemic world

This year many of us have been relying on Zoom and other digital platforms to participate in the arts community.

One of my recent experiences has been to participate 'virtually' in an international  papermaking workshop.

The workshop is being supported by the National Taiwan Craft Research Institute with workshop tutor Amy Richard from the USA.

The workshop has been offered to artists to develop skills in working with kozo fibre, challenging and inspiring them to translate their fibre into creative art works, which hopefully will be exhibited in the International Paper Fibre Art Biennial Exhibition Kozo Contemporary exhibition in 2021.  I'm one of 14 artists selected to participate, from countries such as Taiwan, United Kingdom, Germany, Norway, and USA.  

Its an interesting format, with face-to-face discussions via Google Meet as well as course content delivered via slide shows and pre-recorded videos.  Sorting out the different time zones for everyone to meet up was interesting!

The kozo fibre is sourced from the Paper Mulberry plant.  This is an introduced weed species in Australia, so my first challenge was to find a reliable source in my home town of Brisbane.  I did a lot of online research using databases such as the Living Atlas of Australia ( as well as reaching out to local conservation groups.  I personally visited at least six sites without any luck in finding the plant, but after some intense focused bush-bashing and creek rock-hopping, I found what I needed to be able to collect enough fibre.

Kozo is a beautiful fibre, used in countries such as Korea and Japan for papermaking, and its made using the inner bast of the branches of the Paper Mulberry.  

As I've worked my way through the online modules of the workshop, I've learnt how to steam, strip, and clean the fibres.  The next step is the cooking and hand beating, then finally onto forming sheets - this will feature in a future blog post.

Below are some photographs of my progress so far -

Jackpot! I found what I was looking for.

Collected branches - ready to steam,
then I strip the bark off.

Scraping the outer bark from the inner bark

The kozo fibre, ready for cooking.