Sunday, October 31, 2021

Artist Residency at Canaipa

I was recently invited to participate in a group artist residency for the Canaipa Mudlines Art + Environment program, facilitated by artist Sharon Jewell.  14 artists from the Moreton Bay islands and South-East Queensland came together for a week to respond to a special wetlands area on Russell Island (Canaipa) called Turtle Swamp.  Russell Island is located a ferry ride away from bayside Brisbane, sheltered within Moreton Bay by North Stradbroke Island.  Like a lot of the islands in the area, it has a lot of human residents as well as a healthy population of Bush Stone-curlews.

There were two major components to the residency - a 24 hour studio exhibition of small works and a public walk-through of ephemeral responses created onsite at the Turtle Swamp wetlands and forest.  Its a coastal wetland, with plenty of casuarinas, grass trees and forest gums.  There were also quite a few ticks and sandflies, which luckily I managed to mostly avoid.

On her blog, Sharon has written some beautiful words about the residency with photographs of most of the forest artworks as well - click  HERE to view her blog post.

Below are photos and narratives of my residency experiences:

Before the artwork...

After...."Funeral Bouquet",
acknowledging the violence that tore
the tree in two.
Found plant material wedged between
bark and trunk.

"Funeral Bouquet"

Installation of my work "Letting go"
Text on kozo paper,
installed on Casuarina branches.
I wrote this poem a couple of months ago
as a self-reflection on the busy-ness of my life.
Bringing it into the forest seemed to be
the right response to complete the work
in a physical sense.

letting go

of waiting 

of future me - broken, bent
of defects with no warranty.

letting go
of dependency
of independency -
I am not my mother.
Or am I?

letting go exhale
of impenetrable processes 
of a body growing in all directions.

letting go
of opening 
of caveats.

letting go
of empty-bellied mind shafts
of knowing
touching not knowing.

letting go
of myself, then.
letting go
of you, tomorrow. exhale

inhale finding 

finding the lightness
counting the spools of golden thread 
of living in a collage
without the sharpness of straight lines.

Here I am reading the poem next to my installation
at the public walk-through of the forest.
It was my first poetry performance.

This work is titled "SOS from the forest".
Gouache on wood and Casuarina seedpods.

Banksia Artist Book.
Handmade paper, banksia leaves and thread.
Sometimes the leaves are more beautiful than any
replication via print or drawing.

Here I am playing with rubbing paper on trees,
and doing a bit of tree-hugging at the same time!
The residency allowed me the time and space to play within
art practice within a forest setting. So good!

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Advice from a Dung Beetle - a new Artist Book

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

My latest artist book was inspired by a 2019 BioBlitz that I was selected to participate at as a creative researcher. This is where I met Entomologists who were studying dung beetles.  Previously I only thought dung beetles existed in Africa (I saw it on TV once) but I soon learnt that Australia has its own native dung beetles, and they are so fascinating!

Dr Kathy Ebert (an Entomologist) working in the lab
analysing beetles collected in the field studies

Out in the rainforest with the Entomologists.
It was a bit wet, lots of leeches, but
I'm still smiling!

Here I am drawing insects collected, using
a magnifying lamp to see the detail.

The artist book I have made is titled "Advice from a Dung Beetle".  The idea started with a poem that I wrote and a lithographic drawing of a dung beetle based on some sketches I did at the BioBlitz.

The design for the book started with an online video tutorial by Helen Hiebert.  Its a simple design for a tunnel effect in a concertina format.   The idea of the book is that you have to look through the layers of foliage to see the dung beetle, with the poem narrating the activities and life cycle of the beetle.

Here is the poem:

This is the mockup design based on
Helen Hiebert's tutorial

The closed book - the cover is a piece of
thick handmade botanical paper, with a scrap print
on the front (featuring a gelatine print with lithograph beetle print).
The slip band is a piece of kraft card with a gelatine print
fragment and digital text.
The book is approx A6 size, so produces an
intimate viewing experience.

Looking through the book.  The imagery features leaves,
and has been created using gelatine prints, drawing and painting.
The cuts out give peep holes into the layers beyond,
like layers of leaves on the forest floor.

A view of the book in its entirety.  There is a dung beetle
print on the inside of the back cover that can't be
seen in this view.

Another view looking down the 'tunnel',
the view getting narrower as you look
through the book.
I love the layering of colours,
the greens and the blues.

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.