Back to Australia

I am leaving tomorrow for my twelfth trip to Australia. I want to get lost in the country like the girl in McCubbin’s painting above….actually titled, “Lost”. His work is always so dramatic in subject, palette and scene. This is one of my favorites.

This time I return to Melbourne and the friends who get me to where I need to be. One day with them and then it is off to Baldessin Press in St. Andrews.

First a flat white. Melbourne has the best coffee anywhere and especially in these little back city cafes.



We might just drive by my most favorite sculpture in the city, the Burke and Wills Bronze statue. Hopefully a trip to the National Gallery of Victoria.

And maybe I can whip up some savoury muffins again in Anne’s AGA stove. So good!

Then it will be off to Baldessin Press to teach a book making workshop and do a bit of my own work. The country and the studio have inspired much of my work about Australia.

I love the Saturday market there in St. Andrews. I have found such treasures there.

After that I will have two more days in Melbourne before heading off on train to teach in Allansford. I have not been there before and look forward to more time working with students and doing some of my own work. Catching up with sketchbooks is always important to me on these trips.

Once finished in the southern part of Victoria I will be back at Grampians Texture in Halls Gap for the third time teaching. This time it is another masters class with students I have known for years. Some of us will spend a few days together before heading out to Adelaide and Goolwa, SA for the final leg of the trip. Here is some of their work done in my classes.

I will miss this country and miss the iconic imagery that has inspired more than just me. Here are a few more pictures of “Australia”.

I will try to post a new blog while down under. Here is one last detail of a piece I made about being in Lake Mungo.


A Time For Protest Art

There is something about making art that has a clear message of discontent. And I truly believe that as artists we have a responsibility to be visual in that discontent. Some of the best art work of protest can be seen in the posters from the March on Washington. The clever phrasing and graphics that got right to the point of protesting the unbelievably sorry state of what the election here in the United States has dragged us down to as a society. We all know that we are better than this but somehow we just let it happen. We ignored our ability to process the consequences of the votes some of us cast while others gave in to the indecisiveness of who was worthy and kept those votes un-tallied. Rather to make no choice through a fear of making the wrong choice.  And then a vast number just preferred to stay home on election day. So here we are, waiting for a government of some of the most ignorant, self-centered politicians to chip away at our rights and our freedoms. And if not ours, then someone else’s. Either way we are all losing.

So this past weekend with two long-time resident students here in my studio we talked and worked on little else. Luckily I have no artist friends who are not liberal and progressive in their political views. I respect those who have different views than mine and would fight for their right to maintain those views. But I have lost patience with the their willingness to stay so incredibly uninformed on the facts of where we are headed as a nation, a society and responsible steward for the environment of future generations.

I added to my pincushion collection by making a second in what is surely to become a series of notorious nincompoops working in concert to keep themselves in power by being arbiters of their falsehoods presented as truths. And unfortunately this is easy for them to do with an angry population of discontented citizens and a Congress filled to the brim with a need to push agendas that ten years ago would have seemed extremely uncivilized and detrimental to our diverse population. They can’t work fast enough to shove through their small world views while we are distracted with the constant machinations of an inner circle in need of some therapy.

Needless to say I have ordered additional colors of  felt to make up more figures for holding the pins that are such a pleasure to plunge into them.

We checked to make sure that using the American flag as an art statement is protected under the first amendment. So one of us got right on that while artists are still being protected…perhaps no longer educated or funded, but protected. I really like where this particular piece is going.

Our losses and injuries as a nation with added text and more references to healing.

And another one worked on this book.

The interesting thing about this period of American book covers is that most of the covers were designed by women as were the illustrations and in most cases the authorship as well. Interesting.

So once opened it was stream of consciousness writing inspired by our present political situation and the words in the titles.

And other pages rich for interpretation.

I feel more hopeful spending time with these two artists/writers. We won’t be silent and we won’t “go along”. It was heartening this weekend to also hear from friends around the world who like my pincushions and shared suggestions of how to pose and photograph them. And still more are making their own to poke sharp things into.

I also heard this weekend about friends designing postcards to mail to those politicians experiencing the protectiveness of self-imposed isolation. Bravo! We need to keep making our voices heard through actions and art. It is going to be a nasty and bumpy road as we try to reach some agreements on who we are in this country and earn back some of the respect we have lost in the world. Thank you to those who march, those who write letters and those who make art. We all need to pay attention.

Taking a Break in Asheville then Finishing Up with the Samples Book

This is the view going over to Asheville the other day. The fog seems to love laying like whipped cream over the town of Franklin. We drove up to have an overnight stay with friends and ate wonderful food. It is hard to find anything but good food in that town. Loved spending time with friends, their cat and of course shopping for clothes.


When I returned to the very messy studio of putting things away from teaching the week before and trying to redo my old samples book, I got back at it. The new samples book is not as long as the old one and almost every single sample was re-pasted into the new size of 12″ x 12″ x 4″. I used some leaf contact printed cloth for the covers and printed paper for the straps. All the folios that were stitched in were colored with shellac and a walnut dye left from the previous week’s class. I couldn’t bear to toss it out so brought it home in jars.

I removed the beads from the long stitched spine of the previous book and attached them to the long threads of the new book.

Here are some of the interior pages. This book is packed. I wanted to keep all the sample techniques to use for myself in the studio and have as a reference for students if I teach this class again. The pages are not as pretty as students’ were last week but they are familiar to me and full of the information that I will need.


These are just a few of the pages. I was happy to see the end of this project. Over the past several years I would just stick more samples loosely into the back of the old book. It gave me a chance to really look at the work involved and realize again how much “documentation” is important to the way I work. Even though some of the samples look like a dumb idea, they were worth keeping. I learned a very long time ago that today’s “dumb” is tomorrow’s “genius”.

I liked teaching this class and have modified it a bit with a new title for the students of today….the ones I have more often than not, who want something “pretty” by the end of the week, not a bunch of techniques that they are not likely to use in their own work. For me the samples are the work. They are the product and will be what I count on later.

And then there was that glorious Snow Moon last night. My iphone does not do it justice but here it was waiting for us to come back home last night after dinner with friends.

Tomorrow is the meeting of the Art Group here and at the very least I will have two finished books to show them. Then I need to concentrate on getting ready for Australia and leaving home for five weeks. I am so happy to be going again.

When I return from down under it is back to those specimens with watercolor on gessoed boards. I think the big dragonfly will be next. While in Asheville I went to the art store to get new small brushes and a walnut ink colored very fine marking pen. It will make those tiny wing veins seem doable. All for now…..

Impressions in Process – a Shift in Focus

I just finished teaching a five day class on Making Pages, Making Books, Making Art. There were only five students in the class and that made it easier to watch, listen and learn where I was of use and where I wasn’t. To me the image above is nothing less than stunning. All it is is the residue of soy milk soaked fabrics on a white coated Masonite board that paper making students use for drying their pulp sheets. If my walls weren’t covered already I would have brought this home and had it framed. This is only one quarter of the sheet.

The students were not as enamored of it as I was. They were focused on accumulating techniques and pieces to use in making pages, making books and making art. It was a bit painful to have to wash it off but I am very happy to have taken several pictures of the impressions of process.

Their pieces of cloth became imprinted with plants gathered from the garden by using as close as I could get to India Flint’s way of teaching. I made sure to bring the three books I have of hers to remind them that there was a more correct and thoughtful way to do this process and encouraged them to see the gorgeous uses of contact printing on cloth and clothing throughout her book. I could entice not one of them to bring in some socks, underwear, shirt, any article of clothing. They wanted the bits and pieces for using in a greater whole….their samples books of what we were making in the class. All of them ended up using the contact printed cloth for their book covers which I thought demonstrated the high regard they felt for keeping the cloth big and making it a feature of their work books.

Here is an example of the covers.

And here is what was arranged between these lovely tactile book covers.


And these:


Of course making watercolors from earth pigments was my favorite part and then seeing them use their colors in the books was delightful.

Only one of the five could I entice into pulling away from their lovely samples long enough for me to show them other bindings for books. What they wanted and what the class before this that I taught last May wanted was to have more time in the arranging and playing with designing the pages. And these are things only they knew about. Each one was totally caught up in their own seduction of materials. My usefulness was in showing my books, showing them processes and ideas and then stop teaching and stop talking about other possibilities than what they were working on.

So while they worked, I asked how I could change the class. What techniques were of little use, what did they think could be left out and what given more time to explore. My workshops like this one, that don’t seem to focus on product, but process, are not as enthusiastically received as those that tell students specifically what the end product will be and here are the steps to all end up with the same thing.  What I am beginning to understand what most want is just give them early on what will play into what they already do in their own art practice. Be ready to quickly jettison the techniques of less importance or at the very least get through them quick enough so as to not take time from the making of something that has already formed in their heads.

I get it. I revamped the class. Even I would like to take it now. And it will be so much easier to teach because I will not be hauling everything but the kitchen sink to class rooms. What we mostly need is already on site.