Saturday, January 31, 2009

January 28 - speeding

I've just learned about the world's first speeding ticket for an automobile driver. In 1904, Dayton, Ohio, police ticketed Harry Myers for going twelve miles per hour on West Third Street. He was going 2mph above the speed limit.

January 27 - graffiti

I have always thought that graffiti is a modern thing, born out of frustration with society or political inaction, but not so. As many as 1500 wall scribblings were preserved under the ash in Pompeii and created 2000 years ago. gives these examples of translated graffiti -

Successus was here.
Gaius Julius Primigenius was here. Why are you late?
Lovers, like bees, lead a honey-sweet life.
I don't want to sell my husband.
Burglar, watch out!
Someone at whose table I do not dine, Lucius Istacidius, is a barbarian to me.
The fruit sellers ask you to elect Marcus Holconius Priscus as aedile.
I am amazed, o wall, that you have not collapsed and fallen, since you must bear the tedious stupidities of so many scrawlers.

I guess at that time they had nowhere else to express themselves, except on the walls of the town.

Some of today's graffiti artists, like Banksy, have built a successful reputation for themselves around the world and their work is highly prized, although there are those members of the establishment who feel that ALL graffiti is bad and should be wiped out, painted over or destroyed.

My view is that I've seen some extraordinary graffiti around the world and I admire the skill it takes to produce it. Graffiti artists tend to respect each others work and won't go over it unless they can do better. However, there is a new lifeform called the "Tagger" that has no respect for anyone (possibly including themselves) and I can only assume they have some totally foreign motivation for making their mark on public property all over the place.

I thought I'd enjoy doing this page but it turned out to be the most difficult one I've done. I think it must be that I don't have the mindset of a graffiti artist. In the end I had to take the book to a meeting of book artists and asked them to add some scribbles for me.

Monday, January 26, 2009

January 26 - My birthday

As well as being Australia Day today it's also my birthday and I think it was very clever of me to arrange to have a public holiday for it every year. This was especially a challenge at the time as I was born in Finland and had to arrange this as a long-distance task.

As well as sharing this birthdate with Paul Newman I also share it with two Finnish actors - Viljo Kervinen and Irja Kuusla, both now deceased.

This morning I went to the State Library of Queensland to visit their Game On exhibition. It's a history of computer games and most of the gaming consoles are available to be played with/on. The first computer game I played was Space Invaders and they had a number of different consoles on which to play it at the exhibition. I was interested to see whether it would seem very slow given the speed of current technology but it didn't seem to be overly tardy, although the controls were not as responsive as I'm now used to. I also learned that it's one of the most succesful games ever.

I'm a fan of Douglas Adams and "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" and I found out that he's developed an online, text-based, game of the book. It's obviously been popular as there's now a second edition. If you're interested in the quirky you can play it at

Gaming has moved into a whole new world now with the Nintendo Wii system. It's apparently being taken up by a generally older audience than previously. The Wii Sports and Wii Fit programs lend themselves to being used in Old Folks Homes for exercise programs and I believe they are also being used in a few gyms as a supplement to personal training. I use the Wii Fit system at home and was advised to use it by my physiotherapist for improving balance.

The page I've done for this day includes the Game On brochure from the libary-

January 25 - Stevengraph

The ancient English town of Coventry was, for centuries, identified with silk weaving, especially the manufacture of ribbons. Here, at the opening of the twentieth century, stood the well-known factory of Thomas Stevens, who, acting in the adventurous spirit that was quickening all branches of industrial enterprise, began to make innovations in the general character of ribbon design. He produced silk-woven bookmarks, greeting cards, and mottoes with ornamental designs and appropriate wording. (from

The Stevengraph trade name was coined by Thomas Stevens in about 1863 to describe his woven articles, and today that includes his silk pictures and portraits. He began in 1854 using the Jacquard loom to produce an infinite variety of items. The fashion for such gradually reduced until few were being produced in the 1920's, but the factory continued until blitzed in 1940. Many items were exported to the USA, and this explains their popularity there today.

Here's my book entry -
As the first stevengraphs made were bookmarks I decided to make a bookmark for this page. Mine is not a slk weaving, however, I wove it from linen threads using a loom I made first (see below).

The loom is in two "U" shapes, with one fitting into the other and it's adjustable so I can make short or longer pieces on it. There are holes drilled along the sides and I used nuts and bolts to connect the pieces. The combs on the ends are actually old plastic combs but they tend to be a bit too bendy so I'll replace them with metal ones before using the loom again. For the shuttles I cut milk bottle plastic into the shapes I needed.The challenge of designing and making an appropriate loom for the job was fun.

January 24 - Food jammers

This group of guys in Canada are in a show called "Food Jammers". Their task is to come up with culinary contraptions. A kind of Jamie Oliver meets Scrapheap Challenge program. A few of the episodes Taken from the website at follow -

Episode 2021: Gallery Eats Art
Story Quest: To put on an edible art show in a gallery.
Contraption: Tools and edible presentational devices to allow for the advent of vertical food.
The Food Jammers decide to put on an edible art show. They get invaluable inspiration from an expert pastry chef and silk-screening artist but it doesn’t answer all their problems. The challenges are in keeping the food on the wall, and keeping it fresh. Their efforts exhaust them, but in the end, their art opening is an artistic and edible success.

Episode 2017: Office Smoker
Story Quest: To smoke pork in a filing cabinet, in an office.
Contraption: A smoker filing cabinet.
Nobu is stuck with an office job but Micah and Chris aren’t about to let their friend get lost in the 9 to 5 by offering to turn his filing cabinet into a meat smoker. Their research includes talking with a restauranteur and a butcher to ensure that their meat will be the sweetest. The Food Jammers engineer the transformation over the weekend so they can enjoy delicious smoked pork sandwiches come Monday, with Nobu’s boss being none the wiser.

Episode 2015: Automated Taco Machine
Story Quest: To create a taco vending machine, as a fresh fast food alternative that is accessible anytime.
Contraption: Vending machine with taco maker, heater, full topping selector.
The Food Jammers want instant access to fresh tacos close to home so they make a taco vending machine. The guys consult with a Mexican chef, a vending machine company to overcome the tricky mechanics of providing fresh food on demand. In the end, the Food Jammers are able to enjoy fresh and tasty hot chicken tacos any time they want

There are videos of the shows available on the website but I suppose Australia hasn't bought the rights as we can't watch them here. A shame, it sounds like a great show.

Here's the page for it-

January 23 - voting from space

I was websurfing issues about space when I came across a site about the International space station. There's a video by the guys currently in residence up there explaining that some years ago a process was put in place for off-world astronauts to be able to cast a vote in the elections taking place in their absence. It was obviously put together to encourage US citizens to vote because they ended with the line "If we can vote from up here, you can too."

Speaking of space, last year I was working on an altered book about art when I came across an explanation about the use of space in painting. I decided to reverse the idea and added an illustration of an astronaut painting in space. I thought it was kinda cute.

Here's the page I did-

January 22 - Berthe Morisot

Berthe Morisot was born in Bourges, France in 1841. She was the third daughter of a prominent and wealthy government official. Raised accordingly, Morisot and her sisters were provided tutors for languages and literature and, in 1857, art lessons. Morisot and her older sister Edma quickly developed both a passion and a high level of skill in drawing and painting. Alongside her sister, Morisot copied masterpieces at the Louvre and painted out of doors under the direction of well-known landscape painter Camille Corot. She first exhibited her paintings at the prestigious annual Salon in 1864, and her work was shown there regularly through 1873.

In the winter of 1868-1869, Morisot was introduced to Edouard Manet. Manet's reputation and aesthetic innovations were well known to Morisot, and they began a lifelong friendship. Over the course of the next five years, Manet would paint Morisot 11 times. (The painting at the top of this post is one of them) While Morisot learned much from Manet, she never formally studied with him. She often disagreed with his suggestions, most notably in her decision to join the Impressionist circle. Morisot remained faithful to the Impressionists after others abandoned the movement, participating in seven of the eight exhibitions and single-handedly organizing the final show in 1886.

When she was 33, well after she was established as a professional artist, Morisot married Eugène Manet and became Edouard's sister-in-law. Eugène readily supported his wife's career, never asking her to abandon her painting for matrimony, yet despite his acceptance of her art, Eugène in particular and men in general appear extremely infrequently in Morisot's paintings. Her wide range of subjects often included portraits of her mother, sisters, and nieces, as well as of her own daughter Julie, to whom she gave birth in 1878, and who would become her favorite model and painting companion; still lifes; landscapes; and the domestic scene, particularly traditional feminine occupations.

Morisot continued to paint and exhibit in her later years, receiving her first solo exhibition only a few weeks after her husband's death in 1892. While selling paintings had never been a priority for Morisot, she actively collected works by her colleagues, including Manet and Monet. In these years, Julie became her mother's constant companion, painting alongside her just as Edma had done years earlier, joining her visits with Renoir, Monet, and Degas, and helping to fill the void left by Eugène's death. In 1895, Morisot died from pneumonia at the age of 54, leaving the majority of her works and collection to Julie who served as Morisot's champion by lending her works to international exhibitions until her own death in 1966, ensuring her mother a prominent place in the French avant-garde tradition.
Here's my page.

January 21 - Two sticks and a length of string

The great pyramid in Egypt is a most remarkable feat of engineering and technological skill. To make sure that the foundations were absolutely level the builders used an extensive system of water-filled trenches around the base of the pyramid. A string was stretched between two sticks of equal length, held touching the water. The floor of the trench was then leveled until measuring rods showed that the string was parallel with the water level, and the bottom of the trench. This method was so successful that modern experts, with the aid of the most advanced equipment, have found that the north-east corner of the pyramid is only half an inch lower than the south-east corner.
Here's the page -
By the way, I've been using the Macquarie History of Ideas, produced by the Macquarie Library in Australia, so some of the descriptions for things have been taken from it. Other references are from Wikipedia and random websites.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

January 20 - Trench Art

Trench Art is the term applied to objects made or decorated by soldiers, prisoners of war and civilians between 1914 and 1939 and kept as souvenirs or household ornaments by themselves or their relatives. Common examples include: painted or decorated artillery shell cases, crucifixes, jewellery and talismans, carvings, detailed models or military equipment. Trench Art can be broadly classified into three categories: War mementos made by soldiers during the Great War (1914-1918); Items produced by civilians during both World Wars (1914-1945); Souvenirs produced commercially from discarded war materials during the period between the wars (1918-1939).

The second category is generally considered to be the largest in terms of overall quantity of items produced. Wartime and post-war economic deprivation, together with vast quantities of war material strewn across the battlefields combined to produce a thriving industry.

As personal memories of the two World Wars have faded with time so too has the popularity of Trench Art. Increasingly it is seen today as hardly worth mentioning, let alone collecting. Since the end of the Second World War a great proportion of Great War Trench Art has returned to the blast furnaces from whence it came to be melted for scrap.

During the Second World War my Dad fought in the Finnish army against the Russians. During quiet times on the frontlines he carved a wooden box with inlaid timbers. He recently restored it as the hinges had broken after 68 years of use. It's a poignant memento of his war service.

Here's the double-page spread I have done -

January 19 - Voice gym

A few times of late I've experienced a "fading out" of my voice and wondered what was going on. It happened again today and I found out from my cranio-sacral therapist that it has to do with bad posture.

As I spend more time in my studio working I tend to look downwards a lot. This causes the muscles around my neck and larynx to sag and this diminishes the air supply to the voice, hence the fading out.

One solution is to stretch the neck muscles up from the shoulders. The other is to pull them up from the top using the soft palate. "So how do you do this?" I hear you ask. By singing.

When you sing the soft palate lifts up and allows more air to flow to the voice. As well as this benefit, singing is good for the cranial muscles and the posture. An all-round good thing to do.

Despite the benefits of singing I refuse to inflict my tuneless voice even on myself, so I have other vocalising exercises to do in it's place. They're the sort of thing that one does in the car, while alone, so if you ever drive past me on the road and I seem to be making strange noises then just drive on by and look the other way please.

Here's the page about it

For further reading about voice exercises checkout Angela Caines website at

January 18 - About Elephants

I watched a documentary called "Eye for an Elephant" by Martyn Colbeck. He spent 15 years studying a family of elephants in Africa and this doco was the reult. It was amazingly touching to see these large creatures behaving as tenderly towards each other as they do.

Some of the things I learned about elephants -

They snore when they sleep, which is understandable given the length of their trunk, but I hadn't thought about it before.

During times of high emotion a gland near each eye weeps fluid and makes them look as if they're crying.

Matriarchs of some families sometimes "kidnap" baby elephants from other families. It's a message of power and status. In the doco the female members of the group rescued their baby from the kidnappers.

The Masai say of elephants that they are the only animal with a soul. In the doco they certain.y appeared to be that way.

Here's my page

Saturday, January 17, 2009

January 17 - Policies and statistics

In 1999 the People's Democratic Republic of Laos published a National Population and Development Policy whereby they set targets for population growth in line with their objectives in terms of the country's future prospects in the world economy.

At that time the number of births per woman was 5.6 and the aim was to reduce this to 3.5 by 2010. They way they planned to do this was to educate women, provide them with more opportunities in the workplace and give them access to safe birth control methods.

According to the CIA World Factbook the number of births per woman in 2008 was 4.5, so it was on the way down. There's nothing to indicate whether this is a result of implementing the abovementioned policy.

As I read more from the Factbook I learned that Laos has a growing problem with illicit drugs. I wonder if this is also a symptom of the overpopulation problem and everyone competing for the same dollar?

Here's my book entry -

Hopefully tomorrow I'll get back to topics of a less serious and gloomy nature.

January 16 - The insanity of war

I heard this morning that the war in Iraq is costing $8 million per minute. That's obscene! I thought the number must surely be inflated but then considered the issue and realised that when the US goes to war they set up entire "cities" in the conflict area. These cities provide accomodation for the troops, commanders and support crews and supply food, security and entertainment. I read somewhere that the rations for every soldier are huge and the logistics of food preparation and supply alone would be a gigantic operation. So it's no wonder that the cost is also gigantic.

I remember reading a joke somewhere that it would be interesting if the US military could swap their funding with the US education system and the military had to fund their operations through raffles and cake stalls. (Then maybe they'd have a more intelligent population that could see the alternatives to warfare as a means of conflict resolution)

Since the bombs first started falling on Bagdad I've wondered what damage is being done to the atmosphere and the environment by the tonnes and tonnes of munitions being exploded at an enormous rate. It makes a joke of the whole issue of concern about the environment.

It also seems to me that war is one consequence of the overpopulation problem that came up yesterday.

Here's my book entry on the subject -

January 15 - Overpopulation

As early as 200 years ago a guy called Malthus argued that population was increasing faster than food production could be expanded. In the 1960s Paul Ehrlich warned of the consequences of uncontrolled population growth.

In "A Big Fix" Ian Lowe (head of the Australian Conservation Foundation) writes that "no species can keep increasing its numbers in a closed system". He says that it has been a remarkable technical feat to keep food production in step with population growth to date but it cannot continue.

We need politicians to take this issue on with high priority and come up with workable population policies. I believe that the best starting point is to educate women and give them practical control over their fertility. I can see how this is going to be difficult to implement in some places in the world but it has to happen and it has to be now.

Here's my page
I think of our planet as Gaia and she is a living organism. As such, she is able to take control of the systems by which she functions. When overloads and imbalances occur she takes steps to rectify the situation. I believe that natural disasters are the means by which she does this.

If we, as intelligent members of the organism that is Gaia, cannot control our overpopulation and environmental vandalism then we'll just have to accept the consequences of Gaia doing it for us, whatever they may be.

January 14 - Logwood and nylons

Logwood (Haematoxylum campechianum) is a tree in the legume family. It grows in Central America and is one of 2 trees that led to the founding of the nation of Belize, which grew from British logging camps in the area in the 17th Century.

Logwood is a source of dye for textiles and paper and one of its uses is to dye nylon black.

Having read this, you can now answer the question "What do black nylon stockings have to do with British loggers in Central America?"

Here's my book entry

January 13 - The Kimberley Plan

Before and during the Holocaust in Europe the Freeland League, led by Isaac Steinberg, applied to buy 7 million acres of land in the Kimberley region in WA. The plan was to settle 75000 jews fleeing Europe in the area. He based his campaign on the officially declared need to populate northern Australia.

Prime minister John Curtin vetoed the idea because he said it would go against the immigration policy at the time. I find it interesting that no mention was made of the local indigenous population of the area, as if no one else already lived there. I dread to think what the situation there would be like had Curtin gone along with the idea.

Here's my book entry about it

January 12 - Writing on glossy surfaces

I have frequently been vexed by the problem of writing on glossy surfaces so I did some investigating and worked out the following -

Gel pens can be used to write on photographs. They're especially good if the writing needs to be on a dark colour as the light colours work really well.

Chinagraph (wax) pencils work on glossy magazines, although the printing tends to look more like chalk than pen. This can be an advantage it that's the effect you want.

Sanford brand "Sharpie" felt pens are excellent on glossy paper and card and dry really quickly. When you use them you can mix the colours a bit in the process.

CD-R pens work well on glossy surfaces also and dry quickly.

Here's the page from my book about it

January 11 - Printing on canvas

I participate in an Artist Trading Card swap with a group based in New Zealand. The ones we make are textile-based. This month's theme was "Red and White" and I decided to base it on the image of a red and white fish.

I'd recently bought some Canvas paper for my ink jet printer and thought that would be a good starting point but when I did the print I was very disappointed with the result. The colours were really dull and they seemd to fade as I looked at it.

At the cook up day someone had showed me an image she'd printed on a piece of canvas that she'd bought in notepad form. I had looked for it in an art shop but didn't find it so I'd bought a length of actual canvas instead. I cut a few A4 size pieces off the length and painted them with a thin coating of watered-down gesso. Then I used them to print my fish image. Perfect result.

Here's how my page turned out

Once I'd successfully printed the fish on a piece of canvas I then made my ATC. The fourth image on the page is of it.

January 10 - Adaptables

Gemma Smith is a Queensland artist whose work is currently on display at the "Optimism" exhibition at GOMA.

Gemma's work is characterised by an exploration of geometric shapes and patterns. She's created a series of pieces called "adaptables" which are connected shapes that can be assembled into an unlimited range of positions. She goes into GOMA regularly and rearranges the pieces she has on display.

I decided to make my own adaptable as the subject of my page. Here's the photo of the page with my adaptable in a pocket.

It's interesting how my little adaptable can take on quite different presentations depending on the way it's laid out.

The idea lends itself to being used as the basis of a book form so I think I'll play around with it at some stage.

January 9 - Altered Photos

Today was the first day of the Annual Cookup at Fibrecraft House, the home of the Queensland Spinners, Weavers and Fibre Artists group. It's always a great place to learn new things so I spent my time on Altered Photos.

The idea is to take a photo that's surplus or a reject for some reason and turn it into a mini work of art. To do so, you can use sandpaper, scratching tools, paint, knives, pens, etc. The process I used for each of mine was to tear the edges first, then put it in water for a short while to soften the emulsion.
Once out of the water I was able to scratch the surface of the photo with a scourer or sharp metal object. Then I painted bits with watercolour paint, mostly the edges, and with one of them I applied paint with a stamp then coated it with a PVA/water mix to get a glossy finish.

Here's the photo of the pages in my book

I like the way that you can transform an ordinary photograph into something entirely different.
I plan to spend some more time playing with this process

Thursday, January 8, 2009

January 8 - Tales from the Tub

I heard Philip Adams interviewing Katherine Ashenburg who's written a book called "Clean - an Unsanitised History of Washing".

The book is about bathing in Western society and it contains some very interesting information such as the fact that Christianity is the only religion that took no interest in hygiene.

Other interesting facts -

During the Black Plague doctors thought that disease entered the body through the pores so they advised everyone to avoid hot water so for 350 years no one bathed.

The flax in linen shirts was believed to draw dirt from the skin so wearing clean shirts was thought to clean you, as evidenced by dirty collars and cuffs.

Wealthy people could afford to change their sheets frequently, about every two years.

The Japanese are thought to be the cleanest people with their bathing habits.

The Finnish sauna is a tradition that goes back a long way. They were considered to be excellent for health and wellbeing. Some mothers delivered their babies in the sauna.

You'll find a few more facts at

Being unclean and having "bugs" on you were so common that La Tour did a painting of a woman finding a flea on her body.

This is the page I've done -

January 7 - Popup cards

Every Thursday I go ice skating at Boondall Iceworld with a lovely group of skaters. I'd been given Christmas cards by them but had been too busy on our renovation in December to make cards myself so I decided to give them Happy New Year cards instead. So I worked out a way to make pop up cards.

So then I did one for myself and put it in the book.

and this is the inside

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

January 6 - Taming Gimp

When I first started using a drawing package the one I used was Corel Draw. It became very familiar to me and I could generally work out how to do anything I needed with it.

The price of the package took it out of my reach when it came time to upgrade my laptop so I tried alternatives. The one my husband used was Photoshop so I used it for a while but I had an uneasy relationship with it as the functionality was to alien to me.

Recently I've taken to using GIMP, a piece of Freeware that you can download. At first it seemed to be fairly noddy but as I've extended the use of it I've come to realise how powerful, and useful, it is.

Today my knowledge of Gimp took a leap forward as I was shown some stuff about it that I didn't know. Yay Gimp!

Here;s the page -

January 5 - a new game

I learned to play a new game today. It's called "Everyone's Guess" and it's a word game created by The Wandering Grannies.

The objective of the game is to think of a word between 4 and 12 letters and lay the letters out upsidedown in front of you. To make it more interesting you can add blanks at the start or end of the word to disguise it. The players take turns to guess each other's words and the scoring is subject to activity cards that include such things as "add 10 points to your score". It's fun.

Here's the photo of the page in my book

Monday, January 5, 2009

January 4 - Tesla

Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) was an inventor and a mechanical and structural engineer. He was born in Croatia and later became an American citizen. He is often described as the most important scientist and inventor of the modern age, best known for his many revolutionary contributions in the field of electricity and magnetism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Tesla's patents and theoretical work formed the basis of modern alternating current electrical power (AC systems) and after demonstrating wireless communication (radio) in 1894 he was widely respected as one of the greatest electrical engineers who worked in America. Much of his early work pioneered modern electrical engineering and many of his discoveries were of groundbreaking importance.

Aside from his work in electromagnetism and electromechanical engineering, Tesla has contributed in varying degrees to the establishment of robotics, remote control, radar and computer science, and to the expansion of ballistics, nuclear physics and theoretical physics.

Tesla's fame rivalled that of any other inventor or scientist in history but due to his eccentric personality and his seemingly unbelievable claims about possible scientific developments he was ultimately ostracised and regarded as a mad scientist. Never having put much focus on his finances he died impoverished at the age of 86.

Tesla may have suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder as he did things in threes and had many unusual quirks and phobias. He was also prone to alienating himself, although he was widely known for his great showmanship, presenting his innovations and demonstrations to the public as an artform, almost like a magician.

The international body responsible for setting the standards for measuring things named the magnetic flux density after him. It became the tesla, and the wireless energy transfer of power to wirelessly power electronic devices is the "tesla effect", after a demonstration he did of this in 1893.

In the 2006 film "The Prestige" the role of Tesla was played by David Bowie.

This is the page I did for Tesla

The envelope contains a biography and the drawing on the RHS is attached at the bottom only so it flips forward for reading the words

Friday, January 2, 2009

January 3 - More Fimo

Feeling hugely enthusiastic about the Fimo thngs I made yesterday, I searched the web for more about it. I found out that there's an artist, Jon Anderson, who makes the most amazing sculptures with it. Check out his work at

So I made a few more pieces to explore the possibilities of polymer clay. Here are the pics of my results -

Here is the page I did in my book

The heart hangs free from the page, connected with fibre and the images are attached at the edges only so they can be flipped up to read the words. I like the way it turned out.

January 2 - Fimo

Today I learned how to make beads and stuff with Fimo polymer clay. It was really fun to do. here are some pics of the end result -

This is the page I did in my book -

The images are attached on the sides only so that you can flip them up to read the words underneath.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

January 1 - OX

2009 is the Year of the OX.

The first day of a Chinese New Year falls on the new moon day of the first lunar month of the year and in this case it happens to be January 26th which is also my birthday.

Here's the photo of the page I did for this day. The first page of many.

The symbol at the top RHS is the Chinese character for "Year of the Ox". The background colour is the same as a Dulux colour called Ox Blood. We've just had our verandah deck repainted with it.

I like the way that gold gel pen works really well on dark background colours.

My book is now launched and on its journey through new things for 365 days. Yay!