Thursday, August 6, 2009

May 1 - Change of direction

It's the first day of a new month and I've learned that the approach I adopted for this project isn't working for me. Before I launched into my "Learn Something New Every day" project I thought it would be easy to learn something and create a new artwork from it every day for a whole year. Others told me I was mad but I insisted that it would be easy.

The idea to blog the learning process and then create the artwork from that seemed to be an efficient way to go and, for a time, this was true. Until I got stuck, that is.

In February I was working on a scrapbook album for my Dad's 90th Birthday. Part of it was to produce four pages about his war service and it became a fascinating learning process for me. He fought against the Russians in the Second World War and it had been such a traumatic time that he didn't speak of it until fairly recently. For the album he wrote 12 pages for me and that's when I found out what it had been like for him. To honour his war service I spent a good deal of time on the pages and this halted my work on the blog. Also, I used the work from the scrapbook pages in my "Learn.." book so for a long time it was stuck at that point.

So, by the end of February my good intentions for my project had gone off the rails already and it all got away from me and I started to fall further and further behind with it. So I had to alter the process in some way or give it up entirely.

The solution came with the addition of just two words. In the introduction of my book I've written that it's about 365 things I learned in 2009, to which I've added "and beyond". With these words I've given myself permission to finish the 365 things over a longer period of time, so that's what I'm now going to do. Beginning in May I'll add as many entries as I can for that month, and so on. What a relief it is to allow myself to change my mind about something. It doesn't happen all that often and I think it should become a habit to avoid the stress I put myself under.

Yay! I feel so much better about it now.

April 30 - The internet of things

This is Joe Pemberton's photo from today's Future Tense. The article was about the internet of things. Anthony Funnell's introduction went like this -

"Imagine your toaster has an inbuilt computer and it can speak to your fridge. Now imagine your fridge talking to the computer at your local shopping centre. All without your involvement. More and more everyday objects are becoming internet connected. So are we about to witness a new phase for the internet? An internet where objects, not people, communicate: 'an internet of things'"

The idea is that you can put intelligent microchips into everything now, including people, and this means that if those chips are wirelessly connected to the internet then you can track them wherever they go. Interesting, but scary in a way. It solves the problem of stolen goods because they can never disappear, so that's a good thing, but I'd be interested to know what life would be like with everything sending out "I'm here! I'm here!" signals to everything else.

Perhaps convergence is a good thing to a certain point only. I guess we'll see when it starts to happen, then we can decide whether we like it or not.

April 29 - Stitches and Craft

This is the ATC I made for this month's swap. As I thought back on the sewing and craft projects I've worked on over the years I realised that the drive to do this is in my blood.

My mother is a tailor and from a very early age I was taught how to sew. My sisters and I used to sew clothes for our dolls from patterns that my mother drafted for us. I don't even remember learning it and it seems that I have always just known how to sew. When I had my first sewing lesson at school I knew it all already but didn't know how I did.

I think it's a really good thing for young children to spend time playing with and working on craft projects. Who knows what genius ideas may come out of a basic knowledge of manipulating objects and learning how to connect things?

April 28 - These Boots

I made this art piece for an exhibition a while ago. The show was called "These Boots" and the brief was to make a piece by altering a pair of shoes/boots so they tell a story.

For the piece I wrote this story and attached it to the back of the box they were displayed in. The story was this -

"These Boots had an identity crisis from the very beginning. It wasn’t just that they wanted to be something else, they also wanted to think outside the square and that wasn’t easy.
It was the postcard that finally did it. Just an innocent-looking thing that arrived one sunny spring afternoon. These boots had been relatively happy until that moment. Well, at least they thought so. The postcard was from a friend travelling around the world. It smelled of exotic, faraway places and hinted at new worlds and new ways of thinking. It spoke of freedom.
Freedom had been just another word until that moment but now it brought about alteration and innovation. It was the reason behind the whole redecoration thing and influenced the new designs and textures that now emerged. The designs and desires had been there all along, really. They’d just been hidden behind a facade of conservatism. A facade that had been broken down on that sunny spring afternoon by the idea of freedom.

From that moment on creativity had emerged and made itself known. That creativity provided the energy for the painting and beadwork that adorned the previously conservative boots.
Freedom of speech also emerged during this time. Long-repressed ideas and opinions sought a way out from the dungeons of the mind. The boots discovered how easy it was to express feelings and thoughts. Thoughts about the meaning of life and the nature of time and many other things cascaded from a mind that had been freed from its imprisonment.
Life is all about creation. In every moment of every day we are creating the reality we see. What we see is what we expect to see as a result of our conditioning and environment. We see with our brain, not our eyes. The eyes are just the way we capture information for our brain to process. The world we create for ourselves is totally personal and unique. Just like these boots."

I had a lot of fun making the piece and just today I found it in the corner of my studio. It looks a bit worn and sad and insects have made a home in them. I realised that the boots had embarked on a new journey - this time the inevitable process of decay that is a fact of life itself. The cycle of life.

As everything else, art is ephemeral.

April 27 - memory and the brain

My brain is an incredible tool. It processes billions of bits of information from multiple sources every moment of every day, and it does this automatically. I don't have to consciously monitor its functions to ensure that it works perfectly and it does a fabulous job in performing the things it's meant to do.

Inputs to the brain functions come from multiple sources - sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, all of the body's internal organs, the nervous system and the rest of the body's structural systems AS WELL AS my thoughts. Whatever I think in every given moment will affect how my brain directs its internal orchestra.

For example, I'm in a cinema and watching a scary movie. One of the actors is hiding behind a tree in a dark forest waiting for the bad guy to find him. It's a tense and nervous moment and I can feel my heart beating quickly and my breath becomes shallow and rapid and only returns to normal when the situation returns to normal and all is well. My body went into "fight or flight" mode because of my thoughts, not because of something that was actually happening. This is the power of my brain.

So, whether I'm consciously aware of it or not, my brain is reacting to my thoughts every moment of every day because that's what it's programmed to do. Therefore, if I spend most of my time consumed by thoughts of anxiety then my brain will translate those thoughts into action in my body and, perhaps, tense up my shoulders and neck to reflect those thoughts of anxiety. Make sense?

So here's my light bulb moment for today.

For some time now I've been complaining about my memory and how I don't remember things and of course my brain has been politely making this so all along. BUT there are some things I always remember without any effort at all (like the fact that DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid) and I'm good with phone numbers. So the "I'm not good at remembering things" is not a rule at all. It's become a belief simply because I keep on thinking it and telling people about it.

So if a belief is just a thought I keep thinking then it stands to reason that if I now replace that original thought with this one "My memory is perfect and I can recall all relevant facts whenever I need to" and if I keep thinking it then it will become my belief and, hey presto, my brain will comply and make it so.

Here's to my brainy conductor leading my internal orchestra in playing a new tune!

April 26 - Bilbao

Bilbao in Spain featured on Artscape. Frank Gehry's Guggenheim museum was praised for it's design and visual appeal.

I looked Gehry up on Google and found that he has some detractors who say that: the buildings waste structural resources by creating functionless forms; the buildings are apparently designed without accounting for the local climate; the spectacle of a building often overwhelms its intended use, especially in the case of museums and arenas; the buildings do not seem to belong in their surroundings "organically"; the buildings are often unfriendly towards disabled people. The Art Gallery of Ontario, for example, had most ramps removed at Gehry's behest, making it very difficult to navigate.

I think I'd have to agree with Gehry's detractors because whilst the Guggenheim Museum looks interesting I expect it took a lot of tricky engineering in it's contruction and also caused a lot of waste in resources.

Gehry has been described as "the one-trick pony" and an "auto-plagiarist", referring to the fact that a lot of his buildings are similar in style, as you can see in the images below.

April 25 - Anzac Day

Australia and New Zealand commemorate the ANZAC Day holiday on 25 April every year to remember members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who landed and fell at Gallipoli in Turkey during World War I.

In 1951, Australian and Turkish Soldiers came together for the first time after World War I. It was the Korean War and this time they were allies. In the first year of the war in the lead up to ANZAC Day they planned a shared commemoration. Members of the Turkish brigade were to meet up with the 3rd battalion but unfortunately on the night of the 24th the Battle of Cap Yong started and the 3rd battalion were committed to that battle as were the Turkish brigade elsewhere. Even though this joint commemoration in 1951 didn’t take place the idea was not forgotten and two years after the end of the Korean war to the sound of Turkish bugles, they finally realised their dream to commemorate Anzac Day together. We have been allies since.

Since 1998 the Turks have been permitted to march in the Anzac day parade. You can read more about this in the Compass archives at -

April 24 - tramp art

I heard something on the radio about Tramp Art so I checked it out on the web and found this definition -

"Tramp Art was a popular form of folk art that flourished in America from the 1870's to the 1940's. It took many forms, mostly functional but some purely aesthetic: its creators notched, layered, and whittled picture frames, elaborate boxes, and even full-sized furniture pieces. The most common materials for making tramp art were cigar boxes and wood from disassembled crates.

The term "tramp art" was not used to identify this type of folk art until the 1950's, even though by then its production had all but stopped (largely, some think, because of a decline in cigar smoking and thus a decrease in the availability of cigar boxes). The lore persists that tramp art was made by wandering souls, largely anonymous, and that the fruits of their labors were bartered for food and shelter. While there is some truth to this, many who produced tramp art were skilled craftspeople who devoted major amounts of time to their creative pursuits. Most tramp art is unsigned and undated, adding to the mystique surrounding it."

I find it interesting that creative pursuits seem to pop up everywhere and it seems as if we're hard-wired to make things with our minds and bodies. It just goes to prove my belief that everyone is creative, but not everyone realises it.

I'm involved with a number of craft groups and one of the activities that seems to be becoming more poplar is the decorating of cigar boxes. You can buy them cheaply from shops that sell cigarettes and all things smoking related, but I guess they'll gradually disappear if smoking becomes more and more unpopular (as it should).

April 23 - sunny money

I watched Catalyst this evening and one of the articles was about the use of polymer panels for solar generation.

Polymer bank notes are an Australian invention and we now print polymer notes for 26 countries. The scientists at the manufacturing facility that prints the notes have been working on a polymer panel that can be used to generate solar electricity.

The current technology for solar electricity generation is expensive, which makes the payback period for a new system very long and often uneconomical. The polymer sheets are not very efficient at this stage but because they are inexpensive and flexible they can be used in a larger variety of locations. For example, you can afford to cover an entire roof with them.

Dr Gerry Wilson says "If the world had about six one hundred kilometre by one hundred kilometre grids of ten percent efficient solar cells scattered around the world, we would be able to satisfy the world's current energy needs. These plastic solar cells, we’re not restricted necessarily to put them on land. We could use them to cover our dams to stop evaporation. We could use them in the ocean."

Mark Horstman says "If this high speed printer was printing solar cells, it could do around 200 metres every minute, or 100 kilometres every day. At that rate, in just two months, it could print more generating capacity than a coal-fired power station. And that’s got to be a licence to print money. Here at Securency, they’re rolling out their first proofs of polymer solar cells – six months ahead of schedule, and just in time for a clean energy future."

April 22 - A new paper cutter

I watched New Inventors this evening and was very excited to hear that someone has invented a new way to cut paper. I can't include an image here as the inventor, Bill Rayner, only had a prototype to demonstrate. You can read about the invention at his site and you can also watch the extract of the New Inventors episode where he appeared here

The capacity of the human mind for invention is amazing.

April 21 - resource reuse

I went to Reverse Garbage today. It's one of my favourite places in Brisbane.

As a founding member of RG I feel very passionately about the issue of resource use and reuse. My biggest interest in the management team was Education. By taking resources to schools and providing art activities I hoped to convey the awareness of where "stuff" comes from and the importance of considering the environmental impacts of manufacturing and resource use.

From it's early beginnings, the Education arm of RG has gone from strength to strength and I am really pleased to see the effect it's having on school students and the community in general. I believe that it's fundamental to the decisions made at management level in all areas of business to take into account the environmental impacts of projects being considered. The students of today will be the decision-makers of tomorrow and it's important for them to be aware of the environmental aspects of their decicions.

The main message of resource reuse is this -

Every time you manufacture something there are costs associated with it that go beyond the simple financial ones. These costs include the waste stream (leftovers and offcuts) and any pollutants involved (waste water, gases, smoke etc).

Whenever something reaches the end of its practical life it generally ends up in landfill unless some other strategy has been put into place.

Recycling is part of the resource use message but too often it's implemented as a first resort, rather than a last one. By this I mean that resources (like cardboard and paper) are pulped and remade rather than reused in the first instance. Whenever something goes back through the manufacturing process the waste stream is repeated. Reuse would minimise this.

The role of organisations such as Reverse Garbage is to divert the leftovers, offcuts, overruns and surplus stock from a range of businesses to the community for reuse in a variety of ways. Reuse can be the reuse of the product/item in it's original form/intention; reuse in a different application in its original form; or reuse in an entirely new and creative way.

Creative reuse of resources is a great way to divert materials away from landfill.


A few years after RG had opened the doors at West End I was pleased to see how far our reach had stretched when I walked through Myer one Saturday afternoon and saw a display cabinet of watches and the shelves had been covered with little colourful plastic dots, which looked good. I looked closer and recognised the dots as being the offcuts from a company that manufactures plastic washers. The "holes" are punched out of the washers and discarded. Fortunately, they now go into the bin destined for RG, rather than the one destined for landfill. I have some of them in my stock of art materials in my studio, although I haven't decided how to use them yet.

I left RG five years ago and went on to other things and I recently went to the tenth anniversary of the business, still going strong. The current mangement team is doing a great job maintaining the momentum we began.

April 20 - printing on acetate

My friend Yvonne invited me to her place to play with her myriad of stuff. She's a keen card maker and craft fan and she's collected loads of tools and materials and was keen to share them with me.

One of the things I learned about while I was there was how to create images on acetate using stamps and pens. When I got home I experimented some more and made the piece in the photo. I took the pic with the acetate taped to a glass door and the view of the garden behind it.

The transparency film I used is an HP film for inkjet printers. It's designed for overhead slides and has one side that's a bit rougher than the other so that the ink from my pens sticks better. I used black India ink with a rubber frame stamp to begin with, stamping it on the smoother side of the film. Then I placed the frame over an image from a Be Creative magazine of stained glass and used a black Sharpie pen to trace the image into the centre of the frame. Then I turned the image over and coloured it from the back, the rougher side. The pens I used are Marvy brush markers from Uchida and they came out really bright.

I like the stained glass effect of doing this and am now thinking about how I might use this process in my other work.

April 19 - Buttonhole bookbinding

There was a tutorial scheduled for today at the bookbinders Guild about Buttonhole book binding. As they didn't have enough people to do it the tutorial didn't go ahead so I thought I'd look it up on the web to see what I could find instead.

The photo here came from Google Images and I found a great website where the author shares many bookbinding techniques. You can find his instructions for this book at

When I went to the website to check out the instructions I also read about the artist and found out that Cai Lun was the inventor of paper in China in 150AD.

Despite all of the complaints about the web, I find it very safe and informative and I use it regularly for self education. I am grateful for the generosity of everyone who's willing to shares their thoughts and skills.

April 18 - What's in a name?

It's my son's birthday today so I thought I'd tell you the story of how we decided to call him David.

My husband has an older son, Luke, from his first marriage. Luke was 13 years old when I was pregnant with David. He lived with his mother and only visited us on some weekends and I was keen for him to feel like we were all a family. So my husband and I went out to a cafe with Luke to decide on a name for his soon-to-be brother. We agreed that it would have to be a unanimous decision so we each started suggesting names until there was no disagreement from any of us. It took quite a few options to arrive at the first name so then we went through the process for his second name.

David is now 20 and he and Luke have a really close relationship. I would like to think that the name thing had something to do with this. Interestingly, when Luke's first son was born David was 13 so there's the same age gap between him and his nephew as him and his brother.

So if I ask myself the question "What's in a name?" then I'd have to say that in this case there's a bond and kinship that "by any other name would smell as sweet."

April 17 - Public art murals

This waterfall is part of a mural I painted at Upper Mt Gravatt Community Kindergarten with my friend Chrissy. I was really pleased with the way it turned out because I was new to public art murals and at first not sure of myself and what I could do. After this mural Chrissy and I went on to paint a few more together as well as separately.

When I heard about a mural being painted along Barry Parade in the valley by an Italian artist who works with passers-by and volunteers I decided to drive by and have a look. I ended up doing some work on it today and will go back a few more times to help.

Since prehistoric times when the first humans started making marks in caves we've been daubing paint on walls and leaving our mark in a variety of ways. I find it incredibly satisfying to create an image that is recognisable and which (hopefully) beautifies the surface it's painted on. A bonus is the reactions of people walking by. When I was working on the one I painted on Platform 4 at Milton Railway Station I had regular visits by a mother and her little daughter who insisted on stopping by to watch me work.

There are hundreds of artists around the world creating beautiful paintings (and chalk drawings) in public spaces and leaving their mark. I like the idea of being one of those people and will continue to make my mark whenever I have the opportunity.

April 16 - The future of Journalism

I listened to Future tense this morning. Antony Funnell was talking about a number of new models for journalism in this technological environment.

The first example he looked at was "". In this model a journalist submits a pitch for a story and also states how much he/she needs to fund it. Anyone who thinks that the story would be a good one to cover can donate some money towards it. To avoid bias, no single donor is permitted to cover the entire amount. If the donations don't reach the sum requested then the journalist has the option to produce the story anyway. If he/she decides not to go ahead the donations are refunded.

The website states that -

"Spot.Us is a nonprofit project to pioneer “community funded reporting.” Through Spot.Us the public can commission investigations with tax deductible donations for important and perhaps overlooked stories. If a news organization buys exclusive rights to the content, donations are reimbursed. Otherwise content is made available through a Creative Commons license."

The second example was The Printed Blog. This is the world's first daily newspaper comprised entirely of blogs and user-generated content. You can find it at

The third one was about Every Block. In this model stories are compiled about what's happening in particular communities, as opposed to the usual national or international focus. The idea is for readers to find out what's happening near where they live. The website says -

"EveryBlock is a new way to keep track of what’s happening on your block, in your neighborhood and all over your city."

My personal opinion about journalists is that, generally, they have a lot to answer for in terms of fear-mongering and misleading the public. I hope that these new models of journalism will bring with them a new ethic of truth in reporting.

April 15 - book binding

This evening I went to my first meeting of the Queensland Bookbinding Guild. As a book artist I know all about making artist's books so this is about adding another skill to my toolbox.

The guild meetings are attended by a diverse group of interesting people who are all passionate about making books. They have a stock of materials to buy and a cupboard of books to borrow. It's wonderful. As a member I can go along to monthly workshops to use the guild's equipment as well.

There are two parts to the construction of a book - the text block and the cover (or "case") . The text block is put together using a set of rules and it's pretty-well defined before you even start. However, the design and manufacture of the case can be a totally individual and creative process. It's like the creation of a book is a whole brain process, using the left brain for the text block and the right brain for the case. Very satisfying.

I'm keen to learn about how to use leather for binding and I'm already planning the books I'd like to make.

April 14 - Japanese non-meat products

I went on a walking tour of Chinatown with a friend today. It was with a crew called Taste Trekkers and we were shown around asian supermarkets and other food outlets from different cultures. It was great fun and we both learned a lot.

One of the really interesting things I learned about is the Japanese non-meat products in the supermarkets. Made mostly from beans, these products actually look like the meat products they are replacing. I'd expected the non-beef patties that I saw but the non-bacon rashers of bacon were a real surprise.

The trek was part of my culinary training and I've been practising my asian cooking since then (and getting really good at stirfrys) but I think it may be some time before I'll have the courage to try food like the non-meat bacon.

April 13 - Public Holidays

Today is a Public Holiday (Easter Monday) so I thought I'd check out "public holidays" on Wikipedia. This is what I found -

"Holiday is a contraction of holy and day. Holiday originally referred only to special religious days. In modern use, it means any special day of rest, as opposed to normal days off work or school.

In the United Kingdom, vacation once specifically referred to the long summer break taken by the law courts and, later, universities—a custom introduced by William the Conqueror from Normandy where it facilitated the grape harvest. The French term is similar to American English: "Les Vacances". In the past, many upper-class families moved to a summer home for part of the year, leaving their usual family home vacant."

So there you have it. William the Conqueror introduced quite a few new things to England, the buildings of castles being one of them, as well as this idea of summer vacation. I also didn't know that about the link between the word vacation and leaving your home empty.

April 12 - Council of Nicaea

It's Easter Sunday so I did a Google search and found out about the Council of Nicaea. It happened in the year 325AD when Constantine the Emperor of Rome was unhappy with the unrest between the pagans and the Roman Catholic Church and he sought a compromise between them.

Of the council the RCC says this -

"The year was 325 A.D. according to the Roman calendar. A council was convened by order of Constantine, the Roman emperor. He had been a leader in the cult known as Sol Invictus (Invincible Sun) and now wanted to unite the Christian sects in the empire under his existing church; the Universal Church of Rome. Many changes to the religion of Christianity were about to take place at that council, including:

Formulation for wording concerning the Trinity based on Anthanias
Changing Verses of Bible
Eliminating certain verses and books from the Bible
Declaring Arian's "unitarian" (belief in the Unity of God) as heresy
Changing the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday
Changing the date of Jesus' birthday to December 25th
Introduction of Easter (pagan worship called "Feast of Ishtar")
Church of Roman "officially" became the "Universal Church of the Holy Roman Empire" (the word 'Catholic' means 'universal')

The Roman Catholic Church took on a new face."

This means that the RCC hijacked an existing pagan feast and turned it into a religious event instead. I guess at the time it helped to unify the pagans and Christians living in Rome and was probably a good thing. It also means that the next time anyone laments about Easter being more about chocolate than church you could say that it was originally about eating nice things so it's legitimate to go back to there.

Monday, August 3, 2009

April 11 - Sarajevo Haggadah

I'm reading 'People of the Book' by Geraldine Brooks and have decided that it's one of my favourite books ever. Her skill at character and plot development is amazing and I'll definitely have to read some of her other books.

The story is about the Sarajevo Haggadah, an illuminated manuscript that began it's life around 1350 in Barcelona. Geraldine has taken the known history of the manuscript as well as theories about it's journey to the present and created a beautifully crafted story.

As a book artist, I'm fascinated by the story of a manuscript that's managed to survive through many situations when it might have been destroyed. It's as if the book itself charmed it's owners into protecting it.