Thursday, December 31, 2009

Images from the shelves

As always in our household there is ‘a list’; but the last day of 2009 had a hint of difference. Not only did we need to put bird mesh over the mango and fig trees etc; there was the printing of our 2010 greeting cards; and me finally getting around to doing a good clean of the print studio. This space also doubles as my ‘clean studio’ for artists’ book and book binding etc as distinct from my ‘dirty studio’ (the garage) for sculpture and metal work.

When I was cleaning shelves I reacquainted myself with some little collections that inhabit the shelves. There are many small groupings of stuff but I thought I might just share a few of these collections. There is a rainbow of carpenter pencils; glass washed and sanded by the sea; stones from many beaches and paths; small glass waves and other slumped glass pieces; and bullet casings, button and wrecked bullet leads from the WW1 battle fields around Ypres with peace at their centre as hope for the future.

May you enjoy New Year’s Eve; and may 2010 be great for all of us. Peace!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

People, Place and Pieces

As the year rushes to a close Fiona and I have reflected on what an amazing year it has been – so much has happened. I thought I’d try to pull a few thought, links and photos together that I consider being highlights of the year.

The challenges, inspiration and encouragement of Maleny friends and fellow artists and Fiona have been key elements in my getting out there more this year from an art perspective. And where would we have been without Ken Munsie and his support for COMA, group exhibitions and gallery space. Sculptural pieces using salvaged, rusted, patinated and recycled metal (indoor and garden), beaten metal (especially bowls) and artists’ books have continued to form the core of my work this year.

I had a small exhibition of table top sculptural pieces called Construction early in the year. This was a good opportunity to test some smaller sculptural pieces.

And of course the quirky piece called Who Spiked my Skinny Tea was an extension of this small sculptural form.

But the highlight exhibition for me had to be the In the Stillness exhibition. What a challenge – Fiona and I working to a common theme about quietness, reflection and stillness but approaching it from very different technical and material perspectives. And of course the daunting prospect of filling a gallery room with a quality integrated show. It worked.

Artists’ books were another theme for the year. The Maleny Artists’ Book exhibition provided all of us with the opportunity to test how far you could push the ‘book’ boundary – I combined sculpture and words and I think Between the Mountains was a good example.

But the Wow! Experience for me in artists’ books was to have Censored the piece I entered into the SCU artists’ book exhibition acquired by the University as part of its collection.

The cultural exchange trip to Japan in April not only confirmed my love of timber, copper and brass and patina but also, grid and order. Whilst the cultural exchange exhibition was a great success of course the best part is the connections made with people such as Tombow, Bessie, Hiro, Hiroyuki and Yoko.

But a personal highlight was meeting Mr Motoi and having a tour through his foundry where he forged our peace bell – such a great connection. Ours is the little bell near the box.

A strange offshoot to the Japan trip was a visit to a Samurai tourist village where I watched an elderly metal artist creating bowls out of copper sheet – I wanted to learn it there and then. Of course there was not the time – but on coming home I started to teach myself a little and was fortunate to be able to incorporate beaten metal bowls etc into the In the Stillness exhibition. But what I loved was the series of small reflection or meditation bowls that has continued to grow from this exhibition.

Of course one thing leads to another and I wanted to go further with the metal beating and my embryonic fold forming. I have been lucky to discover Charles Lewton-Brain and that led me to connect with Wendy Edsall-Kirwin. Both are inspirations for me in this aspect of my work and who knows where that will lead over the next twelve months.

And of course how could I not end this overview without mentioning again our excitement of meeting Andy Goldsworthy.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Rainy day metal bowl

The rain has been great on the mountain over the last few days – lots of light scudding showers – filling the earth and the tanks on the block. The trees are just loving it – so are the weeds of course – you can almost hear them growing – lots of new shoots shining luminous green and red in the soft light.

But of course after a few days of Christmas cheer and rain one tends to get a bit of ‘cabin fever’. There is only so much cricket you can watch; and another good book has come to an end. So what to do but head down into the garage-studio and beat a bit of metal to reflect the day. I decided to do a small hand held bowl with the words “Always aim to shine on” – to reflect the light, growth and tenacity of the plants; but also the up and coming new year.

As you can see from the photo I started with a piece of an old copper water tank.

In the end the metal was a bit thin; it had some stress lines already in it; and of course without softening it with a bit of heat the hammering has over stretched the centre where I had already stressed it with a sharp edged small hammer to create a central star pattern.

But in the end it is still an OK little bowl and it was good to be creative for a while on this soft and rainy day. And of course another lesson learnt.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Collaborative artists’ book

Sometimes I carry ‘good stuff’ around with me for years knowing that it will be used but only for the right purpose. About 25 years ago I procured a decommissioned tabernacle because I was interested in the outer brass skins of the doors. I was attracted to the Gothic style; the simple and somewhat worn nature of the doors; and the fact that they had served a life as a tool in a spiritual ritual.

Initially I thought the doors could be used on a special drinks cabinet or something with a bit of a quirky modern offbeat design – different type of spiritual?? But when Fiona’s folks were turning 70, and because they are better in tune with things spiritual than I am, I thought the door skins could gain a new life as a key element of a spiritual celebratory artists’ book. Having discussed this with Fiona we decided to collaborate on an artists’ book that blended aspects of our art work. Fiona would bring words, paper and calligraphy whereas I would bring wood, recycled metal and found objects (the doors). On her post about the piece Fiona has described the Iona connection and words etc.

The rose gum wedge was cut from one of the logs in my stash with the chainsaw, sanded and then bolted – rose gum is prone to split - so one bolt has gone right through the piece with two 125mm batten screws stabilising the bottom of the wedge. It was necessary to trim the door skins to create a more regular door shape and highlight the Gothic form. Various screw holes where sacred symbols had been removed as part of decommissioning were filled with copper rivets. Two corner ornaments had been removed so I replaced these with patina copper and brass triangles. I riveted new brass flat hinges to the doors. Getting the doors fixed in place so they just touch but also lined up was a two person trial and error effort.

Fiona and I discussed whether I would fully polish the doors but decided we liked the aged and worn look – so whilst some areas were cleaned and given a bit of a polish the doors still carry much of the history of the hands that opened and closed them over many years in their ritual use.

So the ‘good stuff’ has a new life after 25 years; and has found the connection with the spiritual once again.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Boxes for photographing art

We are often asked to photograph our work for exhibitions as well as wanting good shots for our blogs. But the detail of the pieces can appear out of focus, fuzzy or have shadows in the wrong place particularly if you are photographing 3D pieces. Ken of Maleny Artworks uses a curved photographing ‘box’ to capture a clearer and better images.

In a recent post on the Montville artist market Fiona said she had used Kim's photographing 'box' and was keen for us to make one of these ‘boxes’. And as you can see from the photos we now have two of them – a small one (about 400mm wide and 700mm long) and a larger one (about 600mm wide and 900mm long). Quite simple to make as Ken pointed out – a flexible sheet of ply or particle board, a couple of end pieces to act as strengtheners and the pieces to pull it all into the curve – and all screwed together. A bit of trial and error later and a coat of ceiling white paint and they are ready for action. Guess we will see if they improve our images.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Chriscuffs and Christmas bowl

The web can be a fine thing sometimes. I recently posted on Foldforming and was fortunate to discover a talented jeweller, Wendy Edsall-Kerwin, who does some great work foldforming non-precious metals. I liked her quirky take on Christmas – creating a number of cuffs which she called 12 days of Cuffmas – part of a fundraising effort – you have to love that.

I have created this small bowl as a kris kringle gift. It is made from the side of an old brass pot-plant pot. It is part of my ongoing series of focus, word palm sized meditation bowls. Rejoice is a word for Christmas but hopefully the whole year – no let’s go for it – for life.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Standing Stone and Posts on Mountain View

One of the things that have been on the ‘to-do list’ for about 18 months is to install some standing poles to complement the standing stone at the entrance to the block. But you know how it is – there are always more important or urgent things to do than creating a bit of art in your own place.

Fiona and I decided that it would be good to install the posts before Christmas. The stone is a piece of weathered quarried sandstone (about 1.8m out of the ground and another .9m in the ground) that is 200mm wide face on – so our posts needed to have a bit of gravitas – so we have used 200mm square rose gum.

Given there would be four posts and one stone I routed 5 notches into each post to pick up the quarry drill marks on the stone. The photo shows the routed posts with metal feet ready for installation.

We decided to do the installation in one go – so this morning we dug the 4 square holes; and cemented each of the posts in place.

The photos of the finished installation show a view of the stone and poles from the entry to our block looking south towards the Glass House Mountains; and another looking north from the house.

Of course you always need something on the edges – an out-rider. Fiona wanted a small 200mm cube to be placed in the stone waterway beside the driveway but about 6m from but lining up with the installation.

We have not treated the timber so all the posts should turn grey nicely over time. I think the post and metal rod fence at the entrance might have to go as there are too many lines happening.

Friday, December 18, 2009

You win some - you lose some

I got quite excited a couple of days ago because Fiona pointed out that my artists’ book for the SCU 5th Acquisitive Artists’ Book Award was featured in the Imprint Quarterly Journal Summer 2009. It felt good to have done a good piece of work; to have it acquired; and to have it featured in the journal.

But two days later I found out that my artists’ book for the Mackay Libris Book Awards was not accepted - though Fiona’s was – good on her. It just reinforced the fact that in the art world you win some and you lose some and you just move on –not bitter and twisted!!!??? - just searching for other opportunities.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Metal Fold Forming

In my work for the In the Stillness exhibition I created a number of bowls made from salvaged objects (fuel tanks, spray packs etc) and recycled metal (copper, brass, aluminium). With some of the bowls I used a punch method on some bowls and created some folds or pleats in the bowls to add interest. It was just one of those things I was experimenting with.

Imagine my surprise and delight when I discovered there was a whole movement out there taking this approach to the extreme. I bought a book called Foldforming by Charles Letwton-Brain; and this has opened up a whole new dimension for me. The book not only presents some great shots of what is possible but is also instructional in that it shows how and what things can be done.

This of course this meant I needed to track down a couple of websites to see what Lewton-Brain was doing; and if there are others out there building on his approach. I discovered Betty Helen Longhi who describes her work as fluid expressions in metal. If you want to be inspired check these sites out.

Of course I want to go and learn from them.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Belonging to community in Maleny

We have lived in Maleny for just over three years now and have made an effort to become part of the community by: buying local, joining a couple of interest and community service organisations, including COMA, and taking on roles on a couple of committees.

When we walk down the main street there is always someone we stop and yarn to – people know people in Maleny. On Sunday morning we stopped and talked to three tables of people on the footpath outside Monica’s on our way in to have a coffee. Peter, one of the baristas from Monica’s, came out onto the footpath and said: “Hurry up you two your coffees are made.” He had seen us outside and had made our coffees in anticipation. As ‘ordered’ we went inside and paid for our coffees – and upstairs on the table we often frequent there were our steaming coffees – and of course Peter had said Barry’s skinny has the spoon thru the handle. We just had a good chuckle to ourselves and said well you know there is a sense of community when that happens; and you feel part of it.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Day full of art

Yesterday was a day full of art in the Dempster–Smith household. As you know from earlier posts Fiona, and to a much lesser extent I, had been working to produce a body of work for display and sale at the ArtsConnect Market at Montville. Fiona had been invited to be one of a group of writers and book makers etc exhibiting and selling in the old church hall.

We hit the road for Montville at 7.45am (after a coffee in town of course) and were set up ready for action by 8.30am even though the Markets did not officially start until 9.30am.

There was a great show of artists on the green outside and in the hall; but we think the tourists and locals were at the air-conditioned shopping centres doing Christmas shopping as the was not much of crowd. Still we sold a few pieces; and it was good experience for Fiona and myself in preparing for and participating in an artists’ market.

After the mad pack up we bolted back home to get ready for the opening of the COMA exhibition Maleny Image 6Mapping the range; and also the celebration of the Paris end of Maple Street Maleny.

The COMA exhibition has resulted in some great works and there was a really good vibe to the evening. It was good to hang out with some of our fellow artists and share a few bubbles before Christmas. It is worth a look; and there are some good art bargains to be had.

I was fortunate that Mini Deep Red sold – always good if some of your work is picked up.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Star burst bowl for joy

Life on the block is as hectic as ever. The run down to Christmas has its normal challenges of getting lots of jobs, commissions, paper work and other stuff done before everyone shuts down for a while. But with the challenge of the heat and lack of rain there is a little more to do on the block. Fiona told me today that we had the highest November day on record on 17 Nov – over 38degrees.

We have had to start watering trees etc to keep the level of stress down until good soaking rain arrives. So whilst Fiona was out foraging veggies for dinner (tomatoes, onions, zucchini, rocket and corn) I spent a couple of hours watering – we are now really glad that we installed enormous water collection tanks when we built the house.

Still there has been time for art. Fiona continues to build the book stack for Saturday’s Market. Her books with wooden covers have turned out really well. I focused on completing an artists’ book commission.

But just for ‘recreation’ I beat this small (12cm diameter) copper bowl from a piece cut from a found copper water heater. I was aiming for a very simple form with a star burst from the centre. The shine and lines of the front of the bowl contrasts with the patina on the back – almost light and dark sides.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Leather wrapped and bound journals

As Fiona indicated in a recent post she is off to market – at least to the ArtsConnect Market at Montville on 12 Dec. As artist extraordinaire, as she is described by Pam of ArtsConnect, she is displaying, selling and demonstrating hand stitched and bound artists' books and journals. In days gone by I used to do a little book binding – so I thought I might join Fiona in the Market endeavour. But of course as it goes in our household whilst we share a theme we generally do our own thing.

So I decided to make a series of soft bound journals using some high quality bookbinding blank books we bought in London last year as the internals; and a stash of soft leather we had bought some time ago for covering or binding books.

The studio table ended in the usual clutter.

But I have managed to turn out 13 journals – 7 are 12cm by 15cm by 1.5cm thick; and 6 are 7cm wide by 12 high by 1 cm thick. As you can see some pretty modern colours but also traditional. If they don't sell at the Market I know what friends and relatives are getting for Christmas.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Rusted sculptures on our block

I recently posted on Kim’s exhibition and the fact that we had bought a couple of her pieces.

Well they arrived on the block today; and Fiona and I have given them temporary homes.

We are so pleased to have them as part of our evolving garden with interesting pieces tucked away here and there.