First stabile and other making

After initial attempts making mobiles (20-Aug-2017), I’ve moved on to a stabile. I’d never heard of them before starting Keith Lo Bue‘s Poetry in Motion: making marvelous mobiles DVD workshop. They balance just like a mobile, but instead of being suspended they pivot on a table-based stand.

So here in all its glory, full of blemishes but actually working … (drumroll) …

Galvanised wire and corrugated cardboard.

Gregory Hodge

I had some idea of making a variety of shapes and painting them, then drawing/painting the result (following Gregory Hodge – see 31-Aug-2017). Perhaps as well weights could be inserted in the cardboard, causing some apparent “impossibilities” in balancing.

The stabile isn’t right. Some clumsy connections that don’t hang well, the main balance is tilting to the side, obviously I haven’t gone on to painting, the “design” (let’s be kind) is awkward with parts hitting each other and the central support. Still, fundamentally it works!

I still think there are possibilities with the cardboard, but another idea has come up that loops around to experiments from a year or two back. More to be done 🙂

In other news, the ceramic earrings seen in progress 13-Aug-2017 are finally resolved, after multiple attempts. I’d rate them as OK, wearable, but not exciting. It was a good opportunity to play with wire, and a library of shapes is gradually building up.

Neolithic twining??

Neolithic twining? A video on Lanny Mackenzie’s instagram feed had me intrigued. I’m not sure my attempt is the same, but regardless it’s interesting. Unlike most weaving and basketry which structurally use two sets of elements – warp / rib and weft / weavers – this technique uses a single set of elements. Each length of material (yarn, wire, whatever – let’s call it “end”) follows the same pattern as every other. In her class Judy Dominic showed us that the same end can change function, a rib changing to weaver or vice versa. Neolithic twining, or whatever it is I ended up with, goes further – no differentiation. What possibilities does this bring? How could it be exploited?

Later edit: just so I remember: working end goes over 2 (a and b) and under 2. new working end is b. repeat.

Modernist Season at Sydney Living Museums

The Moderns: European Designers in Sydney at Museum of Sydney shows the work of a large, inter-connected group of émigrés working in Sydney in the 1930s to 1960s. Architects, interior designers, furniture makers, photographers, commentators, they brought European modernism, fresh ideas, vitality and some controversy (that last they didn’t necessarily bring).

From the museum website: Discover the vitality of this community, their stories of achievement, loss, adaptation and ingenuity in this celebration of both the richness that migration brings and the diverse history of our city – a timely reminder as history cycles. Writing this I reflect back on Godwin Yidana’s words on circles, connectedness and how all both give and receive (31-Jul-2017).

George Reves
Schwartz House

The exhibition includes plans, photographs and drawing, plus a series of vignettes set up so you can appreciate the whole design in context – furniture, rugs, artwork etc. Often the furniture was designed as an integral part of the architecture.

Rose Seidler House
Photo: NewFormula

Architect Harry Seidler must be one of the best know today of this group. A week ago I went on the SLM Donna & Brian Seidler House tour & talk.

Rose Seidler House
Photo: Marcel Seidler

The talk was in the lounge room of Rose Seidler House, another SLM property. The house is actually one of three built here, all intended for different members of Seidler’s family. The talk was given by Brian Seidler (Harry’s cousin) and focused on the recent (ongoing) restoration of Julian Rose House (originally intended for Harry’s uncle Marcel, who took the photo of Rose Seidler House shown to the right).

The care, attention and challenging choices of the renovation / restoration are amazing. The house had been extended and remodeled by owners over the years, not always sensitively or even soundly in engineering terms. Inappropriate additions, such as thick concrete pad and quarry tiles, have been removed. Damaged structure has as far as possible been repaired. “As far as possible” – there’s the rub. This isn’t a museum, it needs to function as a home. Some of the “modern” materials are no longer available, or aren’t safe, or … For example light plates. Authentic ones from the period may be sourced, but do they meet modern standards? If not, can or should the internal wiring be replaced but the old plate used?

Robert MacPherson
White/black (Arago)

Yesterday I wrote about White/black (Arago) by Robert MacPherson, the theory than can underpin four quadrilaterals in different mixes of white and black. In the small bathroom of Julian Rose House, five different tiles are used. One for the floor, then one on each wall – black, white, grey, ivory. It’s all about light – white tiles on the wall facing the window, to bounce light around. Black on the wall under the window, etc. And tiles of the right size and colours had to be sourced. And each tile needed matching grout… The level of passion and commitment was awe-inspiring.

Harry Seidler
Brian & Donna Seidler House

After the talk Brian led us on a walk – first through the nearly-finished work of Julian Rose House, and then on to what was Marcus Seidler House, and is now the home of Brian Seidler, his wife and their children.

Here again the passion and commitment comes through. It’s not easy living in a 1950s Modern house when you are determined to maintain its heritage. These houses are small. This one has been extended twice, with the involvement of Harry Seidler and later his company, but is still not large by modern standards (you can see some info on the last extension on the website of Harry Seidler & Associates). The main bedroom opens directly from the lounge area. The fridge is limited in size by the fitout of the original kitchen. The colour scheme, walls, curtains, everything, is determined by the architects. It is beautiful. It is a gem. Only very rare and amazing people would be prepared to do it. And on top of this they give talks and occasionally allow strangers to traipse through their home. It was a real privilege to visit.


What a difference a day makes! Yesterday at the Art Gallery of NSW I was entranced by a series of galleries filled by Mikala Dwyer. Today I was at the Museum of Contemporary Art, saw an installation by the same artist, and was left bemused, un-engaged. I was visiting with my mother and we spent a lot of time on this Untitled 1992-1994 – there seemed to be lots of recognisable bits, things that should be a hook. But in the end, beige. Just some stuff.

Mikala Dwyer
Untitled 1992-1994 (detail)

That’s mum in the distance, working hard at it. The artist certainly “made us look”, if that was the point.

Blue Peter Rabbits, so maybe a child’s room, domestic, personal, protective. A minor play with architecture – a column leaning on a trestle, another made of a stack of dinner plates (domestic??).

Mikala Dwyer

A series of tables (baby change tables?) the soft foam inside encased in sheets of perspex, the supports bandaged. A reversal of softness, protection, warm enfolding? Above some perspex containers of coloured liquid or gell. Some plastic ziplock bags of similar stuff was stapled to a column. Blank.

Mikala Dwyer

A bit more detail of the posts wrapped with sheets, electric blanket etc. Plates (?) and bed pans wrapped on the wall. One package had me thinking of Christo’s dead trees at AGNSW, which to me just accentuates the long past demise of the trees. Otherwise nothing.

Reading more at home, the gallery write up talks about child’s bedroom, the vulnerable body, comfort and healing. So we got some of it, we just didn’t feel it.

Perhaps partly because it wasn’t immersive, we weren’t entering its environment. The work is stretched along one side of gallery. Along the wall opposite are some strong works including Sally Smart’s The craftiest of eyes (borrowed dress) (last mentioned 26-Nov-2016). Dwyer’s work is “untitled”, unlike those I saw yesterday. The cheap quip is “perhaps the artist didn’t feel too involved in the end either, not even discovering a name”.

(Later edit – perhaps it was that the suggestions from Dwyer were too strong, but to me unclear. I wasn’t free to think my own thoughts, as in the AGNSW works, but I couldn’t enter her’s.)

Robert MacPherson
White/black (Arago)

Further along the same long wall was White/black (Arago) by Robert MacPherson. Austere, exploring what a painting is. Various mixes and finishes of black and white, each canvas apparently the dimensions that MacPherson could reach with hand and paintbrush. Pure minimalist aesthetic.

I find it satisfying – the considered experimentation, clarity of thought and means, theoretical concerns about the nature of art, yet the physical person of the artist so present. I’ll be referring back to this work too, when I finally get to writing about the Seidler houses.

Gordon Bennett
Number Nine

Gordon Bennett

It’s not surprising Gordon Bennett’s work Number Nine caught my eye, given a longstanding interest in stripes (see research posts and paper written for college).

In this instance Bennett was claiming his place as an artist, no adjectives necessary, art about art, not boxed in by our preconceptions based on his Indigenous heritage – though I think it shows as integral to the man, in his choice of colour and possibly a shield-like motif. The paint is controlled, textured, tactile, on the surface of the canvas.

A day at AGNSW

Today I let my body and mind roam around the Art Gallery of NSW for a few hours. Going to what caught my attention, following my own train of thought rather than an artist’s intention, joyous and refreshing.

Loribelle Spirovski
John Bell at home

First the Archibald, and Loribelle Spirovski’s John Bell at home

I love the wonderful and free lines of the chair, and in contrast the heavy, thick, colourful paint of the flesh.

Loribelle Spirovski (detail)

There is such a strong sense of the person, the physical man. Such confidence, sense of self, commanding the large canvas. And a strong sense of light and space, the beautiful colour of the arm and hand in what may be window-light. Sitting in his space, this painting reminded me of The sock knitter by Grace Cossington Smith.

William Mackinnon
Landscape as self-portrait

In the Wynne, Landscape as self-portrait by William Mackinnon caught my eye. This was partly due to last weekend’s visit to houses by Harry Seidler (yet to be blogged), plus beautiful, beautiful colour, wonderful textures and pattern, a little glitter, and a sense of familiarity – of recognition and truth. For the artist it may be his emotional states, for me it triggered the senses – I could smell the salt, my hair sticky from a swim, the bitumen road hot under my bare feet, a cooling breeze… Home, arrival, anticipation.

Alexandra Standen
Relics from romantic attachments

Also in the Wynne, Alexandra Standen’s Relics from romantic attachments seemed quirky and fragile and almost like a little clique, clustered together in a corner. The artist writes of the meanings of collecting objects, nostalgia, “turning memories into delicate things”. Brittle but defiant, standing tall but delicately inclined, related but carefully individual.

Gregory Hodge

Mime by Gregory Hodge is in the Sulman exhibition. Lightness and movement – that thin vertical up from the bottom that everything dances around. It’s apparently based on a suspended construction – from life and photographs. What a great way for me to explore and extend my explorations with mobiles. Look at those flickering “shadows” that Hodge has created!

It reminded me of some recent reading – an exhibition review by Susan Noble of John Piper: The Fabric of Modernism, published in Textile, Volume 15, Issue 3. The show included preliminary collages and paintings, not reproduced but informing tapestry design. “The move from drawing, painting and collage to print, and weave in particular, means every instinctive response is reevaluated and reconsidered as the design process develops and transforms the original source… Textiles transform gesture to object, gesture to entity; accident and serendipity become deliberateness and consideration.” I love, love, love this idea of opening up to chance, the unexpected, and then distilling that, maybe a blast furnace of intellect and experience and all those qualities of the individual who is the artist. Moving back and forward between those states…

Mikala Dwyer: a shape of thought
The main event of the day. Four large spaces given over to the artist to transform. Five really, given the hovering silver balloons over the escalators.

Square cloud compound was filled with sewn cubes of fabric, lashed to the gallery itself with pantyhose, coloured posts holding nick-nacks, suspending reflectors and shapes. To me it was a wonderful playground, walking right into the installation, surrounded by colour and textile. The signage mentioned time spent by the artist on Cockatoo Island, which had me thinking of Erin Manning’s suspended fabrics in 2012, the 18th Biennale of Sydney (some detail 29-Jun-2015).

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I looked carefully at the lamp posts, thinking there could be a mobile, but no … until the next gallery with A weight of space. Apparently Dwyer calls these mobiles “earrings for ceilings” which raised a smile. Look at the way the suspended plastic almost, so very nearly, touches the floor, distorting light, weightless space.

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Next the great circle of Divisions and subtractions. Standing within the circle felt wonderful, right – a participant, in conversation with the work. My scrawled notes:
weight & gravity. balance. internal/external. see-through, reflection. geometric shapes and organic. correspondence. repetition. transformation or raw state of material.
I was entranced, totally engaged in the experience, breathing, listening, finding fresh and exciting links and contrasts, again the play with gravity and weightlessness, work gently hovering or suspended…

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Finally in to a gallery with a series of works under the grouped name The letterbox Marys. More colour, textile – the whole series of rooms were linked by repeated materials, use of colour, play of ideas around gravity. (I know it’s different and there’s a lot more in the artist’s intent, but after briefly reading on-line I’ve decided that this day was about the impact of art on me, my experience, my little nuggets of joy).

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To finish, and also in that final gallery, Backdrop for Saint Jude. A final link for me – given my name, my brothers liked to remind me St Jude was patron saint of hopeless cases. I prefer the description I just found, Patron Saint of Hope and impossible causes. I’ve been known to tilt at some windmills in my time.

Mikala Dwyer
Backdrop For Saint Jude

Rebecca Baumann
Mixed feelings

And onward still, turning corners on a whim to see what I would see. In Out of the ordinary there was Mixed feelings by Rebecca Baumann. It’s the work on the ground in the photo to the right. On the wall behind can be seen Torpedo by Sara Hughes. At first I thought the idea might be around the different impact of a work on the floor rather than the wall. Then I realised it was loose pieces of paper and wondered it referred to waste. Then I read the signage and discovered there is a printer suspended from the ceiling, every 3 minutes feeding out two pieces of paper that float to the ground, generally landing on the raised platform.

Rebecca Baumann
action shot

The action shot may give an impression of movement, if no detail 🙂

Does that make it more interesting? I obediently experienced mixed emotions. If you’re going to have a printer, I really want it to print. Imagine that with bits of text, disjointed. A story or random? Something intriguing, teasing, revealed and concealed…

One piece of paper fluttered down and missed the platform. It sat there. I looked at it. Then turned my back and wandered to look at other works. Later it had moved … well, more properly I suspect I should write it had been moved.

Ambivalent, I moved on.

Rashid Johnson
Colour men

I came to Something living, in particular Colour men by Rashid Johnson. Materials include ceramic tile, black soap, wax (and enamel paint? my photo of the wall sign is blurry).

The detail on the left may show the lumpy texture on the surface.

The mark making is energetic, exciting, revealing colour. I was fascinated by the way the line changed colour as it crossed from tile to tile. Still, I don’t think you can get away from the idea of it looking like excrement smeared over the walls of a public toilet block. Scratching through to find the person. Graffiti. Urban decay. So I see unhappy men, grimacing, perhaps trapped and constrained in their actions by a hostile society. I expected it to smell. It was colourful, but not joyful.

I wandered upstairs. Quickly into Victorian watercolours for a photo (for another post that’s been part-written for a while. I’ve decided to keep up with the new and catch up on exhibitions seen over recent months when I can). And then to a fairly recent acquisition of work by Inge King – Captive.

My notes again: we carry our prisons with us. tapering shapes, ribs, fingers. block for head. What little we need to perceive the figure, the space around (here enclosing, containing).

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I looked at the welding, then scurried down for a final photo of Mikala Dwyer’s work.

It really isn’t the point, but I feel much happier about my welding. I need to get back to that – there is a Plan, but more medium term.

A really refreshing, inspiring, happy day. So lucky.

More mobiles

A quiet week with a little progress in balancing and mobile making. Turns out it’s tricky to photograph something designed to move 🙂

First a mobile in .9 mm galvanised steel wire. About 16 cm high.

Very simple, but a good exercise to practice skills.

Next, I couldn’t wait to give earrings a go. I currently have asymmetrical hair, which is a wonderful excuse for mismatched earrings (not that I need any excuse). Design heavily influenced by earrings on Keith Lo Bue’s website. First the blurry action shot.

And the detail shot. It’s .7 mm galvanised steel wire except for the earwires (salvaged from a bought pair of earrings), so avoiding prolonged contact of the galvanised with skin. The discs are shell, with some 4mm Miyuki cube beads.

I spent ages trying to tweak the way the mobile earring hangs. Couldn’t quite get it, but in practice it moves pretty constantly so should look fine. Happy with these.

Approaching wire

I’ve been circling around, making different starts with wire, seeing what might come together.

Egg head

Ages ago (last year?) in a drawing class, tutor Sue Vesely brought hard boiled eggs marked up to show various angles and spacing of the human head. I’ve since made a version of my own, using Sue’s notes and a toy (rubber?) egg. Could I make these shapes and lines using wire and random weave basketry techniques?

It turned out I couldn’t. Nothing to show – it was quickly dismantled, cut up, reused…

… some of it into this face.

Which also doesn’t particularly thrill me. Clumsy lines, not the right selection of which lines to include. This weight of steel (construction wire, annealed steel, 1.57 mm diameter, 16 gauge) was difficult to work with at this scale (slightly less than life).

Not a dead end, but not an enticing path for now.

Another experiment using broken ceramic and wire in random weave also didn’t quite work for me in its first form.

The same steel wire, smoothed and drilled fragments from a cup and saucer, random weave.
The blu-tac is to hold bits in place until I could stabilise placement. Each shard has 3 holes, which I thought would allow enough connections to create a stable non-vessel.

Once again the gauge of the wire, its stiffness when working, caused me grief. When bending wire I was constantly at risk of breaking ceramic, and without sufficiently bending the wire to hold them the pieces kept sliding around.

More recently I’ve been introduced to galvanised steel wire. Lots of different gauges in the hardware store, doesn’t rust (although the shine wouldn’t suit all purposes), not a good choice for jewellery, but a great new option in this kind of work. The old 16 gauge wire has been cut off and new work begun. It’s going reasonably well, but needs to progress before any more photos.

More of the same 16 gauge wire and the ceramic, and still not satisfied with the various possibilities I’ve generated so far. The proportions of the ceramic and wire elements isn’t pleasing. The curve of the wire (from my new dapping set) doesn’t sit well with the different curves of the ceramic pieces. Beads of different sizes have been trialled at different positions, and then the earrings get too long.

I’m really not in a grouchy mood and I don’t think the inner critic is getting out of control. There are possibilities here, just so far none I would wear. It will come.

Now some happy snaps. My friend Claire and I got together for a day of dipping wire in paper pulp. Neither of us had previous experience, so it was all free experimentation. Claire brought the pulp – made from waste cardstock. We both had different types of mesh and wire. There’s more detail and process shots on Claire’s blog –

Here are some of my results.

Above: the pulp built up well on bird wire mesh. On the left is the form as dipped. When dry I was able to change the form, the paper remaining attached.

Above: two views of a form created before the mesh was dipped. A much firmer and sharper end result (compared to re-shaping a dipped piece).

Above: two more vessel forms, quickly random woven together using galvanised wire. I’d like to try this again with more preparation time, creating smaller spaces that the pulp would span better. It tended to slide off these.

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Above: a range of forms, wire and an offcut of bird mesh. The pulp held better on the smaller spaces.

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Above: the “flower” wouldn’t hold the shape. Some extra fine wire across the leaf helped marginally. The two views of a single “earring” show the impact of lighting on this material.

Above: the two sides of a piece of copper mesh that I had distorted.

Above: more mesh and pulp experiments. Love the combination of copper and the warm cream of the paper.

There’s lots of promise in these results. Some lessons learnt, some really nice effects. I’m hoping Claire and I can arrange another day – with enough lead time for more preparation. Maybe a series of days (or in summer??), so we can let things dry between dippings.

Finally, some first steps following Keith Lo Bue’s Poetry in Motion DVD workshop –

This is what led me to galvanised wire, opening various doors as mentioned above. I’ve worked through the first couple of exercises, and am feeling excited and inspired.

First up was a clever way to straighten wire, plus practice in creating precise shapes and angles. I think a series of these piled up has much more promise of an interesting and dynamic composition than my earlier attempts at wire lines at the top of this post.

Next was an exercise learning to find and fix balance points. Back to 16 gauge wire (galvanised this time), plus corks.

Above: my very first mobile, in two variations. On the left, a flat, horizontal form that spreads out in space. On the right, a simple change in the orientation of one looped end changes the form to a broken straight line, descending in space.

I can see potential for a number of the approaches above to combine into a fruitful line of investigation – even those that left me cold as stand-alones. It’s the end of the weekend, work tomorrow, but I’m rubbing my hands in anticipation.

Workshop: Bolga basket weaving with Godwin Yidana

I was attracted to this workshop by the ideas of working with recycled plastic and of learning some new weaving techniques. Big ticks on both of those, but the main event was so much more. Godwin tells stories – about the history of weaving in northern Ghana where he grew up, weaving as an embodiment of culture. He spoke of home life and challenges, the wisdom of his grandmother, the g-lish foundation and its impact on the lives more than a hundred who now have a way of earning, saving, having access for themselves and their families to food, training, and more.

Work in progress. Materials were hand-twisted cord from 500 ml water bags, recycled and scrap fabric, plastic shopping bags.

Godwin and fellow co-founder of g-lish, Gayle Pescud, were warmly welcoming, sharing, supporting. Right from the start it felt different to other classes as we were gently taught to listen attentively, not fidgeting with our materials and phones, as we heard of the significant spiritual role of circles in Ghana traditions, connectedness, and how all both give and receive. As the day progressed everyone shared stories, made connections, some plans for future ventures…

Finished basket

New techniques included a variant on making cord (Godwin’s repurposed thong technique – a short video at
– I’ve adapted at home using a non-skid mat offcut); a neat setup technique for the basket; lots of detail on handling materials, joining, adding “legs” and more. Everyone finished a small basket, and seemed to feel warmed, refreshed, re-energised.

Some links:


Goodyer girls long weekend in Hobart

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