The Moment

One morning last November I was in the kitchen making coffee when a flicker of yellow caught my eye. It seemed its own source of light, a fresh vibrant glowing. I walked over and stared out across the neighbours’ back yards. Then got my camera.

The yellow combined the strength of mid-morning light with the painted wooden lattice support of a carport. It’s been there maybe 20 years.

What was different that morning? My attention was caught, and I looked.

In that little slice of Sydney suburbia there are multiple different wooden lattices. Roofs are concrete or terracotta tiles, various profiles of corrugated metal. Fences are slats of wood or colorbond, some are metal railings. Next door has beautiful rough-faced cream bricks. The yard is grass and concrete. So much pattern and texture, and that’s before I start on the natural world – palm trees, gums, jacarandas, grevillea. None of this was new information. I have looked and admired before, for almost half my life. There were more important things to think about. My husband had fallen, broken his arm near the shoulder a few days earlier. For the next couple of months access to that window was limited by the hired hospital bed. (He’s healing well, if slowly).

At that moment I was held, enthralled, by the novelty of that well-known view.

Why are moments memorable? How? A prosaic moment. Even that angle of sun and lattice recurs. And what happens to The Moment when you return to it? I have a few treasured memories that I try not to think about too closely, feeling they will dull, blur, distort, if I return too often.

I decided to experiment – take The Moment and keep exploring it, trying to keep it in some way distinct from every other glance eastward. … I just checked. Today is easy. The time is right but it’s overcast, has been raining and looks like more is coming. The grass is a bit greener, no clothes on the washing line, the jacarandas are in full leaf.

No photos – it would feel a breach of privacy. Instead:

my first ever etching, done in the last print-making class of the year.

Turning to gelli-printing over the summer break, I’ve created a series of stencils.

Elements of that particular lattice.

Jacaranda blossom

So many variations, literal and abstracted, of brick, tile, and roof shadow lines.

My hand-written text as I reflected on the project.

To create the stencils I bought a silhouette Cameo machine, then learnt Inkscape to create and edit my svg files. The Inkscape Masterclass from LogosByNick was a very worthwhile investment. (Free youtube tasters, valuable in their own right).

I did a little rudimentary gelli-printing as part of the OCA course, but there has been much, much more youtube, as I try to develop some skills. Some key artists:

Use of script or shapes we interpret as script particularly intrigue me. There’s the blocky classic stencil letters, often capitals, sturdy – is the expression “tags”? Lots more flowing fonts avoid turning “o” into a void. I’m interested in something more fluid and visual, less legible. So far my search has turned up

  • asemic writing – “wordless open semantic form of writing” according to wikipedia. It has an interesting and not straight-forward pedigree, but while I like being provisional or tangential I don’t want a “vacuum of meaning”.
  • Robyn McClendon demonstrates her “intuitive scripting”, and makes the point that it is definitely not asemic. It is full of personal gestural meaning.
  • There are some commercial stencils around that use a large looping form which suggests overlapping lines of script. I don’t know if there is actual text in them.
  • zentangles is a copyrighted term and form, developed by a calligraphy artist when in a meditative state. An interesting origin story, but too removed from script for my purposes.
  • Graffiti has a meaning and association that doesn’t work for me
  • Calligraffiti has specific political and cultural dimensions
  • Kory shares a method of mark-making using chiseled pens, which really seems to lend itself to use in a script-like form.
  • “pareidolia” means “to impose a meaningful interpretation on a nebulous stimulus, usually visual, so that one sees an object or pattern or meaning where there is none.” The man in the moon is a classic example.

Is there a space / gap between script-like forms such as intuitive scripting and more general expressive, gestural mark-making? Would that be significant to me in my own work?

Lots of open questions. To my initial question, on the exploration of a brief moment, my response so far is that is fascinating to combine the focus and force of a moment with the stretched time of flow when making – both making svg files and working in paint and ink. It’s strongest when experimenting with collage. I’ve spent hours, days, thinking back to The Moment and developing materials related to it. Then with everything collected on the work table, glue brush in hand, I almost forget that scene. I’m deep in the moment-by-moment decision making and struggle to create something that seems right to me Now.

I’ll finish with some images of exploration so far – just focus on the exciting potential, not the beginner clumsiness.😊 As well as cutting stencils the Cameo can draw the vectors, which can be seen on one of the prints below. Also I’ve done an initial experiment scaling down a design and using the stencil to emboss and colour polymer clay.

Exhibition influences

A couple of brief notes – the month has run away from me.

Remains of the day (honouring the past)
Curl Curl Creative Space

It was a great pleasure this month to see recent work by Nicole De Mestre, celebrating the past by creating sculptural forms from abandoned objects. Nicole was at the exhibition the day I visited – so generous and interesting in her conversation.

I was particularly taken by what I think of as a “billy can” form.

Inglorious basket #55. Tin, wire, driftwood, rope.

Geometric form; mix of materials and textures.

At home later, I wanted to respond.

I See You See
Gallery Lane Cove

This was a collaboration between members of two groups – Open Bite Printmakers and the Southern Highland Printmakers. I was able to meet and talk with a number of the artists at the associated demonstration day.

In my first term of class as a learner printmaker it was incredibly useful to see such a wide range of contemporary approaches to printmaking. I tried to identify what was attracting me.

  • texture
  • pattern
  • colour
  • line
  • energy
  • layering

Splash of colour. Barbara May. Monoprint, chine colle, charcoal

Fortification. Chanel Mace. Monoprint

Ideas are simmering for the summer break from class.

Finally, a few more polymer clay experiments, focusing on finishes (sanding, resin, liquid clay…) and using scraps.

October learning

I’ve been working with polymer clay for just over a year now. Mostly it’s been Just In Time Learning – working with a different focus, trying to find a way to achieve my result or express my thought in polymer clay, picking up just enough to get by in the moment. The recent weaving project (30-Sept-2022) drew on skills in weaving learnt years ago. I’m not claiming great skill as a weaver. It’s more working from an existing base, having a skills vocabulary in place, familiarity with materials plus a pre-existing stash, already knowing some of my preferences and what I have enjoyed doing. I wanted to have that feeling of competence, of building on foundations, of growing and extending, when working with polymer clay.

October has been a start. Just a start. It’s reminded me of just how much experimentation and repetition is needed to build knowledge in hands and mind. Lots of photos and very brief notes. Some failures, some successes, most suggesting further investigations.

Initial samples following Debbie Crothers crackle art beads tutorial.

Going further with Debbie Crothers, adding in her Curing Kato liquid tutorial. Love the crackle, but significant damage in curing process. Need to learn to hold and support the pieces.

Not exciting in themselves, but the first results I felt were usable.

A different crackle, using gold coloured leaf. Even distribution is boring. Beautiful smooth blend (Lynn Yuhr technique) visually lost.

Another crackle, using a bit of old cane cut thick plus a very thin lightly cured sheet. Thinking of maelstrom, and there’s a hint of that movement.

Swirling with yarn? Overcooked the liquid Kato – and the threads.

A rummage through the scrap drawer. Graphic line variations.

More scraps, more crackle attempts, more swirling using some improvised bits of wire.

More using Debbie Crothers’ crackle and liquid Kato coating techniques.

This little dish is another crackle with the old cane and thin lightly cured sheet, plus the liquid clay coating. Lots I like about this.

A little bit from Debbie Crothers (the bead forming, the clear coating), a little from Lynn Yuhr (her online clay + metal class), a little from me (my interpretation of a storm at sea – reading Moby Dick). These are a little heavy, but fun to wear.

This remains a work in progress. I wanted to combine polymer clay with wire basketry, but the twining I began with (not shown here) needs to be cut out and rethought. It wasn’t stable enough to hold the beads near the rim as I envisaged. I was pleased with my base form, which holds the wires stable very neatly.

The veneer was in the stash, and used a tutorial purchased from Hélène Jeanclaude.

Yes, more of Debbie Crothers’s crackle. The condensed but smooth colour transition is from Lynn Yuhr. The metal forging I first learned in a class with Keith Lo Bue. The round beads came from my mum. I love the feeling of richness these multiple connections give.

The pod forms are from Debbie Crothers – there’s a great series experimenting with the form on her youtube. The crackle effect is from Debbie’s purchased tutorial. The more general swirl pods use clay from one of the scrap experiments shown above. I coated them with some gloss paint which is peeling off in spots – but only on the swirl pods. Does the rougher surface of the crackle pods give better grip? Humidity was very high when I was painting the general swirl pods. Perhaps I didn’t leave enough drying time between coats.

The spacing beads and clasp were from an op shop broken necklace, and have been sitting quietly in the stash – I suspect pre-marriage, so for over 40 years. Finally the right project came along.

I love wearing this bangle. It’s an eye-catching statement. And I love the little sculptures it forms when I take it off at the end of the day.

These little forms are based on yet another Debbie Crothers tutorial – mini clay pots. I just love her style.

Playing around. It looks like a circus act.

More play. At the end of the day, cruising around the internet, I often find some clay in my hands, just fiddling. These are small, and both are attempts at using text in clay – little worms and strips of black, carefully arranged on a glass tile, the formed clay rolled over. Text as pattern. Semi-hidden meaning. Lots of possibilities.

Yet more play. Interesting that the unsupported curl at the end survived curing in the oven.

Taking the “knotted snake” a step further. These earrings use clay scraps from last year’s Grief project, and the patterning is based on mum’s clothing. It feels right that she should be part of these party-ready earrings.

Just fun. Input from Debbie Crothers, Keith Lo Bue, stash. Feels powerful to be able to whip up my own charms. Wire wrapping leaves plenty of room for improvement.

Another experiment with the snake form. It makes a chunky but happy bangle.

There are so many great youtube videos using translucent polymer clay. I’m interested in the layering possibilities, and the idea that a single cane can be used at multiple scales. These first attempts are plain awful. Not translucent enough. Very obvious air pockets.

Also No.

Slowly improving. Thin slices of cane, put in a fold of baking paper, through the pasta machine at thinnest setting. I could burnish it direct from the baking paper onto the base clay, which greatly reduced air pockets.

Areas of interest, but … this idea has been parked for now.

I’ve joined a beginner’s print-making class. I want to slow down, really focus and pay attention. I’d like to move between different disciplines of making, pushing pattern and motifs further. This is my linocut print from week 1, the image based on one of the crackle bracelet photos above.

More learning opportunities!

Week 2 was drypoint. I selected a photo of a roof-top fishpond – a hidden corner of calm in the centre of Sydney.

My line version. How could I take this into polymer clay?

Sona Grigoryan has a fabulous video “Texture Feast”. Above you can see my foamy texture plate, made following her directions.

Earrings using the texture were ready in time to wear to the class. They’re meant to suggest fish leading from the pond, dripping water and weed.

So many flaws, but so much fun! One of my prints from the class.

Some more samples using the texture plate. The one on the left is actually flat. The turquoise clay is a very thin layer. The relief areas were sliced back to show the silver coloured clay underneath. I really want to explore this further, but first…

I used the foamy plate to make a texture sheet in polymer clay. A video from Patricia Roberts-Thompson was my guide.

I’ve also done a series of tests using clay rolled to different thicknesses. I’m using Kato clay, with the addition of some Kato softener.

I’d like to build a library of my own textures, so will start November looking at some of the possibilities.

Weaving questions

Weaving of emotions (29-Aug-2022) has reached an end for now. I found a response of sorts to each of the 18 planned emotion segments. I wouldn’t call it finished. It feels like there is a next step – but I’m not sure what that might be. My reaction to it at the moment is…

Exhausted?

Definitely not Disgusted.

I’ll wait for an idea to present itself. There isn’t a swatch for Patient. Perhaps I don’t spend a lot of time in that state…


A friend pointed me to multiple weaving references in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, and in particular chapter 47, The Mat-Maker. I found both spoken (https://www.mobydickbigread.com/) and text (https://www.gutenberg.org/files/2701/2701-h/2701-h.htm) versions. I decided to make my own sword mat.

The printed text provided the warp. On the right of the printout is a graphic representing the spoken version from the Big Read.

An interesting exercise, but a little flat.

The swirling maelstrom suggested the perils of fire at sea.

Coffee aged, candle-fire singed, seared plastic threads (to me suggesting the fallen wreckage of masts and rigging).

Perhaps poetic, but fragile – and shedding.

In honesty, a solution to a practical problem. But perhaps suggestive –

  • ship in a bottle
  • message in a bottle
  • catching lightening in a bottle
  • not storm in a teacup
  • genie in a bottle – be careful what you wish for
  • bottling up emotions

Finally, an idea or perhaps a question that appeared from nowhere while drifting to sleep.

(Always pen and paper nearby of course).

Could I make a something, could it hold together, just beads threaded onto wire?

Yes.

The central part is the purest version, simply following the sketch.

After threading the beads I wanted to make it more 3 dimensional, to get some height. To do that with stability I added some twisting of the wire, controlling spread by limiting material.

The finial idea was another night’s drifting. The main form uses 20 gauge artistic wire. The cut ends at the top are bound together with 32 gauge. The beads are polymer clay – made from left-overs of past experiments which were marinating in the stash. I didn’t have any more to use at the top, and in any case had concerns about weight. I think this solution fits well.

Weaving emotions – work in progress

In June I mentioned ongoing development of a personalised wheel of emotions. Single words became lists on cards.

Translating words and ideas into objects is becoming a go-to strategy. The process of working with my hands creates time and space and in some way a means of both focus and play for my mind. I decided to weave the wheel of emotions.

The weaving is slow. I’ve gone back to my student weaver notes and textbooks and samples, trying to find colours, patterns and textures that somehow speak to me of each emotion category. I chose a rosepath threading – an old favourite, plus the verbal links to a compass rose, the path of a journey, the mix of thorns and blooms…

It’s about half done. I’ll put some progress shots on the loom below. I wonder if anyone can pick the emotions (using emotion / feeling / state / … loosely). The draft list of key words: Angry, Balanced, Caring, Confused, Creative, Delighted, Disgusted, Energetic, Exhausted, Fearful, Frustrated, Grief-stricken, Lonely, Melancholic, Powerful, Powerless, Remorseful, Surprised. The first snap is a freebie, given it includes the card.

Swirling

A video may, or may not, appear above. A friend suggested this vessel, this idea of maelstrom, appears best in motion. There is clearly much to learn – formats, the quality/size tradeoff, editing software…

The clay discs with wire connectors used techniques from a workshop with Lynn Yuhr via Metalwerx. There is some netted wire-work, made a few years ago when I was building an inventory of component pieces. All put together using random weave and some twining for extra stability and linework.

Navigating the Maelstrom – a process

Swirling energy and emotion.

Over the past couple of years I have experienced, and attempted to express in my making, various forms of swirling energy.

The storm of grief
The swirl of steps and energy of tai chi
The ringing circle, cycle of method, energy gathered and released as the bells swing
Spiralling energy of new growth

My current and ongoing investigation is “maelstrom mind” – the overwhelming, destructive, swirling force of thoughts and emotions that can overtake us. It’s a response to lived experience, and a conscious use of the whole of life model of creative practice taught by Ruth Hadlow.

The vortex of maelstrom?

Some of the actions so far:

  • Formulated a research plan, with a range of different forms of activities and investigations
  • Instituted a weekly field report – for myself plus using the creative research group as an external touch point.
  • Developed a series of strategies that can be deployed as a preventative or response to maelstrom mind.
  • Researched the etymology of maelstrom
  • Developed an emotion recording tool based on Plutchik’s wheel of emotions, and trialled used. (Thanks to Riki, and also noting the impact of Richard Powers’ Bewilderment)
  • Based on those results and further research of many wheels of emotion/feeling, I’m in the process of developing a personalised wheel. The emphasis is on my own language, habitual emotional states, and aspirations, plus producing input suitable for creative exploration in data analysis and in making.
work in progress

The next step planned is a detail vocabulary of mild, moderate and intense variants within each segment (Tom Drummond has inspired here), which should also help confirm overall segment names (and yes, I need to be careful about adjectives, nouns, …). I’ve deliberately stepped away from any optical or light based colour wheel. Also there’s no sense of polar opposites, or a continuum of positive and negative across the wheel. For example an intense “invigorated” could be recorded as part the sensation of being thrilled and of being agitated. I see both as high energy, one replenishing the other draining. (OK, writing this clearly there’s a labelling issue). This suggests clusters or constellations of feeling (nautical, mapping and navigational analogies abound in this project). Perhaps:

high energy + different levels of (confused + angry + invisible/lonely + exhausted) = one form of agitation

I really want to get some trial data and fine-tune the tool. I can see myself weaving an emotion constellation, and perhaps a woven diary – full of the colours, texture and form of emotion.

Energy, growth

Energy

This dish is around 17 cm diameter and 4 cm high. It uses techniques learnt in two classes I took with Lynn Yuhr earlier this year. See some of Lynn’s fabulous work at https://www.instagram.com/lynnyuhr/

Lynn is a great teacher, very knowledgeable and organized, and she has clearly put a great deal of effort into making sure her virtual classes are a good experience for everyone. Metalwerx, the provider, supports with a great environment for virtual learning. I took another class with Lynn and Metalwerx last week – given current time zone differences starting at 6am Sydney time. Absolutely worth the effort.

The dish combines polymer clay, including liquid clay, techniques and design ideas from Lynn, and basketry in wire.

I sit

I sit in my new Drawing Room. It’s not for drawing in, although I might choose to do so at the old white melamine desk. Drawing happens in my Work Room (previously known as the Dining Room). Instead here I can withdraw and sit. Private, quiet. Not busy.

I sit in Grandma Goodyer’s dining chair. The two carvers are here. The other chairs, and the table, are going to my nephew. I have no Dining Room for them. My father’s bookcase is in here. My mother-in-law’s needlework. Some of my sons’ toys and books. So much from my mother and generations of her family. It could be deemed a Family Room of sorts.

I sit here reading, the morning sun fractured through the faceted glass of the east-facing wall, brightening the yellow walls. It is lovely in the morning, although I worry about the treasures in mum’s display cabinet, the delicate old books, the textiles, the fine leather gloves held in walnut shells. A Morning Room then – except my mind goes immediately to Mourning Room. I may mourn in here at times, but now I sit as if in a nest of nourishment and love, a place of joy and light. A Sun Room. My son’s room. The plaque is still on the door – Kenneth’s Room: Happy Memories Brighten Quiet Hours; the image a small boy sitting, fishing.

I sit with a folding wooden table beside me – a wedding gift to my parents. It holds my morning cup of tea, my book. On my lap this chilly autumn morning is mum’s cream blanket which I darned with coloured wools. My drawing board, complete with smudges of charcoal, lies across the arms of the carver – an improvised writing desk. I am comfortable. There is lots to do outside this room, lots I want to do, but it is not demanding my attention. I can remain in stillness a bit longer in this Sitting Room.

I sit and consider possibilities. It’s not a State Room, Salon or Parlour. This is not a public space. While there is a bed for guests, especially visiting sons, it is not a place for lounging.  The built in wardrobe holds my art supplies, but it would be a disservice to call this a Store Room.

I sit and let my eyes and mind wander. I reflect on my life, the people I love and who love me. This room, containing so much of others, reflects my tastes and interests, my place in life. A Reflection Room? The light glinting off glazed cabinets and mirrored wardrobe seems to echo my soft chuckle.

I sit beside one display cabinet, another is on the opposite wall. They were joined in my mother’s home. By the door is her corner cabinet, a fake antique – my brother has its match, the real one. It welcomes me to the room, showcasing all the vessels of cloth, resin and clay I have made over the past fifteen months of mourning. Mum’s skirts and blouses, my hands and heart. At the moment the other cabinets are a jostle, but over time I plan to curate an ongoing series – my life, my work, my family. So a gallery or museum – an Exhibition Room.

I sit in my Drawing Room. It is a place to rest, to reflect, to read, to write, to stitch, to withdraw to, occasionally to sleep in. It is a place to simply sit. A place from which I can venture forth.

Line, pattern, index

line, pattern, index; palimpsest and piecing

That was the title of the mini research project I drew up for March.

There were some beginnings:

All above but the writing square are samples based on two classes with Lynn Yuhr (https://www.instagram.com/lynnyuhr/), presented online by Metalwerx. Lynne’s teaching and notes were exceptional. Metalwerx provided excellent support and admin.

Sally Smart
The Artists House
AGNSW

Work by Sally Smart at the Art Gallery of NSW thrilled.

The “index” element came from reading Index, A History of the by Dennis Duncan. I was interested in the idea of indexing as an act of deep reading. Struggling to read a dense chapter in Jane Hirshfield’s Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry as preparation for the creative research group, I decided to try indexing. Just developing a set of headwords was challenging and very effective in both engaging a higher level of attentiveness and in identifying the flow of Hirshfield’s argument.

Next I attempted to combine a few of my focus elements in building an index – or a series of indexes – of the Daily Balance photographs I showed last month.

It became elaborate. An example:

Daily balance #5
Combined with an old charcoal scribble, which was then rubbed back and covered with white paint
became a new charcoal sketch.
I then identified what most attracted my attention and…
a pattern was formed

The next step was going to be the pattern expressed in polymer clay, which in a way I can’t now see was going to become one of a set of pattern index cards. There’s a gap in my thinking here. That’s an index?

At the same time I wrote a paragraph triggered by the various elements – the story behind the glass frog which was a gift from mum.

Plus a list of materials which could feed into an index. Which could be based on edited photos of mum. The closest I could find to polymer clay was a photo of mum holding some children’s play clay. The photo has the sharp image of clay, and the pixelated memory shape of mum.

This was A Very Bad Idea. I was obliterating my mother. I’ve removed the photo from this post because I don’t want to see that again. The entire chain of work was abandoned, although I may return to the pattern generation element.

Instead I have diverted to consider a coincidence in the use of language. Dennis Duncan writes of the “compressed story telling” that can appear in an index. Major incidents in Jane Doe’s life in staccato bursts and page numbers. Jane Hirshfield writes that good poetry, and image in particular “by gathering many energies toward a single end, creates an intense compression of meaning; it carries into the mind the solidity, particularity, and multi-facetedness of actual objects.” And leads on to enlarged awareness.

Different forms of compression can distil down, or open out. Which led on to mapping and models, and how patterns can be found by drilling down into the detail of sunflower pollen or by looking up, stargazing the constellations. In Evocative Objects Mitchel Resnick writes of his attention being held not by the stars, but the spaces between. He went on to explore “systems in which complex patterns emerge from simple interactions among simple parts.

Pattern finding – the simple describing the complex? complex pattern from combinations of the simple?

And then there’s the surprise of the unexpected, a disruption in the pattern. (Explored by Jane Hirshfield in Hiddenness, Uncertainty, Surprise.)

More investigation required.


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