Archive for the 'Basketry' Category

Clarifying the beginning

After the excitement of the workshop with Matthew Bromhead (10-Jul-2018) I felt inspired and keen to start working.

I wanted to combine lots of the ideas from Matthew’s class with techniques and materials I’ve worked with in the past. For a start, from Ruth Hadlow – not knowing where you will finish, be very clear on where you start.

A few weeks have passed since I started writing this post, there’s been some activity, but at the moment it feels like a tangle of threads and I can’t find a loose end to start work on.

Ideas percolating:

  • Chance, intuition, intelligent and thoughtful play
  • Elegance, decorum
  • Precipice, counter balance, leverage, impetus, precarious, shimmer, shiver
  • Glide, hesitate, teeter, catch (of breath), instant of focus, moment of coherence and balance, the space between – spark, pivot point, point of balance (mobiles!), tipping point
  • Would like a build | draw cycle – keep responding
  • Maintain the energy & excitement of the class
  • Blocks of time. Make space to work in the moment.
  • Mine my history of materials & techniques. Remind myself of what I know
  • Joins. Matt showed us air drying clay for joins. I did a whole project on joins for Mixed Media for Texiles (see link). Surely there’s something there I can bring forward. Plus on reflection I’ve been searching for joins – welding, soldering, rivets…
  • a shared weight
    Elyssa Sykes-Smith

  • Scale. Personal, domestic. I thought of Elyssa Sykes-Smith – I seem to recall a video in which she talked about measuring things with her own body. Then Luke Sciberras talking about the scale of a painting absorbing him bodily (27-Jul-2018). Which doesn’t quite fit where I’m going…
  • What’s happened so far:

  • Casting plaster using a clay mould (demonstrated by Matt Bromhead).
  • Plaster, wire, mouse mesh

    Sample p5-11

    The clay was lined with ribbed plastic, thinking of sample p5-11 from the Mixed Media course (23-Feb-2016).
    I don’t like the proportions. The plaster is a bit squat. The mouse mesh is too orderly, too fixed. But there’s some movement and shimmer in the wires.

    Plaster, wire. Cast in rough clay, wood on one side, wire inserted through clay sides

    The second cast tried a couple of ideas – different surface textures, different angles for wire insertion. An ugly lump.

    I used these together with one of the experiments from Matt’s class to try some joining methods.

    Sample From Matt Bromhead Class

  • Joins

    Small lengths and pieces made by looping with florist’s wire. This version the larger wires were threaded through, in another a slightly longer, thinner looping was twisted around, almost like a bow. Stays in place fairly well. Brings a level of detail and interest that I like. It also works on a single wire, not a join, as a small focal point.


    Another variation, this time a larger, square piece of looping.

    I had great hopes of this. A hole drilled through the thick brass rod, rebar wire threaded through, a bit like an incomplete rivet.

    Drilling the hole was slow and awkward. The end result is effective as a join of two wires, but doesn’t really contribute anything else. It might be useful in some circumstances, but hardly exciting.

    Holes drilled in a shard of resin and wires threaded through. Great introduction of colour and shine. Possibilities.

    Two lengths of rebar wire were connected by weaving across them with florist’s wire. An extra length of rebar wire was added in. Lots of movement and form-building potential.

    I like the level of detail that can be achieved.


    A simpler variation of weave also works quite nicely.

    Unhappy with the mouse wire used in the earlier plaster cast, I took a couple of photos with a wrapped wire sample from a class with Marion Gaemers (26-Dec-2017).

    Sample from Marion Gaemer’s class, posed with plaster cast


    Now that gets the blood moving. I’d want to wrap the wire after it is cast in the plaster. I also like the way the wrapped wire goes to the side, below the top of the plaster. How much manipulation could be done after casting?

    I wondered about making my own variant of a larger grid.

    Some lengths of rebar wire, quickly joined with simple wrapping of florist’s wire. The sample has a unfortunate suggestion of a trussed chicken ready for roasting.

    Still feel like I’m groping around the room wearing a blindfold. I might spend some time drawing, or I might take some of my favourite things from above and throw them together…

  • Happy 90th birthday mum!

    Recently my mother celebrated her 90th birthday, with a big party for friends one week and a weekend away with family (four generations, 22 of us) the next. For many years her mantra for a healthy life has been to include physical, mental and social activities in every day. The pace is a little slower now, but the interest in and care for others, her curiosity and keenness to explore the world around her, are constant.

    I’m the middle one of five children, and we worked together to organise the celebratory Festival of Margaret. Among many other activities, mum used to run a Friday afternoon Craft Club, not just for the five of us but for all our friends around the neighbourhood. That’s the genesis of my joy in making, and I really wanted to bring one or two elements of that into the party.

    First, how to identify the hosts – the children? Matching nametags, a photo of the five of us, modified to highlight who was who. Below is mine, plus me in full flight giving a response to mum’s speech.

    Second, how to help people mix given they were such a diverse crowd? Make-your-own nametags, with lots of coloured pens, pencils and stickers to play with. Some were more elaborate than others, and only a couple were left behind for me to photograph.

    Next, my sister suggested a wishing tree. One thing led to another.

    Instead of simple tags, something big enough to write a little story about shared times? So everything got a little bigger and it became a message tree.

    Instead of a plain or generic back, why not personalize it and bring in some colour? Mum has always been a keen traveler. I used the background of photos of her on her journeys and printed them onto the message cards – 88 different images. The example on the right is from a beach on King Island, a wonderful and eventful weekend together back in 2012 (7-Oct-2012).


    For the tree I used straightened 2.0mm galvanised wire, twining with 0.7mm wire. Given the number and size of cards it needed to accommodate it had to be fairly large – around 85 cm tall and 69 cm diameter. It’s very stable on the wide base.

    You can see a bit of the tree in action behind mum in the top photo. Shown here is a mockup before the party when I was testing the idea.

    The tree and basket of cards were on the same long table as the gear for making nametags, and there was a real buzz around them. People shared some funny and happy memories, and wishes for the future.

    It was a great party, a really positive and friendly vibe. Other siblings were responsible for organising an extensive slideshow of mum from baby to now (my goodness she’s traveled far and wide!), some yummy afternoon tea, a beautiful cake, colourful decorations, set up and smoothing things along on the day… everything to make sure that mum could relax and enjoy her day. I felt so proud and happy for her, and also so lucky to have such a family.

    The next day I used the hanging loops and some more ribbon to join the cards into a book-like form. It’s sitting on mum’s kitchen table, a momento of a happy day.

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    The second, family only weekend was great too. More talking, laughing, eating, and a lot of activity enjoying time together. There will be a little making coming out from it, but that hasn’t happened yet.

    Diversion talk

    Today seven of the artists showing in Diversion gave talks in the gallery space. There was a very positive and energetic vibe to the event. I continue to enjoy very much the experience of exhibiting and it gave me a real buzz to have people interested in my work. I had some great conversations both before and after the actual talks.

    Artist talk
    Photo: Nicole Robins

    My contribution (or a variant of it):
    Our curator Meri chose a wonderful theme with “Diversion”. From many possible interpretations I quickly focused on ideas around distracted attention and departing from your “true” or “proper” path.

    I love going to classes, mixing with people as a change from the quiet hours in the studio, the inspiration, the new techniques and materials. For many years I was fairly focused, working with textiles although using a range of techniques. A few years ago I did a course in Mixed Media for Textiles and my creative world exploded – suddenly a wide range of media and techniques, plastics, plaster, resin, printmaking… – and away from two dimensions into space. I could definitely be off “the path”.

    Happily some of the classes were with Australian artist and academic Ruth Hadlow. Her model or way of understanding a creative practice or indeed life provided a structure or framework for what could have been chaos.

    In Ruth’s model there aren’t discrete bubbles of projects, each a separate series of steps: research and develop idea; plan outcome; produce outcome; deliver or display; full-stop. Instead there are series of strands of investigation co-existing, like the many currents in a river. A particular strand may start, fade, grow, join with other strands, resurface… It isn’t a progression to a Goal. You go where-ever most engaged at the moment.

    There are no diversions! Anything could lead anywhere, at some future time. You never know the end point when you start – there aren’t real end points in this ongoing process.

    Given you don’t know the end, you need to be very careful and clear about the beginning. What are your points of reference, what interests you, what attracts (not distracts) your attention? Analyse inputs and influences – be very specific about exactly what is drawing you.

    Then you can develop a brief – a question or challenge. Explore, not committing to a single direction early. Sample constantly – often sampling becomes the work. Sampling avoids predetermining the work.

    Ruth’s ideas have stayed with me. I haven’t applied her rigour, but my general approach is framed in those terms.

    The Diversion theme – distracted attention and straying from one true path – felt a challenge. Could I work using the model and have an outcome bringing many paths together for the exhibition?

    My brief for work towards Confluence:
    o Use elements of the river – currents and eddies and flashes of sunlight
    o Reflect my diverse interests
    o Keep sampling as long as possible, keeping it provisional
    o Capture that moment of coherence and balance when everything comes together just before it all flows apart.

    Confluence as exhibited in Diversion:
    o in my eyes elements of water or river or channel in each part
    o There are textiles, including my hand-dyed threads from my weaving days, metalwork and cold forging, resin, making mobiles, virtually a beginner’s sampler of basketry techniques
    o I’m disappointed there’s no welding or printmaking or cast plaster, or broken ceramics, or drawing, or …
    o There’s a literal approach to the idea of momentary balance, using my recent and ongoing experimentation with mobile forms.
    o There was lots of sampling (I took a sample-bag of the samples to illustrate the talk!). Some “samples” are incorporated in the exhibition work, some led to elements in the exhibition , some stay in the bag and may resurface in the future
    o As for keeping work provisional, my misreading of exhibition deadlines meant I didn’t have the mobile element ready and fully documented in time. Fortunately for me curator Meri was very accommodating. After the deadline the flow of work continued as I kept sampling and experimenting. Somewhat bizarrely it was a surprise to me when I suddenly recognised it – the basin element – was a finished object, really not at all the form I was thinking of at the start. It was the day before installation that I emailed Meri and she so kindly agreed to the addition. Other than sitting in the exhibition space working, I don’t think I could have pushed provisional and sampling further.

    At the end of the talk I briefly mentioned Waymarker, a sentinel of a stream of enquiry, of possibility, that I want to return to one day. An alternate stream that I’m hoping will allow me to experiment with some similar ideas albeit on a different scale has been progressing in the background. Fingers crossed, more on that soon.

    —–
    Most of what I spoke about has been recorded in this blog.
    * Mixed media for textiles course – see Categories listed on the right of this page.
    * 25-Feb-2016 has the main information about Ruth Hadlow’s workshop Articulating Practice, but do a search on the blog for lots more references.
    * Keith Lo Bue’s dvd workshop Poetry in motion: making marvelous mobiles (http://www.keithlobue.com/) teaches all about creating mobile forms. I wrote about some classes I took with Keith 23-Apr-2017, and a blog search will turn up lots more references to him.
    * Summer school in Welded Sculpture with Paul Hopmeier (22-Jan-2017) taught me all I know about welding. Waymarker was made there, although named more recently.

    Diversion

    At the opening
    Photo: Desdemona Foster

    The latest Basketry NSW exhibition opened last Wednesday. It’s the first time work of mine has been shown in a formal gallery space, my first evening with drinks and nibbles opening, and I had a great time. There were lots of other artists to chat with (I think there are 21 artists being shown), plus I had family and friends who continued the evening with me later with dinner at the local pub.

    The exhibition looked great. A team of us had worked hard on the installation the previous day under the leadership of curator and president Meri Peach. One of the strengths of our group is the wide range of materials and techniques, the different perspectives and focus of members, resulting in a showcase of current trends in contemporary basketry.

    Most of the umbrellas from Shades of Red (9-Mar-2018) were reunited, installed lining the outside terrace of the gallery. Gallery Lane Cove is up a flight of stairs from the street, and it’s great to have such a statement visible from below.

    Shades of Red installation

    Waymarker

    As well as my two umbrellas I contributed two works to the exhibition.

    Waymarker has been seen before in this blog, but looks a bit different with the gallery lighting and hanging system. It was made in the Welded Sculpture summer school with Paul Hopmeier at the National Art School last year (22-Jan-2017).

    Confluence had a last minute addition which really pleased me. When I last photographed it just a couple of weeks ago it was a mobile (19-Mar-2018). In the installation it was joined by a second element, which given the watery theme I’ll call a basin (some ambivalence here – “eddy” could work as well).

    Confluence -basin element

    The idea for this element came up during experimentation and development for the mobile. One Sunday, just three days before the entry deadline and feeling the time pressure, I made the resin section – and it didn’t work. Threads clumped every which-way, the simple form I intended became a misshapen mess… A total disaster and waste of materials. Confluence the mobile was entered into the exhibition.

    A week or so later I decided I might as well try the wire looping edge experiment, just to get some value from the thing. As work continued I planned all sorts of extra elaboration, piercing the internal mass with more metal and perhaps voids … but suddenly, quite unexpectedly, over the Easter long weekend it was finished. And I liked it. All those extra plans seemed busy and pointless. The accidental form was way better than my original intention would have been. It sat for a couple of days under the mobile and in my eyes the whole was more than the sum of the parts. So the morning before installation day I emailed Meri, no expectations, thinking it was an unprofessional thing to do, but feeling I owed it to the work to at least ask the question. With incredible generosity, Meri said yes. Right from the start (21-Jan-2018) my thinking was of Ruth Hadlow’s model of practice, and keeping experimental and open as long as possible. I feel very fortunate to be supported in pushing that to the absolute limit.

    Confluence installed


    Finding the right position to hang Confluence was tricky, and in the end fortune continued to favour me – the air-conditioning vent nearby keeps the work in almost constant gentle motion.

    Eight or so of us will be giving brief talks in the exhibition on Saturday 14 April starting at 11 am. The exhibition continues at Gallery Lane Cove to 28 April 2018.

    Diversion – coming soon


    This exhibition was previously code-named “other potential project” (14-Jan-2018, 21-Jan-2018, 4-Feb-2018) and “confluence” (18-Feb-2018, 25-Feb-2018).

    Confluence

    The second code-name was actually the name for the new work I’ve made for the theme. In brief, the question I asked myself was – could I bring together all the different materials and techniques I’ve been experimenting with over the last year or two and bring them together coherently – in balance and harmony? Were they just so many diversions, or were they currents and channels in a greater stream? Secondary question – could I remain provisional, keep experimenting and exploring, right to the last moments available?

    The answer to both turned out to be a slightly vague “well, kinda, pretty much…”. The time I used to the last drop, assisted by misreading the due date and discovering I had a week less than I thought. Some materials and techniques weren’t used, and more components didn’t survive a pretty fierce editing. It’s enough for me to feel that it fits the confluence idea, the streams of inquiry and exploration coming together, at least momentarily.

    For any readers who will be in Sydney over the exhibition period, it would be great to see/meet you – particularly on the opening night or for the artist talks.

    The photo above is flat and static, not at all what a mobile is about. I’ll try to take some video when it’s up in the gallery. In the meantime, something that gives at least an idea of movement, light and shadow…

    The Red Project – installed

    The Red Project is currently on at a number of venues around North Sydney. See the North Sydney Council website for more details – https://www.northsydney.nsw.gov.au/Community_Services/Arts_Culture/Arts_Culture_Events/The_Red_Project and my previous post 15-Feb-2018 for some background.

    Basketry NSW’s Shades of Red pops against the rich green of new turf – helped by all the rain on installation day!

    The Coal Loader venue is a great re-use of some industrial heritage.

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    As well as Shades of Red there is an installation by the Primrose Park Paper Arts group, plus in a series of chambers off one of the tunnels there are installations by individual artists.

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    There’s lots of activity scheduled over the coming weekend, including on Saturday demos and mini-workshops by members of Basketry NSW.

    Variations on a theme

    That heading isn’t quite it. A sense of recognition or familiarity, but in a new context or with a different emphasis, going deeper or at a tangent. Of richness, complexity. Resonance.

    A small example: This week’s lecture at AGNSW, Peter Kohane speaking on “Ancient Greece: the invention of the classical orders”. Back to The Canon, which so puzzled me when studying art history (13-Apr-2013) – but totally different. This time round the focus was on the analogy between a human being and the columnar orders, underpinned by the concept of the human body as a type of perfection. The idea of timber temple elements imitated in stone was familiar, then enriched with more detail, with the idea that the monument has within it a sense of time and a memory of earlier ceremonies. The formal nature of a Greek temple – no straight lines, but curves which compensate for angle of view and fall of light. And suddenly it’s a philosophical question: where does truth lie – “objective”, or in relation to the beholder who perceives an ideal beauty?

    Another from this week, and also relating to the art history course: a visit to The Barracks museum in Sydney. Previously seen 11-May-2013 when it was all about the architecture. Visited this week, I appreciated the history it presented – particularly related to convicts and 19th century immigration; plus the reflection on the nature of the museum itself – the archaeological dig, the choices made in displaying aspects of the building and its history.

    Lots more musing going on, but let’s up the tempo and look at something solid.

    A variant of setup for resin had a range of heat-distressed fabrics (4-Feb-2018) suspended over drip trays lined with plastic and filled with oddments and experiments.

    Raffia in resin

    Threads in resin

    More threads in resin

    Rubber bands in resin

    The drip tray contents were selected with an eye to the moving water theme.

    On initial review none really excite, but they’ll all go in the stash as holders of possibilities and potential.

    Possibly it was false economy. The fabrics don’t have as thick a coating of resin as would have been possible if I’d kept scooping up and re-applying the drips until the resin exothermic reaction kicked in. Lots to play with here, especially manipulating the fabric as the resin hardens.

    Although not quite as robust as envisaged, some of the fabric has been cut and looping in wire added.

    Heat distressed fabric in resin, looping in galvanised steel

    A very pleasing result. Light, texture, shine, transparency, an ocean swell.

    A very different variation on the watery theme started with some steel offcuts from welding what is now known as Waymarker (22-Jan-2017 and 4-Feb-2018).

    Metal cut and transformed

    Cut out with a jeweller’s piercing saw, drilled to create a classic moving water symbol. Smoothed and polished.

    After a few classes which included using the saw the process felt good.

    The next step of incorporating some basketry techniques and materials already using in codename confluence was a little tricker, but overall I think the result works with other elements.

    Steel, threads. Random weave.

    The hope remains that the different pieces will come together and transform under gallery lights and the movement of the mobile.


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