Archive for the 'Weekly roundup' Category

Gathering threads

A warning: this post is intended to be useful to me, and on the blog for the tools it gives me. If any of it is of use to others it will be by accident, not intent.

Exploring a new venture, going a bit further. An occasional bringing together of ideas – but no polish, no photos, travelling light.

Clusters of thought developing:

  • the poetic
  • observation
  • poetic, humanist graphing
  • how to read
  • In One Way Street, under the heading “Attested Auditor of Books”, Walter Benjamin presents an historic sequence of script – inscriptions on upright stones; manuscripts written on sloping desks; the horizontal bed of printing. A pause of a few hundred years here with the book, for script “a refuge in which it can lead an autonomous existence”. Winds of change from the late nineteenth century. Newspapers are read more vertical than horizontal, there are graphic tensions as Mallarmé and later the dada writers play with space, font, placement of text, while film and advertising use the “dictatorial” perpendicular. Script is “pitilessly dragged out into the street”.

    And suddenly something written almost a century ago is incredibly modern – “… the chances of [a modern reader] penetrating the archaic stillness of the book are slight. Locust swarms of print, which already eclipse the sun of what city dwellers take for intellect, will grow thicker with each succeeding year.” Information overload, social media – we are overwhelmed with print. Print on the hard, vertical surfaces of phone and computer.

    So a nice statement of a challenge. For me the kicker is Benjamin’s “qualitative leap” responding to all this quantity, with writing moving further into graphic regions. “In this picture-writing, poets, who will now as in the earliest times be first and foremost experts in writing, will be able to participate only by mastering the fields in which (quite unobtrusively) it is being constructed: statistical and technical diagrams.” The poetics of data visualization!

    Beautifully leading to Johanna Drucker. Previously (7-Jan-2020) I wrote that Graphesis: Visual forms of knowledge production takes a very wide view, almost a survey of the literature. The information is condensed, so can be difficult. A section on “Humanist Methods” was fascinating, exciting, relevant – and difficult. Until… following the footnotes, I found Drucker’s original paper – on the Digital Humanities Quarterly (DHQ) website – “an open-access, peer-reviewed, digital journal covering all aspects of digital media in the humanities.”

    For now, I’m trying to keep focus. There may be riches beyond the dreams of avarice on that site. That’s for other days. The current excitement is that the paper on the website is the complete version with all the explanatory bits of what was difficult and condensed in the book.

    This is getting turgid, so time for some dotpoints.

  • All data is capta. Looking for a succinct explanation I found “Capta is not data as we typically understand data. Capta represents what is seen, thought and felt. Capta, according to phenomenologists, is the ‘data of the conscious experience’. ” ( There is interpretation. The observer is always a participant. A simple example: a bar chart may show hospital admissions by gender, male and female. That’s still often standard, but that simple binary is an assumption, and highly problematic. A count of national population may not include temporary migrant workers. Is time fixed intervals or as experienced (time waiting for a bus = coffee with a friend?).
  • Every metric is a factor of X (the phenomenon) – potential factors: a point of view; agenda; assumption; presumption; convention. A “self evident fact” is a constructed interpretation.
  • Complexity, ambiguity, gaps can be hidden and distorted in graphs.
  • A humanistic approach entails qualitative display of graphical information. “By definition, a humanist approach is centered in the experiential, subjective conditions of interpretation.” (page 130 of book).
  • What could this mean in data viz? Time becomes temporality, and instead of a neat, consistent, linear progression could have folds, loops, whorls, arrows of force, gaps, changes of scale… Think about that coffee – as anticipated, experienced, remembered, by you and by your friends, or observers.

    Drucker concludes her paper “[Graphical expressions of humanistic interpretation] are as different from the visual display of quantitative information as a close reading of a poem is from the chart of an eye tracker following movements across a printed page.”

    It feels like something I should know – but what is poetry? when or why is something poetic? Jane Hirshfield when discussing Bashō writes of “… a tool for emotional, psychological and spiritual discovery, for crafting new experience as moving, expansive and complex of ground…” (I’ve twisted the quote out of context). Some relevant ideas/techniques:

  • juxtaposition, transformation
  • the recognition of impermanence, ceaseless alteration, interdependence
  • (An aside: In the context of chaos theory Drucker writes of dynamic unfolding, transformation, adaptation and emergence. An interesting correspondence of language. And thinking of poetic language, some more from Drucker: “These graphical tools are a kind of intellectual Trojan horse, a vehicle through which assumptions about what constitutes information swarm with potent force.” (my italics, but look back at Benjamin). A dry start, but startling imagery at the end.)

  • the beauty of the most ordinary circumstances and objects (wabi)
  • test ideas against the realities of observation
  • (A jump to Leopardi who claimed fine arts give pleasure by the imitation of nature, with objects imitated “beauty, memory, the attention that is paid to things that we see every day without noticing them, etc”.)

    (And back to Drucker, who pushes for more nuanced presentation of ambiguity and uncertainty, with observer-independent reality a presumption, not a given. “Data are capta, taken not given, constructed as an interpretation of the phenomenal world, not inherent in it.” )

  • an aesthetic of transparence and lightness
  • pointing to both the world and the self
  • Slowing down. I’m writing this in part because attentive reading and careful notetaking isn’t enough. I need to integrate what I am reading into my mental structures. I used to think of this structure as a scaffolding or framework, giving context, a holding place and a place to build on. Now it seems more like a rubbery network of connections that shifts and adapts and accommodates and absorbs – and if all goes well allows me to extract as required.

    More on reading and note-taking: Walter Benjamin claimed “Only the copied text thus commands the soul of him who is occupied with it, whereas the mere reader never discovers the new aspects of his inner self that are opened by the text, the road cut through the interior jungle forever closing behind it; because the reader follows the movement of his mind in the free flight of daydreaming, whereas the copier submits it to command.” Obviously not mindless copying, but this has encouraged me to make more extensive notes, longer direct quotes. Leopardi in Zibaldone also appears to make extensive use of quotations.

    It’s still not enough. Sometimes it takes me a long time to see the obvious, but I’ve been coming to acceptance that I can’t “squeeze all the juice out” no matter how attentive the reading. I need to grow and learn, and in the kind of books I am reading there will always be more to find. Plus each time I read, it is as a different person. Maybe this is a good place to circle back to Jane Hirshfield: “haiku remind us that a person should not become too fixed in a singular sense of what the self might consist of or how, or where it might reside.”

    In what feels a bizarre and futile quest for completeness here I introduce an essay by Umberto Eco – “Intertextual irony and levels of reading”. This essay was my morning reading for five consecutive days. Many times I was bewildered, despondent, angry, frustrated, defensive. Basically I don’t have and will never have the wide knowledge of literature to recognise any but the most obvious allusions to other texts. I’ve started too late, but in any case that’s not the game I want to play. So I will take what works for me, and turn it to my own uses. That, over all that I’m reading, is still plenty. More than enough. And always more to come.

    Hopefully taking time to gather together strands from reading will help take me further, intensifying the impact of my reading. I’ve found Making connected to reading, such as the recent scarf (11-Jan-2020), opens up my understanding and response. So Making as knowledge production.

    Other threads bubbling :

  • Challenges of translation. In Eco and Leopardi.
  • Provocation. Drucker describes her paper as a provocation to a larger project.
  • Exploration versus outcome. Asimov in Second Foundation: “Finished products are for decadent minds.”
  • Metadata and tagging. Leopardi’s slips, Benjamin’s “three-dimensionality of script” in card indexes
  • Reading period: 5 – 15 January 2020

    Items of interest

    Go Tad!

    What happened to December? I blinked and it was gone. Work was particularly busy. There was a graduation. Given the time of year there were plenty of social and family gatherings. That leads to my first blog-able item.

    John Chester Jervis’s earrings
    First blogged 6-Jul-2018, that pesky time vanished and it was the day before our major family Christmas dinner that I finished the final few sets.

    I dressed up some little white boxes for presentation, gluing on papers matched to either recipient or earring.

    I’ve checked the family tree. JCJ was the brother of my grandmother’s grandmother. It was fun to share some family history.

    Plain weave and twining copper vessel

    Side and bottom views

    Somehow missed in my last post, a small vessel in copper. It’s basically the same as the blue and green waxed hemp twine piece shown 11-Dec-2018 – but prettier.

    Twinned copper vessel

    Motivated in part by trying to understand my strong and negative emotional response to a recent exhibition (18-Nov-2018), in part by the future need to have an explanation or story about myself for the upcoming creative research program, I’ve been some purposeful reading, thinking and writing. It’s a work in progress (and always will be), but a few dot points:

    * The line – Still need to write about the current Tony Tuckson exhibition at AGNSW. The quality of line is fascinating. The exhibition catalogue led me on to the “gestural calligraphy” of Pierre Soulages, then on to the rhythm, line and structure of Chiang Yee.

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    Paul Klee gets a mention of course.
    Stroke, mark, line – for me dimensional in space, and based on the body – my own movement in making, and the form derived in some way from the body.

    * Chance and intent. See Matt Bromhead for this (10-Jul-2018). In the Tuckson catalogue Denise Mimmocchi writes “Tuckson’s sketchbooks reveal that their overall forms were often considered, but the paintings appear deeply anchored to their rapid moment of execution, and the Bacchanalian rush of colour” (p. 52). Aida Tomescu finds “an essential link between the precise readjustments, the measured approach and the final open structure, which has a feel of utmost spontaneity and improvisation” (p. 76). Matt’s process was to look at the result of play, adding touches to bring elegance and decorum.

    * Space. Here a link generated by reading Textile Perspectives in Mixed-Media Sculpture by Jac Scott. Chicka Ohgi looks at the interface between the space and the objects. She works “not knowing the consequence of [her] actions”, which are only revealed in installation in a space.

    * Haptic – bodily experience, textile background. In Part Object Part Sculpture Briony Fer considers the Italian neo-avant-garde in the 1950s and the “literal materiality of a thing” (p. 51). I’m still reading in that section, so more another day, but the work of Alberto Burri and Lucio Fontana is very exciting.

    * Sensuous | Austerity. Mimmocchi writes of the “sensuous line work” of Tuckson, and the “austerity” of the compositions of Barnett Newman. I am not comfortable with the sensuous – perhaps the convent school education lingers – but I think challenging myself here could be productive. In her foreword to Part Object Part Sculpture Sherri Geldin writes “Deftly dodging the plethora of industrially replicated machinations known as Minimalism, Helen [Molesworth] follows the more sensuous, tactile, and handmade impulse that simultaneously coursed through sculptural production over the last fifty years” (p. 11).

    * Enough, not everything. Tomescue: Tuckson “uses absence and the incomplete form” (p.77). It’s amazing what the human eye can do, leaps of interpretation. Plus make the viewer work, invest in looking, participate.

    Jac Scott
    Image from Textile Perspectives in Mixed Media Sculpture

    * The pivot, balance point, precipice, knife edge, danger, unbalance
    A conversation with a friend months ago has led to ongoing reflection on what this could mean.

    Jac Scott uses an image of her own work in a chapter on plaster. Perhaps more elegant and controlled than what’s in my head. There’s no sense of danger. Plus I’d prefer free-standing.

    Orpheus (Maquette 2) (Version II) 1956, edition 1959 Dame Barbara Hepworth

    Scott mentions Barbara Hepworth in the Metal chapter. Again elegant and controlled. I like the use of folded metal as a construction approach. Also there is tension in the strings which gives a sense of potential energy stored. Could there be a snap and a spring and an unravelling?

    Louise Bourgeoise Observer

    Helen Molesworth writes of Louise Bourgeois’s body of work entitled Personages: “Each work displays the same tenuous sense of balance, as they grow increasingly slender toward the bottom, and seem precariously placed on flat metal bases” (p. 39).

    Over the weeks I’ve identified a circling, a repetition and revisiting of ideas which at times felt suffocating, instead of my usual sense of enriching. As I get deeper that question of stagnation has faded. Currents are reappearing, but in new combinations and with different emphases.

    Part of the regrouping has been a simple matter of seeing. Over the summer break I have bought shelving – storage shelves, bookcase, but in particular some display shelves. I now sit surrounded by work done over the last decade and more. I can see recurring threads, and ongoing change and experimentation. Most of the base building work was finished yesterday, but I’m still going through boxes, trying out what I want to see for now.

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    My workroom is the-room-formerly-known-as-the-dining-room, and most but not all of the objects visible are my work.

    Learning brief
    As part of the research and reflection I’ve developed a little brief for experimentation. It’s ongoing, so more on that another day.

    Mimmocchi, D., 2018. Tuckson. Sydney, Australia: Art Gallery of New South Wales.
    Molesworth, H., 2005. Part Object Part Sculpture. Penn State University Press.
    Scott, J., 2003. Textile Perspectives in Mixed-Media Sculpture. Crowood Press, Limited.
    University of Wollongong. 2016. Artist in Residence: Chika OHGI. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 1 January 2019].

    Quickly taking stock

    A scamper over recent activity. It’s basically a continuation of the Swirling November post (18-Nov-2018)

    Scarey music twining
    More twining in 5-ply waxed hemp twine. A little bit of fun, but it turns out I need to pay more attention to the process if I’m playing with shape and colour. It doesn’t quite fit the requirement.

    The green and blue one started as a piece of plain weave, with warp and weft becoming the spokes as I twined up the walls of the shape. It worked moderately well, although badly tensioned and lumpy. The shine is from mod-podge, used to handle all the pesky ends in a thread that didn’t want to sit quietly. I’ve since used the same structure in wire, shown later in this post.

    Side and bottom views

    Continuing with some of the pieces of heat-treated copper from Swirling.

    A series of manipulations on copper sample F

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    I like the combination of copper and resin. The different textures, reflection, transparency, work well together. The wrinkles and folds of the flattened version are also interesting – good texture reminiscent of clothing, and a strong, ungainly form.

    Other samples didn’t thrill. Smaller pieces of copper wire were just fiddly and annoying, although improved when I started using the ring clamp (the wooden pivot kind). An attempt to make looping more interesting by mixing materials worked in the sense that I could keep it airy, with the wire providing structural support. But looping is so round and enclosed.

    Realising the roundness was a problem I tried plain weave in 0.5 mm brass. This was before the class with Alice Spittle (3-Dec-2018). Some of the techniques in that might have helped get a better result. I might return to this, but the particular sample was not a happy experience or result.

    There has been progress since this, but first another disappointment.

    Monoprinting with stamps
    Back in October I was planing a print-making session with stamps made using basketry techniques (1-Oct-2018). I finally got to it, more in the spirit of “let’s get this over and done” rather than “I wonder how this will work” and “what else would be interesting to try”. A self-fulfilling prophecy?

    Using the gelatin plate, lamp black ink rolled on then taken off using samples of “flat coiling” were under-whelming.

    Looping in soft string wasn’t picked up at all. Shown below is some scrap paper, used to semi-clean the stamps after printing. Some OK texture.

    Looping in soft string

    It’s hazy, but a stamp made of cardboard with tensioned wool looping around it is quite effective.

    Random looping around card using tension

    Using packaging cardboard as a stamp

    Some cardboard packaging worked quite well – it could be the base for further work.

    Altogether not a strong result. The intention was to work through a series of design exercises in a book, but somehow it’s not working for me at the moment. Time to park that, maybe return another day. Especially as a couple of more engaging things have come up.

    New scarey music making

    August joining

    I’ve been looping on and off for a few months now. Back on 4-Aug-2018 I tried it as an alternative joining method for sculpture inspired by the class with Matt Bromhead (10-Jul-2018).

    October sampling with different sizes of wire

    There was looping with Mary Hettmansperger (17-Sep-2018), then sampling blogged 1-Oct-2018 and 21-10-2018. The print-making above helped me to realise that the enclosed swirls of looping just weren’t what I’ve been looking for.

    A quick dip into The Primary Structures of Fabrics by Irene Emery, under Single Element (which also includes looping) gave me linking – in particular link-and-twist. Some quick experiments and I experienced a thrilling flash of recognition and revelation (thanks for that phrase to Henry Eliot, writing about literary classics in The Guardian).


    The sample above is 32 gauge brass. I quickly worked up some more – more 32 gauge but smaller spacing, some black 28 gauge, and then 0.5 mm brass.

    More link-and-twist

    Irene Emery clearly instructs that this is not netting, nor is it knotless netting (an expression she finds hard to justify in any context). Still, I use a netting shuttle in making it and link-and-twist is a mouthful. I’m going for the casual “netting”, generally speaking and unless formality is required.

    Noŋgirrŋa Marawili
    Lightning (detail)

    That sense of recognition was undoubtedly influenced and strengthened by my viewing of Noŋgirrŋa Marawili’s work (7-Dec-2018), one of many related experiences.

    Sample p3-44

    Another is a sample of netting dripped with resin for Mixed Media for Textiles (23-Sep-2015). In fact looking back at that, and above at the resin shard, has started me thinking again…

    Back to the “netting”. Look what happens next.

    Twisted netting

    It holds shape. It can be spread wide and light, or squeezed into shading. Line and form in space.

    A quick posing – peeking at possibilities.

    Strike a pose

    The large scale black is from the class with Marion Gaemer (26-Dec-2017), and has since haunted my sketching and pondering. I think the underlying mesh from Bunnings is actually link-and-twist. The plaster and wire channels Matt Bromhead and more from Mixed Media for Textiles (4-Aug-2018).

    The link-and-twist is ideal for scarey TV watching. Wire controlled on the netting needle, no risk of scratching self or companion. Very simple to start and stop. Mindless but productive. Here is a component that’s exciting, adaptable, links to my past, meets my need to be making…

    Definitely thrilling.

    Laborious fun
    Also in Swirling I mentioned the excitement of a lecture by Lisa Slade , including the “swirl of fragments in my mind”.

    The lecture is now available on SoundCloud – Sound isn’t enough. You can get a list of the major images from – in my case I have the handout with my scribbled notes from the night. I’ve been able to track down most of the images, now on a Pinterest board.

    It’s not easy listening. Every step of the way, including the image gathering, leads to another internet search, more exploration, reading, rabbit holes… I’m up the the sixth minute of the talk. My version of fun 🙂 .

    New opportunity
    In that swirling November post I signed off with a certain satisfaction about my current path – “Maybe one day more formal study, or a group, but not for now.” That was then. Fast forward three weeks and I’ve signed up to Ruth Hadlow’s Intensive Creative Research Program in 2019, a structured one year program involving four 3-day intensive sessions in Hobart. “The program will focus on a creative research model of practice, incorporating reading, writing, material investigations, dialogue and critical analysis. It is cross-disciplinary, and oriented towards process-based contemporary arts practice.” So not formal, as no academic bureaucracy, and not group, in that the focus is individual art practice. Terrifying and exciting.

    There was more. I’ve been reading and musing, writing up page after page in my workbook. Time for that another day. Maybe.


    The swirling coalescence of matter forming galaxies in the universe, or the swirling vortex of the plughole?
    Or at a local level, a swirl of creation of components that will combine into sculpture through intelligent play, chance and intuition (à la Matt Bromhead, 10-Jul-2018), or a frittering of time making miscellaneous oddments that will lurk in corners and piles until turfed?
    Or maybe just the standard of life, stuff happens.

    Scarey music twining

    I like to spend some time quietly watching TV with my husband at the end of each day, but I’m such a scaredy-cat. Hence the need for some simple distraction at tense moments. This is some 5-ply waxed hemp twine, and paper twine for the spokes. Practicing colour play from the Mary Hettmansperger class (17-Sep-2018).

    Book folding
    More using techniques from The Art of the Fold: How to make innovative books and paper structures by Hedi Kyle and Ulla Warchol (an earlier attempt shown 21-Oct-2018).

    Heating metal
    This is a followup to one of the days with Mary Hettsmanperger (17-Sep-2018). I also now have a couple of her books.

    This is all using copper, a torch, and sometimes flux. The pieces were photographed on a 1 cm grid mat which can often be seen at the edges, which gives an idea of scale.

    Quite a few of the samples went through multiple failed versions, then cleaned and re-worked. Although the fine wire looks very fragile, I’ve tried a bit of twisting and pulling and it’s held so far.

    Sample D woven

    There’s jewellery potential but at the moment I’m interested in sculpture-component potential. Or possibly base-of-woven-basket potential. In the photo Sample D has been woven with some anonymous metal, possibly previously used in print-making. Balling up wire ends gives an excellent option for creating a feature of what could otherwise be annoying and scratching.

    Exhibition reaction
    I recently viewed an exhibition – I’m not going to identify it or any of the artists. Instead I want to explore my reactions to it. I didn’t enjoy it – in fact I intensely disliked it. I walked around with my arms tightly folded, sometimes making a few not-so-sotto voce comments. So not bored or disengaged. Closer to enraged. Why?

    This was a group show by quite a large group who have been exhibiting together for a few years. I think they are all women and most if not all with a textile background. In fact I suspect quite a few of them would fall into a similar demographic to me in age and general background. Is that relevant to my reaction?

    The exhibition had a theme, a short phrase that could be interpreted in many ways. One or two used word play, a couple used a light hand, a clever twist, an unexpected insight. Many went in for Raising Issues, telling the viewer about what is wrong in our world. Domestic violence. Pedophilia. Marital breakdown. Mental health. War and famine. People behaving badly in all sorts of ways. All important, but such a cacophony. Preaching. “This is bad.” Quite a few works basically drew literal pictures, making sure I couldn’t miss the bad thing that concerns the artist.

    It seems the group is quite disciplined and controlled. They all provided extensive descriptions of what I was looking at. Materials and techniques were detailed. In one room there was a cabinet of sketchbooks and samples, while a video provided views of work in progress. These people were out to educate me.

    There was no space left for me as a viewer. The problem was identified, they told me how bad it is, they told me how they were telling me. As it happens, as an adult member of Australian society, I was already aware of every problem raised. There was nothing I didn’t agree with – these are all bad things. I didn’t get new insights. There were no solutions. No real calls to action. Worthy but ineffectual, both as instruments of social change and as art.

    I should do a reality check: is it because I feel a lack in my own art? Not focused, not working to a deadline in a supportive group, not lifting my game with shared access to a mentor and professional photography. Not producing exhibition-worthy material. After careful consideration I can say with absolute certainty that’s not it. I don’t want the compromises, the shared goals, of a group.

    There are many reasons for making and for looking at art. On the day this just didn’t work for me.

    Moving on to a much, much, much, more satisfying experience:

    Lecture: Dr Lisa Slade, A present past
    This was intended to be the final in this year’s series The hidden language of art: symbol and allusion, the AGNSW’s Art appreciation lecture series. (As it happens, we have a catchup lecture next week.)

    It was a breath-taking and exciting whirl through contemporary art in dialogue with historical Australian and International Art. Dr Slade was engaging and energetic, quite formal at times, with occasional quirky or cheeky asides. She made me feel knowledgeable – so many allusions to things I know (or have a passing familiarity with) – and showed how very, very much more there is for me to learn and think about. I now have a word for the installations I enjoy so much – anachronistic! (See for example 5-May-2013).

    There was heaps more, but a swirl of fragments in my mind, and my scribbled notes are focused on links I want to follow up rather than a coherent summary of the lecture. Since the lecture I have been reading all I can find by or about Lisa Slade. I’ve taken out a subscription to Artlink (she’s chair of the board of directors). The mental link is hazy, but “for balance” I’ve taken out a subscription to Garland.

    Over the past few weeks I’ve been questioning and rechecking my path. For a while at least I’m comfortable. There’s information coming in, there’s a sense of purpose and energy, there’s a path forward. Maybe one day more formal study, or a group, but not for now.


    This is basically an update from my Components and Sampling post a few weeks ago (1-Oct-2018). Little bits of this and that, hopefully not signifying nothing. I’ve decided to go with what’s exciting me most first, rather than chronological.

    The Anni Albers book (20-Oct-2018) has me buzzing. I had to put the book down and get something into my hands. How’s this for a potential component?

    This was done off-loom, held in my hands for ultimate flexibility. That worked quite well for the twined sections, but the leno got a bit wild.

    The detail shot below is on a 1 cm grid, to give an idea of scale. Most of the wire is 28 gauge, with a heavier wire used in the header and the actual cross of the leno.

    Yesterday for the first time in a long time, I dressed a loom. Well… I’m using the 4 shaft Robinson loom as a frame, not involving a reed or shafts, not putting great tension on the 28 gauge wire. So far the wire is looped on (a variant of a technique I saw long ago on quick dressing a rigid heddle loom), and held in order with a couple of rows of twining at each end. I carried two wires together, bare copper and silver-coated, with ideas of some colour and weave experimenting. The plan is to do everything using pick-up techniques.

    Can I get the structure, the variation and interest I want, with tension sufficient to help me working and keep from tangles while loose enough to keep it dynamic and flowing?

    It’s on a brief pause at the moment while I make space on my work table, to move the loom from the side bench which doesn’t have great light (there used to be enough there, but something’s changed over the years 🙂 ).

    Looping experiments
    Different gauges of wire.
    The red is 12 gauge aluminium from Apack. The heavier brass colour 20 gauge (anonymous, from the stash). The finer one is actually brass, 0.5 mm (about 24 gauge), A&E metals. The fine “silver” is 28 gauge coated copper wire from Over the Rainbow (

    All of these were very easy to use, with no complaints from the joints (although keeping in mind these are small samples, each using one wingspan of wire).

    The resulting “fabric” is quite easy to form and manipulate, and holds shape well in most directions.

    Going dimensional.
    Beautiful, bouncy, like unintelligible handwriting. In fact this is looping, with each loop upwards pulled through a little, twisted and bent 90 degrees to make it thoroughly three dimensional. The wire is 24 gauge “black reel wire” from Apack. I think it’s annealed steel (from the person who told me about the supplier), but can’t be sure. No signs of rust. Soft and easy to use. The fabric created holds shape very well, and all those projecting loops look full of potential for building further or embellishing.

    This is more of the 0.5 mm brass, using crochet. It’s a denser fabric. There’s a sort of dimensional corrugation with the rows worked back and forward, but overall it looks a little heavy and stable – not dynamic and lively. The killer is that I got some thumb joint pain even in this small piece. Not something I’m likely return to – certainly not with this gauge wire.

    In wire.
    The beginning of some twining, working in 28 gauge wire.

    In structure and in technique (the thumb flip) just what Mary Hettmansperger taught using waxed linen (17-Sep-2018). This is much more open, and of course holds shape well without reinforcement with mod podge.

    It’s meant to be semi-mindless work to cope with TV-watching (I’m no good with tension – if the music changes to a buildup, I dutifully get scared). However I’m finding it a little fine for that – I need good light (hmm… a connection with earlier comments???).

    For painting.
    The first of these little pots was seen 1-Oct-2018. My technique has definitely improved with the second, larger pot. The lid is domed because I made it a bit big 🙂 . It’s been languishing a few weeks now. I’m hoping the alteration of proportions will let me do more of a slice down the height of the inspiration painting.

    Pretty much on a whim, I recently bought The Art of the Fold: How to make innovative books and paper structures by Hedi Kyle and Ulla Warchol. I have lots of paper around, sketches and prints and experiments that have piled up. Perhaps I could fold them, transform them into something more satisfactory. Lovely book – good instructions and diagrams, techniques and structures that get reused, elaborated, extended, as the projects progress. Lots of great inspiration photographs.

    My first attempt (apart from familiarisation bits on plain paper): a pocket accordion with separate cover.

    So small and pretty! About 10 cm high, 5.5 or so wide. Very satisfying. While not apparent to others, I particularly like the refreshing and encapsulating of memories. The cover is leftovers from a class with Adele Outteridge (25-Jul-2014). The inside pages are from a large sheet of cartridge paper. I went back through months of photos to identify it – from a printmaking session back in 2016 (24-Jul-2016). That detective side excursion on a side excursion was a pleasure and revelation in itself – so many exhibitions, and travels, and classes, and so, so much making! Even the little inserts capture memory. I don’t know if you can see in the photo the inserts are paint cards, and one colour has been selected for the bathroom wall – but not my bathroom. In a class with Keith Lo Bue last year (23-Apr-2017), there was an exercise where we each put three things we’d brought onto a table, and we each selected three things from other people to use as raw material. My final choice, with not much left on the table – the rather uninspiring paint cards. A fairly random moment resurfaced, memorialised, made special.

    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.

    Metal and more

    Codename Confluence
    Previously this was known as “other potential project” (4-Feb-2018). Thinking and work is progressing on the new piece, still based on moving water, particularly river currents, eddies, backwaters, billabongs… I’m expecting it to take the form of a mobile (not locked in yet) – balance is another part of the story. So far focus has been on developing some individual elements, looking for some level of transparency so they interact with the light and gallery environment.

    Silver fabric in resin, coiling

    Photographed propped against a waterglass to give an idea of how it could look in open space, this is about 11.5 cm diameter. Not convinced I like the soft texture of the threads against the hard surfaces of resin and galvanised steel wire I’m using elsewhere. The v-stitch of the coiling reminds me of zigzag graphic designs for water.

    Thread in resin, neolithic twining in wire

    Really like this combination of threads in resin and neolithic twining in steel wire. It’s 12.5 cm wide. If I have time I want to make a companion piece exploring this combination further.

    Metal smithing class with Jane Tadrist
    Nine hours over three weeks at Sydney Community College, this was a great chance to consolidate and extend my metal working skills.

    Copper tealight in progress

    We could choose to make a cuff or a tealight. I really wanted to get a handle on soldering, so went for the tealight. The design reflects my “moving water” theme, and was deliberately kept simple so I could finish in good time.

    Soldering was completed in the final minutes of the class (yay!). I should be able to do the finishing here at home.

    vessel wip from Christian Hall class

    Sadly that meant I didn’t have time to complete the soldering still required on my little vessel begun in the Christian Hall workshop (7-Jan-2018). In theory Jane was happy for me to work on it – but dratted time got me again.

    Hope is not lost. I’ve booked on another class with Jane later this year. Maybe third time lucky for this little brass object. Another possibility is setting up a soldering area in my workroom at home – hoping that will happen before the end of the year.

    Lady and the Unicorn exhibition
    Six stunning tapestries made circa 1500 are now on exhibit at the Art Gallery of NSW, on loan from France.

    Detail of The sixth sense – heart, desire or will

    While there are side galleries of interpretive detail, the actual tapestries are in a single dimly lit room, surrounding the viwer. The impact is amazing. I’m not sure how big they are. The Lady could be near life size.

    Still a detail

    The photo above shows one small detail in the largest tapestry. To the right is another view of the same piece – still just a detail.

    There’s lots of information and many much better photos on the gallery website linked above. All very accurate and objective and academic. The works themselves, the whole experience of standing there drinking them in, is an emotional and physical thing.

    ARTEXPRESS 2018 exhibition
    Also at AGNSW is this year’s selection of student artworks developed for the artmaking component of the HSC examination in Visual Arts 2017.

    How Irrigating
    Hannah Raeside

    A wonderful mix of media and intent. I particularly enjoyed Hannah Raeside’s work playing with garden hose and fittings. It’s an exploration of shape and form, taking something very prosaic and creating abstract beauty.

    Some momentum

    Pace and energy are beginning to build. It’s a good feeling.

    Object 2 of embargoed project 1 has been painted and just needs a check, touch up and tidy up to be done. It’s due for installation with its peers later this month. A teaser photo when it’s entirely done, and hopefully full details of the project can be shared soon.

    The other potential project is looking more and more certain. I’m contributing two pieces.


    The first has been seen before – an output from the welding sculptures workshop with Paul Hopmeier last year (22-Jan-2017). Given this new (still potential) exhibition is being developed in a very short time, recent and relevant work is being accepted as well as new work.

    The work was never entirely finished, so the rust has been largely cleared off (not entirely – I think some is appropriate to my ideas about it) and some wax has been applied for a glow and to protect against ongoing rusting. I’m really happy that it’s going to have a chance to been shown.

    Play continues on a new piece for this exhibition. The thinking behind includes currents and eddies and flashes of sunlight in a river.

    Some looping techniques in different weights of wire might just possibly suggest droplets of water in the sun. A range of synthetic fabrics in watery colours have been heat treated and I’m planning resin. On the right is a scrap piece of resin with threads embedded, cut out and used as a centre for neolithic twining (? never sure of this – need to check with the basketry people) in wire. Not the colours I want, but some very exciting possibilities being generated.

    Also this week I started a beginners class in silversmithing. Too soon to have anything to show, but it seems exactly what I need to address the problems experienced in the Sturt summer school class (7-Jan-2018).

    There’s even been reading! Plus the first of this year’s lecture series at the Art Gallery.

    Glimpses of potential

    Back at the day job + warm weather = slow progress

    Object 2 of the embargoed project has been a roller-coaster. There are competing practicalities of sturdiness and weight – last night I was thinking of abandoning the attempt, today a balance seems closer. Basic construction is close to complete, but lots of finishing ahead.

    It’s been an opportunity to try out a new tool – a ClampTite. This elegant little steel and brass number helps you bind wire around – well, nice firm tubes are easiest, but pretty much anything as long as you have space to work it. My project wasn’t ideal, but still a big improvement both visually and in effectiveness over my hand bound attempt on the left in the photo.

    Play continues on the potential project. I’ve been thinking about all the materials and techniques I’ve been using in the last couple of years, also how I want to work (Ruth Hadlow’s streams). It might seem like I’ve been going in all sorts of directions, but things circle round, come together, inform each other, find some kind of balance…

    Process and play

    A good week, but not a lot I can show. Still it seems to be an important thing for me to pause and review on a regular basis.

    The unmentionable object first glimpsed 26-Dec-2017 has been completed. The project is still under embargo, so no details (except for the photo above, which is all details). It follows that the second object I’m making for this project must also remain in the shadows.

    Thinking about another potential project has begun, but that isn’t confirmed yet so… nothing to see here 😦

    Instead a little general musing about process and play. How does one approach an exhibition theme? What does a viewer expect – and should I consider that?

    One approach to the theme could include mind-maps and mood boards and sketches and plans. Not appealing (makes me feel claustrophobic) and I think something directly connected, even narrative, isn’t for me. I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learnt from Ruth Hadlow (see 25-Feb-2016 among other posts). So treat the theme as the beginning of a chain of thought and experimentation, and see what I’ve got when time is about up.

    “Creativity” – definitions generally seem to involve creating something (physical or otherwise) new or novel and somehow of value or use. Imagination may be mentioned. But how much is truly novel? Play, curiosity and problem solving seem more relevant. And I love applying ideas or techniques learnt in a different area.

    Quite a bit of reflecting, not much writing. To finish this lopsided and vague post, a pointer to something worth your time if in Sydney – Rembrandt and the Dutch golden age: masterpieces from the Rijksmuseum, at AGNSW until 18 February. I’ve been a few times – not directly inspirational, but for the interest of art history and the simple pleasure of looking.


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