30 June 2011

Book du jour

It's been a while since I made any books. This is by way of a warm-up exercise - another "what happens if" and "here's something I can use somehow" combination.

The concept is to make a circular book - by sewing the pages together in an endless strip. The photos happened to be on hand, reject prints on photo paper, so they're nice and solid. They alternate front and back.
What to put on the empty backs? The "found text" is from the little book you get at the Tate's Miro exhibition. On the outside of the circle, the three-letter words from one page of text. On the inside, four-letter words. The whole thing just flops about.
None of it makes any sense whatsoever, but this is an exercise in "thinking with your hands". To prove this wasn't just a waste of time (though it feels like it!), some lessons for "next time":

-leave thread between pages sewn together in this way so that the sequence can fold up easily

-decide how it will fold up before starting sewing - this influences the order of elements

-think about the concept of the whole book rather than just adding random elements

-assess found elements more carefully as to suitability for a particular project

What the book can be

Some thoughts and notes after looking at some of the work of Clifton Meador; see a video here.

But first, a sample of his work - this is Avalanche - I like how he uses photographs of a book within the book -
Now my musings....

the space of the book has literal, referential, conceptual, physical, temporal, and virtual dimensions - these are interweaving registers that have complex interactions

the "author" of the work has control over its final form - through artistic choices about form as well as content

as you move through its physical space, you can be taken through the interior space of the author and, in covert dialogue, around your own interior space

the artist's book is not a vehicle for imparting information; like all successful art, the artist's book is a place of wonder (or mystery) and wisdom and each individual reader must unlock its potential

29 June 2011

What the light was like*

On a midsummer morning the rising sun clears the housetops and briefly shines into the back windows through the leaves of the huge (but diseased) chestnut tree in the garden.

The wind moves the leaves, and walls and doorways in the quiet house become the playground for a secret life.

Then the sun loses its angle of entry, the patches of sunlight disappear, and the rooms close in on themselves again.

I used the camera to search out the light and its reflections on shiny surfaces and in mirrors.
*The title of a collection of poetry by Amy Clampitt.

27 June 2011

Laundry lines, and others

Lines written in shadow. Image from here (with Anita's permission).

Perhaps lines of washing are no longer as common as they were - New York around 1900, for instance (no tumble dryers then) -
The overhead electricity lines that are common in North American aren't found in the UK, unless they're lines between pylons. "Domestic" electricity lines run underground.
Image from here, where you can read about a pylon design contest.

26 June 2011

Concrete poetry?

It almost doesn't need a translation - a visual poem (by (Lady) Su Hui, one of more than 5000 poems she is said to have written). This one, a palindrome, was woven (or stitched on silk) in five colours, if the story is to be believed.

But there is a translation (see it as a hi-res jpeg here).

Contemporary Chinese poetry

Poster advertising an evening of Chinese poetry readings - at UCLA in 2007.

Poem as path

"An epic poem in the form of a lyrical map" - Fossil Sky by David Hinton.
It "distills a year of walks taken near the poet's home, tracing the paths a mind takes through landscape, history and ideation" and covers a 54" square sheet of paper.

25 June 2011


Work by Debra M Smith ... an excellent way of displaying textiles (very suitable for square "journal quilts"...) -- suddenly "quilts" are transformed into "art".

Here are some of Debra's larger works, also framed beautifully -
She has been working with textiles for over 20 years and says: "I am not a poet or someone who draws, but I feel that my use of vintage textiles as a medium brings a history, a weight, a poetry to the work before I even begin to cut, sew, and piece the work back together. Allowing the work to intuitively flow thru me I do feel the end result is similar to a drawing or poetry. "

Graffiti quilts

On reading this post on the Subversive Stitchers blog, I remembered my favourite quilt in the 2010 London Quilters exhibition - it's by Veronica Chambers and is kantha stitched -
I also liked this free-motion quilted "graffiti", part of Leah Day's 365-day free motion quilting project -
At the other end of the spectrum there's "Subway Graffiti No.3" by Faith Ringold -

Sky birds and friends

The exhibition is over, but for the record, here's "The Flocks of Sky Birds" in Slough Museum. Jane and Sandy did a great job of organising and hanging the show, and are looking for further venues.

Japanese linen

"The beautiful Yuzen-dyed Shirayuki towels comes from Nara, an ancient capital city of Japan near Kyoto, are made of a fabric that was once woven into mosquito nets called "kaya". These cloths are very soft, durable and absorbent and are perfect for using as dish cloths and wash/hand towels. Over time, the cloths become really soft and supple, and eventually they make great rags. The starch needs to be washed off before the first use. "

""Furoshiki" is a Japanese wrapping cloth that has traditionally been used for transporting gifts, clothes, grocery shopping, etc. Today, furoshiki is becoming very popular in Japan as "eco-friendly" material. Traditionally, "furoshiki" cloth is only to carry gifts and is not to give with a gift that is wrapped inside but to keep it and re-use endlessly. "

""Hana Hukin" is a beautiful cotton cloth made of pure cotton fabric formerly used as mosquito netting which is a specialty of Nara Prefecture, Japan. Mosquito netting fabric (kaya) has high absorbency and durability and is perfect in dishcloths. The cloths are large yet thin, easily folded for use and then spread out to dry. Over time, the cloths become soft and supple, and eventually, they make good rags. "

It's true - some fabrics do not "make good rags", and you end up buying paper towels.

(For more, much more, on "fancy" and traditional Japanese fabrics, and techniques, visit John Marshall's blog, johnmarshall.to/blog)

24 June 2011

Seal gut parkas

For protection against the wet - waterproof seal gut parkas made by the Inuit. Sometimes grass was sewn into the seams - it swelled when it got wet and made the seams waterproof. This one is in the Glenbow Museum, Calgary -
and these (photographed in 1910) both seem to be decorated with feathers -
This is what they start with (read about the process here)

The Deluge

The year is 2343BC - fortunately, mapmakers were on hand to record the progress of the deluge (Image from the New York Public Library collection.)

22 June 2011

Different readings

How do you combine texts in languages that are read differently - back to front, as it were? Here's what Veronika Schapers did in combining Japanese and German text in here "A Safe Method to Pass University Entrance Examinations in the Subject of Japanese" -
The German text starts at the front, the Japanese text at the back - and where they meet in the middle is the imprint. After coming across her work some time ago, I'm glad to be reminded of it and learn more (here with a link to a video - in which she says the stamping of the pages took three months - "hard, boring but also sometimes like contemplation/concentration work"). The thin pages allow some show-through, and the book has a japanese binding stitched with a paper thread. The case is in the form of omamori - magic charms that you can buy at shrines where you pray for success in exams, and take the charms to the examination.

Other language combinations are equally tricky - Hebrew with English, for example - here is jewellery artist Esther Knobel's "The Mind in the Hand" - showing her work with iron thread -
On the back of the book is the "back side" of the embroidery - behind which, the Hebrew text starts.


In Japan you can find, at train stations and temples, stamps and ink pads to stamp into your book as a memento of your journey or visit. It is suggested to take your own (red) stamp pad as often the pads are dried out.

See more here (where this image is from) and yet more here. This blog (in Japanese) is completely devoted to eki stamps.

21 June 2011

Dubuffet-Benoit collaboration

Dubuffet isn't exactly my favourite artist, and I hadn't heard of Benoit, but this "wild, enthusiastic, and self-consciously naive" book, Oreilles gardees, pleases my eye. The image is plundered from the Princeton Graphic Arts blog, where you can read more about the collaboration and the book. It says of the poet and publisher Pierre-Andre Benoit:
"Artists either came to him or mailed their art to him (often simple sheets of celluloid scratched with a needle), to which he would add his own poetry and print limited editions for their friends."
Printing from scratched celluloid ... hmm ...

Email pleasure

This is what an empty in-box looks like. Those hackers did me a big favour by emptying it out -- and I'm doing myself a big favour by keeping it that way.

The Empty Inbox really helps with reducing my computer time, strangely enough, even though I try to respond immediately. Maybe the prospect of The Empty Inbox keeps the replies shorter?

With gmail, the deleted messages are kept for 30 days, and there's an archive for important stuff (appropriately labelled, for easy deletion when it's no longer important). So it's not like everything is immediately gone forever. It's just out of sight for a while.

This is my "shiny sink" of the computer. Seeing the inbox empty, I want to have less clutter elsewhere on the machine.

Hitting that "delete" button is a great pleasure!

18 June 2011

This week at college - textile printing

It's reading week - no "classes". We didn't have classes last week either, but did have a session with the external examiner - a half hour, attendance optional, to give him feedback about how we are finding the course, the tutors, the college. He writes and submits a report, hopefully to get action on the points raised.

Apart from that, last week and this, I have been spending as much time as possible doing screenprinting, in the final weeks that this facility is available.

Several projects are on the go - the fabric for "travel bags" -

"pathways" printed on cartridge paper, to be used for tiles - this is "just an idea" under development -
"newsprint sheets" to be waxed and/or further printed with stamps etc -
random, spontaneous stuff on cartridge -
envelopes - both printing the envelope and using the shapes as negative space
and lately, scrolls - with "windows" that are actually samples of fabric laid down and printed
Keeping track of which project(s) I'm working on at the same time is confusing. I go home with rolls of this and stacks of that. It's all mounting up and there will come a time when I spend regular hours in the studio again, turning it into "books" of some sort.

The fulltimers are constantly having "catalogue meetings" to prepare for their degree show ... September will soon be here -
These are the last weeks of using the basement studio, with its crumbling floor and gurgling sink - neither of which you can see in the photo. In the Great Reorganisation, we'll leave this 1880s school behind and move into other rooms in the 1970s building at the end of the month.

"Travel" bags

Bags made (see them individually here; they are available for purchase) -
and in progress -
These capacious bags are lined, with pockets in the lining, and the handles "coordinate" with the map colour of the tube lines written on the bag. At the moment Piccadilly, Victoria, Central, and Jubilee lines are either available or in the pipeline -

Organising the piles of paper

Hot on the heels of vague thoughts about dealing with all - or some, at least! - of those piles of paper around the house, today's organising email newsletter has the "12-step program" for this very thing.

Just in case anyone out there is similarly afflicted, and is moved to do something, sometime about those heaps, here is that list in summary. I've used the headings but adapted it for my own purposes:

1. Categorize your old paperwork.
Get rid of everything over a year old that ISN'T tax files, memorabilia, and important documents. Sort the rest into To Do, To Read, or To File piles. [Reward yourself with an appropriate beverage at this point.]

2. Purge what you don't need from your files.
Most items in your file cabinet can be shredded after one year. Keep important invoices, ie for major purchases; generally tax documents should be kept for seven years.

3. Reassess your current file headings.
Your file folders should be no more than 2" thick. [I use an alphabetical system, with a list of folder names at the front of the drawer that shows where important documents, eg birth certificate, are kept.]

4. File, don't pile.
If you can't file items immediately, do it once a week - set aside regular "domestic administration" time.

5. Establish a place just for paperwork.
--somewhere, either in view or put away, to keep all paperwork until you deal with it during your weekly "domestic admin" time.

6. Keep a step file organizer on your desk.
A small filing system so that current stuff is easy to find.

7. Create a bill-paying center.
Even better, set up everything as direct debit!

8. Deal with papers as you receive them.
Daily sorting - much can probably go into the bin right away; the rest are: to do, to file, to read, and to delegate.

9. Toss unnecessary mail immediately.
And put it in the recycling.

10. Cut down on junk mail.
The fewer mailing lists you're on, the better. De-register.

11. Go paperless.
So much (statements etc) can be accessed online, when needed.

12. Use a master list.
Everything in one place!

As with any new system with a backlog that needs sorting, "start where you are" - 4, 5, 8, 9, and 12, on a daily basis, will at least keep the piles from growing.

What I discovered while tackling this little hot-spot:

-if you take "some" papers to another room (because they have A Place there), you must return to base immediately, without touching anything else in that room

-keep thinking "Do I really need this?" - the default answer is "No!"

-you really do need a proper place for the "I'll deal with this during Domestic Admin time" pile

-getting out the duster for the final bit of polishing can easily lead to other places getting dusted, and other items put in their proper places -- which can't be bad!