Saturday, June 28, 2014

Busy June...

June has turned out to be a bit of a whirlwind, no slowing down and turning in for Winter here, though I am hoping July may be a little calmer, with a little more daydreaming by the fire!

I don't have a studio, or even a room of my own here, though I do have a small and very messy desk in the corner of the living room, right next to the wood stove (good in this weather) and opposite the TV (not so good, though at least it's only the occasional dvd).  But I've found that I've been doing most of my recent 'visual' stuff curled up on the couch by the window, balancing my sketch/notebooks on my knee.  I've haven't done a lot, but I've started a project, which is part of a larger project, and there is another in the wings too.

This community down here is small enough that you bump into people you know every time you go out.  Yet it is filled to bursting with creativity and vitality in the arts.  In November this year, something called 'Brave New Works' will happen, as it does every year, and one of the projects launched for this year is an art exhibition called 'Everything is a Map'.  A lovely friend (and fellow music student, she plays cello...swoon!) is organising this and as a lifelong mapfan, I couldn't resist, so I'm working on ideas for a Curious Book of Maps (working title only).  So far only scribbles, but I'm hoping a quieter July might yield some serious work for this, I just love, love the idea.  There may also be a Map Song (which started life as this poem), but I'll see how we go!  Another project for BNW is waiting for funding, so I won't say anymore about it yet, but I've put my hand up for that one as well, it will take me back 20 years to my Theatre studies at uni, and so I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

As well as that, I'm just about finished my Music Certificate II course, and our final assessment included 3 gigs at local pubs.  Very new experience for me, and we did our final one last night and I have to say, it's the most fun I've had at a pub for a very long time.  We performed at the local 'open mic' night at our local 'watering hole', and it's such a lovely night, there are so many great and talented performers all squeezed into this little corner of Western Australia.

So, a few pics of bits and bobs that I've been up to!

Some early 'mappiness' from an old visual diary, July 2009.

Not the best photo, I'm afraid, but gives an idea of proportions.

Closer in and you can read some of my weird and wonderful (I hope) ponderings on the notion of maps.

The lovely little book I made in January with Trace Willans.  Now I know what to do with it!

Title page.  Slightly off-centre, but that's part of it's home-made charm...well I hope it is!

Some tangled tracks across the page.

Right from the start these pages reminded me of a slightly mad map.  Very appropriate for me then.

I'm looking very serious because I'm concentrating hard...this IS a test!

As well as that, the school celebrated its Winter Festival, with storytelling, fairy lantern walk through the night time bush, bonfire and pumpkin soup and song.  Oh, it was lovely!  I felt like I was 5 again on the lantern walk, it was magical.  The senior class (biggest munchkin's class) had spent a great deal of time and care setting up fairy houses throughout the bush along the river.  When night fell, the path through the bush became a flickering, candlelit fairy wonderland, as we all, students and parents, snaked our way quietly in contemplation along the riverbank carrying lanterns or candles, looking into each little candlelit fairy house along the way to the sound of students singing and playing on their recorders.  We had storytelling, a Noongar story about fire spirits, then the senior students quietly paraded in carrying torches to light the bonfire with song and fire invocation.  It had been wet and windy all day, but the sky cleared and the stars came out, and the bonfire roared.  Then it was homemade pumpkin soup (a myriad of different recipes from every family) and fresh bread and butter, and apple crumble around the fire.  Wondrous!

A barely discernible littlest munchkin with the lantern she made in class.

Mmmmmm, toasty warm!

Littlest again.  Biggest was off running amok with friends!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The People's Poet is dead....

I'm not ready for the icons of my formative years to die.  RIP Rik Mayall, too, too young.  I, and many others I know, spent happy hours as teenagers in the 80s watching The Young Ones, doubled up in stitches on the couch and unable to breathe because we were laughing so much.  Phrases from the series still pop up in conversations and we laugh because of 30 years of shared memories.  I'm not sure if posting a video like this might be considered disrespectful, but it's how an entire generation will remember him...with great fondness, and with great respect.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Moving to the country for the 'quiet life'....... seems I've ended up busier, at least in some ways!  Still, there are worse ways to be busy than being at Tech studying music (and playing at the local pub as part of our assessment...EEEK!), getting involved in upcoming local arts projects, wandering all over town listening to music over the Denmark Festival of Voice weekend (fantabulous!), getting munchkins ready for school hikes on the Bibbulmun track, school busy bees and busking, making bonfires and roasting marshmallows (or, my favourite, bonfire toffee apples!)...and rather a lot of driving.  The driving is unavoidable, but I'd far rather drive 60kms along tree lined farms to Albany, than sit in traffic jams trying to get the 15kms into Perth in less than 45 minutes.  My drive to tech and back is about 40kms round trip, but the actual drive is so lovely I still feel like I've got a silly grin on my face for most of it.

Consequently, my Bone Woman puppet has not gone a lot further, and I think she's supposed to be finished this month!  Oh dear.  Well, I shall plod on, perhaps she'll be finished for next June!  But suffice to say, Winter is upon us now, and I'm still loving it here and cannot even begin to imagine why I'd ever want to move back up to Perth.  And once Autumn got itself into almost full swing (it's still drier and warmer than it should be), we were able to indulge in the simple pleasure that I was REALLY looking forward to.  A bonfire.  Well, only a small one, a campfire really, but there is something just really special about being able to have a nice roaring fire in your own backyard.  And once fire ban season was over (usually lasts between October and April, though it was extended into May this year because of the unusually late rains) we wasted no time.

Biggest munchkin is justifiably proud of her expert fire building.  Mmmmm, and Honey Liqueur from the Meadery (conveniently just 5 minutes down the road!) for the grown-ups.

She's in her PJs because she was a bit under the weather after a VERY BIG adventure (further news on that in another post), but perked up at the thought of a fire and toffee apples.

A big stick and a campfire...more fun than TV!

The clouds rolled over, but didn't rain on our parade.

The Big Guy gets into the act.  From this angle it looks like he's expecting Flynn to jump through a fiery hoop.  Flynn declares she wouldn't be that silly.

Yep, even grown-ups can have fun.

I think this might be my favourite pic of the evening.

Littlest Munchkin.

Biggest munchkin.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Bone Woman coming alive.

I've done some further work on my Bone Woman for the Puppet Challenge.  A few more layers of gesso, and a lot more sanding and I got to this stage, and decided it was as smooth as she's going to get.  I've cut the holes for the eyes/beads, so tried them out to see if my idea would work.  I'm pleased with it, as it is a simple solution to creating an eye that seems to move and follow, as the shiny beads catch the light.

I sat outside in the sunlight and found that a camping 'Billy' (the slightly upmarket version, with a spout) makes a very useful holding device for a puppet head with a stick in the back of its head...though I had to weigh the billy down with a large tin of dog food!

I quite liked the colour of the first coat, but decided it was darker than I really wanted, so worked back into it with white, then in the end I rubbed paint off as well, and was pleased with the result.  I think it looks like she has rubbed chalk into her face, as a base for the fairly extreme 'make-up', which would, I imagine, be ochre, red clay and soot.

Next, I began to paint in the features, using the small mask as inspiration.  I just painted, adding in (and occasionally taking away again) colour, shading, details, until I reached the point where she seemed to be telling me she was finished, and any more would be just too much.  At this point, she looked like some kind of demon from a zombie movie without her eyes in, but those two little brown beads made so much difference.  

With her eyes in place, she seems not just human, but somehow sad and kindly and wise too.

The next challenge was hair, and how to attach it.  I looked through my collection of wool and yarn, tried out bits of home-made string, feathers, fabric, and then quite by accident, found something that did the job perfectly.  A roll of garden tie purchased from a hardware a couple years back, made from strips of recycled/repurposed grey marl t-shirt fabric.  I'd already tried making 'string' from it, but the result was too thick, so I tore the strips into thinner strips and discovered that the ends frayed and shredded and curled up.  I used a wider strip of it to make a kind of headband/skullcap (with a hole in the back for the stick), and began sewing strips with shredded ends on.  I cut long strips, shredded both ends, then sewed the middle down where her natural part might be.  A few layers later, and some thinner braids/string made from red wool, a few beads, and I love it.  


I suspect she will end up being far too heavy to really work as a puppet (I've still got body, arms, hands, legs, feet and clothing to add, not to mention I'm toying with the idea of a tiny Shaman's frame drum), and all that weight has to be held and manipulated by the puppeteer using only one hand, while the other moves her hand/arm.  But, she's my first attempt, and I'm really enjoying how she is developing.

Apologies for the not-so-great photos, they were taken using my phone.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Puppets, challenges...and Puppet Challenges!

I've been very quiet here, I know.  And the truth is, I don't have a lot to show, but I have been doing lots of creative stuff, and some of it seriously out-of-my-comfort-zone too.  As part of my 'moving to the country' master plan, I wanted to do something serious about music.  So I had a rush of blood to the head at the end of January, and enrolled in a Music Certificate II course at the local TAFE (Technical and Further Education).  I also thought it would be a great way to get myself out into this new world and meet people with similar interests.  I know myself far too well, and it would be very easy to become a semi-hermit here, in the beautiful bush 15kms from town.

So far, I am having a wonderful time, learning something new (and challenging) every week.  This week I sat at a drum kit for the first time in my life and had to co-ordinate left hand, right hand, and right foot to each do something different (but stay rhythmically consistent!).  Drummers make it look so easy!  I'm also facing up to the challenge of playing with other people.  I've sung in a group before, but I've really only ever played my guitar and sang, to myself on the couch.  Now, I have to stay in time with other people, fit in with what the group is doing, and that's hard too.  But it's so rewarding.  When you can actually play a whole song, as a group!

As for other challenges, well, I've signed up for the Puppet Challenge over at Clive Hicks-Jenkins' blog.  The theme is Mythology/Folklore, and any kind of puppet you want to have a crack at.  I hesitated at first because, though I love puppets, I have no puppetry skills, and also I thought it might be a bit too much with the Music commitment.  But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to have a go.  And, I thought it was high time I finished a puppet I started making years ago, in a workshop run by the wonderful Sandy McKendrick, in Fremantle.  This is a video of Sandy's gorgeous performance "Cry of the Seadragon".  I may have posted this before, but it's so lovely here it is anyway.  So you can see how beautiful her puppets are.

So, I haven't got very far, but here are a few pictures of where I'm at.  I want to make a 'Bone Woman' puppet, an old shaman character, possibly with a drum, who sings the life back into the bones she finds.  I don't want to design her though, I want to see how she evolves.  She's one of those elemental beings that seem to have a special significance for me, I'm not sure why.  Perhaps because I feel that events in my life, or one particular event (going back almost 13 years ago now, can it be so long?) made me feel indeed as if I had been stripped back to the bone and needed to be reborn, remade.  I'm not sure how I might use such a puppet, but that's a task for another day, first make the puppet!

Papier Mache head.  Moulded onto an old tennis ball, as a solid head would be far too heavy.

So this is as far as I got in Sandy's workshop.  Head, and rough body made from a bit of 'pool noodle' and rope.  I'm not sure if I'll use this, I'll see how it goes.

Head sanded and gessoed...and sanded and gessoed...and so on.  Still not quite smooth, but patience is a virtue I haven't quite mastered, and I think she's an old woman anyway, so some cracks and wrinkles are ok.

From the side.  The tape is wrapped around a piece of rope that will become the neck.  Hmmm, she looks a bit pouty.

I sketched some rough facial features on, so I could see how she looked, and work out where her eyes should be.  I'm thinking of using some dark brown oval beads for the eyes, set in a little, so they'll catch the light and hopefully look real-ish.  I've also gone back in with a knife and tried to smooth and refine the nose a little.  I now have a band-aid on my thumb thanks to the knife!

'Bone Woman' inspiration.  These are two little plaster masks I painted several years ago.  The pale one on the right is a 'Bone Woman' incarnation, the red one on the left is a kind of 'fox woman' character.  I think the puppet may have facial tattoos/paint similar to this 'Bone Woman', but I'll let her decide later on.

The two mini masks.

And speaking of challenges, today my munchkins' school held their Autumn Festival.  A combined Harvest and Michaelmas celebration, all about facing your fears, meeting challenges head on and overcoming your own personal 'dragons'.  This is our first year at a Steiner school, and so far we are all loving it.  A wonderful harvest display, Autumn songs and stories, and lots of fun activities (and a great lunch!).  Yesterday was very wet, but today dawned sunny and bright, so it was perfect all round.  One of the 'challenge' activities had me holding my breath a little, a rope bridge over the creek.  But my two munchkins went across as if they'd been doing it for years (and then showed off to Daddy when he came to pick us all up, by doing it again, backwards and sideways!)  When you face your fears, and overcome them, you know you can do anything!

Biggest Munchkin goes first.

 Littlest stops for a big grin to camera.

Quite high!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

March in March, Australia 2014

I don't very often get political here.  But I wanted to share this.  And really, it goes beyond political.

Yesterday, I did this...along with over 100 000 other Australians around the country, in cities, and in small towns, in a grass-roots protest with no political affiliations, organised entirely through social media and word of mouth because the mainstream media would not touch it.  Elderly folk and new age hippies, children and mums and dads, doctors and lawyers, firemen and women, from all walks of life, all races and all creeds.  If anyone reading this has been wondering what the heck is going on with Australia in the last seven months, please understand that large numbers of us emphatically DO NOT agree with this government's policies on Refugees, the Environment, and on Climate Change (and too many other issues to list here).  Many who actually voted for this government are beginning to understand just how deeply we have been lied to and manipulated, and marched too.


If you feel inclined to share this video, please do.  And any links to international media coverage would be might not have happened at all for all the notice the mainstream media in Australia took of it, and it would be good to know if it did make any international news, and how it was presented.  Thank you everyone.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Our backyard…and what happens when you deprive your children of TV!

I promised a few pics of the little book I made at Trace Willans’ workshop, so here it is. Not entirely completed, I’m still undecided quite how to finish the cover off, though I do have a couple ideas about what to put inside.

And some pics of the string the kids and I have been making. This has so much potential, and it’s so much fun experimenting with different kinds of material scraps.

Littlest Munchkin's very good first attempt

Probably won't do this stuff again...VERY fiddly!

Some sample pieces, and a small red dog poking her nose in.

This is a small part of our vast ‘backyard’, the great and stunning southern coast of Western Australia. Madfish Bay and the magical Greens Pool to be more specific. We plan to do a lot more exploring, and discover all the special spots to camp, fish, picnic, or just sit on the beach, or under the incredible and majestic Karri trees and listen to the wind.

Greens Pool Panorama

Greens Pool Panorama and Moi

Munchkins in their 'survival shelter'

Madfish Bay

The track between Madfish Bay and Greens Pool

Walking down to Greens Pool

Munchkins swimming

These rocks always make me think of ancient Dolmens and Standing Stones.  
I want to know what their story is.

Slightly chilly water at Greens Pool

Remember I mentioned that we have no TV here? This is what happens to your loungeroom, when the munchkins can’t plant themselves in front of the box. OK, it’s rather messy, but a small price to pay (and I do get them to pick it all up at the end of the day) for the sheer delight of watching their creations come to life, and not hearing a SINGLE “Mum, what do I do, I’m bored!” these whole Summer holidays. Some of these ideas they’ve got from a website they used to like, but they’ve spent almost no time online since we moved, so a lot are all their own creations, with no help from mum or dad apart from occasional wielding of a Stanley knife. This has been going on for about 3 weeks now, and they’re still at it! Paper Mache is next, apparently.

Pop-up Lolly Shop for the freaky dolls.

Including a Menu, and tiny Toffee Apples and packets of Tim Tams and 'Chicken-in-a-Biskit'

Still to be completed Tree House for an Owl family

I love this File Binder

The next phase.

Yesterday, we went to the Denmark Arts Markets again. What a fantastic day, brilliant markets full of handmade creations, wearable, edible, hangable and many other kinds. Great food too, much better than the usual ‘fair day fare’. Seafood Paella, Quesadillas, Wood-fired pizza, Thai curries, and more. Not a boring bun with a red sausage in sight. And fantastic musical entertainment. Sadly, I completely forgot to take camera or phone with me, so no photos…guess I was just having too much fun!

The small beginnings of a garden.  We can't do much here, we're only renting for a while, but it's something.  And it will expand...I'll see how many pots I can fit on the decking!

Right, time for bed!

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