Monday, February 27, 2006

Glenn Colquhoun

This is Glenn Colquhoun, the highlight of my Hamilton Arts Festival experience. I've been enjoying his work in print for some years so was looking forward to seeing him read live at 'Rugs and Rhymes' on Friday night. My expectations were surpased. Not only does his poetry read aloud very well, but he is a natural performer and comedian who had the whole audience eating out of his hand from the first minute to the last poem of the encore.

I've been trying to find a link to some of his poetry on line for you to read: at first this was the only thing I could find. Then I found this which is a bit weird. And this which I hadn't seen before. Here's a nice bit of his prose which is resonant with the first collection he had published, The Art of Walking Upright. But best of all, best of all, is this treasure trove, none of which I had read before, so they don't include any that had been categorised as My Favourites, but my goodness me there are some very lovely poems if you follow this link. I particularly recommend this link to English teachers, and anyone who cares deeply for a poet. You know who you are.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Cafe work

The most enjoyable days working at the cafe are when there aren't too many customers- just enough to keep us from being bored- and I get to bake cakes. Grey, wet days are usually the quietest, since most of our tables are outside and in general customers don't like sitting in the rain to eat their cakes. Yesterday was like that: Carrot Cakes, Ginger Cakes and Coconut Cakes, all good. Those are the days when I am happy to go from cake to cake without taking a break because this is Fun.

The least enjoyable days are hot and busy and understaffed. When every second customer wants a full cooked breakfast and some variation on the menu options (you want a vegetarian breakfast with bacon? hello! pig was not a vegetable last time I looked). When there is no time to clear tables, wash dishes, go to the toilet, wipe the sweat from your brow. When we can't plug the fan in because all the electrical outlets are running toasters. When snooty customers send back the food because they forgot to mention they don't like capsicum. When all the staff get cranky and start snapping and sulking with eachother. Those are the days that leave my feet throbbing for the rest of the week.

I have to leave for work now, another wet grey day, yay!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Kapiti Book Arts group launched

Imagine my surprise when my eager response to a vague and mass email query to call together Kapiti book artists resulted in a date being set within 24 hours! I'm not used to being around people who are active, efficient organisers. These Kapiti book folks are dynamos!

Turned out that I was the only attendee who wasn't Prue Townsend (book arts and paper making tutor at Whitireia Polytechnic) or one of her ex-students, which might explain the efficiency. Their warm welcome was a genuine effort to not be a clique, and even though I was the only stranger there, I didn't feel like a newbie at all. Hopefully future meetings will grow to include other unaffiliated book artists on the coast (Ngaere wanted to come but had a prior committment selling half-finished craft projects(she buys them from op shops) at the Twilight BitchCarnival in Aro Valley).

We started with an extensive and rambling show and tell, punctuated with Teresa's homemade afghan biscuits and cups of tea and packed lunches. It was a good way to get to know eachother and get a feel for where the group can go. We set meeting dates and themes for the next six months (more or less 3rd Sunday from 10-2, mostly at Lindale Campus) and agreed that we would take turns sharing skills and structures with the others. In March we will all make flexible leather journals, and April we will make Edible Books to celebrate the International Edible Book Festival.

I have been so excited about the International Edible Book Festival since I heard about it a couple of weeks ago. I love making food, I love making books, and I can't think of anything more fun than making books to eat. I already have two ideas for conceptually interesting edible books but I'm just not sure they will be yummy enough. That is my personal challenge: to create a delicious book where the flavours become another layer of meaning.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Right Bank Arts Festival

I'm almost ready for the Hamilton Right Bank Arts Festival next weekend. Loyal readers may be wondering why on earth I am going to yet another market, when all my market experiences to date have been breakeven at best. I wonder that too, and have been to-ing and fro-ing with my committment for months.

Reasons to do it include
1. As a 'working artist' I don't have to pay a stall fee, I just have to make books all day in full view of the punters. I like making books. I have prepped four Treasure Hunts and two Time Traveller's Journals that can be finished without resorting to much adhesive or presses or other awkward steps, so I don't anticipate any difficulties.
2. I like to visit Hamilton. I get to stay with Jo and Cam and Ruby the Dog and Audrey and Socks the cats, who are all lots of fun. I get to hang out with my Best Friend Sarah. I'll visit with mum and dad, and see with my own eyes the dramatic results of the Disgusting Soup Diet as reported in weekly phone calls from ever shrinking parental units. I love the Waikato River and the parks that line it and look forward to familiar walks in beautiful surroundings.
3. Al is coming too and we are going to take the maximum time possible (5 days between cafe shifts) and make a little holiday of this trip. We are going to stop in Tauranga on the way up (to collect the new Trade Me ride-on mower) and I will meet Elizabeth and hang out with Ruby Grace. We're going to make special visits to Raglan (and maybe Pirongia) to collect some 'treasures' for the Treasure Hunt books I'll be sewing up at the Festival (the covers with local maps are already done).
4. There are lots of lovely arts festival events happening for free while we are there and I look forward to picnics in the park enjoying poetry, music and dance.

Reasons not to go all involve pessimism about not making much/enough/any money and consequential depression and continuing poverty.

So of course I'm going to go. If you are in Hamilton next Saturday 25 February, please do come along to the Piazza in the Hamilton Gardens and visit my table. If you identify yourself as a blog reader, you will receive a special 10% discount on any purchase!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Time Traveller's Journal

I have mentioned before that The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger is my favourite book. I have just read it for the second time and found it as compelling and satisfying, although I was able to perceive some imperfections that I didn't notice in my intense emotional response to it a year ago.

Anyway, I finished it again late on Tuesday night, and on Wednesday morning I went into my studio and started making a new book. It was not on my list of Things To Do, it did not have any gestation as notes or sketches, I hadn't dreamed it or thought about it at all. I just started making it, with a vague idea of sewing some little booklets into a maze of accordian folds. I found a huge sheet of waterford watercolour paper (creamy, thick, luxurious) among the goodies I was given recently.

The book grew quickly and by the afternoon it was almost finished (I still have end papers to stick down) and only then I realised that I had made a journal for Henry, the time traveller in Niffenegger's book. It is emphatically non-linear and would be ideal for a time traveller whose experiences are not consecutive. It would also be useful for recording dreams, catching poems, starting to write another Tristram Shandy etc.

Until surfing for links to add to this post, I didn't realise that Audrey Niffenegger is herself a book artist and teaches at Columbia College Center for Book and Paper Arts. I wasn't surprised though, as the two main characters are a bibliophile and rare book librarian (Henry- possibly the best and most sexy male librarian character ever) and a paper making sculptor (Clare).

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Introducing Ziggy!

While not a particularly flattering photo, this does represent a typical encounter with Ziggy, one of the two dogs who live part-time at Te Horo. Despite her advanced years (note the elegantly greying muzzle) she never misses an opportunity to come and say hello with great enthusiasm. She sings, she licks, she wags, she runs in circles like a crazy thing. She also chases and catches rabbits and likes to have bits of rabbit strewn across the lawn to gnaw on later.

I am not a 'dog person', but Ziggy has won me over with her relentless affection for me. It helps that she is an outside dog, although if the back door is open but no humans are about she'll come tiptapping up the hall to find the lazy slugabeds and try and persuade us to come out and play. She doesn't seem to realise that when she has rabbit-breath the invitation is much less appealing.

Friday, February 10, 2006

A tisket, a tacket, a basket of eggs

I'm flitting between book projects a bit madly at the moment. It's useful to have several on the go as whenever I get stuck on one, I just switch over to something else for a different kind of challenge. Today's energy is being divided between a project involving my blue handmade paper and blown blue eggs and a tacket bound book.

According to Shereen LaPlantz, tacket binding is a very ancient binding technique. The oldest intact bound books found in the world were tacketed books from 3rd and 4th centuries Egypt. I've been wanting a good way to bind codex style books and so far this is my favourite of the bindings I have tried being pretty easy, pretty looking and having an illustrious history that complements the content of the books I working on.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Paper making

My new skill for this week is learning to make paper. Here is a photo of the results of my first effort. I am teaching myself from a how-to book, and an old paper making kit that someone gave my daughter when she was little. Naturally my goal is to produce suffient quantities and quality of incredibly amazing paper to make my own books, but I expect it will take me quite some practice. Meanwhile, I've got some not too lumpy, not too thick, rather pretty, blue note paper to show for my first efforts. (And so proud am I of this effort that I actually wrote two letters on it to send snail mail when I really could have just sent emails as usual!)

To make my note paper, I soaked all the non-glossy scrap paper I could find, but I wasn't sufficiently robust in excluding the presence of ink to avoid creating pulp the colour of dust bunnies. Fortunately my instruction book was correct when it suggested that the easiest way to make coloured paper is with coloured napkins. I put a couple of dark blue ones in the food processor and voila! Paper the colour of faded indigo with flecks of white and red.

How-to make paper guides consistently describe the desired consistency of the pulp as 'thin porridge'. Porridge is such an individual thing and it seems my porridge preferences are thicker than most paper makers, as my idea of 'thin porridge' was stodgey enough to make cardboard. However, once I thinned it to what I consider the consistency of cloudy broth, then my sheets started coming out like paper.

It was immensely satisfying to progress from the lumpy misshapen cardboard of my first few sheets to the relatively thin, smooth, square papers of an hour later. I look forward to many happy hours of messy water play (this is definitely an outside activity) as I continue to refine my technique and understanding of the process.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Treasure VI

Inside Treasure Hunt VI: on the left a selection of drift-twigs from Otaki Beach, on the right tiny pumice pebbles and sea glass from Paekakariki Beach and a creamy ridged shell from Pekapeka.

Note the shiny shiny vinyl, it is quite luscious: a bit sticky so that you have to work a little to open the pages which come apart with a noise that reminds me of unpeeling sweaty, sandy, bare legs from a hot vinyl car seat on childhood summer holidays...

New Treasures!

Remember the Treasure Hunt series I started last Spring? Well, there's more! I've added four new books, each a unique collection of 'treasures' sewn into a little book with map covers which more or less show where the contents were found. There are two from my South Island trip (Dunedin and Kaikoura maps) and two from the Kapiti Coast (Paekakariki and Kapiti Island on the front covers).

The treasures are pretty shells, interesting drift-twigs, tiny round pebbles or pumice, sea glass and such like. The kind of treasures that you find in your jacket pocket weeks or months after the beach holiday and they bring back memories of aimless saunters. The kind of treasures that children insist on bringing home and accumulating in shoeboxes.

These kinds of treasures often look most irresistable when wet, a quality I have tried to capture by sewing them into shiny clear vinyl pouches. These books are small enough to fit in your palm... or to send to someone surviving a Northern Hemisphere winter who needs a taste of New Zealand summer right now.

They are only $30 (inc p&p in NZ). Email me if you want one.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Recovery and Moses

The agony is over. I put my back out at work on Sunday, lifting heavy racks of dishes in and out of the sterilizer. Three days of aches and pains followed but finally this afternoon I seem to have come right. Was it the lavender oil baths, the lovely backrubs with various ointments (thanks Al!), the careful stretches and excercises twice a day, my careful posture whether sitting, standing or lying with pillows under my knees, continuing to work but asking my workmates to do most of my bending and lifting tasks for me (thanks Allie and Tina!), or just the passage of time? Who knows, but I am hugely relieved to be pain-free and somewhat flexible again. I have too much I want to do and can't be bothered slowing down right now.

On my way home from the cafe tonight I impulsived picked up a hitchiker, even though I was only travelling 7 kms. His name was Moses (which, to me, made it worthwhile just to have shaken his hand) and he was travelling home to Wanganui from a long weekend celebrating Fiji's Sevens Rugby win. I don't usually have anything to contribute to conversations about rugby, but I happened to have watched the finals of the Sevens so I could be knowledgably excited about Fiji's thrillingly close victory over South Africa. Moses told me about his experience of those final minutes of the match at least three times in the five minutes we spent together. It is a privilege to share someone's joy like that.

Sunday, February 05, 2006


A birdseye view of the vege garden on 4 February 2006. The Chinese Mini Corn on the left is anything but mini, towering over the whole scene. In the middle, at the back, are huge tripods of beans surrounded by insanely fecund zuccini. Compare to the photo taken 18 December 2005 and one from late November.

Contrary to the impression this blog might be giving lately, I am actually engaged in many book related activities, I'm just not quite ready to post on them yet. But watch this space, coming soon will be photos of new Treasure Hunt books (3 finished, 3 on the go), an exciting new addition to my studio and much, much more...

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Today's harvest

What we are eating off of our land today
(this post is dedicated to the blog called Listmakers)
  • scarlet runner beans
  • peas
  • snow peas
  • zuccini
  • garlic
  • cauliflower
  • brocolli
  • tomatoes
  • long green capsicums
  • potatoes
  • raspberries
  • basil
  • coriander
  • rocket
  • strawberry spinach
  • various lettuces
  • parsley
  • chives
  • thyme
  • and eggs from the chickens
(most of these foods will be consumed in either a salad or a sunoven cottage pie made with uncheeze sauce and leftover walnut rissoles)

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Happy Hens

Here are four of the five chickens that roam freely around Te Horo. The missing chick is Blacky who is broody at the moment and is most unwilling to leave the coop where she is lovingly nesting four plastic eggs. The chicks in the picture are imaginatively called (from the top) Bluey (who lays blue eggs), Browny (who lays brown eggs) and Speckledy and Speckledy (who, you guessed it, lay speckled eggs). Here you can see them engaged in one of their most favourite activities: Messing Up The Tidy Garden. On this particular day Al and Jessica had mulched the long, heavily laden row of passionfruit with fresh pea straw. By the time they persuaded me to come out and admire their work, the chooks had done their very best to scatter the straw across the grass as you can see.

Usually we find the chickens have broken through the fence around the vegetable garden and are clawing up the seedlings, munching at the silverbeet and generally causing mayhem. They are also quite thrilled whenever I plant flowers by the winery steps. It's a bit pointless really for me to keep trying since they remember, even better than I do, that only a few months ago that bed was, for a couple of glorious weeks, a compost pit to which thrilling treats were added daily. Their nostalgia for those heady days of rotting food to scratch through are rewarded all too well by masses of worms today.