Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Getting my hands dirty

A row of freshly brushed lower case 10pt c's

I bought myself some lead type the other day. There's two fonts, a 10pt condensed sans serif that I haven't identied further yet, and an 18 point Gill, which, if I could only own one typeface would be it. Bonus! They come in a funny old cabinet with only four of the original 10 drawers, so lots of empty spaces (which I have plans for).

But first job is cleaning and sorting my new type. It looks like they are complete, nearly unused founts, but instead of being correctly sorted into their upper and lower case drawers*, they all are crammed into the upper case compartments. It's a long slow process removing each complete set of letters from its tiny space, checking and cleaning them and then putting away into their traditional place. Fortunately there's not much pied (mixed up) type, or it would be an even slower process.

The before photo

I'm guessing that my new fonts haven't been touched much, if at all, for the better part of 50 years. Transfering the accumulated filth onto my fingers isn't so bad as some type drawers I've cleaned where there was as much mouse poop, insect carcasses/nests and unidentified sticky stuff as dust and wood shavings. At the rate I'm going it's going to take about 12 hours to complete this project. And then I can start thinking about finding a printing press to use it on!

The after photo: clean 10pt lower case a's

*Printing geeks: mine are not California cases

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Take Two Eggs

I am busy doing lots of stitchery and even secretly working on binding an edition on my own. But the most fun, interesting and photogenic thing I want to share about is still my collaborative altered book project with Bethwyn. We had a grand session yesterday working on our Man and Woman Books. I think the photos speak for themselves.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Man Book and Woman Book

After a winter lull, Bethwyn and I are back in the swing of our collaborative altered book project, Frugal with the Breugal. We are being very good about completing unfinished books (of which we have many) before starting anything new.

The book I'm focusing on right now is our "A Man Owner's Manual" aka the Man Book. The base is a 1950's British car owner's manual altered with a 1960's men's hairdressing textbook and 1950s knitting patterns. Bethwyn is focusing on our companion Woman Book which is based on a gardening book and incorporates something from almost everything in our ever growing stock pile of sources. Our self imposed rule for these books is no colour but lots of sillyness. We seen no reason that anything we do should make sense.

PS Click on each photo to see the details.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

A spring sketch crawl

Storm battered poppies in ink

It's been ages since I've been to a sketch crawl. The WSA has taken over the organisation so competently that they've been trundling on throughout the winter quite nicely thank you very much; while I've been staying home and keeping warm. But last Saturday was such a perfect warm Spring day and I couldn't resist an excuse to be outside in pretty Parana Park. The Waikato River is still very high, up and over the banks and flooding the footpath in places.

Every time we moved to a new sketching spot I chose a different type of pen or pencil. I had carelessly brought along the journal that is almost finished so I ran out of pages after an hour or so and then had a snooze in the sun.

My best sketches were of flowers, but I also drew boats, butterflies, people, lichen and an aeroplane on a plinth.

Red hot pokers rendered in a novelty multicoloured pencil souvenir from the Cairns Regional Gallery.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Sewing Bee with Anna

Boring, but extremely useful op shop blouse ruined with bike chain grease on the cuff, restored by cutting off the cuffs, hemming the sleeves, and adding the cuff buttons to the placket: more buttons= less boring

At this stage in my life I don't have much interest in clothes, although they were something of an obsession during my teens. A life-long tendency to yo-yo between size 12 and size 16, a lack of money and other preoccupations have steered me into considering "clean, comfortable and weather-appropriate" to be my most relevant sartorial considerations. Thus I have ended up with a second hand wardrobe that conceals, more than reveals, my sense of who I really am.

In the past couple of years the only items of clothing I have sought out and bought new for pleasure rather than necessity are rainbow stripey socks. These are the clothes I own (and wear frequently) with which I can most associate a sense of expressing the self I aspire to. To me, these are the socks of a free-spirited, playful, hippy-chick with an exuberant creative optimism and I bought my first pair while living in the rainforest. These days my socks are usually hidden under jeans, giving me a similar frisson of secret self to that suggested by magazine ads promoting sexy underwear concealed beneath a power suit.

However, recent exposure to a couple of women around my age who dress beautifully with little reference to 'fashion' or excessive spending; and reading Linda Grant's The Thoughtful Dresser, have me considering my wardrobe more critically as a potential expression of my identity. (You may notice that I cannot name a single sartorial blog which has had any influence on my shifting attitude to clothing. Please feel free to suggest inspiring links).

Anna is the friend with the most influence on my shifting attitude. I've never seen her in anything other than beautiful rich colours, flattering cuts and luscious textures. Her style is completely her own and seems to perfectly express her passions for children (she is a kindergarten teacher) and sustainability; and a sensual yet practical generosity manifested in gardening, cooking, crafting, nurturing and fun. It's not that I want to dress like Anna (though we like the same colours), it's that she's made me reconsider the desirability of dressing more like Meliors.

Every few months Anna and I have a sewing bee at her place. She has a sewing machine and an overlocker and I am gradually overcoming my fear and loathing of such equipment. These sewing bees are almost the only time I do anything creative relating to clothing. I don't mean by this that I make clothes from scratch, though I did once make an apron out of a table cloth. Rather, I mend, alter and, lately enhance, clothing acquired from frock swaps, op shops and hand-me-downs.

Hand me down merino pullover with uncomfortably tight crewneck cut down the front to make a cardigan and trimmed with leopard

Anna and I have completely different approaches to the sewing bee experience. It's her house, and her school holidays, so for her our bee is part of a continuum of several days of sewing. She pulls out her entire and extensive stash of fabrics and clothes-to-be-worked-on and can happily spend hours considering creative possibilities for that stretched t-shirt or this embroidered tulle. Her sewing day is punctuated with numerous long phone calls with friends and family, the provision of endless cups of hot juice, tea, snacks and meals and frequent patient rethreading of the sewing machines.

Meanwhile, by the time I've got to Anna's, I've gone through my own small stash and chosen a pile of potential projects to bring with me. I launch into the first inevitable hemming task as soon as I arrive and work without stopping until lack of chocolate has me weak and shaky. Then once refueled with my drug of choice, I continue until I've finished or the light is gone. As I'm not naturally inclined to moderation or balance I benefit enormously from Anna's generous and distracted hostessing.

Yesterday's sewing bee was distinguished by some experimenting on my part, to expand my pragmatic wardrobe with some clothes that I might choose for pleasure in their look and feel, rather than for being tidy. This experimentation is exemplified in my use of the bundle of leopard print plush scraps I pounced on at our last frock swap. My enthusiasm for this fabric stems from fond memories of a vintage leopard print swing coat and matching pillbox hat I wore through several teenage winters in 1980s Dunedin. No matter how tacky leopard print may be considered in the mainstream, it has a special place in my heart, and now once again, in my wardrobe.

Plain red skirt from frock swap taken up and decorated with applique cat in leopard print