Thursday, July 30, 2009

A winter's week in Cape Trib

Emmegen Creek- scenes like this make my heart sing

My 2009 week in Cape Trib packed in most of the elements that I remember from my seven months there in 2008. This time was short and impossibly sweet, yet somehow also made me appreciate the Hamilton home I have returned to, cold as it is. It was lovely to catch up with so many friends but I prioritised spending time in nature over socialising, so I apologise to those I didn't get to see.

Morning on Noah Beach

There were hours of incandescent beauty flooding my senses. I had solitary mornings on silky beaches where I swam naked in the sun-sparkled surf, practiced qigong with butterflies, birds and bronze dragonflies swooping around me and meditated with my breath matching the lapping of tiny waves.

Littoralis rainforest meets mangrove at the creek

Rain or shine makes little difference under the canopy, so I spent more time in the forest on the rainy days, and more time on the beaches when the sun was shining. I revisited four diverse rainforest ecologies, drinking in bird calls as though rehydrating my thirsty ears. My hard drive is now loaded with ridiculous numbers of photographs of moss, vines and fungi to inform future embroidery designs.

One of my objectives for this trip was to get footage for making a video poem of Translating the calls of the night chicken. Luckily my beloved scrub fowl were unusually accomodating models and I captured lots of film of them feeding, mound building, and chatting to each other.

Pair of orange footed scrub fowl

There were lots of other animals, most of which I didn't get to photograph, including a father cassoary and two very young chicks whose patch I stumbled into unwarily, so that I finally got to hear the cassowary's grunt of warning/aggression. Also a stray horse called Whinny (Winnie is the name of my needle felt toy horse). There were the usual big spiders, tiny crabs, jungle perch in the creeks, all sorts of brightly coloured fish in the coral and a big ol' lace monitor at Rob's.

Lace monitor (goanna) at Rainforest Hideaway

And, in human care, a kangaroo at Lync Haven, and this adorable 2 week old joey at Schomazzon's.

The mother of this joey died, so it's being raised at an orchard just north of Mossman.

I heard far more frogs than I ever saw. Whenever it rained, the frogs would start their great chorus of love songs, a thrilling sound. Before heading into the Daintree forest I stayed in Mareeba where there were two frogs sharing my shower. Like most of Australia, the climate there is so much drier than the rainforest that the frogs tend to hang out in people's bathrooms.

Froggy showermate in Mareeba

There's more to show and tell, but its getting late, and I'll save the rest for another post. Sweet rainforest dreams...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Work in progress

Ophioderma in progress
I'm carrying along the rhythm of alternating stitching fossil pages with stitching small pins. My third fossil page is a pair of brittle stars from the early Jurassic. After about 10 days of squeezing stitching in around other jobs I'm about a third done, but I expect my 12 hour journey from Hamilton to Cairns tomorrow will see some substantial progress (although I also have a Donna Leon paperback to read). I searched out a airport-security-friendly thread cutter especially for this trip, which will pass so much more pleasantly as I stitch my stars.


I'm going to be back in Cape Tribulation for the next week, gathering images, sounds and inspiration for video poems, stitched pieces and artists books (and who knows what else). I am sure I'll be able to get online when I want to, but I'm not so sure that I will want to very much! So, if there's a bit of a quiet spell on the blog, you can click through the 2008 archives of my six months in Cape Trib to imagine where I am, who I'm hanging out with, what I'm eating, who I'm sleeping with and what I might be doing.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Information Art

How excited am I to have one of my Mars Gardens included in this uber-cool, geek-chic Etsy Treasury? So excited! I love the other artist's work, especially Elinart whose moulds have been an inspiration. As usual, Treasuries are temporary, so make sure you click through for a closer look before Sunday.

I'm also excited to announce the July Giveaway winner of the coral brooch. I'm delighted that Bronwyn's name was plucked from the beret, as I am a great admirer of her work as seen on her excellent blog, Mosehouse Studio. Bronwyn is one of the other rare New Zealanders who is a talented book artist, a beautiful writer and also a creative textile artist! Even though we have not (yet) met, I feel that we would get on very well, with so much in common. If you like Bibliophilia, I reckon you might very much like Mosehouse Studio too, so go check it out. Congratulations Bronwyn, I hope you have lots of fun wearing your coral brooch!

By the way, if you like my embroidered brooches and pins, get into my Etsy shop quick, 'cos one has already gone!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Teaching again soon!

Tuesday night class

I'll be teaching how to make handmade books again next term. The class is open to both beginners and returning students. Looking back at my stated intentions before I started teaching last term, I realise that while my basic philosphy still stands, I have ironed out some of the practical bugs that I hadn't anticipated.

Cat making separate board covers

The plan had been to teach two different classes: a variety of books structures on Tuesday evenings, and one complex book on Thursday mornings. Taking into account the preferences of most students, the Thursday morning class followed pretty much the same curriculum as the Tuesday evening. I was happy since they aren't the books I like making so I don't feel comfortable teaching them. I've now decided that my classes are emphatically for learning contemporary and unconventional book structures. (If you are in Hamilton and you really want to learn traditional book binding I can recommend a wonderful teacher who sometimes takes private pupils).

Cat's covers now on accordian fold book

Both classes started with making multiple examples of a few simple book structures, to practice the basic papercraft skills of measuring, cutting, folding and pasting. As we added more challenging structural elements, I continued to reinforce those basic skills until they became automatic. At the same time, I encouraged each student to pursue their own original designs: starting with different papers, including different kinds of content, and working at different scales meant I coached each through their unique design problems to produce a fabulous diversity of books. You can see more photos of the classes in action and some of the many lovely books they produced here.

Lots of bright little books by Tamari
Almost every student has said they want to come back for more, so next term will combine beginners with returning students on Tuesday nights only (I'm not going to teach in the daytime any more as its too disruptive for my other activities). Once again the focus will be on both basic skills and creating personal designs. This time the course will run for eight weeks and beginners will progress from sewn pamphlets and accordian folds, through flag and flower fold books, to tunnel books, pop ups and boxes. As well as learning some additional book structures and elements that we didn't get to in last term's short course, returning students are encouraged to develop more challenging personal projects that will make good use of the class time, space, teaching resource and peer support to complete.

Thursday morning class

If you are interested in joining the class, here's the important information.
Starting 4 August and running for 8 Tuesdays from 6-8pm, in the Basement Printroom of the ArtsPost Building (note, this is a different classroom from last term).
Cost is $127 for 8 weeks (high school students and WSA members $112)
If you want to enroll for only 5 weeks the cost is $75 (discount $60)
Contact WSA to enroll.

Robin's long accordion made from flower calendar photos

Monday, July 13, 2009

Life on Mars

Three pins in a row

I'm balancing my attention, my research and my stitching between two forces of evolutionary change. On the one hand I cherish the poignancy of fossils, with their stories of climate change and extinction. On the other hand, I am drawn to stories of the resilience and persistence of life in the harshest of environments.

Crinoid- Sea Lily

Launching into my second fossil embroidery, I wondered why I was so determined to give some mossy background to my Paleozoic sea lily. At first I thought it was a simple desire for some colour to brighten up my drab stony scheme, but after a while I realised it was a longing for life itself.

Mossy fossil stem

My stitched fossils are telling stories of evolution and extinctions caused by climate change whether caused by meteor strikes, the long cycles of Earth moving closer to and further from the sun, or human behaviours. I'm intrigued by the theory that in the past, bursts of evolutionary change have been triggered by major climate change clearing ecosystems with mass extinctions.

I decided to channel my longing for life into some small stitched works and see where they led me. And the first place they've taken me is Mars. I've made a set of three embroidered pins as tiny Mars gardens, inspired by Kim Stanley Robinson's trilogy of novels of Mars colonisation. I've long been fascinated by his alternative narrative of climate change to support new life, rather than causing inadvertent extinction.

In Green Mars, he describes in loving detail the emergence of plant life in Mars' harsh environment, still freezing and toxic even after 60 or so years of deliberate climate change to warm and oxygenate the atmosphere. Huge floods caused by warming and drilling have covered swathes of Mars in ice and fellfield gardens are growing around the glaciers.

Much of the regolith on Mars had been superarid, so arid that when water touched it there were powerful chemical reactions- lots of hydrogen peroxide release, and salt crystallisations- in essence the ground disintegrated, flowing away in sandy muds that only set downstream... in frosty new proto-fellfields.... those rocky swathes that were the first living communities after ice receded, their living component made of algae and lichens and moss. (p131)

As he hiked through the frigid air he spotted many different species of snow algae and lichen. The glacier-facing slopes of the two lateral ridges were especially well populated, flecked by small patches of green, gold, olive, black, rust, and many other colors- perhaps thirty or forty all told. Sax strolled over these pseudo moraines carefully, as unwilling to step on plant life as he would be to step on any experiment in the lab. Although truthfully it looked as though most of the lichens would not notice. They were tough, bare rock and water were all they required, plus light- though not much of that appeared necessary- they grew under ice, inside ice, and even inside porous chunks of translucent rock. In something as hospitable as a crack in the moraine they positively flourished. Every crack Sax looked in sported knobs of Iceland lichen, yellow and bronze, which under the glass revealed tiny forking stalks, fringed by spines. On flat rocks he found crustose lichens: button lichen, stud lichen, shield lichen, candlelaria, apple-green map lichen and the red-orange jewel lichen that indicated a concentration of sodium nitrate in the regolith. Clumped under the ice flowers were growths of pale gray-green snow lichen, which under magnification proved to have stalks like Iceland lichen. (p172)

All three Mars Garden pins are for sale on Etsy, but if you are uncomfortable with internet shopping or USdollars, please contact me directly.
By the way, don't forget to enter the draw for a stitched coral brooch. Comment here to be in to win!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Found round the neighbourhood

I live in an interesting neighbourhood in Hamilton, just behind the Vege King, which is famous for its abundant and inexpensive fresh produce including this pregnant kiwifruit I enjoyed recently.

Walking along Heaphy Terrace, near St Aiden's Church, some bright stickers exhorting loving kindness have appeared on one of the mysterious green boxes that dot sidewalks.

This is what you see as you approach the box:

Then, as you pass it, this is the view from above:
The St Aiden's op shop came through for me recently with this awesome, authentic French beret. I have never really liked berets before, they always seem to look funny and feel like they will fall off if I move my head too fast. But now I understand the real deal is always going to sit right, because the French, they know their berets. This is heavy woolen felt with a leather band on the inside. It's like wearing a warm, flattering, pancake and makes me feel like a sexy mysterious poetess on my way to meet philosopher friends in a smokey cafe on the Left Bank...

... instead popping to the corner shop, where lately we've been enjoying some of the Phantom Billstickers Poetry Poster largesse. If I hadn't heard this interview with Jim Wilson, the Phantom Poster guy, I would be bemused that all the poets on our shops are from Tennessee. These posters are going up all over NZ and Tennessee, and Johanna wrote about some in Wellington on the Quiet World Project.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

A Wellington Adventure

The only photo I managed to take of Wellington.

When Aalix found she had a bunch of air points about to expire she decided to take a day trip to Te Papa in Wellington, and invited me to come along. How could I refuse such an opportunity?

We had crazy, marvelous, fun from start to finish. Yes, even the two hours waiting for the fog to lift from Hamilton airport was enjoyable. One of the things about being so obsessed with embroidery these days is that situations that might otherwise be tedious become satisfying. I finished my first Mars lichen brooch at the airport in the morning, and made a good start on the second brooch on the way home. And of course, Aalix and I spent the whole day chatting, so even without the stitching the flight delay would have passed quickly and pleasantly.

But it meant that we didn't arrive in Wellington almost noon, and we spent the afternoon in intense absorbtion of cultural delights, breezing in and out of galleries and shops from Civic Square to Te Papa. Aalix, who has never been to Wellington before, kept exclaiming how its actually a Real City (unlike Hamilton).

I was thrilled to find that my favourite bookshop, Arty Bees, has expanded to a whole nother floor of books. I could happily have spent the whole day in there, but limited myself to a thorough skim of the largest new sci fi selection that I know of in NZ, and finding exactly the book I wanted to buy in the second hand sci fi section, plus a pleasurable tour of the non-fiction (including an anguished linger over a gorgeous book of fossils, which I consoled myself that even if I could afford it, would have been too heavy to schlep around town for the rest of the day).

In Te Papa we started with 'We are Unsuitable for Framing' where we liked almost everything very much, but not really the hair. Then we looked at the 1930's-present section of the art collection and I fell in love. If you know about John Reynolds' Cloud, you will know why I love it. If you don't, watch this video and see why. I wanted to read every single one of the 7081 canvases, but I would need binoculars so I contented myself with the lower reaches and lying back on the bench and cloud watching from various restful angles.

I was momentarily excited by the promise of an exhibition of coral, but it didn't live up to my high hopes with just four cabinets of admittedly nice deep sea coral, but not enough substance to satisfy me.

A nice bit of dead coral

I also tromped all over looking for some good fossils on show, but they were sorely lacking. I tracked down a few old ones in the kids section but they were partially obscured by a model whale heart the size of a small car. A couple of fossils were incorporated into other natural history exhibitions, but really what I wanted was some old-fashioned drawers and cabinets of rocks labelled with little more than delicately inked numbers. And Te Papa is many wonderful things, but it is not at all that kind of museum. I did however buy myself a small trilobite fossil (from Utah) in the children's gift shop. At last a 'live' model to stitch from instead of photos!

Finally, we staggered out, exhausted and happy, into the chill dusk and collapsed at Sweet Mother's Kitchen until it was time to return to the airport. Not quite hungry enough for an early dinner, we were unable to resist the dessert menu and shared pieces of Key Lime pie and Bourbon Pecan pie. Heaven.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Little bits of coral to Giveaway

Brain coral brooch detail

I have a couple of little pieces of embroidered coral that were created as sort of byproducts in the long process of making You are an agent of change. They were, each in their own way, experimental. By backing and filling them, then sewing brooch pins on the back, I have made them into jewellery.

Back of staghorn brooch

I'm considering making more embroidered jewellery, partly to counterbalance the big fossil project I have committed myself to, which is going to take a year to complete. By interspersing that work with a variety of small, finite pieces, I hope to keep my enthusiasm for stitching fresh.

Through expanding the inventory in my Etsy shop to include some stitched jewellery, I hope to increase my sales. It certainly seems like jewellery sells a lot better than artist's books, both on Etsy and in real galleries where I have stocked books in the past. Naturally it would be nice to be making more money, especially from doing what I most enjoy.

But I'm also excited about the possibility that people wearing little pieces of stitched coral etc out in the world will find themselves having conversations about the stories I am stitching. For example, this piece of brain coral combines an embroidered representation of the bleached, dead coral with a crocheted representation of the live coral. In its 10x8cm size it encapsulates the threat of extinction, the hope of resiliance, hyperbolic and fractal mathematics and the links between small domestic actions and their cummulative environmental consequences.

Brain coral brooch (buy here)

The Bibliophilia July Giveaway is a staghorn coral brooch, embroidered to represent a fragment of bleached coral. If you would like to become an agent of coral conversations by wearing this subtle collection of white french knots on grey linen, simply comment below before 5pm 14 July (NZ time). How it works is the names go in a hat (black velvet at this time of year) and I interrupt my flatmate's enjoyment of rugby commentary on Sports Radio so he can pluck the winner. I love receiving comments, and I look forward to your feedback on this new line of jewellery.

Stitched staghorn coral brooch ( 6x3.5cm)