Sunday, August 30, 2009

Fairly Crafty go to Kraftbomb

Kraftbomb crowd

For most of this year I have been meeting once or twice a month with a loose group of radical crafters. Its lovely to sit and stitch in good company, and there is a warm camaraderie of skill sharing and growing friendships. After months of indecision we defaulted to calling ourselves Fairly Crafty. We thought it would be fun to go on a field trip one month, driving up to Auckland to check out Kraftbomb, the indie craft fair at the Grey Lynne Community Centre.

Pretty ribbon rose hairclips

It just so happened that we visited on Kraftbomb's first birthday. There was full house, with lots of colourful sellers selling colourful wares to lots of colourful punters. With plenty to look at we did several circuits around the two rooms carefully checking everything out before we make out purchases.

Geek Freek's Cheerio (sausage) plushies

Kraftbomb had plenty of variety in terms of media. As well as a range of textile crafts (sewn, screenprinted, embroidered, knitted, felted and creative upcycling) there were paper crafts (lots of maps), plenty of jewellery (especially badges, brooches and hair clips), and clay, polymer clay, zippers galore and someone laser cutting silhouettes from old vinyl LPs. Mostly things seemed pretty reasonably priced, with all sorts little inexpensive items to suit tight budgets.

Align CenterCute cupcake pincushions

Thematically I felt like there was less variety though. As well as the usual florals and polka dots there were lots of cartoon characters and monsters, and ironic/kitch/childhood nostalgia for the under 50s. Lots of native birds (the best of these by far were by Birdspoke).

Birdspoke's beautiful embroidery, plushies, jewellery etc

It seemed to me that one of the most popular themes is representations of food, especially cupcakes. There were a couple of people selling real cupcakes (though I only tried the meltingly tender vegan marshmallows), but more people seemed to be selling cloth cupcakes. The most divine faux foods were by a couple of sweet Japanese (I think) girls who had exquisitely handstitched bonbons, cookies and cupcakes with such verisimilitude that everyone thought they were edible until we read the signage. They were so perfect and yet so underpriced for the quality of workmanship.

No, you can't eat them

As Anna said, the best thing about Kraftbomb was the funky, alternative craft inspiration, and she loved seeing what people were doing with different materials. I bought a couple of tiny gifts but to be honest Kraftbomb didn't give me as much of a retail thrill as wandering down the road to Harvest Healthfoods- but then I probably spend waaay too much time on Etsy where one is spoiled for choice. I had hoped to find some zine sellers, but the nearest was a self-published book that didn't appeal to me at all. My single most coveted item there was Geek Freek's beautiful embroidered anatomical image of lungs in grey on white, and I loved it because it looked like something I would make. I also liked the felt needle cases which I would certainly make good use of (my birthday is only a few months away so I will live in hope).

Kraftbomb was fun, my roadtrip with Anna and Meg was lovely, but I think my favourite experience in Auckland on Sunday was coming across a wall of poster poems which included a wonderful piece by Michele Leggatt. Michele has just finished up her term as New Zealand's first poet laureate and done an awesome job. I am thinking about approach to the role a lot, since I begin today as the Writer in Residence at Hamilton Girls High School.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Collaborating on a commissioned edition

I met Alan Deare and Katie Pervan when they introduced themselves to me after my Pecha Kucha presentation talk a few months ago. I realised that I've been a fan of Alan's book designs for a long time. I have a small, treasured, collection of the exciting, bold, catalogues he designs for Objectspace gallery in Auckland. That first conversation among the hubbub of Pecha Kucha included a throwaway exchange that it might be nice to work together someday.

That was the seed recently fertilized by a rain of synchronistic co-incidences and small city networks, that led to us collaborating on a limited edition contemporary art binding for Megan Lyon's history of the Waikato Society of Arts. The edition of 100, completed yesterday, involved an intense three day working bee in Alan and Katie's garage.

The view from the garage

We started on Saturday morning by admiring our pretty packages of printed material before we opened the packet of creamy cover sheets and started on the most complicated and time consuming part of the assembly process. It involved two very long folds and seven shorter ones, most of which had to be creased twice. The long folds were physically demanding, and gave me more papercuts than I have sustained in my entire bookarts career to date. There were also 24 separate nicks to be cut by hand, but no one was hurt doing that task.

Alan in the background doing short folds, foreground is spines of some completed books

As usual, the really laborious effort in a handmade book goes into the bits that will be unseen and unappreciated by almost everybody. If you buy a copy, you can carefully open the tab holding the wrapped cover closed, and see incredible handwork hidden within.

The infamous long fold in action

Neither Alan nor Katie had made any books by hand before yet they both picked up the techniques very quickly, doing a wonderful job. It wasn't long before I remembered that every time I edition a book I question my own sanity. This was no exception, but with such good company sharing the work, the craziness was dilluted a little. We also enjoyed lots of visitors, as a trickle of friends and clients dropped by to check out the handmade book action as it (un)folded. It was quite a contrast to my usual isolated work space, and good preparation for taking up my Writer-in-Residence studio at Hamilton Girls High next week.

Katie making 24 separate cuts per cover.

The book blocks were much simpler than the covers, as they pretty much came already collated from the printer. We just had to put two folds in the long pink page, and then wrap it around the creamy main text block.

Book blocks stacked up waiting to have their spines pierced for sewing into covers.

On Sunday we were ready to start my favourite part, sewing up the books. Katie and I spent many pleasant hours chatting and sewing alongside cups of herbal tea. I feel I've bonded a great new buddy: yoga teacher, dancer, caterer, and emerging zine/book/magazine editor. Katie generously fed me through the whole working bee, conjuring up meals and snacks as healthy and colourful as they were delicious.

That afternoon we had to vacate the garage so that Alan, Sten and Tom could have a music practice. We moved one of the work tables to the deck, and together stitched through most of the rest of the edition to the accompaniment of live music. Unfortunately the wind kicked up, and we had to weigh down all our stacks of paper, or they'd go flying off across the lawn.

Stitching book block into the cover.

The magenta and cream colour scheme was very soothing to work with. We matched the paper wrap, the title and some text and the thread in the same shade of smoker-lolly pink. It reminds me of my first big embroidery project in Standard Three: an ambitious, and ultimately abandoned, cross stitch in similar colours (if I recall correctly, it was of magnolia flowers).

Tying the knot (can you see all the papercuts on top of my right thumb?)

Although we had optimistically hoped to finish the edition in the weekend, there was still about a quarter of the books left to make on Monday. Both Katy and Alan had other work to do, so I got into my solitary work groove and pushed through to 100. It wasn't really solitary though, as Alan's office is in the garage and he kept coming out to show me another wonderful art book he thought I would appreciate.

Moves Afoot: A supplementary history of the Waikato Society of Arts 1983-2009 will be launched tomorrow evening at the WSA's 75th Anniversary Banquet. Copies of the book can be purchased by contacting the secretary at WSA. The limited edition of 100 is numbered and signed by myself, Alan Deare and the author, Megan Lyon.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Magnolia and fossil updates

All the magnolia photos in this post are my own. I'm saving reader's submissions for the Award announcement post in early September.

Magnolia season is in full swing around here. What's happening in your neck of the woods? I've already received a few nominations for Magnolia of the Year, but its not too late to send in your photos.

I've been out magnolia hunting around Hamilton and I recommend Clifton and Riverview Terraces as particularly lush with fine magnolias in bloom. There's also an awesome one on the roundabout by the Mosque on Heaphy Terrace.

Both the tulip and star magnolias in these photos are from the same Clifton Terrace garden where the two trees grow so closely that the blooms are intermingled. It's magnolia heaven, I tell you!

These magnolias were spotted on my way home from print class on Tuesday, when I was feeling pretty good already because my embossing went so well. I got to use real woodcutting tools, which do wonderful things to the board, especially when sharpened. As my bookmaking students all know I am vigilant about working with sharp blades (I'll say it again: there is no point in wasting an expensive piece of paper because you are being stingy with a 2c blade).

My board went through a few stages, with the sunburst outline developing to try and cover up a slip o' the knife onto the background. It looked just as bad on paper as it does on the board, so I ended up cutting my carving right out of the board.

The ammonite woodcut sitting inside the puzzle pieces that I fished out of the bin to take this photo.

That's when I started getting really satisfying results on the kraft paper taken from the huge roll I scored at the Dump Shop earlier this year. It's wonderful sturdy manilla, in such a quantity that its crying out to be included in some oversized installation. And I'm thinking that the installation will involve embossed fossils... and I'm thinking that the surprise package prize for the Magnolia of the Year winner will certainly include an embossed ammonite.

Once cut out from paper, these little ammonites seem to me objects to fondle, rather than prints to look at.

So, a new fossil project begun, and today finally, I finished a very slow, laborious, layered fossil embroidery. Yes, its the one begun about six weeks ago, before I went to the Daintree, and despite two long days of stitching in transit, it has dragged on while I've been distracted into making all sorts of pins for another purpose. But even if it had my undivided attention I think it would still have taken longer than either of the previous fossil embroideries. When I have some better photos I will illustrate why, but suffice to say that there's 2-3 layers of stitching throughout, giving it quite a medieval brocade kind of feel.

Ophiderma, fossil brittle stars from the early Jurassic, finished at last

Monday, August 17, 2009

Print Class

Inspired by Edmaier's photo of moraine banding on Steller Glacier, Alaska, USA

I'm taking a print making course with the wonderful Joan Travaglia at WSA (the same art school where I'm teaching book making). I am interested in learning how to create images I can print alongside letterpress. In the first class I made a monoprints using cut paper to mask and impress three different coloured inked blocks onto my paper.

Inspired by Edmaier's birds eye photograph of layered rock hills in the Bungle Bungle Range, Purnululu National Park, Western Australia
In the second class I got to scratch an image (at top of this post) onto mdf board with the point of a craft knife. Tomorrow, I get to use proper tools and cut a board for embossing. I'm so excited!For the first two images I made I drew on this wonderful book from the library. But tomorrow I'm planning to emboss a fossil image... its just a matter of deciding between an ammonite, a trilobite, a crinoid, a microfossil... um, I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Its a good life

In my current obsessive search for blooming magnolias, I came across this bright puffball of a blossom tree, alive with twenty or more waxeyes feasting on nectar. I took a dozen blurry photos of uncooperative waxeyes before they were scared off by this fine poser of a tui.

The past few days have been relatively warm, often bright and sunny, and I've been bicycling a lot, which always makes me feel wonderful. It's too early for spring, but I feel that great loosening of tension that comes from not being braced against the cold all the time. As I persistently reset my emotional state to happy, I'm deliberately dwelling on all that is good in my life. The more I notice the qualities that define happiness for me, the more those qualities seem to dominate. I am feeling particularly blessed at the moment with a number of things that I have been working towards coming to fruition, and more opportunities opening up all the time.

Brain coral pin (bleached coral are essentially fossils- there's not much difference to a layperson's eye between ancient fossils and recent bleached coral- so stitching these patters are a happy link between my coral and fossil interests.)

You are an agent of change, my big coral work, has made it through to the finals of the National Contemporary Art Awards. This means it will be on exhibition at the Waikato Museum from September through to January 2010. The winner will be announced at the opening on 4 September, an annual event which, by all accounts, is one of the highlights of the social calendar in Hamilton. To take advantage of the long period that my coral stitching will be on show I am making some coral pins to have for sale at the same time. Some are sleek, elegant embroidery and some are wild and crazy crochet so there's something for everyone.

Rugosa Coral Pin

I was recently awarded the position of Writer in Residence at Hamilton Girls High School, starting soon, and lasting for 10 weeks. I think its got to be the best art gig in town, if not NZ, with a sunny studio, a generous stipend, and the opportunity to do interesting projects with students and staff as well as devoting time to my extensive to-do list of creative work. Watch this space, as I will be documenting the residency in words and pictures here on Bibliophilia.

I finally overcame whatever resistance was blocking me from taking my some of my work to a commercial gallery, after a break of a year or two. I'm delighted to be represented in Hamilton's Thornton Gallery who are currently showing Soul of the Sea (last year's Art Guild finalist) and some artist's books including Waipoua Forest, which hasn't been shown for a while. This is the last copy of the edition of two (the other one is held in Auckland City Libraries Special Collection).

I do like seeing my books in a glass cabinet.

With all this satisfying and fulfilling goodness going on, I don't really have time to pine for the Daintree, though I still think about it everyday. I'll leave you with this lovely little music video about the Daintree. There's gorgeous footage of the forest, birds and more.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Science of Happiness

My happy place: the Daintree rainforest

My Happy Bus zine has been making its way around the world and I've been getting great feedback from readers. All sorts of people seem hungry to learn more about the simple techniques for increasing the amount of happiness we experience.

A scientific diagram of happiness from the Happy Bus

Yesterday I came across this global survey of happiness, taking place online this week. I recommend it as worth participating in. The survey itself is really very quick and simple (just one page), and then you are invited to watch a very short video describing a scientifically proven technique for improving happiness (the kinds of things I wrote about in Happy Bus). The idea is that you practice the technique for 1 minute a day for a week, and then take the survey again at the end.

From my own experience of pursuing the goal of happiness as my default emotional state, I can say that these techniques really do work. It's not that I'm jumping for joy every minute of the day, although I have noticed many more episodes of shivering glee and exuberant delight. Rather, I am generally satisfied with my ability to create the life I want for myself. I bounce back from hurts and disappointments pretty quickly, face challenges with hope and equanimity, and wholeheartedly enjoy all the pleasurable things I get to do.

You, dear reader, are one of my sources of happiness. Writing this blog, seeing the hits increase from month to month, and receiving your comments all bring me much delight. I hope you click through to the Science of Happiness survey, and practice a happiness technique for a week. I hope doing so makes you feel happier, and that you will continue to pursue genuine happiness, the kind that comes from a choosing a positive outlook, creating warm connections, savouring small pleasures and doing meaningful work.

Mackay Cay, Great Barrier Reef. Even being violently ill couldn't dampen my happiness to be there.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Magnolia of the Year entries open

My first magnolia of 2009, River Road, Hamilton

It's August, and just when you think you can't possibly bear another dreary cold month of New Zealand winter, suddenly the magnolias appear, and distract you so completely with their luminous fleshy beauty, that somehow the last few weeks of winter don't seem so bad.

Last year I was in the tropics and so magnolia season passed by without any acknowlegement on Bibliophilia. But posts in the three previous years all paid tribute to these hardy bright beacons of pinkness. In 2006 and 2007 I ran a 'Magnolia of the Year Award' which I am reviving here for my August giveaway.

This giveaway requires you to nominate a magnolia tree in bloom. You can email me a photo (meliors6 (at) gmail (dot) com), send me a link to your magnolia photo online, or if the tree is in Hamilton you can simply tell me where it is and I will go have a look. Photographs must have been taken during 2009, must be accompanied by the tree's location information. Magnolias that blossomed in the most recent northern hemisphere season are also eligible.

The criteria for the winning tree remains arbitrary and opaque, though hints about the judge's personal taste in magnolias may be discovered in past magnolia-themed posts here.
The winning entry will win a surprise selection of lovely little things I've made.

The closing date for entries is 30 August, which will hopefully allow even the southern most magnolias to qualify.