Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Spill Open

 Installing at The Framing Workshop was delightful because Sarah Marsdon is super efficient and super nice. She is also a perfectionist and made sure the work looked exquisite on the newly painted gallery walls.  I really liked the hanging system she used for the big piece, which cast shadows like a suspension bridge radiating out from the top of Just a Little Spill.

The opening itself was so well attended, so busy and delightful that I didn't have a chance to take any photos until most people had already left. Here are my two good friends, Stephanie and Bethwyn who came early and stayed late, bless them. My home grown, home made food was a big hit and there were just enough leftovers to reassure me that I hadn't under-catered, but not so much that it was wasteful.

The opening was supposed to finish at seven, but people kept arriving (some from the Yanni Split fashion show finishing at the same time at the Museum across town).  And just as I was leaving, a red dot went on by Seep I, a sight that will warm any artist's heart.

The exhibition is on until 21 February. If you are in Hamilton, stop by The Framing Workshop at 120 Silverdale Road and check it out (most pieces are visible through the window if you can only go after-hours).

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Catering my exhibition opening

Tomorrow 'Just a Little Spill' will open at The Framing Workshop in Hamilton.  The work is long finished, packed and ready to hang. The event invitation on Facebook has a strong response and I've had a couple of local papers show interest.  See Hamilton Press page 11 for my photo and interview.

Just a Little Spill with flowers
For this opening I decided to make some special food using up my garden produce as much as possible.  The menu has become a little OTT so I really hope lots of people come along, and come hungry!

Just one corner of one bed of leafy greens
It started simply enough with my favourite recipe to use up the abundance of silverbeet/spinach/kale/collard and herbs in my garden: feta filo parcels.

Then, when one of my courgettes hid under the leaves and turned into a marrow I made muffins to top with cream cheese icing.  After my New Year's jam making marathon I wanted to use up the storebought jam cluttering up my fridge so jam tarts are the other sweet on the menu.

It turns out that the frozen bowl of an icecream maker is perfect for making pastry in.

When I was given some organic homekill beef I added meatballs with my homemade plum sauce, and roast beef rolled around fresh garden vegetables, including some of my glut of gorgeous green beans

So many beans! Help me eat them!
But what about my vegan friends? Felafel (the only  non-homemade item on the table) and hummus with sourdough flatbreads joined the menu. And just because I love it (and for other dairy eaters) tzatziki with home made yoghurt as well.

The idea was that cooking my produce would be cheaper than buying cheese and crackers, or a platter of sushi to go with the wine.  This way might not have worked out much cheaper in the end, but it will be probably be yummier. If you want to sample some of my home grown, home cooked food (and see some of my textile art) come along to The Framing Workshop, 120 Silverdale Road, Hamilton between 5.30-7.00.

I always had trouble growing sunflowers before, but check out these beauties towering over me.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Eight years and renewed commitment

New growth
Most years around the anniversary of my very first blog post here on 12 January 2005, I write a sort of meta-post, where I contemplate 'the why of the blog'. This time last year I predicted a steady course of more-of-the-same: making and exhibiting beautiful art in response to ugly environmental issues. The first half of the year was indeed a great surge forward along that chosen path, with successful exhibitions and two awards.  But my life, my art practice and consequently my blogging were all turned upside down in the middle of 2012 by a wonderful opportunity to move to a new home.

 Pulling up roots
When my Hong Kong-based friends offered me affordable rent on their Hamilton house I was still squished into a nearby tiny studio flat. My possessions spilled over into a storage unit, my urge to grow green things was confined to jars of sprouts, and the Big Art I was making was way over-sized for the space, so my practice was awkward at best.  I accepted their offer and at the start of spring graduated to a whole house with a large studio, a proper kitchen and an even larger garden.

One corner of my spacious studio (the white wrapped roll in background is Just a Little Spill, soon to be unfurled for exhibition at The Framing Workshop
I had no idea, before I moved, that my nascent desire to grow a few vegetables would become such a great passion once I got my hands into the soil. After a few art-world disappointments (and the emotional drain of making tragic mines and oil spills) coincided with moving, I gave myself a six months break from major art projects in order to establish the new garden.

For the past five months I've devoted almost all the time, creativity, research and steady slog to gardening that I would usually have put into making art. During this period, gardening was completely and utterly sufficient for my soul. When people asked 'what do you do', I didn't want to talk about my art, I wanted to talk about my garden. The blog was neglected: I was usually outside with dirty hands, and when I was near my computer all I wanted to do was share the wonder of growing plants, yet didn't feel ready to explain the new direction of my passion.

As is my wont with any new interest, I read and learn as much as I can at the same time as diving right into the doing.  I've been soaking up gardening magazines and gardening blogs of all types, but nothing makes more sense to me than permaculture.  It aligns with my environmental and political concerns, while directing my (possibly unhealthy) obsession with climate change/pollution/extinction  into pragmatic, joyful solutions. Solutions that are not just for designing landscapes and growing food, but for all aspects of society.

Home grown food
Learning more about permaculture and beginning to integrate its principles into my life is simultaneously intellectually stimulating, aesthetically pleasing and sensually satisfying. I find myself wanting to apply permaculture ideas to my art practice and express its life-enhancing, hopeful positivity through my art work.  I am not sure yet how that will  happen or what the results will look like.  I expect this blog will be one of the places I figure that out.

Over my eight years of blogging, the content and tone of Bibliophilia have shifted along with my priorities and preoccupations.  I've often felt disinclined to share much about what is on my mind for fear of appearing inconsistent or exposing myself to criticism.  If you look at the archive list in the right hand column  you will see the frequency of my posts has declined markedly over the eight years: a bit like the statistics for Arctic summer sea ice. Just like the Arctic, 2012 marked a record low for my posting frequency.

I hope that both my blogging and the Arctic summer sea ice will increase in 2013. I have the ability to ensure one of those hopes is fulfilled. In doing so I intend to document my part in the world-wide, grass-roots social and economic transformation project which is required to slow global warming enough for, not only polar bears to survive, but also all life as we know it.

I fear, however, that the recent nadir of sea ice is a signal that a tipping point has passed and that accelerated climate change is ramping up and out beyond its initial anthropogenic impetous, let alone the least conservative scientific predictions of a few years ago.  It may be that even if governments and big business were to suddenly change their venal ways and start doing what was required five, ten, thirty years ago to slow down this train, even then the train wouldn't slow down in my lifetime.

Another delicious home grown meal cooked on the rocket stove-  zero food miles and renewable energy
Yet, if my particular perspective on global issues and local solutions can contribute any tiny bit to slowing down humanity's headlong dive into disaster, then I feel I must not indulge in feeling shy about my risk-taking mistakes, my unconventional choices, my wildest dreams or my imperfections. In this week when the Australian meteorological service had to extend their temperature scale to describe the dome of heat burning up that beautiful country, I begin my ninth year of blogging with renewed commitment.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Spill Sketches

Looking back through my journal I came across my sketches and notes made  in the days and weeks following the Rena oil Spill in October 2011.    Since the result, Just a Little Spill, is finally going to be seen in public for the first time later this month I thought it might be interesting to share these early ideas now.

Words are as important as visuals for me when I am conceptualising a new piece.  I'll often have a working title before I have anything else, in this case Folly and Hubris. The working sub-title won out in the end though.  I didn't end up pursuing representations of birds either.  

Exploring the ways oil can spread out on waves of water.

Nitty-gritty details of stitching, felting and size.

Photocopied from a book of Japanese prints about 25 years ago, and carried around in my pile of important papers until 2011 when it finally found a place in my journal among the Spill sketches.

Stitching doodle

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Just a Little Spill at The Framing Workshop


Family portrait, New Years Eve 2012

I started 2013 with 20 jars of new preserves made over the previous few days. In these uncertain times there is a sense of security having all that summery goodness put away for the cold months ahead. It's been about seven years since I've done any serious preserving and I'd been looking forward (somewhat nervously) to making the most of my first summer in a proper kitchen.  I bought a box of preserving jars at the Raglan Recycling Centre for a dollar and then spent many more dollars on seals and rings, and even a special jam funnel, which was a very good investment.  Oh, and then I was given an ice cream maker.

Picking my parent's plum tree. 

I kick started the harvest by introducing myself to my neighbour and asking if I could pick her plums which I have been watching ripen, attended only by birds.  They were small, yellow-fleshed and all but tasteless when raw. Five kilograms of fruit cooked up into delicious chutney, even more delicious jelly (flavoured with root ginger, orange zest and cinnamon stick) and roasted plum and vanilla sorbet.  I admired my first six jars with a glow of satisfaction.

A rolling boil on a hot day

That very evening my mother announced that their tree was ripe for picking Right Now!  I rushed around the next morning and picked a bucket and a half of purple-red plums that are delicious to eat and tart to cook.  I bottled seven large jars of the best plums (without bird pecks) whole, each with a different flavour (bay, cinnamon, cloves, vanilla, star anise etc.  With the damaged plums I made a frozen yoghurt and then roasted the rest with a jar of too sweet quince syrup mum made last autumn.  A night in the jelly bag gave me pulp to reduce and dry into fruit leather and a not-too-sweet cordial for sipping on hot days.

When will it set?
The same morning that I picked parental plums I impulsively bought boxes of damaged fruit at the farmer's market: strawberries, raspberries and apricots.  Three jars of apricot jam, one of jar heavenly strawberry-raspberry jam, a jar of raspberries in Cointreau, and a set of  strawberry-raspberry frozen yoghurt popsicles later, I was very tired and sticky- and satisfied.  I love to see the jewel tones that result and I look forward to eating and sharing them.

In the red cave- the jelly bag looks slightly obscene, like an udder of blood. The sheet is to keep the flies off, and I chose a red one as less likely to show any possible jelly stains.
The quantity of sugar required for this kind of preserving is a concern.  I cut back the quantities required in each recipe as much as I dared to try and save my teeth and used Fairtrade sugar to salve my conscience.  After this preserving marathon I won't make more jam or jelly but rather try to focus on savoury products using salt or vinegar as the preservative.

Bottled plums, with a clove
Hearing about my end of year preserving marathon someone commented "Sounds fun, but like a lot of work, I think I could only do so much before being sick of it." It was a lot of work but no more than many household routines before there were supermarkets and refrigerator.  I was a bit sick of it after two days, but also looking forward to the next bout- more plum chutney and plum sauce from another pick of plums next week.

Plum sorbet- a much needed cold treat after all that hot sticky stirring.
I tend to take on big projects that lots of people wouldn't tackle. It's like stitching My Antarctica but tastier.  With every big project- whether a thesis, an installation or a weekend of preserving- I grow more confident in my own capacity to finish what I start. I also research, plan and prepare extensively before I start so then once I get going its just a matter of perseverance.

Raspberries in Cointreau