Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Goodbye Australia

My last day here. It was a good one. This evening after the day's events, I went down to the harbor and watched the Opera House change color with the sun set. This image is a bit blurry, but the color is most beautiful. What a view.

To sum up the last few days of Oz:

Anne-Maree and I did a collaboration. :)

Have you ever met one of those people that just jazzed you up and the two of you are so excited about something you are bouncing off the walls? That's what Anne-Marie and I do about our stuff. We gave ourselves an our to make a book each, then the plan was to switch them and work on them for another hour.
Well, our two our plan turned into about six. But look what we did!
Anne-Maree's book (she made two!):

... you go ...
... always take the weather with you."
She made the book out of a one-page structure and some of her prints and I added the stitching.
These are the only photos I have of my book at the moment. I'll have to post more with what Anne-Maree added. I really wanted to use the PaperBark Tree (Melaleuca) for a book. And I was thinking about all that I'd learned about Australian Bush. It really needs fire to flourish. I find this amazing. So to me it became like a phoenix.

Anne-Maree added some really gorgeous stuff. Wait 'till you see. :) I think if we could have had our way, we could have played in the studio for the entire three week period. But now we will have to do the mailing thing.
It was sad to leave Anne-Maree's beautiful house and her three sweet kitties and three great boys. This is Jasper - she's a sharp little kitty. There's no petting her until she's had a very good sniff at you.
My last morning in Newcastle I did what I should have done every morning. My hotel was on a bluff overlooking the ocean. The first morning I did get up and went down to the beach, but didn't look anywhere because I was collecting shells. An entire bucket full!
The next morning I slept in, and then the last morning I went down to the beach and banned myself from collecting any more shells. I bought coffee and a croissant at a shop, went down to the beach and watched the surfers for almost an hour.
I also got a good walk in, and took lots of photos of the tide pools. Newcastle is so quiet, the tide pools are full of life, even right on the beach. I found a starfish and I think I saw some abalone in one pool. Hard to tell when they are alive.
Barnacle Central:
Anne-Maree drove me down to Sydney on Sunday. We feasted on dim sum in China Town, in Australia it's called Yum Cha, perhaps a little more appropriate? Then we headed of to the Powerhouse Museum. What a coooooool place. I couldn't quite get the gist of their collecting scope, but I think it's "human-made" objects. There is an entire train on one floor. We saw a fabulous design show, a show about Macedonian Aprons, and this cool thing:

It's a "globe" for the blind. Every continent has been hammered out in metal with Braille writing on it. All of the main shipping lanes have also been laid in and are labeled in the same way. It's a really beautiful thing!
But our main reason for going to the museum was to see the Hyperbolic Coral Reef. This is a coral reef made entirely out of crochet. Sounds hokey, right? Nope. This things was way cool. First of all it was huge. Second of all, it's to bring attention to the plight of coral reefs. And thirdly it's all done in crochet based on a way that two women mathematicians came up of illustrating a mathematical theorem that Euclidean geometry couldn't. How cool is that! I bought the book - you can all read it because that's about all I can explain about it off the top of my head.

The next morning I spent the day at the Australian Museum. It's a natural history museum with lots of dinosaur skeletons, and stuff critters from Australia. There is a fantastic hands on section, mostly for kids, but I still loved it. There was an aquarium full of stick insects. They were so cool. Then there was this wacky crayfish looking thing called a basher. The guy showing it to me was trying to explain what it did (it was in a plastic bag on the desk), and as he put his finger near the bag she whacked at his finger so hard I couldn't believe it didn't break the bag. She made contact too - and he stood there shaking is finger in pain. He then told us that you don't see many in captivity because once they reach a certain size they can break the glass of the aquarium!
The two things I really loved though, were the minerals, which really reminded me of the coral reef the day before:
And the second thing I really loved was the section giving voice to the aboriginal people. It was a very respectful and comprehensive exhibit which especially talked about spirituality. I keep coming back to it in my head.
I had dinner in The Rocks neighborhood, and worked out a book I want to do when I get home. Among other things.
Anne-Maree came back down to Sydney today so that we could visit Monica Oppen's collection of Australian artist books. We looked for three hours. Here's one of Tim Mosley's books. It's a one page book with a beautiful paper cover. Perfect example of what's possible for my students!

I also became more familiar with Peter Lissiotis's work. I really like his things too. He reminds me of Buzz Spector a bit - working with photography.
So yes, went down to the harbor, one last time. Watched millions of people all taking pictures of the same thing. Saw some crazy people walking over the bridge as well. And then I went in search of another Works Burger. Found one - and yes, it was amazing, definitely will give In 'n Out a run for their money.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

last day in Alstonville, Cabbage Tree Island, Tide Pools, Cedar

Alright everyone - I'm so excited to post I'm just going to post. Check back soon for more editorial comments.
Alrighty! (posted on Sunday, for about an hour and a half - so not much editing): So much has happened since these pictures, but I'll have to save that for a post for tomorrow!
I left Alstonville (sadly) on Wednesday morning. The evening before there was a beautiful rainbow. It's sad to go because I had such an amazing time up here. It's a small quaint town, but has so much to offer. On my way out of town, Julie took me to Cabbage Tree Island.
This is an island in a river which is home to Aborigines. The other gallery Julie works for, had an exhibition of their fabrics, clothes, and paintings. A film maker saw the show and wanted to make a documentary about it including interviews with Julie.
When we arrived, there was no one around. It seems that things move along at a different pace. Even though appointments had been made, everyone had gone shopping. Which frustrated the heck out of the film maker. Finally two women came up and let us into the workshop. Slowly things started getting set in motion. You have to imagine this place: a large tin structure with huge sliding doors right in the middle of sugar cane fields. It is so quiet.
And their fabrics and designs and screen prints are... well, they are just mind blowing. So beautifully considered. The use of color is amazing.

I bought two dresses because I couldn't help myself! But that was epic as well. No one new the prices, the artist set her own price, no one could contact her, I didn't have enough cash, had to go get some, no one seemed in a hurry to help me out, Julie was trying to impress on them that I need to get on the road because I had a huge drive ahead of me.... and of course, there was filming to be done, and on and on. But, as these things do, it all worked out. When I came back with cash, another lady had shown up, and prices were found. Once the prices were set, the artist showed up:(sorry, I don't know why there are two pictures up, and I can't seem to erase either of them)

Leeanne Anderson explained the prints to me, one is a grub and the other is a spirit sign. And the red dress she is holding in her hand has fantastic flowers on it.
As we were waiting for things to finalize, and for the film maker to re-set up his set, we stood around and talked. The ladies were very reserved at first. Here are the sisters, Priscilla and Vivienne:
We had a fortunate miscommunication: We were talking about the clothes which fit amazingly well, and I asked if they had patters for the clothes. Vivienne misunderstood and thought I was talking about the patterns they silk screened onto the fabric. Priscilla pulled out that brown envelope she is holding and look what came out! These are all silkscreen templates, designed by the women, cut freehand!
Look at the Echidnae and the Kangaroo!

Here Priscilla is showing Julie a peacock pattern she designed for her daughter's curtains. She described them to us: A bright blue bird printed on yellow tie-dyed fabric. It must be really beautiful. We ask if she has some to show us. No - she just made it for her daughter, that's all. She won't make any more. Too bad.
The other fortunate part of the mistake was that we actually go the women really excited to be talking about their work. While they had been stiff and reserved for the film maker, they were smiling and relaxed and excited to be showing us the designs. The film maker knew a good thing when he saw it and grabbed a hand held camera. I hope it's good footage.

Said a quick farewell to Julie... and hopped on the road. My plan had been to go to Nundle to a Woolen Mill and get some Aussie wool, but I think the experience on Cabbage Tree Island was far better. By the way, a cabbage tree is a palm tree, that's what the aboriginals call it.
Then it was a 6 hour drive back down to Newcastle (and that is the correct spelling of it!).
I checked into a hotel that practically overlooks the beach, and zonked out.
Thursday I met up with Anne-Maree again.
We decided to do a collaboration. We were going to give ourselves a set time to make a book in her studio, then switch them and work the same amount of time. Well, our plans got a little fuzzy but we did work, and I can't wait to post our books. I'll have to figure out the card reader situation tomorrow. I think Anne-Maree and I work really well together. We like similar colors, have similar ideas about books... and have similar needs of down time and space. And we had so much we wanted to do, so after our first part of our collaboration, Anne-Maree made lunch.
Every thing's bigger in Australia. This is a BLT.
And it was delicious!
Then we went down to the tide pools for shell collecting and wildlife looking. I've never seen anything like it. This is what Laguna Beach must have been like. There was so much life in the pools!
This is the first find: A brittle star. It was not interested in being on our hands and pretty darn quickly for all those tangly legs scooted itself off of her hand back into the pool.
We turned over another rock and found a ton of little critters that we weren't sure what they were:

Every little bowl held it's own world. This one is about the size of a soup bowl.
From far away, Anne-Maree spotted this bright red thing. It's something laying it's eggs. that shell is as long as my hand, and those egg sacks were so bright they looked like extruded plastic. Shell Highway:
What I did not get pictures of was when we thought we'd found the mother load of a certain shell I was keen for. Anne-Maree stepped into a pool and stated handing me tons of shells - faster than I could put them in the bucket. I don't' know how I discovered it, but I picked up one from the ledge it was sitting on, and felt a tiny jerking snap within the shell. I turned it over to see if there was a rock clattering around inside of it, and I saw two green little legs peeping over the edge. The mother load had already been claimed by a herd of hermit crabs. So we went through the pile on top and put all of the ones that had the little movement, back in the water. I still ended up with three stow-aways. Two I discovered in time, but sadly one was too clever at hiding and we found him two mornings later. I still feel guilty about that.
After the tide pools, Anne-Maree had parenting duties. We picked her younger son, Cedar up at school, then she was off to meet with her holder son Heath's teachers.
Cedar and I were on our own for the afternoon. Cedar patiently waited for me to organize all of the shells I had collected - by size. Talked my ear off, proceeded to show me banana flowers and how they worked, pulled two of the petals off for us to use as boats in the creek. He also caught a little pigeon in the hen house and showed it to me. Before we went inside to play a couple of games of pocket tanks. A riveting game - let me tell you!
Here are the boats. Look at 'em go! There is no current in the stream. When Cedar went down the next day to see how the race was progressing they had just spread apart a bit.
Just another shot of the beautiful poppies Anne-Maree has growing in her garden:

Think I'll have to plant some of these next year as well.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The great mystery tour

Yesterday Julie's friend Christine Porter (also an artist - currently trying to resist become a book artist) picked us up in the morning and took us on the great Mystery tour. We had a dead swallow to deliver to another printmaker just outside of Byron Bay. Went back to Byron Bay and had a day on the Beach. It was really warm, a perfect day for a swim. The water was cold, but once you were in it it was okay. I didn't bring a suit so I just rolled up the jeans and wadded in the shallows and looked at some of the snails on the rocks. There was a great big beautiful one I picked up. As I turned it upside down, it stuck it's antennae up as if to say, "hey, what gives here?"
Christine introduced me to "billytea."
I think I've mentioned before, Australians take their tea very seriously. No matter where you go, there is a tea break, and fresh tea is brewed. This counts for out in the bush too! So we shlepped along the little gas stove, the 'billy', which is the old tin bucket that the water is brewed in, mugs, food and and and. Christine brought sausages which were also grilled on the little stove in a frying pan we also brought down to the beach. It's possible that these were the best sausages I've ever had.
Half way through lunch a jumping ant about an inch long showed up and investigated. We ended up shutting him in the with the lettuce so that he wouldn't bite any of us, because according to Julie it really hurts.
After lunch we went for more tea but I had a coffee. Oh right, coffee in Australia has been an interesting experience. If you walk up to the counter and ask for coffee, the reply is, "what kind." it's like ordering "a soda", what kind? Pepsi. So It's taken a while to figure out that I need to order a "Long Black with cold milk on the side". Then I get a very nice strong black coffee, with a bit of cold milk on the side to cool it down. I can also order the amount of sugar I want in the cup, I can also order warm milk, either on the side or in the cup. Then of course you can order a Short white - which I think is a latte with one shot, and the regulars, cappuccino, mocha etc.
Only took a week to figure that out.
But I digress from the day of mystery.
The last bit was spent in Byron itself. Over coffee I told Christine and Julie about the wedding I'm going to in San Francisco on my way back to Philadelphia. I decided I needed a dress and would start looking here - and if I can't find something, I'll finish shopping in So Cal, when I get back to my dad and Ann's. So we stopped in Byron proper, and browsed. Oh boy - there are some nice shops there. I'm going back today... for more shopping. We went and bought shoes, which promptly broke after wearing them for half an hour (so I took them back), but even better...we found the dress:
I am so thrilled! This picture doesn't do it justice. It's like a sunset! I was showing Brin (another Aussie book artist who lives on Julies property) the dress and told him I'd like to get turqoise shoes to go with it. Without missing a beat in that Aussie drawl said, "Well, you're just going to be a bloody walking rainbow then, aren't you." Yes! Actually the more I thought about it, the more I think ultramarine blue shoes would be nice. Hmmmm....
Okay - I've got to get going here...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Book Art Weekend!

This is the show I judged. 80 books $4000. - to purchase books for the collection, probably 75 people at the opening, and I had to sound like I knew what I was talking about. I think it went well. I had a lot of positive feed back which is good, because I decided I wanted to give some critical feedback. The Australians have a fabulous printmaking programs - their prints are amazing. Text is good too, I think a little experimenting would be good - it's not a dominant thing in their work. I think the weakest point is the structure, and so we talked about that - or rather I talked about that. It's really hard to wrap your head about all three things though, but I think they are on the brink of being a big impact on the Book Arts world. It's very exciting to see something at the beginning - something which has so much potential and no roadblocks to keep it from being successful. I've met some amazing people that I hope to form a strong connection with. Oh, and I also managed to piss one person off - so I think I can actually call it a very successful opening.

This morning, I was back at the Gallery bright and early for a Blizzard Book workshop. Margaret, Geraldine, (me), Heather, and Babette were delightful students. Incredibly inquisitive, positive, excited and just really lovely. There is no other way to describe the morning. We went way over time, and I really didn't want to stop! I'm excited to see if they can use this structure for some of their work - we talked about a lot of issues, and so we'll see what comes out of it.

After the workshop I went back to Julie's house. She'd stayed home with Monica Oppen, another book artists, to work on a PowerPoint. I really wanted to sit and chat with them, but I was so exhausted I had to take a nap. An hour later I was woken up by alot of buslting in the house - we were running late to get Monica to the airport. After we were finally all in the car, Julie told us there had been a slight panic while Darcy (her son) and I were getting ready to get out of the house. There had been a spider on her car.
Now just wait... this wasn't any old spider... this was a Huntsman - the size of your hand! Now. I like alot of things about Australia. I'm thrilled I got to see a Wallaby in the wild, we are listening to a Koala rip off the leaves of a gum tree right now - I saw a Wombat... but. I. Don't. need. to see. one. of. these. things. Thank you. Just google image them. EWWWWWW.
So after Darcy and I freaked out that it might be in the car (which it wasn't - thank god), we dropped Monica off at the airport and headed up the coast to Byron. Here I am at the lighthouse, being blown over by the wind practically - and I'm at the eastern most point of Mainland Australia. Julie insisted. The view was spectacular. The sun had just set and so there were two beautiful bays with purple mountains ringing them. Really nice. Julie and Darcy: Darcy is 14 and a real sweety. Julie is just amazing and wonderful. I don't know how she does all that she does. Her gallery is fantastic! She is creating quite a little hot spot for the book arts. I think this will be a very important gallery for book artists.

We had a nice evening sitting on a 2nd floor balcony in Byron enjoying some really amazing food. Poor Darcy though, probably bored to tears by the boring grown-up women/bookarts talk. We ordered a plate of rock oysters for him though, and a plate of Spanish Churros with chocolate dipping sauce. yum.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Alstonville, Southern Cross University, Julie Barratt's Gallery

Julie's directions were - drive north to the giant prawn and call us. We'll come get you.
This morning she was explaining that there is a lot of controversy about the prawn. It needs a new coat of paint and another beach/tourist resort wants their own giant prawn.

Julie lives up in the country. She's got a beautiful piece of property that looks down into a little valley. The birds have finally finished their morning choir practice and so now it's pretty quiet.
But I really don't know how anyone sleeps past six in the morning! The kookaburra start off and I don't know what's going on, but there is some serious arguing. Maybe the teenagers don't want to get out of the nest. Then others cannot be out done, and everyone starts in. There's one bird that just warbles along- I think it's the black and white mocking bird (?) then there are beautiful pink and grey parrots of some kind that go screeching about. Between 6 - 7 right as the sun is coming up, it is just really really noisy! But the Aussies just sleep right through it. I actually love it, and have enjoyed lying in bed watching the morning sunlight creep across the lawn and listening to all of the different sounds.
I had an extra treat this morning. I was up earlier than usual, and looked down on Julie's back lawn to see a wallaby hopping along in the back. They are amazing.
I bundled myself up, made a cup of coffee, grabbed my knitting and went and sat on the back porch. Sasha the dog was pretty happy about that.
Yesterday was a really big day. I went to Southern Cross University (SCU) and gave a lecture to an art Theory class about book arts. The students seemed really interested, and excited about some of the things. After that Tim Murray (a book and paper artist) took me to the library to see what their book arts collection was like. This was really good because I've got to judge 80 books today, for purchase by the university. I'm glad I have an idea of what they already have. I've been told it's a teaching collection, and so I think I will fill in what I consider holes in the collection. Yesterday afternoon it was off to Julie's gallery to see the books and teach a little workshop for two girls. We did the blizzard book, which they really liked. But the books I'm going to judge. Oh boy. Wow. There are some pretty great things. Julie and I had a long discussion about them last night.
Sadly, I think I've caught Anne-Maree's cold. I've got a stuffy headache and a bit of a sore throat. Julie told me about a juice shop in town, so I'll be stopping there a few times today to load up on healthy juicy things. But you know, as I told Anne-Maree, now I've had the total Australian experience! (hee-hee!)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Ausie experience

It's been great hanging out with Anne-Maree and her family. Really fabulous. I felt like I was getting the real deal: And here it is - The Works Burger. It is: one patty, cheese, fried egg, pickled beets, lightly grilled pineapple, lettuce, tomato, onion, bacon, and bbq sauce. In-n-Out doesn't make 'em like that. And yes, I would eat another one, beets and all. :)
I did run Anne-Maree ragged though. Here we are in Morpeth hunting down some Alpaca yarn. Found some after posing in the bathtub-bench.
I also got another view of the Pacific, from the "western" end. It is beautiful. The breakers were huge - and ice blue.
I left New Castle this morning and drove up the Pacific Highway - incidentally, the number assigned is also 1.
I'm up closer to Brisbane now at Julie Barratt's. She lives out in the bush - and I can already tell there are tons of stars! So beautiful. I hope I get a chance to really look at them.
On the way up I stopped at Billabong Koala Refuge.
I got to feed a kangaroo! I also fed Wallabees.
In this photo on the lower left you can see one of the little albino kangaroos. They really grab your hands and hang on, but they are very gentle. What is more nerve wracking is when one realized that you have food and it comes bounding toward you. They are big and move fast. But I trusted it to stop and not run me over. Whew!
I also got to "pat" a Koala. They are so sweet. They just hang on to the keeper like a teddy bear. So adorable. The reserve also had two big wombats - I didn't realize they were that big. Several birds, and all kinds of other stuff.
Have a big day tomorrow. Lecture to a class, meet with the librarians and artists books, go to the gallery and install some work, mini workshop with some girls who come after school to the gallery, and then??? We'll see....

Sunday, August 9, 2009


Sunday morning, bright and early, we took the tour of the Opera House. It is spectacular even the second time around. There are five venues for shows and so in any given evening, if all of them are in use, the opera house can hold up to 5,500 people. The tour was excellent and gave us a real feel for what Utsen went through to get this thing built. Too bad he never saw the building once it was completed. I think he is really what made Frank Gehry possible.
The inside of the big venue is absolutely gorgeous! I don't think there is a bad seat in the house either. Everything is so well thought out. And the seats are made just for me. They are covered in a beautiful magenta fabric.
I promised to post images of some of the birds: Here are the yellow crested cockatoos. These suckers are big! About the size of ducks and in the Royal Botanical Gardens they are not shy. We saw them climbing all over people.
After the Opera House we headed for the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Lots of great art. I think Sydney Long had to be my favorite. (Daddy - look him up) He's an art nouveau painter from Australia. Really great stuff. There was a wide variety of artists and a lot of Australians. It was great to see that work.
Then we headed to Oxford St. and we were starving. We were so hungry we couldn't make a decision. We finally settle on a little cafe and had a lovely sandwich, fries and an omelet.
Then we headed up to New Castle, a two hour drive and by the time we got here - Anne-Maree and I were both so tired, we called it a night. I zonked out in the hotel room, and she went home to her family. My hotel was fantastic though. It had the biggest feather duvee I've ever slept under. I didn't want to get out of bed.
This morning Anne-Maree picked me up with a bunch of poppies from her garden! Aren't they beautiful!? And look at the colors of her house! The entrance hallway is a warm mustard color with turquoise trim, her bedroom is magenta with chartreuse and turquoise accents, her youngest son's room is my favorite color green and the kitchen has these lovely pink curtains in it. My kind of colors. The house is incredible. It sits on quite a large piece of land which slopes down. So the top floor of the house is the living quarters with another room underneath. But I think the absolute coolest feature is that the kitchen opens up to a large screened-in deck. And here it is, the middle of winter, but we still had breakfast on the deck looking out into their garden. They have a creek at the bottom of it. Some frogs are croaking down there. From the deck you look into a couple of jacaranda's, a perpitisporum, a paper bark tree, and some eucalyptus. And as we sat there, a kookaburra came out of the creek and started preening on a branch of the jacaranda right in front of us. There have been a group of them chattering away all day. They are noisy!
After breakfast, I got the tour of the gardens with Anne-Maree and I finally met the Chooks. We had a really good laugh in Korea when she was telling me all about her chooks, and I said, "What's a chook?" I've been anxious to meet them ever since. And they are something!

They talk, and they are not thrilled about being held, but any food one offers them, that's great. And they really do run like they do in the cartoons! It is a riot to see a dozen feathered things come ga-lumping along at top speed with feathers sticking out and wings-a-flapping.

Anne-Maree's got quite a garden too. Pumello tree, peaches, apples, plums, mango, banana, papaya, macadamia nut, almond, and mulberry trees. Then there is a huge vegetable patch with broccoli, swiss chard, peas, herbs, and you name it. Wow. Very very cool.

After Anne-Maree left to teach, Geoff, her husband gave me another tour of the garden. He is a biologist/conservationist and told me all about the plants and where they came from, what they were doing with the garden etc. It's just spectacular.

I'm not sure what our plans are for this afternoon... But since we have most of tomorrow completely free, I think we are going to go see the tide pools, another nature reserve, and ??? Oh, but dinner is planned. I'm going to have a "Works Burger." Apparently a buger with the works comes with slightly grilled pinaple, and pickled beet root and a few other amazing things. I can't wait.