Friday, December 22, 2006

Putting my feet up

Well that’s it! It’s official! I am on holidays! The last job on my list is done and crossed off and the little box is winging its way to the 4th World Ceramic Biennale as I write. God speed little ones! My feet are now well and truly UP! And here’s how excited I am about it…..
(it’s so cheesy but the lovely poppit sent me one and I proceeded to waste an entire afternoon superimposing my whole family and all my friends while giggling away to myself in procrastination heaven!) Happy Holidays!


4 big tables, 13 awesome Brisbane artists and craftspeople, heaps of post-it notes and a whole lot of swapping going on! And swapalicious it was indeed!

It’s becoming an annual event where we all get together and swap to our hearts content, and like a gaggle of squawking hens (and a few crowing roosters) we all converged at the Museum of Brisbane this year (thanks MOB girls) cluck clucking as everyone laid out their work on tables.

We started out with a five minute perusal period, and the tension in the air was palpable as we circled around like hungry wolves with our pack of post-it notes, our hands twitching, mentally coveting the pieces we wanted….and then bang…post-it notes and pens to the ready, the swap was on! Swooping in to put our names on the pieces we most wanted it started in a flurry but then quickly subsided as we all decided to act like grown-ups, and were very courteous and polite in our negotiations in the end!! Such a lovely event where we all go home with goodies that we say are going to be Christmas presents for friends and family but mostly end up being for ourselves! I’m finding it hard to part with some of it….

Here’s a pic of just some of my booty! (Marissa Molin cards, Florence Forrest toys, Shannon Garson bowl, Liana Kabel jewellery and Jesika Hanford necklace. Pics above are Ky Curran Brisvegas ceramics, Rebecca Ward neo-luddite jewelley, and my porcelain wall pieces). Other great folks in the line-up were Simon Degroot, Darren O'Brien, Deb Mansfield, Tracy Milne....

I swapped some of my porcelain wall works for this lovely Shannon Garson bowl from her Nest series. The next day in the studio I noticed a beautiful birds nest that Edgar, our lovely Spanish gardener at the Old Museum, had found and brought over to show us.

In her Words

Well it’s all ok now! The feffakookan recipe has been found! Hooray! And what a well used recipe it is, complete with food splatters and smudged text from a wayward dash of egg or butter! I make a lot of my work using handwritten recipes. I’m a bit obsessed by handwriting, particularly old handwriting. There is just something so evocative about it, something really enchanting about reading things written in someone’s hand, especially when they aren’t here anymore. It feels like a more intimate interaction with the past somehow. In these two pieces here I’ve used excerpts from my nana's recipe book. One of them is for fruity scone wedges (!!) and the other is a variety of her handy hints - everything from make your own wool mix and silver polish through to tips on washing blankets and a recipe for snail bait! They've found a home in the new Mater Women's Hospital and I couldn't think of a better place for them!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Christmas Trees and Bagpipes

Kenji made this very sweet christmas tree and today we used a hole punch and cut out lots of little holes from my green and red decal scraps to decorate it. The tree is life size - about 2.5 metres high. Just joking. It’s about 10cm high. But how good would that be if it was 2.5 metres high!! We're getting a bit restless in the studio at the feels like holidays. Unfortunately it aint quite holidays for me yet. One more firing (if all goes to plan) and I'm home free! I'm finding myself getting very easily distracted and welcoming any interruption. Today we had a lovely visitor called Les, who plays the bagpipes with the QLD Pipe Band who have a building right next to ours. He was a fascinating fellow. Just stuck his head in to see what it was we got up to in our little shed, and ended up telling us great stories about his life as a train driver and then a policeman. Then he topped it off by playing us a CD of contemporary bagpipe music. I'm telling ya, if you've never heard By the Rivers of Babylon or Send in the Clowns played on bagpipes you haven't lived!

Poppity pop

I send a lot of fragile objects all over the place and so need to use a bit of bubble wrap to make sure they get there in one piece and not twenty pieces. But I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet about how much of this plastic poppy stuff is used in the world, and how little of it is re-used and recycled. I am astounded by people and organisations who just bundle up metres and metres of the stuff and squish it into rubbish bins, never to be used again. So I have set myself a challenge to never buy bubble wrap first hand and to only use recycled. I have been very successful in this mission to date, and let me tell you the thrill of the chase is never better than when work is due for a show in 2 days and I still haven’t managed to scrounge enough bubble wrap to send it off safely!! I am forever keeping an eye out for shops and restaurants that are being redecorated and fitted out (a marvellous source of bubblewrap), and Kenji and I are always doing trips over to Reverse Garbage, sometimes returning triumphant with a bag stuffed full of it, other times returning despondent and empty-handed, haggling with each other over scraps lying around the studio. Today was a good day for bubble wrap. I did a quick dash to reverse garbage to find the sales assistant sorting through a pile that had just arrived! All recycled from a local company. The bubble gods were smiling on us.


Apart from being a great word in it's own right, a feffakookan is a very yummy german biscuit! And yes, it is actually spelt ‘pfeffercuchen’, but growing up making these tasty treats and never seeing the actual word written down I always imagined it to be spelt like this! My nana was famous for these biscuits – yummy, sugary, chewy ginger cookies with delicious white icing and coloured sprinkles all over them. Her recipe made 500 of them, and each Christmas her cosy little kitchen would be transformed into a busy biscuit factory as her gaggle of unruly grandchildren took their places on the production line mixing and rolling and cutting and icing and sprinkling and packing them up into colourful old tins to be sent off or taken home by friends and family. As we grew older the carnival ceased to be quite so unruly, but the tradition persisted. I’m in a mild state of panic at the moment as my nana’s recipe book seems to have gone missing…..

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

My Fair Ladies

A very committed and creative member of the Brisbane arts community has been very kindly offering me some advice recently on how best I should ‘brand’ myself. He has come up with a slogan that might just catapult me into global fame and fortune, and turn me into a household name, like Tupperware or ipod. His little gem of a slogan goes like this….

Don’t be a yobbo…..drink from a Robbo

What do you think? Kind of catchy isn’t it? I’m thinking of getting Nicole Kidman to be the face of this new Robbo empire, and Olivia Newton-John to do the jingle. Or perhaps Kath and Kim might even come on board for this one…talk about sophistimacation! Thanks J!

Speaking of Olivia Newton-John, I have something to admit that is just a tiny bit embarrassing, but I’m feeling like sharing today. When I was a kid she was my absolute idol. I loved her! I thought she was the most beauuuuuuuuutiful woman in the world! My bedroom wall was plastered in photos of her, I had all the albums, I watched all the movies. One day mum and I read this little household tip in the Women’s Weekly magazine about sticking pictures on the wall using toothpaste. Apparently it was a great way to avoid ruining the paint and leaving marks on the wall. Great, we thought! Let’s get the tube! And up they all went where they stayed for the next few years, alongside the Lady Di pictures (yes that’s right, Lady Di). But let me tell you people – NEVER stick your pictures up on the wall with toothpaste (gee…really?)! When we sold the house we spent hours scraping the years-old dried up toothpaste off the wall, bringing half the paint job with it. Ita Buttrose you have a lot to answer for.

These days I’m a little more subtle about my Livvy and Di obsession. Apart from the little pictures I keep in my wallet, I hide tiny images of them in my work. I make a range of porcelain cups and beakers (pictured below) that have lots of little images of things from my past and my childhood – recipes, wallpaper, sewing patterns, photos, letters etc – collaged all over them, and every now and then I sneak in a little pic of the lovely ladies….I wonder if anyone has ever noticed…

p.s. I don't really have pictures of them in my wallet..

Craft Australia

Earlier this year I was invited to speak at VERGE 2006, the national Australian ceramics conference. I was part of a panel (along with Laura McEwan and Isaac Patmore) called Generation NEXT, looking at some of the pathways and perceptions of some of the newer (and not necessarily younger!) artists working in ceramics. Craft Australia has just published the paper on their website, along with papers by Janet DeBoos, Avi Amesbury and Carole Hanson Epp.

It’s well worth a look at the Craft Australia website. They have a great range of resources for people involved or interested in craft and design, and just recently a really interesting on-line forum looking at making a living in the arts. In a series of blogs Phoebe Porter, Blanche Tilden, Tom Moore, the Jam Factory, Bianca Looney, Oliver Smith, High Tea with Mrs Woo, Cesar Cueva, Pippa Dickson and Kris Brankovic all shared their experiences of creating a viable practice in the arts. A good read! They’ve also set up a gallery for emerging artists to post images of their work. Nice one.

The image above is of Canadian ceramicist Carole Hanson Epp's work, from her fantastic series "A collection of small miseries". You can see more of it here.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Simply glowing

I recently got a new camera and i'm just a wee bit obsessed with it. I can't stop photographing things! Kenji had his glaze recipe pegged up on the wall today and the light behind it just looked so beautiful I had to take a picture. I love the little doodles he's done too.

In the studio

Kenji and I were working away in the studio today, when we looked up to see three magpies standing in the doorway just quietly watching us. We all just sat there for a moment looking at eachother, and then they turned around and walked away. I managed to catch this little fellow though. He came back for a second look.

Radio Head

I’m a total radio junkie. I can’t get by without my radio. I have it on all day when I’m working away in the studio or at home. I mostly listen to Radio National – news, documentaries, world music, art, books... love it!! My favourite program of all is THE DEEP END, an arts and culture show that covers events, ideas and issues in the visual arts, theatre, dance, film and music. I highly recommend it! They have a particularly great section called the makers where they speak to artists about their process of making - what they make, how they make it and why they make it. From violin makers and installation artists through to dancers, ceramicists, painters, jewellers and conductors! You can listen via their website, or download it as a podcast too (my how modern!). And seeing as it’s ALL about the Asia Pacific Triennial here at the moment, here’s a link to a recent program that takes you on a virtual tour of the exhibition and talks to critics and artists about the show and the spiffy new building. I promise I’ll stop talking about the APT now…maybe.

Another great program on RN is By Design. Saturday design...aaaaaahhhh...
(thanks for the pics of the radios jilly!)

Friday, December 8, 2006

La Femme Domestique

I gave an artist talk today at the QUT Art Museum as part of the exhibition La Femme Domestique. I hadn't actually been able to get in to the gallery until today so it was nice to finally see the show. Some great work by some great women! The image is of Donna Marcus's work, who has also recently done a fantastic public art work in Brisbane Square.

I'm getting scared....

Oh yes the christmas frenzy is upon us!! Having been largely holed up in my studio the last few weeks I have somehow managed to miss the build up of the christmas frenzy outside of my own little world. But in the hunt for a new pair of scissors yesterday I naively wandered into one of the $2 shops only to be immediately assaulted by blaring christmas carols, blinding displays of tinsel and shiny christmas balls, and a lifesize electronic santa clause screaming ho ho ho into my ear and singing an unidentifiable song that I think was meant to be jingle bells. I stumbled out disoriented and ran quickly back to my studio to recover.

In her garden

I’ve just recently sent these little babies down to the Craft Victoria Silent Auction. They’re from a series I’ve called In her garden – my nana’s garden. She was an avid gardener and was never happier than when she was out amongst it all, tending the lemon tree, planting fuscias by the laundry or sweetpeas against the chicken wire fence. It was also her solace in darker times. The garden is largely untended and looking a little wild these days, but the daisies and roses and camelias and fuscias persistently bloom. Before the house gets sold I made sure I took some photos of her garden, which I then turned into designs for this work. She'd be tut tutting at the state of the garden if she could see it now, but I think she'd be pretty happy with what I did with it. Even if the garden is no longer, there’ll be a little part of it that lives on in this work! So they’re a bit of a tribute to her. That’s how I remember her….in her garden.

Thursday, December 7, 2006


An interesting interview with Shelley Simpson from MUD ceramics by Kristine at Three Layer Cake. I'm a fan of MUD ceramics. The forms......the colours......mmmm. I always enjoy hearing about how people started out, and how they ended up doing what they do. There are often so many unexpected and interesting stories behind it all!

Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei is a Chinese artist who only appeared on my radar fairly recently but since then he seems to be popping up left, right and centre. And I'm liking him a lot! Apart from the fact that some of his work involves ceramics (always guaranteed to make my nose twitch and my ears wiggle) he makes some pretty interesting observations on tradition and cultural stereotypes. When I first saw these coloured vessels I thought they were a playful interpretation of traditional Chinese ceramics, and in some ways they are that. But there is another dimension added to them when you read the little didactic panel that lets you know the vessels are actually authentic Chinese pottery dated 3500-5000BC....painted with acrylic. The other image is titled "Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn". ooooooohhhhhh.......
Galerie Meile has some more images of Ai Weiwei's work.

View from the Shed

The view from our shed is of these huge big camphor laurel trees. When I was a kid we lived on a big property outside of Murwillumbah (land of many possums) and dotted around the countryside were these thickets or forests of camphor laurels. I remember so vividly walking through them – the smell of camphor, the ground thick with the dry reddish brown crackling leaves. Inside the thickets everything was just so still and so quiet. Quite magical. They were beautiful.

Unfortunately, unbeknownst to me as a little munchkin, Camphor laurels do great damage to the environment, particularly in Northern New South Wales. Go here to find out more about the evils of the camphor laurel!! Such beautiful trees, but so destructive….bummer.

The Shed

I work in a lovely lovely studio in the grounds of a fantastic building that used to be a museum. I share the space with 2 other ceramic artists (more on them shortly). Apparently the shed we work in used to be a loading dock for goods on the railway line. The trains would stop alongside the shed and offload their freight through these big tall yellow wooden doors.

The museum building itself is pretty amazing. I have vague recollections of going there with my dad when I was a child. The rooms are just cavernous... huge big spaces that always make me feel like ballroom dancing whenever I pass them! The whole building feels like it is full of stories and ghosts and secrets. We're pretty lucky to be able to work here. A quiet, leafy little place right in the middle of the city.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Masami Teraoka

Yesterday I went to a lecture at the QLD Art Gallery by Masami Teraoka. His work is part of the Asia Pacific Triennial. What an entertaining speaker he was! Full of great anecdotes of his life as a young Japanese artist in America in the 1960s. He was trained in traditional techniques of Japanese woodblock printing (ukiyo-e) and draws on that tradition to create paintings and prints that include everything from geisha's and samurai's, to condoms, g-strings, hamburgers and priests! It was nice to be in the gallery on a weekday without the thronging crowds and to just sit back and listen to someone talk about their work and life.


Well put your seatbelts on kids cause he we go! Brisvegas is humming at the moment with the opening of the Asia Pacific Triennial and the new Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) over the weekend. And what a shindig it was! Very zshoozy indeed – I even ditched the sneakers and clay-covered overalls for this one! Apart from the fact that in order to attend I had to pretend to be someone else (thanks to all those who assisted by calling me Donna for the evening), it was a fantastic night with lots of great music (Talvin Singh and local greats Neighbourhood Groove Collective) and lots of great art – although a bit tricky to get a good look at it all through the thronging crowd of 4000 people! The new building is rather spiffy and I am a bit beside myself at the prospect of a jam packed few months of artist talks, performances, films and other good stuff! Yippee!!