Friday, May 21, 2010


What do you reckon this is? I could get very silly and set up a competition but it's late and I'm tired (as usual) and I can't face it so I'll tell you: it's a photo of the wall in our new en-suite bathroom before the tilers covered it up, and so I think the blue tones are from the contractor rolling off the excess waterproofing stuff from his paint roller before washing it out. I think. Anyway, it's rather lovely in the picture, but has now been obliterated on the bathroom wall.

Dearest husband has been away for three weeks now and the strain is showing a bit in all of us, although we're on the home straight now and, Icelandic volcanoes permitting, he should be home in 10 days. In his absence I have been insanely busy: in addition to finishing the work for my solo show and putting it up in the gallery there have also been the usual parental responsibilities, household chores and school stuff. And when I say "school stuff" I mean LOTS of school stuff because last year I was mad enough to become a director on the school's Board of Governors, and on Monday I inherited the post of Chair of the Board.

This tendency to put my hand up while not exactly paying attention to what I'm volunteering for goes way back, back to me aged 5 at Bellfield Primary School in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire in 1971. Miss Layleigh asked a question and I stuck my hand up and - as the only volunteer - found myself playing Jesus Christ in the Easter play in a loin cloth and, what's more, Eddy Edwards (who played Judas Iscariot) wouldn't kiss me so I had to kiss him. It's had a lasting effect. I am that person who volunteers... I don't mind being that person but at some point I should wake up to the fact that it is physically possible for my larynx and vocal chords to formulate the word 'no'.

I bring some good stuff to the role of Chair: apart from expertise in sitting down (ha, ha, ha) I've spent many years running small businesses, I am pretty organised, I am good at breaking complicated tasks down into simple elements, I am good at getting disparate people to work together, and I have a fair amount of experience in working in environments with lots of change so I'm sensitive to the human needs within a business. I'm not so good at delegating and I am completely crap at politics so then again, this may not be the job for me...

I am probably writing all this because having got my show out of the way (which has been looming at me for a while and filled up the whole horizon) I am now a bit scared: of being Chair of the Board of Governors of a school, of being insanely busy all the time, and scared at the prospect of now coming up with a new body of work in time for a solo show in October that I thought wasn't happening but apparently is happening again. So what am I going to do? I'm going to eat a bit of chocolate, do a bit of the Sydney Morning Herald's killer 5-in-1 Sudoku (rated 'Hard' this time) and then go to bed and sleep. It will all look more manageable in the morning. Meanwhile thank you, dear blog readers, for being very nice about the pictures of my show: your enthusiasm was heartening.

Sunday, May 09, 2010


I am SOOOOoooooooo tired. You know how it is: no matter how organised you are, the run-up to a show is exhausting. Finishing the work. Framing. Changing the hanging wires to hanging cords. Catalogue. Business cards. Wine. Refreshments. Interview. Photographs. Flyers. Distributing flyers. Posters. Email invites. Telephone calls. Hanging. Wrapping unframed work. Pricing. You know what I mean.

We had a short break this morning, taking darling daughter to the Coffs Harbour Show - an event that runs on the backs of a dedicated few volunteers and the sniff of an oily rag. As dearest husband is away it fell to me to deal with the piteous begging to be allowed to go on wholly unsuitable fairground rides; rides that make her mother feel ill even looking at them. Luckily another girl of similarly unsuitable youth but more-than-adequate-height was available as a screaming partner. Darling daughter came off the ride exhilerated and exclaimed, Mummy, you're the best! which was an even better Mother's Day present than the dangly earrings I was presented with first thing this morning in a beautiful hand-made felt purse with endearingly wonky embroidery that she'd completed in class last week.

We ran into darling daughter's marvellous teacher and her family at the show ground and Ruth kindly offered to take daughter off my hands until the show opening this afternoon. Hurrah! Not that I wanted to get rid of her but it did remove 'find some food to eat for lunch' from my To Do list and I was able to go home, get changed, arrange cheese and dips on a plate before frantically sewing up the final two sketchbooks to go on sale at the show (i.e. temptingly affordable gifts for Mother's Day for those unwilling to part with several hundred dollars for my prints! At least, that was my cunning plan).

Lovely people came to the opening this afternoon and I am so honoured that they did. I felt a bit teary afterwards, or maybe that's just exhaustion, I'm not sure. I managed a glass of champagne, no nibbles at all and only one trip to the loo but apparently while I was absent I managed to sell lots of work, which means I may be able to pay the framing bill after all. It's been a very good day.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

The show is on

My goodness, it's up on the walls of the gallery! It's the first solo show I've had in a couple of years, in a lovely gallery in The Old Butter Factory in Bellingen, a historical town in the hills about 45km from Coffs Harbour. It's a quirky space: not huge, and with uneven ceilings and floors and LOTS of spiders, but actually it makes for a great exhibition space. There are good long lengths of wall and smaller, more intimate corners. It's not flash but it's fun, it's in a good place and it has a good feel about it.

Andy and Louise are the mainstays of the gallery and they dedicate Saturdays to hanging new shows. As my show is rather light on numbers of pieces it actually didn't take long to put up, but they were kind enough to buy me lunch at the adjoining cafe and as it was a sunny Autumn day it felt very nice: warm, clear and calm after a frenetic week trying to pull everything together.

The small squares on the back wall are half of my Daily Drawings, mounted on paper pinned to the walls. January to June 2008 have arrived at the Abecedarian Gallery in Denver, Colorado, for Alicia Bailey 'One Unit per Increment' exhibition, leaving July to December to star in Bellingen.

The Arabic Boats went down very well and look great on this shelf - and one sold, even before we'd finished putting up the show! A very nice local couple came in and decided they liked the middle one best, which reminds me that I must email them with a translation of the text... I hope it's a good omen for the opening tomorrow because I REALLY need to sell some work.

Friday, May 07, 2010


Passages from Beowulf translated into Arabic and hand-cut from Japanese Washi, then waxed, sewn and mounted onto the seedpods of the African Tulip Tree, Spathodea Campanulata.

Boat #1

I will not carry
My noble sword
Into battle, but fight
With my bare hands,
Fiercely and fearlessly,
Fully prepared
To win or lose;
For one of us
Must die, submitting
To the doom of God

Boat #2

Men who inhabit
This weary war-ravaged
World experience
Many good things -
And much evil

Boat #3

Intrepid warriors
Drank wine;
Not one of them guessed
What fate had in store,
The fearful doom

Why...? I thought you'd ask. The seedpods remind me of both Viking longboats and Arabian dhows and, as you know, I have a fascination with punishing my fingers by cutting out text with a scalpel. Beowulf is a nordic saga whose exploration of fear, courage and battle seem relevant to me now as westernised countries face a hidden enemy that is often blankly categorised and demonised as Arab as well as other, and yet I suspect the fear is just as great in the face of death on the other side as our own. I'm not making a strong political statement - more like pointing at something and then running away from the issue in case I make an idiot of myself. The piece is also about the beauty of language and script, particularly Arabic script with its flowing form and intriguing shapes. It was interesting cutting words in a language I don't understand and cannot read, a metaphor in itself perhaps.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Hunter gatherer

As I come home in the evenings now Orion, my favourite constellation, is visible in the south-westerly sky, very bright, with his belt oriented vertically in front of me as I drive up North Boambee Road and then bounce up the dirt track towards our block of land. I like Orion, partly because it was the first constellation I could find for myself in the night sky, partly because I can still see it in the southern hemisphere having grown up looking at it in English skies, and partly because its stars have such cool names: Betelgeuse, Rigel and Bellatrix, to name but a few.

The days are getting noticeably shorter and the evenings and early mornings are cool. Well, comparatively cool. I realise that 20 degrees celcius probably doesn't count as cool in the UK but that's the temperature of my bedroom right now and I'll be taking a hot water bottle to bed tonight!

I love the light of dusk - if I'm not trying to do anything that requires seeing clearly, at any rate. It's a calm light, and silvered the mackerel clouds this evening. There's a southerly change coming and I just hope it won't bring rain at the weekend because that will affect the number of people who turn up to the opening of my show on Sunday afternoon.

This morning I took Toby to the beach for a run, and exercised my arm and shoulder muscles throwing the ball for him. It was a morning of great gifts from the sea: many turban shells and trap doors which will, eventually, become part of something. My collection is growing and once I've located all the bags and boxes in the shed I'm sure I'll be inspired! But there were other treasures today as well, including a hand-sized abalone shell, a beautiful smoky piece of coral with gorgeously detailed shapes indented into it, and halves of shells that I aspire to turn into clasps for books. Eventually.

I can't go to the local hardware store without buying plants or bulbs or something to do with gardening... I love home-grown tomatoes (even though the lady in the bookshop yesterday asked me - rhetorically - what was the point in growing tomatoes here when they're sold everywhere? My answer was, of course, that they taste better from your own garden). Right now I've got a list as long as your arm of things to do in the garden, ranging from "complete weed matting" to "plant all the trees and shrubs" to "create the citrus orchard". Henceforth these seedlings shall be known as The Tomatoes of Optimism.


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