Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Diary

Finish up school, have several lie-ins, tidy up the house, buy the duck for Christmas dinner, feel justified breaking out the alcohol even though it isn't yet the weekend.

Drive down to Newcastle (7 hours) to see number 1 brother-in-law (by age), his two daughters, his parents and - unexpectedly - his ex-wife. Spend a very pleasant afternoon, evening and morning with them, then drive home on Christmas Eve (5 hours).

Wake up fairly late on Christmas Day, eat a leisurely breakfast (ham on buttered toast for dearest carniverous husband and pancakes for darling daughter - just as carniverous really - and me), open presents, then take traditional Christmas Day walk on Korora Beach. Collect pandanus keys for planting later. Eat delicious roast duck and decide there's no room in our tummies for Christmas pudding...

Spend lots of time in the garden, working off the tension as well as the calories. Relax on the verandah with books and a gin and tonic (until the gin runs out - must go shopping tomorrow), wander into the studio and wrap up Art & Lies books for posting, help darling daughter make lovely stuffed owl toy, listen to new CDs, talk to people on the phone...

Photograph native wildlife - such as this diamond python, dug out by the silly dog near the veggie garden - and realise why the mice haven't been eating the sweetcorn. Enjoy life. Slightly dread the end of the public holidays and "real life" creeping back in...

Sunday, December 04, 2011


It's been a busy few weeks on lots of different fronts, and I am behind with my work. But never mind: there are only 8 more days of school and then we're in the long summer holidays! No more school until the beginning of February! Hooray to that. It's not that I'll have less to do over the summer, but I won't have to endure the tyranny of the early morning start. I've spent many years of my life getting up early but the truth is that I'm an owl, not a lark, and I like to have 8 1/2 hours sleep every night and not get up until I feel like it! Why else do you think I work (mainly) for myself?

Dearest husband is now home after almost a month away, and now that he's recovering from jetlag and feeling altogether more human he's taken some of the load off me. On the one hand I achieve lots of stuff while he's away because he isn't a) sitting in exactly the place where I want to put things or b) telling me to slow down! So I get cupboards cleaned out, sort out the wardrobe, make lots of things BUT it also means I have to cook and shop and stuff, and I'm not good at it. The standard of catering definitely goes down when he's away because I just can't be bothered. And besides, when he's away I don't have anyone to talk to... about things like being worried about hospital tests that show I have a large cyst in my sinus cavities but don't explain why I'm still falling over.

There have been a few other biggies while he's been away too. For starters, darling daughter has been having a miserable time at school because most of the girls in her class have - how shall I say this? - become mini-teenagers all of a sudden, with the added attitudes/hormones/social pressures that this brings. It's not pretty and it's certainly not fun, especially if you're the youngest in the class AND the only one who's started having periods AND you're not good at gymnastics or ballet or tennis or running (even if you are really good at swimming, playing the piano and shifting a shot-putt). I've bought her a couple of good books so that she has something to refer to after we've had heart-to-hearts about how awful people are and how lonely and upset she feels, and I've started reading Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman, mainly because when I flicked through the book in the local shop I came across something about being a mother who suddenly finds she hates all the other girls in her daughter's class at school, and that rang a bell!

It was clear to both her dad and me that facilitating some sort of activity that she's enjoy seemed like a good idea, so I arranged a sort-of audition for her to have singing lessons at the local Conservatorium of Music, where she already has piano lessons. I say "sort-of" audition because the Conservatorium's contemporary voice tutor, Robbie, doesn't like teaching younger kids and had to be "conned" into seeing darling daughter for a one-off singing lesson! I went in with her and saw his eyes rolling when he realised how young she was (not yet 10), but his attitude changed somewhat a few minutes later when he asked her what sort of music she wanted to sing. I guess he was expecting something along the lines of "just like Britney", but what he got was "I want to sing the blues" which practically knocked him off his seat. It was very funny, and just a great boost for darling daughter. Once he'd put her through her paces and realised that yes, she does have a big voice, that she already interprets the music she hears, that she has a decent range and can hold a note and understands intuitively about key changes and different tonal qualities his attitude changed a bit and he's taken her on as a pupil because, as he said, "She's gonna be good". Hooray to that too.

Lastly - well, sort of, if you ignore school Board stuff, adults having hissy fits, new Principals, end of year madness, making 70 Christmas cards, BookArtObject and starting my Certificate IV in Training & Assessment - I've also had my one and only job interview in the five years since I arrived in Coffs Harbour. In order to continue teaching at TAFE I have to be interviewed and found to be adequately skilled for putting name on the "Teaching Suitability List", so last week I went in to present myself and my experience formally to the Head Teacher in Creative Industries A.K.A. my boss, Phil. Apparently I won't know the results until the end of January, but I think I did OK (the exam certificates looked impressive, anyway, and I did a cracker of a presentation about teaching a visual arts unit, as requested).

Phew! Now I'm going to bed. Just thinking about stuff has made me tired, and I've got three days in the classroom ahead of me...

Friday, November 11, 2011

Transformations #2

I haven't had much sleep this week: quite apart from the dog barking at the wind all last night (Toby, I hope your big floppy ears are burning...), there has been a lot of burn-off smoke, a lot of late night working and some sleep-walking children to factor in. So I wasn't terribly impressed to find that the concreters were planning a 6:30am start this morning. But it was worth it: darling daughter and I achieved our showers and dressing before they arrived and disconnected the gas bottles at the back of the house, and by the time we made our (uncharacteristically early) way to school this morning half of the concrete was already down.

The nice large square area in the above photograph is where we used to put the bins and recycling, but no more! Once the vegetable beds are back, there are permanent planting of shrubs and flowers, the living wall to shade the back of the house and a few tasteful tubs I reckon this is going to be a lovely place to sit so I'm planning chairs, a table, and a good coffee...

Toby had to stay indoors most of the day (I didn't think paw prints immortalised in concrete were the finishing touch we were looking for), but it has set enough now for him to be allowed a night-time stroll. The gas bottle has been reconnected, we have hot water and cooking facilities again, and I can have a lie-in tomorrow! I will need it as I've promised to take darling daughter to see the Smurfs movie in the morning. * gurgle *

Sunday, November 06, 2011


Do you remember when our friends built us a veggie garden in the wasteland behind our house? Well we've just trashed it, but all in the name of home improvements. We discovered last summer just how bad mould can be! It was everywhere: clothes, furniture, cupboards... I am not someone who usually reacts to things like that (skin allergies, yes; hayfever, yes; other respiratory problems? No!) but even I was wheezing, despite wiping everything down repeatedly with tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil... and whatever other home remedies were recommended by those experienced in the ways of "Coffs Harbour mould".

Once the humidity levels died away and the mould went too we researched our options to prevent us going through the same thing again, and it boils down to sufficient ventilation under the house + facilitating water moving away from the house. You know how hard and often it rains here... buckets of the stuff, especially over the summer, and we've built fairly close to the hillside, and on clay. Consequently the vegetation around the house retains water, the clay prevents water from draining away, and the position of the house doesn't maximise cross-ventilation under the house. Well, you live and learn.

Last weekend we dug out our veggie garden (* sniff *), but only temporarily, and relocated the plants to the big veggie patch down the hill. The wonderful soil brought in by our lovely friends went to fill up the planter box built into the side of our verandah, which has languished, unloved and full of big bits of polystyrene (packaging materials: useful to add bulk to the bottom of the planter so that we don't need to find 1.5 cubic metres of expensive soil to fill it!). The clay at the back of the house has been dug and compacted to slope away from the house and towards the agricultural drains that will be put in along the edge of the hillside, and concrete will be laid on top, both to help the water run towards the drains and to give us (finally!) a smooth, hard path around the house. There are planting areas built into the new layout which will give us both the veggie and herb gardens back plus room for permanent planting, and the lower batter of the slope will be weed-matted and planted up with something nice, although we haven't yet decided what. There will be enough room for a table and chairs out there, which is a nice sun trap in spring and autumn, and we'll finally be able to use the big washing line.

The next step of the process is to put two big fans into the crawl space under the house: they don't use much electricity (useful when you're on solar power!) and will have timers so they don't run all day, but in theory the increased circulation of air, combined with reduced build-up of water, will mean less mould.

Lastly, we're taking the opportunity to provide some extra shade in summer by planting a 'living wall' along the back deck. We discovered that in mid-summer the angle of the sun over the ridge of rainforest at the back means that it shines into the hall and the laundry for several hours in the afternoon, which heats up the whole house. We're putting in big wooden posts, tensioned with the sort of cables you see around swimming pools, and we're going to grow vigourous but deciduous climbers up the frame! Current favourite suggestions include wisteria, grape vines and kiwi fruit, but I fancy filling in the gaps - if there are any - with things like runner beans, so we'll see how we go. It's very exciting.

And this is the planted-up planter. We absolutely should NOT have gone to a garden centre last weekend, and when we did we should NOT have enjoyed a very nice coffee and cake in their lovely cafe, and when we'd spent the money we don't have on that little bit of indulgence we absolutely should NOT have eyed off the specialist grower's new consignment of bromeliads... Somehow we found ourselves at the till with a trolley load of shade-loving tropical goodies, trying not to look at the total. I felt the least I could do was plant up the planter box immediately.

Friday, November 04, 2011

No offence...

So I hope you're not offended! I don't think I've made a secret of the fact that I don't have a spiritual bone in my body... have I? Well you know I have had a particularly crap series of exchanges in the last few days about nothing to do with art, but a lot to do with slaving away in a voluntary capacity at my daughter's school and I must admit that I find myself up to my eyeballs with annoyance at 5:45 on a Friday afternoon. The bottom line is that I'm not a New Age hippy. And I haven't yet had a beer.

* Breathe *

I've had fun and games health-wise recently, the upside of which is that a CT scan has shown definitive proof that I have a brain, so there. I have started falling over again, and it's nothing to do with beer! I had a year or two of doing it after darling daughter was born but what with the overwhelming crapness of the entire pregnancy/birthing/feeding experience it rather disappeared into the chaos of everything else going wrong and was dismissed. Not so funny that it's started again. No, I am not drunk (although I'm looking forward to a beer in a mo). No, I'm not on drugs (well, only paracetamol for my badly bruised knees!). And no, I'm not blindly tripping over. Thankfully it turns out I don't have either an aneurism or a brain tumour (I was assured by the medical receptionist that although I haven't scored a doctor's appointment yet - that's next week - they would have rung me by now if they'd found "anything serious". Phew).

What I may be experiencing are 'Stokes-Adams attacks'... which don't sound like a whole lot of fun, but then, since I lose consciousness and don't wake up again until I've almost hit the ground, it isn't a lot of fun anyway. Apparently what I need for a definitive diagnosis is for a passer-by (you know, the helpful bystanders who rush to your aid when they see you fall over... not) to observe and then communicate to a medical person a) whether I went white before I fell and b) whether I went bright red when I regained consciousness a mere second or two later. Since we're all out of helpful bystanders, I don't know. Last time it happened darling daughter was holding my hand when I went down like a plank (I go straight over forwards, very dramatic!). Geez Louise, my shoulder hurt almost as much as my knees afterwards, but the poor girl was so shocked she was wholly unable to recall the necessary clinical details....

What to do in such trying times? Laugh really, really hard! I had a couple of hours of laughter with friends last night - thank you E & L! - but I've also been having a laugh about a new age-y advert I saw in a recent edition of the Organic Gardener magazine. If your glassware is looking tired and you're all out of energy, perhaps your water needs re-structuring? I quote from the advert:

TC Energy Design products are masterpieces of form and harmony – beautiful mouth blown glassware uniquely shaped to revitalise and restructure water. Created from musical compositions converted into spatial dimensions and moulded into balanced, harmonic glassware, the shapely form of the glassware generates an energising resonance pattern that restores water with subtle waves of harmonic sound. The special design of TC products revitalises water, reminding it of its origins and restoring the integrity of its structure within 3 minutes
The company is TC Energy Design and in case you like their logo, I can share with you that

the protected logo by TC design has been developed from a 12-dimensional basic structure. According to the scientist and mathematician the holistic existence is based on a 12-dimensional hierarchy. Geometry is thereby an essentially efficient module, from which life’s efficacy can be derived and defined. The symbolic powers of the naturally harmonising forces inherent in the TC logo sustain the biological valency of the TC products too
There's a lot more on the website that I don't understand... probably because my rainwater supply isn't very well-structured.

I must say that I live in a part of Australia where this sort of thing is very widespread. It's like being the rational filling in a sandwich where the top slice of bread is the healthy local population of extreme evangelical semi-Baptist creationist anti-abortion anti-gay churches (so many to chose from!) and the bottom slice of bread is the healthy local population of nouveau-hippies... Anyway, I sent the website link for TC Energy Designs off to the Feedback page of New Scientist magazine, and got back via email today a link to a Tim Minchin rant which has made me feel MUCH BETTER! I almost fell off my chair but decided I'd be more comfortable staying put today, thank you. I've never seen or heard anything by Tim Minchin before, but I'm an instant fan... I just need to warn you that you might be offended if you listen to him, if I haven't offended you already!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Primrose Park

I've just had a great weekend down in Cremorne (north Sydney, on the harbour, for the geographically challenged like me), teaching a 3D artists' book course at Primrose Park Paper Arts. I did my usual thing of being very blase about teaching and then being utterly terrified: what was I thinking? What do I know? How in hell's name am I going to teach that? So I did MASSES of reading and exploring and thinking and preparation - and had a lovely time.

Thanks so much to Christina, Chris, Lea, Julie, Diana, Lydia, Sue, Karen, Brenda, and Suzy for being enterprising, flexible, interested (and interesting) and creative, and to Chris (again, despite feeling ill), Dinah and Jean for organising everything.

"Show and Tell" with Sara to start things off... you may notice a few BookArtObject books in there, illustrating things!

Why teach about 3D book arts? I suppose it's 40% because I'm so intrigued myself, 40% because my own arts practice appears to have elements of getting 2D printmaking into 3 dimensions by cutting and folding, and 20% because I was so piqued by Professor Ross Woodrow's remarks at the opening of the Southern Cross Acquisitive Artists' Book Awards earlier this year! One of the great pleasures of books is their tactility: the ability to pick them up and hold them, and move the pages. Sometimes - not always - you get even more from an artists' book when there is more to it: more movement, or more texture or more shape*... and that's why I get excited about artists' books, and why it was such great fun to share my excitement with other people.

* apparently there's a theory that less is more. I struggle with that, as you can tell, but I'm prepared to believe there is truth in the idea.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Hermes' horse

Hermes the god didn't need a horse because he had winged sandals and a winged helmet... but of course I'm talking about the Hermes shop in Melbourne which had this magnificent paper sculpture in its window!


After my week in Melbourne I spent a couple of days at home before flying down to Sydney for a few days. On Thursday we went to the Powerhouse Museum show "LoveLace" which is truly fabulous...

Cecilia Heffer and Burt Bongers

Joyce Fleming

Joep Verhoeven

Jenny Pollack

Janie Matthews

Ingrid Morley

Lenka Suchanek

Michele Eastwood

Rui Kikuchi

Tania Spencer

Tomy Ka Chun Leung

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

We went to the Ian Potter Centre of the National Gallery of Victoria this morning, and I liked the exhibition "10 ways to remember the past". One of the artists was Brook Andrew who printed anonymous Aboriginal faces onto metallic cloth in dark grey, making subtle comments about anthropology, White settlement and racism... quite beautiful.

The centre itself is quite striking: all strange geometric panels and pierced steel sheets. I like it but it looks quite mad across the street from a bizarre but imposing former theatre which has an odd combination of Art Nouveau(-ish) and Moroccan architecture!

My god(less) son Flyn infront of a telling piece of graffiti! I love the laneways with their strange mixtures of art plus bill posters...


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