Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve

As this year draws to a close, I am reminded on many fronts to settle back and count my blessings [and my achievements] for 2011. My daughter in London has just listed her achievements for 2011, and Fiona has blogged on her 10 favourite art works achievements for the year, so I am motivated to do the same.

It has been a wonderful year personally for me - travel, friendship, family, home comforts and even weight loss, but here I will list the 10 things that have given me the greatest moments of creative 'bliss'- things that have really touched my heart. Most have stories attached, so I'm sure the emotional attachment to the things and incidents play a more important role than the physicality of the objects.
[no particulat order - too hard to prioritise]

Rusty bolts found in the Thames at low tide,
...speak to me about times past, the long history of the British Empire, the boats chugging/sailing along the river plying their trade, the hardships of riverfront life, today a beautiful, tourist filled destination...

...based on photos from my travels to Europe and Morocco and printed onto old paper...

Camel skin' boxes',
... from the Saharan desert, Morocco. They are made from the knees of camels [or so I was told]. They cost me about $5 but I had to have them irradiated to get them back into Australia - costing me $60 - crazy, but I love them....

Keith Lo Bue workshop, Brisbane, June 2011,
...working with found objects and jewellery making techniques has always excited me -and Keith is a total inspiration. These 2 pendants are made from a salt shaker and my grandfather's bowls measure. I have used mica in the 'windows'...

'Seal Style' Chinese calligraphy,
...We came across a gallery/exhibition on Gulangu Island, Xiamen, China, and I  fell in love with this art technique - a cross between writing and drawing - the old 'seal' style of calligraphy carved into wood creating something looking like a print block, but painted selectively. After much pleading, I was sold the last exhibition catalogue.
I had a seal made of my Chinese name, found some lovely wooden letters in a London market, and bought an antique Chinese monkey seal [I think it says 'year of the monkey']. Lots of triggers for inspiration and new work...

Porcelain by 'Min',
 I saw these pieces in the student market and desperately wanted to buy them - they were not for sale. I pleaded with the shop owner and she contacted the artist who amazingly enough was running a coffee shop just across the square. We knew of Min, a Jingdezhen/Sanbao artist with liberal creative ideas, and coincidentally the work was hers. She came to talk to me and after we had fitted all the puzzle pieces into place, she generously gave me these 3 pieces. I will treasure them as they are so unusual and individual within the sea of Chinese commercialism...

'Fly Away and Drift Away',
...I painted this series of work [each 30cm square] in response to my mother dying late last year. I love the works - they are simple yet strong and have delicate detail which evokes lost and forgotten memories...

'Collage G'
...I participated in the International Collage Exchange early this year - this was a collage of mine that I decided to keep. I love the soft colours and delicate details...

Crazed texture,
...I've had a great deal of pleasure playing aroung with builder's bog, sanding back textures and exposing underlying layers - a lot more of this to come in 2012...

...maybe this was the most poignant creative experience for me of 2011. I first heard of Ai Wei Wei some years ago, then the controversy of the Sunflower Seeds Show at the Tate Modern, London, brought him to my attention once again - the public were not allowed to walk over the ceramic seeds due to health and safety issues - ceramic dust - ironic considering the conditions under which the seeds were made. Ai Wei Wei was thrown in jail in China earlier this year [for avoiding paying taxes- hmmmm] and was released due to international pressure and donations [to pay the tax fines] from international arts organisations. He had the seeds made in Jingdezhen, where we spent a week of our China trip. It is said that Ai Wei Wei kept the city's artisans employed for a year making the seeds. Unfortunately, it's not a subject we were able to discuss whilst in China.
Eliza and I saw the exhibition at the Tate Modern in London in May - I was greatly moved by the experience.
I was keen to get a ceramic sunflower or two whilst in Jingdezhen in November - surely there would be a few still floating around. Imagine my joy when I found some at the student market!! I bought the whole bag full.
Go to this link [The Tate Modern] if you are interested in finding out more about Ai Wei Wei and the meaning behind the Sunflower Seeds exhibition.

...and now to 2012...
 Fiona's recent Andy Warhole quote is exactly what I need to do in the new year [and for the rest of my life].

'Don't think about making art just get it done. Let everyone else decide if its good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art'.

Happy New Year, everyone

Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Christmas

...and a little present for you all - my famous 'Christmas Donkey Drops' recipe- the family favourite treat I have been making forever.

Noela's Donkey Drops:
1 can condensed milk
1 cup coconut
1 pkt crushed malt biscuits
1 ½ tab spoons cocoa
  1. Mix all ingredients,
  2. Make into balls,
  3. Roll in more coconut,
  4. Refridgerate
  5. Eat

    ***Be warned – you may need to make a double batch!


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Patchwork of Ceramics in Jingdezhen

Jindezhen is about a day's drive SW from Shanghai. It is arguably the world's porcelain capital. The whole city revolves around the ceramic industry. There are several universities and training institutes for students, and hundreds of 'factories', each specialising in some aspect of ceramic production. 'Artists' don't do the complete production themselves as in the West. One factory will process the clay, another will specialise in mould making, another will pour the moulds or finish the green ware, turn the bases, some are specialist carvers, painters, lustre painters, decal makers, glaze makers, and so it goes on. There is even a 'kiln master' to fire the kiln, then a team of 'specialists' will finish the pots, grind the bases, and a specialist box maker custom makes boxes for transport.
Even the traffic lights and street lights in the city are made from porcelain.
We stayed at Sanbao - an independent, privately owned renovated farm house about 10 km from town. Jackson Li and his sister Wendy run the place. Jackson is well known in the ceramic world for being a bit more 'Western' in his approach - his repertoire of skills is unusually broad and he makes the most beautiful brushes [see previous posts and the web site].
...bathroom wall tiles,
 I don't know who made this piece, but it shows a popular style of abstract work with the gorgeous celadon glaze that I love so much.
...this time a 'patchwork of glaze'- glued to canvas after firing.
...this was originally a kiln, then a fireplace, now a repository for reject bowls.
...exhibition piece,
'Beneath our Feet'
...part of an exhibition by Englishman, Tom Hayes, who had been at Sanbao for 6 months,
...and this one commenting on the layers of ceramic history, shards, clays, soils and rice paddies.

The institute welcomes international artists for residencies at all times, so if you want a fabulous opportunity to immerse yourself in this world, check out the web site or just email Wendy. of the buildings with a residence and several studios.

Footnote - I have many more Sanbao pics and pics of great ceramic pieces but I'll leave them for another post - this one was all about the 'patchwork'.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Patchwork of Walls in China

As promised, the lovely old/new walls - remnants of centuries past with mud and straw walls, mud bricks, low fired terra cotta clay bricks, sand stone blocks, granite blocks, modern bricks, concrete bricks, all smeared with a generous layer of rendering which all too soon falls away revealing the history of the building and its additions. How can you not love these? of my favourite photos of all time - true WABI SABI ...ahhhh...big sigh,
...and even a fire hydrant in Suzhou with some concrete patching.
Next time, a patchwork of ceramics in Jingdezhen.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Patchwork of Life in China

I have been a bit overwhelmed and have had trouble getting back into art or posting on my blog since returning from China. I guess all the Christmas festivities, parties, dinner plans etc have been distractions as well. However, I have been making 'Bazola' jewellery after some gentle nudging from Baz. See his blog for the latest results.

I have just read Donnna Watson's ['Layers'] post on the Japanese 'Boro' patchwork - thanks Donna. This type of 'patchwork' really makes my heart sing and I feel inspired to post some vaguely patchwork related images from my recent China trip.
...jade burial ornament, circa 600BC
...antique silk garment sleeves,
...patchworked canvas truck tarp,
...potter's apron,
...dripping canvas protecting a water outlet,
...old sandals,
...Jackson Li wearing a traditional potter's vest,
... mops made from old T shirts and track pants. weaving,
...demonstration of synthetic fabric burning.
Walls will be my next post, so feel free to skip that one - ie- my friends who give me a hard time about walls - you know who you are!!!