Wednesday, 20 January 2021

getting organised...

If you saw last week's blog, here, you will know that I had to deal with the xmas chaos in my studio before I could even think about getting back to work. So this is the pressed cloth hanging in wait for me to begin - without all the boxes in front of it!

Although it may not look like it, I did a complete overhaul/reorganisation of my materials shelves on the back wall, and the large items (rolls of paper, etc) in front of the shelves are more manageable where they are now located.

After completing all the physical tidying, I have been going through work from the past few years making sure things are signed and/or dated.

There was also a lot of work that is "sub-standard" - prints that have too much or too little ink, etc - which needs to be tossed. However, I am not one to waste paper, so I have simply ripped them in half and added them to my collection of "backs", which I use for lists, notes, etc.

Wednesday, 13 January 2021


 Happy new year! Well, in order to get back to work, I first have to deal with the chaos of the past six weeks and get my studio back into working order. Even before I get in to my attic studio, I have to clear the stairs going up to it - the flat surfaces of the stairs have been brilliant repositories for all kinds of detritus to be dealt with "later". "Later" is now!

Before xmas the attic (aka my studio) was used as a space to wrap and store things. The first thing that has to be tackled there is organising the wrapping paper, ribbons, labels, etc. and putting them away in deeper storage on the roof (behind the couch) where they will stay for the next eleven months - when it starts all over again!

The area in front of my workspace it crowded by boxes. These are storage boxes for xmas decorations, boxes of ceramics (work done in the past few years) and boxes containing items from my Signal studio residency that I haven't yet put away.

My supplies area needs to be reorganised before I can smoothly get back to work! It takes some time, but I will do it a bit at a time in order not to be overwhelmed. I have given myself till the end of January to start my new large painting, which has been calling to me. My composition sketch for this painting, Knockeen, can be seen affixed to the wall at the upper right of this photo, where it has languished since last summer. But it will happen soon...

Wednesday, 23 December 2020

Happy Christmas!

Well, the presents are all wrapped, the house and tree are decorated, gingerbread cookies made... with just a few things left to do, I am definitely in full-swing Christmas mode. Certainly this has been a humdinger of a year, but still there are many things to be grateful for. One of the last things for me will be, through this blog, to send out good wishes into the ether, for readers to have a happy, healthy holiday and a joyous new year. I will not be posting again until next year. Keep well, stay safe. 

Wednesday, 16 December 2020

self-portraits with home made ink!

As part of my studio residency (whether at home due to lockdown, or at Signal Arts Centre when allowed) a daily self-portrait is de rigueur. I have blogged about previous selfies from this year's residency here and introduced the residency, with links to previous years here.

During August of this year, both myself and my husband, sculptor James Hayes, took part in the Aos Dara/Umha Aois combined symposium. I posted about my work here and here, but one of the things James did as part of his work was to experiment with making "iron gall ink" out of oak galls found in Tomnafinnoge Wood. He recorded the entire process, posting a, 11.5 minute video to youtube, which may be seen here. He exhibited the video, along with other work, in the culminating exhibition to celebrate work done during the Aos Dara/Umha Aois combined symposium this year along with work done during last year's Aos Dara symposium. I blogged about the exhibition here.

James also used the same method to make a jar of ink from walnut shells, which he had found during a site meeting at a park in Dublin. Taking up a pen nib and holder, I used the walnut ink to create a self portrait one afternoon, while in lockdown.

And the next day I decided to try out the ink made with oak galls to see if I could spot their differences. In fact, they both were easy to work with as any commercial ink, with only slight difference in their colours.

Wednesday, 9 December 2020

Signal Arts Centre Christmas Craft Fair

With the second lockdown ended on December 1, Signal Arts Centre prepared in advance to open its doors to its annual Christmas Craft Fair.

As in previous years, the gallery was set up with lovely furniture to display the wares of local crafts people.

If you can think of a craft, you can be sure it is represented here - knitwear, felting, ceramics, etc.

If you're looking for lovely gifts that are hand-crafted you'll be sure to find them here - jewellery, copper tea-light holders, handbags, tea cosies, ceramic dishes, hand-printed t-shirts, felted scarves and plenty more!

There are gift items and decorations, big and small.

There are also a stack of hand-made cards, both seasonal and all occasion. Though there are a few countries which have an early last-date for delivery before xmas, post within Ireland can be sent up to December 21.

It seems a little more sparse than in previous years but I have found it easier to actually focus on goods. New stock is arriving regularly, so I highly recommend more than one visit. The craft fair is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm until Christmas Eve. The "shop" is fully staffed so it does not close for lunch, and all covid safety measures are in place.

Wednesday, 2 December 2020

lino printing at home

My intention for this year's studio residency at Signal Arts Centre was threefold: to do a daily self-portrait (see blog post here), make a number of unique silk fibre pages (see blog post here), and to create a new series of prints as part of my body of work, Memory Is My Homeland. My initial intention was to create monoprints on the handmade silk fibre paper. However, after doing several tests, which I discussed here, I decided to do linoprints, which I discussed here. Everything was going swimmingly until a second lockdown meant that I was going to be working at home instead of the Signal studio. 

Since I normally work in my home studio, theoretically this wasn't a big deal BUT the road where Signal Arts Centre is located was blocked off due to construction on a nearby bridge and the printing press was still in the studio at Signal. As I had hoped, the road was only blocked off for two weeks, during which time I could prepare lino blocks, cut paper, etc. so that I would be good to go once I retrieved the press. In any case, my home studio is in the attic so any printmaking would have to be done downstairs. For several weeks then, the kitchen was the area for preparing paper and inking the blocks.

It is a short hop down the hall into the living room, where the press was set up. As you can see by the picture, I made a heavy cardboard "window" in which to place the lino block to effectively use the press as a relief printer. The cardboard was large enough to register the paper against.

The blanketed floor of the living room was just large enough to do one edition of ten and a unique print on silk fibre paper for each of the lino blocks in the series. For this image of a telephone mouthpiece I chose the silk fibre paper that contained a tangle of inclusions. Certainly an image representative of both communication and mis-communication.

My initial image of two clothes pegs on the line didn't work on such a tiny scale, but I still wanted to use the image. I decided to re-do it as one larger clothes peg and am happy with the results of this very domestic image. I chose a silk fibre page that had soft mauve thread inclusions. 

I had this memory of swinging on a chain barrier in front of the house where I was born and that I only lived in till I was 2 years old, in Toronto. I thought it was an impossible memory until one day, passing River St on a streetcar, I saw that the chain link barriers were still in front of those city housing units. They separated lawns from the footpaths and were only about a foot high - something a toddler could, in fact, manage to swing on. The silk fibre paper has both Fabriano paper and green thread inclusions.

As well as printing editions and unique prints on silk fibre paper for the new series of lino blocks, I also wanted to print editions for some older blocks that fit with the theme, specifically the two mugs and the teapot, which appeared in my Good Morning/Maidín Maigh/Buenos Días books that I made a few years ago. Details of that project can be seen here.

I also realised that I only had a few test prints of a lino I cut a few years ago, Prayers for My Children, certainly in direct response to an incident at my mother's deathbed and the surprise estrangement from my siblings following her death.  I wrote a fictionalised account of this and it was published here. I think this piece belongs with the current series; the unique print is on an un-dyed silk fibre page with Fabriano paper inclusions.

The kitchen was also a handy place for clean up each day.

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

lino printing - the start of a new series

I started the Signal Arts Centre studio residency at the end of September and I blogged about starting it  here. My plans for the studio this year included a daily self-portrait (which I blogged about here), making silk fibre paper for printing on (which I blogged about here) and printmaking. My initial plan was to create a series of monoprints and print them on the silk fibre paper. However, after trials (here), I found that the monoprints, though I liked the results on the paper I made, would actually be too vibrant for my Memory Is My Homeland series and even working small, would be too big for the silk fibre paper, which I wanted to be as memorable as the printed image. I have worked on very tiny lino blocks before and decided that this format would be better suited to the planned series. I had five images in mind and wanted to start work on them immediately.

After transferring all the images to the tiny blocks, I started the basic outline cutting.

Then I worked on each block individually. 

This is ostensibly finished, though I would make a final decision after a test print. (NB the image below is larger than the actual lino block!)

I was happy with this test print and didn't do any further work on the chain lino. The image derives from my memory of the chain barriers in front of the first house in Toronto where I lived. I remembered sitting on the chains and treating it like a swing. I always wondered about this memory, until one time passing the area on a streetcar I saw the "barriers" that separated the house lawns from the surrounding footpaths. They were very low chains between short bollards, no more than two feet high. It made sense of my memory - my family moved from that house when I was two years old.

The test print of the gate at Knockeen was also satisfactory. This small gate, seemingly within the hedge separating the second house in which I lived in Kerry from the fields in front of the house, had a glass ball (a buoy?) affixed to it's post.

Though I bought the red wellies in Galway in the summer of 1988 because my shoes were soaked from a downpour, I practically lived in these wellies, rain or shine, while in Kerry 1994-1996. I wanted to keep the image simple, so did no further work on the lino. 

I have spent about half my life living in Ireland now, just as long as I've lived in Toronto, and although I haven't always been in Bray, it is most certainly my "home". There is a Victorian promenade at the seafront, looking out over the Irish Sea, and it easily becomes a genteel symbol of the town's history.

The block I did of pegs did not work on such a small scale, and I decided I would make another image of one peg, as the image has meaning within the series.