Wednesday, 8 August 2018

More Summer!

I keep seeing in the weather that rain is forecast, or in fact, my phone tells me it is raining in my town as I look out the window at a few clouds, sun, etc. One of the things I did on the bank holiday weekend just past was head to the farm outside the town and pick up loads of fabulous raspberries while they are still in season. Heading back home it's hard to believe that this lovely view of Bray Head is only a ten minutes drive away towards the sea.

The town doesn't even look likes it's there from this view towards the sea!

We picked up eight large punnets of fabulous raspberries and I spent the afternoon rinsing them -- most to go into the freezer for future desserts and wine. Of course, some were kept out to eat fresh. Yum! I think raspberries are fruit of the gods - my favourite!

Well there was some rain last Friday night. In fact there was a downpour at the outdoor gig of Bryan Ferry. However, I had my raincoat as the weather was expected, and Mr Ferry, as sexy and suave as ever at 72, performed fabulously -- to the crowd's delight, mostly Roxy Music's back catalogue. No rain dampened that night! I think that puts a nice end to summer gigs for me - The Rolling Stones in May, LCD Soundsystem in June, and Bryan Ferry in July. It's been a great summer all around!

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Foliage bowls - Part 2

I was ecstatic when my two foliage bowls came out of their final firing in the way I had hoped! With ceramics there is always the chance for something to go not-as-planned, so one has to leave expectations at the workshop door and accept concepts of happy (or otherwise) accidents and random results.

My intention when glazing these bowls was that a green glaze, painted on then wiped off again, would fill the design crevices. And indeed, this worked! Some of the crevices were deeper than others (the stems) caused by me pressing the soft clay into the foliage when creating the bowls in their formers. See my previous post here for details.

Another participant in the workshop has been getting beautiful results with several glazes mixing and running into each other when heated. Although there is the risk of the glazes running too much and a pot sticking to the kiln shelf when these glazes are used on the exterior of a pot, I was hoping that there would be no trouble if the glazes were used on the inside of the bowls. There were three glazes painted on the bowl interior: a base colour of green and then more random painting strokes of a particular blue and another green.

The extra swirling effect is caused by initial pressing of the clay when creating the bowls. It is the wild rose leaf bowl interior above and the fern bowl interior below.

The ferns presented a completely different pattern than the wild rose leaves, but again, there is lighter and darker lines reflecting the depth of the crevices which held the glaze. In each bowl there is also a subtle glaze under-pattern caused by the wrinkles in the cling film from the initial forming of the bowls.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Foliage bowls - Part 1

In the ceramics workshop at Signal Arts Centre in Bray, I decided to try out a new way of designing handbuilt bowls.  Still using the pudding bowls as formers (lined with cling film so that the clay doesn't stick to the bowl) I brought in ferns and wild rose leaves from my yard. I rolled out slabs and cut random shapes that I pressed into the bowl formers, which were also lined with the foliage.

My plan was that I would press the clay into the foliage hard enough that the patterns would remain once the foliage was removed. Though the bowls were free standing alreay, I wanted simple "feet" on them to increase the elegance of the finished bowl, lifting it from a table surface. The feet for both bowls were made simply from slabs that curved around the bottom of the bowls and joined with the scoring, slip and vinegar technique.

Both bowls have their feet, the ferrn bowl is upside down to show off it's foot.

Though the fern bowl's foot is slightly taller, the bowls are approximately the same size at 12 cm.

I carefully removed most of the foliage before putting the bowls in the bisque firing, but any that seemed too embedded was left to burn off in the kiln. This is the bisqued wild rose leaf bowl showing the fluff from the foliage that burnt off in the kiln. This fluff is easy to remove by blowing off or brushing off before glazing. I was thrilled at the detail from the foliage, which provided a great pattern. I immediately knew how it would be glazed -- details next post!

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Artists in conversation: Jesse Jones & Olwen Fouéré

A few weeks ago I was completely taken with Jesse Jones's exhibition, Tremble Tremble, at The Project Arts Centre. I blogged about it here.

I was delighted then when it was announced that Jones would be in conversation with Olwen Fouéré one evening last week. I made my way into Dublin to attend! It was great to hear the two women talk about how the piece developed and in fact, how it is continuing to develop. Each venue is taken into account as the work deals with installation specifities.  

I had already seen Tremble Tremble prior to the conversation but was entirely unaware that there was a water element until it was discussed by Fouéré and Jones! I must have been focused on something else on that first visit to the exhibition, but I did not miss it on a subsequent visit.

I really enjoyed that, during the conversation, Jones passed around two of the physical objects that were used during the elements of live performance in this exhibition. As with the previous artists-in- conversation events that I have attended, there is such great insight into the process behind the artwork that comes out naturally through conversation.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Artists in Conversation: Julie Merriman & Jessica Foley

At the end of June, I went to The Lexicon gallery (in DLR Co Co library) to see the latest work of Julie Merriman in her exhibition of drawings, Carriage Return. The exhibition consists of large works in the main area and smaller works in the smaller back room

.Merriman's drawing methods and materials are meticulous and unique: she utilises "found" things like pre-used typewriter ribbons, carbon paper, and outdated printing machines (she is the first Irish person I have met who knows what a Gestetner Machine is!).

The drawing above references the wind cowls that are part of the air venting structure that are synonymous with the architecture of The Lexicon complex. As well as seeing the exhibition, I was also attending the artist talk - Julie Merriman was in conversation with writer Jessica Foley, who had written a response to Merriman's work. The conversation offered great insight into the work of both artists, both of whom I have had the occasion to encounter before.

In 2016, I was taking a post-graduate course and Jessica Foley gave an experimental writing workshop one morning, and that afternoon gave a tour of Trinity College's CONNECT building where she is located as writer in residence. That same spring, Julie Merriman had an exhibition of drawings made while in residence at Dublin City Council. I also attended a talk that Merriman made at the time to discuss the residency and the work in the show, entitled Revisions.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Dublin Pride and Canada Day

It was a busy weekend just past: Saturday June 30 being the day for the annual Dublin Pride Parade and Sunday July 1 being Canada Day (remembered by Canadians worldwide).

The theme for this year's Pride was "We Are Family" and it was the largest Pride parade in Dublin ever, with over 60,000 joyful people participating. The first Pride parade in Ireland was in 1983 with 200 people courageously marching - homosexuality was not decriminalised till 1993!

Along with a Pride flag, the Canadian flag is proudly hanging at Brown Thomas, which is owned by the Weston family (Canadian).

Pumpkin pie is a must for Canada Day, and I make them every year from the mush prepared from the previous Hallowe'en pumpkin (and frozen of course!).

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Vinyl "handbag" sketchbook

While I still have three more of my Mum's leather handbags that I want to turn into notebooks/sketchbooks, I turned to one of my own old bags to use for making for a sketchbook as a long overdue gift for a vegetarian artist friend. This was a good little bag that I received as a gift many years ago, but was out of circulation due to a broken strap. 

The first step was un-seaming the bag and taking measurements. The bag's flap with design patches was actually like a pocket so I kept it intact for possible further use.

I figured out the size for my signatures (folded paper groups) and measured the vinyl to size for a wrap-around cover. I had decided to go back to the very first bookbinding method that I learned - the Medieval tacket book - and slightly modify it to my needs. In the image below, lines marking the interior spine are visible with approximately 1/4 cm between each line.Two signatures will be bound in corresponding holes along each line.

Using graph paper I decided the distance between the binding holes. In the picture below the extra lines denote where the signature spines will be -- the meetings of perpendicular lines marking the locations of the binding holes. NB: it is important that the TOP and BOTTOM of the cover and signatures are obvious; I mark the interior spine (it won't be visible after binding) and always have a deckled edge at the top of my books. Likewise, the template should also be clearly marked.

Each signature is opened centrally to facilitate puncturing binding holes. Each signature for this sketchbook is ten folded pages, i.e., 20 pages. The pushpins need to poke completely through the ten pages, in the middle of the fold; the graph paper provides a template for where the holes will be.

A book cradle is ideal to facilitate the creation of binding holes; I have made a useful enough cradle from cardboard. It has gotten a bit wonky at this point, with much use, but I keep repairing it with duct tape and additional bits of cardboard in strategic places so it still serves its purpose!

Back to poking holes in the sigantures: the two white pushpins are stronger and easier to use than the round headed pins. However, I only have two of the white type so they are my main men for poking holes, and the round ones act as placeholders, keeping the signature aligned with the graph paper template. While working on the book, I thought of this step as the "dance of the pushpins": I kept having to move the pins around till all the holes were punctured.

Looking at the signatures not in the cradle, one can see the holes punctured in the signature spines. These are the binding holes. Note that there are seven holes in the paper signatures; five of these holes will be bound to the cover, but the top and bottom holes are for thread entry, exit, and signature binding -- they are not used to bind to the cover.

As with the paper, the cover needs to have holes punctured. Five holes per line are punctured, corresponding to the five binding holes in the signatures. I used an awl to make the holes, but as with leather, the vinyl wants to heal itself! Safety pins and earring wires are handy to give those pesky holes a nudge to stay open; these handy pin items need to be removed completely before beginning to bind.

 Start binding in reverse order. That is, the last signature (with end paper) is the first to be bound. It is probably the most tricky, so it's good to get it over with. Leave about 2 inches of thread at the entry hole, starting from the outside and threading into the centre of the signature. Threading through the second hole you bind the signature to the first hole in the cover and come back through the cover's second hole to the third signature hole. The thread then goes to the centre hole and it is here that a decision must be made: the thread has to go back through the same hole, so either another thread or a decorative bead or button is used in order to facilitate the bind (otherwise it would come undone). The following signatures do not have this dilemma as the binding thread loops through the previous binding thread (i.e., signatures 3, 5, 7, and 9. The second signature on each line (i.e., signatures 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10) is not bound to the cover at the centre hole --  the hole is bypassed as one long thread to the next hole (lower or upper hole, depending on your sewing direction).

I am happy with the final book, I chose the teal embroidery thread (3 strand) to match the endpapers, which is paper giftwrap from Prague that I had been saving. I thought of using one of the ceramic buttons that I had made as a decorative, practical element in that first tricky signature binding, but I found the glass beads and thought them more appropriate and less likely to damage the threads with time.

As I am planning to mail this sketchbook to my friend, I was delighted that the "pocket" of the original purse flap is large enough to contain the sketchbook. Though it's a bit of tight squeeze, it will offer considerable protection in the post!