Wednesday 25 March 2020

Precariat Press

It's been a good few years that I have been thinking of putting together a collection of my poetry and wondering how I should go about it. While self-publishing has, in contemporary times, always gotten a bad rap as "vanity", historically it was crucial to artistic survival: the Woolfs founded the Hogarth Press and printed Virginia's work, and earlier, across an ocean, Walt Whitman published his enduring work Leaves of Grass himself. Most recently I have been inspired by American writer, Jim Trainer, who vowed to publish a collection of his poetry annually for ten years (I have 2018 & 2019 collections, but I think he started in 2015). I was originally drawn to his writing through his monthly article, The Coarse Grind, and his own blog of personal journalism, Going for the Throat, before I discovered that he was a poet too. So, in good company I set about founding my own press. After sessions of brainstorming with my husband, artist James Hayes, a name for the press and an image for its logo were decided. James designed this logo in record time for me.

I had already decided that my first collection would be a chapbook, with the title and cover image based on the bon voyage card I made for my grandparents after first meeting them in 1967. I gave an explanation of what led to that meeting and images of the original card in my blog post last week. Here is the idea sketch for the cover. I will do a full drawing as it will be a lino block print. I was dithering about handpainting areas of colour, but it is most likely to be monochromatic. While I have use of a printing press, I plan to print the front and back covers as one page, also making a linocut of the logo, so colour has yet to be decided.

Wednesday 18 March 2020

Home Sweet Home Goodbye

It was in 1967 that my family won a St Patrick's Day competition from the "Toronto Today" news and current events tv show. As a child it was exciting for me to appear on tv with my very large Irish immigrant family, but the prize was most exciting of all: to bring relatives over from Ireland for a holiday in Toronto. This allowed me, as a seven year old child, to finally meet my grandparents for the very first time! I would meet my father's dad a few years later, but my mother's parents were both still living. I adored them and was heartbroken when they left. In the 1960s air travel was not as frequent as now, and the fact of immigration was very much that you never knew when you would see a loved one again. When my grandparents were due to leave, I made them a going away card. This card was found in my grandmother's purse, in 1980 when she died, and made its way back to me. The simple landscape is what I, as a child, thought Ireland must look like.

Of course I was very familiar with the Irish flag, which I illustrated on the inside of the card, along with my good wishes. During their visit, my grandparents nicknamed me "you know what" as I was constantly telling them things, preceding my revelations with this question phrase. I think now that I must have been driving them crazy, but they never showed any annoyance with me or discouraged my attention.

I didn't get to see them the next year, but they came for a holiday the following year, and perhaps both of them again one more time. I saw my grandmother again three more times after my grandfather's death, but through the years we wrote to each other often. I still think it is interesting that as a child I saw the creative use of a sliding puzzle (I think it came in a gum machine as a prize). I removed all the numbers and used the base as a frame for my mini-painting on the front of the card.

Wednesday 11 March 2020

A Short Walk to Fort Carré - linoprints

Towards the end of my studio residency at Signal Arts Centre in 2018, I started working on some drawings with the intention of turning them into future lino blocks. As I had been offered a further residency at Signal in 2019, I decided I would shelve the drawings and get back to them at a later date. I previously blogged about the progress of this work here.

The images from this series are all based upon things I particularly noticed in Antibes while going on a short walk, on a hot August morning a few years ago, from the apartment in Antibes, where I was staying, to Fort Carré on a promontory on the edge of the town.

Aloe plants were on the side of the footpath, and shadows were very strong in the sunlight. Palm leaves brushed the pavement in some areas.

From under a palm tree, I thought the branches and bark seemed somewhat prehistoric.

I could see why palm branches would be used as fans.

In the heat the succulent plants thrived.

The shadows of trees were amazing.

After years of visiting Antibes, it was delightful to finally see Fort Carré up close. It is a 16th C fort on a promontory overlooking the Mediterranean. Further information on the fort may be found here. One of the things I concentrated on at my Signal residency in 2019 was printmaking. I cut the lino blocks and printed them up before xmas and bound the series of prints into portfolios (edition of three) last month (Feb 2020). I previously posted information on the binding process here.

Wednesday 4 March 2020

Perfect Roast Potatoes!

Well, it only took about 30 years of trying, but shortly before xmas last year, I discovered that the secret to making perfect roast potatoes lay in the variety of potato used. Who knew? I live in Ireland and there are so many potatoes to choose from but shortly before xmas I was told that Maris Pipers were the absolute best for making perfect roast potatoes. Apparently this type of potato is very specific to Ireland and the British Isles, so elsewhere make sure you get a potato with similar qualities, ie a floury potato, like Russet or Golden Yukon (though English ex-pats are not too happy with them...). Anyway, there are only 3 people in my household, so 1.5 kg is enough for us for a dinner and some leftovers to hash up for a lunch.

Peel and halve (or cut in three for larger potatoes).

Parboil 10 minutes at most.

Preheat your oven (about 180C) and your baking dish so the butter and veg oil will melt together.

When the potatoes are ready at parboil stage, drain, and shake your pot so the potatoes get all scuffed up on the outside.

Place in your dish (don't forget the bits that were around the edge of the pot) and turn about so that they are coated with the melted butter and oil. Put them in the preheated oven (the dish should already be hot).

After about half an hour, check on your potatoes and turn them in the dish - they tend to brown on the bottom, and it's an all-over effect that is extra delicious.

Roast for another half hour, getting the rest of your dinner ready in the meantime.  These are so delicious -  perfectly crispy on the outside and melt-in-your-mouth fluffy on the inside. One of the reasons I think it took so long to make such delicious potatoes is that I love other roasted veggies and would put them all in the same dish. The moisture from the other vegetables I think kept the potatoes from browning and crisping, so I cook them separately now!