Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Theo Jansen "Strandbeest"

I would not usually post a link to something that is an ad. but I wanted to share this kinetic sculpture by Theo Jansen and I think this is the best footage on youtube. It also helps to hear what Jansen says about the work, I think. I love the way there are three of them at the end, scurrying on the beach, crab-like.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Self "mock up"

If you've been reading my blog for a while you'll know this work using self portraits has been "under development" for months. I decided to post a mock-up of the installation I am planning around the work. I hope you'll excuse the poor quality of the hand-drawn components - you can tell I don't have a graphics tablet and had to sketch with the mouse....they do say it's like drawing with a cake of soap, and I have to agree!

The full piece will incorporate the following components:

  1. a raw clay portrait with an inkjet transfer;
  2. the fallen clay shards "pieced" together;
  3. a fired clay concertina book with photos showing the progression of the raw clay; and
  4. the final portrait embedded in wax and framed.

I only have the clay concertina book left to finish. I am working on the photos now and will post some of them soon. I plan to send them off to be made into ceramic decals when they are ready. These will be fired onto the work as the final stage.

I'm also testing three different porcelain clays to see which I like the best for this work. One is a paper porcelain, which is porcelain clay with paper added. This makes the clay easier to handle and to repair if cracking occurs. I've never used it before and am not sure how it will look when fired. Paperclay has the potential to be re-worked and joined once the clay has dried and I realized that this opens up the working time, which would be a great advantage to me. Normally with clay, you have to keep it pretty moist until the work is finished, and if it dries out before you are done, the work is lost. Paperclay could make it much easier for me to do more clay work, and this prospect has me quite excited.

Friday, October 19, 2007


Just a quick post to let you know that Like Weather has been shortlisted in the 2008 Libris Awards - the Australian Artists Book Prize. This award is part of the largest regular artists book event in Australia. Shortlisted books are exhibited in conjunction with Focus on Artists Books, an international conference with masterclasses held in Mackay, Queensland every two years. Woo!hoo!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Making sure work is archival

I thought I'd do a post about the steps I took to ensure that Like Weather is archival and as such, that I am producing the most durable work that I can. This is a new consideration for me, because I have worked with clay in the past, which if fired, especially high fired, is definitely durable (unless dropped!) and if unfired, well then it's really meant to be an ephemeral work.

The first step is paper selection. There are quite a lot of acid free papers specially developed for inkjet printing on the market now. My main source here in Australia is Image Science which is in Melbourne. They have lots of information about choosing papers on their website, as well as selling sample packs.

The tricky part for me in this project was that I needed double-sided paper for some parts of the book - the spine and the flags. There are a few available but it does seriously reduce your options. When I made the draft version I received feedback saying people really liked the texture of the watercolour paper I had used. I couldn't find a double-sided textured inkjet paper online, so I decided to go with the watercolour paper I used for the rough version. It was Canson 100, which is actually double sided. It is 300gsm 100% cotton rag paper, cold press one side and rough the other. I was amazed to find that I could buy 10 sheets from Dick Blick and have it posted to Australia for AU$60, when it costs AU$50 for 5 sheets from my local art store! I would dearly love to support Australian businesses more, but with that sort of price difference it just is not possible.

To achieve the best colour saturation I could, I coated the paper with InkAid. This does not actually affect archival qualities, but does reduce the penetration of the ink into the paper, ensuring a more vibrant look. I should mention that InkAid, while not terribly toxic, does recommend taking some precautions. I prefer not to spray things like this, so I use a foam brush and I wear gloves. I also work outside.

I've talked before about having some difficulty getting an even coat. This just takes a little practice and it is best to apply a couple of thin coats, letting each dry in between. If you keep working the surface after it has started to dry, you can get into a real mess - which of course I did! I also discovered that more coats does result in more saturated colours - which is good if this is what you want, but does mean you need to keep the number of coats on each page in one project constant, if keeping the colour saturation is important.

Inkjet printing has really come of age in the past decade, both with respect to colour reproduction and archival quality. If you have a printer that uses the right inks and you use the right paper, you are generally going to get a product that is far more enduring than a traditional photograph. When I discovered that fact, it really made printing with an inkjet seem like a viable option for my practice. My dear old Dad, who was a traditional photographer would be amazed!

Wilhelm Imaging Research is the organisation that "conducts research on the stability and preservation of traditional and digital color photographs and motion pictures. The company publishes brand name-specific permanence data for desktop and large-format inkjet printers and other digital printing devices."^ This is the website to visit if you want to learn about this area, and to check out a particular printer. As regular readers know, I was able to pick up a barely-used second-hand Epson 2100 a few months ago. This uses the archival Ultrachrome inks and can print up to A3 size. As long as I stick to genuine Epson inks and appropriate paper, my images will be as archival as is possible.

There are only a couple of other products I used in this project. When the pages were all printed, I sprayed them with couple of coats of Premier Art Print Shield. This is a lacquer based coating that provides additional UV protection and scuff resistance. Seeing the images were being used in a book which would be handled and not placed behind glass, I thought this was a worthwhile addition. This product might be useful for artists who include found paper in their work, just to provide a little protection from UV light.
Once I'd bought my can, I read the MSDS sheet and realized I needed to wear a mask while applying it. I do own a mask from glaze-mixing days, but of course the filters were the wrong sort. I'm actually amazed how inexpensive these filters are, given the level of protection they provide. If a product recommends you use one, I think it's a great investment.

The last item needed no such special safety equipment. It was X-press conservators acid-free double-sided tape to attach the flags. For the instructions on how to plan and assemble a flag book, I used this article from Bonefolder. I was surprised to be instructed to use tape, as I thought some "special" adhesive would be recommended, but if it's good enough for Karen Hamner, it's good enough for me. And voila! that's it.

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Very Good Week

This past week has been amazingly active and satisfying for me. Of course I am paying for it today with a headache and sore shoulders and eyes, and probably should not be on the computer, but I just wanted to get a little post done....

but to save your eyes, I will resist the temptation to do the whole post in tiny, tiny print.
So to summarize in brief, last week I managed to:
  • visit and take my mother out

  • take myself to a medical appointment

  • go out to celebrate my husband's birthday (and I got away with drinking a glass of champers)

  • visit my friend Mel (feffakooken)

  • go to an "Uncovered" at the State Library to view their latest acquisitions of artists books and...
wait for it.....

No wonder there was no time for writing blog posts!

The "Uncovered" event was really fun. We all put on the obligatory white gloves and spent an hour and a half ooh-ing and aah-ing over some gorgeous work. One of my favourites was "A Gardener at Midnight" by Peter Lyssiotis. It is inspired by old travel journals about trips to the Holy Land which are held in the State Library of Victoria. His book re-tells the story given the context of the current political situation in the region and he has altered found imagery. The illustrations look like photos that have been scratched with one of those green scourers and this gives them a wonderful soft texture and slightly obscures the subject matter. I found the whole book is online here, but the reproduction over the web really does the images no justice at all. Still you might get a bit of an idea.

One of the other books I really loved was by Lyn Ashby and it's called Sisyphus Goes Home. Anyone who knows the myth of Sisyphus knows that he, in fact, does not get to go home, but is destined to spend all eternity rolling a rock up a hill simply for it to roll back down, so he can begin to roll it back up again. Hm, sounds a bit like a medical condition I know....

The images in this book are so simple but so beautiful...it isn't very expensive, so I am thinking of buying it. In the mean time, here is one page from it.

As I mentioned I finally finished Like Weather. Well, one copy of it. I decided I'll make 3 copies in all. My plan is to make one more by the end of the year, and leave the last one until such time as it is needed. I've posted the photos of the final book on Flickr, but here is one, showing the outside fully open.

Now I can move on to making the book to go with my Self Portrait piece. It's going to be made from porcelain with the photos fired on using decals. Decals should ensure the imagery really look part of the work, rather than just being "stuck on"...and fortunately I have the Decal Queen (feffakooken) to turn to for advice...I've already been lucky enough to have my own personal tutorial on the subject. She made it look really easy, but somehow I'll bet I manage to find all the tricky bits....