Saturday, March 31, 2012

A little international news

This post is a sort of "catch-up" to allow me to share news of what's been happening lately and what is coming up.

The first news I have is really exciting as "Judy and the Jacaranda" has been selected for exhibition at Abecedarian Gallery in Denver, USA. The exhibition is entitled Transparent/Opaque, so "Judy" is a perfect fit. I'm very pleased about this as it is my first international exhibition and represents an important step in my career.

In case anyone is new here, you can take a look through "Judy" page-by-page on YouTube.

The second thing to share is that in a little over a month I will be heading overseas for 10 lovely weeks. I'll be returning to Paris for 4 weeks, in particular to celebrate my 25th wedding anniversary. After that, we'll head to Northern Ireland (where my best boy comes from) for a month. On the way over from France, we'll be diverting to Cambridge (England) for the third exciting piece of news.

I'll be attending a workshop with the super-talented Mia Leijonstedt. If you aren't familiar with Mia's work I recommend that you hop over to her website and check out the gallery.

I've been an admirer of Mia's work for several years now, and had dreamed of stopping off in Dubai one day to take a workshop with her while she was living there. Now she is offering this one in Cambridge a few days after we check out of our apartment in Paris, so it seems it is meant to be.

The last thing I'd like to share in this blog post is a couple of photos of two new books I have bought in the last couple of weeks.

The top one is by Daniel Essig, someone else who I find to be hugely inspiring. Next is a miniature book of maps by Joy Serwylo on Etsy. And finally, the two together.

P.S Please excuse the whacky formatting. I'm in Sydney posting from my iPad. This afternoon: off to see Monica Oppen and her wonderful collection of artist's books.

P.P.S In desperation, this post was re-formatted using BlogPress on my iPad on April 1st (and no, it's not a joke!)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Looking for Wabi-Sabi in Tokyo


That is the title of my very first zine. My idea is quite simple and I plan an ongoing series. 

If you aren’t familiar with the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, as a middle-aged woman in a western society that values youthful beauty above all else, I would say I’m not surprised!

I think it was the early 90s, when a very dear friend of mine gave me this little book. Truthfully, everything I understand of wabi-sabi comes from that book. I suspect that quite a few westerners are in the same boat.

The introduction says:

Wabi-sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.
It is a beauty of things modest and humble.

To be honest, at the time, I liked the ideas, but I can’t say I consciously pursued them or incorporated them into my artwork. My first art was about accepting things as they are – the good and the bad, the grey areas.

Fast-forward around 10 years, and I found myself in Melbourne doing my mfa. And the title? Process and Change: The Nature of Human Experience. Not surprisingly, a large number of the works included were ephemeral i.e. impermanent. So maybe I have learned a little more about wabi-sabi along the way.

The idea for this book came from some detail photos I took of this. I confess that when I made the zines last year, I was a little confused and I called it a temple. Actually, it is Ueno Toshogu Shrine, built in 1616, and originally it was a part of the much larger Kaneiji Temple “complex”.

The building is absolutely beautiful with its rich red paint that is cracking and the gold paint, so opulent. Apparently the Kaneiji Temple was one of the wealthiest temples in Tokyo in in the Edo Period. When I was there I took a number of close-up photos, trying to record the amazing details to remind myself.

This book is made from one of my favourites and the photo is printed onto a single sheet of paper. I then folded the paper to create an eight-page booklet, a very simple technique. By using a single photo and dividing it into spreads, the reader is made to view the photo more slowly and with more consideration, than if the full image were presented at once. The book deals with ideas of whole and part, slow contemplation and a whole lot more.




So my zine is a little bit conceptual and a quite visual – which probably makes it a huge no-no, in zine-land, but what are rules for if not to be broken?

I’ve made a limited edition of 100 and around 30 have been given away so far. If you think you’d like one, then drop me a line (including your email). If you have a zine you’ve made that you’d like to trade with me, even better, but it’s not a requirement.


Thursday, March 08, 2012

Where My Zine Research Led Me

As I said in my last post, and most people who commented seemed to agree, the trouble with most zines is their lack of aesthetic appeal (to our eyes anyway).


By Billy Pringle [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I was expecting to be howled down by at least ONE zine-aficionado, and the fact that this hasn’t happened makes me think most of my much-loved readers are like me, from a book arts background. I say this rather than assume that I am correct!

I decided to search a little more on the internet and discovered We Make Zines  a Ning community for zinesters, Zine World (a reader’s guide to the underground press), ZineWiki, as well as The Sticky Institute. Based in Melbourne Australia, Sticky is a volunteer group which run a not-for-profit retail space for zines, as well as mail order sales from their site. They also run The Festival of the Photocopier, an annual zine fair.

What I was really searching for was a nice clear definition of a zine, so I could decide whether it was for me. The Sticky Institute FAQ say: “The general consensus on zines is that they are independently-produced cheap short-run publications not intended for mainstream distribution, and created because of passion rather than profit. Different zine-makers have certain opinions on what zines can and can’t be – whether they can be produced by a group of people rather than just an individual, for instance – but that is a sufficient broad definition. It often involves a lot of photocopying.”


By Mcld (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (

That was quite helpful but then I found this site, The Book of Zines.  There is all sorts of wonderful information about zines here, including pages on what’s a zine, zine history, online zine catalogue, legal issues, publishing online, how to distribute your zine, recommendations and reviews and more!

I have barely scratched the surface of all the information there, but I found this article by Fred Wright about the history of zines very interesting. Understanding the context of zines beyond punk, encompassing beat poetry, Dada, propaganda broadsheets and lettrisme made me feel all the more drawn to make my own zine.


By Gianni Simone, aka Johnny Boy, (editor and designer). CC-BY-SA-3.0 (

It also made me realize that back in the 70s when I was at school, I myself had been a subscriber to a short-lived zine called Zoot. It’s focus (from memory) was predominantly Australian rock/pop bands, but I also remember there was a penpal section, where I placed a small ad. A short time later our letter box was full to overflowing – I think I received 70 or so replies. Being the polite young thing I was, I chose half a dozen or so as “penpals” but proceeded to write to every single person who had written to me to thank them and explain why this would be the only letter they would be receiving from me.

So, back to the Imprint call-out. I had an idea, but it relied heavily on colour. As I wondered whether my idea was suitable for a zine, I remembered that the amazing Melbourne duo Gracia & Louise produce zines. So I popped over to to check out their approach. Looking through the archive of their zines told me that they felt free to flaunt the black and white photocopied aesthetic.

I decided to follow in their auspicious footsteps and my series of Wabi-Sabi zines was born. More next time!