Poetry Workshop

Dr Catriona Ryan delivered a poetry workshop and fulfilled her promise that we would all have a poem at the end of the two hours. And were those two hours delivered at a pace! Catriona may be a small person in stature but she filled the room, dancing around the tables and speaking with a richness of language (yes, I do mean lots of good hearted f”**ings) her Irish brogue delighted me. ‘Tell me, yes, you, yourself, what have you written?’

The group was invited to write random thoughts using our non-dominant hand. Physically it was hard and it had the effect of slowing down my thinking – part of me was concentrating on how to form the letters.

Caterpillars breathe tomorrow
Back to school
The cigarettes, Turkish, wander amongst grain
Which way?
Octopus in the loo
Anita Ryvita sucked a concertina
The road to ruin said the meter maid
Magic farts

It reminds me of writings I may have done years ago under the influence of … shhhh, better not say. But in those days I thought I was being profound, meaningful, insightful. Now I know its not very poetic but an excellent method of thinking.

The next exercise consisted of us being split into groups of 3 – I was with Catherine & Matt – we had to describe the moon in 10 words (4 physical and 6 metaphysical). These were written down then the paper torn so each word was on its own. Up into the air with them…… onto the floor and we took it in turns to pick a couple which went together.

Silver witness
Silent goddess
Man in the moon ghosting
Iridescent heavenly
Pitted tranquillity
Beaming lunacy
Crescent testimonial
Beautiful witness
Ritualistic stone
Silent ritual
Scared romance
Dust swept gibbous
Warning eyelet
Shining time-marker

Now I saw the poetic qualities emerging. Using the material here and in the previous exercise we had about 5 mins to compose a poem ….  I found it easier than I’d thought to place the words together in order to make poetic sense.

Where is my poem???          Lost.

The third stage was to draw a visual representation of our poem. I took the line ‘The scared romance’ and wrote a love letter. (To/ from a male/female?). The romance could no longer be – no reason given but with deep regret it had to end. I then tore up the letter and damped the paper with metaphorical tears.

The final part of the day was taken up making a short video in response to the poem Howl by Allen Ginsberg. The three of us chose

who wandered around and around at midnight in the railroad yard wondering where to go, and went, leaving no broken hearts,

Matt led us to recesses in uni and found a darkened room – soon he spotted great shadows as we were moving about. I was elated with the result as it took us about 10 mins to make…. we could have had a worst result, with huffing and puffing on all sides, if we’d had all of the afternoon to make the film.    Great camera work Matt and  HERE it is!

But the next few days will be filled with me preparing for Made in Roath – a break from uni work.


Notes to self

Tuesday is the start of my M.A. and I want to record my thoughts, feelings, responses… the whole experience here. I looked back in the journal I wrote at the time I started my Access course 7 years ago and there I expressed my fears. Although the ones I have now are different I know I overcame those previous doubts and did so successfully. Take heart from that!

What do I want to achieve by taking my M.A.?

Of course there isn’t one definitive answer. I want to challenge myself; stretch my brain; develop my creative soul further; be around like-minded people; be able to use the facilities the university has to offer; grow from tutor and peer input and find my own voice. These are just a few thoughts jotted down in the last 5 minutes. Next time I ponder this question I’m sure I’ll come up with more.

Here is a statement I made in my end of degree portfolio.

‘I came to the world of art later in life but I have the memory that once it was alien and intimidating to me. I would like to enthuse others who may think art is not for them and demonstrate it is for all.’

That reminded me of a couple of conversations I had over the summer.

The first was with a lady when I explained I’d taken my degree in art. Her question was ‘What sort of pictures do you paint?’

The next was with some builders who wanted to know what I did. I tried to describe what mixed media was but they were left with the impression ‘I did sculpture’.

These experiences have led me to be aware I must be clear about my work – if I haven’t the confidence to express my intentions, if I can’t be enthusiastic about it how can I expect others to be?

I must be fully prepared for tutorials, to know my work inside out so that will mean me questioning myself as I work through the pieces.

I need to know exactly why I’m attracted to a particular artist – what am I gaining from viewing the work, how can I pick out ideas to move my work on? Keep questioning.

I feel I’m jumping in at the deep end as the fist meeting with my fellow students will be at a seminar in a gallery where the 2nd stage students will be presenting their work. In two weeks time it will the turn of the 1st stage students… help, that’s me! Where is the cosy induction of sitting in a room being talked at about this that and the other????

A slight panic – I knew I had to take some work to ‘show & tell’ so was planning on introducing my current work but now am wondering if I can as it will have to be hung for Made In Roath Open House at the same time. But then again I need to see the space in the gallery in Swansea before I can make a decision on what to use. I’m sure I’ll put something out of the hat!

It’s all in the detail

Another little treasure I came across today – the work of Hannah Leighton-Boyce. She has used old black-out curtains and, as I do, looks at the detail.

East Wing 1939-2011, (Part of) Diptych, 2012. Hannah Leighton-Boyce

“Are those your rags?” 2012

I’m unsure how large this piece is – Hannah explains about her work on her website.

Below is an extract…….

“Surprised and rattled but I accepted this was a fair comment and worth reflecting on, even if they were hung on a gallery wall. I found them in the bin after all and to the one who threw them away and the many others who would have, they are just that.

The serendipitous meeting came when the curtains had been removed from their windows and a story I had just read, met as I glanced in the bin. I never really took much notice of them when they were hung in the windows, only perhaps to note that they were black, austere and were blocking the light, but at this moment I observed a flicker of wonder and connection. Unlike the person who had decided they were no longer of use, I saw them not as worn out, threadbare curtains, no longer capable of doing their job, but, a surviving memory, a tangible piece of history embedded with time; I heard, a story of someone’s mother coming into the school to make blackout curtains during the war.

During war, the window, once a space to view and observe the outside world, daydream and wonder, shifts to being a point of vulnerability. The curtain becomes a fragile threshold between inside and outside, a frontier between the safety of this side and the realities of beyond. They created an enclosure of protection, a thin veil against outside forces, shielding life inside from the outside awareness and the immeasurable realities of war; of the threat of the ‘east’ carried on the ‘wing’ of the enemy planes.

In light and shadow they remained. Due to their particular situation at a QuakerSchool, they hung in the windows of the East wing for around seventy-three years as silent witness to changes going on outside the walls. Rarely now would one pair of curtains remain hung in the windows for so long, even if by circumstances of chance or forgetting, it is fitting that they remained there for all that time, as in their own way they were ‘conscientious objectors’, hung in quiet protest to changes going on in the outside world. Removed from their place in the window they have been paused, in picking them out of the bin they had been elevated them from the realms of oblivion but the fragile nature of the fabric continues to rot and unravel.

It was after I turned them ninety degrees and hung flat against a wall that I was really able to see the beauty in their marking and un-making. At first the curtains appeared still and quiet but you can see time in their making, and hear the voices of the past and activity that they had absorbed; silent witnesses to a lifetime of memories and events that unfolded before them. Of a collection of four hundred or so stories I had collected from former pupils about their memories at the School, I realized the curtains had remained constant during the time in which these memories had been written and re-written over the years.

Opening them out and turning them on their side had literally given me a sideways slant, an alternate perspective enabling me to see the play between the light and folds forming a trompe l’oeil of horizons and time. The light drawing in the fabric shows the changing folds of the curtains within different stages in their lives, as a shield and as a daily marker embedded within the process of the fabric drawing. They are a visual and physical phenomenon, a palimpsest of light and time created by the unique situation and condition to which they were exposed. They were no longer curtains but a metaphorical landscape, a space already defined with its own markers and signs with their own history and narrative, embedded with a lifetime, whispers of stories, the voices and sounds in the surface patina carried along the loose threads and fabric rents.

The function of curtains encapsulate time, their choreography is a daily marker drawn open at day and closed at night; the curtains speak of duration in their marking and through the nature in which they were made by an extended process of analogue exposure.  They capture in an exposure of themselves, the slow passing of time unfolding, and immersed within in its sable folds and chiaroscuro they open up a space between the ‘something felt and something seen’

And here is a link to The Cloth & Memory Exhibition at Salts Mill

Martha McDonald

Martha McDonald‘s performance at Craft Victoria, Monday 8 March 2011. This video  shows Martha extra ordinary Weeping dress – very moving.

DEATH BE KIND martha mcdonald

Martha McDonald, Untitled (Portrait) Optical Type C print, 11 x 14 in 2010

The Further the Distance, the Tighter the Knot

A performance installation by Martha McDonald 31 October – 8 November 2009

photography: Christian Capurro

American performance artist Martha McDonald brings her unique blend of folk song, historic narrative, personal confessional and obsessive hand crafts to Linden – Centre for Contemporary Arts. In seven exclusive performances McDonald will fill Linden’s exhibition spaces with an excess of hand knitted memento mori, riffing off the domestic crafts Victorian women made while sequestered in their homes, bound by the elaborate rituals of 19th century mourning culture.She will guide intimate groups of audience members on a personal journey through her installation: singing Old Time American folk laments about lost loves and longing for home; knitting and unravelling love tokens for the audience; and musing on the slippery nature of memory and her own longing and nostalgia for home as a recent immigrant to Australia. Taken from Linden Centre for Contemporary Arts website

And here is the video of part of Martha’s performance.

“During the knitting lessons, I passed on purls of wisdom, using knitting as a metaphor for accepting your life, mistakes and all, while reflecting on how I used knitting to cope with the recent death of my mother, my first knitting teacher.”
“I taught myself to knit in order to make this piece and I became obsessed in the process. I knit dozens of hats and scarves. I even knit my husband a surfboard bag. That bag was the basis of the knitting teacher’s dress. I have a hard time following patterns so I knit instinctively, making it up as I go along. I wanted to make the kind of dress that an obsessed knitting teacher would wear—one that screamed “handmade.” Purldrop knitwear designer Erin Weckerly crocheted Penelope’s coat. A crew of knitting friends helped knit the backdrops on size 50 needles.”

photos: J. J. Tiziou

Dorothy Gill Barnes – continued

The oral interview  on the Archives of American Art site was recorded over a couple of days or so. This is my second enjoyable day of reading. (Oral history interview with Dorothy Gill Barnes, 2003 May 2-7, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution)

Dorothy mentions Clarence Schmidt House, Woodstock, New York. The Historical Society of Woodstock has an article about the man – a self taught artist who sounds a real eccentric.

Clarence Schmidt house

David Johnson took many photographs of Schmidt’s work as can be seen here.

Ed Rossbach was a weaver and basket maker  Dorothy admired.


“I think if I had somewhere along the line taken a picture of it, (my work) I would remember it and maybe even have learned from it. So I think that is something that matters: to have a record. I even take pictures of things in progress that aren’t right. I know I’m going to change it, but if I see it when I come back from the photo shop, and I know it’s terrible and I can see what’s wrong from photographing it from a certain angle, it will help me, and I’ll change the basket in progress that way.”

” I also think that [it helps] the sharing of ideas between artists in your field and outside the field. I mean, it does not necessarily have to be just fiber. If I get really excited about work that I see in other media, it’s all good and it’s all inspiring. And it’s not just in the art magazines, but it’s in going to hear music and to see good dance. I mean the things that get you excited about the creative process and get you fired up to go home and work harder.”

Jiro  Yonezawa - Ladybug

Ladybug with Box

Bamboo cane, urusi laquer

4.5 x 6 x 4.5 inches

Jiro Yonezawa as seen in the Butters Gallery

Photo: Rob Cardillo

Summer Palace

Work by Patrick Dougherty  and here he is – a short video on making his sculptures.

“Once in a while something will get upside down or right side up – I mean, kittywampus,”  – according to OED the definition is: Fierce, unsparing, destructive. Also, askew, awry. (A high-sounding word with no very definite meaning.)

Dorothy Gill Barnes

I love it when serendipity brings me to a new artist and this morning I was introduced to the practice of Dorothy Gill Barnes. 

Banded Pine Bark Basket, 1984
Pine bark
Racine Art Museum, Gift of the Barnes Family
Photography: Jon Bolton, Racine,


All Things Considered was an exhibition of fellow basket makers.


heavy oak bark, apple branches and copper wire, 
36″ x 60″ x 6″, 1995

The  piece above is on sale at Browngrotta Arts

HAYSTACK RIVER BASKET by Dorothy Gill Barnes, photo ©Tom Grotta, courtesy of browngrotta arts

More exciting pieces of natural sculptures ArtTextStyle

Then I came across an interview with her by Joanne Cubbs on the Archives of American Art site. It would have wonderful to hear her speak about her practice but all I could do was read through the transcript. (Oral history interview with Dorothy Gill Barnes, 2003 May 2-7, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution)

“And I don’t think there’s any place in a classroom, where you can have in-the-woods experience to collect your art materials. You go to a place and buy your art materials. And if you have that access to the out-of-doors and to observing in nature, and then also have in your head the idea that you could either sew it, braid it, paint on it, break it, fold it, pleat it, burn it — all the different things you can do to wood and to bark. And to have that available to you and then have some of the skills that give you the chance to put it together one way or another. Not always the good sense to do it in a proper way, and not always the good sense to make a form that’s interesting, but the trial and error is constant.”

“There’s never a right way, because everything you pick up in nature is going to be different from the thing you picked up in nature before. It’s not duplicated. If you try for the duplicates and try to get exactly the same straight rod of wood from the same kind of tree, time after time after time — there’s a lot of discipline and a lot of learning and a lot of hard work and a lot of persistence for that, and you end up with something beautiful. But I don’t have time to do that because I’m too interested in so many of them that I would rather practice each time and try to do something different with it, because I think I wouldn’t be able to manage the other way. I think that not knowing what I’m going to find and what I’m going to do with it is the thing that keeps me interested.”

“If these things are fussed over too much, I lose it. If I try to correct it in such a way that it looks overworked or I get tired of doing it, my work isn’t going to be as good.”

“And so sometimes I make the repairs very obvious. Or if I’m doing a nice sewing that’s going well and it cracks open or something happens to it, instead of ruining it by correcting it, sometimes I’ll either change and put in a different kind [of material] — something on the same piece — and switch from hickory bark to wax linen if I had to, and not hide it. I mean I feel like sometimes the presentation is better if it’s honest, even if it’s not technically well put together.”

At this point Dorothy mentions John McQueen

KNOT ANATOMY, John McQueen, bark tied with string, 13″ x 25″ x 18″, 2012, photo by Tom Grotta

Dendroglyph – ancient tree carving

Dendroglyph Talk

And there I will leave my reading for today.

Slowly, slowly

When I look back on my blog entries I’m surprised how little I’ve written in comparison to how much time I’ve spent trawling through websites for images, listening to interviews and reading articles written about the artist in question.

Now I’ve looked up the artist mention in Tapestry and Identity in Australia I can settle down to read the article. It’s a cold rainy July day here so I’ll be gaining a little Australian sun by proxy.

“Tapestry. so tightly woven and firmly beaten, is one of the most permanent textiles, and can be handed on from generation to generation as tangible evidence of time and history.”

“Tapestry can function as a ritual object in an increasing de-ritualised artworld, where radical art practice as assumed to be anti-establishment.The archaic technique gives resonance and solidarity to the vigorous and questioning image makers of Australia and substantiates a ‘claim to the past’.”

“In the complexities of relationship within the textile/tapestry arena, tapestry plays a ‘paternal’ role, identified with public institutions and symbols that carry the power of the state, while textiles are alied to more bodily and sensual processes that refer to ‘intuitive’ maternal domains.”

“how can women see themselves as artists when the idea of ‘self’ has traditionally been constituted as male, unhindered by a body dedicated to nurturing?

At this point I’m finding the article frustrating as once again I’m looking up artists and images Diane Wood Conroy is referencing only to draw a blank. I know the article was written to accompany an exhibition but I think the works mentioned are not part of it.

I keep forgetting what the word ‘haptic’ means and according to the OED  “Of, pertaining to, or relating to the sense of touch or tactile sensations.”

1966   Publ. Amer. Dial. Soc. 1964 xlii. 48   Haptics is that sub-system of nonlanguage communication which conveys meaning through physical contact.


As texture is an important feature of my work I must remember the word!

“This tapestry ‘language’ is used in conjunction with provocative and confronting images – the unpredictable images work because of the contrast with the discipline and historic language.”

“In own own era, when the technological super highway cuts visual ans textural communication across continents to a fraction of a second, time indeed becomes a fascinating dichotomy in the making of tapestry.”