Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Trash Art Find of the Week

I just got back from hols with Mr Accordian, a Noted UK jeweller/metalsmith and one of the Messrs Bad Samaritans of Brighton. We spent some sunny and joyfilled days among granite in the Great Aussie Outdoors and some smoky and accordian filled nights in cabintopia.

While passing through a somewhat claustrophobic small town(Woodenbong), we chanced upon a craft shop and met Big Mal, the famous country and western singer and his agent/wife/crafter. She was definitely the little woman behind the big man. She also makes linaments and herbal remedies for such ailments as boils and pimples and offers free advice on how to suppress grey hair (brown onion skins steeped in boiling water and rinsed through one's hair on a regular basis - if the smell bothers you just add parsley). Apparently brown onion treatment would have your grey old hair looking like my tomato sauce mop. The UK jeweller looked frightened. I cannot say I use onions (red, white or brown) in quite this way but kept mum. My English friend whose glorious grey curls are her trademark, took the advice quite well under the circumstances, but is not likely to be found with parsely in her lovely locks or ponging of onion.

Casting around for some small token to purchase I found these $3 Bundaberg ginger beer bikes made by the crafter's son to raise money for the local nursing home and I just had to have one. Feeling much like little insects trapped in a sundew forest, we backed nervously out the door past the table of watchtower back issues and received a blessing from the Lord.

Meantime I got the great news that several of my Nana pieces had been purchased by Toowoomba Regional Art gallery. So I guess I was touched by some Woodenbong magic that day.

I got home, looked at Mr Accordian's photos and had a GANGajang moment: This is Orstraylia.....

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Flash Trash

Flash Trash officially opens Sunday 17 September at Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery and continues until 22 October 2006. I have made new work from old vinyl records collected from Toowoomba Dump and mentioned this work before on my blog here and here. Strangely enough it is through my blog that the idea grew when I followed one of those white rabbits down a hole!

Nana, Nana, Nana is made from 15 old vinyl records found at the Toowoomba Dump Lifeline store and zeros in on one of them- the ‘Delightful Nana Mouskouri’. I used this one Nana LP to reflect on the transience of technology, fame, and culture that once held value but are discarded and forgotten by the each new generation. I was influenced by the buried headstone fragments that I found at the dump, black polished granite memento mori poking from the compacted dirt! The similar blackness of the vinyl records is mournful, its message lost especially after I have worked it. We are reminded that our daily competitive struggles for status, fame and recognition are insignificant in the vastness of time and meaningless in the face of imminent death after which we are dust, our achievements forgotten. This is something that was bought home to me in the books of Alain de Botton who suggested that the way that Romans and Victorians used reminders of death and time as techniques to moderate Status Anxiety could be useful for some of us in our daily lives. I took a lighthearted approach though with this Nana project.

Nana 1. The records that I found were most likely taken to the dump by relatives of a recently deceased person.Perhaps a Grandmother- Nana or a Granny. I thought about the cathartic practice of frisbeeing old records at the dump. Getting rid of the clutter and material possessions of the past generation. Though these records had not been frisbeed. They were in good condition in their original sleeves. Each was respectfully listened to by me prior to destruction and a few were even salvaged.

Nana 2. Nana Beads. One of the records was of Nana Mouskouri who was my 1st pop culture idol. At the age of 3 I loved to dress in my long string of large wooden beads that my own Granny helped me to make and dance to a record pretending that I was Nana. So this is personal nostalgia in making the beads as long as the floor length beads that I wore long ago. Nana Beads were made by hand sawing circles of vinyl Nana + other records and heating them in the oven on glass sheets at various temperature and various lengths of time to create the different effects. Even though I cut perfect circles and filed and sanded them all neatly, they all distorted in different ways. Each record is different- has a different melting point and reacts differently to the heat. So the process was quite organic and interesting. Some shrink and thicken up more than others. I was interested in making them pod-like as if they contain a youthfulness and range of possibilities that is part of my nostalgia when imagining being 3 years old.Nana Beads is what we call the cheap plastic beads as often worn by senior women- the thread in them is glued to the bead itself- Liana Kabel and Mark Vaarwerk have both used them creatively in their innovative plastic jewellery. I used this idea as wordplay for the construction of the work which has more of an organic look than mass produced plastic bead look to it. I was also interested in Art Deco plastic jewellery of and have adopted some of these design ideas with the red and black colours and the style of catch.

Nana 3. The thick black-rimmed rectangular trademark glasses of Mouskouri. I have heat-imprinted different heritage glass patterns on the sawn out shapes of Nana’s glasses. Another wordplay pun here but also referencing the transience of human objects through the old decorative coloured glass which, like vinyl records is no longer manufactured on the same scale or in the case of the glass, to the same quality as in the past. Initially disappointed that I did not find any heritage glass at the Toowoomba dump to work with, I was pleased to find a way to use it in my Flash Trash work.The pins are made from brass and melted skim milk bottle tops imprinted with the decorative glass patterns.I have made 50 frames of different sizes to represent next year’s 50 anniversary of Nana’s professional career.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Sea Beans

I just finished a seed necklace design that I can only ever make about once every three years when I have collected enough of the seeds from beaches for one. At times like these I try not to ponder the economic logic of my practice! I collect various hard shelled bouyant seeds that have arrived on the ocean currents. They bob in on the plastic and pumice flotsam tide and are quite rare on beaches near me. The smaller bean seeds are more plentiful and actually grow in the headlands behind the beaches.
After watching The Wrecking Season about flotsam and jetsam along the Atlantic Cornish coast (recommended by Rebecca Crawford), I realised that these same tropical seeds wash up on beaches all over the world - they are longshore drifters of the bean kingdom and even have their own fan clubs with a great Sea Bean website and a symposium every year on the topic of sea beans.
Now some of the beans I am finding in QLD are probably from Far North QLD - where they are called Burney Beans, Mucuna gigantea - you can rub them on stone or together until they are very hot and burn people. A useful bean indeed. And the larger matchbox bean is also one I find alot, sometimes encrusted in coral. But others like the nickernuts Caesalpinia bonduc sometimes called sea pearls, may come from further afield and have had many past uses including as currency in South America.

There is some frightening sea bean craft out there so be warned but I discovered some exquisite sea bean jewels in the Kew Garden Economic Botany Collection.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Sea Jewels Wrecipe

I've been going quietly insane making sea jewels earrings, my cow money.
Yeah it's repetitive and time consuming but I do love finding new colours and textures of glass and different shapes and pulling them out of my tumbler. Then trying to find matching pairs is especially therapeutic. I wouldn't miss the drilling and polishing though.
I also love using the labels I made for them.

They remind me of the original photo - a super holiday with friends doing some synchronised swimming...