Released in the morning

released in the morning

This small handful of journals and watercolour books that I put together yesterday spent the night tightly clamped between smooth, hard boards…like unruly winos locked up for their own safety.

A favourite way to start the day is to pour a cup of coffee and sit in the breeze on deck as the sun comes lancing over the tops of the mangroves, and release the previous day’s work—what was a loose and motley collection of disparate pieces held together with runny glue and faith in the powers of synthesis—from the grip of the press, to find that everything has come together with a grace and finesse that still takes my breath away.

kidskin and marbling watercolour book

Yesterday: paper, thread, fabric and leather scraps, glue, grey-coloured board.
This morning: a dense, well-made, glowingly beautiful book that feels precious as it sits in my hand.

tea journals

Magic. I will NEVER become blasé about the transformation.


Spirograph journals are out (after a little spell of self-doubt)

I showed you this fabric I designed and printed with Spoonflower aaaages ago, right?

Well, I was chuffed when it first arrived, but then I got cold feet about actually making journals from the fabric and it has lain all this time, unused, in a drawer. I let my self-destructive superego get the better of me. I started to find fault with the design: too busy, too many colors, too immature, the subject was too simplistic, not enough thought had been given to composition, to balance, not enough care was taken in painting it, blah, blah, blah…. In the end I convinced myself that I should be ashamed to show this design to people, or put it on my journals and offer them for sale at craft markets or online. It was just SO UNSOPHISTICATED!

But my ETSY shop was empty last week, so I took the fabric out, looked at it again, and (in a gentler and more accepting mood) found myself thinking “It’s okay for a first time fabric journal design…and there is something uninhibited, psychedelic and childlike about the intense colors, the clashing patterns, the higgledy-piggledy arrangement of elements. All of which, I realised, I’m actually grateful had happened to this journal cover design, and not some other. At least these qualities fit the subject, no? So I have been lucky, really.

1969 Spirograph : : a handbound journal

Inspired by a Spirograph toy from 1969—that I always wanted but never got—which Kris bought for me on ebay a year ago, on Valentine’s Day. The original design was worked in inks, paints, and colored pencils on linen; with additional textures, overlays of other paintings of mine, and some floral patterns added in Picmonkey. The actual book covering fabric is linen-cotton canvas printed by Spoonflower (this is an awesome fabric to cover books with…the more I use it, the more I like it). There are two cover designs (because I printed the cover as a mirrored repeat) so you can choose to have a greeny-blue cover, or a mostly warm reds-and-yellows cover.

I have 7 of each cover version, now available on ETSY. Details about the paper and binding are in the item’s description there, too.

painting makeover, part 2

green gemstone journal

Hmm, so there isn’t really all that much left to show for this Part 2 except what I did with the finished painting/embroidery: a simple handbound coptic journal.

green gemstone journal

A quick shlip-shlop of blue-green paint on the back cover, and some fine lines of gold paint made with a syringe and hypodermic needle, sort of echoes the front cover design. Stitching of the book was done in DMC soft cotton yarn. Endpapers in teal. That’s all there is to it, really.

In other news, tonight I impulsively bought flights to and from Manila, departing at he end of January, returning in mid-February…in the hopes of catching my Mom alive one last time. Hopefully she will live that long. I’m due for a visit back, anyway.


That means I’ll be spending my birthday and Valentine’s Day in Manila. Should be a good trip, actually…good to catch up with my dysfunctional but fun family, and I have really missed my friends. Can’t wait to see them.

That means I’m dead broke again…by the time you pay the taxes, add some checked-in baggage, pick a window seat…what was an incredibly cheap couple of flights nearly doubled. I came within 10 dollars of my total bank account balance. Was feeling like such a scrooge as I neared checkout that I actually clicked “Remove” on the options “Travel insurance” and “Donate $2 to change a child’s life”. LOL Someday, maybe, I’ll change a child’s life; right now I’m just trying to keep my head above the water. You have to laugh at the things life throws at you…laugh or go crazy.

Rubbing my hands together over the next handmade gift…I have tonight, tomorrow night, and a few hours on Saturday. Unlucky co-worker # 5 may end up getting an origami boat. Not even a crane, but a crappy origami boat. Out of newsprint…

*this is how it always happens with me: I make a casual joke, and then ask “How can I run with that idea, and still make something awesome?“* Origami boat, huh? Hmmm…….

a peek at my work

Musa volatilis Haas

A quick look at some of the things I’ll be taking to the gallery tomorrow:

A dozen Flying Bananafish…not at all like the drab, digitally altered photo above of a whole fish, but brightly colored, with iridescent wings and beads and glitter and EVERYTHING. Party fish, these guys.

Musa volatilis

I’ve also made half a dozen embroidered marbled fabric works, stretched over frames like paintings.

Embroidering onto marbled fabric was a lot harder than I thought it would be—and, as I found when I searched the internet to see what other stitchers had done with the combination, I was not the only one who hesitated, when faced with the densely patterned fabric. Even the great embroidery blogger, Mary Corbet, balked at the task.

When you think about it, it’s just printed fabric, and you should be able to stitch over it with wild abandon, right? Except that, with an actual marbled print, you become painfully aware that every stitch or appliquéd piece or attached bead and sequin is going to cover up marks that are unique and can never be re-created in exactly the same way, again. That gorgeous swirl of hairline stripes and feathery loops, a serendipitous juxtaposition of colors that look so incredibly luscious they seem to glow…marbling is dense with little gorgeous patches like these, and an embroiderer really can feel like she is gilding the lily by trying to add her comparatively chunky stitches and clumsy solid color blocks.

But I gave it a whirl, anyway…sometimes I tried to fit my stitching in with the bigger picture, so that the marbling played a part in the story of the piece. At other times, completely defeated but desperate to have done something more than greeting cards for our marbling show, I treated the fabric as though it had been commercially printed…smacked a great big clumsy design onto it, and stitched it, and the marbling fell away into the background, losing meaning and pride of place. I think I understand a little bit, now, about what motifs work, and the feeling that I am after, but there is not time to start on new pieces. Hopefully the knowledge will still be with me for the next time I attempt to overstitch marbling.

island shack

The island shack piece you’ve seen (but in this pic it’s done), plus 5 others that you haven’t (because they didn’t exist until I embroidered them all today…my eyeballs feel like they’re trained on the tip of my nose, now!)

potted folly


Camp Nonpareil

cat & bunny in pink marbling


If I can squeeze them in, there are another three or four stretched marbled fabric pieces that I’d like to embroider, plus a few handbound journals of my own that I might, if I push myself and work till the wee hours of the morning, manage to get done in time for the opening night of Throwing Stones for Fun & Profit.

In case I forgot to invite you, everyone’s welcome…we’ve crammed a small room plus the foyer of the Darwin Visual Arts Association choc-a-bloc full of marbled works, most of them featuring our own imaginative twists and experiments with this ancient traditional craft.

December 6th, Friday at 6:00 P.M.Darwin Visual Arts Association (DVAA)
Frog Hollow Center for The Arts
56 Woods Street
Darwin CBD

Catch of the Day

stage 2

Working on “Stage 2” of my marbled and stuffed Flying Banana fish. (Musa volatilis of the Exocoetidae family, as a matter of fact, and not related to J.D. Salinger’s Banana Fish (spp. A Perfect Day For ~)

Today I painted the tails and stitched them to the stuffed bodies. Ran out of small black buttons, so not all of them have eyes, yet.

catch of the day

With every step the number of fish lessens, as trial-and-error ‘messes’ one or two up and I have to put them aside (to fix later…but it won’t be in time for the Throwing Stones for Fun & Profit exhibition). Started with 17, but I’m down to 12 or 13, now.

Also, I have too many blue fish.

Coming next: a couple of fins (just the dorsal and anal fins), and a pair of iridescent ‘wings’ (pectoral fins). Better get cracking…showtime is just nine days away…