Junk on the High Seas


This new art print available in my Society6 shop features a tiny hand-embroidered Chinese junk sailboat, tossed upon the wild blue and green waves of a piece of canvas that Kris and I marbled, ourselves. (Marbling is not something you’d expect people who live on a boat to be able to do, but we’re stubborn as hell when we want something badly enough, and we manage to do it despite the challenges of storing huge quantities of pH-neutral rainwater and a rolling anchorage.)

Also available as a print on stretched canvas, or a framed print under glass.


I wrote (not much!) about the making of this piece here.

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.

wrap up

Throwing Stones opening

A big thanks to everyone who dropped in last Friday night (and the following Saturday, as well) to see our marbling show, Throwing Stones for Fun and Profit.

It turned out to be a huge weekend…we never expected so many visitors over the two days, nor such an enthusiastic response to the things we made. I left Kris to handle the sales (less confusing if just one person does the accounting) and it seemed to me as the night wore on, and I stood talking to visitors and pulling on my drinks, that the walls around me were breaking out in a severe case of Yayoi Kusama red dots!

Yayoi Kusama's "I pray with all of my love for tulips."
Yayoi Kusama’s “I pray with all of my love for tulips.” photo by Samuel Mark Thompson, 2012, in Osaka.

Of a dozen marbled Bananafish there is one left…ditto one handmade card out of 60, and one embroidery out of the six I managed to finish in time for the show. The mind reels!

Still incredulous at the success of the exhibition, and glowing all over from contact with all the lovely people who came and showered us with love, friendship, and affirmed the belief that when one does what one loves and enjoys, others can feel and appreciate it.

Throwing Stones openingThese few desultory pics are from Wednesday, when we set up…I didn’t take my camera to the opening, because neglecting friends who’ve made the effort to drop in while you are busily trying to get good photos is just plain rude, and distances you, besides, from the special environment of art and artists that is unfolding all around you.

Throwing Stones opening

That was so much fun, and turned out to be profitable, too, so Kris’s title for our show worked like a self-fulfilling prophecy! I have a couple of group shows locked in for next year, but other than those, this was the last exhibition Kris and I planned to mount before leaving Darwin next year…though we’ll be back after we’ve re-stocked our creative wells with some travel and new experiences!

a stone’s throw away…

handmade marbled cards

Our exhibition, Throwing Stones for Fun & Profit : New marbling, is fast approaching.

So far I’ve shown you Kris’ marblings…he took a month off from work, so he’s had more time to potter around at home and throw stones (I’m so jealous!) while I have only managed to squeeze two days of marbling into the past month, so far. But the stuff in this post is mine.

The weather has been inclement—cyclone warnings, squalls of wind-driven rain and rolling seas have prevented us from marbling this weekend—and it’s exasperating to have the looming show date pressing in upon us, and not be able to make more pieces. Instead, I’ve tried to do something productive with whatever’s on hand:

Marbled papers with slight defects got cut up and turned into cards…

pink swirls

Pieces of marbled cotton (more of those white bedsheets that we pulled from a hotel’s dumpster…I don’t think I will ever get through them all) got stretched over small wooden stretcher frames, and a bit of embroidery added to them…

At home in the tropics.

I also made really good high-res scans of the marbled fabrics; you never know, they may come in handy, someday.

new marbles

save the date!

Throwing Stones for Fun & ProfitReturning after a hiatus of many years to an old love of ours, marbling is a very traditional craft that involves floating drops of paint onto a liquid substrate, and scribing into or combing these droplets into several time-honoured patterns…as well as experimenting with new ways to manipulate and pattern the paint. When the pattern is ready, paper or fabric is lowered onto the floating design, and virtually all of the paint transfers to the printing surface. Each print is unique and impossible to replicate.

Throwing Stones for Fun and Profit is an exhibition and sale of marbled works produced during our 2013 marbling sessions—conducted during the rainy season (because you need lots of water to marble), on the exposed deck of our houseboat, in the Northern Territory’s Darwin Harbour.

Marbled fabrics and papers will appear on the covers of our handbound journals, as framed one-of-a-kind prints,  as artist’s books, as quires or cahiers, blank cards, collages, and soft sculpture ornaments.

Opens Friday, 6th of December 2013 at 6p.m.
Darwin Visual Arts Association
56 Woods Street,
Darwin CBD, NT

Nibbles served, with licensed bar, at the Opening.

Kris Larsen is an epic adventurer and has written 4 books about his experiences. He is also a bookbinder, painter, woodcarver, boat-builder and puts together crazy homemade bicycles to keep himself amused. He has been marbling, on and off, since he was introduced to the craft by his wife in 2000.

Nat Uhing taught herself to marble (using oil paints) in 1996—with amazingly good results, considering that her only reference works on the subject were a picture book about Venice, and a very terse description of the craft in an old Encyclopædia Britannica. She introduced Kris Larsen to the craft, and he quickly moved into working with acrylics.


Kris has posted some of the marbling we did 8 or 9 years ago…seeing them again, I’m amazed at the detail and atterns we managed to coax out of rainwater, cassava starch and cheapest of the cheap house paints, which was all we had to work with. Kris took his own marblings one step further, by later looking for creatures hidden in the swirling colors, and highlighting or muting parts of the pattern to bring them out.

Art of Kris Larsen

For a whole one rainy season in Palawan we did nothing but marbling. Every session took about three days – one day cook the size to age it, iron and mordant the cloths and paper. On the second day a long session marbling, hanging the wet prints on a cloth line. The third day was ironing the prints, picking out the faults, and painting into the prints with acrylics to highlight a feature. The main objective were canvas covers for our hand bound journals. With the leftover size we played around. Living in the sticks beyond the sticks, we had no access to fancy carrageen and proprietary paints. After a lot of frustrating experimenting we hit at a right combination of cassava starch size and industrial acrylics from rusting cans. Soon I found I could see clear images in our after-job doodlings, and I started developing them into proper paintings…

View original post 124 more words