Sunday, December 31, 2017

Just Another Day

7.30PM on the last day on the calendar on 2017. 

In the last few days I wanted to finish three projects, after giving up on both of us feeling like doing housework/garden work at the same time with approximately the same gusto. We have managed to cook some delish meals and have kept the kitchen clean, but that's about it. 

First project was my quick crochet nap blanket, except I couldn't tell how much yarn was on the cone, so I kept trying to finish this all week, and finally I spent nine hours today, but got it done. Just now. I made it long enough it at covers  Ben from neck to feet, and weighs a ton so it'll be so nice come winter. . 

Midweek I wanted to weave the clasped weft piece, the one I used to called "tapestry technique"; except my hand was very rough because I got a lot of quick glue on my hand fixing two garden santas;  catching on all kinds of fiber even after I washed them in lukewarm water and kitchen cleanser, like three times. So I started threading the walnut Oz merino on the big loom, the warp I put on the loom some time ago. I started with straight draw but quickly bored and switched to undulating twill about 80 ends in; I think I'll go downstairs now and do some more. 

I won't know what this threading looks like because I'm making it up as I go, but the warp is long enough for only one piece, so I'm going to keep it simple, with my handspun merino singles in the weft. That's the plan for now. The piece may look something like this: 
And the last one is drawing faces; because I spent so much time on the crochet, I still have spaces for 51 faces. I'll do some tonight but if I don't finish tonight, no big deal, I'll just work on it next year. But this morning I was sleepily gazing at Facebook and came across a painting that instantly gave me a good idea for 2018; I'm going to draw/paint tiny abstracts. I'm setting no other restrictions so things may change/morph/criss cross a bit in the next year, but I hope to draw/paint one for every day, if not actually drawing everyday. 
I still have several more things on the To Do list I wanted to finish before the year's end, but that's life; I've got four hours and a bit left. You all be good, and see you on the other side. 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Garden Santas

I can't believe my Santas hadn't made an appearance on Unravelling. I was giddy when I adopted them in Jan/Feb 2015 (?) I couldn't stop posting on Facebook. Esther was getting rid of years of teaching samples and let me adopt these guys. (And a few spare body parts.)
I moved them around like chess pieces every time I walked by and talked to them. They are like the Terracotta Soldiers - all unique individuals. As you can imagine, I keep changing my mind about painting the whole thing, only parts, or not at all; white and pale blue, white and navy, red and white, red and green, green and white, or something totally different; to coat, or not, to protect them from mold, bird droppings, and other hazards of nature.
Then Esther gave me this guy, accompanied by spicy Christmas cookies, last week, so now I went back to white and red.
Or not. I remembered we had a bunch of test posts from when we picked colors for projects, so I'll use those, and augment with acrylics. They had a long bath last night. One Santa's hat came off a while back and another's pompom at the end of the hat, but both have been fixed. I'll work on them slowly so they all look similar but different.

They're going to guard key points of the garden when I'm done; individually or in groups, I haven't decided. I need some mechanism to at least prevent them from falling when wild animals, (wekas, possibly rodents, numerous domestic cats, and birds, especially black birds,) roam or mate in our place; sticks. Some day, our place will look interesting, and who better to stand guard than an army of Santas all year round.
And we couldn't help ourselves; we got one more fabric for Ben's PJ bottom. As a thanks for this, this morning.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Turns Out 2017 was a Busy Year

I'm dumbfounded 2017 turned out to be a really big travel/social/exhibition-going year; dumbfounded because I've been so busy thinking about the 11 months I didn't weave.

In Jan, Ruby & co visited Nelson, and it's always nice to relearn about what this little place offers, especially in the art/craft area.

In Feb and late March we hung out with Dr & Mrs Cady; this Feb bit was embarrassing because I had no idea so much of Nelson/Tasman region had changed. Then I went to see them in Auckland in Apr and went to an underwhelming exhibition on nudes.

In Jun, Ben and I went to Melbourne, our first real holiday since '03, (I was last in Oz in '14) and reconnected with some long-time friends; it was also our first time seeing van Gogh together.

Esther's birthday was in Sept, and not only did I get to see her and Jake again, but also Stella and Thomas outside Volume, and reconnect with Rosie and Richard. I used to hang out with Rosie a bit after we both left our former place of employment, but then I got into weaving big time, Rosie had Nico, and then she plunged into serious bookbinding, so outside the occasional running into each other, we'd become wizards and muggles. Around the same time I reconnected with Maria, who most emphatically buoys and expands my weaving thinking.

Came Oct, I went to Japan and re/connected with folks and went to possibly too many exhibitions. South of the South Island followed, our first significant road trip since '07, first time in Christchurch since '01 and first time in Far South possibly this century; re-reconnected with Dr & Mrs Cady and I saw Dr Cady present a keynote, and he still looked to the heavens to his left when he paused. A week later we were in Wellington, a first since Apr '14 on a rainy birthday, and we could not find the lovely Italian place this trip, but I went to a few more exhibitions.
So it turns out 2017 has not been as big a write off as I had hastily decided back in Aug/Sept/Oct; it's just I wove so few. But I drew a few faces, and it's not too late to weave another piece. And I've really learned I treasure output more than input these days. (I made 22 in '15, not 2!)

The constant in my life have been Ben and family, the "garden", Stella and Thomas, friends via Letter Journal, and all of you, so a big thanks to everybody.

And there are still five days to go!

* * * * *

My Pop-Up Shop has temporarily turned permanent-for-the-foreseeable-future, probably until the end of autumn here, May-ish. I'm exploring other venues/ways to sell. If you have a good idea, do please share?

Tuesday, December 26, 2017


This morning we had some rain! Two all-too-brief periods, but rain nevertheless, hardly enough for the plants, and now it's sunny and blowing, so gone before we knew it, but it's amazing what they did to the mind. I'm so optimistic now, I am looking forward to gardening in the cooler season, (and plenty of prep weeding/clearing prior,) and have even started thinking of practicing sewing to improve my skills. I'm thinking of making a series of small bags using cotton scraps to practice such things as sewing straight, buttonholes, and zippers. Then I'll move on to a few more house pants, a couple of longer PJ bottoms for Ben and a few of different length for moi, but paying closer attention to the sewing.
While digging up pants patterns, I came across a vest pattern I took directly off of one of Mom's made with handwoven fabric from somewhere in East Asia. I was secretly hoping to adopt the vest after Mom tired of it, but wasn't fast enough and it was gone in a couple of seasons. I wished I had a photo of the garment for reference. It was probably in Japanese-medium-ish, (skinny, or other-East-Asian-medium,  which is skinnier,) and it might have had a pocket which I didn't bother with. After I decipher my codes, (I didn't trace two garments, I remember reworking the one; who knows what I intended!) if I try making one, I'll show you more.

* * * * *

For decades Mom talked about colors in weaving and how she'd like to learn/manage/control them in her work; she introduced me to the name Itten in the early 90's. So as an obliging daughter that I am, (even though I was completely and happily in the structure camp then,) I studied it myself enough to know how to talk about color wheels, relationships, values, saturations, simultaneous contrast, and the like. I even made up a exercise sketchbook she can play around with hues of her choice, and we continued to discuss it over Skype.

When she brought up the subject again in October, it suddenly dawned on me there are topics she loves to rehash, how she'd like to master them, while not really meaning it. So in the interest of saving us both a lot of time and, on my part a lot of grief from having to repeat the same discussions, I asked if her wish was genuine, and she said no. So that took care of that.

On my part, I do keep harping on a few things without making any efforts, but I am a tad younger than Mom and do hope to get to them eventually. Even if cursory.

Instead Mom wanted to be able to see images she's collected, so we strung pieces of fishing line the length of her dining and living rooms and I got a few postcards to get started, and also asked the rest of the family to send her colorful stuff. 

* * * * *

I had an inkling I love/need my me/quiet time more than I realize and this turned out to be so true. I managed some while at Mom's but not anywhere near enough, and while travelling South, I got so out of practice, even when I could have drawn, (and I bought a selection, including LJs that needed to be sent forward,) I gazed at the telly. So now I know I need it; it's part of my brain/mind makeup, but it's not quite part of my routine; I have made up some of it since we've been home, but it still feels slightly foreign. I wonder if I need to read up on the matter.

Which leads me to something I've felt particularly keenly since my Auckland trip in April; there I had a basic accommodation with everything I needed but nothing I didn't, (no internet but a telly/Al Jazeera the day the US bombed Syria,) and staying there alone gave me a lot of headspace to think and not think and work. Which made me feel I was living "deeply", shall I say? While in Auckland I didn't go to all/many interesting art/book/craft places but returned to Auckland Art Gallery time and again.  (At the time it was a hard choice as Auckland War Memorial has a solid Pacific collection and a small but touching Holocaust room, both of which I love.) But in retrospect it was so the right thing to do.

(Likewise, we did well booking accommodations in the South, targeting three-stars, saving some $ and not being distracted by compulsively learning what else the accommodations offer.)

I like being the person who needs fewer inspirations but can consider/work with the few in some depth/originality, undistracted, and this was was hard in Japan/Dunedin/Wellington as FOMO, (that's "fear of missing out", Mom!) was hard to beat. When travelling with someone else, there is the balance to consider, too. But requiring fewer conforms to my idea of someone who makes things, while serially going to exhibitions can be me turning into a mere consumer. Hard to tell, as exhibitions' value/effect on me become evident in retrospect, and sometimes years later.

This ties back to accommodations. With fewer belongings/choices, life allows me to concentrate on the doing, leading to more meaningful/satisfying inner life. Of course we can't live permanently with a subset of belongings as we do while travelling, (or can we??) but I/we can do with a whole lot less.  I was doing well with books until Volume emerged a year ago and I've become interested in Richard Ford, (who must be read and not listened to unless he is reading.) I have become more discerning, not buying something just because I visit a place or skipping shops altogether because I know I don't need anything at the moment. (Art supplies!) I even got quite overwhelmed with choices in Japan I had to do neighbourhood stationary and book places in small doses. I say I am making progress but not fast enough to please myself. 

Except Ben said if one makes things, we do need material/tools/options, option being a big one for small town folks like me. So there is that.

* * * * *

Wellington used to be a treat; we had mapped out nine of our favorite book places and used to stroll from one end of the CBD to the other, or Parliament/Lambton Quay to Willis, and moved on to another section of town, Cuba St, maybe even to Courtney. And that's not counting gallery shops' book sections. Today I can only name eight in the CBD, and fortnight ago we found two remaining and went to one, plus three used on Cuba. Most of the demise are blamed on the Internet, although a couple had to do with retirement from memory.   

In the past I bought a bit from Amazon US/UK but postage became outrageous I quit; I still shop from Amazon in Japan before/when I'm there but mostly used. I also occasionally shop at Book Depository UK. For used books and old exhibition catalogues, (especially old exhibition catalogues,) there is none better than Book Depository. And for the foreseeable future I can't give up Audible, but am perfectly happy to switch if a better/ethical alternative pops up.

But if you expected me to complain, you'd be wrong. Volume is tiny, but every single book they have is interesting, so you can easily pick up a few and browse for an hour or two and if you engage in a discussion with Stella or Thomas, well, there goes another half an hour, easy. This has decreased our FOMO and compulsion to visit less attractive bookstores remarkable, and also the need to buy and lug heavy stuff, as Volume can so easily order if they haven't got it already. And this last part is what got me completely floored; we spent quite a bit of time at Unity in Welly, (the only remaining worthy new book bookstore we know of,) and there were a few I was interested in but I planned to ask Volume, and when we returned, they had them all. Even some books I read about on Paris Review, LRB or New York Review of Books, or hear about on NPR are sometimes already there if not coming soon.

So, yeah, larger new book bookstores in larger cities have become less shiny, and I can't find the right words to describe what a gift this little bookstore in Nelson is, because, you all know, books aren't just things; they are ideas and teachers and entertainment and virtual travel and potential life changers; good booksellers are better than therapists. We are so very, very lucky.

Ben and I won't stop visiting used book bookstores. One can't beat time spent in dusty, cavernous and slightly dangerous used bookstores; it's time/space travel, not shopping. I regret not picking up a Colm Toibin I've been after but just couldn't be bothered carrying that day in Welly; it does make the memory of time in that particular shop unforgettable, though.
This is from Slightly Foxed in Oamaru. If you like old books and find yourself in Oamaru, don't forget the antique stores.

* * * * *

Something we noticed while travelling in the South was the development of lovely cafe-style food in smaller places with high concentration of visitors; we found Twizel and Oamaru particularly pleasing in this respect, while Dunedin, Christchurch and even some in Wellington appeared stuck in the 90's/2000's. We don't go to tourist towns, bypassing Wanaka and Queenstown this trip for e.g, but it would have been interesting research; we just can't cope with the traffic and parking. I'm trying to think of where Nelson stands. We did walk around Arrowtown at lunch time, and it was murderously crowded we escaped with only coffee and... ummm... a custard square. 

We're nearing the first anniversary of reducing carbohydrate, which worked for both of us, I might add. I did fine in Japan but in South it was devastatingly difficult, faced with scrumptious baking in Dunedin in particular. (Otago Museum Cafe; if you ever go to Dunedin, have a wee carbo blitz there, unless you're celiac, of course.) We've been trying to get back on our horses, but I especially have had irresistible hunkering for sugar and baking. Must. Remedy. Now.

* * * * *

We've been reconnecting with a few friends, which as been wonderful. JB and Ali are back in town and we're already met once at the Vietnamese restaurant before Christmas; fingers crossed, more to come. That sewing entered my mind at all has a lot to do with the prospect of seeing more of Maria. We've also been to Rosie's house twice in one week, talking and laughing and discussing a lot of things I'm interested in: art/the art world, the environment, and healthy eating. And some gardening.

Rosie has a windchime very similar to one Mom had in the old house; they are made of different lengths of metal pipes hanging from a piece of wood, usually circular, with a wooden disk hanging in the middle, and another piece of flat, decorative wood tied to the disc to catch the wind. As the last piece dances gently, (or not depending on the wind,) the disk hits the pipes, making soothing, almost church-bell like sounds. These were sold all over in the 90's but by the time we started looking for one for ourselves, they were gone. Mom managed to snag one with particular pleasing low pitched sounds, and on seeing Rosie's, in the same forest-green, I realised Mom's thrown out hers when she left the house. I should have pinched it; I never found another with the same low pitch. I wonder if Ben and I can make one.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Knitting, Napping and Exhibitions Extra

I tried two shops in Wellington and two in Nelson but nobody carried this series of yarns, so I cast off, using a ball similar enough from the stash, and made this a earmuff/Victorian collar. I promptly started another beanie, but after several false starts, I switched to crocheting a huge nap blanket for Ben; this should take a while; another structural experiment beanie after that.
On the loom I started the tapestry technique piece. I think I prefer the more regular patterns to contrast its regularity vs erratic shapes/changes of colors, but I'll live; I'll stick to this pattern until the end of this warp, (two pieces?). And although I'm not thinking of anything overly complicated, I've been gazing at Miro paintings.

I've not been able to do much thinking, like blogging, preferring mundane/busy work, like knitting, mending, and ironing on cool mornings; I've accumulated embarrassingly many journals that need working and sending forward, but last week I concentrated on finishing this year's project, the faces almost every day, which I neglected since late September. Luckily there was a whole bunch of Modigliani on Art and Artists blog, so it didn't take too long to catch up. My notes tell me I drew 600 faces as of Dec 22, but who knows how accurate that is because the number of days for 2017, according to those notes, looks to be 367. In the remaining week it'd be nice if I could doodle 63 faces, (very doable if I stick with ultrasimple blind-ish contours I've been doing, which by the way for the first time has been making me look carefully at the original artwork,) I will finish the sketchbook, which would be a plus.

I've started wishing I had a good idea for a 2018 project but haven't spent energy exploring. Yet. Something will turn up, and I'm usually better off if I whip up a quick idea on the spur of the moment rather than plan/schedule/envision a grandiose "Project".

It's been hot and dry and we've had water restrictions so I've been spending some time carrying dish washing water to the flower pots; that and three hours of weeding have been the only gardening I've done, but I do intend to on cool mornings this season. It's just that we tend to do a lot in the kitchen most mornings, and by the time we're done it's uncomfortable out there.

The house needs cleaning rather direly; that'll happen soon, I hope, but for now Ben and I have been napping a lot in the afternoons. At first I thought, at least for me, the body was trying to make up for the busy-ness since October, but I've more than made up for that, so the only explanation is our old bods are finding the heat still difficult. That said, we have become more acclimatized in the last fortnight, so as long as we are inside, in the shade, there is breeze, and it's under say 23-25C, we're OK. We're such a delicate pair!

* * * * *

And now we reach Oamaru, the Steampunk Capital of New Zealand. We've been curious about this city, in the first instance because of the Oamaru Stone architecture, but more recently because of Steampunk. We arrived on a Saturday to find many places closed and the historic district smaller than we expected. Our accommodation was above a sports bar on the night of the Tonga-UK Rugby League semi final, and even though the ref was devastatingly unfair, the sports bar patrons were well-behaved, we had a good night's sleep, and discovered Sundays are the day to explore Oamaru.

First stop was Steampunk HQ. It's a "museum" and workshop of larger pieces and installations, (a few folks referred to "welding".) Inside is dark and damp-smelling, like a lair belonging to a resistance group or a mad scientist and his minions; outside looks like a junkyard belonging to a genius mechanic who creates fantastic vehicles out of spare parts. And that genius who started it all might have been one Chris Meder, who passed on all too soon in 2010. But the work is carried on by other creators and the building has so much space for expansion.
Sorry, I didn't take pics outside because I was busy climbing on some of the vehicles. Ben said he'd love to make something, (not weapons, the "war" part being the one aspect of Steampunk we're not interested in, and sculls, and these two make up a huge part of Steampunk, but pseudoscientific equipment, travel vehicles/vessels, jewelry/accessories, gadgets and documents we are most definitely interested in,) if he had welding skills and tools.

We heard the sentiment repeated by Lucretia at The Gadgetorium in the Woolstore complex. Her shop has smaller items made by her and her partner, both of them immaculately dressed in what I'd imagine perfect Steampunk fashion to be. She not only allows photographs but also handling, and intricately made items were available at stunningly reasonable prices. But Lucretia's insists, and one can easily believe, her first goal is to inspire others to make things themselves. We're definitely going back on our next trip and talk to her some more.
If you do got to Oamaru, don't use the map from the Information Center to explore the historic precinct; there are nice folks at the center, but their map was, to me, useless; look for instead/additionally the illustrated Oamaru's Victorian Precinct and Harbour map. Oamaru has other galleries/museums, including writer Janet Frame's childhood home, along with cute shops, (antiques, used books, Victorian costumes, handmade stuff of all kinds,) attractive eateries, and a small but lively Sunday farmer's market. And Ben's best find, the distillery. Last but not the east, more than a few folks wear Victorian costumes and accessories around town as normal part of the day, adding to the charm and a treat for visitors.

After Oamaru, the only gallery we checked walked into was Christchurch Art Gallery, but we didn't see any exhibitions. The gallery store was charming, with many art-gallery style nick nacks and inviting books, but we spent most of the time photographing the exterior from where we received, day and night, updates after the 2011 Christchurch earthquake. We expected it would be emotional, but didn't expect it to feel so recent.

Ben had a meeting on a Monday so we went to Wellington for one night a week after we came back from South. On Sunday we walked around town, checking out several used- and one new-book stores, coffee roasteries, and Ben taking pictures; I did mostly the gallerying on Monday, with mixed results.

Te Papa had World War I and Lego exhibitions, (so nothing for us;) their museum shop had moved the books to a different part of the building and we didn't look carefully as there was a band playing Christmas music in front of it. The "shop" part has, like few other museums/galleries in New Zealand, taken on the guise of a souvenir shop, selling sometimes-overseas manufactured stuff with NZ motifs, and precious few local art. I miss the days when this place stocked, among pottery, jewelry and wood work, work by one Wellington weaver whose name I can't remember; every time I was there the first ten years of Te Papa, I dreamt of weaving sophisticated pieces like hers. Pity.

Wellington City art gallery was closed for renovation; it is a strange time to be closed, during the high season, but a person in the knows told me it has to do with funding and tax year; it being a city facility the job need be completed before the end of March. The shop, aleit a weird, tiny temporary space, was better; though there were very few local art, they carried inviting arty tidbits including toys, mouth-watering books, as well as original cards. (Although at $7.50 a pop, I didn't get any.)

Wellington Museum, (previously Maritime) added a fair number of interactive things for kids/youths, and I can definitely recommend to that target audience, but it was fun even for an old fogie like me. NZ Portrait Gallery didn't have a lot of portraits, but a good-sized retrospective Frances Hodgkins, possibly the biggest I've ever seen, but I was too hot and tired I didn't give attention due her.

By far the venue I enjoyed the most was NZ Academy of Fine Arts, which I possibly last visited a decade ago for Re:Fine. It looked like an elite art market/exhibition; I found two painters and one ceramicist at whose work I spent a lot of time gazing, but I didn't take down their names assuming I could find more about them on their website. Alas, nope.

This concludes the exhibition part of my recent trips. Pics forthcoming, perhaps in dribs and drabs. Ben's got a few in a totally random order.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Dinosaurs and Exhibitions Part 3 of 3

Ben's Ceratopsian beanie. I finished one ball and had to continue with another in a different colorway but I think it worked well. (See where the bright blue-teal turns dark?)  I started another with the rest of the second ball and need a third one, and they have a beautiful mostly-blues colorway so a good excuse to get that.

We were in Welly for one night and came home late last night and I've been exhausted. Lots of folks are in this unusual heat. I was supposed to meet with Kath Bee for the first time in a long while tomorrow morning,  until I heard a knock on my door this morning; turns out I proposed meeting today, and all this time I thought our date was tomorrow. Anyway, we had a good catch up. Me in my not-for-public-viewing T shirt, she in a cute dress and makeup on. I missed her while she lived in Auckland, such a genuine person.

* * * * *

Back in New Zealand; at Dunedin Art Gallery, we caught an intriguing, and slightly spooky, sculpture exhibition by Frances Upritchard, and the fabulous Gordon Walters retrospective. The former was slightly spooky but irresistible in the piece's hard-to-interpret (or blank) expressions. Her few paintings were attractive in their simplicity, the style hard for me to emulate because I keep adding until it's too late.
Upridchard uses a lot of textiles in her sculptures beyond just garments but I wasn't able to find their origins; perhaps I'm reading too much into it as many could have been attic/charity store finds.
See what I mean?

The second exhibition was fascinating and rewarding to us, puzzling and unsatisfying to the Cadys, making all of us realize backgrounds of artist/works/society can enhance viewing experience. In some cases.

Though I've never read up on the man or the era so this is all conjecture but Gordon Walters' paintings are, to use a much-overused term, iconic in, and of, New Zealand. His work is so widely circulated one often encounters them on the walls of many/most New Zealand art institutions. And they are painted done by hand, often with gouache, and not created mechanically. But I think his importance comes from being a Pakeha who looked around him back in the 1950's, (when I suspect the umbilical cord was still firmly attached to England,) and found his identity in the flora of this land, in the koru.

I can hear uproar for/against a Pakeha using New Zealand's nature as his motif, from both sides; this might have been the start of open discussion/argument over cultural appropriation. But he kept churning paintings, modifying and improving, and collectively helped form New Zealand identity to New Zealanders of all ilk. Just look at the long-list for the 2916 NZ Flag (change) referendum submitted by professionals and amateurs. (Note: again, I haven't read enough to know of others who have contributed to this ingrained NZ visual identity.) If that doesn't make his work iconic, hum...

Here is his Wiki entry. The Cadys thought the paintings were of dots and stripes, which is exactly what I used to think; I never understood the significance of Waters' work over any other modern/abstracts with dots and stripes. I was confident, and ignorant, I dated them to the 1980's, and decided they were computer-generated prints. Live and learn. I'm glad we took our time at this exhibition; now when I see his work, I get a tad teary.
I was busy reading panels, watching videos and admiring the paintings I didn't get good shots so this is the only one I saved. But there were a few I found of textile interest; most of these were smaller and, ahem, not famous. I found myself more drawn to the wobblier paintings, i.e. not straight lines and perfect circles.

Ever since we decided to go to Dunedin I looked forward to Otago Museum's Pacific Cultures rooms where I first encountered Torres Strait Islands artefacts 16 years ago; they and Auckland museum have more than I've ever been able to find in Australia so far. This time around, however, I couldn't decipher their display logic/scheme and found fewer items from Torres Strait. There were more Pacific combs and their Tangata Whenua display was much more exciting than I remembered so they more than made up for it.
Also on this trip Ben and I also found strangely drawn to dinosaurs after seeing a "film" in their planetarium, and rushed to get tickets to see the exhibition 45 minutes before closing. The exhibition itself was OK, mainly geared for kids, I think, but we had an interesting discussion with one of the staff who was a humanities specialist, not dinosaurs, about convergent evolution.

Then we went to the town of Oamaru, but this post is long enough I'll make it a separate one. Here's a cute write-up in the Guardian a while back as a teaser.

Deep South has many more art places of interest; Gore's "Goreggenheim", the East Southland Gallery, (Hotere, Hotere, Hotere; where is the museum website;) Dunedin's Hocken Library and many, many more; Oamaru has a few, but the one I completely forgot on the day was Janet Frame's childhood home.

But this concludes my exhibitions spiel for for the last six weeks. And now for a few pics:
We had to zip through Gore because I wanted to shoot one of these signs; find my hellebore grower east of Clinton, (we drove on dirt roads bearing parts of his business name for an hour but not the one bearing his family name because it looked like a private driveway, which turned out to be the right one; oh, dear; oh well;) and had to get to Dunedin while we still had daylight so we can find the tricky driveway to the AirBnB.
Ben's new mate Matthew at The New Zealand Whiskey Company, part of the reason I forgot about Janet Frame.
After much museum-ing, I discovered this dinosaur head with manmade marks near Mt Cook. :-D

Friday, December 8, 2017

Old New Project and Exhibitions Part 2 of 3

The first warp I put (back) on the loom Tuesday was the tapestry technique project I was working on a while back. I hung the samples and the one finished piece in front of me for reference.
One of the factors I like about the first piece is the draft pattern is square-y and regular while the color transition organic. For comparison, or because I'm contrary, I wanted to try something curvier, and since I'm working on the four shaft, I tried a few undulation on my computer first, then made up the threading as I worked. I wanted to see/learn the threading before I began weaving, and I slept on it, but I think I'm good to go. The treadling in the sample turned at 1 or 4, but for the real piece/s I'll turn whenever, wherever.
My choice of colors for weft, in 20/2 100% cashmere, are dwindling, but there is enough; I want to include the few cooler colors I have.

* * * * *

Exposition Universelle of 1889 in Paris is said to have been the catalyst in bringing Japanese prints and aesthetics to the attention of Western artists. You can see how many of the exhibition I went to cluster around fin de siècle and relate to each other. The Machida ukiyoe exhibition covered how Japan was influenced by the West roughly around the same time, in addition to being the very media/technique that made Japanese art most available, I suspect, in Europe. The 1930 Association was, of course, all about the influence of Paris and Europe then, and how the ideas were iterpreted in Japan.

Hard to believe this was exactly a month ago, but having spent a lovely day with Kaz and Dave, (and making them hike miles and miles in midday Tokyo traffic,) I bade a fond farewell and trotted off to Paris Graphics -  Prints and Poster that Became Art at a newish (est. 2010) Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum.

This was a good-sized exhibition, consisting mostly/entirely (?) of Mitsubishi's own collection, and well-curated. The blurbs tended to focus on the individual artists and their work rather than the era, (the latter being more of interest to me,) and the star artist was Toulouse-Lautrec, one of the era's darlings in Japan, but there was a lovely flow in the show's design, making the experience so enjoyable rather than academic.

In fact, although this was the first time I went to an exhibition at Mitsubishi, I had the impression from reading about their exhibitions in the past that their approach to art is light-hearted, less pedantic, but showy/fancy, as if to give the visitor a momentary feel of entitled privilege of prancing through good art. Goodness, that's a lot of conjecture on my part, and it could be because of my prejudice for fin de siècle, although Mitsubishi's admission has been, from memory, always slightly higher than other exhibitions. I'd be interested in going there again if they host an equally interesting show.

They showed a few Japanese prints the van Gogh brothers owned, (on loan from the van Gogh Museum,) but my best findd were Valotton's black and white prints, and Bonnard's La petite blanchisseuse. I've liked Bonnard's paintings for decades and read a few book on him, but funny I don't remember seeing/reading about his prints.
Two days later I trotted off to Tokyo again to what would have been one of the highlights of my trip; the Van Gogh and Japan and Hokusai and Impressionism.

Let me tell you what were wrong with these two; 1) they were dreadfully crowded; at times entry was restricted, which I had heard of but never expected to happen when I was there all the way from New Zealand; 2) even though both Metropolitan and National Western Art are large, neither show was in their main exhibition spaces but in smaller weird spaces in spite of expected crowd size; in fact the Hokusai exhibition made us descend into the bowels of the institution, the basement, as in B2F and possibly B3F; and 3) photography were prohibited, including the very works we saw/shot in Melbourne. Many prints appeared in multiple exhibitions because prints can be duplicated/triplicated/etc; this is not a bad thing, but I hadn't anticipated it, and one's appreciation diminishes somewhat after seeing the same Toulous-Lautrec poster in three places. It was however nice to see paintings by artists pop up in multiple exhibitions, not just the post-Impressionist notables but also Maeta. 

The van Gogh exhibition was small and academic. Had I been more patient, I might have learned more about Japanese prints, the technique and how specifically they influenced Vincent. But that was the problem; there were so many Japanese prints, presumably collected by the brothers, but not enough paintings, and disappointingly, (because the simpleton that I am, I lump together Japanese prints and European etchings as, well, prints,) none of Vincent's etchings. And I had seen more than a dozen of the paintings in Hiroshima and Melbourne. Sadly, at this moment I can't remember paintings, but recall the small, dark catacomb-like spaces crammed with breathless Japanese fans' backs of heads; a slightly alarming picture, don't you think? I can't remember if I bought the catalogue.

The Hokusai exhibition is/was the most touted exhibition in Japan in 2017 according to Mom, and it spawned numerous smaller exhibitions of his work due to the handy multiplicity of prints. (Do you think I'm getting overly sarcastic? Not necessarily; read on.) In spite of it being shown "underground" it was a huge exhibition, organized by simple themes, (landscape, flora, fauna, people, etc,) with numerous Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works, not only paintings but furniture, glass, and jewelry from memory, adjacent to Hokusai's inspiring pieces. 

My gripe with this exhibition was their claim Hokusai almost single-handedly instigated Japonism in Europe. (I couldn't see the details of why this was because it was one of the more popular panels and the website doesn't say.) Sure, they recognized he was among many printmakers of the Edo period, but for the purposes of this exhibition he was it. I know he was prolific, I like some of his work, but this was hard to buy, because, just think, what's the first print that comes to mind when you think of Japanese prints? Unless you've taken interest and read up on them, isn't it one of Hiroshige's Mt Fujis and his many, shocking compositions?? To me, the premise was akin to saying Monet alone defined Impressionist landscapes. (And by the way, they had too many Monets, if I never see one again in my life I'll be fine.)

This was an educational exhibition; it was like a 3D lecture with real life examples rather than slides.  It was informative and plentiful, but not designed well. Works and folks were crammed and there might have even been too many of the former. After the first round I was sufficiently impressed and slightly overwhelmed; after the second, still not buying the premise, I was a hostage dragged through an ordeal and couldn't wait to get out. I knew the catalogue would have plenty of educational tidbits, but I couldn't be bothered. I may regret this, or I may not. 
And yet, and yet, as exhausted as I was, I've become curious again of printmaking, my favorite technique learned in school art class. And I came home with a few blocks of wood from the art supply shop.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Hot Beanies and Exhibitions Part 1 of 3

Tuesday turned out to be a good day. It was slightly breezier, and the temps stayed lower, (up to around 22C,) into the early afternoon, so I got some housework done, blogged, had a slow lunch, and went downstairs and wound two warps on two looms, though I haven't been able to settle on threading for either. And I knitted some more.

Yes, I'm knitting. I needed a reason to buy a few balls in interesting colorways while in Dunedin with Sandy, Mrs Cady, and Ben suggested he could always use another beanie. But because I don't do due diligence with knitting, I had six false starts where either the thing was too small or I didn't like the number/placement of the cables. (??) Not sure if this is big enough; the circumference is about half of one previous, way-too-big beanie.

Yesterday was hot and still again, and although I managed some ironing in the morning, the rest of the day I spent on the stairway, the coolest part of "upstairs", trying to figure out interesting threadings/patterns, in vein, and knit some more. I started on the top step, then descended one step at a time in search of coolness, then finally realized I'd be happier knitting in the basement, so I went down at 6PM. Talk about brain meltdown.
It might turn into an experimental 3D piece in which art critics of the future will claim to see something vaguely connected to my weaving, etc. LOL.

Without further ado, and no doubt, it is hoped, reflections/thoughts will come later, but here is the start of the list of exhibitions I've seen.  I'm pleased a whole lot of what I saw in Japan were interconnected.

Ikuo Hirayama is a well-known and well-received Japanese artist, most notably for his West Asian, (regions we call the Orient or Silk Road,) scenery, architecture and artefacts. It was the first exhibition Mom, Sister and I went together. Sister and I were more interested in the artefacts than his painting, and we learned he was sent by the Japanese government as part of archeological/restoration/preservation efforts for decades. He was the recorder, as it turns out, before many of these places/pieces were lost/destroyed. It was also nice to see Mrs Hirayama's ovservations included in the exhibition.

I was fascinated by a Persian artifact of female figures looking surprisingly "Asian", in contrast to another from current West of China looking, goodness, what's the word??, "Aryan". (Although if you think about the origin of the Aryan race, it's hardly surprising.) His paintings were large and moody, but foggy/blurry and we felt ho hum about them; in a large, quiet hall, without too many folks around, where we can stand a distance from the paintings, our reactions might have been more positive.

Machida City Museum of Graphic Arts, (commonly referred to the print museum,) is minutes away from the family temple on Dad's side; I'd heard good things about this place but never went because Machida is so far. This time, I was interested in their exhibition of the Bunmei Kaika for Children Depicted in Ukiyoe, (Bunmei Kaika literally meaning "opening/flowering of culture/civilization", but points to a period of rapid Westernization after the opening of the nation and restoration of the imperial power, 1852-1868,) and another further away on the same train line, so I went.

The exhibition was fantastic; they had over 300 exhibits, not just prints but books, picture Japanese/English dictionaries, posters and what you'd call board games, many with pedantic messages more than depictions, all exhaustingly upbeat. Most intended for boys were thoroughly ambitious and encouraging; for girls, although it was nice they made stuff for girls not so much as an afterthought but long the different-but-equal thinking, and some material even encouraged academic and athletic success, the end goal was inevitably domestic success.

The galleries were darker than usual and hard to see, but I ended up going around three times. At first I was taken aback by the vividness of colors, and the frequent appearance of teal in all its variations, (not a color I expected,) and light blues, and blue-reds instead of yellow-reds more frequently seen, at least up to then, in textiles and ceramics.

The museum also had a wee cafe run by "regular grownups" but employed variously handicapped youths, and the controlled chaos of that environment added to the museum's attractiveness. This museum will be on my "regular" list for future visits home.
Waving a fond but quick hello to Dad and ancestors, not only because I want to get to the museum quickly, but also because Dad was never the type to sit quietly in a urn in a graveyard, bones or no bones. 
I know it looks empty, but for an odd hour late in the afternoon on a Saturday, the exhibition was crowded. No photos from the exhibition.

Afterwards, I ran around Machida Station looking for the memorial to our Silk Road, the road from Hachioji to the port of Yokohama. The few folks I asked never heard of it; I thought of asking the policeman in the police box, by which I walked passed several times, but I didn't because I expected my internal radar to tell me. After 45 minutes and some sweating and cutting it way too close to make the next exhibition, I gave up.

(I went home and googled it and, darn it, I found a pic of the little thing standing in the shadows of the police box, and curse the google map who put it to the right, not left, of the police box!! But this morning I'm thoroughly confused because google map is showing me a different location a little way away from the station I ran past, while pics are showing the location in front of the station but none showing the police box. I can only assume Tardis in Japan is red and is a police box!! Even a friend who's lived most of her adult life in Machina had never heard of it. Serious research required before my next trip home.)

Off to Hachioji, where Dad's late aunt's husband's family once traded in silk, but lo, what's this, a Station Road giant annual outdoor ceramics market?? 15 minutes to the museum, 45 minutes before closing, I could sacrifice 10, I guess, time for one stall, it would have to be Tobe-yaki, but no, everything here is too thin/light/cheap for Tobe. Moving on.

The exhibition I really wanted to see was by the 1930 Association, a group of youngish Japanese painters, some of who had spent time in Europe; the group started around 1926; they thought 1830 was an exciting year in Western painting and wanted to make 1930 equally exciting for Western-style painting and other forms of visual art in Japan. The show didn't disappoint.

Hachioji-shi Yume (Dream) Art Gallery was tiny, and the exhibition was tinier still, but they showed energetic/youthful paintings influenced by Impressionism/Post-Impressionism, Fauvism, Dada, Cubism, and Cloisonnism that I can remember, possibly as far as Surrealism, and photos, receipts, exhibition chores checklists, postcard sales list, exhibition posters and programs, and good many correspondences. Saeki was the only one I was aware of, (I went to Hokkaido to see a museum dedicated to him once,) but I fell in love with the themes, (labour movement,) and colors, (oh, the reds!) of Maeta Kanji.

Hachioji was the seventh and last museum to host the exhibition, and I was there day before they closed; I will be forever patting myself on the back for not skipping it before I ran off again to meet a friend for supper.

I got the big fat catalogue from Machida, but couldn't fathom carrying another big fat one from 1930, so bought a slim volume from a previous exhibition by Maeta and one other of the group. I may come to regret this.

It's going to be another hot, still day. More to come soonish.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Travels and Such

I came back from Japan on a Friday, unpacked and did laundry; we took off the following Monday to go around the South Island and to listen to Dr Cady's talk, came back Thursday, although we thought it was already Friday. I think it's Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday here today, and for the first time in six weeks I feel I'm back to my usual self.

In retrospect, while in Japan, I chose quantity over quality, going to many exhibitions, seeing as many friends as possible, or walking around the shops in Mom's building. It was in part to satisfy my appetite for big city living and I didn't want to miss out on anything within easy reach. I was there 23 days, and everybody commented on my "short stay this time", while I kept reminding them the last one, (with the exhibition,) was 28 days. In retrospect, 23 days were short, and I packed it too full for my liking. There was no time to doodle, (I brought home six LJs, and even though I didn't expect to finish them all, I did expect to work a little most nights. I barely managed to work in two to send forward.) I've come to really need my doing-nothing time and the unbusy-ness, and without it I can't appreciate the things I have. I'll need some time before I can reflect on and appreciate all that happened in the 23 days, but on the other hand, I've become that person I aspired to be; I'm easily pleased with fewer things/events/people.

Another part of the restlessness was due to tininess of Mom's apartment, and how we were constantly breathing down each other's neck. Because we were, and me more so on hers. In retrospect, though it didn't feel like it back then, our family house was a big one, providing all five of us room to escape from everybody else somehow. The good news is, after nearly three years, Mom is discovering her apartment is not a too-tiny house, but that the whole thing is her room; while Sister and I think she'd be happier if she had less things, especially fewer furnitures, Mom does like her things and as long as it's safe, well, there's isn't much we can do. Mom knows this, too, and she has tried to cull, but she does loves to shop as well. And for a woman in her 80's living alone, shop staff are good company.

Part of the reason it's taking me a while to get back to normal is because we returned to a scorching,  overheated Nelson. Even though it's not anywhere near as bad as many other parts of New Zealand, it makes me hot just to talk about it; last night was so hot, after dinner Ben and I lay down in the hallway near the stairway where the cool air occasionally travelled up, and read. When I stood up to get cold water I actually felt feint because the air "up there" was so hot and muggy. And talk about unseasonable temperatures, I used only a quarter of the light-winter clothes I took home, and lived in my three 3/4-length sleeve cotton shirts, which some days were too much sleeves. This time it wasn't just me, as I saw plenty of others without jackets or in shirt-sleeves in twon.

I came home excited to get back to the loom, also dying to try my hands on print-making, but the last couple of days, (as well as one of the last days before I left), knitting, of all things. Thoughts on these to come, but for now a few pics.
 Chestnut parfait on one of the first days home. Mom just had a coffee.
Lunch with Mom and Sister; everywhere we went we ordered too much food, but this is not all bad news as Mom had lost interest in food when I was home last time, but she'd resumed cooking in the last little while and even cooked some of our old favorites. We walked a whole lot this particular afternoon and skipped dinner.
 Sunset on Hokitika Beach. 
Mt Cook, two active ones taking pics, two tired ones holding back a bit. (I'm not sure if the other three will agree with the adjectives, but heck, I was tired.) And probably the last timie with the Cadys for a while.