Saturday, November 10, 2012

Mess on My Desk

 In the last few weeks, my desk has been more untidy than usual.  I have been stocking up on collage blocks in preparation for the gift giving season.  

I have a large collection of vintage ephemera including 1950s women's magazines, old wallpaper samples, great old children's encylopedias and other bits and pieces that have come my way in the last 20 years (makes me sound old!!)  I'm planning on doing a local annual fair in a month or two and thought that having a good selection of these cheerful bird blocks might be nice.  There were visions of lots of colourful blocks making my stall look bright and appealing.  But having listed them in my etsy shop as they came off the desk, they have all been snapped up and sold.  

 I have been selling collages for almost as long as I have been collecting - I guess that the two activities go together!  

This is one of my very early collage pieces made during art college - I incorporated lino prints even back then.

I sold so many collages like this one over the years - I never even took photos of them. I sometimes wonder where they are, and if they are still hanging on peoples walls.

Squares became a big part of collaging for me when I was working at Griffith University at the Gold Coast in Australia's sunny Queensland.  A student found a box of glass microscope slides at the tip, and brought them in for me.  I fell in love with them, and so began a love affair with squares.

I have had two solo exhibitions devoted entirely to collage, based on squares.  To have a peek at what I did, you can see them on my website and click here. Some of the pieces from my first collage exhibition, called Frocks and Fables, have been made into finest quality giclee prints which are so good, people often think they are the real thing.  I have them for sale in the etsy shop if you are interested.  

So even though my desk has been messy, I guess its something I'm used to.  I have had to find ways of combining creativity and chaos over the years, with thousands of squares of colour and text coming off the desk and into artwork, without driving me or my family crazy!


Sunday, October 21, 2012


Welcome to my first giveaway!  Who doesn't love a giveaway?!  For those of you who don't know, as well as being a practicing artist and having an online shop called trees4thewood I also run a flower farm.  Before our baby, we sold to wholesalers in large quantities but life has changed and so has the way we run the farm, so we've changed our name too and are now officially Swallows Nest Farm.     

So what's the prize?

I love it when everything comes together.  We've combined trees4thewood and Swallows Nest Farm in this prize package.  You get -  

Set of 6 professionally printed postcards of flowers from Swallows Nest Farm
Pack of 5 handmade Tasmanian Waratah Christmas Cards from trees4thewood
Pack of 3 Welcome Swallow Fancy Edged Note Cards from trees4thewood
A hand painted Tasmanian Waratah bookmark from trees4thewood

Thats a prize worth $50+!!!  

What do I have to do to win this fabulous package, I hear you ask?!?

Thats simple!  I'm using Rafflecopter to run the giveaway.  There are three ways you can enter - and if you do all three, you get three entries! Entries are open for three weeks. Follow the prompts below and good luck! 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Did Someone say CHRISTMAS?

It's just not right how fast the year flies by.  But here we are near the end of October and I have had to face the fact the Christmas is just 65 days (!!!!!) away.  Having 5 children means that Christmas is a fairly big deal in our house.  There used to be much nagging about the putting up of the Christmas tree until I made a rule (not quite sure what the basis of it was) that the tree-up date was to be no earlier than October 31st.  I know some consider it bad luck to put up the tree before December.  Obviously we don't subscribe to that idea!  I justify our position by telling people that we do take the tree down before New Years.  So the Christmas season starts very soon in our house.  10 days till tree-up.  

Being a maker and seller of cards has also brought Christmas much closer than it would otherwise have seemed.   Last year, I began printing little red robins to use as personal cards for family and friends.  They were something simple but creative that I could do when looking after the baby was at its most intensive.  It gave me a project to focus on and provided a good deal of mental health!  It also was the catalyst for starting an online shop.  January 2nd saw the opening of trees4thewood and since then, lino printing and card making have become a regular part of my life.  

The challenge this year was to create another card for Christmas that I would be happy to send to family and friends.  I am not a fan of mass produced, cheap cards.  I really don't see the point.  Being a visual person, I can't understand why you would put a picture on something to decorate it, that wasn't even nice to look at.  No offense to anyone who loves card writing!  Its not the sentiments that bother me - its that the cards should match the sentiment.  

Living on a flower farm, we often mark the seasons by the flowers that are available, and the lead up to Christmas is marked for me by the flowering of Waratah and Pincushion (or Leucaspermum) flowers.  The Tasmanian Waratah is a later flowering one, and near to my heart because its native to the state.  Also, being bright and cheery in the traditional Christmas colours, it was the obvious choice for this years card.  

The Tasmanian Waratah have a lovely structure with bent styles, that I found translated well into a design for a lino print.  

The cards are available singly or in packs of 5 (which gives a great discount).  If you're interested, click on this link and it will take you to the Christmas section of trees4thewood.  Sending a handmade card means so much more, I think, than sending a mass produced one.  And if you start early, you won't get caught in the rush!

Friday, October 19, 2012


I haven't posted for so long, I was considering scrapping the blog altogether, but after getting over my tantrum about how I don't have enough time I realised that I do like blogging and I'm going to keep at it! And there is so much to blog about! Lots has been happening.  Winter has come and gone and here we are in spring!  Such a beautiful season in Tasmania, with blossom, birds, lush grass, some of my favourite seasonal flowers at the flower farm, and the smell of summer in the air! 

One of the most exciting things that happened, just as spring sprang, was that I received a letter from the Devonport Regional Gallery saying that my tidal.12 entry has been selected for the finalists exhibition!  I was over the moon!  Tidal.12 is a prize run biannually with Australia-wide entries of work related to the tidal or "water-meets-land" areas of our environment.  I'm looking forward to the exhibition, and to seeing the other work to be exhibited.  Here is the piece that is going to Devonport ...

It's titled "Sight Seeing 14 - Marion Bay".  Its based on strong visual memories I have of childhood trips to the beach.  Marion Bay is a beautiful beach in southern Tasmania, not far from where I live. I've been working on the Sight Seeing series for about 3 or 4 years now, ever since I moved to rural Tasmania.  It's been a journey of learning to really "see" the landscape.  It's amazing how little you really see a place when you just go "sight seeing".  The landscape reveals itself and its personality over time, as the seasons come and go and the effects of weather and human activity impact upon it.  I have come to appreciate how much our high-speed, instant modern life-styles are at odds with the natural world. Being a flower farmer has given me insight into this too, with plants responding to time and seasons, not marketplace demands.  So the Sight Seeing series has been a way of exploring this - and of learning to really see the landscape I live in.  
Marion Bay was also the first beach I took my baby too, after she came out of hospital.  When she was born, in March 2011, she was taken straight to the Intensive Care ward at Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne.  She spent the first 4 months of her life there - she never even saw the sky.  It worried me that she could live, and possibly die, never having even seen the sky, the grass, a tree!  Flowers were not even allowed in the ICU.  (I did smuggle a few small ones in, every now and again !  I am a flower farmer, after all!  Shhhh!) Taking her to the beach for the first time was a memory that I really cherish.  

So there we have it!  I'm looking forward to December, when the show opens.  I'm sure you'll hear all about it then!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Margaret Olley

This week I watched the ABC programme about Margaret Olley called "A Life in Paint".  It has really stayed with me.  There was so much in the programme that really meant something to me - so I thought I'd share a snippet or two.  And, of course, its a great excuse to look at some of her beautiful pictures.  I even sought out some wonderful Protea pictures (as you know I have a protea farm and am a bit partial to the odd protea!)  

Probably the most memorable for me was when Olley talked really animatedly about how she loves to look at things.  It's not just still lifes, but landscape, portraits, anything, she said.  She saw things, and loved to look at them and paint them.  She described it as having "greedy eyes".  I SO related to this!  I am always looking.  Always.  My family think I'm nuts because I have to hold myself back from stopping 50 times while I'm driving somewhere, just so I can snap a picture with my iphone! I know I'm not alone here.  But I do find that visually, I am sometimes so overwhelmed that I have to find ways to calm myself down!  I get very frustrated that my current life circumstances don't allow me time to channel this obsession fully.  It's a constant state of tension that I live in.  I know if I can find ways to channel it, that's where the creativity happens.  

It was also being able to watch Olley's process of working that I found fascinating.  I don't know where we get these ideas that there is a "proper" way of doing something, and that if we deviate from that we are doing it "wrong".  There was so much about what Olley did that was "wrong".  But who cares!!! The process is personal, private even, and is so integral to achieving the outcome.  Had she not had that particular process of working, her artwork would be different.  But the work of art produced was purely Margaret Olley and was the outcome of these "wrong" work practices.  Her brushes were more like over-used broomsticks!  I found it very inspiring and liberating.   The need and desire to make work is what took precedence for her, not having quality brushes and a large, spacious studio!  She painted in every room of her house.  Even the kitchen!  It was integral to her life, not an add-on.  What a national treasure she was/is!  If you didn't catch it, its worth watching on iView.  It is visually rich and fascinating!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Front Page Action

On Saturday, after a very bad night with the baby (don't ask) I woke to find a message on my phone from my good friend Maria from Obliss Jewellery to say that a treasury list she made on Etsy, was on the "Front Page".  Even better, my work was in it!  Getting on FP as its called, is quite a big deal.  Etsy is a world-wide site with millions of viewers.  I don't know the stats, but they are pretty amazing.  All you have to do is look at my usual etsy shop statistics, and compare them to the few hours when my item was on the front page, and it is very obvious that there are alot of people out there, browsing the site.  My shop stats graph looks like ... well ... imagine Mt Everest was plonked in the middle of a great flat desert!  It's quite a spectacular spike!!!  All very exciting.  In, fact it's happened twice in the last two weeks.  

After all the excitement has died down, I realise that apart from the impressive stats page, I haven't really gained anything to speak of.  Maybe some exposure, but no extra sales yet.  Still,  its quite a nice thing to happen, and I really appreciate Maria for her lovely treasury making.  Make sure you check out her beautiful handmade silver jewellery at Obliss.  Thanks too, to Kellie from dahlies for the other lovely treasury list.  It's worth a look, if you've never visited the Etsy website.  You could start by following any of the links I've added to this post or go to and do some exploring.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

New Cards

Its been a very busy few weeks.  We've had electricians, appointments, moving the house around, planting (see our flower farm blog Swallows Nest Farm) and then the general maintenance of a household of 7.  But in my "spare time" I've been inching towards finishing a new range of cards based on Australian Native Flowers.  In the end, I was held up waiting for a parcel to arrive with the envelopes in it.  Snail mail, living up to its name!  But it finally arrived and in a flurry of activity, I've been photographing and putting the new cards in my etsy store, trees4thewood.  

Some of the flowers are ones that we grow commercially, but all of them are growing here on our property.  Its a nice feeling to finally finish a project.  

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Getting Organised

For the last few weeks, I've been a bit silent on the artblog because I've been busy trying to organise my studio.  I occured to me that, apart from University and a 5 month residency, I have never had a proper studio set up! Arrrgggghhh!!!!! I'm a "make-do" kind of person, and because I have always had time constraints, I have prioritised the making of the work above the organisation of a proper work space.

When we moved to our new place almost 4 years ago, I dreamed of building a studio somewhere on our 43 acres, and finally having a space of my own, but as usual, family commitments took over and I ended up with a corner of my bedroom!  Most of my materials have been in storage and I've been frustrated!  So, around 6 months ago, I decided that we didn't really need a dining room any more! I moved a few of my things in half-heartedly, not really sure if I wanted to go the whole hog!  But that just lead to more frustration.  Then a few weeks ago it dawned on me that I needed specific furniture and storage.  I guess, having never prioritised a proper workspace, I was slow to figure out what I would need in it.  I set about finding some furniture that would suit and came up with a huge set of pigeon holes and a fabulous Tassie Oak workbench complete with plan file draws.  This is the first time in 20 years of art practice that I've had somewhere to store finished work!!! I feel like I'm in heaven!!

Once I got started, I began really enjoying the organisation.  There are still some final touches to be made - I'm going to build myself a purpose built easel and I'm still sharing the space with the piano - but I now have the most organised, work friendly studio I have ever had.  I jumped right in this morning and got out the paint, ready to finish off some work that has been lying about gathering dust for 2 years.  (The more kids I have had, the more time it seems to take to resolve new work!)

Anyway, I'm hoping that this will be the catalyst for a really productive season of new work.  I hope I won't be worried about messing things up too much - I'm a bit of a frenzied worker and things get messy when I get working.

One day I will build a purpose built studio - but until then, I'm a happy  girl!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Magic Mushrooms

Theres a lot of mushrooms around in autumn and winter!  So many varied colours, textures and shapes.  Some weird ones, some common - even edible.  I think they're beautiful.  This is just a selection of some of the different types I've found in the last month or two.  

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Printing Again

I've been doing a lot of lino printing in the last 4 years.  I put it down to favourable conditions!  My kitchen it perfectly suited to lino printing - I know it sounds weird, but its true.  We have a very rustic farm kitchen, complete with woodfired Rayburn stove (its my only stove - no electric oven or hotplates to fall back on).  The benches are Tasmanian Oak and are in "used" condition, so I don't feel precious about them.  But the real clincher is the granite slab at one end of the bench right next to the stove.  Its very practical for so many things, but it also makes a fabulous surface to roll out the ink on for lino printing.  So, printing has been a fairly regular part of my life for the last few years.  

Towards the end of last year, while I was doing some "routine" printing of some images of a scarlet robin that lives around the house, I had the idea of making some Christmas cards for friends and family.  By the time Christmas was over, I had enough cards left over to start an online shop.  It has snowballed and I now find myself printing even more regularly to keep up stock.  Its also nice to have an outlet for all this printing activity.  So much of the printing I've done has yet to find its way out of the studio, but the online shop is great for giving me a bit of focus.  I'm really enjoying it.

I'm very excited about this lot of images.  I'm beginning a new series of native flowers.  Some of them are based on flowers that we grow on our farm.  Click on the link if you want to check it out.  We grow proteas, and many of our Australian Native flowers are actually from the protea family.  There are banksias, and waratahs, and grevilleas.   It's almost wattle season here and I just LOVE wattle - so I've done a wattle print too.  I'm now waiting for the ink to dry so I can play with the prints - winter is not good for drying time.  I have to be patient.

Here's a few pictures of the process.

And my favourite part - the colouring with watercolour!  It just makes the whole image come to life.
The wattle cards will be in my shop today.  I'm still waiting for the Banksia's to dry!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Landscape Project

So far, I've been able to keep up with this project I set for the winter months!  I'm feeling quite pleased with myself! Some drawings have been more detailed and I've worked over them for a couple of days in a row, while others are quick sketches.  One thing I have noticed is that I find myself wishing I was painting sometimes, instead of drawing.  The brush seems to be able to describe shape and texture more efficiently than the pencil at times.  Or maybe I've just been painting so much in the last few years that it is my default setting for describing landscape in 2D.  

Anyway, its an ongoing thing, and I'm really enjoying it.