Thursday, May 28, 2009

SNAKE STORIES

Turquoise Rattler by Michael Peyton, see more of his work here.


Bella the Foxy brought in a house snake early this morning. She's a remarkable hunter but I think the only reason she managed to catch this particular snake was because it was lethargic after a huge breakfast.


You can see the belly bulge in the shape of a shrew.




I've never been phased by snakes, probably because my brother was always smuggling them into the house and keeping them undetected for months until I happened upon one..... or a bucket full. In fact he kept mice in a tall dark box (now I know why) and every day after school I raced home to play with the mice before he got home. He had warned me continually to leave his mice alone but of course, how could I resist? The one day I rushed home and thrust my arm down into the box to feel for the mice but instead of the soft furriness I was expecting, my hand connected with a tangle of snakes. Much shrieking ensued.
Nightmare (a gourdgy of sorts), made from snake gourds by Mike Peyton


On the farm, when I was about 9 or 10, I loved to go for long walks gathering specimens for my "museum". I was going to marry Gerald Durrell one day so I needed all the practice I could get. My mom didn't like the idea of children wandering off alone all day so she employed the sister of our Induna (headman) to trail along after me making sure I didn't get up to mischief.  At the time I wasn't aware that there were any dangers at all but now looking back I realize there were many. My minder's name was Mino and she was probably in her early fifties but we all called her Gogo which means Grandmother in zulu. I loved Gogo almost as much as I did my own grandmother. She taught me the zulu words for all the creatures we met during our walks. She had endless patience, a ready smile and bubbling laughter.

A few miles from the homestead there was a little thatched cottage overlooking the river which was backed by a glade of pine trees. We used to rent this out in holiday season to the townies who needed a retreat. I loved to explore this area because there were always weavers nests on the ground beneath the pines and kowes growing out from under the pine needles. Kowes are the most delicious giant mushrooms (sometimes the size of a dinner plate), a delacacy which taste remarkably like fillet steak. It was on one of these excursions to the cottage that Gogo proved her worth as child minder. As I bent down to pick up a nest lying half buried in the pine needles I heard a rush of sound behind me. On turning I looked straight into the upright body of an Egyptian Cobra . It had reared up almost onto the tip of it's tail with its hood puffed right out and in the second before striking Gogo had thrown herself at it, beating madly with a stick until the cobra lay still. At the time I never realized the implications. In fact I don't think I even reported the incident to my mother which is just as well because my adventures would have come to a standstill. It was only years later that I realized the danger I had been in.


An interesting snippet from Wikipedia ....
"Most ancient sources say that Cleopatra committed suicide by being bitten by an aspis, which translates into English as "asp." Plutarch tells us that she did experiments on condemned prisoners and found aspis venom to be the most painless of all fatal poisons. Today it is generally believed that this "aspis" is the Naja haje." (Egyptian Cobra)


The Gathering by Michael Peyton


The snake gourd sculptures in this post are all created by Michael Peyton, a self taught artist who combines his love of Native American art with his fascination of snakes. Go to the Sharpie Blog, here, to read an interview about Mike's use of sharpies to decorate snake gourds or to Mike's blog here.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

SHOE LASTS AND RECYCLING

Spike, (Wood and resin construction with shoe lasts, hammer head and rope)

To continue the recycling theme I'm hoping you will go over to Susan Valyi's website to see the menagerie of quirky characters she has created from shoe lasts, found wood, bone and metal objects.
Psst (wood and resin construction with shoe lasts)
Guaranteed to put a smile on your face! The titles are so apt too. Look at this one. Traipse. Have you ever seen a more suave traipser than this chap? Except perhaps for Steve Martin in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

Traipse (wood and resin construction with shoe lasts)
"I believe the art I create is a reflection of my life's visual memory. Everything I see is banked, analyzed and edited leaving me with something like a personal museum of influences. When I explore a new idea, or sketch, I feel the moment a connection is made and the idea merges with the best of what resides in my memory bank." - Susan Valyi

The Patrons, (Wood and resin construction with shoe lasts and hammer heads)

"My materials and methods serve my work process. Wood suits me. Scavenging suits me. Hard physical labour suits me. My current constructions are joined with resin. I build up shapes like fitting a puzzle together, guided by my sketches. A continuous process of adding then grinding away. The finished pieces are oiled and sometimes white-washed, then polished to a smooth but textured patina which reveals the underlying mosaic of wood."


Once a Dancer, (Bone and resin construction with shoe lasts)

Monday, May 18, 2009

INSPIRED BY THE RECYCLING CULTURES IN AFRICA

Ashioke (clay and burlap) 71cm X 89cm


In Africa nothing is wasted. Cardboard, discarded planks and corrigated iron are used to make shelters: Cement bags and newspapers are used for bedding and insulation; labels from tin cans make cheerful wall paper; tin cans and wire are transformed into toys, utensils and suitcases; spark plugs are ideal for fishing sinkers and weights on caste nets.


Rope made with twisted newspaper


Nnenna Okore is an artist who has been inspired by the ingenius ways discarded materials are used in the rural areas of her native Nigeria. She celebrates these recycling practices and transforms found objects into art.




The materials she uses in her artworks include newspapers, cloth, rope, clay, sticks and wax which she twists, rolls, weaves and sews using techniques learned by watching villagers perform day to day tasks.



Nnenna was drawn to the "carefully arranged wares borne on the heads of street peddlers, and household items in the market place lined up on the termite eaten tables and pews, plant tubers assembled in huge piles as well as sacks of grain stacked six to eight feet high and four to ten feet wide."

"I was also drawn to simple sights of bare-footed children appropriating toys and hunting tools from scrap objects."


Ashoebi II (clay and burlap) 127cm X 229cm

"Of all the aspects of rural life that inspired me, the use of discarded objects and found materials in coping with poor economic conditions, had the most profound impact on me. It is reflected in the visual content and imagery of my works, which by virtue of these influences, celebrate the transformation of discarded materials into cultural objects, forms, and spaces, and bring a critical focus to bear on the consumption and recycling cultures in parts of Nigeria."


Ala Igbe (clay and burlap) 231cm X 91cm

If you are curious about these striking artworks you can see closer views of these pieces and more at Nnenna Okore's website, here and also at the October Gallery website here.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

THE DAYS YOU WORK ARE THE BEST

"The days you work are the best days" - Georgia O'Keeffe


Waking early, taking my coffee outside to sip quietly as the sun comes up....




Gathering my chisels and setting up my workbench in the courtyard ready to begin a full days work.....




These are the moments I cherish. It's not the prettiest courtyard but it is my outdoor studio and I feel a fondness for it because this is where I can lose myself, carving, tinkering and pondering. Today I am working on a totem for an exhibition that opens in a few weeks time.




A blue headed lizard finds a sun spot on the wall. Soon wood chips are flying and I forget he's there. It feels like I'm in the Secret Garden. For a while at least I can pretend that nobody knows where I am......so nobody will disturb me. It's just me, my work ....and one blue headed lizard.


"The Secret Garden was what Mary called it....she liked the name, and she liked still more the feeling that when its beautiful old walls shut her in, no one knew where she was. It seemed almost like being shut out of the world in some fairy place." - from The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett


"I think every artist is more or less a recluse of some sort, secretly waiting for those moments when he will be alone with his art, searching, looking into the depths of himself. I guess the idea is never to stop discovering new hidden paths inside us." - Thinker

Friday, May 15, 2009

THE THINGS WE LOVE


A book I'm enjoying at the moment is The Way We Live With The Things We Love, by Stafford Cliff and Gilles De Chabaneix. It is filled with glorious colour photographs showing ways to display the things we collect and love.
A French cupboard becomes a miniature gallery for this basket collection.


Old picture frames and framed pictures displayed inside a salvaged casement window.

We've all been collecting things since childhood, driven by a strange instinct to accumulate. Whether it be seashells, pebbles or marbles; comic books or cereal box collector cards; dolls or dinky cars, the need to collect kept us intrigued enough to continue adding to the collection. Most of us havn't changed much. We are still accumulating "stuff" which invariably clutters our lives.

Small shells cached inside a larger shell.


Jewelry made from natural objects strung on hemp cord and raffia, hang from the wall of this French house like pieces in a sculptural installation.

A careful asemblage involving a carved wooden granary door from Mali, an Ethiopian stool, and a ladle made froma coconut shell atop a set of contemporary bowls .
"Whatever the nature of the 'things you love', there are not only infinite ways of framing, hanging or placing objects, but more importantly, ways of combining, juxtaposing, balancing, creating rhythm or impact; achieving wit and irony, contrast, scale and emotion."
Sacred Buddhist images displayed in a niche in a traditional Japanese house.


A display of family portraits cover the walls of an entire room.




Antique African hairdressers' signs, usually hand-painted on tin and depicting a range of available hairstyles, are now sought-after-one-of-a-kind collectible items in the West.


"Collecting is, of course, for most collectors just a reasonably absorbing and largely harmless pastime, looked upon by an uncomprehending world as a kind of gentle madness." _ Stephen Calloway

Sunday, May 10, 2009

VESSEL II

Vessel by Clive Sithole. Burnished smoke-fired clay, Height 46cm.

Since Clive Sithole has just won the ceramics/pottery category in the 2009 South African Craft Awards, it is fitting that I highlight his work at the beginning of this post, Vessels, Part II.

Vessel by Clive Sithole

I love the shapes of these vessels as well as the incised or raised patterning on the highly burnished surface. Sithole gets this amazing gloss by rubbing the surface with a smooth stone. When asked where his inspiration comes from, he said "I have always collected things and in 1994, when I arrived in KwaZulu-Natal, I was introduced to traditional Zulu things, like headrests and beadwork. I visited museums to find out more about these objects and today they help to inspire my work." (You can see the headrest shape that Sithole has used in the vessel at the top of this post. )

Vessel by Clive Sithole


Sithole is inspired by the work of Kenyan-born British ceramist Magdalene Odundo whose work you can see below.

Vessel by Magdalene Odundo. Brooklyn Museum


Contemporary vessel by Magdalene Odundo. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
These two pieces form part of a series called Warrior Woman by South African ceramisist Michelle Legg.

Warrior Woman by Michelle Legg

Yatura beaded gourd housing fertility secrets. Axis Gallery

Friday, May 8, 2009

VESSEL, PART I


Pensive, by Rashida Ua Bakari Ferdinand (Fired earthenware clay vessel)



Each vessel has it's own story to tell. Each vessel has been held in the hands of an artist who has started out with the seed of an idea and coiled, molded, sculpted, plaited, woven, incised, beaded or fashioned a vessel of thoughts. To hold a vessel is to place ones hands over the fingerprints of the artist. Awesome thought!



Beholden Vessel by Rashida Ua Bakari Ferdinand


"My spirit vessels are metaphorical representations of bodies as objects of physical, as well as spiritual containment. The emerging and introspective faces on the vessels evoke serenity and bring spiritual peace to my work."


Go to Currents of Clay to see more of these beautiful spirit vessels.

Terracotta Vessel, at the Hamill Gallery



Big Coil, by Jonathan Wood





Mythic Vessel 3 by Tim and Pamela Ballingham



Carved Stoneware by Arnold Zimmerman


Pussy Willow XIIII, by Markku Kosonen, Brown Grotta Arts



Early Light, by Mary Giles, Brown Grotta Arts

"I admire the directness and honesty I see in tribal art and i try to encorporate those qualities in my own. My baskets express both action and reaction to what I have loved in the past and what I am discovering today." - Mary Giles



Vessel crafted from plastic milk bottles, by Caroline Saul




Beaded Coconut Shells by Julie Zarrow Erickson

Monday, May 4, 2009

WHAT MAKES YOUR SPIRIT SING?


I am reading a book by Sonia Choquette, The Answer is Simple.... Love Yourself, Live Your Spirit. It was the "Live your spirit" that attracted me to the book.

Sonia Choquette is an author, storyteller, healer and spiritual teacher. Her writing sooths my spirit. In this book she distinguishes between false self (your ego) and true, authentic self (your Spirit) and then guides you to let your Spirit direct your life rather than leaving it all to Ego.

The first step is to recognise your spirit, "the part of you that is light, happy, creative, and kind...the part of you that's present, lives in the moment, and laughs easily. It's the aspect of your nature that's tolerant, forgiving, easy going, and confident. It is also the side of you that's enthusiastic and generous." All the qualities that come to the fore when you are happy.




I'm reminded to turn my thoughts to Spirit when Ego becomes overbearing and to remember what makes my spirit sing. Whether it's walking my dog at dawn or searching for pebbles in the stream, paging through my favourite art books or reading through the quotations I've collected over the years, it uplifts me and puts me in a stronger position to face the things that weigh me down.




Today I cancelled a dreaded trip to town, ignored unmade beds and a sink of dishes, and took myself quietly into the courtyard to work on a carving beneath Autumn skies.







The monkeys always seem to know when I'm there. I can hear them chattering far in the distance, getting closer and closer until crashing through the trees, they arrive on my roof where they sit, looking down at me.








I realize they're coming in search of food but it still gives me a thrill knowing that they are aware of the exact moment that I step into the courtyard to work. That makes my Spirit sing.

The trip to town and the household chores aren't going to disappear but right now I need to connect with Spirit. A morning working in the Autumn sunshine replenishes me.


"The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind its faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." - Einstein.






Katherine Treffinger has started a series on her blog Treffinger Daily. She asks "What meaning does doing art have for you? Why do you show up in your studio, or wherever, and pick up your tools day after day?"


Various artists are participating and today it is my turn, here.If you do happen to pop over there, have a browse through Katherine's beautiful paintings. Her blog header makes my day each time I visit there!