Saturday, May 23, 2009


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


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.

Friday, May 15, 2009


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 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 shapes that Sithole has used in two of these vessels )
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.
This piece forms part of a series called Warrior Woman by South African ceramisist Michelle Legg.

Yatura beaded gourd housing fertility secrets. Axis Gallery

Friday, May 8, 2009


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 then gone on to sculpt or fashion a vessel of thoughts. To hold a vessel is to place ones hands over the fingerprints of the artist. 

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

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


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!