Friday, June 26, 2009


I became aware of British sculptor, Antony Gormley's work whilst searching for angel images for a blog post and was blown away by this spectacular sculpture, Angel of the North.

Even more spectacular are the life size cast-metal figures (based on his own body) which are placed in settings that create an atmosphere of mystery.

"Another Place" reminds me of the beach scene in the movie, City of Angels.

In fact many of his installations have that ghostly feel to them.

Gormley's Field series is very striking. A rolling carpet of little terracotta people all looking up at the viewer.

...and then there is Waste Man created out of wood and furniture. Impressive, isn't he?

Antony Gormley's website is crammed with images of his work. Go here to browse.

Friday, June 19, 2009


My friend Shelley Klammer emailed to tell me about the free online collage workshop, Deepening Creativity, which she offers on her website, Expressive Art. I have enjoyed several collage courses with Shelley and really benefited from this process but since I'm so busy right now I didn't think I had a moment in my day to spare ..... but a quick peep would do no harm, so I nipped over to the website, just to see what it was all about. Suffice it to say I have since found the time and am now well and truly hooked. The course entails the creating of a daily collage in 10 minutes, using 2 or 3 magazine images and a phrase or word that catches your attention. It is quick, spontaneous and totally addictive.

The object of the exercise is that it helps you to aquaint yourself with subconscious thought patterns or issues that may be blocking your way forward, whether it is creatively or in your day to day life. I'm finding it so relaxing and it's a great way to loosen up for carving. I won't say much more here because you can read all about it at Expressive Art.

I will, however, share my personal process and revelations with you, regarding a spontaneous collage that I completed this morning.

It is necessary to set aside my judging mind while flipping through magazines until an image "steps out". I gravitate towards anything African and arty but I'm trying to be open to a wider spectrum of choice, both positive or negative. The first image I choose is of an african woman dressed in shweshwe cloth. I love shweshwe! On the same page I find the mask. No surprises here..I'm obviously going to choose this image. A few pages further I read a phrase that amuses me. "Water the flowers... or something". My judging mind immediately breaks into chatter. The phrase is not going to fit this collage... it doesn't make sense etc. I ignore the chatter and the next moment the face and hand image loom out at me. Quick, cut it out, shuffle,shuffle ... glue them down in the notebook.

Now to look at the collage and see if it's telling me something. I take a break, make coffee and come back to look again.

Let me give you a quick peek into a white woman's experience in the new South Africa. I, like many other South Africans, am trying to be open to a different way of doing things. A different way of thinking. A different way of seeing. We try to slip into African time which is a way of doing things in one's own time whenever that might be. It's a far more laid back way of life and yet it has some of us pulling our hair out. We are also learning about the different cultures and customs that have always existed albeit in the shadow of the old South Africa, and we really do try to embrace them. Sometimes it's easy but more often than not we flinch. One such custom that comes to mind is the ritual slaughtering of cattle on feast days right there in the back garden on the otherside of the hedge. This is a custom that is totally natural and acceptable to the African way of life, but we white people feel faint at the thought of it (see the white face in the collage brushing the cold sweat off her brow).... and fly to the telephone trying to alert Animal Welfare , the police, the minister at the church down the road or anyone who might listen. Our customs are clashing with one another and the fact is if we all want to live in harmony we have to be more accepting of our differences.

This leads me back to the collage. The sweet face of the African woman in her pretty shweshwe outfit represents the side of Africa that we are willing to embrace. The primitive mask stands for the old customs of Africa that some of us are battling to accept. The point that comes across in this collage is that if we are going to continue living in South Africa we have to get over our sensabilities...and that's where the phrase "Water the flowers....or something" comes in. (Just get over yourself, get on with living, go water your flowers or something.)

"It is the still, small voice that the soul heeds, not the deafening blasts of doom." - William Dean Howells
I found this quote at Sun Pours Down Like Honey. With a name like that you just know this blog will be pure poetry. Susan is a poet and her words are like honey.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

HECTIC WEEK...or two.

Paper clay piece by Cyrus (Wai-Kuen) Tang, in the book 500 Ceramic Sculptures.

It's been a hectic few weeks rushing back and forth to Durban airport, sending off carvings to several different locations in the States. Up until now I've avoided sending my work overseas because of the astronomical freight charges from South Africa but eventually I decided that if people were prepared to pay the freight charges I should be excited and grateful for this opportunity. With the rate of exchange it's actually not as bad as I thought and after 2 months of research, sourcing the best and most economical way to go about it, I've finally done it! Three of my carvings are in the States as we speak. One is hanging in a beautiful home (photographs sent by the extremely patient and thoughtful buyer) .....and the other two are probably languishing in some bustling Customs Department, rousing the suspicion of beady eyed officials who don't like the look of my worn, weathered, wormy wood. I wish I could reassure them that I created the worn, weathered, wormy effect with my own two hands (at the risk of developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome too, I might add.) In the mean time I'm feeling extremely mother hennish about my wandering chicks. Hold thumbs that all is well!

It has also been a week of grappling with Flu bugs. The three of us all laid up at the same time, coughing and spluttering and looking like death ....... but today I'm taking interest in my new book, 500 Ceramic Sculptures which arrived on my doorstep via Kalahari.

I love the 500 series but I have to say this one is my least favourite. Not sure why....maybe it's just too clever or too contemporary...or too obsessed with genitalia..... (once I noticed one, they were everywhere)....or maybe it's just the Flu. Nevertheless there are some amazing pieces in this book.

Kate MacDowell's detailed porcelain sculptures .....

This intriguing piece by Gabriele Putz .....

....and these handwoven stoneware baskets by Phyllis Kudder Sullivan.

Memory by Kylli Koiv, Handbuilt stonware and porcelain.

Tomorrow I will be over the Flu and yet another public holiday....ready to get back to work. For some reason I'm expecting to battle with beginning.....but I'm also determined to put in a full day's something has to happen! 

Sunday, June 7, 2009


I love sorting through all the junk I collect to use in my art, though it's not quite as exciting as foraging at flea markets and second hand stores to find it in the first place.

"Whether we call it collecting, scavenging, accumulating, scrounging, gathering, or junking, its all about the urge to surround ourselves with our stuff, our loot, our stash, our hoard, our mother lode of treasures, and to reap the inspiration that these sometimes inexplicably iresistible objects provide."

" Whether the collected objects are actually used in works of art or merely provide inspiration, the synchronicity between Artist and Object is undeniable."

Quotes by Lynne Perrella from her wonderful book Art Making, Collections and Obsessions.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


After participating in Katherine Treffinger's, 'Art and Meaning' project an internet friend asked me to elaborate on the spiritual aspect of creating art. It's something I've pondered upon often over the last few years and I've wondered if it is a spiritual connection that I feel when carving ...or whether it's just a feeling of gratitude or elation that I'm able to escape into the art process and express myself this way.

An extract I read in The Well of Creativity by Michael Toms resonated with me. Michael was visiting an ancient Balinese village, famous for double-ikat weaving. He wondered why anyone would spend so long making something for so little return. It might take six months to make a small intricate piece of cloth, three feet long and about one foot wide. The ikat cloths and tapestries are sold to tourists and though they're expensive by Balinese standards the labor works out to about ten cents an hour. So it obviously wasn't being done for the money.

"So I found myself in this village where they did this work. I was talking to a Balinese man who had some command of English, and I realized as he was talking and explaining this piece of cloth, that to them the whole process of doing this was very much a part of their spiritual practice. It was like prayer."

"It was the prayer of doing it. It was like this realization of the idea of being one with your work and what that really is about."

The Well of Creativity is a series of interviews with well known creatives including Julia Cameron, Natalie Goldberg and Isabel Allende. It's one of those books that I'm getting more out of in the second reading.

"No traditional concept of God is necessary to succeed, only a sense that our personal creativity reflects that of the universe, and as we express our artistic impulses we come in touch with a spiritual world of infinite size and power." -- Michael Toms 

Found inscribed over a doorway at Westminster Abbey   "Of the craftsmen it may be said that in the handiwork of their craft is their prayer".