Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Curating according to Soda Jerk

So I'm part of a Craft Exchange Salon for Melbourne Fringe, put together by the Safari Team

It's a cool idea. The Safari Team made a bunch of craft and then put the call out. Anyone who wanted in emailed their name to the ST. The ST in turn, sent each participant some craft, in exchange for something crafty in return. There was no other requirements, only that it could be posted.

I got a group email from them jsut a moment ago stating "We are putting up the show as I write. It's looking superb! What a weird bunch of people you all are..." which made me proud.

However, that's not really what I'm here to talk to you about. One of the Craft Exchange's featured artists is Soda Jerk. I recognise the name but couldn't place it, so I googled them. I found their website, www.sodajerk.com.au which is a funky looking oldschool computer screen, and wandered about the site, trying to place the name. Regretably I've still drawn a blank, but amongst other things, they curate shows, and this is what I wanted to show you.

On their CURATE page they have written: Like cutting a mix tape, curating involves bringing together different works and forging new connections between them.

And I think that's an ace way to view it! All Rock and Roll. Which reminds me that at one of my jobs, they're calling me a Craft Rock Star, on account of the Age article.
And that makes me laugh.
And wish I had a tshirt with it emblazoned across the front.

and so it begins

Wandering around fellow DUSTer sites, I came across Kylie B's blog, which had this sentance as the start of the latest entry:

I have been reading a lot on Blogs and forums that's sales on Etsy have been slowing and mainly due to the World economics, its quite scary to hear all this happening.

So it is starting to happen. People have commented in reply to her post that they are starting to find that sales are slipping.

I wrote a comment too, but after I finished it, I thought I'd post it here as it furthers my thinking of the last post about this.

I think it'll be interesting times. I'm convinced that people will more than ever turn to making their own stuff, which will grow awareness of those of us who already do. I think there'll be much more a sence of community as people come together over this.

I'm convinced that the DIY ethic will just grow and grow, and I can't help but think that at least there'll be some good to come out of this troubled and worrisome time.

Kylie goes on to give some good advice for sellers whose businesses have slowed. She suggests that you use the coming quiet time to stock up on items, so that when the current financial slump starts reversing and people have spare cash again, you'll have a store chocked full of goodies waiting for them. I think that's good advice if you have the money to do it. Otherwise (or concurrently) I'd focus on updating your website that you've been meaning to for ages and haven't got around to yet, doing updated business plans, really, all the admin that you've put asiderecently, so that when your cash starts flowing again you'll be in the perfect position to hit the ground running.

I've been checking out some blogs myself about it all, and I found this comment by outofthepinksky in an etsy forum All I can say though is that it's embarrassing to me that U.S. based idiocy in the financial field could potentially send the whole world into chaos...and for that, I'm sorry.
And I thought that was lovely of her to apologise.

In other matters, I'm still waiting on Totem images, but I promise they'll be here soon.

Monday, September 29, 2008

my tale of woe

Oh, it's a sad, ongoing saga...

I met up with a friend of mine a few months ago and she was wearing a beautiful crocheted scarf and hood combo, which I complimented her on. She told me that she had crocheted it herself and she'd make me one if I wanted. I was very thrilled, let me tell you.

There's nothing like having something handmade, I'm a huge fan of that. And there's nothing at all better than having it lovingly crafted by one of your friends. So I happily took her up on the offer.

I went home and went through my stash (carefully, mind you, it's in a constant state of collapse as it is (see I'm firmly convinced it's the stash from hell for the visual)) and I found one single solitary ball of wool that I thought would be perfect for it. It was a dark grey with tiny flecks of white and red, and I'd bought it at an op shop over a year ago, waiting for the perfect project. Unfortuntaly there was only one ball, and my friend had suggested that around 3 balls would be best.

So I went wool shopping. For weeks I scoured as many wool shops as I could find looking for something perfect for the scarf. As the weeks went on, it changed from the search for the perfect wool to searching for something ace, then for something that was ok. But I jsut couldnt find anything I was happy with for this. I always had in mind the op shop single ball of wool sitting forlornly in my stash.

In desperation I took apart my stash carefully, to see if I had anything else in there that would be ok. About half way down I found another of the perfect balls of wool. I was estatic! I held my breath as I dived down more, only to find a third! I was so happy, I did indeed have enough of the perfect wool for this scarf and hood.

I gave it to my boyfriend who gave it to his best friend, who is my friends husband.

A few days later, I recieved a call from her husband. He asked if there was any more of the wool. I had been concerned that it might not be enough, as the balls were a little small, so I suggested that maybe my friend use some black in there as well if she needed any more. How much more did she need? I asked him. About 3 balls, he said.

It turned out that he had left the bag with the wool on the train and had spent a week calling Connex trying to get it back, but to no avail.

So I was back to square one. This time I decided to try and find someone to hand dye some wool for me. How lovely would that be, I reasoned to myself, something hand dyed and then hand crocheted.

After much searching on Etsy, I found Yarn or a Tale, who had some beautiful hand dyed stuff. I convo'ed her and told her my tale of woe, and over about a week we sorted out the details, she had some wool/silk that she offered me, and away we went.

She put the finished, hand dyed product up on etsy so I could buy it, mostly dark grey, occasionally fading to light grey and so soft! I happily purchased it and awaited my package.

I've been getting heaps of packages in the post lately, all dolls from artists around Aus, and the occasional book from Amazon, it's gotten so I don't need to show idendtificaion to the lady behind the counter anymore. The day after Totem opened, I recieved a card telling me that I had two packages waiting for me. I went down there, they handed me one box (a late doll) but couldn't find the other. They photocopied the card for me, took my number and send me home.

A few hours later, after racking my brains, my heart sank. I only have two packages I'm waiting on. Either it was a book I've bought off Amazon or it was my wool Yarn or a Tale...

This morning, my Amazon book was delivered.

So it can only be the wool. I am glad that, out of everything they COULD have misplaced, it was my wool rather than one of the dolls, but still...

My heart breaking tale of want and woe continues...

Friday, September 26, 2008

Totem opening and Other

Oh, joy of joys, Totem opened last night, in front of an undulating crowd of around 400 people. I was so happy! The show itself looked incredible, and there really was a never ending crowd of people peering into the space.

We took photos, but I don't have a camera cord to upload them at the moment (I'll be getting it later tonight) so in the meantime, pop by the lovely Poppalina's blog to see a couple of photos and a beautiful story about the night.

I promise my photos will be here soon!

In other Totem news, we sold our first Totem doll last night too, the lovely Erin Hall sold her beautiful little white animal, which I was so pleased about. I know if I show TOO many photos of the dolls that no one will bother going to see the exhibition, but I have to post a photo of Erins' sold doll.

And I have to say, it's the best use of sequins I have EVER seen. So go Erin!

I thought Totem up in January, but it was only June that I got the word from Fed Square that they wanted it, so I then had three months to pull it all together. It was a huge job, and I'm exhausted, but it's an incredible exhibition and I'm very, very proud of it. Today, the day after the opening, was supposed to be a gentle day, a day to unwind, maybe tidy up a little, potter around the house, that sort of thing.

Instead I've come up with 2 exhibition ideas for next year. Sighs. But they're going to be cracking good fun!

Stay tuned for news on those, and photos from the opening!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

2/3s of Totem done

So I've been in the Fracture gallery for 2 days hanging dolls with my able and lovely assistant. It's incredible, people keep coming over to look at all the dolls, take photos, it's attracting heaps of attention from passers-by.

The show looks incredible, dolls of all sizes ranged throughout the space. It really is an amazing installation (no pictures yet, come down and see it for yourself!!!)

And I've had heaps of people txting and emailing me telling me how much they liked The Age article. Which is lovely.

And we saw the big signage yesterday for the first time, and the Omnific Assembly logo is the first on the list, in front of Fed Squares, City of Melbourne and everyone else. Gosh!

So remember people, the opening is on this Thursday, from 5:30 to 8:30! Come one, come all, come on down and celebrate these artistic truths in doll forms.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Totem article in The Age

See? I knew I couldn't stay away :)

The article appeared in The Age today, here it is copied directly from the site:

Oh, you inscrutable doll

Sayraphim Lothian with Rachel Hughes' bald calico dolls that are part of the Totem installation.
Photo: Roger Cummins

More than 120 artists' dolls will soon be on display at Federation Square, writes Frances Atkinson.

THERE ARE TWO Sayraphim Lothians. One has pale skin, shiny hair and large eyes, the other has shiny hair, large eyes and pale green fur. "I'm so happy with it," the real Lothian says, gently stroking the little monster's hair.

The creature sitting quietly in the corner represents a part of Lothian she'd rather not talk about in detail. "I suppose she represents my own insecurities. She's a monster who is trying to fit into human society. She's wearing a handmade dress and has jewellery that doesn't quite match."

The furry doll is part of Totem, an installation made up of more than 120 dolls that will fill the hollow walls of the atrium at Federation Square as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival.

Lothian approached artists from Australia and around the world and asked them to create a doll with soul - a piece that "reflected their inner identities". A few found the question so personal they couldn't commit to the project, but many others found the idea of creating a doll that embodies some aspect of themselves an irresistible challenge.

Lothian describes herself as an art mercenary who works in television, film and theatre. She's also a graphic and web designer who is happy to do anything artistic, providing she's paid for it:

"Which is basically what most artists do to prevent working in call centres." Lothian also worked as a puppet technician on Spike Jonze's yet-to-be-released film Where the Wild Things Are, based on Maurice Sendak's classic children's book of the same name.

At her headquarters, the Auspicious Arts Incubator in Southbank, Lothian's studio resembles a surreal mail centre where packages in brown paper and bubble wrap of assorted sizes take up every inch of space. There's a Frida Kahlo-inspired skeleton, a traditional-looking doll with a fabric cigarette hanging from its mouth, a brightly coloured, papier-mache doll featuring Andy Warhol's face.

The latest arrivals are on the desk. One is a small sculpture of a rabbit with large belly, protruding front teeth and what Lothian suspects are real whiskers. It hangs on to a smaller bunny doll, in the same manner a toddler might grasp a favourite toy: upside down, by one leg.

Lothian said the artist, American Carisa Swenson, was initially worried Australian audiences might not like the doll because of our prejudice against rabbits and the damage they can do to the environment. Lothian doesn't really know what Swenson is trying to convey with her doll, but adds, "I'm fine with that. I don't try and interpret them too much." But, she adds, "all art is personal because it comes through this filter of their own experiences".

Of course, dolls don't always equate with sweet. In his book A Room Full of Toys, Alberto Manguel observes, "The body of a doll is always slightly disturbing." He might well be talking about a piece submitted for the project by Melbourne artist Jon Beinart entitled bubbapilla - a stack of five headless baby dolls which are connected with only one head at the top.

With each set of arms and legs pointing to the front, it does resemble a bizarre baby/caterpillar hybrid that is undeniably strange and beautiful. In contrast, artist Madeleine Hoxley drew on her science background to create a free-form quilted skeleton that's anatomically correct. Black stitching provides the shading while caffeine-coloured fabric helps promote a creamy, bone-like pallor.

One of the most captivating pieces is by American artist Beth Robinson. Her doll, about 45 centimetres tall, is a woman wearing a dress made from vintage fabric. She has long, dark hair, a hank of Robinson's own locks, and four arms. One set reaches up to her head in despair or frustration, the other holds tiny dressmaker's pins and a black voodoo doll. Her eyes are entirely silver - sightless and watchful at the same time.

Via email, Robinson says, "I spent a lot of time thinking about who I am as an artist and a person and how the two work together to create me."

No less curious are five large bald dolls made out of simple calico by Melbourne artist Rachel Hughes. Delivered in a woven basket, each face is delicately painted in muted colours. Lothian suspects they are partly a self-portrait of Hughes and each of her four sisters. "I think they're incredible," says Lothian. "Every choice an artist makes tells you something about them."

While some of the pieces are as far removed from a prosthesis-coloured Barbie or pimped-up Bratz doll that you can get, many are influenced by traditional doll-makers. Lothian said she was inspired to create Totem partly because of her own childhood connections with dolls.

Her grandmother Marj was a member of the CWA and spent a lifetime creating dolls for Lothian and her sister. "She knew about the project but developed dementia and died early this year, so I've dedicated Totem to her memory."

Melbourne artist Jade Burstall is making a documentary about Totem that will run on a large screen during the exhibition. "'I'm not a crafty person but I got on board because I was drawn to the idea of dolls with souls. The installation process will take Lothian two days to complete and Burstall plans to capture much of it on film.

The project has also inspired debate between artists about the nature and craft of making dolls, and the process of transformation that turns a doll into a work of art. Lothian believes environment has a lot do with it.

"Some dolls are clearly not playthings. Most of the dolls in Totem are one-of-a-kind art dolls." However, Lothian hopes audiences will connect with the installation. "Totem is not just about self-identity, it's like a vox pop of how a section of society see themselves. Each doll has been created using a wide range of techniques that showcase how varied the craft can be."

Totem will be on exhibition at the Fracture Galleries, the atrium, Federation Square, city, September 25-October 12. www.melbournefringe.com.au

The Age is a sponsor of the Melbourne Fringe Festival.

Friday, September 19, 2008

last of the sneak peeks of the Totem dolls

I know it's two posts in one day, but the tomorrow is an extremely busy day and then I'm installing the show for three days, working for two days and then it's opening night.

This might be the last you see of me for a while.

Bah, who am I kidding, how could I stay away from my little soapbox stuffed full of crafts and opinions?

Anyway, so here are the last two Totem dolls I have found online. The first comes from Jane Doe, and was found at craftster,
How incredible is that? Jane is a very talented fiber artist and this is just beautiful. She explains that she's done her doll inside out, so the veins are on the outside and the lumps of flesh are on the inside, all with little sayings people have given her, such as "from little things big things grow" and "keep evolving" (that was my one!) I received this one in the post today, and I have to say that the photo does not do it any justice at all.

And the last in our Sneaky Peekies is the incredibly talented SaraMae Belle Page.
These beautiful dolls are a series called "Domestic Gist" and are built on wooden pegs. Their eyes and row of pearls are so touching, and although you can't see it, each of the girls have little bright red shoes under their skirts. This one I can't give you a link for since I found it on her Facebook page, but since it was on the net I had to share them! And, just like Jane's, I recieved these girls in the post today too, and let me assure you this photo does not convey jsut how sweet they are.

So that's it for our pre-coverage of Totem dolls. Wish me luck, it's going to be a long week.

See as many of you at the opening as are coming!

the fall felt around the world

So I watch the news and I see what's going on in America at the moment, and watch it ripple out to the rest of the world, and I wonder what's going to happen.

Depression or Recession, I think the bottom line is that most people wont have a lot of excess money any more, after paying for bills, housing and food there will be very little left. And I think that it's going to have ramifications across the board.

And I think that one area that will suffer is the online craft market. I think that a lot of the craft sold is decorational, and people won't have money to spend prettying the place up. And the rest that is sold, clothing and the like, I think a greater amount of people will start making those things rather than buying them.

I look back to the depression between the world wars, and how people made everything and made do, or went without. I have a hand written recipe book from my great grandmother, passed down by my late grandmother, which lists hundreds of recipes that are without egg, or sugar, or anything else that was in short supply. It has yellowed articles, carefully cut out from magazines, on how to get more wear out of your socks, how to darn your underwear, how to turn worn out dresses into skirts, and worn out skirts into clothing for your little ones.

I have an incredible book called Wartime Women, edited by Dorothy Sheridan, which came out of a program by the British government called Mass Observation, in which thousands of men, women and children were encouraged to keep diaries of their day to day life. These records include how they lived around bombing and blackouts, and how they made do with the little rations they were allowed.

And I think that looking to the past we can get a feel of what the future holds.

There is such a DIY mentality within craft and indy circles today that I think we'll be ok as a crafting community, but I do think that internet sales of crafty stuff are going to suffer. I think that people will want to do it for themselves due to fiscal limitations. And I wonder if, when this recession lifts, will people go back to wanting to buy from other people?

But then, the baby boomers, as a reaction to having watched their parents scrimp and save and make everything at home, went out and bought everything they could. So maybe the next generation will do that too.

I don't know how long this financial crisis will last. But I do think it will be interesting to watch what happens to our society and both our mass consumerism (which is on the slide anyway, at least in some circles) and all our "Buy Handmade" pledges.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

More craft thinking and a surprising spark of interest

The lovely Age reporter, Fran Atkinson, asked me about dolls vs playthings. And this was my reply.

I think that some dolls are clearly not playthings. Like the collectible movie/comic figurines. Not only are they not meant to be played with, they're not supposed to be taken out of the box. And some dolls are aimed directly at early twenties adults, like the Little Apple dolls, any of those 'gothic' kinds of dolls. They're not really meant to be given to children to play with. I don't think any adult 'plays' with dolls. But then, do we have to then get into a discussion as to what 'playing' with dolls means? One of the artists, Wolf Dragon, has submitted 5 voodoo dolls of herself in different stages. One is a doll to deal with loss and sadness, one is a traveling doll, created along the lines of helping this artist travel, there's a menses doll that helps take the pain of menstruation away, now I don't think she sits down and has tea parties with these dolls, but I know that she handles them a lot, and lends them to friends who needs the kinds of help the dolls offer.

I think there is a difference between 'playing' with a doll, and a doll that has a use, rather than the ones that sit on the shelf and decorate your house. I think that even if a doll simply causes joy in the viewer, then that doll certainly has a use. And for some of the dolls, the creation itself has been cathartic for the artist, so the doll was useful even during construction. One of the marionettes submitted was created by Cat Sewell, who was doing a Masters in Art Therapy, one of their assignments was to create a marionette of themselves. So it was an introspective technique to focus on themselves.

I think it's a matter of seeing the role of dolls as much more than a simple plaything. Dolls fulfill a mirid of roles even after we've grown up.


And I posted the idea of Totem along with the photo of my doll on Livejournal and there were heaps of replies all telling me it was such a good idea. So I've posted it on Craftster too, how great would it be if people all around the world were making Totem dolls of themselves?

Post Secret, in plushie form!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Totem thinks

I’ve been sitting in the studio and at home surrounded by all these incredible dolls and it’s slowly dawned on me that not only is Totem about self identity, like a vox pop of how a section of society see themselves, but it’s also a flagship for promoting modern craft practice. Each one of these dolls has been created differently, and there’s such a wide range of construction techniques that this really is a showcase of how varied craft can be. Craft isn’t just macramé plant holders and crocheted knee rugs anymore, it’s a hugely diverse and incredibly inspirational worldwide movement. And I think Totem captures that really well.

A bunch more Totem dolls have popped up online! It's like discovering mushrooms during a walk in the forest. Or something.

So please welcome girl ferment's little guy (left). You have to click on her blog to see it's face, it's not to be missed!

I love the cable tie spikes too. Industrial craft is taken to a whole new level with this doll.

Also, please say hello to Alice Jean's creation, which is an incredibly detailed screen-printed OOAK doll. The problem with this show is that photos do not do any of these dolls justice. The incredible amount of work and detail put into these dolls jsut don't shine through the photographs as it does viewing them up close. If you're in Melbourne any time for the next month, you have to come see this show! Entry is free, and the dolls will be there 24 hours a day waiting to see you.

There's actually quite a buzz on the craft-centric australian blog world about Totem, most people seem to know about it, which is ace. Hell, quite a number of those bloggers have dolls in the show. But what I didn't forsee is other people being inspired by it. I recieved an email from fifty-two acts about a project she has done after being contacted about Totem. It's a series of artworks based on the way womens bodies are dismembered in photographs, inspired by the idea behind Totem and inflenced by Live Journal icons. It really is one of those pieces that stops and makes you think about how women are portrayed in the media, but also (via the LJ iconography) how people in the community choose to portray women.

I love the fact that Totem is inspiring other people to create

Monday, September 15, 2008

art vs toys

Another question the Age reporter asked me, as she sat in my studio surrounded by dolls, was "Where is the line between Art and Toy?"

That's another hard one to answer. The ends of the scale are easily defined, but it's the middle that's fuzzy and gray.

Art Dolls are often the exquisitely carved or sculptured dolls of hard faces and hands/feet with detailed costuming, and usually One Of A Kind (OOAK) to boot. They're clearly not playthings, but they do echo the porcelain dolls you can purchase from stores. I remember reading somewhere of a woman who had grown up with a glass display case of porcelain dolls that her mother had given her over the years. It was a locked cupboard, and was only opened once a year - to put the new doll in. It's a weird idea, to give a child a doll that they're not allowed to play with. But so that's one end of the scale.

On the other end are toys, dolls built specifically for children to play with. I was speaking to one of the Totem artists yesterday, and she was telling me that her doll was a little delicate. "Not fragile," she said, "but it's not a rag doll either."

Looking at most of the Totem dolls, it's hard to know which end of the scale someone would place them at. There's Claires doll, which is a cute plushie but with a fag hanging out her mouth, so the form is more a toy, but the content is more adult, or Carisa's, which is a cute rabbit but is unmovable with a solid head, arms and feet, so the content could be veiwed as more toylike, but the form is back towards Art.

Veiwing any of these toys in a pile of other dolls in a toybox would make them seem toys, but placing any of my childhood toys in a gallery would lend each one of them an Art context that they might not otherwise have. We are taking all these dolls and hanging them carefully in a gallery, but it is an unconventional gallery without white walls or a library-like silence.

I also think that people place their own understanding on things they veiw. If a parent and a child come to see the show, they're both going to have different understandings of what they're seeing.

So context, content, form and viewer all collaborate on the answer to this question. But with so many variables, the answer is going to constantly be different.

Then, there's also figureines, those movie, comic and tv show characters that come in special boxes and seem to be everywhere at the moment? Do they enter into this debate, blurring the lines of art and mass produced figures even further, or do you sweep them aside into the box maked Collectables and jsut wrestle with the Art vs Toys question?

Maybe the question "So where is the line between Art and Toy?" is as unanswerable as Why is a raven like a writing desk?

Friday, September 12, 2008

another Totem doll and some craft musings

Firstly, Natalie Kalinova has posted her doll online. You can find Natalie's Flickr set here. I love this doll, reminds me of being all rugged up against the cold and the wind on a grey winter's day. This is something that I love about this show, that dolls are so familiar, and the truths they tell are so universal that anyone can come to see the exhibition and recognise and identify so many of the emotions portrayed.

In other news, I was interviewed by the Age yesterday, and they took a bunch of photos, and I was chatting to the reporter about the High Craft/ Low Craft thing and she said "Well, surely intent plays a big part of it." and I think she's right, to a degree, but intent is sometimes so difficult to ascertain by looking at the finished product.

In yr 11 and 12 I had an overly emotional art teacher (didn't we all?) who had spent 10 years giving up smoking and cried at the injustices done to statues we'd never heard of, and I remember her teaching us about an artist one hot afternoon, an artist who made entirely white canvases, maybe Robert Ryman, but I don't remember specifically who it was. But she explained that it was the intellectual journey that they had gone through that was the important part of the artwork, and the finished product less so. I remember thinking that, without the background, you'd jsut be standing looking and a white canvas going "and?" So context and intent are important parts of understanding an artwork, but sometimes you arn't going to be able to access those things, and I think an artwork needs to stand alone as well, so that anyone can stand in front of it and understand it.

So back to the High Craft vs Low Craft idea, intent doesn play a part, but it's not always a readily idenitifable part. So it's not always going to be helpful in figuring out the benchmark.

So, inwards and upwards, I continue to explore this idea...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Two new Totem dolls have popped up online

This beautiful one is by the incredibly talented American doll artist Carisa Swenson, you can find the image here. This rabbit is currently sitting in my studio, part of the growing pile of dolls. Lucky I'm not creeped out by them, or I'd never be able to enter the room! It's an incredible sculpture, but one that you jsut want to pat.

And then there's this very cute doll by Sarah Badcock.
You can find her at her blog here. It's hard to tell in the photo, but she has shaped breasts, something I'm a big advocate for! Flat chested dolls are everywhere, it's nice to see someone else swimming against the tide.

This girl is still winging her way here.

It's all so exciting!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

When, oh when, will I learn?

To not carry interesting looking things around with me?

Today I met up with the talented and charming artist Jon Beinart, he was handing in his Totem doll, Bubbapilla. It's an obsecenly cute yet disturbing piece created from a number of identical baby dolls.

(image taken from Jon's site, www.beinart.org)

After a quick and interesting talk with him about being an artist, curator and publisher, I headed off to my next meeting, over lunch, carrying his creation in my arms, sans bag. My lunchdate was late, so I stood outside the cafe waiting, while people around me talked about the doll to each other.

When my companion arrived, we went inside, I placed the doll on the chair next to me
and we had lunch. While putting on my coat to leave, a lady from the next table leaned over to me and said "Can I ask you a personal question?"
"Sure" I replied.
"What is that?" she asked, pointing to the doll.
I explained that it was an art doll by Jon Beinart for an exhibition I was organising. I jsut happened to have a fringe guide with me, so I gave it to her, opened at the Totem details.

Then, walking through Lincraft purchasing more yarn, there was an old lady muttering to her companion about 'disgusting displays', something that I haven't elicited from old ladies since I was a rebellious teen.

Sitting waiting for the tram with Bubbapilla cradled in one arm (it was the easiest way to carry him) a man came over and tried to convince me that I am missing a baby, which is why I was holding the doll like that. I failed to see the humour in what he obviously thought was very witty. And then on the tram a man was talking to me about making more and selling them, because people would buy them. I tried to set him straight about who made it, IE, not me, but he didn't listen so I resigned myself to being ranted at by a madman and vowed not to ever carry interesting things in public again.

It reminds me of many years ago, I was working on a show called All of Which Are American Dreams, during rehersal I was in the process of sewing a 4 foot high gollywog doll puppet.
Rehersals were out at TheatreWorks in St Kilda and I was living in Preston at the time, working in the CBD and didn't have a car. So it meant that every morning I took the gollywog on the train to work, he sat next to my desk all day, I took him by tram to St Kilda at night and the trained it back home with him after rehearsal so I could work on him further before I went to bed. Then I'd get up in the morning and do it all again. I'd carry him on my hip like a child, again, it's the easiest way to carry a 4 foot high doll.

People were so funny when they caught sight of him. You would watch the interplay of emotions on their faces. He was dreadfully un-PC, but older people had a soft spot for him, remembering gollywogs they had as a child.

But people would come up and talk to me about their childhood experiences and their favourite dolls, all sorts of weird history that they would normally keep to themselves.

I always find it this odd experience, that having something from childhood (a big doll such as the gollywog or a multi-doll such as Bubbapilla) somehow circumnavigates the usual social order, and strangers will talk and share stories that they'd normally never tell in public. It's always strange to be on the receiving end of that. It happens with heavily pregnant women too, that people will come up to them and ask them baby questions when normally they'd avoid even eye contact.

It's such a strange world we live in

Monday, September 8, 2008

I'm firmly convinced, it's the stash from hell

I've been having a look at Ravelry. It seems like a good organisational tool. You can list the yarn you have, the projects you've got on, the future ones you want to try, all that sort of jazz. That sounds lovely. I'd love to have that all easily seperatable in my head, so clear and crystal seperate that I could enter it all into a website. Lay it out for my fellow crafters to admire and enjoy. Like a little stall of cakes.

But instead, I have a big list of Things To Knit in my head that all sort of overlap and my stash... well... I'm firmly convinced, it's the stash from hell. I know that all the balls of wool are melding together to make a yarn monster, and each time I buy another and add it to the pile, it assimilates it and really it's a thinking, living, breathing monster with a will of its own.

Exhibit A

Please note the knitting needles sticking out of it where other, lesser crafters have gone in for the kill, and the tendrils that go down to the ground where it's slowly escaping from it's perch. It's like a tangle of vines in a jungle.

Also note all the dolls I put on top of it to keep it from growing. The idea was that although they were of the same stuff as the stash, they are order rather than the primordial chaos that is the stash, and that somehow they would keep it in check. Unfortuntaly I think they are more on it's side than mine, the traitors.

I know other people have craft rooms, and trapped here in this tiny dwelling I envy them. I do have a studio across town, but when I'm knitting I need instant gratification, and getting in the car or on PT to head all the way over there to pick up some wool and head all the way back isnt the sort of instant gratification I as part of this MTV, 30 seconds of ad break and back to the extreme program generation are used to.

So I have a stash here instead. I did try to have it organised, one basket was for smaller balls of wool and one was for bigger. But it started getting out of hand as I bought more and more, Hi my name is Sayra and I'm an addict, and then I started getting more needles and stabbing them into the pile was the only way I was assured I wouldn't loose them, but then the wool drops off and tangles around the needles like an unhappy octopus and then... gradually it dawned on me that my stash was something more than a pile of yarn rolled into balls...

At night when I pass the darkened loungeroom, there are quiet snuffling sounds. And in the morning often there are toast crumbs on the bench where there were none before. I don't want to alarm you, but I am firmly convinced my stash clambers down at night and sits on the couch, watches a bit of telly and gets the munchies.

My peanut butter supply dwindles faster than I can account for. But I figure as long as I keep it happy in peanut butter, it wont develop a taste for flesh.

In other news, I finished my first knitting workshop today, it was a group of older ladies from different backgrounds and they were all terribly excited about knitting a doll. One of the ladies is knitting a doll of herself, the others I think are jsut knitting dolls. One lady, the oldest, doesn't speak much english, another lady was translating everything for her. So I'm getting the Neighbourhood house to translate the pattern I wrote into Turkish for her, so she doesn't need to ask her daughter to help her with it. It was ace to watch them knit, and they knitted so fast! Two of the ladies surpassed me by a mile!

I loved doing it, and loved how into it they were. It made me really happy to do. I can't wait for next week when I show them how to knit clothing! Now all I gotta do is create some. I've got the basic idea down, it jsut needs some tweeking. And knitting.

But I'm afraid to ask my stash for contributions. Maybe I'll jsut go buy some more...

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Totem invite

Dear everyone in the entire world,
Totem, Dolls with Souls, the doll exhibition I'm curating for Fringe, opens on the 25th of September at 5:30 to 8:30 at Federation Square, Melbourne. I'd love it if you could be there!
You can find Fringe details here

I'm terribly excited about it, come one, come all, bring everyone you know and invite some people you don't!

And here is a publicity photo:

It's me and my Totem doll.

Please note: The image on the Totem flier is a fusion of a photograph by Ilona Nelson and a doll by Beth Robinson. Thank you!

Monday, September 1, 2008

A craft moment in time

Reading an article on Arts Hub*. I'm not a big fan of the new changes to Arts Hub, it seems like there's hardly any jobs advertised there anymore and I wonder if it's worth the subscription fee now a days. talking to people, it seems like I'm not the only one wondering that. But they have an article up there by Liz Semour on craft called "Beyond doilies: the art of craft". Its the first article I've ever seen on Arts Hub I've been interested in. It's a little snobby in the writing, but hey, an article on craft. So maybe the changes arn't all bad.

There's a really interesting quote from Joe Pascoe, the CEO and Artistic Director of Craft Victoria, on the old style of thinking on craft:

“There are two main models in European tradition: one is the peasant model, the other is the aristocratic model. You’re either making your [object] for the table or for the mantelpiece; if it's for the mantelpiece it's ornamental, if it's for the table it's functional,” he says.

I thought that was fascinating. I love learning history of things I'm terribly interested in, and I love reading those things that never occurred to you before, but once it's pointed out, you think - well, that makes perfect sense.

Love it.

The rest of the article isn't great actually, but it was worth wading through it to find that little sparkle.

*For those of you who are wondering, Arts Hub is a job site for artists.