Monday, 28 March 2011

Good Things

Today I took a day's holiday on the spur of the moment. It feels like stolen time and is all the sweeter for not having been planned.
I'm catching up with my blog, so just doing a little post on things I've enjoyed recently.
image copyright the artist
I went with my daughter to see the John Stezaker exhibition at the Whitechapel a couple of weeks ago. We both found it very stimulating. Stezaker makes new images from old, combining old photos in ways that almost but not quite make new images -- the tension between the originals and the suggestion of a new image is quite disturbing to the brain and hence rather entertaining. I can't really use too many of his images but they are easily found online.
I Am Dina
     I also recently watched a rather wonderful Norwegian film, I Am Dina, which had me and the friends I saw it with screaming in horror at some points but which, overall, I very much enjoyed for its beautiful cinematography and crazy plot. Dina is an unfortunate child who accidentally causes her mother's death and, as a result, grows up with a strange attitude to both life and death. The film has an international cast including Gerard Depardieu and Christopher Eccleston -- perhaps not their finest performances, particularly the latter, who has to grapple with a very strange accent. Everyone speaks English in the film, some more jauntily accented than others. Unfortunately the DVD I'd bought had Dutch subtitles that I couldn't switch off, but it all added to the multilingual fun.
Dina gets married -- watch out Mr Dina
Continuing the Scandinavian theme, I'm addicted to Lykke Li's new album. It's just brilliant, specially the first three tracks.
Wounded Rhymes -- highly recommended
When I'm on my computer, I like to have a live webcam open in a browser window, so that if I'm waiting for something to print out or load, I can look through this little window into another part of the world. At the moment, I love the Mila site with its five live webcams of Iceland:

Above is Gullfoss. The difference it makes seeing the water actually moving and people coming and going is amazing. In fact today is the first time it hasn't been misty there for a while, so you can really see the water pounding down. It's brilliant.
     I also love the Blue Lagoon where you can watch people popping in and out of the steamy water all day long:
I'm sure there were loads of other nice things I was going to mention. I got a little sniff of spring yesterday and was very taken (who isn't?) by the gorgeous blossom, and also by these wonderful furry twigs:
Just finally to say that I am really enjoying getting ready for the postcard swap. I'm trying out things I've never done before and am finding that having a specific project and people to make things for is really making me stop wasting time and get moving. Some of my ideas are a bit wild and possibly a little bonkers but it's definitely making me think that I'll come back and try them again, perhaps on a larger scale, after the postcards have all been sent.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

A collection of nothing

My poor blog has been hibernating of late as I just haven't had time to post. Nothing's changed, really, but I've decided to try to do more posts, maybe involving less photographing and scanning and so on, just to get back in the way of it.
     I love collecting, and I really believe you can collect anything as long as there's some common characteristic that links the objects together. It's the shared properties that please us as much as the objects themselves, I think (as I gaze at my collections of plastic cars and whittled matches -- ha, now you're not sure whether or not I'm kidding, are you?)
     So here (above and below) is a recently started collection of tags. Not quite indiscriminate (M&S and Primark just wouldn't cut it) but not very exclusive either, just a few tags that have turned up since I mentally decided 'tags' would be brought together.
In May I'm going to be a 'guest editor' on four for the day, a very beautiful blog about collecting. So I've been running round choosing quartets of things to photograph for that. It's been hard deciding which to have. Alas, I've already had to exclude animals on wheels and 'things I've dug up in the garden'.
     Last year Lisa Congdon blogged a different collection every day and now she has a book of it all just out. I want it quite badly...

Friday, 25 March 2011

Little postcard swap

So my inspirational blogfriend Kitsch and Curious Elaine asked me if I'd like to do a postcard swap and I said yes. Her timing was spot on because it's all complete just before the bigger Postman's Knock swap gets going.
     The plan was to send each other a printed postcard which would inspire us to create our own postcard to send back.
     It was quite hard deciding what to send Elaine as I felt it was a big responsibility to choose something that would get her creative juices flowing. I sent her this:
And she got busy with her watercolours and sent me this spiffing young man:
I feel I should display this very prominently as an encouragement to myself to go and put some lengths in as I am far from emulating this boy's graceful limbs. Thank you so much, Elaine, I love it.

Meanwhile, Elaine sent me this deliciously unsettling card:
It got me thinking about brides and the 1950s and trousseaus and a rather American sensibility. I raided a 1957 Sears catalogue for some period home furnishings and, for the other side, some modern gadgets that no smart young couple should be without. The Sears catalogue is really disturbing as it sells absolutely everything: it starts with clothes, household goods, all fine, but continues on into the tool department, the livestock, the guns. It seems you could get everything and anything by mail order even then. I like the sepia tones in which all the goods are rendered, so that you can't quite tell if they're photographed or drawn.

Y is the Yak?

I've been meaning to do a post for ages about these little children's ABC books. There are six in total and each one is 9cm square. They don't have a date anywhere on them or any publishing details, but I think they must be American and date from around or just after World War II.

One reason for dating them to WWII is the high number of warlike images -- you would never get T is for Tank and U is for U-boat nowadays.
     In fact there's a strong undercurrent of foreboding throughout all the books. A fireman tackles a blaze, a nurse runs to help someone.

Watch out, that policeman's already swinging his truncheon, and you'd better know what jail looks like, son.
Even that staple of children's dictionaries, the animals, look either malicious or forlorn. Did you ever see a more dispiriting monkey?
     The compilers of these little books have really tried to stretch their young readers' vocabularies. You can forget about X is for Xylophone and Z is for Zebra. The zebra already made an appearance as Q is for Quagga, and as for X is for Xerus -- huh??
Well I really love these books. I've long collected children's dictionaries for the very reason that the images in them are often at odds with the innocence of the concept. I had a long-running project to make narrative stories using just three pictures from these dictionaries -- a hand ringing a doorbell, a woman stepping out of the shower, a candle burning. The more grand guignol I could make the stories, the better. Perhaps I'll do a post on these one day. They were fun, but perhaps not to everyone's taste!
     I also like the typography on the covers of these little books. There's a big letter on the front and back of each, making 12 letters out of 26 possibles. I've made a few more of the easier missing ones using Photoshop, but there's still only a ...
... of words you can make. But it would be a nice typography project when I have more time!!!

Friday, 11 March 2011

Collaged notebook

I just finished this A5 collaged notebook. This is the front and back. It uses a lot of images that I've been keeping and that I'm particularly fond of, such as the girl with the balloons and the rollerskating girl. Also two pictures of myself as a child. The Bind-it-all binder makes such books very do-able.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Threads of Feeling

screen grab from Threads of Feeling website
I've been meaning to mention Threads of Feeling for ages. It's an exhibition that's been on at the Foundling Museum in Coram's Fields, London, and I see that it's just finished (sorry for bad timing). But my post is really about the associated website,
   This is a really beautiful website that records the scraps of fabric that women put in with their babies when they left them at the Foundling Hospital at the end of the eighteenth century. When the babies were left, the Hospital renamed them and sent them into the countryside to be nursed. Effectively their links to their mothers were broken, except for these little pieces of cloth, which could be matched to those kept by the mothers, if they were ever in a position to come back for their children.
screen grab from Threads of Feeling website
Here's is a lovely article from the Guardian that explains in more detail. The exhibition and website were put together by Professor John Styles at University of Hertfordshire where I work.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Tove's Summer Island

Tove Jansson's niece Sophia on the island with her grandmother (Tove's mother) in 1968
This post is for MMMC, who loves the Moomins.
     I tidied up my 'office' at the weekend and found an article I'd saved from the newspaper about Tove Jansson's real Summer Island, Klovaharum, where she spent three months every summer. The island is far out in the Gulf of Finland and is so beautiful I can hardly bear it.
Klovaharum is circled, bottom left
I found this video of it on YouTube:

Tove's connection with the island is complicated -- there are actually two different islands (near each other) that she went to and two different houses on the larger, earlier island (which is where I think most of the stories in the Summer Book were first experienced for real):
The first, bigger island
Inside the little house on Klovaharum
You can go and stay on Klovaharum in Tove's house (the only house on what is little more than a rock). I can't find any info about booking it, though.
This is now the destination I'll imagine when I can't sleep.
Here's a longish biographical piece on Tove Jansson.