Art and Craft

Past Present 1

Past Present 1

This is another ad hoc collection, not of memories of past adventures and events, but of current adventures and events that will become those memories.

9/1/2018 MONA – exhibit 20:50  I took my family to visit MONA in Hobart, and this is one of their new experiential exhibits.  What is it?  🙂
A room partially filled with sump oil that reflects the room itself, and from other angles sky, people, clouds – whatever is above.  20:50 exhibit




Posted by DeborahH in Art and Craft, Australia, Community, Cultural dimensions, Past Present, Tasmania, Tourism, Travel, 0 comments
Why Tasmania? MONA and Dark Mofo!

Why Tasmania? MONA and Dark Mofo!

Tasmania has lovely local festivals – food related, history related, solstice related, music, or craft related – whatever small towns can do to ring people in, entertain them, and showcase local interests.  It also has a couple of major festivals – Agfest and Dark Mofo.  Dark Mofo was started by David Walsh, the owner and founder of MONA (Museum of New and Old Art), and it has grown exponentially. No longer based around the museum itself, the festival now spreads across the city of Hobart, with performances in other areas.  The city and private residences used red lighting throughout to add to the atmosphere. I think David and his committee have a plan to take over Tassie.

Dark Mofo is held close to the middle of winter, and covers two weeks of food, music, performances, installations, art, and general good fun. David, being David, has no problems with controversial exhibits, but he is also happy to create the ethereal.  One piece of ‘ethereal’ that was absolutely glorious was the Siren Song. 450 loudspeakers places on buildings through the city, plus a tsunami warning helicopter playing a 7 minute piece of music based on the call to prayer, played at sunrise and sunset for the duration of the festival. Siren Song was really moving.

The winter feast was amazing, the Dark Park interactive art, music performances, laser shows and art installation good fun, and then out at MONA itself, the opening of the exhibition “The Museum of Everything”, plus more performances, shows, food….

Posted by DeborahH in Art and Craft, Australia, Cultural dimensions, Fun, Music, Tasmania, Weekends, 0 comments
Runaway weekend 2 – MONA

Runaway weekend 2 – MONA

MONA is a magical place. This is one of my favourite places in Tasmania, and at only 3 hours travel away it’s not too difficult to visit.  What is MONA?  Art gallery, museum, winery, brewery, restaurant, music venue and home for the owner.  The owner, David Walsh, has called it a ‘subversive adult Disneyland”, and the eclectic collections displayed are both fascinating and challenging – the sign of good art. A new exhibit (The Origins of Art) opened recently and I was lucky enough to be able to take a friend down for opening day. This exhibit is a conversation with four scientists about the role of art in the world. They don’t necessarily agree with each other, but they certainly allow us to join that conversation as we walk though.

Posted by DeborahH in Art and Craft, Australia, Fun, Road trip, Tasmania, Tourism, Weekends, 1 comment
Village Crafts

Village Crafts

One of the uniting factors across the world is the desire to create beauty.  In all countries and across all times we have found ways of creating some form of art, some form of beauty that inspires.

In many villages in China, these art forms have been expanded into commercial crafts, although still on a local rather than industrial scale.

In Liuyang Village, outside Xi’an, the villagers have specialised in creating ceramic sculptures, usually the animals from the Chinese zodiac, highly decorated and gloriously eccentric.

Each step in the process is carefully managed, and the loveliest pieces can take weeks to prepare.  Layers of slurry are built up, sanded down, smoothed and coated in whitewash, waiting for the delicate hand painting of the stylized patterns.  The concentration needed not to have a tiny hand shake or line wobble is intense.

If we lose these village crafts, or they are created in industrial scales, we may retain some of the traditional designs, but we will lose the creativity and depth of care that makes a craft into an artform.


Posted by DeborahH, 1 comment
ART: The care and feeding of creativity

ART: The care and feeding of creativity

Sunsets and sunrises don’t come too often in Xi’an, so I am enjoying them while I can in Port Townsend, Wa.


I came here to attend the annual Artist’s Round Table – ART. This is a gathering of photographers, drawn from people who work with the guidance of Raymond Ketcham from Port Townsend, and was organised by Sabrina Henry.

Sunrises and sunsets aren’t the only things about ART that are special. The discussions about our work, our aims and philosophies, why we NEED to photograph, and how we can create stronger, deeper, more meaningful photographs have created wide open spaces in my mind that will give me the room to think more deeply about how I use my voice, my vision and my craft.

ART is not just about photographers looking at their work, but also gives us the chance to talk to writers (Wes Cecil) and sculptors (Jan Hoy) and how they see and develop their work. These synergies and cross-fertilisations add more understanding to our own creative processes.

Where will my own work go after ART? I’m not sure yet, but I do know that with the depth and breath of discussions, the challenge and the support of Ray, Sabrina and the other participants, it will become richer.

Thanks everyone!!


Posted by DeborahH in Art and Craft, Homepage, 1 comment
Lacquer ware – Bagan

Lacquer ware – Bagan

Does making beautiful things compensate for backache, for having to turn up to work  five or six days a week, in heat and rain, in storms or drought? I watched the lacquer artists and saw the exquisite beauty they created, and wondered if it was just a job for them, just a way of feeding their families. I held a romantic hope that, at the end of the day, while they stretched and rubbed their arms and shoulders, if they saw the beauty and smiled, just a little, inside.

The factory is not large – about the size of a tennis court under cover.  But each section has its own space and differing levels where the workers sit, each doing their own part in creating beauty for the tourist market in Yangoon.  Bagan is noted for its lacquer ware, and I can see why.  The care and effort that is needed to create each piece is immense.  One 3-coloured plate can take up to five months to make, and one mistake means sanding it all off and starting again.

As I chatted to the workers, I could see the concentration needed, and a little of the pride they take in their work.  There was not too much ‘office’ repartee happening, I think the work is so intense that to joke and gossip would create mistakes, so I was grateful when each worker stopped to show me his/her skill.

These particular pieces of lacquer ware are made of teak or bamboo, and unlike most other types, have a thin layer of cotton to add strength to the product.  Each piece is carved by hand or using hand driven machinery in the factory, and then layer after layer of lacquer, colour, lacquer, colour is etched, carved, sanded, polished and rubbed.  Drying in a special underground temperature controlled cavern ensures that the layers dry slowly and completely, and the next layer can be painted on evenly.

The completed good were beautiful, and for so much work, not expensive.  And so I wondered about the costs and benefits for the workers, and was grateful, that for me, creating beauty is an option, not a necessity and I can enjoy myself doing it.


Posted by DeborahH in Art and Craft, China, 1 comment
The gold leaf makers

The gold leaf makers

Henri Cartier-Bresson says “Just be there”.  Basically his advice is not to think too much about what images you are making, not to plan overly – just be there and shoot what happens.  This is advice I take very seriously, I certainly am not an over-thinker about my photography.

But… and I think there is always a ‘but’, in the just being there, certain elements stand out and beg to be photographed.  For me, in Burma, the bare feet struck me.  No-one wears closed shoes, things (flip-flops) are de rigueur and frequently taken off.  Another aspect of Burma that fascinated me was the little personal Buddhist shrines.  In a country where every turn brought you to a pagoda, stupa, temple, church or mosque, these small shrines spoke of a personal rather than a public relationship with whatever the divine is.  So even though I was just being, and photographing anything and everything, no matter where I was these elements crept into the images.

In Mandalay I visited the gold-leaf makers.  A small factory, down a dusty back street was filled with beauty and hard, relentless work.  The gold is beaten flat, beaten flatter, beaten even flatter. It is made thinner and thinner until you can almost read through it.  This work is heavy.  The mallets weigh over 3 kgs each and the workers stand, barefoot, shrine in front of them, lifting and hitting, lifting and hitting all day.

Inside the women carefully scrape the gold leaves onto wax paper and, using cattle horn knives, cut them into squares.  These squares are sandwiched between leaves of paper and sold, or pressed onto wooden or clay sculptures and sold to temple markets. The squares of gold leaf are sold to the devout to offer to Buddha at the main temple in Mandalay.  This offering is limited to men – no women can be trusted to carefully press the gold onto the side of the Buddha. Over the years the Mahamuni Pagoda Buddha has increased in size by 15cms, making a  fairly shapeless lump.

Just being there gave me a chance to talk to the workers, look closely at their work and appreciate the strength, delicacy and beauty of their work.  And just being there also gave me the only gold leaf coated camera flash.


Posted by DeborahH in Art and Craft, Burma, 0 comments