Tastes of Life

The CAN Company’s achievement in 2013 was little short of miraculous. Despite 2 of the 4 members being overseas for several months, and my ongoing health challenges, we managed to compile a book and calendar on the theme Tastes of Life, and stage a fabulous launch on 10 November. I say ‘fabulous’ because the feedback was fabulous.

It all started when I made the comment that, as a result of the side-effect of the medication I was taking, I had lost, not only my appetite for food, but my appetite for life as well. Lyn suggested that we explore what makes individual taste ‘tick’. For food, we have taste buds. Do we have the equivalent of taste buds for other areas of our lives—music, clothes, art, movies, literature, humour, people? Why do different people have different tastes? Do our tastes change over a lifetime? Do we gravitate towards people who share our tastes?

A fascinating topic, though I’m not sure we found any answers. Another of life’s mysteries.

My personal challenge became one of tempting my appetite back into life by offering myself choice titbits in all these areas.

We chose an art deco visual theme for the book and launch, simply because Lyn expressed a liking for a particular font to use for the titles. Being a designer, I declared that the book’s design would need to be in accord. We extended this theme to the clothing we wore to the launch—which delighted the audience.

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About 60 friends and relations attended the launch and they appeared to enjoy themselves immensely, especially the ‘performance’ part of the event. At our launches we always sing a selection of songs which echo the theme of the book. In this case our selection ranged from the ridiculous to the sublime:

We’re Happy Little Vegemites  and I Like Aeroplane Jelly (to honour weird Aussie tastes)
Rum by Gum (anon?)
Bottle o’ Wine (Tom Paxton)
The Aussie Barbecue Song (more weird Aussie tastes) (Eric Bogle)
The Honor of Your Company (Tom Paxton) … not on ‘taste’ but a tribute to all the people who have shared our journey with us.

The audience listened with wrapt attention or joined in with gusto as appropriate.

Books and calendars sold well, along with a selection of ‘taste’ cards and other gift items. With the proceeds we were able to treat ourselves to a splendid Christmas lunch, while having enough over in ‘kitty’ to buy equipment, books etc. throughout the coming year.

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The CAN Company itself is one of life’s miracles. In December 2014 we will celebrate our 20th anniversary. Since December 1994 we have been meeting at least once a month. Although we are all very different, and not slow to express our views, we have never had a serious disagreement. While I am considered the ‘leader’ the group operates by consensus. When there is work to be done, everyone pitches in without any need for direction.

In 2014 we will adopt a retrospective approach … details to be decided.

Picnic at Sandgate

The Redcliffe Peninsula has been a glorious place to live for the past few months … clear blue days, gentle breezes, sparkling tranquil sea. On just such an idyllic day, in early August, we met with friends for a picnic at nearby Sandgate. These are friends we’ve known for 30-plus years, since our children were babies. Life is so busy nowadays that we rarely see them, so the occasion itself was bound to be memorable.

And so it was.

It was also, if I remember rightly, my first hatless/scarfless/beanieless outing with my post-radiation hair. I don’t think it’s ever going to grow any longer. Some people say they like it (people are polite), but I hate it. Just look at that receding hairline! It looks worse from the front—the high forehead is too much contrast to a now-narrow jaw. For most of my life I’ve worn a fringe, which looks like it will never be possible again. If the hair were on someone else I probably would think it’s alright, but it’s just not me! I suppose I should consider this the least of my problems … at least it will save me money on haircare.Image

We whiled away several hours chatting about nothing in particular and fondly watching the ‘young ones’ enjoying themselves on the beach.ImageImage

Adding to the magic, a surprise visitor arrived in the form of a butterfly (I think it was an angel), which hovered with apparent curiosity around just one person then settled in front of her. We suggested she extend her finger to see if it would land on it. Instead, it did this …Image

It stayed on her sunglasses for a couple of minutes, then fluttered to a nearby wine glass and sipped on the rim.

We felt blessed.

Palm fronds continued

There’s not much point taking a hundred photos of a palm frond if you don’t do something with them. The easiest option was to make cards and bookmarks. One day I might even try to sell them, though I daresay I’d have more success with cute cats. 

Oh well, I enjoyed experimenting with different combinations of photos:

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A little Photoshop manipulation.

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The first cards were done in landscape format, with 3 images on each as shown. I then tried a portrait format, with a palm tree silhouetted behind, but I wasn’t too sure if I liked those. The image below shows the full card, which would then be folded in two. A bookmark is pictured on the right.
ImageI have so many cards now … I’ll never have to buy one again!

 

God is in the details

In the absence of any new work, I decided to look back over past stuff and see what I could find (and perhaps learn). When we lived in Brisbane, we were blessed with a sheltered verandah which was a constant source of inspiration because of the surrounding foliage, animal visitors, and the continually changing light and shade. In our present house, unfortunately, the surroundings are not nearly so conducive to creativity. So, when The CAN Company decided to do a photographic exercise which entailed taking 100 shots of just one item, I was at first completely bereft of ideas.

Then, as so often happens, a subject presented itself—on this occasion by making itself impossible to be overlooked.

We have several tall palm trees in our yard, and quite often the dead fronds fall off. My husband always thinks they’re going to fall on someone, but I think they purposely fall when they can’t hurt anyone. I’ve often thought it a shame I couldn’t think of anything to do with the sturdy sheaths which held the fronds to the palm’s trunk (I’ve just learned that these ‘sheaths’ are actually part of the ‘leaves’). I suppose, if you were staging a banquet, you could use them to hold a splendid array of fruits and flowers and stuff. But staging banquets is not one of my activities.

One day, when we returned home from a shopping trip, we came across a frond which had fallen across the path near our entrance door. We were both astonished by the colours on the sheath, especially a most unusual mauve … unusual because we’d never seen such a colour on a palm before.

“Ah,” thought I, “here’s my 100-shots subject.”

The mauve hue didn’t show up very well in my first shots, so I had to move in closer:

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Then I started noticing other wonders—textures and patterns and a huge variety of colours and shapes that you can’t see when the frond is attached to the palm’s stem.

Soon I was totally absorbed by the frond and could probably have taken another hundred shots. I moved the frond around onto different backgrounds, and into different lighting conditions, and then became entranced by the shadows it cast.

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I haven’t yet tried taking a hundred shots of something more challengingly ‘mundane’  (and maybe never will).

More experiments with beach stones (and a few broken shells)

About this time, The CAN Company engaged in a photographic exercise on the theme of ‘white on white’. I liked the results so much that I decided to shoot a series of white-ish stones on a plain white background. As luck would have it (had to be luck, because I didn’t do it on purpose) I noticed a spot in my haphazard ‘studio’ where the light for most of the day was bright, but softly diffused. In a rare moment of industry, I cleared a space, found some white card, and set to work.

For a period I became a minimalist. Image
Once more I created a series of cards. I had enough material to keep me going for years, if the Bright Shiny Object syndrome didn’t intervene. It occurred to me that I could make other ‘designer products’ using the stone and shell images. Putting the cart before the horse, I designed a brochure to promote them …
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I even visualised a small exhibition, using the cards, framed images, altered stones, and maybe even ‘sea spirit dolls’ (I’ve long been flirting with the idea of making artist dolls, but like so many other good ideas it remains in my head in the ‘one of these days’ corner).

I haven’t given up on this idea, but it’s been pushed aside for a while.

Where can I acquire creative energy and motivation?

The source of the beach stones: an interlude

Sometimes my best work is done ‘on the way to work’—in other words, when I don’t think I’m working at all.

Late one afternoon, when the tide was very low, I walked down to the small cove where I had gathered the most colourful stones. My intention was to explore the area and determine some suitable spots to set up my ‘altered stones’.

The light was lovely, long soft shadows falling across the sand and drifting across the water. Absent-mindedly, I began aiming the camera. Excitement grew, as everywhere I turned the viewfinder sand and water ripples called insistently ‘take me!’  For the next hour or so (I lost track of time) I was lost in a magical world of light and shadow and reflections.

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Later I created a series of cards, printed on watercolour paper. I couldn’t decide whether I preferred the images in black and white or colour, so produced a series of cards in each.

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I’m not often satisfied with my work, but I really liked these images and cards. There was something particularly pleasing about the combination of slightly textured ivory-coloured paper teamed with kraft envelopes. I thought I might even have bought them if I’d seen them in a shop, created by someone else.

For the first time in ages I felt I had a ‘direction.’

Things you can do with beach stones : creative play

For a while I was in danger of becoming a mere beach stone collector. I had to remind myself that the higher purpose was to use the stones as a catalyst for artwork of some kind. Half-formed ideas whizzed around in my brain, but no clear direction emerged. There was nothing for it but to start.

First some simple wrapping:

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This was more difficult than I expected. Despite the rough stone surface, the cord was inclined to slip, so I tried gluing it to the rock. Image

This was successful, up to a point, but I had no confidence in how long it would hold. I’d need to do a number of prototypes.

Other experiments followed, combining collage and wrapping.

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By this time my mind was wandering … how would I display the finished stones? Mounted in a frame perhaps; placed on another stone (this raised the problem of finding suitable stones with the right sized ‘resting place’). I wished I had a husband who made beautiful boxes out of driftwood. Or that I were one of those splendid women who are skilled with boy tools.

A break was called for, to allow the Universe to provide.