Experience not superstition

I liked this post by ceramicist Shannon Garson on her blog, Strange Fragments.

This is a lesson I learn time and time again, if I have misgivings about a project it is not superstition, it is because I am experienced. Those misgivings are all my years of experience telling me “This project is not right. Stay Away!”

Isn’t that great! I absolutely love that line about it being experience not superstition. It’s so true, yet unfortunately it’s a lesson that I also seem to have trouble learning and I bet I’m not the only one. Why do we second guess ourselves in this way? Is it lack of confidence in our abilities or blind optimism that hey, things will turn out just fine if we ignore that little niggling voice?

Shannon goes on to say:

I think it’s important for artists who speak about their practice to tell emerging artists and their peers about their frustrations as well as successes.

I totally agree and it’s one of the reasons that I’m very open on this blog about the times when I mess up. I hope that people can learn from my mistakes. I also hope that if I publicly confess them then maybe I might learn from them!

I am slowly learning though. For example, I’ve learnt to ask myself “is this a gesso moment?” in the run up to an exhibition: this is my personal code for ‘am I about to stress myself out by attempting something monumentally stupid right before a deadline?” This comes from an experience I had last year when I tried to learn proper old fashioned gesso (the sort you make with plaster and rabbit skin glue) a month before my solo show with the crazy idea that I would make a series of brand new drawings on gessoed boards – a medium, let me repeat, that I had never used before. I’m sure you can imagine how well that went… I still have a bunch of gessoed boards sitting in my studio, waiting to be sanded and then drawn on. Goodness only knows what I was thinking but it’s quite a frequent trap for me – my optimism always seems to outweigh my sanity in these situations and I get carried away with a ‘good idea’. The trouble is that it often really is a good idea – if I’d had it six months earlier!

Rag And Bone

I was delighted to discover the lovely Rag And Bone blog today. I’ve just spent several happy hours reading their entire archives. If you’re interested in paper as an art medium, journalling, book artists or bookbinding, then you definitely need to check them out.

They’re also a great example of a small craft business (they make delicious handmade journals and albums) using blogging to increase awareness of their business but without being constantly ‘in your face’ about it. Sure, they mention their own work now and again but mostly they link to other people and their passion and enthusiasm for paper and book arts really shines through in their generous and knowledgeable promotion of other artists in their field.

Book Burning

Since I seem to have been on an ‘art made from books’ theme this week, I thought I’d share one of the few pieces that I’ve made using books.

Burn was a small sculpture I did for an exhibition in a church in Gloucester in May 2004.

Kirsty Hall, art, sculpture, bible burning, Burn
Kirsty Hall: Burn, May 2004

It’s a glass bottle engraved with the word ‘burn’ and it contains handmade ink that I made from the burnt and ground up ashes of a Bible. Although it sounds rather blasphemous the piece was actually about William Tyndale, who translated the Bible from Latin to English and was strangled and then burnt by the Catholic Church for his efforts.

Kirsty Hall, art, sculpture, bible burning, Burn
Kirsty Hall: Burn, May 2004

I was trying to convey the idea that although you can burn both books and people, once an idea has been expressed you can rarely eradicate it completely – even if you burn the books the words will be rewritten and if you burn the people who wrote the words, others will pick up the pen. So to me, it’s a very hopeful and positive piece and I liked it a lot. However, it was tiny and was completely dwarfed by the space. One day I’ll do something with it and the lovely series of photos that I took of the burning Bible and the ashes. Ironically enough, I quite fancy making a book…

Kirsty Hall - Burning, art, sculpture, photograph of burning bible
Kirsty Hall: Burnt Bible, May 2004

As a dedicated bookworm, I had a bit of moral trouble with the book burning part but it was so integral to the piece that I couldn’t not do it and I have to confess that once I got going, I took a wicked glee in the process. I was also worried that Christians might be offended that I’d burnt their holy book, but I’ve yet to get any complaints.

The following is the text I wrote for the exhibition brochure:

Glass, ink made from the ashes of a bible

“Wherever they burn books they will also, in the end, burn human beings.”
Heinrich Heine

“The paper burns, but the words fly away.”
Ben Joseph Akiba

The Catholic Church burnt not only Tyndale’s Bible, but also more than 1,000 people found with the forbidden text. This work is a memorial to everyone who has been killed for reading the wrong books.

How To Host Images

Erin from the Sculptress blog asked:

Would you clarify something for me? How do I know for sure I am hosting an image, do you mean save the image as a file on my computer and then repost it from the computer file?

Good question, Erin – it was something that confused me a bit at first and my web designer had to walk me through it several times until I got it.

…do you mean save the image as a file on my computer and then repost it from the computer file?

Yes, that’s exactly what you do, Erin – from the way you’ve phrased the question it sounds like you may know how to do that already but I’ll run through the exact steps just in case other people are a bit unsure about it.

What I do is this:
1) Find an image I’d like to use
2) Drag and drop the image to my desktop
I do this by left-clicking on the image, holding down the mouse button and dragging the image until it’s off the browser and onto my desktop. You can also do it by hitting the right mouse button and clicking on ‘copy image’ but I think dragging and dropping is quicker. Make sure that you’re dragging a reasonably sized image and not a thumbnail.

The image file is now on my computer. If it’s too large and I need to make it smaller I can edit the size in Photoshop but I usually don’t need to do this.

Next I need to get it onto my web server:

In WordPress there’s an upload section just beneath the text box where you write posts. Hit the ‘browse’ button, locate the image on your desktop and click on it to select it, write the artist’s name and the title of the work where it says ‘title’ (this is optional but I always do it), then hit upload. After a few moments a thumbnail of the image will appear in the ‘Browse All’ page – the file is now loaded onto your server. You can put the image in a post by selecting ‘show fullsize’, followed by ‘link to file’ and then hitting ‘send to editor’. You’ll see that a bunch of html appears in your post, this is the image file, it’ll become an image when you publish the post.

If you’re using Blogger you do the following: Go into dashboard and select new post. Now hit the little image button on your blogger toolbar – this is the 6th button along or the second from last. This will bring up an image page. You’ll see that it says ‘add an image from your computer’ on the left, hit the browse button next to it and select the image from your desktop by clicking on it. Now choose the size and layout you want and then hit the ‘upload image’ button at the bottom of the page. Your image or the image html should now appear in your blogger editing software. This article from Blogger give more details on uploading images, including where the images are stored and how you can check how much room you’ve got.

The only thing left to do is to add the artists name and the title of the work – oh, and write the rest of the post, of course!

Get more help
If you’d like more information about building your online presence, check out the free resources section.

I am also available for online consulting if you need one-on-one help.

Print Gocco Exhibition Opportunity

If you’re an artist working with Print Gocco, Bristol’s Here Shop & Gallery has an opportunity for you.

We’re looking to do a show in 2008 provisionally to be staged in March – June time for a period of 3/4 weeks with (hopefully) all works for sale to the public.

It’ll be a group show with works from as many artists as possible on any theme you like, highlighting your own particular style and demonstrating the breadth of versatility and styles displayed by print gocco artists.

We’re open to submissions from anyone anywhere.

If you can email us with links to examples of your work and a short blurb about you at heregallery@yahoo.co.uk then that’d be great!

Cara Barer

For some reason, I seem to be very attuned to art made from books this week. Cara Barer is a photographer who often works with old discarded books, which she soaks in water and shapes into new forms before photographing.

She says:

My photographs are primarily a documentation of a physical evolution. I have changed a common object into sculpture in a state of flux.

Cara Barer - Found Reference
Cara Barer – Found Reference

This one really stood out for me, it reminded me strongly of a mushroom, so it was no surprise to find that she’d also taken pictures of fungi.

Cara Barer - Mushroom Dust
Cara Barer – Mushroom Dust

Link found on the Daily Poetics blog.

Email Update

OK, after nearly two weeks of hassle, it looks – fingers crossed – as though my email is now working properly again. If you’ve contacted me by email in the last couple of weeks and I haven’t got back to you then I probably didn’t get it, so please do send it again. I’ve also just realised that there were a bunch of comments on one of the blogging posts that I missed seeing, so apologies for not replying to those sooner.

I hadn’t realised just how much I rely on my email until it went so badly wrong, in fact, I still feel rather insecure about it because I don’t know how much stuff went astray after our stupid email provider ‘upgraded’ their spam filters. I’m still hoping that they’ll be able to send me the stuff they filtered out but I’ve got a horrible feeling that they probably just threw out several hundred genuine emails.

Brian Dettmer

Brian Dettmer makes wonderfully intricate work using found books and maps, which he carves into to reveal the illustrations within.

Brian Dettmer
Brian Dettmer – Untitled

Needless to say, I love the obsessive quality of this work but the results are stunning too – he’s clearly got a strong eye because the pieces also work well as collages. I particularly love his map pieces where he’s dissected maps leaving only the road systems, which he’s layered over each other to make works that seem far more related to anatomy books than cartography.

Brian Dettmer
Brian Dettmer – Untitled

There’s an interesting little discussion of his work here, with comments ranging from ‘wow, that’s amazing’ to ‘it’s horrible because he’s destroying books’. What do you think? Is it a valid form of art if you destroy/seriously alter other creative works to make it? I think so but as a confirmed bookworm, I also understand the resistance to reusing books in this way.

Link found on Something To Say


So, I’ve just signed up for del.icio.us – I’m kirstyhall if you want to add me to your network – after being inspired by this great little video explanation of social bookmarking from Common Craft. Their other videos are fab too – I love the simplicity of their format. I’m going to have to come to grips with RSS feeds next – it’s one of those things I’ve been meaning to sort out for ages but I feel that I understand it a bit better now. You know, technology can be wonderful for all of us, artists included, but it can also be very overwhelming and daunting so it’s great when other people take the time to explain things in a clear and simple manner like this.