Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Exceptional & Remarkable Women ... and one special guy

On the day my mother died, just under four weeks ago, my gorgeous partner David (aka The Oboe Player) went out searching for a gift that would have meaning for me, that would make me smile, something I could enjoy and think of my mother. He bought me this Georgia O'Keefe book and gave it to me that night. It was simple and something nice, as a memento of that sad day.  I treasure his very sweet gesture. A remarkable woman was my mother Marie MacLaren Walsh as was Georgia O'Keefe, both leaving amazing legacies in their own way.  Reminds me also of the loss of another remarkable woman Susie Taylor, calligrapher & curator late of San Francisco & SFPL.  I have just spent two hours reading about her in the latest issue of Alphabet.

Here's to all the exceptional and remarkable women and one special guy!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Scuola Internazional di Grafica - a residency

There are some really exciting happenings in this little calligraphic life of mine and one of them will happen in November/December this year.  I have been granted residency at the Scuola Internazionale di Grafica, Venezia.  Needless to say I am more than a wee bit excited.

While I am there I shall take a couple of night classes at the Scuola, have an exhibition as well as run a workshop on Saturday 1 & Sunday 2 December part of Calligraphy Week in Venice. While I am in Italy, I have the opportunity to run a workshop in Turin thanks to my friend & colleague Massimo, just before my residency 25 & 26 November. I am very excited and a little nervous, at the prospect of this Italian calligraphic adventure.

I am indebted to the Lorenzo of the Scuola and my friend & colleague Kathy of VIS  for making the application and the workshop planning a smooth process. Take a peek at the Scuola:

I am madly practicing/learning my Italian.  Ciao ciao!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

It was a quick and unusual trip ...


An interesting phone call came my way last Friday - was it only last Friday?  We were coming up to the long-weekend, 8 hours day, and we were to go to Bruny Island to stay over with friends. The call came while I was at the Lettering Shed around lunchtime. Would I come to Perth to complete some new work in the Declaration Against Modern Slavery Books?  These magnificent books were created by Joy & John Tonkin and I did all the original calligraphic design in both books.  The books travel the world with their instigator Andrew Twiggy Forrest of the Minderoo Foundation & and Global Freedom Network, collecting signatures from people of all walks of life, Sovereign, Religious, Civic leaders and more.

An Indonesian signing was coming up on Tuesday 14th March and they needed the pages to be created for signing - four of them two in English and two in Bahasa - and this was Friday 10th. Oh and while I am at it would I add eight new heading and eight new dates.  Yes, they had contacted several Perth calligraphers who had declined the job and in a way that is understandable.  The books are so stunning they scare you just to look at them. You have to write directly into the book leaving no room for error.  It is a sad state of affairs that minor human error is not tolerated in this day and age when every medieval manuscript and writings since time in memorium have mistakes in or on them.  Anyway it is a daunting task for a calligrapher and the pressure is huge. Also not everyone has the ability to drop everything and fly for a commission.  Having created the originals I knew the behaviour for the parchmentine paper ... dreadful to write on being waxy and slightly bumpy ... but to correct a mistake, yes I made some, it is one of the finest surfaces like vellum to repair small errors. 

So with all expenses paid and a beautiful apartment to work in at Cottesloe Beach, a huge table, lots of light and full of space, I settled in and enjoyed once again working on the Declaration Against Modern Slavery. I arrived home on Monday evening exhausted yet glad I had this opportunity. Thank you to all my friends and especially David who supported me as I cancelled several things that weekend.

It now feels like a dream ...

Wording in Indonesian Bahasa at 3mm, 3/4mm Brause & stick ink

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Marie Therese MacLaren Walsh

Marie Maclaren

I am continually amazed at the things I learn about myself. The past four weeks have been full of highs and lows, from one extreme to the other.

On 24th February 2017 my mother Marie Therese MacLaren Walsh, died. Mum died in Sydney at the Mark Moran aged care facility, a beautiful home by the ocean in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney.   Mum had lived a full, rich and rewarding life. Most women born in the 1920's became remarkable women, living through the Depression and World War II and onward through the 50's, 60's 70's up until today.

Mum was born on 16th August 1928. When my mother died three weeks ago, so many of my thoughts and emotions shifted regarding this remarkable woman who nurtured and raised me, along with my eight siblings. I was never the model child, a disappointment to my parents really. I guess I was always fighting to be heard and seeking attention in the milieu of a large Catholic family.  All disappointments aside, my mother is gone and I realise how much I really do love her and how much I will miss her intelligence, witty quips and gorgeous little laugh. My father loved that laugh. At mum's beautiful funeral on Friday 3rd March, I read Remember by Christina Rossetti:

Remember me when I am gone away,
         Gone far away into the silent land;
         When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
         You tell me of our future that you plann'd:
         Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
         And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
         For if the darkness and corruption leave
         A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
         Than that you should remember and be sad.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Revelations of Divine Love

I am quietly excited with this little treasure that has just arrived from the Folio Society, London.
The Head of the Art Department commissioned me to design the cover of their just published
Revelations of Divine Love - Julian of Norwich.
I feel privileged to have been asked and I am happy with the result.
I am confident I have captured the spirit of Julian's writing in the cover and book design.

It is truly a divine little book. I hope you enjoy it.

Cover & Spine.

Ornate initials throughout the text ... and there are a lot of them!
I created different designs of the same letter so they would be varied and not the same throughout.
Here are just some of them.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Enjoying some studio time

I have been enjoying some studio time and have completed the bookmarks for the participants at the upcoming Cataneo Italics in Buderim, Queensland. When I do these I always create a couple for David and me.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A thought for today ...

... from my Word-A-Day list

The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.

Theodore Roosevelt, 26th US President (1858-1919)

Saturday, January 21, 2017


An observation: I hope that each and every protester in Washington and other cities around the USA today, actually voted in the election - bar the children of course. I hope this election outcome serves as a warning for all Americans ... no vote ... no voice.   I support the right to protest with passion but I would be embarrassed to protest if I didn't vote.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

China: a memory from Nanjing

It was one of the most moving places I have been to. The Nanjing Massacre memorial.
The rape of Nanjing 1937 August to December.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Ghost Ranch & Santa Fe June 17 - 20

This is going to be a mixed bag I am afraid but a good bag. How interesting things are. I consider myself fortunate to be able to experience the things I do, I am eternally grateful to many.

It is a wonderful thing to teach at all and share ones experiences & experiments but to come to the other side of the world to teach is indeed a precious thing. My classes are hard work yet enjoyable for all … I hope and my Ghost Ranch Versal class members put in a huge effort. Here is a taster of just some of the marvellous work but there are too many to post them all.


Pencils including graphite: Louise

Gouache & Graphite: Cindy

Our show and share was much loved by all and Suzanne & Sharon worked hard all evening writing out names for the local punters. I just stood about enjoying all the artworks.  Ghost Ranch was an experience I am so very glad I undertook and one I shall do again some day.  I will leave you with the following piece of work by Thelma my 88 year old class participant. This, done in graphite:


This for you my friends Barry Smith & Fiona Dempster ... it made a wonderful sound. It stands at the bottom of Kitchen Mesa.

Today Trish took me into Santa Fe for the day. It was a day full of fascination.  On our way we stopped in MADrid as I wanted to pick up some glass and clay beads I didn't buy yesterday. 
The paths in MADrid are alive with colourful glass.

 Trish was very patient as I wandered through the Georgia O'Keeffe museum enjoying many of O'Keeffe's original artworks. Very impressive.

On Canyon Road

Doorway, Canyon Road.

And now for something completely different.

Our visit to Meow Wolf - the House of Eternal Return a unique art enterprise was seriously great fun. A weird and exciting new attraction in town.  When Trish asked me to follow her into the refrigerator I must say I hesitated somewhat.

Here I am in the Dive Hall.

And here is Trish coming out of the refrigerator - seriously !@#$%$#@!

Coming up: this and that and a trip to North Carolina.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Washington Calligrpahers Guils & Ghost Ranch - LONG

June 4 - 11

How lovely to be greeted with beautiful mauve tulips from my hosts for the Washington Calligraphers Guild, Mary Louise O’Brien & Anton Strunze. They live in the suburb of Gaithersburg,
Maryland. We had the best time and though Mary Louise thought she was not able to do the workshop with me due to work commitments she was prepared to host me. How lovely.  As it turned out she could do four days of the workshop. We were very happy about that.

So our lead in day and a half before teaching was spent visiting Arlington Cemetery which was very moving. I was particularly moved by the masses of white stone gravesite of armed services personnel and of John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. The changing of the Old Guard on the hour every hour was an interesting and solemn ceremony to watch. I also enjoyed visiting Arlington House.

The workshop.

Such was the Washington, Maryland, Virginia traffic. Chris Tischer would drive about 45 minutes to pick me up from Mary Lou’s house in Maryland to drive a further one and a half, sometimes two hours through traffic build-up to get to the venue in Vienna, Virginia. Crazy, but at least pleasurable conversation. When Mary Lou could join us we all travelled such each day to and fro our calligraphic compulsion.  How reassuring it was to be greeted by 12 very enthusiastic participants each day some who had also battled travel woes. The subject was versals and the students had come from far and wide: New York, Massachusetts, Philadelphia, the Washington District and closer to hand.

Student work

The five days went quickly and I found it a joy to teach my lovely group. A good understanding of the forms was had and the outcomes were superb. By the last day we all departed good friends. That evening to celebrate a super workshop Mary Lou, Anton and myself attended CrabFest at a farm in the area. I said my goodbyes the next morning when Mary Lou dropped me to the airport for my flights to Albuquerque via Dallas Fort Worth.

Flying: i don’t mind flying but what I object to is having cash in my purse and being asked to use a credit card only to purchase anything from the menu. So with all my flights I only did this once. What I really got very annoyed about was having to use my credit card in the Admirals Club when I wanted to purchase lunch on my long stay over between flights in Dallas Fort Worth. No cash taken. When I explained I had an extremely poor exchange rate to deal with and a conversion fee for foreign currency my Caesar Salad ended up costing me much more that I would normally pay. Again I had plenty of American dollars in my pocket.  I know, it’s a first world problem but notwithstanding it is ridiculous!

Rant over.

June 11 - 16

I arrived in the desert town of Albuquerque to be met by my friend the delightful Margie Disque. Margie took me on a tour of the town and I was immediately struck by the unique picturesque features of the New Mexico landscape and townscape. All of a sudden the low-lying bull-nosed  houses were constructed of adobe clay, a cross between a terracotta colour and potters pink, a strong feature of desert townships. It was an amazing eyeopener for me as I had never been into US desert country before. I immediately become excited by the vistas.  I stayed over with Margie and her husband John who cooked us a magnificent salmon salad dinner.

The next day Margie and I drove to Santa Fe to stop off to check out the shopping and to have some lunch. Santa Fe in turn was a new adventure for me.  More of Santa Fe to come but that time we were on our way to Ghost Ranch via Abiqiui and the home of one of the most famous American abstract artists, Georgia O’Keeffe.  The road taken between the two towns was awe inspiring with spectacular landscapes I had only ever seen in photographs. The abundance of mesa (flat-topped mountains pronounced may-sa) and rocky outcrops with vista changes around every corner. Descriptive words do not do the landscape justice. My senses were aroused and I was excited to be there.  Anticipation was mounting. My friend of many years now and the person responsible for being there, Sharon Zeugin was the first to greet us.

To write about Ghost Ranch will take some time.  As I type this it is the evening of day four of my five day versal workshop. Our classroom is a standalone low-lying building deep in the terracotta-pink New Mexican desert. Colours of the surrounding mesa, hills and rocks change at a minutes notice. The days are hot and the nights have been cool bar last night and tonight.  Most of the students have been coming to Ghost Ranch to take calligraphy & allied arts classes for many years. This year Sharon has been the coordinator of Literally Letters and Suzanne Moore and I are the tutors. I am thrilled to bits to be working alongside Suzanne who is an amazing artist and woman and of course, Sharon.

The labyrinth & mesa just outside my classroom.

The structure of Ghost Ranch classes are different to other workshops and conferences. We are contracted to teach in the morning only but I, like all tutors find ourselves back in the classroom after lunch and sometime after dinner. It is great to all be here together, there is a lot to be said for residential workshops, you meet such wonderful people and make lifelong friends. So the week progresses.

Adobe clay in Santa Fe.

Chimney Rock just by the Welcome Centre.

Georgia O'Keeffe cottage made of ... adobe clay!

 My art classroom for Literally Letters.

I love this motif.

After class though on Tuesday and as a treat for Sharon’s birthday, six of us drove deeper into the desert to Ojo Caliente mineral springs (translates to hot hole), to take to the hot iron & soda springs and mud baths. Well, I was unsure of the mud baths but as we were traveling with three women over eighty, Bonnie, Marie, and Rita who were excited about the mud, who was I to quibble. I loved it of course. There is a photo out there somewhere taken by Bonnie which I hope never surfaces. I wasn’t game to take my camera out there, A wonderful experience all over.

More on my Ghost Ranch experience the it comes to a close in a couple of days.

The entire electronic trip so far has crazy. WiFi is dicey and dodgy and my service provider the Australian Telstra/BigPond has restrictions on my mac mail program sending emails. I would change telco’s if I thought I would have better service elsewhere. I can answer emails on my phone which is somewhat problematic particularly in sending files that are on my computer - I simply can’t send them.  I am really only annoyed that I can’t see messages of thanks to people who have helped me so far on my trip. Those not hooked up with messenger & FaceBook.  I would like my thanks to be a little more personal. But, other than that I really don’t mind being cut off for a few weeks, how refreshing.  :-)


June 17 -

Santa Fe … again. Watch this space.

I am missing home ...

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Gaithersburg, Virginia & Arlington Cemetery Washington DC

I can't believe how close all these State boarders are. One minute I am in Washington DC, then I am in Pennsylvania, then Virginia and now Maryland. My goodness!  Chris Tischer picked me up from Sheila's and drove me down from PA to the home of my lovely hosts Mary Lou and Anton in Maryland. Look what was in my bedroom as a welcome, so lovely:

Mary Lou, Anton and housemate James gave me such a warm welcome.

We discussed some ideas for today's Washington DC sightseeing and it was unanimous that we would visit Arlington National Cemetery. When Anton discovered my curiosity with the Kennedy family it was an obvious choice. I had been to Dealey Plaza in Dallas recently with good friend Carl and it seemed natural to "bookend" my Kennedy intrigue by visiting this grave site. I am so glad we did. Hot and humid as it was the day was reflective and though provoking. 

The cemetery and monuments are awe inspiring.

The resting place of John Fitzgerald Kennedy & Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis with the eternal flame.

It was a reflective moment with Mary Lou.
In the background is Arlington House the home of Robert E Lee and formally designated
the Custis Lee Mansion. Such an historic site, neither of us could smile. 

I learned much today.

This is a shot of the stage of a delightful little open air amphitheatre.
The Latin motto on the stage stone is:


Out of many, one.

We watched the Changing of the Guard of the Old Guard, here at the tomb of the unknown soldier.
A solemn procession and affair. 

And here, the very place the President stands to address the people in this amazing open air theatre at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The place is full of doric and ionic columns. Awesome.

I learnt even more today.


Tomorrow, the work begins.

Visit my website too!

Visit my website too!
In-class illumination demonstration

Something about Gemma

My photo
Blackmans Bay, Tasmania, Australia
I am an Australian, a letter designer & calligrapher. I enjoy working with letters and grounds, teaching and mixing with like-minded people.


Blog Archive