Thursday, June 15, 2017

The journey begins ...

To say I am fortunate is an understatement. Time and time again I find myself in the most wonderful of situations that allow me to experience extraordinary things.  What I love most is I am always ... always learning something new. Today for example I saw my first driver less car.  Never!!!! I could barely believe it.  Some one reading this in fifty to one hundred years time may chuckle and say "cars had drivers?".  I am in Pittsburgh after all.

I guess you could say today is day two of this particular journey. Day one was spent on a series of aircraft to get me from Tasmania to Pittsburgh USA. The route I like to take when traveling to the US is Sydney - Dallas avoiding that horrible commuter nightmare, LA.  All the flights went well, reasonably on time and smooth transitions. I am getting to know Dallas/Fort Worth very well and would highly recommend it.  For me it is a suitable hub for flying in from Australia and connects me to pretty well anywhere in the States in reasonable time.

I kick of this teaching tour with a weekend workshop 17th & 18th for the Pittsburgh Calligraphy Guild. After that I head to Salt Lake City before heading to Texas for three workshops. I am privileged.

One of the things I have wanted to do on a trip but always thought about it too late, is taking photos of all the doorways I enter ... within reason. So I'll start with the door to my room at the In Residence Marriott Hotel in Oakland Pittsburgh here in the health and University district - Carnegie-Melon, of Pittsburgh. Quite ordinary really just like any hotel door, but is is always good to know the number just in case one has had too much to drink as my son-in-law Shane and I recently chatted about. Gosh we really should have done this in China recently where The Oboe Player (TOP for short) and I spent thirteen days in seven different hotels.

May they be of more interest from here on!

I collapsed into bed about 9,30pm last night and sank in a welcome sleep ... in a prone position as I was not in a prime position on any aircraft.  Today I am taking it easy, getting over my jet lag and doing okay so far, that is ... after waking at 3am and feeling I should be out and about already.

Image result for jet lag

On the plane, I watched three movies and read half a book! The best movie was "Hidden Numbers" excellent true story. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

A sickness grips the world ...

The sickness gripping the world is not about good and evil, I think it is about sickness and health. 

Overcoming sick desires to kill and maim for purposes one has convinced themselves is in the name of a god, allah, deity, avatar ... name it what you will may be able to be curbed over time with education, counseling for those lost nobodies who support these criminal barbaric acts.

I feel it is too late for the perpetrators of these violent crimes to be rehabilitated but it is not too late for younger men & women who find themselves with these violent tendencies. As it appears there are consistent barbaric events perpetrated in the name of Allah, not always but mostly, both home grown and not. I believe, more and more emphasis should be placed on prevention rather than cure. A true health analogy. There will be no negotiating with perpetrators, their sickness is so great they intend to die.

As I heard it this morning can not more young counselors be employed to work with youth to guide these youngsters into to more meaningful lives to live and enjoy?  Where is respect, understanding, love and caring coming from in relation to our youth, from us, our parents, leaders, teachers, our community?  Ask ourselves what is going on and help try and stop it. Take little steps in every way that we can see fruitful.  Even if we can't think of any help we can give, at least "think"!

Of course as is always the case, it is a few who destroy it for the rest but if we can all work with the grass routes of our societies and if we took it upon ourselves to make sure our friends and family are safe and mentally well then surely we will spread the goodwill needed.  If only we had as many young counselors as we do police.

It will take generations but it starts here.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Know your worth ...

Yesterday, I took a break from the studio and watched the TED Talk "Know your worth, and then ask for it:
A short pep talk on understanding your worth in business.

The phone rang. And, then it all came unstuck. A little old lady asked, could I make a card for a very special person in her life, her doctor, who had changed her life entirely and was moving on to greater achievements and she want to say a proper goodbye with a gift and a card. "of course I can, I'd be more than happy to help, when do you need it by?", oooo tomorrow, sure, no problem.  I told her I would move my schedule around a little to slot it in. This was really not a problem as I am in the studio on body-of-work building schedule this week.  I told her my work was very specially crafted high-end of the market commissions (TED Talk talking) and the price would be between $30 to $50.  Oh my I could hear her fainting. I told her if she went into any newsagent the cards would be up around $8 - $10.

"Oh no I didn't expect it would cost that much" she said (story of my life).

Then the cracks started to appear. "Well maybe I could make a really simplified card for you for about $20" and I asked her to think about it and ring me back if she wanted me to go ahead. She rang back in about 10 minutes wanting me to make the card ... but no more than $20.

So I spent nearly two hours on the sweet card and envelope from scratch, I spent twenty minutes with her on the phone, I spent at least ten minutes emailing back and forth. And now I am waiting for her to turn up to pick up the card. Waiting, waiting, waiting ...

I should feel good, little old lady, I helped her out but I feel shitty.

I am going to check out what sort of car she is driving!!!

Now of course I have met the lovely old lady who has a tremor and who wanted a lovely card created because she can no longer write. We sat and chatted all things re. tremors, parkinsons, neuroplasticity and children.  How do I feel now? Sorry I said I felt shitty.  :-)

Back to the studio.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Retro deco & the ASC

Home of the Australian Society of Calligraphers at Primrose Park, Cremorne, Sydney.
This venue holds a very special place in my heart. Not only a place where I go to to teach from time to time but where I have been to so many times before as a student. It is for me a place of learning, camaraderie and not least of all friendship. 

Baskets of flowers greet you upon arrival.

The workshop held on the weekend just past was a look back to the art deco lettering of the early 1900's with a focus on Rennie Mackintosh and Margaret MacDonald design. We also touched on the Art Nouveau.

These are some images from only some of the work created by the group. I tried to allow the participants time to get their works completed but I emphasised not to rush. I wanted to introduce a number of Deco elements to the workshop so I did ask them to move on. They did well to work to my time frame and the results were such that they experienced more. There will be time aplenty for after class experiments and work. 

Pure enjoyment!


My in-class demonstration.

Work by Barb.

Work by Meg.

Work by Meg.

My in-class demonstration.

Meg & Susan

Unfinished by Barb

Unfinished by Shas.

 Collective works.

Collective works.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Practicing my versals ...

Practicing my versals over the past few days. A new "Rengetsu" body of work is shaping up nicely. This walnut ink interacts quite nicely with the ground.

The young ones and the younger ones arrive tomorrow for Easter. My designated job is to organise the great Easter Egg hunt on Sunday. There will be rabbits in our garden ... trust me!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Interesting little commission

Some days, interesting little commissions come along. This one this morning is dates on a map. The client wanted several dates written on a map of mountain peaks (and other ventures) he had climbed over the years starting off with a family trip into Lake Pedder, Tasmania, in 1971.

The lettering is tiny no more than 2mm. Done in red gouache with little contrast between thick and thin. A slightly awkward job as it was large, the map was old (not ancient) and the surface was suspect. I dusted on some gum sandarac where I was to write due to all marks and blemishes. The map had been handled very well over the years, not ideal for calligraphy and I did have a little reservation. Notwithstanding I plowed into the work with my fingers crossed and had some relative success. The client was very happy and is already at the framers!

Never a dull moment ... just how I like it!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

In this day and age ...

It is refreshing to see that special interest in medieval illumination still continues. Earlier this year Betty Debnam from the Art Society of Tasmania asked if I had a date available for a one day introduction to medieval illuminated letters so we set to our diaries deciding on April 8, yesterday!

With thirteen eager participants all visual artists, we drew, we lay down gold, we painted, painted again and finally we added the finishing touches with white vine highlights. The loveliest chatter, then a quiet so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Participants and tutor departed for home happy yet exhausted!

For the love of letters ...

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.

Visit my website too!

Visit my website too!
In-class illumination demonstration

Something about Gemma

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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.


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