Friday, August 20, 2010

Giving & Receiving & Where it can take me ...

You know I mentioned Swapbot and how I'd been trading there recently? Well, sometimes a project will lead me into new, strange corners of information ...

Exhibit A: "The Discover a New Poet" swap
... what I sent: a postcard with Mervyn Peake's poem "Conceit", it's lines of text cut into strips and remade into the branches of a tree, surrounding the a single black and white line drawing of a bird. The poem (in case you're not familiar with it):


I heard a winter tree in song,
Its leaves were birds, a hundred strong,
When all at once it ceased to sing,
For every leaf had taken wing.

... What I received: Poems by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers, a poet I've never heard of, including 2 poems from her collection "The Gospel of Barbecue". And though my mailing partner mentioned that Ms. Jeffers had an excellent blog, she didn't give me a link, so I went off in search of it, and found this in the process. And after you've listened to a three-year-old reciting Billy Collins' poem "Litany", you might want to go here and listen to the man himself. Poetry lives!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

And to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street ...

So here I am, a beautiful Saturday morning in the studio, with the sun shining and yes, the sounds of the city all around me ... thinking about how I grew up in the country (we called it The Sticks), and reflecting on how different I am from everyone else in my family, a couple of whom have *tried* the city but in the end decided to move back to The Sticks. About how much happier I am with the sound of the city around me. The birds - the seagulls, crows and whatever the heck that bird is that wakes me up about 6:30 am every day with the repetitive twee-whoo call.
How much I love the the sounds of people living ... children laughing (and even fighting), lawn mowers, and barbecue parties (oh, the tasty aromas! why wasn't I invited?). Then there's the sound of fireworks ... closer to home at Nat Bailey Stadium or the Symphony of Fire out over English Bay, both of which I can hear (they sound like distant popcorn) but neither of which I can see. I love my *quiet* Saturdays at home in the studio.

My neighbourhood is *in transition*, and even though I loved this neighbourhood *before* we moved here, we are a part of its gentrification. In our case, this meant tearing down a near-collapsing old house and replacing it with a new one. To be fair, we originally thought we could resuscitate, but one look at the foundation, and the plumbing, and the wiring, and oh my, that idea went out the window pretty quick. Anyway, the thing is ... in the summer when there is no rain, there is always something under construction within earshot ... a new roof going on, a fence being repaired, and yes, I admit, even more old houses being replaced by new ones.

So this morning, in the middle of my thinking all these things ... I slowly became aware of a rhythmic pounding (not unusual, as I say) ... and then realized the rhythm had a ... tune? ... and the tune was ... wait a minute ... ah yes, there it is: You Are My Sunshine! Sounding like it was being played by a hundred sets of silverware hitting a hundred chandeliers. Well, that's odd, I thought, and I went to see where the noise was coming from, and it was coming from: my street.

I ran down the stairs (foolishly forgetting my camera!) and went out to see what was going on ... and it was a Parade! Stretching as far as I could see in either direction ... marching bands! people in costume! flowers! colour! children and old people and dogs, oh my! I hustled upstairs quicklike and fetched the camera ... who was going to believe me without photographic evidence? I should point out that we don't live on any kind of major street so parades are not the usual thing at all. One of the people passing handed me a flier saying it was the First Ever Filipino Cultural Street Parade, and it was really, really amazing. Brought a tear to my eye to see everyone out there smiling, waving, dancing, singing ... BEING. Made me wish that I had an ethnic community to march and celebrate with (does an artistic community count?).

All my neighbours were out on the sidewalk, too. People who are familiar, that I wave to in passing, but don't really *know* at all ... and I was suddenly reminded that this new neighbourhood I live in is multi-multi-ethnic, which is one of the reasons I love it so much. 'Cuz amazing things can happen ... like a parade when you least expect it.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Work in Progress: I Heart Zines Exchange

Today I'm working on my contribution for Alma Stoller's annual I Heart Zines Exchange, so here's a little teaser photo of some of the latest bits I've done. The red paper bags will hold the final zine. I've made them with recycled photocopier test sheets (for the lovely black inside) then spray-painted through paper lace on the outside and hand-stitched the bottoms. The little birdie envelopes will go inside the zine and hold, well ... to say too much is to give everything away, but obviously birds will be involved. I made them with leftover vellum strips, a bit of tissue tape and an appropriate bird stamp. I'm still going through a "I love red & black" phase - but maybe this project will finally beat that out of me. I know there are other colours out there, really I do.

The funny thing about this particular zine, and the way I've been working lately, is that it started off being about one thing and somehow morphed into something else. A few months ago I started doing some trading on swapbot, and it's really encouraged me to be more spontaneous and to trust my creative intuition. There are a ton of people on swapbot swapping all kinds of things, including things that make me shake my head and wonder why. It's kind of like a lobster - you can ignore most of its bulk and just go for the tasty bits you enjoy most. For me, that's zines, mini-zines and the occasional "hey, that sounds like fun!" project.

I also swap ATCs on swapbot, but swapbot ATC swaps are often 1 for 1, and I'm used to a more, how do you say *numerous* approach to ATCs, thanks to our *very* active ATC group in Vancouver. We usually have between 15 and 20 people each month at our trades, so to show up with less than 10 (and for me, less than 20!) seems a shame.

Now, must get back to working on the mysterious bird-related I Heart Zines exchange ... that deadline is coming up FAST!

Monday, August 09, 2010

One of those ideas I wish I'd thought of first ...

This happens to me quite often ... I'm poking around the internet and see something so quirky and simple and neat that I wish I'd thought of it first. Take for instance Marc Johns' lovely: deluxe carrying case for an ampersand.

I'm not sure how I got to Marc's blog (ah, the wonders of endlessly clicking ...) but once there I had a good look around and smiled several times, outright giggled several times more and felt a pang of creative envy (in a good way, of course) several more times than that. It's not like my brain is devoid of creativity, but there's nothing like a jumpstart from someone who gets at least as many good ideas as you do (and probably way more), and has the drawing and organizational skills to Get It Out There. Thanks, Marc, for a creative kick in the pants!

To see more of Marc's work, I'd recommend his website. I'm particularly fond of his sets of drawings on sticky notes and rat traps (yes, I said rat traps, go look). Uh oh, I feel another pang of creative envy on the way ...

*Image & link published with permission. Thanks, Marc!

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

A night at the CBC with A.M. Smith

Just home from a wonderful evening at the CBC (that's the MotherCorp, the Canadian Broadcasting Company for those of you NOT North of the 49th). I was lucky enough to be invited to a North by Northwest taping of Alexander McCall Smith. If you're familiar with the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, 44 Scotland Street and (my personal favourite) the Portuguese Irregular Verbs Series, you'll know his name already and may even be knee deep in at least one of his ongoing series of books.

He's just launched another series, beginning with Corduroy Mansions, which includes (as well as many human characters) a vegetarian Pimlico terrier named Freddie de la Hay. Mr. Smith has written something like 70 books, although he claims that some of them are childrens' books and therefore shouldn't count, even though they do have covers and page numbers. He claims to write between 4 and 5 books a year (I believe it - he is hard to keep up with!), and says it's not so much that he sits down to write, it's as if his characters go on living when he's off writing other things, and then he sits down one day and asks what they've been up to while he's been gone.

Amongst the interesting facts he revealed this evening ... that he's just in the last day or so begun the next in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Series (a lot of which he says he writes when he stays here in Vancouver, where his sister lives), that he has an inordinate fondness for a musical group called Kenny Young and the Eggplants, and that he can't possibly explain why 97% of his readers are women, except that perhaps the men who read him still haven't come out to their friends and families.

I was expecting a Scottish accent of some sort, but he sounded decidedly English to me (and I should know, having cohabited with one for more than 20 years now). He was terribly funny, but in that dry, understated way the Brits are famous for. Although at one point he nearly joined the audience in a fit of gleeful giggles while reading a particularly amusing passage from Corduroy Mansions. He seemed genuinely and shyly pleased by the attention, applause and laughter from the audience. He very kindly stayed afterward to sign books for (and take pictures with) anyone so inclined. My face hurts from smiling - and that's always a good thing.

P.S. As well as a future podcast, the interview will be aired on CBC AM the next two Saturdays from 8 am to 9 am (PST) on North by Northwest. Go here for more details, and if you hear someone laughing while you listen ... well, yes, that was me.

And another P.S. - Mr. Smith mentioned that he's been serializing several of his books online lately, and indeed if you go here you can hear Andrew Sachs (AKA Manuel of Fawlty Towers fame) reading the next book in the Corduroy Mansions series: The Dog Who Came in From the Cold.