Several of my Paris flea market finds have now made their way into new artworks. Unique objects, like the ones I saw in Europe, are rare to find in Australia, but occasionally something with real potential catches my eye. One such item last week was a metal bed warmer which I’m itching to add wheels to. A couple of gorgeous old French tins, ideal as 'auto' bodies came in the mail; and a lovely aged laboratory vessel complete with funnel has arrived from the mainland.
Vintage toys often sport great metal wheels but the prices are prohibitive, and wheels on their own can cost more to be shipped than they are worth. So, I’m looking to having wheels cast, or finding a source closer to home. I've found a source of glass cabachons in different shapes and sizes, perfect for creating ‘windows’ in my assemblages. Some of these are domed and reflect text and images beautifully.
I’m working towards a solo exhibition, with a wide and varied range of assemblage and collage works. I tend to focus for a week or two working in one medium, then move to the other when I need a new focus. Sometimes a particular object can set off a raft of ideas, but other times I need to come back again and again over weeks, or even months before something truely gels.
I have a particular brass door plate that has been bent into shape to house a Victorian image and I'm keen to see finished. In my mind's eye I know how I'd like it to look, but the problem has been what to mount it on. I've pored over Etsy & Ebay sites, searching for just the right object and hopefully I've now found it - a candle stick holder, the right shape and size to balance the door plate nicely. We'll see.
Images on websites can be deceptive and I've learned it's important to pay attention to the size. Even then, I've sometimes been caught out when the item arrives and find it looks wrong and doesn't do justice to the main piece. Then it goes on the shelf for something else down the track.
When Ron and I visited Rijswyk in September for the Papier Biennale, I was thrilled to find a small market taking place in the town square, and there was a similar one the next day in Delft. A delightful vendor shared stories of her father’s collection of objects d’art which she was being forced to sell to make room in their tiny apartment. I know the feeling. Paper-making equipment, instruction books and anything surplus to requirements is now finding new homes as I make room for new-old objects.
I came away from the market with a pair of antique ice skates, a wooden shuttle, cute tiny leather shoes and a brass iron. The iron has a flip-up door in the back where hot coals would have been inserted. Now it sports an ossuary, made from a small sardine can that has been decorated with metal adornments from a Javanese dancer’s costume. It's become one of my favourite pieces.
I was honoured when a Belgian friend recently gifted me her father’s identity papers and wartime documents. I hope I can do these justice in my collage as they tell a very personal story. Creating artworks from my own family's documents for the Personal Histories touring exhibition in 2015 gave me great pleasure and provided a connection to my past in a very tangible way.
I'm often asked how I feel about tearing pages out of vintage books or removing covers. What's not to love about the sense of history that old papers, text and images hold, but the magic for me comes in weaving a new story into them.
Most of my finds are things people sell because they’re no longer wanted, so I feel privileged to be able to bring them back to life. Otherwise, they might have ended up totally forgotten, or even worse, destroyed forever. I do have one or two books I haven't felt able to tamper with, but in general, I’m happy to put whatever I find, whether it be documents or found objects into my work, and continue to have it live on and admired, just in a different way.