Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Cranes and geraniums

Following my acquisition of Japanese treasures, I was inspired to try making origami cranes. My plan is to hang these from string across my ceiling. Here's my flock so far:

With no idea of my current crane compulsion, yesterday my friend Jan surprised me with a birthday gift (not my birthday, hence the surprise) of a pair of tiniest origami crane earrings. They are tiny and beautiful, dark green with a light green and gold pattern. This photo doesn't come close to doing them justice, but at least shows how small and cute they are:

This week sees the establishment of pink and white geraniums in Board of Design's window box, as part of a New Regent Street beautification initiative. What has this got to do with cranes? Well, geraniums are also known as cranesbills, so called for the appearance of the seed-heads, which have the same shape as the bill of a crane. The genus name is derived from the Greek γέρανος, géranos, or γερανός, geranós, crane.

Quite interestingly, according to Stephen Fry, ozone smells of geraniums.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Japanese treasures

In Napier last week Amy and I discovered a lovely Japanese shop called Raku. I'm not usually a big leisure shopper, but I was seriously tempted by all the pretty things. I finally managed to narrow my purchases down to four cotton bandanas (three of which were nice colours and the fourth of which had bunnies on, enough said), a packet of little rabbit shaped fabric stickers (okay, so I may have a bunny problem), a packet of gorgeous origami paper and half a metre of beautiful printed cotton, which I intend to line a bag with.

The man who served me was absolutely meticulous and used a ruler as his cutting edge - none of your Fabric Vision chop and rip here. Then he folded everything into a little bundle, placed it in a cute printed paper bag, and added an origami crane. It was all in all a very pleasant shopping experience and if you ever visit Napier, you should definitely visit Raku.

Monday, October 20, 2008

VOLUME Contemporary Craft/Object Symposium

I spent this past weekend in Hawke's Bay attending the Volume Contemporary Craft/Object Symposium in Napier. Hosted by Hawke's Bay Museum & Art Gallery, this was an exploration into the state of contemporary craft and the function, position and future of the crafted object in New Zealand.

The key note speaker was Justin Patton, director of Christchurch Art Gallery. In discussing his thoughts on the place of craft and its function, he made a key point which I felt was beautifully simple: that objects speak - to us, for us or about us. Instead of focussing on the obvious connection between maker and object, he spoke about the connection between object and the person experiencing it.

Quickfire presentations by Genevieve Packer, Anna Marie White, Renee Bevan, Paul Rayner, Esther Lamb, Caroline Billing, Matt Blomely and Karl Chitham yielded a wide variety of work by new and established New Zealand craft artists, among them Tim Main, who has a sculpture exhibition opening at Milford Galleries Auckland in November, and Karen Denis, whose vandalised vintage under the pseudonym Trixie Delicious is frequently featured in home magazines worldwide.

Tim Main, Rangiora II (2007) DETAIL

Trixie Delicious, Vandalised Vintage

I was also engaged by Douglas Lloyd Jenkins' talk and the ensuing discussion on the declining quality of craft and design education. Essential skills and knowledge in these areas are falling victim to "credentialing" culture, as Polytechnics shift their focus away from practical training and toward providing qualifications. There was speculation on how early craft skills should be introduced into the curriculum and how we instill value for these skills in future generations.

All in all it was a stimulating conference and a welcome reminder of the passion that drives artists, designers and craftspeople to create.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

On Punctuation

As a frequent Skyper and big fan of online chat generally, I've always enjoyed the creative potential of having a conversation written down. The challenge is to express yourself eloquently without any form of vocalisation and an extremely limited palette of non-verbal cues. As a result, there's a certain kind of humour or wit that's particular to chat, and as with spoken conversation, everyone has their own style.

Recently I was forced to examine my style of communication by a friend who is philosophically opposed to smilies. Her feeling is that smilies or emoticons are used too much as compensation for tact or an inability to communicate clearly. And to an extent, I agree (hence the self-evaluation). David McRaney points out the irony of this in his in-depth analysis of Lolcats:
"Strangely enough, though American culture is far less literate than in previous decades, we read all day long and communicate through written language possibly more than ever so in history. Words are the currency of text messaging, emails, blogs and websites. This may or may not be a good thing, considering how our communications within these arenas are so economical and utilitarian. The long-form, eloquent email is a rare bird in the cyberjungle."

In terms of email, which is after all the digital equivalent of a letter, I think it's fair to say that smilies shouldn't be necessary and certainly in a work context, it would cut out a lot of wasted time and frustration if a little more time, thought and relevant punctuation was put into email communications.

However, in the context of chat, I am still hopelessly hooked on emoticons. There's much that can be expressed with a well-placed emoticon, not to mention the entertainment value. As my friend David says:
"Really when you think about it... you are going to need a lot of words to describe Microsoft Powerpoint when it can be done more succinctly with a little yellow guy puking"

Interestingly (and only very tenuously related), in the entry for non-verbal cues on Wikipedia, the section on clinical studies mentions that "women with premenstrual syndrome were found to possess diminished abilities to read these cues". Curious. I wonder if it helps to know that.