Un pas més – Another Step…

Between art works

…is the motto of the exhibition. And surely, for me this much appreciated challenge has been a step forward.

Going back to the beginning: newspaper as material. Cool!. How could I use it? It was clear that it would have to be “my way”, i.e. sewn lace. However paper is fragile. What to do about it?

text printed on fabricI could print a newspaper extract onto fabric (left).I wanted it to be a meaningful text, though. Where would I find one in such a short time? And then, what to do with that text? Hmmm, somehow that wasn’t convincing.

newspaper scraps
The technical question was, how to stabilise paper? With iron-on interfacing (above).

lace of newspaper scraps
Yes, this did work, however, where was the message? I could look for meaningful words. Which language should I use? German – my native language, English – a language I sometimes find easier to work in (!), Castellano – the country’s language, or Catalán – the regional language I am only just beginning to learn and love?

No! All the languages I speak, I decided. Then I went in search of international newspapers.
various newspapers
words, collageMany interesting articles later I had a good collection of words I could use. I arranged them so they’d transcend the confines of the frame (left). The words could  be sewn (right)…

alternatives - sewn wordHowever,  that turned out to be too labour-intensive for the short time period, so this will become a separate project to be continued…

beads to attach the laceIn the end I found words that satisfied me and joined them with machine-sewn lace. I didn’t much like the frame and thought that the natural wood colour made it stand out too much. White paint was the answer. For weeks my workroom smelled of paint! However, it did the trick. I drilled holes in the frame to attach the lace with beads (right).

Between Wor(l)dsAnd, voilà, the work was finished. The title came easily: Between Wor(l)ds – my favourite space to be.

My work can be seen during the four days of the Festa Major (city festival) de Matadepera at the Casal de Cultura (culture centre) – between other interesting works of local artists who have also submitted to the challgenge of frame and newspaper. We have all done “un pas més” – another step.

Back on Track

During the time of transition from one side of the world to the other, from island to city life, from wife to widow, from full-time work to (semi-)retirement, I managed to create a wonderful circle of choice family members and friends in my new Spanish home town and nearby. To all these amazing people I owe my sanity.

new work roomNearly two years had to pass before I was able to start creating again. I have adjusted to my much smaller workroom (above) and won new artist friends.

words, collageThese encouraged me to join an art group in a neighbouring town, the Matadepera Col•lectiu d’Art, and participate in their art exhibition. All participants had to use a frame sponsored by the city council of Matadepera and newspaper in our works (left).

I’ve always wanted to work with text.  This was a much welcome challenge. It finally broke my artist block.

Tomorrow will be the inauguration of our exhibition. I’m so excited! I will keep you posted…

pin board

Dust to Dust…

Dried bouqued 35 year later

… Ashes to Ashes

Almost a year has passed since my last post on 9th February 2015. It has been a pivotal year in my life. Quite unexpectedly, in March my husband Juergen began his final journey to the other side of the world and eventually of life. For me, too, this meant leaving for good my beloved home island of Atiu. Circumstances forced us to forsake most of what had formed our daily life and identity for 31 years. In May, all arrangements were finished and I could follow Juergen to Germany to attend to his needs. In early July, I lost my loving partner of 35 happy years, Juergen Manske-Eimke.

Our wedding day

Witnesses signature

just a shadow remains

Many friends in all corners of the world supported us during this arduous journey. I have no words to express my gratitude. The love of my Spanish “family”, whom I have known since childhood days, has kept me strong and positive. With their help I found a new abode in their delightful home town close to Barcelona in Spain, where I have now been living since August 2015.

 

Tapa and Fermentation

tapa with arrow watermark

Making Tapa Eastern Pacific Style

Te Rangi Hiroa (Peter H. Buck) writes in Arts and Crafts of the Cook Islands that the tapa makers of the time (1944) wrapped the pre-beaten bark in banana leaves and left it to ret for three days. Today’s tapa makers on Atiu usually beat the bark right away. When making a larger piece such as a garment, several strips are joined together with glue. In times past, retting, a water-aided fermentation process, loosened the fibres and enabled the tapa makers to join the pieces together by a kind of felting (beating). Following a correspondence with Hawaiian kapa maker Dennis Kana’e Keawe, at the Atiu Fibre Arts Studio, at the Atiu Fibre Arts Studio we conducted a number of experiments in 1988/89 to try this method. He joined us in beating the prepared bark. In 2013, I agreed with the art teacher at Enuamanu School to repeat the experiment.

Atiu does not have running streams and water shortage is often a problem. However there is one particular beach, Avatapu, the beach on which the Edna was stranded, that Atiu women use to ret lemon hibiscus bark for making dancing costumes. That’s where, in 1989, we soaked our shaved bundles of banyan roots instead of heating them to enable us to get the bark off the wooden core. This process both softens and loosens the bark and preserves it at the same time. In 20213, the art students came up with an ingenious way of insuring that the bundles would stay together, by plaiting a coconut frond around the bundle.

bundles of banyan rootsHeavy boulders of coral have been thrown up on the beach’s edge at Avatapu. These serve as weight to keep the bundles submerged in the water and in place when the sometimes rough sea tries to steal them away. The beach is right next to our harbour and the cargo boat that brings cargo from Rarotonga to the sister islands had arrived that day.

burying tapa at AvatapuI am not sure whether it was light or salt water – or the absence thereof – that caused the basket’s pattern to be imprinted on some of the outer roots’ bark. Worth conducting more experiments to find out how I can achieve that purposely, I guess, but not right now. The bark we have removed gets rolled up in leaves and is left to ferment.

patterns on soaked banyanFermenting their paper mulberry bark is a distinctive feature of Hawaiian kapa (their word for barkcloth). During the Tahiti Tapa Festival in 2014, Honolulu tapa expert Moana Eisele and her assistant, Kamalu du Preez, demonstrated to us their innovative method. Fermented wauke (Hawaiian for Broussonetia papyrifera or paper mulberry) becomes very delicate to work with. Especially when you plan to make a wider sheet, moving it forward on the kua (Hawaiian for wooden anvil) can be quite a challenge. Moana therefore beats her kapa on a large sheet of plastic.

rolling-out kapa

beating kapa This serves to hold it when folding it over to felt together the fibres…

folding …and if she wants to keep an unfinished piece for another beating session the next day, it is ideal for storage, prevents the bast from drying out and might even keep it fermenting.

storing kapaHawaiians have patterned i‘e kuku (tapa beaters) with which they can ‘imprint’ a watermark into the moist bark that has been finished beeting into a fine sheet. Our Hawaiian friend Kana’e gave us a beautiful i’e which he had carved himself when he visited the Atiu Fibre Arts Studio in 1989. I love working with it, because it is well-balanced and wonderful to handle.

Hawaiian kapa beaterI used it to experiment with a small piece of mati (ficus tinctoria, dye fig). I had also put some triangular pieces of cardboard between the tutunga (wooden anvil) and the bark to try out some different ways of watermarking. As we can see here, it worked.

watermarks

Edna’s own sails

Edna all rigged up

While conducting my experiments, I have also been researching the Edna’s background. I want to know more about her history, however there is not much that can be found on the Internet.

The Edna’s last captain, the late Nancy Griffith, lived in Hawaii. My artist friend Judith Kunzlé lived on Rarotonga when the Edna sailed Cook Islands waters and  knew Nancy. Judith recently moved to Hawaii. Today she sent me a copy of Nancy’s stunning photograph of the Edna in full sail. Isn’t she beautiful?

If any of you, readers of my blog, has any information or photographs on MS Edna and her history, I’d much appreciate to hear from you.

Tapa and rust (6)

Tapa and gauze

I have brought a new piece of Banyan bark, this time only just beaten to become flexible enough to wrap it around the magic frame. Like the previous piece, as soon as I wrap the bark around the metal, the blackening process begins. I love that magic!

Tapa and gauze - close-upI have also wrapped a piece of eucalyptus-dyed gauze on the outside, part of which just sits on the metal, the other part covering the tapa. I want to find out, whether the area that covers the tapa will be dyed a different colour, i.e. whether the tapa’s own ‘juice’ leaves a trace.

Knobbly frame wrapped with tapa and gauzeThe weather is not so wonderful and I’m in a hurry, so I just drive to the beach and bring the frame back to unwrap at home. What I find is quite photogenic.

Tapa and gauze brown and grayDry tapa and gauze close-upYes, the tapa has added some brown colour to my gauze. Where it has just touched the metal it is only a mottled gray.

Sculptural tapaThe dried bark keeps its shape as I carefully peel it off the frame. I should leave it as is and use it as a sculptural piece…

Beating the tapa againHowever, my intention is to soak the dried bark and beat it until it is as thin as possible. I’m glad we live way outside the village, because it is a Sunday morning when I sit down to do that. I just hope the lovely sound of my tutunga (wooden anvil) will not be heard in church…

Folded wet tapaTapa SpiralTapa fibres and ikeTapa finished beating I fold the strip lengthwise and beat it, beat it, beat it, unfold and refold it and keep beating some more until I run the risk of ripping it with the next beats. Only then am I satisfied.

Tapa thin enough to see thruIn its wet state, the tapa’s colours are rich; they will fade a bit as the bark dries.

Tapa with beater marksThe material is thin and see through. One can clearly see the marks the ridges of the ike (beater) have left behind. I had hoped that I could perhaps beat tapa and gauze together, but that hasn’t worked out. I feel tempted now to experiment some more with gauze…

Tapa and rust (5)

Untying knots

Excited and curious, Kareen and I return to Ava Tapu beach. Will the frame still be there? I don’t really feel like digging it out of the sand again. I would be sad to have lost such a valuable piece of rust. Does that sound strange? One (wo)man’s trash is this rust dyer’s treasure… As we descend I am relieved to see the boomerang-like shape of the frame still stuck in Edna’s bow. The bark has dried and is stuck to the frame. Untying the knots in the builders line is a fiddly job.

Peeling off tapaProtrusions

I carefully peel the thin bark off the rusty metal. The coloring is so wonderful, ranging from yellow to rusty-brown with black stains where the frame has made contact with the soaked bark. The frame’s protruding screws have moulded the bark and embossed their shape into the material. Do I really want to beat it again?

Coloured like a flame Sea through

I like the bizarre, flame-like shape the tapa has now. Held against the light we can appreciate how thin the bark is. It is firm and yet soft to the touch. What must it have been like to wear such bark as a garment?

Don't remove tapeEven the “dont-remove tape” has acquired new colours in all shades of the rainbow. The wash-away frame has become my favourite rusting tool. I wrap it with a new piece of cloth to have something to look forward to when I come back next time.
Re-wrapping the rusty frame