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I recently learned about an artist who uses unique techniques and processes to create beautiful artworks. Tim Knowles is a UK artist who uses natural phenomenon like wind and terrain to create sketches and media installations.

“Tree Drawing – Hawthorn on Easel” by Tim Knowles

Myself, I have always been inspired by the idea of contact and touching; touching an item or standing in a place that someone else had touched or stood – I feel like that can give a powerful connection through time and space. It’s why I took the in-progress pieces of my Rainbow Warrior quilt to the Rainbow Warrior memorial in Matauri Bay and her masts in Dargaville. To know that my quilt – inspired by that ship, her crew and what she represents – has actually touched parts of the ship herself, has been out in the sunshine, sea air and
waving grass, makes the quilt all the more special to me. It feels imbued with the spirit of those places.

Largely through my studies at university the idea of agency has really taken hold inside me, as well. In humanities we use “agency” to describe the ability to act (independently), and you could say, to exert power; it’s the opposite of inert passivity. In particular the realisation that human animals are not the only ones who have agency really changed the way I think about many things. Nonhuman animals obviously (to me) have agency; a bird may choose
where to fly, what to eat, when to return home, how to react to situations she encounters. But it was also a realisation to me to think about the agency of other living things on the planet, like trees. A trees responds to the sun, to water and some have even been shown to “communicate” and share information about predators, etc.

The work of Tim Knowles’ that I have read about online really taps into this part of me that is aware of the world outside human control. (This is not to say that we cannot control it – we can and do. But when left alone, many other beings in the world are allowed to exert their own agency). Tim’s past works have included his “Windwalks”, drawings made by attaching a sail/windvane-like apparatus to his head and going for walks through early-morning London directed only by the changing winds and breezes. Afterwards GPS tracking was used to plot these journeys as prints that Colby Chamberlain describes as “a Surrealist experiment in automatic drawing”.

Tim Knowles’ “Windwalks – Five Walks From Charing Cross”

I really like the way Gabrielle Hoad describes Tim’s unique approach to his art

In the past, Tim Knowles has been a hands-off artist, setting in motion unpredictable mark-making processes. He’s allowed everything from helium balloons and trees to postal packages and cars to drawn their own movements: “making the invisible visible” as he puts it. There’s much to be said for John Cage’s view that the world is more fascinating when we let it be itself.

On Tim’s website there are images from many of his exhibitions, all with mysterious and exciting names like “Full Moon Reflections” (photographs of reflections of the full moon on different bodies of non-still water), “Windwalks” (prints delineating wind-directed walks as described above) and “Nightwalks” (photographs taken with a very long exposure as the artist walks away from the camera through the landscape carrying powerful torches which illuminate his path). What amazing ways of encountering the world and, in case of the walks, of portraying an individual’s attempt to literally make one’s way.

I found each of these ideas really exciting but the works which really drew me to Tim as an artist were his Tree Drawings – drawings not of trees, but by trees. In Cabinet magazine, Tim explains his execution of the prints:

I attach artists’ sketching pens to their branches and then place sheets of paper in such a way that the trees’ natural motions—as well as their moments of stillness—are recorded. Like signatures, each drawing reveals something about the different qualities and characteristics of the various trees as they sway in the breeze: the relaxed, fluid line of an oak; the delicate, tentative touch of a larch; a hawthorn’s stiff, slightly neurotic scratches.

I love the appreciation Tim has of the characteristics of each different tree. This appreciation really comes through in how the reality of their unique individuality is present in each artwork. Although Tim Knowles is the artist his role here is as a fascilitator for the expression of the wind and the branches.

I’ve never been to a Tim Knowles exhibition but I’ve seen online that each piece is presented as a “diptych” (a fancy way of saying two pieces of artwork together), the drawing itself together with a photograph of it being created. He even used a video of the work being created in one of his exhibitions, projected onto the wall next to the print itself. There’s a great video from MassArt (Massachusetts College of Art and Design) which has Tim Knowles talking about both the process of creating the Tree Drawings and the method of exhibition – watch it on YouTube. In the same article as above, Tim states

Process is key to my work, so each Tree Drawing is accompanied by a photograph or video documenting the location and manner of its creation.

I really think this is inspired. For me it presents two ways of seeing a single moment in time and forms a connection between different ways of experiencing. The author of a Saatchi Gallery online editorial sees in Tim’s Tree Drawings the accomplishment of a long-held goal in English artistic tradition. Of Tree Drawing – Scots Pine, Buttermere Shore #1 (2005), it notes

Given its Cumbrian context, the unforced lyricism of Knowles’s approach stands in ironic historical juxtaposition to the plein-air labours of English landscape painters, who for centuries have strived to capture the agitation of a swaying tree. Knowles achieves their long-held ambition by the simple fact of enabling the tree to record its own unrest.

The idea of “enabling” a tree is a beautiful one. I really adore the resulting works Tim has created. While these are my favourite of his pieces so far, it is fascinating to read about the ways in which he has created many other works with the use of all sorts of natural and human-made phenomena. I urge you to visit Tim’s site and look through his various artworks. For me the image of a tree drawing on an easel in particular is a very powerful one.

And if I ever get the chance to visit an exhibition of his, I shall jump at it.

“Oak on Easel #1” by Tim Knowles

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I love words, I love language. So how could I not love books? And like lots of other people who love books, I love the idea of devoting part of my home to them in a beautiful and functional way.

Beautiful-Libraries.com is a collection of images of lots of different kinds of libraries.

From “Modest Home Libraries” to “Truly Grand Home Libraries”, “Celebrity Home Libraries”, “English Country House Libraries” and more, this website provides lots of inspiration for “what I’d do if I had the money” dreaming.

Looking through the website, I really like looking at all the different ways people store and display books in their home, even if it’s in a way I wouldn’t like to have in my home (or even if I think it’s really ugly!)

I think more than anything seeing all the images on the website of different styles of library helped me to realise what I like, and what I don’t.

I always dreamed of having a place dedicated to books and reading them.

I think if you bother to have a collection of books you love you should respect them and keep them in a place you love. Not a shelf in a thoroughfare or the back of the dining room (no matter how cute – see pic on left), but a special place where you can go, close the door, and be quiet with the books. Not just a place for storing books, but for enjoying them.

 

I think natural light is really important, too. And the view. I’d like my library to look out onto a secluded, green garden. In my head, my dream library was always at the top of a folly, like the modern one below (but higher :p).

The website’s curator provides a commentary for each of the images, with a tone which is sometimes amusing, and always deadly serious when it comes to book welfare.

About this ring bookcase from the “Unusual Home Libraries” section, the curator comments

A ring of books. There are dividers spaced inside the ring, both to hold it together and to prevent a total collapse of many books if one is removed from the sides, and there are feet on the whole structure, to prevent it from rolling across your foot as you attempt to remove a book. Perhaps it’s not dangerous and does not damage books terribly (although it might be hard to pull some of them out at the sides), but that’s hardly a ringing endorsement for a bookcase. An interesting idea, but a very inefficient use of space.

But for a fellow book lover, the website’s curator is sympathetic – and I love her/his final plea

There is something mysteriously appealing about this arrangement, even though it looks disorganized, probably dirty, damaging to books and likely even dangerous to people. It cannot be easy to find books in this system, let alone retrieve those on the bottom of the piles. But any compulsive book hunter can sympathize with the owner of these books – clearly he or she has simply run out of conventional shelving room. Please build more shelves!

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I was flicking through channels tonight and found a show on TV called Big Ideas for a Small Planet. As a show about sustainable/eco-friendly living I thought it was quite cool ‘cos it showcased designers and companies who actually utilise environmentall-friendly practises in their businesses every day.
 
One of the companies featured was Rerun Productions, a small business that makes lamps out of salvaged and repurposed materials. I say “one of the companies” but what was really featured was not the company but the Bewley family, who came across as a very friendly, close, “normal” family. Except that I guess most “normal” families don’t go into business together designing and selling eco-friendly art, do they?
 
Old propane tank
The show followed one of the men (sorry, have forgotten names!) as he visited various places to salvage materials like discarded wine bottles, brake rotors, propane tanks and computer parts. From these unlikely beginnings come stunning works of art that also serve a function in buyers’ homes. So much design, work and resources go into creating something like a break rotor or a propane tank, and it makes no sense at all to just discard them when they get old or something better comes along. There’s beauty there, and the Bewleys can see it.
 
Below is one of their designs made from the curved top and bottom of a propane tank, welded together after the middle section was removed.
Excalibur lamp - Bewleys Rerun Productions

'Excalibur lamp' (aka Propane lamp) from Bewleys Rerun Productions

The show also showed mum Bewley (Jan) making the eco-friendly lamp shades which looked like a very fun (read: messy) process. According to the company’s website

Our lamps and furnishings are around 80% recycled, being comprised of salvaged materials , including brake rotors, guitar strings, piano strings, computer parts, propane tanks, reclaimed woods, and just about any other usable scrap parts.

I can’t see any prices in the website’s gallery, but on the TV show they said pieces cost around US$150-800. That’s a lot, but these are both pieces of art and quality household objects which will be the antiques of the future. I say, if you’ve got the money and are looking to decorate your home with nondisposable furniture, then this’d be a great way to spend it!

Recycled Wine Bottle Chandelier from Bewleys Rerun Productions

'Recycled Wine Bottle Chandelier' from Bewleys Rerun Productions

I’ve reserved a place in the entrance to my dream house for the Rcycled Wine Bottle Chandelier. Colours and light!

It looks like the 15min segment on Rerun Productions from Big Ideas for a Small Planet is featured on their website. Worth a watch just to see the raw selvaged materials transformed into stunning objects of want.

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I am a linguaphile. I love words. I love how they sound, how they feel as you pronounce them, how it feels when you create them with a stick in the sand or a pen on paper or keys on a computer. I love how apparently arbitrary sounds and markings are endowed with so much meaning. And I love how they look.

I know there are others who share this passion. And luckily for us all, some linguaphiles have taken up residence on Etsy where they sell their beautiful, sad, funny, heavy, vibrant, grimey and whimsical words. …Whimsical. Say it with me. Wim Sickle. Love.

The Big Harumph @ Etsy

Linocut print from The Big Harumph

One great shop where you can buy wonderful words with which* to adorn your home or other place is The Big Harumph. Based in Witchita (that’s in the U.S.) The Big Harumph sells awesome linocut prints in various fonts, colours and sizes. I have literally spent hours in this shop browsing their wares and imagining where I’d hang each in my hypothetical house. I absolutely have my eye on the one I want, but since it’s for my greedy self I can’t justify spending the money at the mo. Will definately be at the top of my Christmas list, though!

I love the bold message, strong colours and urban effect. The texture and the way the printing process is seen in the final piece is awesome. Words you can touch. Neat. So go to The Big Harumph and buy you some words!

 

The other shop that I’m love, love, loving at the moment is RawArt Letterpress. Working from California this shop sells amazing original prints as well as giclée reproductions. I adore the fun mixture of fonts, colours and symbols and can’t get enough of the beautiful, busy nature of the RawArt prints!

www.etsy.com/shop/rawartletterpress

"All good things are wild and free" @ RawArt Letterpress

The second-best thing about RawArt Letterpress is the amazing range of quotes, lyrics, exclamations and prose that you can choose from. From classics and favourites like Where The Wild Things Are and Dr. Seuss to the transcending words of Rumi and Oscar Wilde. I think it was in Angela’s Ashes (by Frank McCourt) that he said reading Shakespeare “is like having jools on your tongue”. I couldn’t agree more about reading such a small group of words which express so completely how I feel. I think they’d make great gifts – so far I’ve found at least three which made me think of specific people. (Plus I wouldn’t mind receiving one – or more – myself!)

I know exactly which print I want from RawArt, too. Two lines from a Mary Oliver poem which I’d never read before but I find to be devine. I want it in huge inkiness on the wall of my home. Alas, I currently do not have my own home, or the money to afford a giant print. But my time will come.

www.etsy.com/shop/rawartletterpress

WANT! from RawArt Letterpress @ Etsy

I also love that RawArt Letterpress has prints in a range of languages other than English (including Maori!). Magnifique!

But you’ll notice I kept the best for last. What is the very best thing about RawArt Letterpress? Why, it is the artist herself! Colette Urquhart is the amazing lady behind RawArt Letterpress. Not only is she a great artist, but she’s also pretty darn friendly and when she says she’ll reply to your message “pronto” – she means pronto! One of the great things about Etsy is getting to correspond with the artists themselves and knowing that by making purchases you’re supporting awesome people.

To be honest, I wish I was a seller on Etsy. I’m not sure what I’d sell, but I do like making things! Right now I wish I was in California being taught how to make linoprints by Colette. Is that weird? It just looks like it’d combine so many things I love: creating things, words and letters, colour, paint/ink, making piles, paper (paper, paper!), mess, composing, reading, design… less so the cleaning up, but I’m sure I’d deal!

I just need some gumption, I reckon. I need to decide what it is I’m going to do with this one wild and precious life. (Apart from spending all my money on big beautiful words on Etsy).

www.etsy.com/shop/rawartletterpress

("Buy me!") - typography art prints @ RawArt Letterpress on Etsy

*alliteration ftw!

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