Balloons, trousers and rain, News Update May 2010


With a date like the 05.05.2010 one just has to wake up and get on with things. It looks like the base for one of the maths problems that the kids bring home in their homework pouches and that we are unable to help them with... A simpler take is that it means that this year is ploughing ahead, regardless of wishing that things would slow down, even just a teeny bit. And we have just realized that we have not written once this year (somewhere in my head I still think it is January). Perhaps one must blame it all on the world cup, all those "feel it, it is here" radio ads send one into a suspended sense of time.

Robert Hodgins's death in March has left a big gap in the studio. It was a real privilege to have worked with Rob so intensely over the last few years (he came down to work with us in Mpumalanga ten times, plus a number of sessions when the press was still in Johannesburg). We miss Rob talking about seeing Sir Laurence Olivier on stage, attending the rehearsal for the inauguration of Queen Elizabeth at Westminster Abbey, taking time out from the second world war in East Africa to look in on the White Mischief Trial in Nairobi, discussing the best way to grow artichokes and why Seville oranges make the best marmalade. We miss Rob strutting around the studio announcing that 'Hodgins is Hot!" when particularly pleased with an image coming off the press. Besides the wonderful work that he created, Rob also created a delight in the world and life that we can all learn from. If anyone could maximize time, it was Rob.

In the studio, we have been printing up a storm to match the heavy rain that has been falling. Mark has developed a monoprint transfer technique from working with Robert that is especially suited to artists who love painting. Besides Robert, Karin Daymond and Judith Mason have taken to this new technique like the Egyptian geese to water! Karin Daymond is a painter from Nelspruit who has stunned the Lowveld with her landscape paintings and who will be exhibiting at Gallery 2 (formally Gallery on the Square) which recently moved to the gallery strip on Jan Smuts Ave. To take a look at her prints go to Karin Daymond lithographs. Judith has finally found a print medium that she really enjoys and is currently back in the studio adding to three prints that have been editoned and are almost ready to be signed. We will keep you updated, they are the most beautiful prints that she has done yet.

The Tamarind Institute (where Mark, Leshoka and Syneth trained) turns fifty this year and to celebrate this they will be moving into a new specially designed building on the University of New Mexico's campus. Mark has been invited to attend the celebrations and will be doing a demonstration of this technique (the only technical demo to be held) and is hoping against hope that it will compensate somewhat for the carbon footprint of his flights...

Getting back to the ground, Hanneke Benadé's new prints have been editioned and are now available. She has focussed on plant "portraits" this time, her take on stapelia's is stunning. Hanneke Benade Lithographs 2010
The drawing is so beautiful that we decided to edition the black plates as separate prints as well. Hanneke has just left for Paris where she will be working at the Atelier Pons, a residency that she was awarded as part of the Rendezvous exhibition organised by Paul Boulitreau. Johann Louw was also awarded a residency in Paris. Later in the year, Hanneke will be back in our studio, trying out the monotype transfer technique. Rob's spirit continues!

Sam Nhlengethwa's new series of prints " Kind of Blue" pays homage to Miles Davis and the legacy of his sextet including John Coltrane. Sam's passion for jazz and the gents that make it all possible is clear. Take a look at Kind of Blue lithographs 2010.  We held a great monoprint workshop in April. James Delaney, Justice Mokoena, Josie Grindrod, Celeste Schoeman and Frederick Clarke were in the studio for a week and the standard of the work was quite amazing. The synergy of creative minds all in one place at one time is something that we really enjoy. Our next workshop will be held from the 16th to the 20th August 2010. If you would like to book a place please contact Mark as soon as possible.

Last week Tamar introduced Simon's grade to land art, courtesy of a fantastic installation that Strijdom van der Merwe did with some school kids in the Cape. Tamar did a session on what our water footprint looks like (did YOU know that it takes 140 liters of water to get that one cup of black sugarless coffee to you in the morning or that it takes between 10 000 - 20,000 liters of water to produce 1 kg of beef [such a big variation due to different meat production techniques in industrialized farming].... The next day the class headed for a hike to forest falls where the kids wrote water messages on balloons (reminiscent of blue water molecules). They then tethered the balloons to stones with bits of string and placed these in the stream and pools (see pic). Photographs were taken, kids got wet and then the balloons were popped and tidied up.

Further news on the "wildlife" front is that our one remaining "west African" guinea fowl hen managed to hatch out a clutch of eggs (resulting in 17 very cute stripy bundles). She was eaten by a creature of the night as the chicks hatched, which meant that the two remaining guinea fowls (male) stepped into the breach. They did an admirable job of raising their offspring and the nine that survived were sold into slavery as soon as they were big enough to start causing chaos in the vegetable garden. Simon spent his share of the spoils as part payment of a fishing rod and Maru has saved hers (whenever we need a loan she is the one we all turn to).

We held a plough sharing session in the veggie garden in April, where we had a small group of fellow transition town sorts work in the garden with us to introduce them to how we have adapted permaculture gardening to our veggie garden. The idea with plough sharing is that the agricurious get together and help each other to set up gardens, work beds, move chicken tractors, etc. The idea is to make it a rotating event so that a number of gardens benefit. We have started to connect more and more with other environmental sorts down here and it is most rewarding. We have revamped our "green" page on the website. Take a look at  Green Living it even made the front page of The White River Post! The response has been fantastic. Renews ones hope in the butterflies wings beat creating a storm. Mark has done a bit of green trading with a local beekeeper. He swapped a pile of used printing plates for a used hive. The aluminium printing plates are used to waterproof the hives and a used hive attracts bees far quicker than a new one, So a win-win trade. Maru is looking forward to selling honey at the next school entrepreneurs day and Tamar is looking forward to taking sugar off the shopping list.

Like our sense of time, it seems that the weather is also all over the place. We have been keeping records of rain for the last three years and the totals for April are weird: 2008=45 mm, 2009=3 mm, and this year 180 mm. Can someone explain that maths? But it does mean that our country is going to be looking good for the world cup. Earlier in year parts of the garden were so waterlogged that walking on the soil had that wobbly feeling one gets from standing on a dead jellyfish on the beach. Slowvelders are predicting a chilly winter based on the high rainfall (is there really a correlation)?. To help the local farm school kids cope with the chill we bought all the children thick grey school trousers. It was a treat watching the boys showing off their stylish new school kit. Seeing how much Simon and Maru enjoy books and looking at National Geographic type images we have decided that we will also be getting the farm school books where we can in addition to buying them each an item of school clothing each year. If you have any unwanted National Geographic magazines or suitable books for a primary school aged kids and you are coming this way and are keen to assist we would love to pass the books onto the farm school for you. Images are powerful things.

Which makes us think of recent South African news items. Someone writing a really dodgy soap opera would have a hard time doing better than what we seem to be able to churn out as fact on a weekly basis. From Jub Jub and Terreblance to Lolly Jackson, Selebi and Malema the men of this country know how to keep themselves in the headlines. Here's hoping the headlines over the impending soccer bliss will be a little more sober and make one justly proud of being South African.

Keep warm and safe...

Mark and Tamar

News updates from 2009