Already it’s the middle of January and I don’t feel as if I’ve managed to get a grip on 2012, never mind grasping 2013. I’ve been reading various posts on New Year’s resolutions, round-ups of the previous twelve months and thoughts on the festive season and… I have no words of wisdom for you. No snorts of derision, please. Instead I’ll tell you about the last hectic couple of weeks in which I taught my first ever course at Sturt Summer School in Mittagong, caught up with my in-laws, went to a funeral and came home several days later than planned.
Sturt is a lovely place, although subject to climatic extremes: winter is freezing cold and summer fairly hot. I went there first in 2009 for a Winter School class with Caren Florance of Ampersand Duck fame, and out of that book making class came BookArtObject in the same year. This year I taught a class in ‘Three Dimensional Artists’ Books’ and had great fun: Avril, Bill, Cathy, Cindy, John and Sally worked extremely hard and produced the lovely work you can see in the above photos.
My plan was to head straight back up to Coffs Harbour, but one of dearest husband’s uncles sadly died and instead we picked husband up in Sydney and drove down to Wagga, and I found myself right in the middle of Australian country life. I don’t think I’d grasped before how interconnected everyone’s lives are in the country. Tumbarumba Catholic church was packed with people – possibly two hundred, I didn’t count them but it was standing room only – and most knew each other or were related in some way. I was feeling slightly too overwhelmed by numbers to have any deep philosophical thoughts, but I did reflect on how the remote lifestyle of living on/working on/managing rural properties miles from the nearest neighbour impacts upon relationships. The air was thick with stories: driving sixty miles with a child with a broken arm to find the nearest doctor, getting together at the New Year rodeo, groups of men working sheep in far paddocks, snakebites and fences, school by correspondence course and six kids on bench seats in the back of the ute… And although you may not have liked the people you were dealing with, especially, there was understanding and often compassion and the necessity of getting on with things because although they needed your help this time, you’d need their help next time around. And through it all was a thread of community get-togethers at funerals and weddings, church services and rodeos, sheep sales and country dances. It made me very thoughtful about neighbours and community… and I observed how completely different my life and culture has been.
We managed a regular trip to Wagga Wagga Regional Gallery and their Glass Gallery, which I love visiting. Years ago, not long after I left college and was living with someone in rural Gloucestershire, I started collecting English art glass in a small way and had a lovely little selection of pieces of which none, naturally, are around today. This time there was an exhibition of glass and of portrait paintings on glass by Wayne Pearson. These were great: really nuanced portraits, painted ‘backwards’ if you like on the reverse of the glass. They had a feeling of depth and translucence not achievable in paint, and were paired with great round wedges of glass shot through with colour, delicately balanced on their rims, also by Wayne Pearson and also very desirable. It’s nice to start the year with a good exhibition, and I sincerely hope that this year I’ll get to more shows than I’ve managed in the last couple of years.
I’ve got lots of ambitions for 2013: personal, emotional, professional, financial, artistic, but I’m always drawn back to my mother’s words when I asked her as a child what she wished for at the coming of the New Year: “I always wish to be happy and for everyone around me to be happy” she replied. I wish you great happiness in 2013, along with all your other ambitions.