Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Joys of Skyping

This is a snapshot of Phoebe and Dominic, my kids, on Skype talking to me this morning. Dom was in Sydney staying with Phoebe and Dylan. Last night his band played in Sydney and tonight they are playing in Newcastle as I write. The band is Rocketsmiths and you can see their videos and hear their songs on You-tube. Just search their name - Rocketsmiths.

Well, what a joy to be able to talk in real time and see your children and friends and family as we have done this week. And if you are both on Skype it costs nothing. Quite amazing. I remember Dick Tracey in the old comic srips had a wristwatch that he could see people on while talking to them. Life imitates art. We never thought this sort of thing would actually happen.

But Phoebe and Dom reminded me that I forgot to tell everyone the story of coming through security leaving Heathrow. Mainly because I had told Dom but forgot to relate it to Phoebe (not my usual style with the kids), so maybe you will enjoy it too.

First of all at Heathrow it is the full-on exercise of everything including "belts and every fourth person's pair of shoes must go through the x-ray". Not happy, Jan, already as I hate taking my shoes off. Then I go through and I hear a tiny beep. Shit, what is it. I must have some coins in my pocket I said. Felt my pockets. No coins. Too late - have to have the full body search. Not pleasant having a stranger feel you all over. (NO rude comments from Tony and David please). Of course I still had my kneeguard on from walking around London. "What's this then?"

"It's just my kneeguard. I have a crook knee."

"I'm afraid we will have to do a strip search."

"Well, why don't I just drop my jeans here for you. "

"There are women and children."

"Really, I am wearing boxer shorts underneath. Nothing will show I can assure you" couldn't help the smirk)
"There are women and children" he repeats.

Enter officious young Pommy woman who starts to order me around at which stage the Professor (Craig) has entered the fray and for some strange reason known only to him, proceeded to ask what about my shoes and then threw them at the male secuirty guard who was giving me the feel all over.

Officious female shouts at him to desist and screams that wasn't very nice. Male security man trying to put a lid on things. Craig spluttering.

So, off they march me, he and she, to a room down the hall. At this stage I am remembering all those terrible documentaries where people are held for hours in British airports. I am expecting the camera crew to arrive any moment. (At this stage in the telling, Dom does British accent voiceover: "What Does Noel have hidden in his kneeguard) Meanhwile officious female is carrying on and on as only she could about how rude Craig was.

Don't ask me why this next bit happened either. I said to her: "Oh for Christ's sake will you shut up."

"I don't have to take that sort of behaviour." She retorts

I replied "No, you have it wrong there. I have a right not to listen to you whingeing. So, please shut up."

Security man shot her a look and she did shut up. I must have been right ......... or lucky ......... or else I am a marked man every time I go through Heathrow for the rest of my life. Not only did she shut up. She left, thank God and a much more personable bloke joined us for the strip search. He had the gift of breaking the stalemate and the search was fine and I was back with the Professor, who was still waving my shoes menacingly at anyone he could try to intimidate.

Those of you who know Craig will be amazed at this story. He is usually the epitome of calmness. But as I always say to Phoebe and Dom. It's all tribal. He was only protecting his turf ........ me. Maybe it is Craig who will be a marked man.

So that is the Heathrow story. I know I will dine out on that one for years to come. Much better than the time I grabbed an errant Japanese tourist by the coat collar and lifted her off the ground just before she walked over a penguin nest. Read on for more adventures of the Professor and the artist.

My Work this Past Week

A productive first week for me. Monday to Thursday I have been working on my wooodcut plates. I my first blog from here I explained that I had decided to do a series of portraits based on the Kostal Boda glass desingners. I completed 7 this week and plan to do another 3 or 4 before I start printing. You can see them below. But please scroll on down to a series of posts showing what else we have been doing here. Having a wonderful time of course.
But first a candid shot of Craig working in the studio. Mostly, he is five minutes away at the University where he has an office and is getting lots of uninterrupted work done. He is snjoying it here and the studio is extremely quiet to work in. This looks very Swedish to me.
And here are the plates. These of course are used to make prints on paper which I will then multi-media to produce what I hope will be some interesting work. This is a young male designer, Ludvig Lofren

Not easy to do smiling people especially in wood so I am happy with this. Her name is Lena Bergstrom
And a very famous designer, Ingegerd Raman

Erika Lagerbielke

Aya Jungnelius, another young designer
Probably my favourite piece as far as technique goes - Anne Nilsson

And finally for this week, Ann Wahlstrom. This week I will defintely plan to show you how I do these. I would like to do a video but I don't have the program to piece the short videos together to show the progressive work so I will just do a progression of still photos for you.

Midsummers Day

The longest day of the year in the Norther hemisphere is called Midsummer's Day. The actual longest day is tomorrow, Sunday, but it is celebrated on the closest Friday. When you have been here for over a week trying to sleep when the sun is bright most of the night and there are no blinds on these huge windows, you might wonder why they want to celebrate the summer day. But when you consider that countries like Sweden have more months in which it is pitch black for more than 12 hours a day you understand why they would want to celebrate the sunshine.

Incidentally, we have solved the sleeping situation by moving to a smaller darker room - quite cramped but you only need room for the beds.

We were very lucky people once again yesterday because our Swedish friends, Michael and Karena treated us to a typical Midsummer's Day outing and a traditional meal at night. And so, we were picked up at 11am and taken to a country estate on the edge of Gothenburg which was the home of a wealthy family for a couple of centuries. It was the summer house for the family:

Replete with topiary and a mansion looking as if it came out of the deep south. But it is very Swedish as well and it is being lovingly restored by a voluntary support group - buildings rebuilt, and gardens replanted according to old plans. There are beautiful vegetable gardens which you can see in the background of some of these photos. These are of particular interest to Michael and Karena as they have quite an amazing vegetable garden themsleves - of which they are justly proud. We have been the happy recipients of some of their fresh produce, especially the new potatoes and the rhubarb - one of my favourites from childhood when my father and my Mother's father both had vegetable gardens - although my mother probably did most of the work in Dad's garden. Men always were the boss of the outdoor things in those times. Craig's Dad Len and Craig himself both have grown huge vegetable gardens in the past, so that part was enjoyed by all.

When in Sweden - pose in front of the flag. Craig loves the design of their flag, therfore a rare picture of him (he liks to be on the other side of the camera) with our hosts, Michael and Karena.
And here is Karena with a view of the house from the back.

But the really lovely thing was all the little girls with floral wreaths in their hair, an age-old tradition. And of course, it reminded me of my own little blonde girl of a couple of decades ago who loved things like this, dressing up and going out.
This little girl is being held by her Dad so she can see the singers on ths stage and the next little girl is waiting for the Maypole to be raised. The Maypole is decorated with vines and flowers and wreaths and lays on the ground until it is time for the dancing to start.

You can see why I was captivated by all the little Phoebes. Those of my readers who knew her then will see the memories for me.
And one final little maiden dressed for the Maypole dance. Mothers and Dads also wore flowers and entwined vines on their head and despite the gloomy weather, there was a pervading air of excitement and hapiness.
And then it was time for the Maypole to be raised.
And everyone lends a hand to push it up with sticks and by hand until it is erect - and looking strangely religious for a celebration that Michael kept describing a "pagan". Not at all like the maypoles we are accustomed to. And everyone forms circles, holding hands and they all dance around to different folk songs. You can see the dancing on a video in one of the posts below this one.
And it rained on and off all day, but nothing dampened the spirit of the Swedes out to celebrate a special day. Here are some of the vegetable gardens I was talking about behind Craig and Karena and myself holding our umbrellas. Umbrellas add interest to photos.

And then we were treated to a series of dancing by elder citizens in traditional dress. Each region in Sweden has traditional dress. There are variations on a theme and the embroidered silk bonnets are especially intricate and treasured. See the videos below for action shots of the dancers.
But the rain didn't let up and it kept coming. Nothing could dampen the atmosphere of the day.
Eventually we made our way back to Michael and Karena's house. There they had a beautiful Summer Cake - once again a Midsummer tradition - they had made for us. It was delicious and we ate more than our share - I think we may have eaten some of the cake that Karena was taking today to her Mother and Father. But it was very good.

Their home is wonderfully Swedish of course. Karena has the taste and style that the Scandanavians and especially the Swedes are noted for. But I was also shown Michael's beautiful hand made wooden boxes and hand whittled spoons as well as the furniture he has made for the home. He is a skilled craftsman with a wonderful eye for detail. I told him he is wasted as a scientist. But I suspect he knows he is better off making a living as a scientist and enjoying his hobby. We also discovered some local popular music that we will bring home with us.
We stayed for dinner. Once again traditional. We started with three kinds of pickled herring with home grown new potatoes and two kinds of schnapps to drink. Really tasty herring and the schnapps was best in small tastes. We thoroughly enjoyed this. This is what you do on Midsummers Day. For the main course we had Swedish steaks on the barbecue and followed by a rhubarb fool spiced with cardoman. A truly memorable meal.
Then we walked to the bus stop for the ride home. No driving after schnapps. And we caught a bus back to the city centre where we got on the right bus to take us the short ride to home - we thought. It was actually a 35 minute tour right around the city and several anxious moments when we both worried that we might not be on the right bus. We had the Cook's tour of Gothenburg at midnight. This morning - Saturday - we slept in and went out for coffee. But nothing open except 7-11 as it is a long weekend and most people desert the city. So, no coffee and croissants at the French bakery close by as has become our habit each morning. Oh, well we can't have it all - and we were lucky enough to experience a pagan festival yesterday. Thanks to our wonderful hosts.

Dancing around the Maypole

Here is the first of three very amateur videos that you may enjoy. This first one has a long period fo inactivity in the middle. Sorry, I didn't realise how long until I played it back. But we don't have a program to edit video - that we know of - on our laptops, so you will have to sit through it if you want to see the dancing resume.

The second and third videos - following - are more enjoyable.

The Elders Dance onstage on Midsummers Day in Sweden

So, here is something from Gothenburg that I am sure you will enjoy whether to enjoy the dance or to have a giggle - as I am sure my Phoebe and Dominic will do. But, then they didn't grow up, as I did, going to dances at Eumamurrin Hall in the middle of the bush 30 kms north of Roma in Queensland, Australia. Once ver four to six weeks, the whole community would get together on Saturday nights to dance to a abnd provided by locals, Mrs Scefe on piano, Sax Haddock on saxophone and a variety of people on drums. Dancing was an all=ages community thing where we learned ot dance, taught by our parents. I hope you enjoy this video and the one in the following post - they certainly entertained me

Elders at Gothenberg Sweden Dancing on Midsummers Day Again

So here is the sceond of the videos of dancing on Midsummers Day. They were great to watch, although Craig wouldn't let me dance along with them. Sometimes he is no fun at all.

I hope you enjoyed our unique experience in Sweden.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Noel Miller at Konstepidemin

Hi to all. We are now at work in Gothenberg. In the blog below, you will find a video and more information about the studio and where I am working. Craig is only 5 minutes away at the Gothenburg University, doing a lot of writing between answering thousands of emails. We are now on Skype as well so that means even more contact. It is an instant world. I was very proud of being on Skype before my kids are until my daughter Phoebe wrote to tell me: sure, she is impressed but she will be astounded when I write to say I have figured out how to operate the DVD player. True.

This is one of the buildings typical of Konstepidemin. As I said, read more about it and watch the video in the following blog. Great place.

We have already taken time out to explore Gothenburg - really beautiful place - and we have been to Nordens Ark - the local zoo, which was extraordinary - more below - and we have of course been sampling the local food which is wonderful. Food everywhere is wonderful and interesting, isn't it. Lots of great seafood stews and soups here. And we had three kinds of smoked salmon at our friends Michael and Karena on Friday night. And of course Craig has been cooking Swedish meatballs, which is one of our favourite meals at home.

But my main problem was what was I going to do while I was here. I had already decided that I wanted to do portrait woodcuts - which is like linocuts on MDF board - and Michael had helped me source the materials on our first day. But the subject matter still eluded me. I knew it would happen. Then we went for a walk around the city and of course visited the Kosta Boda shop. Craig often buys a piece od Kosta Boda for our collection when he is here. The shop was amazing What incredible glss artists. Then I noticed that they had photos of the artists beside their work and we found brochures featuring the designers and examples of their work. Then it came to me. I was so excited I walked backwards into a glass display which narrowly missed being broken by Craig's quick response. I am going to do portraits of the glass artists - who are celebrities in Sweden - and then do the perspex overlays engraved with drawings of the glassware they are famous for. It will all become apparent but below is the first piece.

Here is one of the artists - Asa Jungnelius - and below the first woodcut ready for printing on paper. I then glue the piece to a canvas and attach a perspex overlay the same size. Am really pleased with this woodcut. When we get to printing stage, I will show you more.
Meanwhile a coupe of pics of the place we are living in - which is also my studio. Here are our beds and this is in the same room as I work in.

Here is the working end. And the computer - essential for communicating with home. But it hasn't been all work. Yesterday, as I said above, we were special guests at the 20th anniversary of Nordens Ark , a local zoo which our friend Stefan is a board member of. And the most exciting part was that we got up close and personal with the snow leopards. See below the leopard is right over my head. It was rolling around like a kitten six inches above me and trying to get its paw through. As I moved along the protected area it followed me wanting to play. Craig and I were the only people that got to do this - I think that Stephan helped there - and it was quite mind-blowing as you can imagine.
Then we went on to have dinner with wolves being fed outside the plate glass windows of the dining area. Again quite spectacular. How lucky are we? we keep saying. Very fortunate people.

Exciting times already. Each day, I am planning to put my work on the blog for you to follow. Hope you enjoy it. Please make comments or email me on
Let me know if there is anything you would like more information on.

Here In Gothenburg in my Studio

Well, here we are at Konstepidemin in Gothenburg. Great place as you can see. We have now been here five days and settled in fairly well, with the huge help of our friends Michael and Karena.

As you can see from the video it basic, nothing flashy but really comfortable. Great atmosphere. We are both loving it. There is a studio which we are also using for a bedroom, a kitchen and bathroom as well as a bedroom which is quite small. We are not using it (and I forgot to show it on the video.) You can see the door on the right of the front entrance. This is my first video so I promise I will get better at it - but I love the way it jiggles as I limp down the stairs with my wonky knee.

Konstepidemin (konst = art and epidemin = epidemic) is an old hospital from early last century where people were isolated with tuberculosis, scarlet fever, etc. It is a huge place with 105 artist studios housing 135 artists, musicians and writers. There are also 5 studio/apartments for visiting artists on residencies. You apply for residencies from one month upwards and pay only for the accommodation. (A word to my kids - Dom, there are quite a few musicians here and Phoebe, there are no fashion people yet - so what are you waiting for?) We are high on a hill in the centre of the city but sheltered from the sounds of the city by buildings and bush. It is just beautiful.

You can learn more about the place by googling Konstepidemin, Gothenburg.