Object Therapy Part 2

Remember that broken crockery and the dismembered rocking horse?

Well, here is the happy ending to that story.

The Crockery

This treasure chest of beautiful brokenness went to artist Halie Rubenis who did remarkable things with not just the chipped, cracked and shattered contents of this “big box of abject clumsiness”, but the actual box itself and all the bits of plastic bag and bubble wrap that it was all nestled in. From all this she created the objects in The Surgeon (below left) and Warts and All (below centre and right). In The Surgeon the porcelain cup has been repurposed as a whetstone for the knife; the handle of the knife is made from the plastic bags all the bits were wrapped in. In Warts and All, those oozy, fungal growths are made from the styrafoam box.

the-surgeon-warts-and-all

Best of all, this isn’t even the end of this story. Check out Halie’s Instagram account to see what else she is doing with the contents of my box of broken china.

The Rocking Horse

My rocking horse was delivered into the hands of award-winning Sydney-based furniture designer, Liam Mugavin. I had no idea what to expect. It’s a very plain, utilitarian object; all natural wood. So I’d wondered if maybe the artist it went to might jazz it up a bit by painting it, perhaps.

Well, Liam jazzed it up. But…wow.

20161014_182830

I was blown away by the artistry and intricacy of Liam’s work. What you can see beautifully in this photograph is the way Liam’s repair honours my grandfather’s original construction of the rocking horse by echoing his use of dowel in the joints of the horse (you can see how the end grain of the dowel is contrasted against the larger bits of wood in the horse’s eye, shoulder and belly). But Liam has taken that to a whole other level in repairing the horse’s neck. In some ways his repair is completely understated. You have to look quite closely to appreciate the beauty of the construction in the repair. It’s still all natural wood. Not a lick of paint in sight! And the entire rest of the rocking horse is untouched, down to the ratty mane, missing ears and odd crayon scribble bestowed here and there by one generation of kids or another.

But once you get up close and really look at what he’s done, it’s astonishing. All those obliquely-set inserts create an incredibly complex pattern in the wood. Crazy beautiful. And that punk-rock collar of protruding wooden and brass rods is pretty ostentatious. I took my sister to the opening of the Object Therapy exhibition at Hotel Hotel to see it and we spent about an hour talking about it afterwards over dinner.

So there you go. Happy endings. It’s worth heading over to the Object Therapy website to check out some of the other repair projects. My personal faves were Alison’s bag, Skye’s glass ring and Kristie’s Kenwood Mixer. That last one was hilarious.

Also, if you’re interested, Object Therapy has a Vimeo channel where they’ve collected some snippets of the “before” and “after” video interviews they did of each of the contributors. You can hear me waxing lyrical about the history of the rocking horse, the value of creative time and our throwaway culture.

Leife’s 1st Interview, Rocking Horse and Ceramics, 1. The Rocking Horse and its head, it came off from Hotel Hotel on Vimeo.

Leife’s 2nd Interview, Rocking Horse and Ceramics 2. hours and hours or work, the value of creative work from Hotel Hotel on Vimeo.

Advertisements

Fix and make – Object Therapy

A little while ago I found out about a fascinating community art project called Object Therapy being run by Canberra’s Fix and Make Workshop. In short, it invited members of the public to donate broken household objects for artists to transformatively repair. I submitted two “objects”, both of which were accepted. Interestingly, one was all about emotional connection, memory and sentimental value, and the other was all about raw beauty. They were…

A broken rocking horse.

rocking-horseMy grandfather made this for me. I spent hours riding on it when I was a kid, and even as a teenager I treasured it and kept it in my bedroom. It’s not the most elegant or romantic version of a rocking horse you’ll ever see, but it was so much fun.

Add to that, it also doubled as a spaceship/racing car/motorbike if you turned it upside down and sat inside it.

And it wasn’t just me. My kids had a ball with this old thing. My daughter used to ride on it for hours at breakneck speed when she was tiny – barely two. There’s even a great story about how I lost the diamond out of the antique ring my partner gave me and she found it – embedded in the carpet under this rocking horse of all places.

It was well-loved and well-used for probably more than thirty years.

Perhaps that’s why the neck joint finally gave out and its head came off.

A box of broken crockery

crockeryI’m kind of a hoarder.

All these bits and pieces were just so beautiful, I couldn’t bear to think of them as just rubbish, so I put them in this huge old styrafoam box that once held seafood, and kept them for years. I think I was thinking one day I’d maybe make a mosaic or something out of them. In submitting them to Object Therapy, I was thinking maybe someone else could use this raw material to make something new and wonderful.

What happened…

Fast forward a few months, and yesterday I got to be reunited with my objects! Just last week I got a little sneak peek of what happened to my crockery. It went to artist Halie Rubenis and I’m kind of in awe of the innovative approach she took to transforming the objects. I’ve only seen three of them (there are apparently a few more), but…wow. You can get your own preview on Halie’s instagram site. What blew my mind a bit was how she not only used the broken crockery in the artwork she produced, but also the styrafoam box and even the old plastic bags the bits of crockery were wrapped in.

I think the plate in this photo is my favourite. I love the contrast between the formal, almost prissy design of the old plate, and the organic jumble of coral-like growths (former styrafoam box!) now oozing out of the crack.

In addition to giving me the heady rush of contributing to the creation of new art, this project has also been extremely thought-provoking. In the reuniting interview, I got asked a lot of questions about how this project made me think about waste and recycling/reusing/repurposing, and also about whether how I valued the objects had changed. That value question is so hard to answer. It’s easy to look at a finished piece of art and value it for the materials gone into making it. The time and sheer human creativity and ingenuity that have gone into it are much harder to quantify. What do you count? The time working on the actual object? The time brainstorming (and weighing up, and discarding) ideas? The answer is, all of this counts, of course. But it can be hard to justify.

Which brings me to this thought-provoking video I saw at a conference earlier this year in a presentation all about valuing creativity.

 

And what about the rocking horse?

Spoilers!

(It’s beautiful. It’s mended and whole and just stunning. And I’ll tell you all about it after the exhibition on 14 October at Hotel Hotel in Canberra.)