I MAKE STUFF
Ramona Barry and Rebecca Jobson
Volume One, 2009
Gracia Haby & Louise Jennison: Double Vision
Simpatico is perhaps a good word to describe the collaborative process between Gracia and Louise. To the outsider the line is very blurred as to where one begins and the other ends. Perhaps it is easier to think of them as a left and right hand of the same body. What we get are glimpses into a imaginative and almost literary world steeped in historical investigation, kitsch nostalgia and a touch of mystery. Their collage collabs make us recall Coles Funny Picture Books and Girls and Boys Own Adventure Annuals. They lay cryptic clues for you to crack a password into their secret world.
The Stuff You Make:
We make all sorts of stuff though, for the main, it is fair to say that we make stuff on and with paper. Whilst some of the many things that constitute our handmade stuff is made with fabric, needle and thread, it is the stuff on and with paper that truly lays claim to the biggest slice of our hearts. Over the years, paper has become our chief medium of choice to work with. Adaptable, flexible, able to be folded, cut into, printed on and glued, we favour making stuff on a paper support. An ideal base for both collage and watercolour and drawing, our collaborative limited edition artists’ books, lithographic offset prints, bound zines, hammer & daisy greeting cards, postcards and journals all stem from a love of paper; that beloved by many material manufactured in thin sheets from the pulp of wood or other fibrous substances.
Stuff made as hammer & daisy
Greeting cards & postcards; owl & bird pinnies; A7 scribbler; square knot & concertina journals; A6 fabric journal pouches & pencil cases
(Thelma’s felt pins & Thelma’s stuffies by Elaine Haby)
Stuff made as Gracia & Louise
Artists’ books; works on paper; zines
When did you start making stuff?
The two of us started making stuff probably before we knew what stuff was. Given but a few gleaned objects—a pair of scissors, a rubber band, a ruler, a pot of glue, a book of maps, coloured pencils, a spoon—no matter how fanciful or practical, we’d make stuff with it.
hammer & daisy, in its current guise, could be said to have formed early in 2003 when we adapted an exposed spine, square knot binding technique studied at the Centro del bel Libro in Ascona, Switzerland. What began as a line of hammer & daisy handmade fabric-covered journals has since grown to include a small, square concertina journal, an A6 journal pouch and pencil case, an A7 scribbler, a parliament of owl pinnies and linen-fronted birds, and various greeting cards and postcards featuring our own artwork.
As to our artwork, we have been making artists’ books collaboratively since 1999. Artists’ books with drawings, with elements of collage, hand-coloured with pencil or stamped, even cut out and altered ever so slightly; every step, every part of the process, every learning curve, holds us besotted. We fell into the making of these artists’ books seemingly by accident, without even realising, much like our collaboration. A turn here, a turn there, and here we are.
What is the best thing you have made?
Anything that affords someone a grin, anything which does not fall over upon completion, any book that holds its shape come whatever is thrown at it, any thing that brings us joy to make and makes visible to us new mountains to scale: these things make some thing worthy of the title Best. When all effort of labour is hidden, we are satisfied.
Did you make stuff when you were little?
Yes, from drawing elaborate mouse worlds on the reverse side of coasters or napkins seated underneath a table whilst a jazz band played (Gracia), to tinkering in the toolshed making go-karts and enamel brooches (Louise), the making of stuff in all forms is something we have both done since little.
Does anyone in your family make stuff?
Yes, everyone, it is safe to say, dabbles in the fine art of making stuff. In particular, Elaine Haby makes handmade stuffies and felt pins for hammer & daisy.
What music helps you make stuff?
For the trapping and subsequent brewing of ideas, we favour silence; we have found that they can be coaxed out of their hiding spot somewhere in the chambers of the mind by the irresistible lure of a quiet room, an early morning or a late night. For the assembly line stage, music helps the production side of things, from Russian folk songs to bluegrass, there is little not suited to this part of the making.
How does collaboration change the stuff you make?
Collaboration enables us to create something not possible without the other. It is challenging and rewarding both, and it feels like the perfect fit. Endless possibilities arise, and the enjoyment element heightened when you have someone to share things with, we find it hard to imagine it any other way. Even when working on our own projects or drawings or zines, one of us will help the other, usually on a more technical level, by cutting paper or making files print-ready. We rather fell into our collaboration and seem unlikely to bring it to a close anytime soon.
What do people do with your stuff?
Owl pinnies get carried in pockets (they serve as handmade stress-relief squeeze-toys), prints get framed, journals get used, zines afford a laugh, and things, our stuff, is hopefully enjoyed for a good length of time. Often people will post us photos of our stuff in their homes and this peek is greatly appreciated.
What is your favourite tool?
A pair of Honey Bee small and sharp scissors (Gracia) and a paintbrush loaded with watercolour pigment (Louise).
Do you make stuff in your head first?
Yes, absolutely, though it is not always willing to make itself eventuate upon page or screen. Persistence pays off, as does the doing of seemingly little. When the hands are caught up in another task can often work, too.
Do you dream about the stuff you make?
Often. Sometimes you will find yourself dreaming of ideas of things to make, and these are usually absurd in nature. Other times you will find yourself dreaming of the stuff you are in the middle of making. It is not unusual to continue collating individual zine pages or knotting the spines of several journals in your dreams, and the frustration at waking to find the task as you left it the night before is always felt cruelly.
Do you miss the stuff when it goes?
In one sense, we each of us do. Working from our home-based studio, we are around our stuff a great deal, so naturally we are rather fond of it, for the main. But, in truth, we are happy to see it go to a good home, to be enjoyed. Our home is also tiny and we need the space.