Art in the Cemetery


Rookwood Cemetery is amazing to behold. Located in Lidcombe, historic Rookwood is the oldest and largest cemetery operating in Australia today. The cemetery was founded in 1867 as “The Necropolis at Haslem’s Creek”. Today it covers over 314 hectares and is the resting place of over a million people from 90 different religious and cultural groups.


In the early days, the local residents of Haslem didn’t appreciate their suburb being so closely associated with the cemetery, so petitioned to change their name. According to the website, in 1878 the residents settled on the name Rookwood, for the many crows in the neighborhood. By 1913, the cemetery had once again adopted the name of the suburb where it lay, so the suburb name was changed to Lidcombe.  Rookwood stuck.

rookwood-cemetery-2-of-3           Rachel Sheree Peace in Death

Each spring, HIDDEN – A Rookwood Sculpture Walk is held at the cemetery, an opportunity for the public to experience the beauty and cultural significance of a historic site that they might not visit otherwise. The thought of the late afternoon sun falling over artwork tucked in among the gravestones being too much to resist, I grabbed my camera and took an excursion out west.

rookwood-cemetery-13-of-33George Catsi & Anne Kwasner Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep

While for the most part I’ve appreciated the ease of traveling around Sydney on public transport, there are some places that are a bit more difficult to get to. What would have been a 20 minute drive (on the left side of the road; something that still gives me a lot of anxiety) took over an hour plus three modes of transport: light rail, train, bus. Four actually, if I include the 9K I put on my feet with all my wandering from here to there. The closest bus stop was still a few blocks from the cemetery. Feeling cocky about my adventure as I hopped off the bus, I soon found myself having to backtrack almost a full lap around the block when I came up against a cement barrier blocking my access over the A3.

rookwood-cemetery-22-of-33Michael Garth Expiry Date

I was still feeling pretty jaunty when I walked through the gate and saw the big sign pointing the way toward the general office, where I was headed first to pick up my map of the art exhibit. Apparently, I hadn’t studied the website close enough, and Google maps didn’t show the “general” office, just some other buildings that I guessed were the right place and weren’t. I walked in the direction of the arrow (the direction I thought it was pointing; now I’m wondering…), until I came upon a building I hoped was the office. It was an office, a closed office and not the one I wanted. I pulled out Google maps again, hoping, and reoriented toward a different wrong building. Did I mention this cemetery is over 314 hectares? Just when I’d about given up hope of getting a map I saw another “general office” sign pointing the same way as the signs for HIDDEN. I went thataway.

rookwood-cemetery-20-of-33Adam Galea Speak with Dead

I saw the first installation and near it another camera-wielding visitor. When I inquired about the whereabouts of the general office, she pointed up the road another 200 meters, shaking her head and looking at her watch. It was five minutes past closing. This very kind woman told me she was just finishing and offered me her map. I am forever grateful to her, because I would still be wandering around lost in there, trying to find the art.

rookwood-cemetery-16-of-33Linde lvimey Bella Donna, (Deadly Night Shade)

She pointed out the section where I’d find most of the artworks, in the oldest part of the cemetery. I thanked her for her kindness and trundled off. Hot, irritable, thirsty, needing to pee, and already so very tired of walking, I juggled my camera, map, and a heavy bag slung over my shoulder. Each time I lifted the camera to take a photo, the wind blew my hair and the map into the frame. I was really wondering if any of this was worth the effort and thinking that perhaps photography isn’t my thing. I was ready to say, “fuck it” and call an Uber.


Then the wind blew again and the spirits whispered, “no, stay.” The light was starting to take on that golden glow and was playing hide-and-seek with the shadows around the worn and crumbling graves. The tall grasses and wild flowers growing in this unkempt section of the cemetery convinced me to stop, take a breath, and continue my adventure. I had all the time in the world now. Well, until they locked the gate with me inside. Keeping that in mind, I located the next artwork.


Making my way deeper into the quiet, forgotten areas, I felt more at peace myself. This portion of the cemetery stood in stark contrast to the gleaming granite, manicured lawns, and oft-frequented area where I had entered the grounds. Here nature was given free rein, the ravens, magpies, and butterflies the only other visitors. Now and then I’d come upon a withered bouquet left on a timeworn grave, and wonder who it was honoring their long dead ancestor. Or was it someone who pities the forgotten ones, and transplants bouquets from other areas of the necropolis?


I wanted to sit and contemplate the artwork, the leaning headstones and toppled angels. There were no benches to sit on and I hadn’t thought to bring a blanket. I didn’t dare rest my derriere on a tumbling grave, for fear I’d tip it clean over. Or, those spirits I felt on the wind might whip through my hair, knock me down, take my breath and follow me home for interrupting their repose.

rookwood-cemetery-5-of-33Robert Hawkins The End of the Conversation

Having come to the final artwork, I decided, since I was halfway there, to continue to make my way overland to the far side of the cemetery and catch the train instead of going back to the bus. In the distance I could see a tall fence around the perimeter. Another thing I hadn’t reckoned on. Was there a gate on that side? It was getting late; I didn’t know how long it would take me to trek back to the east entrance, and my feet were starting to cry. I was beginning to feel a little panicky; I do have a fear of being locked inside creepy places, like that time at Gilgal Sculpture Garden in Salt Lake City.  My phone battery was dying, I wasn’t sure an Uber could get to this section of the cemetery, and I knew I couldn’t scale that fence, even if I wasn’t wearing a dress. I asked the local spirits to puh-leeese let me out! I’ve never been so happy to see the other side of a fence in my life.


The HIDDEN Sculpture Walk ends on Sunday, but even without the art this cemetery is a beautiful place to visit. When I grow a pair of ovaries I’ll drive back out there, leave my camera at home, and just visit the residents.



Some Art Happened

juju stick (7 of 7)
I was motivated to make a little mixed media art this week.

juju stick (6 of 7blessings)
I took a piece of driftwood that was found out at the lake.

juju stick (light)
It’s been sitting in my studio for too many years, waiting for me to do something with it.

juju stick (spirit)
So I did this.

juju stick (1 of 7)
We are heading off to Iowa again tomorrow for a big 4th of July family reunion.  I am thrilled to see my kids and their partners, and I’m looking forward to lots of fun times with my granddaughter!  I’ll be back in a couple weeks, with my granddaughter in tow.  So I promise of overload you with pictures of her and tales of our shenanigans:)

Have a safe and happy 4th of July wherever you may be!

Traveling Art Journal Kit

traveling art kit 4
This huge pile is what I decided I wanted to stuff in that pouch I made!  I was worried that it wouldn’t all fit.  I found a bunch of fun things: twinkling H2Os (little pots of paint are fun:), glue stick, a white Gelly Roll pen, and a black Pigma Micron, a water brush, tiny letter stamps and stamp pad, washi tape, and some little scissors.

traveling art kit3
I filled an empty tin with cancelled postage stamps, and punched hearts, owls, and other shapes.  The scissors and washi tape fit in there just fine.

traveling art kit2
I added a few small sheets of drawing paper.  Oh!  This is going to be a close call!

traveling art kit
It fits!  I was so thrilled to find out that my daughter was thrilled with it!  It’s always good to hear that you did something right.  I think I need one of these too;)

Polar Vortex

It is cold.  We left the relatively warm Utah last week, to escape the inversion and to come to Iowa to visit family and friends.  I don’t think the term “polar vortex” really sank in until we got here.

We ran up to Wisconsin to the wedding of some dear friends.  She wouldn’t tell me what they wanted for wedding gifts, so I drew this picture.  She’s a fan of Día de los Muertos.

This morning I woke up to some visitors out the back window.

I was trying to frame her with the frost on the window.  I wasn’t quite awake enough to figure that one out!


I’m worrying about their diets in these frigid temperatures, so I left a little treat.

I was only out there about 7 minutes before I had quite the brain freeze!


There is no doubt that the landscape is beautiful.  The added bonus of course is that we can breathe this clean air.

Tomorrow is supposed to be even colder:)

New Work

red and green christmas bunting
I went missing again, I know.  I have many more Uganda photos and thoughts; I’ve just been busy thinking about what else I have to say about the trip and what it meant to us.  That and I’ve been busy getting ready for a holiday market that was a complete bust.

woodpecker and midcentury textile design painting
It was the Christkindlmarkt here in Salt Lake.  For three days I sat in a very frigid hut and listened to people say, “oh you do decoupage!”  WTF?!?!?

white breasted nuthatch midcentury textile design painting
Really?  Decoupage?

cardinal and midcentury textile design painting
It’s my own fault.  I told the woman last June when she asked me to be in the market that my stuff does not sell in Utah.   She assured me that this was a “high-end” market and that people came “expecting to spend money”.

red and green christmas flower garland
That’s another thing I heard a lot of, “that’s nice, but we didn’t bring any money with us.”

red crochet flower gift embellishment
That’s if they weren’t saying, “oh crochet is easy; my grandmother used to do that.”  Just because your grandmother did it, doesn’t mean it’s easy.  Perhaps you should have given your grandmother a little more credit.

birds and midcentury textile design paintings
I sound bitter you say?  I am, but like I said, it’s my own fault for falling for her wooing and pretty lies.  This is just one more wake up call to listen to my gut.  Anyway, these guys are all in the shops now, and I do promise to be back soon with more on the Uganda trip and some crafty things I have up my sleeve.

Art Journaling Therapy and Depression

pumpkins and art journal_2
I’ve been a bad blogger lately.  The truth is I’ve been struggling with depression since early August.  While depression is something I’ve battled all my life, usually it comes in much shorter spurts.  Usually it comes in late winter when I’ve been buried under a Utah inversion, never in autumn, my favorite time of year!  This bout has been tough.  First I came down with a horrible summer cold, then my cat got sick.  The next thing I knew, I was in a deep dark funk and couldn’t pull myself out.   I feel like I’ve finally turned a corner though and just in time!  I was going to be very angry at myself if I was depressed the entire time we were in Uganda!  I have hope;  I’ve had five days of feeling good and even managed to feel happy and positive while sitting in traffic today.
pumpkins and art journal_3
One thing that has really helped me, is I’ve been using art to work through the darkness.  Awhile back I talked about wanting to do art journaling again.  I start most days in the studio allowing myself to just play with pretty colors and old paper.
pumpkins and art journal_4
I’ve been very drawn to Halloween imagery.  All of these archetypes represent a shadow side; through these symbols I’ve been able to work through my own darkness.
pumpkins and art journal_5
Just allowing myself to play, creating work that is only for me, is not only fun, it’s freeing.  My creative juices are flowing strongly.  This is definitely a practice that I am going to keep up.
felted pumpkin bowl jack o lantern trick or treat candy dish
This is probably the last blog post for awhile.  We leave for Uganda on Monday.   Thank you to everyone who has donated or made a shop purchase to help support our volunteer work.  We appreciate you so very much.  It warms my heart to know that there are such wonderful, caring people in this world:)

While in Uganda, I will be posting to my Facebook page – hopefully every day.  The hotel does have wi-fi, so cross your fingers that all will go well.  If I am able to, I will post here.  I will most certainly be bringing back lots of photos and stories to tell!

Let’s Try Joomchi

Earlier this year, at a Utah Surface Design Group meeting, I got to watch a demonstration of Joomchi. Joomchi is an ancient Korean paper felting technique.  It is an obscure craft, originally passed down through oral traditions,  that is just now enjoying a resurgence among handmade paper artists.  The earliest written record of joomchi is during the Choson dynasty (1392-1910).  There was a time in Korea when woven fabrics were too expensive, so people made garments from joomchi.

I’ve been wanting to try this myself, but didn’t trust my handwritten notes from the demonstration, so I went looking on the internet. I could not find a single tutorial, or even much information about the craft at all. There is a highly recommended book by Jiyoung Chung who is a leading contemporary joomchi artist. I’ll get that when I can, but until then I decided to rely on my memory.  Be forewarned, this was an experiment, and it didn’t turn out right actually.  I’ll show you what I did anyway.

joomchi 1
You start with mulberry, or handmade, paper.  You can buy this in huge sheets at art supply stores.  I remembered that I had some small sheets, and decided that would be good to practice with.  This is messy, so I did it in the kitchen.  You put down your first sheet of paper and thoroughly soak it with water.  The artist doing the demo used a spray bottle, but not knowing where mine was hiding, I just used a sponge brush and a bowl of water.  Lay down your next sheet and wet it.  Carefully smooth out all the air bubbles.  Again, the artist had a special tool for this.  I used my hands and the sponge.  Keep doing this; you should have at least 3 or 4 layers.  On the top layer I placed some punched flowers.

joomchi 2
Next, accordion fold the stack of wet paper, then roll it like a snail.  Now go play with this ball for about 20 minutes, squeezing and squishing.  I just checked my notes again, and found one of my mistakes.  If my handwriting were more legible, perhaps I wouldn’t have missed this!  After the first 20 minutes, unroll it, roll it up the other way, and do another 20 minutes.  Ahhhh!  Now I get it!

joomchi 3
Now, carefully unroll the paper and flatten it out.  Wet it again (I wonder if you’re supposed to wet it a second time between the 20 minute squeeze sessions).  Pinch fold it with your fingers.  Twist it to ring out the water.

Lay it out flat to dry.  I took a rolling pin to it at this point to really flatten it out.  I do remember her saying that when it was felted enough there should be pinholes.  I don’t think there were really any pinholes in mine.  To be honest, my hands hurt and I didn’t want to squeeze it anymore.

This is what it looks like dried.  The final product should be soft and pliable like fabric.  Mine is pretty stiff, and one of those flowers keeps trying to come off.  I also remember the artist saying that there was some kind of “handmade” paper that you buy in craft stores that doesn’t felt because of the way it’s processed and chemicals that are in it.  I don’t really know where this paper came from or what it’s made of.  I do plan to try again and this time do the second 20 minute squeeze, along with some battering with a rolling pin.  That should do the trick!  In the meantime, I do plan to make use of this piece for my Arthouse Co-op Random Spark project.  More on that later:)

Have a beautiful weekend!