Thursday, September 29, 2011

Schrödinger's cat

Schroedinger's cat is half there
Schroedinger's cat isn't there

Is Schrödinger's cat in the box, or not? It depends on when you look at this linocut! This colour-changing thermochromic block print shows the famous thought-experiment of renown quantum physicist Erwin Schrödinger (who would never hurt a real cat!). Both the cat in blue and the poison in pink will disappear when the print is exposed to heat.

In struggling to fully explain the strangeness of the quantum world, which can only be described in terms of probabilities and wave functions, Schrödinger suggested a sort of metaphor, at the size of every day things - the scale of classical physics as we know it. He imagined a cat in a steel box with a vial of poison which might be opened if, and only if, a radioactive decay occurs. In one half-life of the radioactive material, there is a 50:50 chance that the material has decayed or not. So, if the box is closed, and we cannot see within, we can only describe the state of the cat in terms of probabilistic wave functions. After one half-life, we would be forced to describe the contents of the box as the sum of the half likelihood of a live cat and the half likelihood of a dead cat. It is as if, to the outside world, there exists both a live and dead cat.... until, one opens the box and looks. Then we know we either have not yet had the radioactive decay and subsequent release of poison, so the cat is fine, or the radioactive material has decayed and the cat is no more. So, what's so special about looking in the box? Does the wave function "collapse" onto one of these two possibilities? Does the universe split into one in which the cat lives and one in which the cat does not, as in the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics? I tend to side with Niels Bohr whose Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics says, as all experimentalists know, unless you observe something you cannot determine its state. However, physics cannot answer this question! We can determine the probabilities only, we cannot say why. But that's okay. Paradox is delicious.

Schroedinger's cats
This is one print in an edition of 10. Each print is made with the box and vial printed in normal, silver block printing ink. The cat and poison are printed using thermochromic powder and block printing medium so when heated above 30°C (86 F) then they turn colourless and disappear. Thus, as in the thought experiment, you don't know whether there is a cat in the box without looking at the print. Each print is 12.3 by 12.5 inches (31.2 cm by 31.8 cm) and made on Japanese kozo (or mulberry) paper.

This print is one of a series of 'Imaginary Friends of Science', including Maxwell's Demon, Laplace's Demon and Descartes' Demon. It is also one of a collection of thermochromic prints which include a portrait of Louis Pasteur (with disappearing bacteria) and a Groundhog (with disappearing shadow).

As much as I would like to do another portrait of the one and only Minouette, I couldn't let her model for this one, even if it is only a thought experiment.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011






I had this printed orange patterned paper, so I made a tiger. I like the idea of block printing onto patterned paper. This print is 21 cm wide and 26 cm tall. I carved one block to print the white and one to print the black areas. Though, generally, if you were planning to block print a tiger, most people would plan an orange block and and black block onto white paper. Since the pattern has a wider repeat scale than that, each print varies somewhat, especially the proof below. I wanted the vertical aspect ratio, but I like the horizontal more than I thought I would.


Scrappy Strip Quilts

Elle's Scrappy String Quilt

I really like the photos posted by The Workroom's flickr stream. You can see most of the other quilts made in their classes if you follow this link.

Elle's Scrappy String Quilt

Monday, September 26, 2011

Scrappy Strip Quilt - and butterflies, dinosaurs, fractals and more

scrappy strip quilt

I finished my quilt. I was torn on whether I wanted to block print the fabric or not... but I'm glad I did. Here's the reverse:

Reverse of scrappy strip quilt

I made this quilt with stripes of fabric scraps from my stash, including vintage thrifted fabrics and contemporary prints. I block printed the sashing with my own carved monarch butterfly lino block. The reverse is a patchwork with the green sashing fabric, rectangles of the fabrics used on the front and a series of my block prints on fabric including a dinosaur, jellyfish, bees, butterflies, Russian nesting dolls, a fractal triangle, a quail, a rhino, and a blue whale. The quilting is done in a couple of variegated threads, by machine. The quilt is 39 inches by 57 inches (1 m by 146 cm), maybe the size of a child's bed.

Pretty nifty what one can do with scraps, imagination and patience, no?


I've made some more of those collaged or chine collé linocut sailing ships.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

fish are jumping

Today, after solving my mother's technological conundrums, we went to the Humber to see the salmon spawning. There was a photo of a Humber River salmon shot by one of the Globe and Mail photographers this week; I had not previously realized we could see this right here in the city. With some coaching from RJH, I managed to capture one of them with his camera:

M's salmon1
M's salmon1a

I've been to see the salmon run in Sooke, BC, which was quite the experience. While there they are larger and more plentiful, it was pretty amazing here too. Even here there were some pretty impressively sized fish, and the steeper slope meant they were jumping much higher. They really do seem to fly. It was nice to see how many people had come out to watch them. Next week, the trout are expected to do the same thing. Trout of course are smaller, but more acrobatic by reputation. If you're interested, you can see them from either side of the river, especially about midway between Bloor and Dundas St W.

These are RJH's photos:
salmon vert5

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sailing ships


I had this idea to combine my extravagant collection of Japanese washi papers and assorted ephemera with block print, like I had done in my Unicorn Amongst Umbrellas series for a while. I based my ship block on a decorative drawing on a sixteenth century Dutch map. The sails are washi, a nautical chart, some vintage sheet music from Lady Redjeep and assorted things.


Friday, September 16, 2011


groundhog372 Ah yes, September. When the nights get cooler and thoughts naturally turn to ... Groundhog Day. That's right. This might seem an unseasonable offering (winter is coming), but, you see, I like Groundhog Day because it's perfectly absurd. Here we are in our allegedly modern country, prognosticating weather by harassing celebrity rodents (Wiarton Willie, Shubenacadie Sam,...). Further, this is Canada. Unless you live in Victoria (and possibly Vancouver), if it's February 2, you don't need a groundhog to tell you there will be 6 more weeks of winter.* If you live south of the border, anywhere near the most famous American prognosticating groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, the same is true. Shadow or no shadow, winter ain't over on the 2nd of February.

groundhog 002

Every year, I write something for Groundhog Day. Every year, I think I should make a print for the occasion, but I never do in time. Well, I got the jump on 2012. These are two copies of a block print of a groundhog - and his shadow - on Japanese kozo paper 11" by 12.5" (28 cm by 31.8 cm). The shadow is printed with thermochromic ink, so when heated it disappears! Whether the groundhog can see his shadow is determined by temperature. The cool blue state and hot colourless state are both shown. So the print itself serves as a prognosticating groundhog for Groundhog Day! If the shadow is heated above 30oC (86 F) then it turns colourless. And let's face it; if it's February 2, and your artwork is > 30oC (86 F) you either a) live in the tropics north of the equator b) live in the Southern Hemisphere or c) need to turn the thermostat down ASAP. So, there's a pretty good chance that this print can accurately predict that there will not be 6 more weeks of winter (to a degree of accuracy at least comparable to any celebrity rodent).


I bet you thought I would try to sneak in the word 'prognosticating' again.

*Conversely, if you live on the left coast, and there are crocuses coming up in your garden, you do not need a celebrity rodent's shadow to give you leave to laugh at the blizzards to the east of you.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011



I made this lino block print of the fabulously-named discomedusa jellyfish. As you may suspect, it's inspired by Ernst Haekel, the famed German biologist, naturalist, philosopher, physician, professor and artist, whose book "Art Forms in Nature" filled with lovely 19th century scientific illustrations of biology. It's printed in white, water-based block printing ink on 'unryu teal' Japanese paper. (I would describe the paper as navvy not teal, but that's what the paper was called nonetheless). The paper has many visible fibres, which add to the organic feel of the piece and makes each print rather unique. They also make printmaking by hand more challenging! The edition is limited to 9 prints, each 17.8 cm by 19.7 cm (7 inches by 7.75 inches).

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Quilting stripes


I'm taking a quilting course at the workroom. If you've followed the blog for a while you'll know this is my second quilt. The first one I made I a) taught myself how to make it b) use printmaking methods on every single panel and c) took me over FOUR YEARS. So, I'm taking this course and attempting to make a (much smaller, mind you) quilt within THREE WEEKS (there's a lot of 'homework' in this class). It's a lot of labour! However, I thought it was worth my while to learn the tricks of the trade, as it were. In fact, advice I've had about measuring, cutting and pressing fabric, not to mention stabilizing small pieces, in our first class, has been tremendously valuable and could have saved me a lot of grief. A lot of it boils down to using the proper tool for the job (oh! the irony! that's practically my mantra as ocean-going geophysicist) as well as (another shocker) proper maintenance of tools. So, I'm going to make a somewhat more traditional quilt and once I learn how to do that properly (which, in fairness, could be a life-long process, but I mean once I have a firm grasp of the fundamentals) then, I can mess with these tools and methods and try the crazy quilt-like textile schemes in my head.

This is the stage where the interesting mathematics of quilting starts to come into play, if you're into that sort of thing which I don't think you are, so don't panic. The basic planning is just arithmetic, but now we have permutations, tessallations, algebra and geometry to consider. We could make x's, chevrons, zigzags or diamonds. This is my plan. I scanned all my squares and then played with orientations in software, since floor space is scarce.


By 'plan' I mean, this is the way I intend to make groups of four squares, and the sashing I have in mind. There may be some more variations.

I've used a lot of my scraps and bits of nifty contemporary prints, but I've also thrown in a lot of crazy thrifted vintage fabric. I'm quite pleased how beautiful that combination can be. You can look at each square by clicking on it. I wonder if you would know the age of the fabric by looking at it.

RJH picked me up after class last week. He said a group of 'drunken party girls' stumbled by and one exclaimed, "They're quilting in there! Quilting!" in complete disbelief. They were followed by a couple. The young man said to his girlfriend, "Maybe I should ask those ladies to sew me some drapes, because you're never going to." They rent machines by the hour - I hope she suggested he could sew his own drapes. Ah, Parkdale on a Thursday night.