Thursday, July 02, 2020

Book Without Words (or Book of Many Many Hours)

It looks like the state in which I live  is going back into lock down. We had been doing very well, but some foolish, selfish people who for some reason think they know better, have ensured that  lockdown will happen once again. I must admit  I feel overwhelmed by the negativity projected onto the authorities/government who are dealing with a situation  with which they have never dealt before, when indeed until a few weeks ago we were doing well because most people towed the line. I am sick of the keyboard warriors who trawl and criticise, I am sick of the conspiracy theorists. How did we get so negative??? This is a deadly virus which has the ability to decimate populations. So we have to wait, and be careful, and do as the health authorities advise- what exactly is so bad about that? We are accountable in this situation- in days gone by to flaunt the advise would have been considered negligent, the consequences are foreseeable. I was reminded the other night whilst watching Paradise Road, a movie about women prisoners of war on Sumatra how bad things can be. The women were there because the ship on which they were sailing to England  after abandoning Singapore, was bombed ( the ship was full of women and children). The conditions were harsh , hard and demoralising, that any survived is a wonder,  but they did.  All we have to do is stay at home where we have food, running water, toilets and showers, digital media of all kinds, even things to keep us occupied- I know some people are struggling because of lost jobs and that is indeed hard, but compared to what went on in the earlier part of the twentieth century we have much to be grateful for. We need to be kind, think of our fellow human beings, protect our fellow human beings, wash our hands,  get tested if  you have any symptons , wear masks,  find a way forward that embraces all humanity in an inclusive empowering way. We need to be generous and helpful to those who have less or those who  are in straitened circumstances because of these times and we need to take responsibility and accountability for this ourselves.

In fact I have found myself mostly without words , processing what is going on- the willingness to endanger other people, the racism boggles my mind. So I have been making a Book Without Words, a documentation of how I feel. I am much inspired also by illuminated texts ( or books of hours) for the prayers, observations and lessons that were drawn and written in them- each one a call for reflection or meditation of some kind. These are my thoughts and emotions stitched onto paper on a daily basis for at least the last month- I am up to page 32  and I think it will keep going for some time yet, maybe until I run out of paper. I have mostly been using Auriful woollen thread, which adds a rather pleasing hairiness to the stitching/words- I like the idea of hairy words/writing. I like that I can change thread colour and add margins and can change  page colour.

I like that the pages are double sided. The back stand in its own right- and it feels different. On the right side the stitching sits more on top so it is more tactile, on the back it seems more intrinsic to the paper. It might yet become the Book in the Time of Covid.

Monday, June 15, 2020

The Wild Fantastical Sea

I have been working on sea things these last couple of weeks as well as doing some stitching on paper ( a book Without Words) - these times have been challenging indeed in so many ways, so much so that a lot of the time I find it difficult to express how I am feeling- so stitching soothes. I thought I would make great leaps and bounds on my One World Traveller's Blanket- but no the book Without Words is calling instead.

I wanted to share my "Fantastical Sea" work book. I will keep adding to it, but it all takes time, and even though I  have time.... I seem to  do less than I thought I would.
The workbook is inspired by visits to Atauro Island, the Aquarium at La Rochelle and Woodside Beach not far from Morwell. The more you look at the creatures and plants the more fantastic they seem, such shapes and colours and alternative intelligence.

Lots of ideas that need translation and playing around with. I do like to create workbooks as it forces me to look and to really study what I see- to create lines and forms to translate into linocuts. Plus it documents what I am doing. At present I am reading "The Sea Around Us"  by Rachel Carson ( the author of Silent Spring which was a catalyst for the environmental movement) and though some information is dated  it is still fascinating. I  often do not work in a lot of colour in my workbook, possibly because I look for lines to make linocuts and colour tends to blur that a little. I have also started printing with different colours on the one piece of fabric.

Pieces like this are for sale for $45 AUS inclusive of postage- pieces measure  approx 45 cm x 37 cm and have been printed on hand dyed fabric. Each one is unique in that I have changed around the elements. If you are interested please email me and I can send you details on how to pay.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

I Thought I had Done Little

It has felt like I have done very little this last month- stay at  home , stay at home, home quarantine for 14 days so I can see my mother, a bit of stitching, but nothing much really.  But there is a theme developing. And today when I pulled together various drawings over the past 3-4 years ( since going to Atauro Island in Timor Leste and visiting the women of Boneca de Atauro) and a visit to the Aquarium in La Rochelle and things I have been  working on in the last month or so, I seem to be preoccupied with the sea and the creatures that inhabit the sea. When I visited the Aquarium with a friend last year I was not prepared for the delight  of all those fantastic creatures and corals- the colours , the luminescence- it was a little like being inside a fantasy.

That thought- that  this was something fantastical has stayed with me and perhaps needed the austerity of the present moment to bring it out again. I have always loved rockpooling and the creatures that inhabit rockpools, but some of the fish , jellyfish, sea horses,urchins and anemones that were in the Aquarium were  just amazing.

So I have been building a book of the sea from things encountered in the past couple of years. But I wanted to start with a little piece from way back when- I think maybe 1996 or 1997- inspired by rockpools and of course sea urchins. This urchin was beaded.

Then I did a whole series of work inspired by a piece of coral which I made into a linocut and printed onto lutradur. I sold many of these little pieces.

I regret not having gone snorkelling when I was on Atauro I sland- but both times I had an open wound, and though small can easily get infected on a tropical island-  and especially one where medical care is basic. I erred on the side of safety. I did some drawings and linocuts last year  after my Aquarium visit.

This  was a small linocut block I made meant to be a kind of repeat. It is not truly a repeat but the block can be placed having the anemone pointing toward the centre or pointing out to the sides. Just a bit of fun really.

The little block stitched with perle8 weight thread.

And then I made this much larger linocut. I am still  stitching the printed  piece- it has taken time and I will probably fill in the anemone arms with solid colour- just have not got around to it.

 Then I found my drawing book I had with me on Atuaro Island and though I did not snorkel I walked along the shore every morning as it was too hot to walk any other time of the day. There were many sea treasures to be found on the shore . Every morning I would  come back with pockets filled with sand and shells ( I put all of them back eventually except for a few small pieces which I brought back with me). They sat in one of the lovely baskets woven by one of the women.. Many of the shells were battered and broken but somehow that made them more beautiful.

When I came back from overseas last year I went to visit a friend in Tasmania- and she had one of my silk dyed pieces that I made quite sometime ago. The brief had been to be inspired by the sea. I had almost completely forgotten this method of working, but when I saw the quilt hanging in her home I determined I would revisit  this method of dyeing. (it's taken a few stops and starts as of course I did not write the method down)

 So after some trial and error, and the magical process of dyeing in this way, I am always surprised by how wonderful the fabric is after seemingly being monotone. I tied rocks and chick peas to see if there would be a difference in the outcome, but  on the whole there is not a lot of difference.

The fabric will be more patterned once ironed and i was trying to achieve the effect of rockpool, shallow water.

I overdid the purple dye a little but as it takes hours and hours to do the tyeing it will have to wait a little until I do some more tyeing. Though this will give me something to go on with.

And then all of a sudden the sea bug had bitten me. I started a fabriano skecth book for the sole purpose of pulling together all the sea things from over the years and the making of new drawings and linocuts inspired by the visit to the Aquarium last year.. The octopus I made earlier this year
and made into a linocut print.

The turtle from the aquarium- who kept on swimming towards the window, to the great delight of a little girl who was totally excited by his/her manouevres toward the window close to her.

The turtle and seaweeds and ripples printed onto some hand dyed fabric. I love the work of Barcelona artist Pablo Salvaje and have his book Animalkind and also did an on-line course at the beginning of the lockdown that he teaches on Domestika.  He often makes his linocuts shapes which allows you to build scenarios/vignettes. I am in love with the technique and so have been revisiting my drawings and photos to find shapes and elements to make into shaped linocuts..

Some small water colours I did last year whilst I was staying at a camp ground in the cabin of a friend and I had to buy some water colours.  I love how all of these disparate elements are starting to come together. And I am finding my old drawings and putting them all in one place because in the end I have made quite a lot of drawings inspired by sea things.

Monday, April 27, 2020


I  take the isolation and social distancing very seriously and  have avoided all human contact so my mother is not inadvertantly exposed- though it seems some folk  do not think things are as serious as they are, or because they live in a rural area they are not at risk. The hoons in Morwell also seem to need to hoon around as much as ever and well and truly into the small hours of the morning. At least most people are doing the right thing. I don't actually need to go out to shop in the fortnight that I isolate. I visit my mother and then stay the night and then the following day do her shopping. I must admit though these times seem to  bring about strange cravings in people including my mother. My cupboard is always stocked with strange stuff according to some but because of the fresh produce in my garden seems to be mostly a mediterranean diet.

I have been doing some work. Made some small commissions for friends. In slowly ( very slowly) tidying my workspace I found one of the old sentinelle panels- I must have held onto it as the printing was not very even, but that is easily fixed with stitching and I finally found a use for some lovely wooden beads I bought at a Perth Craft Fair quite some moons ago.

It felt lovely to work on one of these sentinelles at times like this- she is so much a reflection of our need to take greater care for earth and each other.

I had made a small banksia commission for a friends mother for mothers day- and then my mother wanted one I made this little piece up with one of my babbling banksia  prints.

I just have to finish the binding which I think I will make satin stitch. I used up  bits of fabric from my stash- it's amazing what I have been finding now that I actually have a dedicated workspace again. I just need to tidy it more- and find a better way to store things and it doesn't help that I have many books, but can never find the one I am looking for. At one stage I had books arranged in sections or areas of interest- but with moving etc that order went by the way side. 

I have been stitching on my "One World" Traveller's Blanket. It is taking a long time because this piece is big to stitch by hand. The colour of the back ground looks more orange that it is. Each circle takes about 3 hours to stitch so it is definitely not a speedy project. I know a lot of people talk about slow stitch as a thing- but in all reality stitching by hand is of its very nature slow- so I prefer to call it hand stitch and as such it has a real rhythm , that can make time pass like no other thing. The rhythm also determines the shapes of your stitches just like the rhythm of writing determines the shape of your writing. Each stitch is imbued with an energy that you the stitcher give it. Is it any wonder that so many of us are mesmerised by stitching itself? I have stitched on this piece most days and have found it soothing. 

On-line Traveller's Blanket Class
There is still time to enroll for the Traveller's Blanket class starting on 5 May ( see the paypal button on my previous post) or message me. You can use any shape you want it need not be a circle- these ones are because I like circles and well our world is a circle- which is a thought- so many things are considered in a linear fashion and exponential but the very shape of earth is round- something that we seem to forget- it always comes back on itself. I have also been making videos which i share in the group.