Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Preparing for Pour l'Amour du Fil

Life has turned busy again in a good way! I have been busy stitching on a quilt for the theme at the exhibiton at ChArtres- Croisement des Arts which starts this Saturday. This festival includes art, music, films and lectures and this year offers many delights. I also get to spend two weeks in Chartres, which is always a delight! So if you intend to come to the event let me know , I will make sure I am there! My piece for the theme, "La Joie, dans tous ses ├ęclats..."  

It has been a joy to be able to go for walks again, and particularly walks in nature!

I have also been busy preparing a list of work  that I will be exhibiting at Pour l'Amour du Fil in Nantes in April, which will be all my Traveller's Blanket work ( Plaides Nomads) and realised it has become quite a body of work. My last blanket which is not finished yet, and  will be my wellness blanket- the words that I embroidered  every day until my radiotherapy finished. But I thought I would share the work thus far.

And last but not least my  piece inspired by early morning walks on Atauro Island. On my first trip I often found sea urchins on the shore, also known as buli matan in Tetum.I find something joyous in their shape and whilst the piece isn't anatomically correct I wanted to create the wonder that  the humble sea urchin inspires!

We are still fundraising to have four women from Boneca de Atauro come to to AQC in Melbourne in  April. The visa applications cost $140  per applicant- and the amount of paperwork to apply took more than two days to fill in ( and English is my first language), let alone the time taken to gather supporting documentation. Australia really is not an easy place to visit! For example they wanted copies of banking statements- the women do not have bank accounts- and there is just one bank on Atauro Island- which nobody seems to use and there is no ATM. How to explain to the first world that the third world does not have such luxuries as bank accounts.

So we have reached the point of having covered the cost of the Visa applications and  almost three airfares. The women of Boneca de Atauro are incredibly grateful, as am I ,for your incredible support. However we need to raise just that little bit more for the last airfare and insurance- approximately $1500 all together. Any help will be much appreciated. You can donate  using the button below.

Friday, March 08, 2019

International Women's Day: Empowering Women

Today I want to honour and try to help empower these four amazing women from Boneca de Atauro- Jacinta da Costa, Virginia Saores, Tachya Gorreti and Maturina de Ajuaro to come to Australia in April for the Australasian Quilting Convention to show what they do and to share their passion. 

Boneca de Atauro is a women's co-operative on Atauro Island, part of Timor Leste. The co-operative consist of  60 or more women  who create textile dolls, bags, wall hangings and also run a guest house and small restaurant on Atauro Island, and a small gift shop in Dili. Their goal is to employ women from all backgrounds and their dream is to run an education centre to help with language and vocational skills for all who want to learn more. Their hard work , their dedication and their vision is inspirational. Their lives are not easy yet their vision embraces those around them and touches all those who meet them. They are a quiet but determined revolution on this small island to see women reach their potential and to be able to give their best for their families,

I want to thank the women of  Boneca de Atauro for letting me into their lives and  sharing their dream with you. I know there are many worthwhile projects in the world that have just such goals and dreams, and  all of them start out of need. This project really touched my heart  because it is driven by the women themselves: not an NGO or a Charity group- they have received very little funding in the past and everything they have achieved has been through hard work and a willingness to work together and for each other- it is why they formed a co-operative. It is a wonderful example of the power of women!

Below is an image of the Bonecas ( dolls) that started it all. They were commissioned  for schools in East Timor in 2007, and continue to be made.

You can help the women  come to Melbourne with your donation- every little bit is appreciated. I also want to thank all of you who have donated so far- I am amazed from how far and wide donations have come- and just as amazed that I know most of you through textiles- what a world we weave!! We have almost funded two airfares- still a way to go but we are immensely grateful to be at this point! ( things haven't been helped by a price rise in East Timor airfares late last year when an airline company bought out the competition and created a monopoly- it is having a very adverse effect on tourism in Timor Leste)

Thursday, March 07, 2019

In Europe

I constantly keep saying time flies but it really does. My father died just before I left Timor-Leste, he had been ill, but in the end things went very fast and I couldn't get back to Australia in time, as the earliest flight back was the one I was booked on anyway. He requested no funeral which made the being and not being difficult to process. Also I had tried to visit him on the day before I left for Timor-Leste, but could not as there had been a gastro outbreak in the residential care facility where he was so I did not really say goodbye apart from on the phone.

 I was barely home from Timor-Leste and I was on my way on a long haul flight to Europe. Fortunately I left myself a few days to recover from the flight in order to head to Liege in Belgium to teach earlier this week. It's a bit hard getting used to the colder weather, but the classes have been fun filled with enthusiastic students, some as old as 95 years young! Mathilde at the back of the photo worked hard and had fun with the embroidery. There is still some places in Fridays ( 9 March) hand stitching class- Plaid Nomads in which a small sampler will be made using the techniques I use in the Plaids Nomades/Travellers Blankets. If interested just message me and I can send details.

Still working hard on getting the Boneca de Atauro ladies to the Australasian Quilt Convention in Melbourne. I am  so grateful for all the donations that have been coming through  , but we still need more.

 The hoped for funding from  an Australian funding body fell through whilst I was in Timor-Leste- and despite last minute meetings with the funding body there was no way they were going to change their minds- so that left us in a bit of despair. The officer i talked to from the funding body was rather disparaging about the Australasian Quilting Conference which was disappointing , as was their decision.  So if you feel you could help ,it is as much needed as ever. I will place the donation button again . So instead of  finding funding for two airfares we need to find airfares for four women. It is important that four women come because I also want them to  learn from this experience and to be able to see the other things on exhibit at AQC as well as demonstrating what they do so wonderfully. And this event is very busy with many visitors so I think they will be kept incredibly busy!

A new linocut design made by Jacinta da Costa, one of the young ladies coming to Melbourne- whose designs just keep on getting better and better!

 Whilst I was on Atauro Island we also worked on creating some new items for the Boneca de Atauro shop and came up  with  ear rings and necklaces inspired by Buli Matan( sea urchins) which are a common find on the beach at Atauro Island . Jacinta da Costa is modelling the proto types!.

 So any help is much appreciated. And I will respond individually to the wonderful donations we have received so far when I have a bit more time. I am so grateful that some of you have the same vision for the ladies from Boneca de Atauro as I do. They work hard in sometimes difficult conditions  ( no electricity during the day , not much running water) and what they make is amazingly creative and lovely. The Boneca ladies  ( all 60 of them) and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts! and hope they can put on a wonderful display in Melbourne.

I have another request- whilst I was recovering from my operation and radiotherapy I sold my  block of land and shed in Gellibrand which meant all my belongings had to go into storage. Somehow my treadle machine which I had bought for the ladies to use at AQC ended up towards the back of the storage which means it is difficult to get to ( the chaps who did the  loading and unloading misunderstood that I wanted the machine at the front of the storage). Is there anyone in Melbourne that could lend us a working treadle machine to use for the four days of AQC ( 10-14 April)- if so please message me, I would be immensely grateful.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Maquili Rapan Hirik Weavers visit Boneca

We had a real treat last Saturday when the rapan hirik weavers walked the one and a half hours from Maquili  to Vila Mau-Meta to show the Boneca ladies and myself how they make the fibre for the weaving as well as the weaving of Rapan Hirik. The woven fabric is a form of tais but is woven with fibre from the rapan hirik palm. It makes a fairly coarse thread, but makes a fairly supply cloth. Rapan hirik was traditionally woven on Atauro Island until demand for it diminished with the availability of cheaper thread and synthetic materials , and cheap tais from the much larger Indonesian market. Fortunately there has been a bit of a revival happening in the weaving of the fabric due to Boneca de Atauro using the fabric for a number of things they make, like bags, wall hangings and pencil cases/wallets. And younger women are involved in the weaving of the rapan hirik as they see some economic viability in producing this most traditional of fibres and woven fabric.

I will share some photos of the process and I am very grateful to the Maquili ladies for allowing me to photograph the process and themselves in the making process ( we will also have some videos of the process at AQC in Melbourne in April)

The first part of the process is to sort the leaves from the Rapan Hirik palm and split them into individual fronds, ready for stripping down to the best fibre part of the leaf. This process was demonstrated by  Tereshina Lopes ( who also helped with the making of the fibre thread).

The next part of the process involves stripping the actual fronds as not all of the frond is suitable for making the thread.  This process was demonstrated  Ermilinda Freitas. If you look closely you will see the bottom part of her leg  has been wrapped with some cloth with a frond strapped to it as well. This acts as base for stripping the fronds ( at first I though  Ermilinda had a wound on her leg and wondered whether this was a traditional wound dressing, however I soon discovered otherwise)

The next photograph shows Adelia Saldalha shredding the fibre into thread thickness with the help of Ermilinda ( the fibres are joined by a barely discernable knot and certainly not a knot you can see in the woven  cloth)

The next photograph shows Luisa Ellu Setting up the warp on the back loom, which was made by placing spikes in the ground. The process of creating the warp took all morning to make roughly 1.25-1.5 metres of fabric.

Then it was onto weaving of which only a small amount could be done because the rain decided to arrive. It is the wet season at present so when the rain comes if buckets down and everything has to be packed away.

The lady on the right is Herminia de Costa, who wound the thread into balls of thread to facilitate the weaving process and also helped out with other tasks in setting up the back loom.

I am just amazed with how little  these women can create such wonderful cloth  and  it is an ode to the creativity of the human and women really. We had to have a group photo at the end of a wonderful day and  of course we had to have a little rungu ranga in the photo, because everyone needs a little craziness as part of their creative day! 

Fund Raising Progress: I am still fundraising for the  two airfares  ( and insurance)  but thought I would update you as to how the fundraising has gone so far and am extremely grateful that we have reached the point of almost funding one airfare. Thank you for helping us reach this point!

 I hope we can reach a sum of money for both airfares and insurance. I must admit I was not sure how this fundraising would eventuate but am so grateful for your support, as are the ladies at Boneca de Atauro. When I told them that we had almost reached the point of funding one airfare they decided that they would like to reward donations of $50 or more with a  small gift of their appreciation ( it will include a small piece purse made with rapan hirik and a small surprise)- which I will send once I return to Australia, because the postal service in East Timor is all but non-existent.

I will place the donation button again, and we appreciate any amount that you are willing to donate ( there is information about what we are fundraising for in my previous post)

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Boneca de Atauro, Atauro Island, Timor Leste

I am back  at Boneca de Atauro for an artists residency, but  mostly to help  the ladies from Boneca to prepare for AQC in Melbourne in April. When I say an artists residency, this is very much a "community" based residency,  in that I am here to help upskill techniques, teach some new things and brainstorm some new products  that can be sold.

This group of women, who live on a relatively isolated island formed a co-operative 11 years ago  with help from Ester Peira Zuercher-Camponova and David Palazon, but also with a lot of their own initiative and determination. Atauro Island lies 25 kilometres off the coast of Dili, and it is only reachable by boat ( unless you happen to fly a single engined Cesna and are prepared for a rocky landing). The ferry takes 3.5 hours, and the Dragon boat and hour and a half. On this island which is r secluded from most of the tumult of the western world, making a living is incredibly difficult. Mostly life is subsistence and reliance on tourist dollars, which  don't always come ( for example February is wet season and there are very few visitors). The island is a paradise for divers, but they are busy diving not spending tourist dollars. So it's remarkable that the Boneca co-operative manages to employ 62 women , of all ages and all skills, to be able to earn a sustainable living on their island and to have set up a shop in Dili and to now venture to Australia to show off their work and to hopefully sell their work so they can attain their dream of setting up a school to learn languages and other skills. They have vision and passion and are by far the most egalitarian organisation I have ever encountered.

But we need help. I mentioned it in my last blog and will again. We are trying to fund raise two airfares and travel insurance for two of the ladies to come to Melbourne. We would like four ladies to come to Melbourne. We hope we have funding for two ladies already, but feel for them to get the full benefit of the experience we need to have four ladies  at AQC so they can also enjoy the event a little as well as show you what they do. It is also incredibly important to reinforce the english language skills that they have been studying at an adult school in Dili- they are determined to be the best they can. Also they have never been to an event like this. They have been to a Tourist gift fair at Macau, but never to a textile industry specific fair. I am sure they will be amazed by what they encounter at AQC- simply the quilts will be inspiration.  Looking on-line is not really an option ,as internet access is expensive comparatively and it is also 3G so on the slow side. Plus  you need to remember to charge your phone at night because the generator that powers the island only runs from 6pm until 6am- so no power during the day.

I was surprised to find that airfares from Dili to Melbourne have roughly increased by about 30-40% in the last year which is substantial- airfares are around $1000US flying with a reputable airline. This is a significant sum of money as you no doubt will have guessed. Already some of you have donated and I send you  heartfelt thanks on behalf of the Boneca ladies. All monies donated will be put towards their travel expenses. It has been suggested I do a Go Fund Me campaign, but to be perfectly honest, my head was not in the right place to set it up , given I wasn't sure how I would cope with radiotherapy ( which did not finish until 8 January). And also internet access is varied on the island. The other thing about such campaigns is the platform does take a small percentage of donations ( which is fair enough given they provide the platform) and you have to reach your target. So  we will try and do it this way and we would appreciate it of you could spare any amount of your choice, you simply click on the donate button.

And to show we have been doing things since I have arrived ( my goodness the heat and humidity have been challenging, but I think I am getting the hang of it. I don't know how the Boneca ladies do it every day)

I work with a small group of women with the idea that they will teach some of the other women what they learn. Jacinta da Costa worked with me previously was incredibly motivated and  an adept learner ( remember that exposure to anything art or textile at school is non-existent). She is also creating really wonderful linocuts  and senses how some of these will translate with the application of stitch. She is also a very careful printer,  a skill she has passed on to Agida in the photo below.

 I try to  get the women to use their environment as inspiration and am constantly surprised and delighted with how they interpret their world. I love how their linocuts reflects them. This isn't about creating perfection but creating from the heart- from their island from their lives.

The fabric in the image above is known as Rapan Hirik  and is only made on Atauro Island ( the tais on "mainland" Timor Leste are made from cotton fibre and lately also with syntehtic fibres). Until about 5 years ago there were only a few women on Atauro Island who made the rapan hirik fabric ( it is quite stiff but suprisingly pliable and can be stitched) in a village on the other side of the island .The island measures 25 km x 9km, and has a quite a big hill, well mountain smack bang in the middle of it. However  since the women at Boneca have been using the rapan hirik fibre to make bags and pencil satchels there has been more weaving going on. The fabric is woven on back looms.

Maturina Aruajo is the head designer at Boneca- and her vision is big. This is her latest creation- the colour you see ( apart from the turquoise) is all stitching- all done on a treadle!!!! And it measures at least 2 metres long by 1.8 metres wide.

Eva is working on some of the linocut printed fabrics with the linocuts the women made when I was here in 2017. Again this is a treadle machine that Eva is working on, and her stitching skill- free motion is amazing!

There are still a number of traditional houses on the Island ( I am staying in the town of Vila-Mau Meta) and this is one I encounter on my early morning walks.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

A New Year

Wishing all of my readers a happy, healthy and safe 2019!

I am glad to say 2018 is behind me and that 2019 is offering things to look forward to, that sometimes seemed  too far away when I was undergoing treatment. But all things are improving. I even sold my block of land and shed in Gellibrand, and  we have spent the time since radiotherapy finished getting the block and shed ready for hand over. The weather was hot and thank goodness my daughters were there to help- I could not have done it on my own. The forecast fatigue after radiotherapy did set in, so there was only so much I could do. I was too late to organise removalists, so we had to hire a truck and paid two  men to come and help. But in the end it all got done to my great relief! It does mean I have to find another place to live once I come back from Europe in June and at the moment I am thinking Gippsland, around Morwell/Churchill as my budget is extremely modest. if anyone has any views about those areas would love to hear them! So goodbye Gellibrand- I will miss the birdsong, the pristine air and the environment, but it was also a place of broken and smashed dreams- and that I won't miss!

Goodbye shed and block!

So now it is back to work, I am slowly regaining energy and feeling able to tackle things again and I have some  lovely things to look forward to .

Next Monday I fly to Dili, East Timor, and then onto Atauro Island to help the Boneca de Atauro ladies prepare for AQC in Melbourne in mid April. Until this week ( and after moving all my things) I could not really envisage myself being there, but as energy has returned  I am so looking forward to it, and remembered to buy lino and  printing ink so they can print up fabric with their fabulous designs. I will also be starting a Kickstarter Fundraiser to help fund  airfares for these delightful women to show their abilities and goods in the very near future. However if you feel inclined to contribute to their airfares ( and travel insurance) let me know. I am hoping we can bring three women ,maybe four to  show what they do in April at AQC. Their story is pretty uplifting and I am in awe of what they have managed to achieve on a very isolated  island  25  kms off shore from Dili. They do everything they do on treadle machines ( there is no power during the day) and through sheer hard work in less than ideal  conditions- but they make up for that with spirit and laughter and song- they are amazing! Any support would be greatly appreciated!

Then after three weeks with the Boneca ladies I will come back to Australia for a week and then head off to Europe for teaching in Belgium, and then onto ChARTres Croisement des Arts to exhibit some of my work again. Always  happy and delighted to be a part of this multi arts event in Chartres and I feel fortunate to call Chartres home for 2 weeks of the year. There are many different arts on display as well as music and lectures- it truly is a multi arts affair!

I have been busy preparing samples, as of course it is impossible to teach the whole travellers blanket style of stitching and story telling in a day long class, so I have tried to show some variations for circles  in the sample piece in the photo- the effects of light and dark thread, the texture of the stitches, and the effect of embroidery as opposed to  applique and embroidery , the use of patterned and unpatterned fabric.

I must admit I love circles and I am always surprised at how different they look depending on thread, stitches and pattern, and then there is the whole thing of adding a story to the whole.

And I did start working in a hand made paper journal that I got last year from the Stitching Project, but unfortunately moving all my belongings has impeded progress. But the idea was to stitch something, anything really and then see what thoughts it brought forth, or visa versa, sometimes you have thoughts but are uncertain how to express them and then you just start stitching and see what happens. I must admit it combines my love of words and mark making and stitching and I can see myself doing more of this.

Monday, December 31, 2018

The Year That Was, Excited for Happy New Year!

Progress has felt slow but in all reality  the health professionals are saying it has been really good. I have 6 days of radiotherapy left to face and so far very few side effects but they say, towards the end it is wearying. I have been keeping very quiet  due to the neuropraxia of my right leg and my broken left wrist so it has meant enforced rest as I could do very little, which of course has had economic repercussions as well. I have had to stay with my daughters since 16 October, as I cannot drive and treatment is in Melbourne in any case. I am now able to walk without a crutch and have been ramping up the walking to build strength again, the goal is to walk a couple of 10,000 step days a week if not most days. I am also able to use my left wrist a lot more, but there is still a way to go, to get full usage back. I think I might be game to drive again in the next week ( i have an old manual car and as my left wrist was broken, gear changing will be an issue)

                            Walking at Brighton Beach yesterday- heading toward the new year!

I have continued to work on my little  thoughts for each day since i first went to the doctor on August the 31st and received the cancer diagnosis a few days later. It has been 123 days since then, and it has had it's dark moments to be sure, but I also discovered that I am looking for and experiencing joy quite a lot, and that I am looking forward to the next year with a quite different mindset and one which is a lot lighter than I might have expected. I really feel working on the little thoughts has helped me focus and has helped me to search for whatever is good in this and has been determined to give everything my very best.

I haven't quite worked out yet, how I will mount them- I had thought of a continuous scroll though the thoughts aren't in any particular order, however that makes it difficult to display. And there will be a few more to add as well. I also though of making an accompanying handmade book that  might also incorporate favourite motifs.

There are quite a few exciting things to look forward to in 2019. I will once again  part of the ChARTres in March of 2018. I will come back to Australia for AQC  in Melbourne to help the Boneca de Atauro ladies showcase their work at a special Invitational stand ( and hopefully sell lots of their work). Depending on how i recover from radiotherapy I will be going to East Timor to help with planning for AQC  in early February and I am  looking very much forward to working with these talented women again. Then it is back to France to show my Traveller's Blankets as invitational artist ( Plaids Nomades ) at  Pour L'Amour du Fil in Nantes and any new work I manage to create by then. So i will be available for workshops in Europe from late April until the end of May.  When I come back from all that I will look for a new place to live- it is too difficult to do it at present and I will put most of my things into storage yet again.

So I hope that 2019 brings the best of everything for the readers of my blog and that you remain in good health and spirit! And again I thank you for all your good wishes- they have buoyed my heart!