Friday, June 17, 2016

Shadowing Rilke or Crossing Paths

"Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the hierarchies of angels?" (Wer, wenn ich schriee, hörte mich denn aus der Engel Ordnungen?) : the opening lines  from the first Duino Elegy by Rainer Maria Rilke.

And so what has this got to do with quilting- nothing really except today when we were hanging quilts at UWC Adriatic someone mentioned the Rilke path- Rilke path ??? my  heart skipped a beat- a path that Rilke walked? Really ? Close by????- yes at the bottom of the school and as the rooms needed cleaning I had and hour and a half to walk this wonderful path, with views of Duino castle where Rilke began his Duino Elegies and spent some time at the invitation of Princess  Marie von Thurn und Taxis ( and yes the family did begin the first taxi service)- and where he walked along the cliffs. Yet again Rilke pops into my life when I least expect him to, but strangely in this last week in Italy I have been noticing angels- quite a lot of them and photographing them and well, the first elegy begins with angels.

So let me begin at the beginning. I caught the bus from Montpellier to Genoa (over nine hours because of stops) arrived late at night and had to find my hotel which was a bit of a walk with my heavy suitcase as of course it was budget. I had booked  a room with a shared bathroom but thankfully I was given a room with my own bathroom- after nine hours on a bus on a very hot day, a shower was like pennies from heaven! Then next day another 7 hours on a bus to  Venezia Mestre and then the train to Padova and then a kilometre walk in drizzling rain, to find my hotel, again budget and this time a shared bathroom. I had booked to see Capella degli Scrovegni ,Giotto's masterpiece from the early renaissance ,and something I have been wanting to see for many years. They only allow in 15 viewers at a time, for 15 minutes after you  have been dehumidified for 15 minutes. After  my 15 minutes I wished I had made a double booking - I wanted to go straight back in- but this is when I began noticing angels- Giotto painted a lot of them really, and I didn't really get good photographs of them because well I was to busy taking in this absolutely most wondrous chapel.Fifteen minutes is simply not enough despite the modest size of the chapel. The chapel is set in gardens and was once the private chapel of  Enrico degli Scrovegni who like his father was an usurer and who commissioned it to try and secure his road away from hell. Anyway it was a magic start to my Italian trip to teach in Oderzo for Cuci Service.

As you can see the Chapel is quite unassuming on the outside, so what you find on the inside is even  more magical. I really did not take a lot of photos as i wanted to enjoy my 15 minutes and try and look at all the panels that  were painted- of course I did not succeed .

I had booked to go to the Scrovegni Chapel for the first session in the morning which gave me the rest of the day in Padova to wander around and enjoy this town/city that houses the oldest university in the world and where Galileo Galilei taught.It also has the largest  piazza ( or square in Italy even though it is oval), and there was a painting of the piazza in the museum, but my photographs could not do justice to the actual size of the piazza.

I have to kind of  wonder about the perspective of the painting- it was definitely before the days of  helicopters or cherry pickers - so all I can think of, is that perhaps the  painter climbed a tower of the Basilica St Guistina. And of course I can't talk about an old Italian city without at least sharing a photo of a tower!

The Scrovegni Chapel is in a compound that actually has a very interesting museum with Roman artifacts and also a collection of paintings that belonged to a Padovan family whose name escapes me. But this is where I started noticing even more angels and even a whole room of the museum devoted to angels- an army of angels no less.

So after a delightful sojourn in Padova for a day or so and I was off to Cuci-Service to teach and  the image below are some of the linocuts that were made, which we printed and then embellished with free motion machine work.

Then it was onto Verona and meeting up with a friend , Sandra Reford, who lives there part of the year and who had offered to show me around Verona for a day. So I found another budget place on Air BNB this time on the outskirts of Verona , but an easy bus ride, and spent a day walking around Verona with Sandra. It is so  lovely to walk around a place with someone who knows a city and is passionate about it's history and has an eye for quirky details, and of course as she is an artist we are often drawn to the same things ( Sandra actually does tours in the Veneto and Umbria in case anyone is interested,simply contact her for details through  her website) And of course there were more angels and inevitably lots of madonnas. The images below are from  the Basilica di san Zeno
heaven knows what is going on in the image below- but it is part of the  iron door that has now been internalised to protect it- and because people can actually reach it , people have rubbed the belly of the woman- for what superstition I wonder?

So while this was going on I was contacted by a group in Trieste  to see if I could attend  their regional Day- well I had never been to Trieste ( so for me this is like waving a red flag) and I had not actually booked my fare back to France- so what can one do but say yes ? I am so glad, otherwise my path would not have crossed with Rilke again- and I do so wonder why he keeps popping up in my life.
Yes the photo below , is a photo of a photo, but it is a photo I have never encountered before and because it was in the Castello Duino I presume it is of Rilke in the garden somewhere.

And then the path - looking towards Castello Duino and looking the other way along the rocky cliffs.

 So what can I say? Simply another week with unexpected and surprising turns. I did do some work, but today was just a buzz walking that Rilke path- and  next week it is back to the grindstone.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

One Month to Go

I have been busy but I cannot show you everything I have been working on as some of the things have been for magazine articles, so I can't share until the magazines are published.

I am also delighted that my Travellers' Blanket is going to be the subject of a book for Magic Patch/Editions de Saxe in French and that I will be doing six articles for Magic Patch giving instructions and ideas for  small art quilts. And people ask me why I am always going back to France???

There is still time to enrol for workshops at Forcafil in the Haute Alpes in Provence  for 18/19 June and of course  for my workshops at Cuciservice in Oderzo on 11/12 June in the Veneto ( see my previous post for details)

I have been working on one of my Tifaifai variations. I promised to do an article about them for France Patchwork some time ago but I was kind of stuck as the pieces were already finished- I had not made a pattern or recorded my process with photos. So a friend said- you don't have to make it the same exactly- just do it. She was right of course- sometimes it is too easy to procrastinate. So here is the tifaifai  variation- without seeds on the pomegranates and with seeds- what do you think?

I am still going for daily walks- I think the dog, Nesta would  go mad with anticipation if I didn't. She has developed a funny new habit- when I walk into the kitchen in the morning- and she can see me through the glass doors- she starts yowling in a way that sounds like talking- as if to say- so there you are it's about time- come on I have been ready for ages. It's had us in fits of laughter because she never used to do this before and she doesn't do it to anyone else ( and there has been lots of other people around with the wedding etc.). She also does it when I have been out in the car. She barks when everyone else arrives but when I arrive she does this funny yowling thing. I am not sure who is going to miss whom more when I head back to Australia at the end of June. I can't get over the variety of flowers in the vineyards and  even in the woody areas- it's like a garden, and each day  brings to light some new species. I have also discovered a cherry tree with ripe fruit- that provides a snack on the way! it is not anyone's tree but it is loaded with cherries. Yesterday I encountered this flower- I love that right in the centre is one little red flower- how does nature  just do that so precisely?
Isn't nature just magic the way it does those tiny little things which you could miss in the blink of an eyelid.

Friday, May 20, 2016


I am feeling a bit gefrumpelled- I thought I had sold my block of land in Gellibrand (price agreed etc etc) for the buyer to pull out at the last moment. Now I have to find the upside of this journey. I suppose the first thing is I don't have to pack everything up yet again and find somewhere else to live. Thankfully I have a wood heater in the shed....But there is also a few things I need to work out as well , like getting a car, work out a way to access the internet and get some power for my sewing machine.Anyway onward as they say.

A couple of weeks ago I created a new page of  work for sale- work that I have made since last year ( 2015). I am actually surprised at how much work I have produced in that time as there has been quite a  lot of moving,travelling and spending the summer in the shed without access to power.If you see anything you would like to purchase please email me ( I can be paid by Paypal or internet banking in Australia). Of course some of my older work is for sale and I am prepared to consider reasonable offers.

Of course last weekend was the wedding of my friends daughter Rebecca- it was a lovely wedding catered for  by a traiteur in their garden. of course there were many visitors before and after and I can't tell you how many new I rolled or how much cooking we did- but a lot!

My program for June is quite bsuy and I return to Oz on 2 July- Election day- what fun!
So here is my program for june

11 June at Cuci- Service in Oderzo- creating your own linocut for stamping/printing fabric and embellishing it with stitch
12 June at Cuci-Service in Oderzo- a lecture about my work with many demonstrations of how I work and some fun embroidering/stitching your own little piece of printed fabric as a memento

18 June at Festival du Forcafil in the Luberon Working with Transfer dye/printing and stitching
19 June at Festival Forcafil- Form and Variation-

I have an information sheet I can send of  the Festival du Forcafil which I am happy to send to you - just email me. The Festival itself runs from 24-26 June with many exhibitions to visit in different villages.

Then I head home for awhile for winter cold .

Had  a wonderful day yesterday visiting Michel Garcia in Lauris- he is an amazing fountain of knowledge about natural dyeing  but in a measured scientific way as he consults on many projects that need accuracy and consistency to reproduce  natural colours around the world . My friend Liwanag also came along as she is involved in a biodiversity project in the Phillipines and his approach also seeded many ideas about sustainability . I came away with a lot of food for thought and to come up with an idea of what I would like him to teach me before I go back to Oz- and maybe it was the universe's way of telling me that my block of land could be a source for natural dye stuffs- who knows? And whilst it is not easy to extract colour from Banksias it is not impossible.

The photos above are some of his samples and dyer's hands! And I leave you with another banksia on the way!

Monday, May 09, 2016

The Quatrocento in Siena and Some Tree Linocuts

Have been travelling with my daughter until early last week and have then returned to Le Triadou to get stuck into some serious work ( 2 articles to write for a magazine in Australia and one in France) and work to prepare for  exhibition at Festival des Arts du Fil  ( Forca Fil) in Provence  for 24,25,and 26 June. I am also teaching there on 18 and 19 June Transfer printing and Stitching and Form and Variation. Plus my friends daughter is getting married next week and the wedding will be hosted from their home. I am also teaching at Cuci-Service in Oderzo on 11-12 June 2016.

My daughter and I ended up back in Italy as I wanted her to check out a course on printmaking at Il Bisonte in Florence. Unfortunately it is not within her means to do both the course and afford living there whilst doing the course- it was a nice dream- or maybe I might get lucky and  sell some of my bigger works. However we enjoyed Florence and all it has to offer and we also spent a day in Siena , the city she was named after. The marble floor in the Duomo is always a marvel and the Quatrocento of Siennese painting in the Pinacoteca so worth a visit ( and with surprisingly few tourists for this magnificent period of Siennese art) The Met have an on-line catalogue available with some interesting essays noting the difference between the renaissance in Florence and Siena in case you are interested. I must admit it reignited my idea to do  a book Musing in Textile:Italy on  inspirations from Italy.

A shop window in Florence and a selfie of sorts.

  Inside the Duomo in Siena with my daughter Siena. And then the glory of the Quatrocento.

I have been working on another Babbling Banksia quilt,

 and I think this will be the last for awhile whilst I muse about Italy and the inspirations it offers, do some research and see how I can translate that into cloth and stitch- lace might make a reappearance in my work somehow and I  am feeling very inspired by the ethereal faces of Sano di Pietro- and also the beautiful detail of the cloth in  his paintings.

I also started a quilt with meytree linocut- and drove the sewing machine to distraction so I did not finish it prior to Quilts en Beaujolais unfortunately, but I will finish it now. I also have for sale the tree linocut which measures  50 cm and 40 cm and is double the size of the next nearest linocut I have made. It is printed on hand dyed cloth and costs 20€ plus 3€ postage ( a total of 23€). Email me if you are interested in purchasing the fabric print. The colours in the image are a guide only and as I will be dyeing more cloth next week I can print on any coloured cloth you might like. ( also have available prints of kings and queens of Chartres and the folkloric girl and the rabbit inspired by the Lady and the Unicorn tapestry)

And it is still possible to purchase my book Musing in Textile: France in Australia or here in Europe ( and anyone who might be interested in the US- shipping form Europe is much cheaper than shipping from Australia) Some sample chapters can be read here. The book also includes a dvd with explanations of how I use the techniques of dyeing cloth, making linocut prints, printing fabric, transfer printing and stitching ( lutradur), breakdown printing my way, freemotion stitching, hand stitching and a video demonstrating the techniques. The price of the book is $49.95 in Australia plus postage ( but postage to anywhere overseas is almost as expensive as the book- thank you Australia Post)  and 45€ plus postage from France ( the price difference is due to the different taxes that have to be paid) but the postage is 8€ Anyway if you are interested in purchasing the book please email me.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Internationale Arte Textile Biennale Beaujolais

Is time flying faster or have I simply been ridiculously busy? I know that since my last blog post I have been stitching like crazy trying to get new work finished  for Quilts en Beaujolais (Internationale Arte Textile Biennale Beaujolais) and printing fabrics and trying to make some explanatory notes for a french audience about banksias as most people have not encountered banksias. I then thought I had killed my friends' sewing machine, but fortunately it has lived to tell another tale and sew another quilt.

Then I met my middle daughter in Milan for a few days before returning to le Triadou. However by this time a little worm had got into my head. Some years ago I did a week long printmaking course in Florence- they also run a year long program or a 6 month program, and the thought struck me that this might be the ideal course for my daughter to do, as she loved her travel in Italy and loved Florence and makes wonderful drawings. The course is also well respected. So on a whim we are leaving later today for Florence so we can visit the print making studio and explore possibilities, after all it is not possible to just  get there and see when you are in Australia.It meant changing plans a bit but I am a bit excited about visiting Florence again( I was there around this time last year and loved it)

So I wanted to quickly update what I have been making and some of  my encounters! I also ran out of my favourite threads but Aurifil came to rescue and sent me some threads thank goodness! Thank you Alex Veronelli!

The banksia piece above was hand printed and machine stitched and appliqued.

The Babbling banksia mouths beside the previous banksia piece- all hand dyed fabrics and machine stitched

The small hand stitched piece seems a little dwarfed by all the other babbling banksias, but I wanted to show variation on one subject matter.

More olive tree variations- these pieces were touched so many times that Ineke van Unen  my QenB neighbour kindly lent me some of her red hand don't touch signs- but it still did not stop the pawing.
And my hand stitched babbling banksias hanging side by side. Had a terrific four  days at Quilts en Beaujolais, catching up with old friends and making new ones and as always the  cameraderie amongst artist was lovely! Then it was up early on Sunday morning to catch the train to Milan to meet my daughter ( I had thought trains would run earlyish on Sunday morning from Villefranche Sur Saonne to Lyon- but unfortunately no so had to take a very expensive cab ride to get my TGV to Milan on time) We stayed in a hotel  towards  the  peripherique that runs around the old part of Milan and quickly learnt to negotiate the public transport. We were also blessed to be, 20 metres from a wonderful cafe Cinema Teatro Trieste which we treated like home for 3 days. it has great food , live music and wifi and was open early in the morning until late at night- the staff were really welcoming and friendly- we loved it.

Of course we visited the Duomo- with all its lacey decorations and the Duomo museum was well worth a visit. Below is a detail of a tapestry and  a stained glass angel.

We took the train to Stresa for a day to visit Lago Maggiore and Isola Bella- and  caught a water bus for 5 euros each which took  us around all three Borromean Islands and a glorious sunny day. The view below is looking towards Isola Bella.
  And then to my great delight there was a William Kentridge exhibition showing at Galleria La Rumma. Loved the scale and multifaceted aspect of the exhibition. You walked into a darkened space- set up with screens around the space to create a panorama which was animated by  film of a drawn landscape and printed  images as well as actual performing artists enacting the unfolding scenario- with music especially written to accompany the animation-absolutely fabulous! Then on the other two floors of the Gallery there were works used in the film and  several tapestries and printed works and sculptures used for the film. And from a fan I have turned into a devotee!

And to end on an Italian note- there is a small roman bridge near le Triadou- you can still walk across it 2000 years after it was built- my goodness they built things to last!

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Preparing for Quilts en Beaujoalis

One of the things about being invited to exhibit at  big quilt events is that you have to have work that has not been seen before. I have created few pieces by hand last year and also some small bits and pieces by machine , but really last year was a year where I did not actually produce much work. I think getting the book done and then getting it all sent out took a lot of energy. I also seem to have done a lot of printing and then of course the medieval Project has been touring as well. So all  in all I produced less work  of the quilted variety than I normally do.

So since being back from Chartres I have had the nose to the grindstone. My work which I will show at Quilts en Beaujolais will be inspired by nature- a bit of a return to a theme I have explored in the past but haven't really done much about in the past few years except for Coqueclicots. Quilts en Beaujolais will be on at Villefranche sur Saone from 13- 16 April. I love this event- there is always great quilts with lots of interesting  work by different international artists and there is also great cameraderie amongst the artists which is always fun!

I made a pomegranate Tifaifai (the positive cut out) for Chartres for the theme Confiance. I have now finished the negative cut out. Both pieces are heavily quilted on a domestic sewing machine with Aurifil 28 weight Mako threads ( they are cotton and I  love how they sit on the surface of the cloth)
I know I have posted the image of the positive tifafai before- but it's nice to see the difference between the positive cutout and the negative cut out. I am still undecided whether to also paint in some seeds on the  pomegranates on the negative.

I am always surprised how different they look even though the reddish fabric is exactly the same and the dark fabric only varies  a few shades from the  positive to the negative.

And then there have been banksia explorations ...

The first image is of fabric I hand painted in India last year during my residency at the Stitching Project, and then hand printed with the woodblock I had made through the Stitching Project.I must admit I struggled a bit with the colours of this , even though they are very Australian- I wanted very dense quilting to make the banksias pop out.So what you are seeing is the quilted piece and on the right the stitch work on the banksia pod itself.

Then there is the Transfer printed banksias I did- with a hand painted banksia pod and woodblock printed surround, again  through the Stitching Project. The effect is quite different. I have another print from this transfer- in which the colours are much redder- can't wait to see what it will look like once stitched. Again this piece is stitched with Aurifil Make 28 weight thread. The weight of the thread gives me  good lines especially as I tend to stitch the lines twice, sometimes three times.

 I have been drawing and thinking about banksias since arriving here even though I had not produced much work until now. I really wanted to capture their weirdness in lots of different explorations. ( I intend to make a hand made book to accompany the exhibition to explain  what I am on about- time permitting) So the drawing on the right was another idea- I had thought I might  have to piece to get the effect that I wanted, but then a thought struck me-I like dyeing what if I could dye the effect I wanted? So the result is on the right. I fold dyed  four different colours, though the outline colour is all the same dye colour  to give uniformity. I am still undecided whether I will cut this piece into a banksia shape or just leave it as is. It is actually quite large for me.This really does look like mouths babbling for me. Can't wait to see what stitch will do to it. If I had pieced the shapes they would have been much more regular- and I wanted each "mouth" to be different.

I must admit Nesta my doggie companion has been a bit disgusted with me- we are still walking but when I sew I am tucked in a room inside the house and she has to entertain herself. She likes it much better when I go down to the atelier downstairs.

Spring has sprung here. Everywhere there is flowers and trees in blossom. Even the gutter on the little old stone shed looks like it has been purposely planted.I love the colours in the plant below- it just grows by the roadside.

 And last but not least- these are the Aurifil Mako 28 weight threads I use.These new ones arrived this morning- which means I can now sew up even more of a storm! I love the colours and the sheen on this cotton. I am extremely grateful to Aurifil for  sponsoring me with thread  for my work- thread and stitch is such an important part of my work so I try and use the best there is.And thank you to Alex Veronelli for your continued support!I have tried a lot of different threads in the past but I keep coming back to Aurifil- their colours  suit my work and the Mako 28 weight comes in big bobbins , and the sheen on the cotton have made me abandon rayon threads .