Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Another quilt finished

The banksia quilt is finished- another one bites the dust! It is for sale for $750US ( it measures 26 inches by 54 inches) I am hoping to make quite a few more quilts before 19 february in fact I think I will need to quilt almost every waking moment for the next 2.5 weeks. Two are well into the planning stage, in fact one is already basted and ready to go. One still needs a lot of hand stitching which i was going to do in front of the cricket- but that hasn't been much chop!

This article appeared in todays Weekly Times and was written by Monica Jackson. The Weekly Times is a country newspaper geared specifically for rual people and their interests.The quilt in the right foreground is "Canopy" by Gloria Loughnan. The article was about Sense of Place but they also gave my blog a plug- thank you! and Monica was surprised by the visitors from all over the world. And the count has gone up to 100 countries!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Finishing the Banksia Quilt

I actually wanted to be working on another quilt which fell out of the sky ( well my one and only fabric shelf in my room as most of my workroom is still packed away awaiting the completion of the shed one day in my dreams...). I had got together all the bits, sorted out what i wanted to do but forgot that at the moment most of my basting pins are in a big forrest quilt which I pinned during the year ( but which is too big for Syria so has been left for a later date) and in the banksia quilt I had been working on. I was anxious to get on with the new idea but will have to finish the banksia quilt first. All the quilts I am making for Syria are between 60-80cm wide and between 130-150 cm long as most of the spac ein the gallery is long narrow spaces.

I always like how the stitching changes the banksia quilts- and in a sense they are really more embroidery than anything else.I often multi layer the thread on the banksia flowers but decided to leave these simply stitched with gold thread. Most of the "Australian" quilts I have made are about my place- the things that surround me, I guess to evoke sense of place and i also wanted to represent banksias in a number of different guises- I still have one to go- and perhaps another if time will allow. Which started me thinking about "series" .Are these banksia ( and I have made a number over the years ) a series? Yes the flower is usually represented in the same way with the embroidery ( though that has started to change of late) but each quilt is quite distinctly different- either through the background fabric ( which i dye with quite a lot of deliberation) the printing that I use and off course colour and then size and even whether I border them. I am not sure - I have never thought of them in that way, as I make them as needs be- if I have an exhibition I always have one banksia quilt because it for me represents home more than anything and then also Australia.

And because I am sitting and sewing and the mind wanders, i dwelt on another thing that was said to me whilst doing my masters by one of the supervisors- that quilts were easy for me and that therefore I wasn't pushing hard enough. I have long pondered this comment- i should have asked where should I push to? And then are quilts easy? I know I make very few quilts which don't have layers of meaning- there is the readily apparent surface but some of it involves personal symbolism, a story- there is often a lot of emotion in my quilts- where do you push to? And whilst i am on this train it was also said I should use the process of weathering destruction and aging and wearing/tearing away, but by nature I am a builder, I build from the bottom up starting with white cloth- making the dye sing is an exciting process for me and then nutting out how to best use that piece of fabric- I accrue steps along the way to build what I am doing- i don't tear away unless it aids the building process. It's almost like I start with the blank page visually though with some thought about ideas and brain storm in the dye bath and build a mind map and go from there. Somehow this process was questioned in what i was doing. I would be interested in what other people think about how they " emerge" their work and how they approach their work.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Cedars and Sense of Place

I am still in the thinking process with the rock tied pieces. The one I have chosen is the one without nicks and some darker patches which I have foiled with cedars. Cedar forests once covered parts of Syria ,Turkey and Lebanon and it is likely therefore that Gilgamesh went into a cedar forest. I am starting to panic about the amount of work I still have to do and so little time is left. At the moment I have three pieces on the go.
And don't forget:
For those in or around Melbourne don't forget the launch for Sense of Place is next Wednesday the 7th of February at the Samson Hill Winery on the Eltham Yarra Glen road at Kangaroo ground. The launch will be followed by a fundraising dinner for those interested at a cost of $45 per head ( more details on the Sense of Place blog). We need as many people there as possible- it will be a fun filled evening with a few little surprises , an auction of an art to wear piece. I am getting lots of good feedback about the exhibition- people saying how well the works complement each other and how accomplished the work is.
On Monday the 5th of February I will be giving a talk at AQA in Surrey Hills ( Melbourne)- will have lots of my work for show and tell.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Blood Plums

It has been a topsy turvy year in the fruit and vegetable garden. The vegetables are all late- we did not get seedlings in until the end of November because even as late as mid December we were having frosts ( very unusual for here). The fruit set on traditional stone fruit trees and apples and pears have been phenomenal but because of the extremely dry conditions until last week, the fruit has been very very small and a lot has dropped and then the birds have been merciless in their destruction of the fruit of some trees- taking one bite and leaving the rest. I don't mind sharing but this seems too much ....

But.... the blood plums are wonderful this year- the tree laden, the fruit small but oh so flavourful and for years I have been eyeing off a recipe in Stephanie Alexander's "The Cooks Companion" ( the first edition which I bought as my forty first birthday present when we came here in 1997) . I have to say that Stephanie's book is one of those must have books- I have a few other of her books from her restaurant days and would dearly love to get the one she did with Maggie Beer on Tuscany and Tuscan food.This recipe is called "Mieze's Plum Cake" and is German in origin ( and I have to say my mother worked for a German couple years ago who made a cake very similar to this, though we can't find the recipe ) and it is worth every bit of the effort, in fact i think its sensational and even my non-blood plum loving kids love this one:

Mieze's Plum Cake
(I have halved the quantities from the original and slightly altered some quantities but not to any great extent)
150 g softened butter
125 g sugar
100g plain flour
100g self rasing flour
pinch of salt
2 eggs lightly beaten
50 ml milk ( or a little more)
1/2 cup breadcrumbs ( or almond meal if you have it )

20 ripe blood plums

75 g butter
100g sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs ( lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees and lightly grease a smallish spring form pan. Cream butter and sugar and mix in the flours and the salt. Add the two eggs and then the milk ( you may use a little more than 50 ml- the idea is to get a batter like consistency which drops slowly off the back of a batter covered spoon)

For the topping- melt the butter add the sugar and cinnamon ( it is not necessary to bring to the boil- allow to slightly cool ) and add lightly beaten eggs.

Halve the plums and remove the pip ( which is very easy)

To assemble:

Spoon the batter mixture into the prepared cake tin and place the halved plums on top of the batter ( they will slightly sink in) then add the topping and place in the oven and cook for one hour. Check whether the centre is cooked before removing and allow to cool a little before serving. it is really lovely served warm with some fresh cream or icecream.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

More Silk

The rock tieing method is something I learnt from Robina Summers of Wildscarves in the workshops we did at Samson Hill. I went up to Melbourne again during the week and again there were not enough students-I don't think I covered the cost of my petrol. Since the first panel was a little too short I have dyed some more ( and i would sell the first panel- but unfortunately I cut a couple of small nicks in the silk cutting off the thread and then the question is what too charge in any case as it is very labour intensive) So I did a second one- I tie each rock individually- I quite like it, but it is not as bluish green as the first. When I mentioned to Robina I had cut little nicks into the silk she suggested just winding from one rock to the next instead of tieing off each rock- which i did- but I find the patterning a bit less distinctive. I haven't decided which one I will use. I can hide the little nicks in the silk under stitching.
I had two pending sales fall through- argggh they were of biggish pieces ,unfortunately this is going to make our stay in Syria dour indeed.There isn't anything I can do about it. These are the ups and downs of what i do, feast and famine as they say.....

Monday, January 22, 2007

Gilgamesh's Forest Rug

Ok the silk is dyed! To my great surprise rocks actually take on dye- the ones I used anway - they are now a blue green colour!

The fabric is as I dreamed it- I wanted this to be Gilgamesh's rug to take into the forest to fight the giant Humbaba- yep it has that light filtering through the canopy kind of feel. However it is 4 inches ( about 10 cm ) too short- arrgggh! I could put a border on it with lebanon cedars but that was not how I had envisioned it so I need to think on that for a bit. So i tied another piece and painted it but made another booboo- instead of mixing cornflower blue dye ( and there was some left over from last night) I added 200% black dye instead- I wondered why it looked so dark when I painted it on. it is drying now so I can steam it- but I had to reverse my thinking on this one so I have no idea what it will look like.

Someone asked me how do I get a visitor from Kazakstan- I have no idea. And I must admit that paying to have the country flags showing on my blog is a bit decadent ( it wasn't very expensive) but I love to travel and I love learning where people are from and well i would love to see that little list grow to 100 countries. it intrigues me how people from little heard of places stumble across blogs- are they into textiles or simply rambling around the internet?But I love it when people say "hi" like Alexandra from Romania- now there is a place I would like to go to one day.

All the travel arrangements are finalised- just have to apply for visas for Syria. We are spending two weeks in Spain- Catalunya to be exact ( and there are a few blog readers from Catalunya) in a little village called Rabos- with a 12th century romanesque church and a little village cafe.It is not far from Figueres so i will get to see the Dali house this time and the theatre in Figueres and we will take the train into Barcelona- it is by far the simplest way to get there. The flat is small but the village looks so picturesque i don't care and it was very reasonably priced as we always travel on a budget and as I have to go to England to teach during our stay it is more comfortable for Collin and the kids.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Rocks in my Head

Rocks in my head- or that is probably what our neighbour thinks. There i was in the driveway looking for rocks in the rain- turned out the best rocks were right near the road, so neighbour drives past- stops car and ask "What are you doing?" "Looking for rocks" says I standing in the pouring rain "ohh " says he and then "Why?" "To dye some silk" says I ." ohhhhhhh " says he and takes off again. The rocks are tied into the silk- but it can't be any old rock they need to be a certain size- not too small and not too large , some long and some round. Once the rocks are tied in I will paint the piece- I like the texture of the back.

We have had a lot of rain- it was needed, but we seem to have had in two days what we would normally get over a couple of months.The garden is gratefully soaking it up ,but the blasted gang gang cockatoos have found the apple trees- they have managed to destroy more than 500 apples on the jonathan tree in one night. I am going out there screaming like a banshee and throwing said apples at their heads ( my aim needs a bit of practice though)- the sreaming did nothing but they did get a surprise when apples started flying around their heads.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

And then came the rain.....

Have not achieved much this week. It has been so hot that it is hard to think let alone sit at a sewing machine and sew. And then last night it started to rain- more than four inches of deluge- our dams are a third full after being dry since September.

I did go up to Melbourne where Olga Walters, Robina Summers and I gave a workshop to try and fundraise for Sense of Place. We did not have enough people to fund raise let alone pay any fees but we did have a fun day. We did the workshop at Samson Hill Winery and were well looked after for morning tea and lunch! The view from the winery towards Melbourne is just wonderful . As you can see, everyone that did come, were intently engaged in painting fabric!

There is another workshop next week in which we will explore transfer(sublimation) dyeing and printing and stitching- if you would like to come there is still places available and it is definitely going ahead.

We also decided we would do the teaching with the three of us on a more regular basis-Samson Hill Winery are agreeable to us using space there once a month. So we decided to form the Bandana Club- which will teach a group of interested participants for a whole year with an ongoing commitment from participants for that year as we will extend what each participant learns and facilitate the development of work which will be exhibited at the winery at the end of the year. We will limit numbers. We have heard many comments from students from the BoxHill Tafe textile design course ( and on a similar basis the lack of scope of the weekend workshops conducted by many groups) that whilst the course is good on design elements that there are shortcomings in relation to techniques, particularly in relation to fabric creation and manipulation with which to develop your designs- we hope to address both of these issues. I think with the decline of textile departments in tertiary institutions that there is some scope for a more independent sort of teaching( just like many independent art schools were set up in the first half of the nineteenth century). I also like the idea that the ongoing commitment will probably be more helpful to participants developing work- rather than a one day touch base with a teacher this will be an ongoing relationship which will see both parties evolve. I know that from the beginning of my textile practice I would have loved to have had a mentor- and sometimes still feel as if I would like one, to push you that one step further and to bring another "what if" into the equation .If you are interested let me know , and if you have any ideas please make them known!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

And so.....

This very pretty little banksia ( though the tree is getting mighty large) has the prettiest flowers- very dainty with little "pearls" at the end of the stamens. My favourite banksia is ericafolia because of the colour of the candles - which are a rich terracotta colour with yellow and orange.

So I am making another banksia quilt- they always sell well, and some of what I make is driven by the need to sell. However I like doing these as I have many banksias in my garden and they flower in the winter- adding colour to the drabness of winter.

Arranging the appliques and then stitching. I straight stitch around the edge- have done so for about 14 years now. Helen asked what gold paint I used- I used Jacquard Textile ink, only because that is all I had and I found it a bit too runny, I prefer to use the Texcraft Golden Lustre Textile Ink i get form Kraft Kolour.
And no I didn't double thread Gilgamesh rug as the silk was too fine to take the heaviness of the double thread- though I did go round several times on the outside of the circles. And yes you use only one bobbin thread.It also allows you to run a yellow and organge thread for greater colour texture. Or as I am doing on the banksia leaves- a lime green and a soft moss green sort of colour- it really does give more interest and I prefer it to variegated threads.

Now to embroider the flowers and a lot of the texture in this piece will come from the quilting. And when does quilting become embroidery? I often use quilting in much the same way as you embroider- with colours and texture.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Starting Another Quilt

The first image is of a hand painted panel one of my students in Kuwait gave me last year. Her name was Paramjeet ( thanks Felicity for the correction!) and she was from India and said that this little panel was hand painted by artists from her own region ( but I can't recall what that region was) What I do recall is Paramjeet's fabulous work. Jenny Bowker taught her to machine quilt and when Jenny next saw her she has machine quilted/embroidered an amazing study of a old city replete with sailing ship in black thread on white fabric- it was utterly amazing!

I have been preparing some more fabric for my next quilt. I am a bit low on white fabric for dyeing at the moment so have been squirreling around using what I have got. This fabric I bought in France and it has quite a coarse weave but it takes the dye beautifully. I have printed some bracken leaves onto it before machine embroidering some banksias onto it. I roll the gold ink onto the leaf itself and then place the leaf inked side down onto the fabric and press it down with a newspaper over the top. Because of the coarse weave of the fabric the print is not as clear as it might be but as i will be stitching around the edges it will show up more once I am finished with it- especially as lately I am double threading my machine whenever I quilt in order to get more of a line.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Gilgamesh's Horse Rug

Gilgamesh's Rug is done! I am not sure if I shall call it that - but maybe I shall have a year of making rugs rather than art quilts LOL! it measures 50 cm wide by 140 cm long. I ran out of steam once I got halfway- I was uncertain about whether there was sufficient contrast or whether there was enough for a stand alone piece. In the end I am glad I finished because now that I see the whole I like it- it certainly is fit for a king and his horse! I have the other half of the fabric left and I think Galgamesh's friend Enkidu needs one as well. I used over 2,000 metres of embroidery rayon for the top and it is very heavily stitched- i thought about adding some beads , but that would be way too uncomfortable for a horse rider and well i quite like the texture as it is.

It is so hot today that my machine simply stopped dead- mild moment of panic but then I have driven machines to a screeching halt before in the heat.

I am also back to the 10,000 step program, I never really stopped but the amount of walking I did dwindled and dwindled until sometimes I was walking only once a week. It feels good to be back and today i did a dedicated 10,000 step walk- I got up early before the heat set in.Then i watered the garden- we are only allowed to water between 8-10 am or the same hours at night .

Sunday, January 07, 2007


Many people think that all the travelling I do is very exotic and must be fun. It is and it isn't - I always miss my family a lot and that is why I often take one of my children with me. Travelling with two is more fun but also much more expensive especially as my kids are at that eat a horse stage. I always have a little two man tent stored in Europe.This time I am taking Ynez as I also need her luggage allowance for the quilts ( we take two changes of clothes and a coat-as it will still be wintery in Syria and good walking shoes- but otherwise all the lugagge is devoted to quilts). At the Australian end they have gotten very ferocious about the weight of your carry on luggage and as those cabin roller suitcases weigh about 2kg without anything in them, I will be taking a lightweight backpack instead!

The last couple of days I have spent on logistics- the airline tickets are booked and paid but there is much more to travel than that! I have finally organised our hotel in Syria- it's called the Sultan Hotel and is very close to the Souq, and as far as hotels go in Syria is very reasonable. It is clean and serviceable and the people who run it a delight- we stayed there last time and feeling a little at home with the people is important as we will be there 24 days. Then there is getting from the airport to the hotel- that's organised. Then there is finding the Arabic dictionary which i put in a safe place and trying to remember all the polite words so at least I may seem foolish but a polite fool.Ok return to Dubai is organised - have to have an overnight stay there- we were looking at a hotel ( which are reasonable for two nights but expensive for one night) however one of Collin's old uni friends now works there, and will be there at the time and so we have a bed for the night! Then onto Paris. I think/hope??? that we will be picked up at the airport ( Christine Moulin if you read this I can't seem to get an email to you- have been trying for weeks!).
Then car hire for the rest of the European trip- my one and only luxury. I tried to do it with public transport once and with a very heavy suitcase it was a nightmare- so I hire a Renault Clio ( the cheapest diesel Renault) from Eurodrive- by far the best deal if hiring for more than 4 weeks and each time you get a brand new car. Ok it's all booked but still has to be paid and I need to extend for a week as we decided to stay for five days longer in France. Then my eldest daughter is coming over and now Collin too ( so have to work out their airfares and times and they will have a stopover in Dubai on the way back to catch up with his friend)- we want to go to Catalonia for 2 weeks- I have promised Ynez some time in Spain as her name is Spanish- so we have managed to find a little holiday flat in a small village not far from Girona that seems affordable, and camping wouldn't be that much cheaper - it's inland as ones near the coast are too expensive- it has one bedroom but will sleep four and is in a village so I hope Robas has at least one little restaurant where we might have the occasional meal.However during that time I need to go to England to teach - so will have to organise a Ryan Air flight from Girona to Stanstead ( lucky I am teaching about an hour or so away) Collin and the girls will stay in Spain and see all the sights in Barcelona ( I hope to get there for at least a day but we will see)
About this time I start my lists- of things I need to take and add to it as I think of things- but in terms of personal things like clothes etc we travel with the bare minimum- things like toothpaste etc can be bought once we are in Syria and there is no use it cluttering up luggage.I am an expert at minimal packing- however a journal always goes with me and I think this time a small water colour set as the hotel in Syria has no tv so we will have to find things to occupy ourselves.I am under orders to buy some falafel makers and a few other things like Syrian engagement rings.
And the picture is of some of the jewellery i bought in Egypt and Syria last time- it looks lovely on my Gilgamesh rug which is making progress- but what a lot of sewing!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Sense of Place Intsalled! Thank You Team!

Firstly thank you one and all for your very sweet thoughts- I know many of us go through painful experiences , debilitating illnesses and upsetting moments in our lives and it is comforting to think that even though we are in cyber space that real warmth and friendship do offer solace- so thank you.

As i was uploading these pictures I was thinking there is another aspect to all the curating that i do- and that is teams. I have put up a photo of Robina Summers, Olga Walters, Tony Summers and John Walters ( from the back of the photo to the front)- we had just put up the last quilt in Sense of Place exhibition at Samson Hill. Without these people everything would be so much more difficult- so a big thank you to you all! We have installed a number of exhibitions now, and I have to say I have never heard a cross word amongst us, and it all seems to happen with the minimum of fuss. Things like this can't happen without teams of people who give their time so freely- yesI know these functions are often paid in organisations but alas I never get funding to financially reward those that help me.John and Olga have developed a kit to meet even the most difficult of problems encountered in installing an exhibition, it wa smost useful yesterday. I have to get better! And we had to laugh- most of us who have installed exhibitions in th epast seem to have a supply of odd sized rods, that get sawed down for each new occasion!

And dare i say it- the exhibition looks Abbofabbo ( my new word- rolls of the tongue easily). Samson Hill Winery is totally delighted with the work and its presence and as Pago the owner wondered around with a smile on her face she kept on saying there really is a sense of place! So a big thank you to the artists for again coming up with wonderful work! Tomorrow i shall put more overall view pictures- if you want to see the quilts you shall have to come to Samson Hill Winery at Kangaroo Ground! And don't you love the banner we had made for the Exhibition- it will go everywhere!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Gellibrand Morning 2007

Sometimes I feel like a little tattered leaf floating on the ocean of debris- my flowers have withered into hard little nuts and somehow you still have to hang on and be counted. 2006 was a rollercoaster year - it started with a fabulous trip to Egypt, Syria and Kuwait. Then a trip to Europe Israel and Palestine. I was deeply affected by what I saw in Palestine almost in the same way as I was affected by travels in Africa in 1990. My trip to Africa freed my imagination- but also gave me the courage to ditch a career as a solicitor where I was earning excellent money and was on a career path of partnership and all the attendant gains with that. Africa opened my eyes- money does not make happiness, fulfilling whatever it is that each of us needs to do creatively has a much better chance of succeeding at that. Likewise my trip to Palestine unleashed a deep melancholy which I am only now coming to grips with. I felt so helpless in the face of a situation that seems to have no solution and which sees people suffering. The melancholy has been percolating and everynow and then I get a glimpse of the work I might create and then Collin's father died, and four weeks later my middle child decided she would rather live away from us than with us.That is still the situation now. I am hoping a solution will be found. We all are tattered little leaves in an ocean and we have to keep swimming and hoping. So here is what I am hoping.....for 2007

Peace and peaceful solutions

That Sense of Place really extends the goodwill that I am hoping it will.

That my daughter will seek the help she needs and learn to trust that help so she can climb out of where she is now.And that we will be "family"again- meanwhile we have to make sure that the rest of us remain so.

That I will survive another year as an artist both artistically and financially, and find new ways of seeing things and expressing myself.

That I can use the emotions of 2006 to make work that questions and re-evaluates things taken for granted.

And last but not least- that i get to meet as many friends as I have made through this blog not only in cyber space but in the realm of hugs , smiles and tears.

And that our vegie garden again provides the organic backdrop which is a mainstay of our lives. I find it remarkable that in one of the driest years ever the lettuce which is a notorious water feeder has decided that this is the year to be a most excellent lettuce! Basil is revelling in the warmth and zucchini as always faithfully produces a glut!