Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Playing with Purpose

I let myself get behind on tasks whilst I was mouldering in the doldrums- and that's not good, so I need to be clever and have multi-uses for the things I have to make for an article for Downunder Textiles.And I have enjoyed the playing so much I am having a really good time with it and have also seen some possibilities for work on the France book.I have done breakdown and/or polychromatic printing in the past- way back in the early nineties, and then again about 4-5 years ago, and then I let it go again.But I am having a lot of fun with it at the moment. I started simple as i wanted to remind myself of the process and here is one thing I have come up with:

One of the pleasant memories of last year was visiting the St. Blaise des Simples, Milly la Forêt  where Jean Cocteau painted the inside of the chapel. Cocteau's cat is iconic and much known, and he painted one inside the chapel.
 I love this little painting of a cat ( being a cat lover myself) and I have looked and looked at the photo I took , thinking how can I create Cocteau's cat without exactly making Cocteau's cat? So I painted a screen  with thickened dye paint- the dye runs a bit so you can't exactly control what will happen, which is fine because that would change the cat  as well.
I then  screened printed the image onto fabric with orange thickened dye- the fabric below was my fourth print and all the lines were starting to disappear and the  fabric seemed to simply consists of dots and some lines, and a vague cat.This is the best part of the process- you will never be quite sure how the fabric will end up!

  Then last but not least- stitched below- cat resurrected and  it looks different enough from Cocteau's cat but still references it.Cocteau's cat has raised my spirits no end and I am excited and leaping with ideas.Just wish I had more than one screen to print with, but the sun is cooperating and well..... the muse is back I think!

There is still time to enrol in the online linocutting/stamping class- just email me for further information.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Some Days Further

I am still not over my  blues and the news on the car got worse though the timing belt has been done- all in a week's flings of outrageous fortune.

However i did actually get some work done, not as much as I would have liked , but I started some new things, some of which I will share as i get more done but others i can't as it is work for an article I am writing for Downunder Textiles and also work for my France book.At least I am hand stitching again on small traveller blanket inspired pieces to send to England as part of the exhibition called Through Our Hands at Leamington Spa and for which Annabel Rainbow has been doing all the leg work( thank you very much Annette- it is much appreciated!)

I am  posting some images of early work that is for sale and for which any reasonable offer will be considered.
  The forest piece measures 85 cm wide by 75 cm long- and is an early piece I made with the fabric dyed in the forest  style- I think it dates from sometime in 2002 as I am pretty certain I exhibited in Aachen in 2002 ( I can't believe it's 10 years ago that I exhibited at a little gallery there- it seems that it was much more recent)
Floodplain dates from a bit later and measures 85 cm wide by 95 cm long. It is hand and machine stitched. This quilt actually renewed my interest in hand stitching which came as a bit of a surprise to me. Someone did  something that made me really angry and I  know that being angry is counter productive but nonetheless it was  nagging away at me.Anyway i had this quilt top  sitting on the couch as I had not decided how I would quilt it, and I had recently bought some lovely limish green variegated thread- next thing I am hand stitching on the quilt- don't know how it happened but I tried- and I can tell you I started out jabbing- and the first  6 cms or more of stitching was a needle jab in the person's who had made my angry,bum. I  then started to enjoy the process and have had some hand stitching on the go ever since- so there if you are ever angry get out some hand stitching, it's very soothing!

Don't forget if you are interested in printing your own fabrics ro creating your own stamps or linocuts for printing on paper there is still time to enrol in my on-line course which starts on 1 September.
Here are what some previous students have made;
Sarah-Ann Smith and here
Robbie Payne
Shirley Goodwin
Sally Westcott
Linda Bilsborro

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


I have not blogged as much this year as in previous years because I have been struggling. Even despite doing the NEIS scheme I am finding it very difficult to make ends meet from my business, add to that my car debacle of last year, and my block of land not selling since I put it up for sale 3 years ago, renting in Geelong where the rents are ridiculously high for what you get, being a single mum with a teenager still finishing high school ( thank goodness she has a little part time job and she finishes high school next  year so I am stuck here until then)- well it's just very difficult. I can pinpoint what is happening to some extent- our very high dollar means that  my earnings from overseas have roughly been halved ( when I teach in Europe and internet sales),increases in the cost of postage ( over 40% in the last 3 years) means I have not pushed my books too much to overseas  and  sales of bigger work has been cut from 10-12 pieces per year to  3-4 if I am lucky, and that is a direct result of the state of the economy ( I wish i could get a dollar for every time someone says they wish they could buy a piece), and many cancellations of classes this year and last year . For example I was supposed to teach in Sydney last weekend but it was cancelled. I tried very hard  to search for a job last year and still actively look for job opportunities because at the moment I am just going backwards- I lie awake at night worrying and cannot seem to motivate myself to work harder as I am a firm believer in working hard and giving to the universe ( so I have been volunteer guiding at the Geelong Gallery and also have taken on  committee and exhibition duties at Geelong Patchworkers and Quilters).

I can rent some workshop space at the Blanket Box- which is just around the corner from me and I will be doing that but I have to revamp my workshop brochure and descriptions and also make some additions to the brochure- so watch this space once I get a program sorted out, which should be soon if I can find the motivation to sit and do it.

The reason i am agony aunting is that I have been using my daughters' car but it needs the timing belt renewed and a major service, and since I have been using the car and intend to buy it off her, as she cannot park it at the student house where she is living- I rang to book it in this morning after stalling and stalling and then deciding I cannot afford for another car to go to car heaven-  ouch what a costly affair that will be, and I am not sure how I am going to pay for it, but also know I cannot afford the consequences should the timing chain decide it's had enough.We live very frugally as it is and there is just no give in my budget for major expenses like this- its hard enough getting money together for rego and insurance.

I find that all this worry has really impacted heavily on my work rate and my enthusiasm- so in an effort to  take the bull by the horns I am working through The Artists' Way by Julia Cameron because I feel severely blocked and surely things will improve at some stage??? I also have to book a trip to Europe as I am demonstrating at the Abilmente Fair in Vicenza from 18-21 October and am also teaching workshops in France after 21 October ( I am available for workshops in Italy and France if anyone is interested).This may seem extravagant but in all reality I have nothing lined up in Australia during that period, and  I actually have enough points on my Qatar  Airways frequent flyer program to get over there paying taxes only- phew , it's about time!

I will be photographing older work and will put it up on my blog and will consider all serious offers to buy as I need  for something to happen!

Meanwhile look on my blog and see if there is anything you would like to buy- sentinelle panels in any colour you like, owl panels, cat panels....just name your colour . There is also the opportunity to join the on-line linocutting class which starts on 1 September- this is not only about linocutting but looking at making your own stamps to create unique fabric.

Meanwhile I have finished the travellers' Blanket with circles. I will be sending it to England for exhibition at  Leamington Spa Art Gallery- I had hoped to make some smaller pieces for sale- but I need to find some extra energy!
 I finally did some stitching on the bird linocut panel I printed ( this panel is also for sale, just printed and not stitched for $14 plus postage). I think I  may add some colour with a shiva stick in the flower areas- I am still procrastinating. The green panel below is the back of the quilted panel and I like it almost as much as the orangey panel.

A few weeks I came home to find that the landlord had chopped down the  plum tree in the front yard, as he had to chop down another tree that had fallen over ( I was a bit sad about this as I quite liked the  plum tree and the blossoms are pretty in the spring time)-  the stump has been sawn level with the ground and with all this rain the stump glistens, but isn't the graining in the wood beautiful?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Owl Lino-cut

Thank you  for the kind and thoughtful responses I received in response to my previous post- it is much appreciated. I feel as if I am slowly clawing myself back into working mode or working constructively. it's not that I have been idle but I felt like I was getting nothing done. There have also been serious health issues with parents and step parents who are aging- and  it impacts on work especially if you work from home and people just think you are at beck and call.I would love to find a studio space outside my home where i could give workshops and be with other people because working from home is sometimes very lonely and it is hard to motivate ones self.

I made another linocut today of an owl- it measures 20 cm x 50 cm. I have been asked to make some more lino panels to embroider so this is a panel fro embroidering. When I make these linocuts I am very conscious of the fact that I need to think how the pieces will be stitched and how much of the negative space ( the coloured background fabric) will actually show up in the print.Making linocuts for fabric really entails different considerations than making a linocut for paper- though there is some cross over. On paper you can aim for really fine textures and patterning , on fabric such fine textures don't translate as well, though i was surprised it how well the definition came up in the cat linocut print.Anyway the owl panel is for sale if you are interested- I can print any colour.The prices is $15 plus postage. And also remember these are hand prints - if they were on paper I could probably charge a lot more- simply because they would be  ones you would frame. What do you think about pricing of hand printed fabric?

And I shall be starting another on-line linocutting course on 1 September. I take you through a lot of exercises to hone your skills . You will be making  stamps but not just little stamps- you will make all sorts of different sized stamps, explore positive/negative space and even explore using your photos.The cost will be $60AUS. If you are interested please email me

Yesterday I went to Red Rock Community Arts Centre- to sit at a fibre exhibition for the day. The exhibition runs until the end of August and the space is delightful and there is some terrific work on display- some wonderful felted and stitched clothing by Carole Redlich and friends ,stitched and embroidered pieces by local artists ( and I am sorry I did not write down all the names) some of my pieces for the wall , fibre brooches, some student work and folios from Swinburne.Carole has been one of the instigators in getting the fibre exhibition off the ground( I can't find a direct website for Carole's work). The gallery is in a renovated  church donated to the Cororooke community by The Beale family in memory of their young daughter Carolyn who was killed in a car accident several years ago. The money that was received in compensation was used to make this gift to the community- and the gift seems to be much enjoyed by local people and has seen an emergence of a creative community in such a small place- a remarkable and insightful gift. If you have any spare time on the weekend- and you like the countryside it's worth a visit- there is a good local coffee shop nearby I am told.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

The Olympics and Australian Bounty

I think, like many other people around the world I have watched a little of the Olympics, although only small sessions at a time . I must admit that the Olympics and our attitudes to sports  bore me a little- yes sport is important but it's not the only thing in the world- there are things of the mind and the hands and of the heart. Sport is huge in Australia, too huge and you know this is so, when the headlines in newspapers are not about  what has been achieved for individual sports people, their sport or even their country but  "why  is it that all the money that has been thrown at people hasn't delivered results?"( well that was until 2 days ago anyway) Money has been spent ,there needs to be financial gain at the end- and we have even appointed a person to look into swimming's failure- i can only shake my head and wonder at this jingoistic folly, because  it is sheer foolishness to place our expectations on gold medals only- there is so much more- and this is where I want to tell you a little story.

What the Olympics did for me............and i don't play sport!( or not any more )

Prior to 2000 I was making art quilts but had little success in my own country, and my work was rarely selected for what were considered to  be the "art quilt" events/ shows. I could not get work into galleries and I was feeling very frustrated. Yet I was getting work into European exhibitions- they were structured a little differently, and I was having reasonable success. Enter onto the stage Chassy d'Or at Chateau de Chassy in France- I entered a quilt, I won a kudos only prize ( good for the resume) and  best of all the organiser of the event Mme Frederique Tison purchased my quilt- for me it was a wow and wow thing that happened. I corresponded with  Mme Tison, and found we had a passion for the environment and in the year 2000 she was organising an exhibition at Chateau de Chassy, her home, on the theme friendship. In the middle of the night in 1999 I had a brainstorm and  came up with the idea of offering an exhibition of Australian quilts made by 20-30 different Australian artists to be part of the friendship exhibition. I proposed the idea to Mme Tison and she approved on condition that she co-curate.

It only dawned on me a little  into the process that 2000 was the Sydney ( Australia) Olympic year- and that indeed it might be a good time not to be in Australia, because lets face it I am not so enamoured of all the hullabaloo, crowing and jingoism that we would be  subjected to 24/7, wall to wall sport. I saw it as a good opportunity to go to France, not only by myself but with my family. Mme Tison approved the plan after discussion with her family and so it was decided that i would do an artist residency at Chateau de Chassy and would help install and mind the exhibition of Australian quilts- what happened next, was a little magic and an event that changed so many things in my life.

I called for entries in Australia and got a wonderful response from artists allowing us to choose an exhibition that  spoke of Australia. I called it Australian Bounty. We took the quilts to France  on my youngest daughters 5th birthday, and there the magic started- head airline steward Pierre ( from a now defunct french/ polynesian airline) not only gave my daughter a special birthday kiss on the cheek( and it did not hurt he was tall dark and handsome), but chocolates and took her into the cockpit- she thought we had arranged it. We were picked up at the Charles de Gaulle Airport and  taken to Chateau de Chassy and greeted by Mmme Tison and her daughter Patience. Chateau de Chassy was once the home of Balthus- then France's greatest living painter and mme Tison had during 1950's and early 1960's been his muse and mistress.We were allocated  two large bedrooms and a kitchen in one of  the towers. Now the Chateau has seen better days but wow, we were going to live in a castle for nearly three months.  Our Kitchen chimney mantle bore the scratchings of Picasso 's name ( a visitor to the Chateau at one time) and in our bedroom was an original Giacometti lampstand. I taught a workshop in the atelier that had once belonged to Balthus and which Mme Tison had kept intact.My daughters at that stage were aged 9,7 and 5 it all seemed like a fairy tale.

What I had not bargained for was the Olympics. On French television every night, before the news there was a segment about Australia where the forthcoming Olympics were to be held- it showcased all sorts of things about our country. There was the great rivalry between Australian runner Cathy Freeman and French runner Marie Jose Perec. News had quickly spread  in the town where we shopped that we were Australians and it was not long before my daughters, all blonde and suntanned were being called the Australian princesses- and people would  make a special effort to tell us about a segment they had seen on tv and ask us about it- my youngest daughter was even on french tv ringing the gate bell to open the exhibition. We were lucky we did get support from the Australian France Foundation and I got a grant from the Ian Potter Foundation- we were the only Australian exhibition travelling in the whole of Europe in that Olympic year.

When I gathered the work together I had not anticipated how"Australian' the works would be. We had a show of the quilts at Gellibrand  in the Otways to send the quilts off, and 500 people came to look and  that day is still being talked about in this region- people remind me of it from time to time. Imagine.... these works  in the attic of a seventeenth century French castle with  stone walls and  soaring oak rafters (up to 30 metres in the roof)- they glowed- the atmosphere tingled with palpable vive l'Australie- it was  something that still brings tears to my eyes- the work glowed like a bright jewel- nearly every person that walked into that exhibition drew a deep breath as they took in the colour and tingle- and the words I heard most often was c'est magnifique, c'est  formidable, c'est encroyable. The Dutch prime minster and his wife came and talked and stayed for an hour- many people came but I think the most  telling event was the day a young woman arrived with three of her friends- she walked into the room and burst into tears- her friends gathered around her concerned worried, but she said it's alright, it's alright- it's home ( she was Australian and had lived in France for 20 or more years)- she had simply had an overwhelming feeling of homesickness and she stood shaking her head for quite some time. The exhibition got invited to a gallery of  Contemporary Art near Chartres and then to the foyer of the Australian  Embassy  which also doubled as gallery space where it was one of the best attended exhibitions ever. It also travelled to many other places- but the effect was never quite the same as in France- because it was those segments on tv leading up to the Olympics which had opened the hearts of  French people to be responsive. Those segments might normally have been a one hour documentary but for the Olympics, but instead they were an ongoing dialogue and  my family and I as Australians were seen as representatives of our country and part of the dialogue. It was indeed strange to be escaping your country and at the same time representing your country.

The many connections I have made in France have in part  come from that exhibition, and  several of my enduring friendships with both French and expat people came through that exhibition. And then last year I was reminded yet again of  a warm and reciprocal relationship that exists between France and Australia. I did live in a small village in the south of France at the house of a friend in 2010- I worked and  travelled to other parts of Europe but  when I was in Le Triadou I went for daily walks with my friends dog. Last year i returned for a visit with my friend and walked her dog in the vineyards as I had used to do, and encountered someone whose face seemed familiar-  her  response was warm- she kissed but then hugged me and said "Ahhh l'Australienne"- I felt as if I had come home in some way- and perhaps I had.

It's why i want to write a book about work inspired by France- a kind of homage or perhaps a love letter.

The exhibition has lead to many other curating opportunities though I have now hung up my curating shoes for the time being- it's time to concentrate on my own work. My quilt at the bottom of the page was a quilt inspired by Otway ferns.The other quilt pictured  is by Deborah McArdle. The article comes From Australian Patchwork & and Quilting Vol 7 no.8

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Lino Cutting On-line Course

I have been busy printing some cat panels with my cat linocut and carving a new linocut . Well not quite new, I did start it in 2009 before I went to France, decided that the lines were maybe too fine, but in a recent tidy up of my sunroom, where I do most of my printing I decided I would finish it after all. The design was inspired by an old Persian textile that I found in an old book I  have about weaving and even printing techniques from the 1920's written By Amor Fenton. In the end I was rather pleased how this linocut turned out- I was worried some of the lines might be too wobbly or my cutting was a bit rough but you can't really see once it has been printed.I also need to print it on a different surface and just see if that makes a difference.

I also machine stitched up one of the linocut printed cat panels. The machine stitching gives a very different effect to the hand stitching.
The orange and blue cat is machine stitched and the black and greenish cat is hand stitched.

 This is the back of the machine stitched cat. Below are some panels I have printed up. The panels measure 25 cm wide by 50 cm long and are for sale. Each cat panel costs $15 AUS plus postage. Remember these are hand printed panels ready for you to stitch and embellish as you wish.I have made the linocuts myself

And a few people have asked when I am doing another on-line linocutting course. I will start another course on 1 September 2012. If you are interested I can send you further information. The cost will be $60AUS. The course will consist of 3 lessons delivered as  pdf files with a lot of different exercises to help build your skills and to give you ideas  for using your photos or artwork. I will also  set up a classroom forum and  am exploring a few new aspects for delivery. If you are interested in doing this on-line course , just email me and I will send further details.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Not Much Done

Another week has simply flown by without much to show for it- though have done quite some planning and thinking about the France/Inspired by France book( it will include a lot of techniques I use, and ideas of how to work on a theme and explore) so I guess that is progress. I have also finally managed to clean up the sunroom ( now that the weather seems to be a little on the improve)- it's ok to work there when the weather warms a little as it is not insulated- and I do all my printing there.I haven't had it this clean since I moved here ( originally it contained furniture which would not fit in the house), and then stuff form my shed got dumped there and well it never got tidied. It feels good to have finally cleaned everything up, got rid of a lot of stuff- it's the  cleanest printing/working space I have had for years ( since 2004 I think) . The impetus for the big clean up was that someone gave me quite a large table which will be excellent for printing , but also means I can run some workshops from home. Anyone want to come and do some transfer dyeing and printing?

Anyway here is my cleaned up space.....