Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Busy But not Going Anywhere

 I have been working on new on-line classes, and I hope we will be able to make the videos sooner rather than later- things have already been delayed because of the continuing lockdown. Restrictions will ease tomorrow in regional Victoria- but that is not much help when your videographer lives in Melbourne and is still subject to stage 4 restrictions . The expanding deadline means that  I have slackened off the pace of work a little until I remembered I had an upcoming exhibition with other artists at Cardamome Gallery in St Prest ( near Chartres) and that I needed to have things in the post at least a month before the exhibition even though I am sending it by Express International parcel post. I do hope it gets there in time as this group of artists have exhibited together several times.

I  kept to the sea theme for the pieces I made as it meant I could use the new linocuts I had been making and I also made a  folded book to accompany the two pieces I made.The pieces I made were not large, and in any case the gallery is not large.

The piece above is tie dyed silk, that has been printed with linocuts in a multi layered print in different colours ( this will also be a technique I will be teaching at Grampians Textures next year). The bordered piece is hand dyed cotton- and  used one of the multi layered prints on cotton which I have had for sale. All of the work was inspired by the beach walks on Atauro Island when I did my residency with Boneca de Atauro and a visit to the Aquarium at La Rochelle last year. I am having a lot of fun with  the wonderfully shaped creatures  and plants and colours.

The book incorporates the trial prints I did on newspaper and which I hand coloured with inktense Pencils and water colour paints.

I had not intended to make a booklet to accompany the quilts but got a bit carried away and then made another one after I had sent my parcel off to France.
I have also made a seahorse linocut inspired by the little seahorses at the Aquarium in La Rochelle. I am waiting on more white fabric to arrive so I can do some dyeing and print them up for sale. The ones below have been printed on newspaper and hand coloured.

I have also been working on new designs using the tifaifai technique which will become an on-line class offering several completely new patterns, but also giving you tips on how to create your own designs and of course how to dye your fabric for these projects as well as how to stitch and free motion quilt the pieces. In fact i am revisiting the book I wrote in 2001 , Tifaifai Renaissance, but  improving it with all the things I have learnt teaching this technique since then plus offering more variations and also some simpler designs so that it is a suitable technique for a beginner . The beauty of the technique is that if you cut your design very carefully you end up with a positive cutout and a negative cutout- so you end up with two pieces, and whilst they are the same subject matter, visually they are different and this perception can be changed even more by adding different borders. I am also including table runners and small wall quilts. if you are interested in doing this course  and want more information please email me.
I am thinking it will be broken up into three lessons, and will include my work books and initial drawings to help you in your own design process.

I love hares and wanted to make a tifaifai which was quite different to ones I had previously made. I have yet to stitch these ( have run out of my favourite batting, Matilda's Own ). I also  like the fact that there are many folk tales associated with hares in many different cultures. I have yet to think of a border for the one on the bottom. I almost like it the way it is.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

And Lockdown Continues

 Where I live, Morwellia, we are in stage 3 lockdown, but Melbourne, where my mother and daughters live are in stage 4- as we deal with this second wave of Covid 19. This is a really difficult time for people and I am fortunate to be able to stitch, create new workshops, read and watch some tv on my laptop, walk in a small bushland reserve and use messenger and zoom for more face to face conversations.

I see people lamenting their inability to travel and to go overseas, and yes whilst i do look at photos from travels past and I do miss travelling I am trying to  focus on small things, small steps and  grabbing enjoyment from tiny moments. This was the one big lesson I took away from cancer (apart from  giving yourself time to exercise and to eat as best as you can with the freshest food possible in season)- to savour the tiny moments and to marvel at the world immediately around us, and to look for joy in the smallest of things. Cancer is also a great equaliser like this virus is - when I was lying in the Women's Hospital after my op and fearing for the future- my thoughts of self became obliterated as I heard doctors telling young women that they would never bear children- I heard their crying as they were told and I saw their inexorable grief for something that would never be. But with cancer there is no choice- and yet here we are in lockdown and we have the luxury of choice to be the best we can for the communities we live in, to protect those around us as best as we can, and to protect those we love as best we can. All it takes is to be careful, to socially distance, to wash hands, to wear masks and for this brief blip in the landscape of 2020 to stay at home unless we need  necessaries for sustenance. It is not a lot to ask in the big picture of things. I have also found that the hand sanitiser plays havoc with my much more fragile skin since radiotherapy, but  I have a huge clump of aloe vera in my garden, and whilst I have used aloe vera to treat burns and sun burn, I had never thought of using it on bad chafing and cracking of the skin on my hands until a friend suggested I try it last night- and within 24 hours of applying it regularly i can say I can't believe the improvement of my skin and the cracks are no longer weeping. Makes me wonder what it could do for my face lol????

I have returned to noticing the small things- I take a daily walk in a small bushland reserve not far from my house- and pretend it is a forest full of  spirit and wonder.  It used to be a dump for abandoned vehicles and a kind of hoonville hooning  spot. But someone with vision saw that it could be something else- something of benefit to the whole community, and something which would allow the return of native bushland to a small part of Morwellia. They built tracks so people can walk, they cleaned up the rubbish that gets dumped ( even now) and deal with invasive weeds. I  can tell you that it is actually full of ducks and screeching cockatoos, parakeets,currawongs, fairy wrens,  the odd kookaburra, magpies, shrike thrushes, wattle birds, asian minor birds, a pied heron, even a bower bird, native pigeons- and I am not a twitcher! I have also seen a kangaroo. It is small but I am so grateful that it is there to let my mind wander for an hour a day whilst my body benefits from the exercise.

I am also surprised- very pleasantly actually- in a town that has a reputation for bad behaviour and crime- that I have only seen one person without a mask. Even the biker on his motor bike yesterday was wearing a mask, and  everyone is very aware of the social distancing except for a few elderly people. Even the hoons are off the streets at night ( even though we are not under curfew like Melbourne) and are hooning in the day time instead. Small mercies... small things... but you know what, it does tell me that Morwell actually thinks of itself as a community and that we need to look out for each other.

When I was diagnosed with cancer and went through radiotherapy I created a little written reminder in stitch of both the good and bad- small things every single day until treatment finished. I acknowledged my fear and anxiety and gave it a place, but also found myself being more upbeat then I was expecting to be, actually bent on noticing small things, and embracing joy from those interactions- whether it was to hold some healing stones sent by a friend, the look at the fibre/textile hearts and cards  sent, or to simply marvel that i could walk, and daily see the changes nature seemed fit to bestow on me. We cannot control the big thing like a pandemic, but we can be a small step in  trying to make our communities safer. I read somewhere if we make a small list of our anxieties once a day at the same time, we are giving signals to the great unknown of our minds that the anxiety is there but you are only giving it a small portion of your day.

I started the Forest Quilt below before the pandemic started to reign. I was making it to exhibit in Moscow and the Netherlands. But as lockdowns started happening , that of course  did not happen and so the quilt sat half finished for ages. But my morning walks made me pick it up again and finish it and happily I have also sold it, almost immediately i posted the image on instagram (quite a lot of happy dancing here)  The fabric was printed with  bracken and she oak and the fabric was especially dyed to reflect a forest environment. It is  free motion drawn with Aurifil Mako 30 thread- this thread has a wonderful sheen and because the weight of thread is slightly heavier it sits on the surface beautifully. The she oak print looks like spirits dancing to me.

Thursday, August 06, 2020

New Normal

Lockdown is well and truly back. Melbourne is stage 4 which makes it impossible to see my children and difficult to see my mother. I have been trying to find out the right way to go about delivering  the groceries and personal sanitary items and medication which I take to her once a fortnight. I am not a registered carer, but as she cannot drive and cannot walk as far as her local shops , I have to take her those things. I also used to stay the night- and cook things for her freezer, but I can't do that anymore either until stage 4 restrictions lift. Sometimes all of this is overwhelming and it is hard to get motivated. I have started walking in a Bushland Reserve close to my home, as I had been missing the bush a lot. It seems to be working, and at least I am exercising and often I am the only person walking so I have the whole 100 acres of the reserve to myself.

This spot is called Tortoise Dam and often there are ducks swimming around. It is quite peaceful even though the noise of birds is anything but. There is a lot of birdlife in this little reserve and I am so glad I found it. The walk is helping blow the cobwebs out, and I like seeing minor changes from day to day.

I also had some good news  recently , a grant from  Creative Victoria , Sustaining Creative Worker's Grant. It is to help me create some better videos with a videographer, and to create new on-line courses and just improve my on-line delivery of things, as it looks like  teaching in this way will be one of the ways forward in this new world. So I am extremely grateful to have succeeded in obtaining a grant .

I have finally finished embroidering all the circles on my One World Traveller's Blanket- all 87 of them! Now for the background stitching. I did start with a dark coloured burgundy thread- but I am not sure I am liking it. I started in the middle if you look closely, I am thinking I need to be using a brighter colour. 

A lot of stitching needs to be done!

I was doing a bit of poking around as I am trying to locate my Tifaifai Renaissance book ( I have two copies and the one I found has some blank pages so I need to find the other) and came across my Plaids Nomades book which I had also been looking for. Sometimes it is lovely to see things in print!
The little stitch maps remind of  maps in general. I suppose "reading" a traveller's blanket is a bit like reading a map, each embroidered circle something in its own right but connected to all other things with stitch, visual weight and colour.  There is still time to join the on-line Traveller's Blanket class I am starting on 8 August. You work in a size of your own choice and also use motifs to reflect your story. There is a Paypal button on my previous blog post.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Lockdown is Back

I have finally been working in my work room with some regularity. I must admit having a Phillipina friend come to stay was the final impetus to get it sorted and to claim it as my work space. My friend was able to get a visa to stay in Australia longer than the normal three months as she arrived prior to declaration of the pandemic and has a son and family who live in Australia. Going back to the Phillipines is not safe nor is it safe for her to go to her sister and cousins in the USA.

I have had a number of requests as to whether I was running my On-Line Traveller's Blanket class again and have decided that I will.The stitching is a very soothing exercise in these troubled times and I have seen some wonderful results from the  two earlier classes I have run this year. I doubt I will be doing any in the flesh teaching this year simply due to the Covid virus. The class will start 8 August 2020.

The traveller's blanket class incorporates the idea of place and memory- using your stitching as a kind of writing and recording of those things. It is a way of incorporating  special fabric scraps- of creating new ones. I use  soft light weight fabrics and often use cotton flannel as my batting as it gives lovely soft drape and feels lovely in the hand. My favourite fabric to use is khadi- which I get from India- but a lightweight linen would also work well or  wool. I use perle 8 weight threads as I like the line they create and allow me to add extra colour. If you are interested in more information or joining the class email me. I will also add a Paypal button at the bottom of this page. the cost of the class is $75 AUS.

I am back working on my One World blanket. it has stalled for about four weeks whilst I worked on the Book Without Words- but I hate leaving  things unfinished. I felt I had made it too big-  but then well it was meant to make a statement of sorts so I decided 87 circles was just the number it should be and that I will finish it by hook or crook- I am presently embroidering  circle number 57 so only 30 to go!

It has been a worrying two weeks with Covid 19 cases on the rise in Victoria , but particularly in Melbourne through what seems to have been the careless activities of a couple of people. The number of cases in ICU has quadrupled- so to all the naysayers and conspiracy theorists- this is serious , and it will continue to be the state of play unless everyone complies with lockdown procedures. I am in country Victoria where we are not locked down, but in all reality I think we should be. The health guide lines are simple- only go out for necessities, don't go to gatherings, wash your hands, socially distance and wear masks if out and about. I am finding the press wearying as well- this isn't about political point scoring or one upmanship- it's about public health and safety- sensationalising any of this, and any of the stories undermines the very real steps  that so much of  the front line care givers, nurses, doctors, care assistants, police  have to face every single day. Imagine going home or not being able to go home because you have been exposed to this nasty virus.

Paypal Button to pay for the class. The class will start 8 August- 55th anniversayr of my families  arrival in Australia. The cost of the class is $75 AUS.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Book Without Words (or Book of Many Many Hours)

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

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

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

Monday, June 15, 2020

The Wild Fantastical Sea

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 23, 2020

I Thought I had Done Little

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

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

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

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

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

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

The little block stitched with perle8 weight thread.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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