Monday, May 23, 2022

Next Project

  This last month since delivering the commission has been busy. I am curating an exhibition entitled Gathered Threads which will open at ArcYinnar on June 4 ( everyone is welcome). The exhibition will showcase work by nine artists, some of Australia's top practitioners in textiles. Everything I have seen thus far promises a feast for the eyes. Don't forget if you visit Arc Yinnar, that  LRG (Latrobe Regional Gallery ) also has exhibitions and are at present showcasing regional artists and work about the region so you could make a day of it in the Latrobe Valley. One exhibition is entitled Hazelwood and of course Hazelwood power station has disappeared off the face of the earth though the coal hole is still there.

I  am also exhibiting work in Gathered Threads and must admit I was not quite sure what I was going to exhibit.  I have been busy making work but the work has been for the book ( the quilts are in transit in France- and I am getting a little worried this is more than a years work- delivery was attempted on 11 May and since then I have heard nothing- there is phone numbers plastered all over the parcel - not impressed Australia Post! neither for your communication and taking my money for Express delivery and 5 weeks after posting the parcel has still not arrived- it has cleared customs) And of course there was the recent commission I completed.

I have been making badges. I initially started making badges years ago but about two years ago I started making them more focused as in badges that address my concerns about climate change/environment. I have not quite worked out how I will display these but they will accompany my One World stitched piece that I finished early last year which I have not displayed yet. That piece grew out of the Climate strike back in 2019 ( doesn't that seem like forever ago) and took me two years to finish. The badges were meant to be quick things to do but they are anything but. Each one takes about 3 hours if not more. They are heavily hand stitched and use discarded printed fabrics where the print has not printed clearly or offcuts of fabric. I am still trying to decide whether I am wasting my time or whether I am better off to think of something else altogether. I still have 8 days to rethink????

Then today whilst printing some fabric for a customer order I decided to print my bush sentinelle linocut onto some silk organza I had- and I am rather chuffed with the way that came out. I thought a lot of the printing ink would squeeze through the weave of organza  and that it would lose a lot of definition of the print but if anything the print is crisp and very clear whilst the transparency of the organza creates a certain fragility. I would like to print this onto a much bigger piece of silk organza I have , the only problem being that the bush rats that used to try and nest inside the shed whilst I lived in my shed in Gellibrand have eaten some holes into the piece- probably using shreds to line their nests. I am toying with the idea of somehow mending or embellishing these holes as part of the structure of the piece . The silk organza is way too nice to discard- I haven't decided whether I will dye it yet, given it has to be washed in any case.

The nights have been cooling  down of late, though we have been having beautiful clear days. My daughters came and helped with rebuilding some gardening beds. The grass which spreads like wildfire had gotten out of control last year in the spring when I was not allowed to do heavy work after my heart attack. And whilst I managed to grow some vegetables, the grass had by that stage become rampant and trying to find a gardener has been next to impossible, When I have money there is no one available and off course when I don't have any money it is possible to find someone. Would really like to find someone who could help out ( and be paid) on a regular fortnightly basis or some such. Meanwhile I have started the winter plantings- and yes it is a little late but things seem about a month slower in the Latrobe valley and in discussing it with someone the other day we wondered whether the hydration clouds from Loy Yang and Yallourn North Power stations might be the reason this happens where I live, as I can see either power station from the ends of my street, although it might also be that cool air sweeps down valley and this is a wide valley at the foot of the Great Dividing Range

The fungi has been pretty amazing thus far, particularly  near some of the pine trees along the road to Yinnar. I am toying with the idea of making another linocut of fungi, there is something pleasing about the shape of  some fungi.

Saturday, April 30, 2022

The Story of a Commission

 I mentioned in my last post that I was working on a two piece commission. Initially the people commissioning had asked for a large piece- larger than what I normally work or can manage on my littlest Bernina workhorse which has a small throat. So we agreed that I make two pieces which are still on the large side of the size I normally work but still manageable. So the pieces were to measure 150 cm x 100 cm.

The commissioners also had suggested some colours in the dyed background cloth. It took  quite a few attempts to get cloth that I  thought would work which I then sent to the people to choose.

Above are some of the fabrics I dyed- there were more but I had to be mindful that they needed to go together as a set, plus I needed to be able to print on them as the commissioners had indicated they liked the monoprinted  pieces I had done with foliage from my morning walks. This method of dyeing gives great results but it is not easy to control where dark and light appears nor how the colours will bleed into each other. The minute you put blue and yellow together you end up with greens and things can become green too quickly - but it also needed dark colour in there for contrast.
Once the background fabrics had been selected I started the printing with foliage that i collected on morning walks,

The photo above is of the  printing on the dyed pieces of fabric-  once stitching goes in then things can be accentuated a bit more. Once I had the first piece basted the people commissioning had an additional request as they were fungi enthusiasts, they asked if fungi could be included in the printing process. By this stage I had already started stitching in the foliage details so the piece was already batted up and had been partially stitched. This took a bit of procrastinatng  as to how I might do it and also as the fungi blocks I had made last year were very blocky and I was loathe to cut them to shape as they are a set with which I intend to do something booky at some point in time. So the only solution was to make some new linocuts that I could somehow manoeuvre into the unstitched spaces.

Phew! It worked, as I was petrified I would spill some printing ink or get a dodgy print which would ruin the whole piece as by this stage I had already done a fair bit of stitching. You can to some extent fix misprints  with stitching but this was quite daunting as it was quite a large piece which already had quite a lot of stitching in place. The end result enthused me sufficiently to make another toadstool linocut after encountering one on a recent morning walk.

It was too difficult to include this little toadstool in the first piece I had already started stitching but I was able to print it onto the second piece I had to make.  These pieces have been very densely stitched- I call it  free machine drawing because essentially I am creating drawings with my machine- and these pieces are large drawings- really large drawings all done on a little domestic Bernina 325 which is the smallest machine in the Bernina range. I dream of a large machine but I am thinking that is what it will remain a dream. But meanwhile whilst it is not easy manoeuvring such a large piece under a small machine it is possible and I have been doing it for a very long time/. Some of the stitching progress...

In this stitching process threads are like my pencil- I use them for line and to create interest in the background and for detailing. I would have to say that thread is of number one importance in the work I create and I have been fortunate to have Aurifil sponsor some of my thread in the past . I use 28 weight cotton Mako thread which is not easily available in Australia but is wonderful to work with and gives such great line and accent.

The selection of threads I used- there are some non-Aurifil threads there mainly as I did not have those colours in my thread box and  it is difficult to get the cobs of Mako 28 thread in Australia as I know of no store that stocks the 28 weight thread in a large selection. ( I am aware that Amity Threads in Torquay stock a good range of Aurifil thread but not much of the 28 weight thread which they can order- but I didn't have the time for this ) . The next most important thing for my work is the weight of batting. I use Matilda's Own wool/Polyester batting - it will take a lot of stitching and not stretch or buckle- and I stitch very densely. 

So the last few weeks have been a marathon of stitching. Then the squaring up which I did out at Arc Yinnar as they had a table big enough . Normally i do this on the floor but because these two pieces will hang together they need to be as much the exact same size as is possible when dealing with textile. I also decided to do faced bindings as I did not really want anything to distract from the flow of the stitching.

And so finally after about 3 months from first contact these pieces have been finished and sent to their new owners. They liked the photos I sent but it is simply not the same as seeing the pieces in the flesh. And so here are the finished pieces, not photographed terribly well I am afraid- there was too much light coming from the left.

In the end  I was actually quite pleased with how they looked- there is always that anxiety of whether the people who have commissioned the piece will like what you have done, the anxiety of whether it really works. Whilst I have made forest quilts before, these are a little different because there is more blue in them than I would normally do in the background dyeing and also the printing I do has subtly changed since last year when I started incorporating foliage from my morning walks into my work. The addition of the linocuts was an additional challenge and something I had not done before but I liked how they looked in these pieces.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Printing and Lovely April Weather

 The weather has been beautiful this month- mostly warm, gorgeous autumn weather. My garden needs a really good clean up but haven't had much time to do it and really need some help for the heavier work. I don't mean just mowing but helping rebuild some garden beds which are struggling with the ever invasive grass. I had tried no dig and still want to  but the grass is just a nightmare to deal with so I am going to resort to some heavier interventions.

I also fell off the daily walks trolley- but have made a concerted effort this week to get out more often- hopefully it will push me into regular walking again as I do enjoy it when I go out. The  nardoo has spread almost entirely over one part of the Turtle Dam at the bushland where I walk and the  fungi are starting to make an appearance with the cooler sometimes foggy nights. I have been working on a traveller's blanket inspired by nardoo although at the moment it is going slowly as I am working on a large commission which I really want to try and get finished late this week or early next week.

The commission got me back to doing some mono-printing but because of the warm ambient air at the moment it is not totally successful as the ink dries a bit quickly on the plate and I can't get the lovely ghost prints which is really like. Maybe I will have to get up earlier but then my shed is too dark to work in. There had been plans to put lighting out there but it's been put on hold because the money has been used to put food on the table during this time of covid.

The commission piece is in two sections and I have finished the first one and  I included some fungi linocut prints in at the request of the commissioners. I actually really like the fungi in amongst the foliage and thought I would make a little toadstool as well.

I have been having a lot of fun printing it onto monoprints. I am selling the monoprints with linocut prints if you are interested.

The fabric background is about 30 cm x 55 cm and has been hand dyed and have then been  hand printed with actual foliage and then with linocuts. They are $40 each- message me if you are interested.

I have also been working a little in my journal- another thing which I kickstarted again this week to get rid of the brain fuzz and I might start creating another workbook, after being inspired by Bruno Leti's workbook #15- it is good to steadily work somewhere to work out ideas and I need to develop some new work for an exhibition next year at Meeniyan Gallery. Last weekend  I went and looked at the space and also spent some time at Venus Bay and again the weather was gorgeous. The photo was on a walk late in the afternoon when the clouds had drifted in.

Monday, April 04, 2022

April Already

 The last two months have simply flown by busy with open exhibitions at ArcYinnar and  teaching at Grampians Textures in March. What a delight to be amongst like minded textile enthusiasts again and even better to actually be working again and earning some money.  We did a lot of transfer printing and linocut printing at Textures and participants developed a set of stamps to use for coordinating in the future. The beauty of linocut printing is that it is easily done at home and does not need a large space in order to print fabric. I also met some people whom I have known for some time via the internet - it is so lovely to be able to put a face to the communications

I have also been busy processing some of the food I have grown, making lots of pasatta, dilly beans and eggplant pickle, but on the whole it was a less than stellar year in the vegetable garden, and the continuing battle with grass and slugs/snails nearly drove me mad. Much as I hate to admit it the no dig method of gardening has encouraged rampant grass spreading so I am going to have to resort to something stronger than cardboard to deal with the grass so there will be quite some remaking of beds in the very near future.

Then out of the blue I was commissioned to make two pieces for a home in Perth and so it has seen me create a forest scene with some different elements and that also included using linocut to add to the scene.

I am still stitching on the pieces though the end is in sight and I am rather enjoying the way the little fungi are looking once they are stitched.

Monday, January 31, 2022

Traveller's Blanket On-line Class

The piece above is  the first traveller's blanket I ever made dating from 2001/02 and was made for an exhibition in New Zealand. It was inspired by travels in Africa back in 1990 and the yelow/black and red fabric had been purcahsed at a market in Bangui in the Central African Republic. I hand dyed the background fabric ( and if you join the class there is instructions for this type of dyeing in the notes). There is no batting in this piece- it is simply stitched through three layers of hand dyed musling fabric

Above . Pieces I have made over the years. The photo above were all pieces made for an invitational exhibition at the Quilt & Craft Fair in Sydney and Melbourne. I spent 18 months making this pieces- it was a stitching marathon. Some of these pieces ( except the blue on the left) are for sale if you are interested.

All of the pieces in the photo above have been handstitched. When I moved back to Gellibrand in 2015, I lived in a shed on my land I had there and it had no power. I idid eventually get a solar panel for lighting but it was not enough to power a sewing machine so I did a lot of hand stitching until I sold it early in 2019. I also hand stitch when I travel as it is easy to take with me. I use almost solely perle 8 weight threads though in reality you could use any embvroidery threads- whatever you have to hand really. The piece on the left and the one beside  were made into a book PLaids Nomades by Editions de Saxe and I have seen some wonderful interpretations.



The pomegranate piece was started whilst I was house sitting for a friend in the shadow of Pic St Loup. Pomegranates have inspired a lot of my work over the years  and it is the tale of Demeter and her search for her daughter that inspires this work. I love the greek classical tales- they are bold, big and soemtimes outrageous and yet they often touch on human emotions and the excesses thereof. I stitched this piece on a piece of hand dyed khadi which was dyed whilst I was visiting a friend in Rajasthan. It was a failed piece of indigo dyed khadi but somehow acquired a life of its own as I stitched this piece.

The piece above was purchased by a friend in Tassie- i think it is amongst my favourites , but to be honest I spend so much time stitching these pieces that they all rank as favourites. This piece was a journey through the surface design  techniques I have used over the years that I have been stitching seriously as a textile artist.

This piece was commenced when I did an artists residency with the women of Boneca de Atauro ( whose works I have for sale on another page of my blog- 100% of proceeds go to these women who do amazing things on a tiny island of the East Timor coast) Every morning I would walk along the beach before it got to hot and the first time I was there I encountered many sea urchins. There is a ridiculous number of french knots on this piece- and I took soem months to finih this piece ( it measurs 45 cm x 90 cm)

The piece above was commenced whilst I was exhibiting at ChARTres some years ago . I was invited to exhibit this year but unfortunately due to travel restrictions I was not able to partiicpate. I love this event and have come to know the organisers and other artists as  friends and have coem to view Chartres as my second city. At the time I only had undyed khadi on hand and soem indigo dyed thread which has soemhow found its way into my suitcase. So I decided I would sytitch this piece monotone . The hand dyed thread was slightly variegated and soem of it was a little darker than the rest- it became an exercise in making each circle different by stitchig alone and using weight of stitching to create contrast.

This piece is called One World and I started it not long after I moved to Morwell and my ex commission house which I bought when I sold my land in the Otways. We have only one world and each of us sees it so differently - yet together we must all take care of it and ensure its continuation. sometimes  the task seems too daunting particularly in the face of  big business ( which are corprorations enriching the pockets of a few by exploiting the resources that should belong to us all) and yet we must continue advocating fighting for what a lot of us know is right in the knowledge that there is only one earth. This piece has been stitched on madder dyed khadi sourced from the Stitching Project and you can even buy packs of patches from the stitching project if you have none of your own.. This piece is doubled khadi without any batting or flannel middle layer.

The piece above and the details were inspired by walks in the shadow of Pic St Loup near Montpellier. I sometimes  house sit for a friend there ( i also visit her of course) but again that has not happened for soem years. I walk her dog through the vineyards and there is always some new weed, flower or herb to encounter.

 If you wish to learn any of this work I will be starting another on-lie course on 14 february- yes I know Valentine's day, but these pieces are not stitched in a day. I set up a private facebook group for discussion and sharing and organise fortnightly zoom sessions for question and answer. There are also a few short videos and extensive notes whish are delivered every two weeks  over an 8 week period. I keep the stitching relatively simple and encourage you to tell your own stories with your stitching. Would love to see you join me. Cost is $75 AUS- just click on the Paypal button.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Years End

 I am not sure what I have been doing this last month- there has been quite a lot going on in sellling my mothers house and though my brother did a lot of that, there was still quite some work in packing mum's things for her new place and then settling her into her new apartment- moving is definitely not my favourite thing but in sorting out mum's house ( which had so much stuff- a lot of it less than useful) I realised i need to rationalise some of my stuff. It's not too bad as I have moved quite a lot since 2009 and shed life wasn't conducive to collecting many things- but I need to reappraise things and just streamline things.

Needless to say I have not made many things recently- fell into a bit of a hole after my exhibition finished and  whilst I have stitched a bit here and there- have not achieved a great deal. Did make a new linocut but need to dye more fabric in order to print and until recently I had run out of fabric to dye and could not go to Melbourne to get some more fabric due to lockdowns. So I thought I would do a review  in photos of the year that was, starting with January  2021. January I was busy  preparing for my on-line linocut course which started early February. These were examples of simple linocuts printed on newsprin and fabric. If anyone is interested I will run the linocut course again sometime in  2022- just depends a little if in the flesh workshops go ahead as planned or not.

February 2021- still prepping for the linocut course . It takes ages to write and collate the notes and exercises as everything has to be photographed through its stages. The notes ended up being substantial - almost a book really.

The image below is some drawings I purchased at Ste Marie aux Mines- which  were made for one of the printing companies in the Rhine valley- they were selling off their designs quite cheaply and I could not resist.
March 2021
I started making pods- woke up one morning and thought it seemd like a good idea. It went through a few prototypes before I found a shape I liked and also tried different linings- some of the vliesoline was too stiff and did not lend itself to a nice rounded shape.

April 2021
I decided that I needed to make pomegranate pod shapes as well and made a little linocut to make the seeds.

Went to the Rone exhibition at the Geelong Art Gallery- and  kept stitching on my traveller's blanket with blue circles and stitched more pods.

June 2021
Went to the Mary Quant Exhibition in Bendigo and continued stitching hoping against the odds that my workshop for Fibres West in WA in July would go ahead- things were looking very dodgy with covid spreading again.

And I finally finished the One World Traveller's Blanket- with blue circles all 87 of them!

July 2021
Got the dreaded news - Fibres West was definitely cancelled for Victorians ( and a bit later that month WA closed its borders to all states and territories) The financial implications were not good for everyone involved including the organisers- for example Qantas does not reimburse its airfares- simply gives the option of using the ticket up in the next 12 months which is not very useful when the next planned event is actually 2 years hence- 2023.
Got carried away making  pockets to wear.

August 2021
Started off rather badly- landed in hospital after suffering a heart attack and spent a couple of days in the Alfred in Melbourne whilst they inserted some stints in a dodgy artery. Once I was home again life sort of returned to normal or as best as I could but my garden did get a bit out of control as no heavy work for at least 6 weeks which included pushing a lawn mower- and well weeds grow no matter what as does the rotten grass- I am still trying to deal with the aftermath of that! Walking is now an imperative and one of my daughters came to help despite the lockdown although she got here before the lockdown actually was imposed. Started using my cold press laminator which had been sitting and staring at my in its box in the loungeroom and found it very useful to do mono printing with found leaves and weeds from my walks.

September 2021
I had a small exhibition booked at Arc Yinnar and was very tempted to cancel it after my heart attack  but instead decided I would do it and see what I could get done. My middle daughter, Siena Galtry designed a booklet for me which contained photos and a poem of sorts devoted to the inspiration offered by morning walks- I don't know why i had to write a poem but I did and my readers were very supportive of the effort. I have a few left but I did cover the cost of this vanity project.

October 2021
Exhibition at the Sparc Gallery- this is  not a big space but surprisingly roomy when you are not feeling on top of the world- I did manage to fill it but only just and to my great delight I sold quite a few works. Most of the works were smaller as that is what I could cope with at the time but they were all inspired by my morning walks in the little bushland reserve where I walk.

November 2021
I had enrolled in a printing course run at Arc- which ran for a nine week period and it was great fun. We did all sorts of different kinds of printing including screen printing and linocut printing. This little cat was my linocut effort.

December 2021
I had a contract earlier in the year to write a Tifaifai book for Editions de Saxe but because of my heart attack it has been pushed back a little. But this month I have been working on the last project for the book and also remade two little quilts ( as I had sold one of the ones I had made last year) as they needed to be photographed in high res for the book- it is my finishing job for January 2022.

I wanted to show how much fun a simple squiggly pattern can be. I made these into wall hangings but they could also make fun cushions.

So looking forward:
I will be running a Traveller's Blanket on-line class starting mid February. I will also be running the Tifaifai Class starting mid february. I will put details in my next post.
It is possible to enroll for the Pods, Pods, Pods class. These days I send out the notes and Video when payment is made so you can get started straight away and I will be  doing a zoom question and answer mid January  to share out efforts and to asnwer your questions . if you would like to enroll simply follow the Paypal button. The pods below are urchin shape , the pattern and instructions for which are also part of the course ( as are the pomegranates)

I also want to wish all my readers, friends and family a happy and safe 2022 and thank you for your support throughout 2021.