Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Some of the Cats of Cairo

This post is a lot for my youngest daughter Ynez who loves cats. There is a lot of cats in Cairo- poor mangy looking creatures but not without personality and charm and even a certain air about them. We have been wandering through the Khan the last few days looking for old berber jewelery ( and I have found some) and through the City of the Dead- a fascinating but very poor part of Cairo- really it should be called the Living City of the Dead as many people live amongst the tombs minding the tombs and earning a living in whatever way possible. Here also live the silk cord spinners who improvise their cording equipment from old bicycle wheels and all manner of contraptions.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

From Cairo

Welll... where to begin. We have been here five days and so much has been seen and done. Firstly we installed Across Australia for opening on 26 January which is the Australian National Day. A large crowd of diplomats and other important people attended the celebration function which also included music by Freshwater and were most enthusiastic about the work. The exhibition stays open until 10 February. I have a limited number of full colour catalogues available for sale ( they are landscape A4 size- with 28 quilts) and they cost $25 AUAS inclusive of postage from Egypt- you can pay me via Paypla or if in Australia by cheque or postal order.

We have been to the tentmakers souk briefly ( they attended the opening and were most complimentary about our textile skills) and yesterday saw the Saqqara(stepped) pyramid and the pyramids of Dashur- the Bent pyramid and Red pyramid.We also visited the Wissa Wassef Arts centre which was fascinating - with a very interesting project to train children a couple of decades ago, without resorting to designs or drawings- but to just teach the technique and let the imaginations reign. All the children are now adults and still create tapestries at the centre ( in the Gobelin style of creating tapestries- ie on warp looms) which are just pure delight full of whimsy and improvisation. All the wools used are dyed from the garden of the centre.Today we visited a small portion of Khan el Khalili- and in particular beads and silver- and findings. Treasure!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Another one finished

I finished this quilt at 8 pm and at th emoment I don't care if I ever see another sewing machine again. I have used 10,000 metres of thread since Christmas , my arms and neck are sore but it is done! Even the sleeve is sewn down on this one. I will take another top with me in case I get any time to sew in Egypt and I am taking hand work but apart from that it is a relief to have them out of the way! And it has been stinking hot today- pushing around a big quilt with wool batting is not exactly the ideal activity for such a hot day!Posted by Picasa

Friday, January 20, 2006

Hellfire XVII

I am running out of time. I still hope to get this quilt done- all the background quilting stillhas to go in and it is quite a big quilt 135 cm x 135 cm (50 " x50") and I am using Matilda's Own wool batting which is my preferred batting ( wadding ) for quilting. It allows heavy stitching without stretching and is very stable but still retains nice texture with heavy stitching.It is hard working on this quilt today as it is 40 degrees celsius plus ( that's 100 degrees fahrenheit or more) and there is a northerly blowing- that is fire weather here and every thign is so dry that it will take any small thing to take off.Tomorrow is more of the same .

My ticket for Egypt has finally been issued- thank goodness i was starting to worry a little given that we fly on Sunday and the opening of Across Australia is 26 January. Sandy I will try and post an intinerary at some point. I am teaching in Dubai 1-5 march and Kuwait 7-9 March on the way home.Also Across Australia will be exhibited in Kuwait in the next room to where i am teaching.Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Oops this photo was supposed to be there too!

This photo was supposed to be there too- but somehow I managed to delete it. I only have the sleeve to sew down and put on the label. It measures 80 cm x 145 cm ( 32" x 55"). I left more of the black showing compared to the photos I showed in December but did allow the leaves to go into the black space a little. When I left the black unimpeded by leaves it was somehow too stark but with a little overlap your eye wants to make the line straight but the effect is a bit gentler.Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Gum Leaves

Another quilt done. I was playing around with this one in December. It is discharged cotton velveteen and the leaves have been created with Lutradur- they are dimensional. I quilted the whole background piece before attaching the leaves. This is another instance where the camera does not catch dimensionality or texture. The velveteen acquired a very pleasing texture once quilted- all the light areas are echo quilted and it puckered a little like the creases on a Shitzu dog face ( is that what they are called?)

But I am running out of time- argghh why do I always think I can do so much?? My kids were just playing a Roy Orbison song from the Travelling Wilberries album ( or was it already CD by then??)- when I was much younger I lived in a house where we used to have "Big O" parties- they were such fun,I also have a big "0" birthday coming up in february and yet again I won't be home ( 50- shhh) - ummm the Big OPosted by Picasa

Monday, January 16, 2006

Across Australia

The cover of the catalogue for Across Australia showing the work of Dianne Firth named " Over the Hills" which has been scanned in grey scale. Posted by Picasa

Across Australia

Well after last weeks whine about the frustrations of funding ( which haven't gone away) Jenny Bowker ( the Australian Ambassador to Egypt's wife) sent me a report of the opening of Across Australia in Tripoli in Libya last night;

Four hundred and fifty guests attended the opening of the exhibition.
They were undoubtedly the intelligentsia of Libyan society and
included representatives at the highest levels of Libyan Government,
the academic world and the artists. We had the Libyan Minister for
Planning, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, The Deputy of the
Department of Economic Management, International Public Relations, The
Deputy Minister for Culture, the Cultural Attache for the Foreign
Office, the Deputy Minister for Tourism - in fact, all the senior
government officials from
Tripoli. The heads of departments have moved
away from the capital in an attempt to de-centralise the Government,
so this is as senior as you can get here.

It is hard to imagine that an art exhibition could attract such a
brilliant crowd in
Australia. We also had one of the most popular
television hostesses who runs a greatly loved chat show, and
interviewed me as a contributing artist on the spot. a major (The
major) fashion designer wanted to give us fabric to make quilts from
Libyan textiles to see what can be done.

The reactions - well, I am struggling to find words. Some that seemed
to sum it up from people who spoke to me were "I am open mouthed", "I
am astounded", "How can people make such brilliant things", "How can
we teach our people to do this art?", "I have never seen such
beautiful work", "My heart is pumping so hard I cannot even think
straight", and "What a gift Australia has brought to Libya tonight!"

This is why i curate- it is the aura that it creates when all the works hang together- it is special. This is why i also travel exhibitions- we have become a bit blase about what there is to offer - but people in other countries are surprised and delighted and appreciative.

Thank you Jenny for doing such a wonderful job over there! Some of you may not know but last week there was a dreadful bus accident near Cairo involving Australian policemen and families holidaying in Egypt. The loss of life was saddening but many were badly injured so the embassy has been working night and day to get the best care possible for survivors and to repatriate the injured once travel is possible and to reunite families with their loved ones. The embassy in Cairo is not big so the Ambassador and staff and spouses worked tirelessly and without sleep in the first 48 hours after the accident to get the injured to the best hospitals possible, even to the extent of giving blood for transfusions of blood matched severely injured indivduals. So for Jenny to go to Tripoli to represent the exhibition has come on top of an exhausting and sad week. It is often easy to imagine that the work of embassies is rubbing shoulders with foreign ministers and companies but unfortunately there is this sad side to their duties as well.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Sea Turtles

Another quilt finished- did I tell you I am on a quilting marathon for the next 7 days- that is the countdown for Egypt. Just the binding to go on bu tI like to do that early in the morning and sew it down before 9 - makes me feel I have achieved a lot befor emost people start the day. My shoulders are sore from all the sewing and I will be glad to get on that plane. I think I will try and take hand sewing as we have about 8 hours to kill in Dubai- I can't imagine there is anything exciting there.

I did do some playing around today trying to set up a power point presentation to send with my quilts to France- inspirations and then quilts as they can project onto one of the office walls. It occurred to me that it might be worth putting this on cd and selling it. I don't know the interest there would be for such a thing? Any thoughts?

I would really like to do another book but finding a publisher who will do what I want to do is the thing. I know what people in my classes want to learn and even though publishers say creative process books don't sell well most of the people I encounter in classes are really at this phase- how to harness it- how to develop it, how to subjugate the process to the power of imagination and bring to life what is in the mind. Ok off to relax with a glass of wine and stretch my sore shoulders and leaf through Jamie Oliver and see if he has a good recipe for pork.... Posted by Picasa

Friday, January 13, 2006


I am making another turtle quilt, because when I thought about it, I have never had an exhibition where a lot of my work is shown without a turtle quilt, so i didn't want the exhibition at the European Centre of Patchwork to be the exception.Plus I love turtles and i can kill two birds with one stone as I have to write an article for the German magazine Patchwork Ideen so i will use this quilt. I sold the little one I made in November- this one is slightly bigger and will hang next to the sea urchin one on which I still have to finish hand stitching.

The next week is going to be a marathon of sewing to try and get all the new work I want done done so i can send it to France. I may be able to do a little sewing whilst I am in Egypt but I am not counting on it.

I must admit when I sit and sew for hours on end on the sewing machine all sorts of thoughts go through my head- so today the thing that went through my head is ;
What is the most singular experience that has effected your art making? and what piece of art has most influenced your art making?

It is a question to you as well!

The most singular things ( sorry can't leave it at one there really are three things) for me has been dyeing fabric, the ability to free motion quilt, and Vliesofix ( wunder under). The artist that has provided me with the most aha, and has helped me simplify my own work is Matisse- particularly his cut out work, but most of all his drawing for the period leading up to this period- his gestural lines are fantastic. I would love to get a book of his drawings one day. Studying his work has taught me a great deal about assymetrical balance- to look at the tension it creates in the work to look at line as emotion, and to somehow make more with less but not pare it down to minimalism. His work also made me realise it's ok to be organic in the forms I use- not everyone is attuned to linearity and geometry

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Box Gum River

Another quilt finished! this one is called Box Gum River. I only have four quilts to go before Sunday week. One is not so big and the other three tops are done though a lot of stitching still has to go in. Box Gum River is 102 cm wide and 115 cm long ( 40" x 45 " ). Broccoli Tree Horizon is 87cm wide x 101 cm long ( 34 " x 39.5") I hope I get there.

I have also decided to sell some of the Lutradur I have . If anyone is interested Lutrador is a polyester non-woven, which I have been using a lot in recent times. The lutradur I have is 33 cm wide ( 13 inches) so slightly larger than A3 paper and I will send it with instructions for use. You apply colour to it with transfer paint or dye or even crayons though I have been too busy to try this. The effect is quite different than working with cotton. Anyway i will be selling it at $4.00 per metre including postage. And I will put up details on my Seriously Textile Blog.

I also still really need to sell a quilt before I go to Egypt- they are also on the Seriously Textile Blog - unfortunately the sponsoring of the Across Australia does not run to including a curating fee for me and to be away from work and the ability to make things for seven weeks impacts heavily on family income as I am the one that earns it. The never ending gyrations of independent curators. Sorry I know I have been on this rant before but sometimes it is frustrating- especially as this exhibition will be used to culturally represent Australia- yet somehow there is no avenue for me to seek a government grant to see me compensated for my time( and the Australian Embassy in Egypt have been incredibly helpful in securing what funding we have to see it travel) .Actually i think I need my head read. I am doing some teaching at the end- thankfully, but it nowhere near compensates for the time I will spend.There are many incidental expenses when curating- for instance we had to buy suitcases for the quilts at the last minute for the quilts to be shipped to Egypt- fortunately a friend in the Netherlands, Ina Klugt was able to do this for me, and I need to repay her for the suitcases- but the cost of international money transfer is horrendous- why is that? I can just stick a card in the wall anywhere and just have to pay a small fee? Then there is the travel insurance. I have an excellent one from Travel Scene, because my travel is usually business related, and it covers any family members travelling with me, it also covers me in case I injure someone so that also covers when I teach. Fortunately I have never had to use it but I buy it for a year so that I am always covered. Then there is the visas which have to be paid for and the innoculations, like tetanus,polio, typhoid and hep A which totalled for me more than $200.Then there is the admin expenses. I have a CD of images which I send to magazines for publicity- and most magazines are excellent and will run an article- but they have to be put in postpaks and sent- it all adds up.The photographer had to be paid as I believe high quality photos are essential for the production of a catalogue. This time The Embassy in Egypt has organised the catalogue and it is available to visitors to the exhibition in the Middle East free of charge. Then there is the time taken in creating the document that becomes the word aspect of the catalogue. The sale of catalogues is partly how I have funded travelling the exhibition in the past, but unfortunately i can't do that this time. There will be a few available for sale back in Australia- but a very limited number.So contact me if you are interested. Which reminds me I still have a small number of Australian Bounty catalogues available and more of Under the Southern Cross catalogues ( at a discounted cost)- if anyone is interested just contact me via the email in my profile.

I know sometimes people don't want to know the nitty gritty of this- but it is the real expense of what i do. I wish groups would do more of this stuff but they cater for more traditional quilters- who have no interest in exposing our art- and we are on the edge of the art world without any foothold to speak of. However there is an upside- when you see an audience respond to the work of 28 artists whose work seeks to express a continent I feel a great sense of achievement- that I have collected together an exhibition that can speak to so many different people. It is quite different than having an exhibition of your own work. I sometimes wish all 28 artists could be there to experience the feeling. For me curating has been about creating a feel for our land and an avenue for the artists who seek to express it in textile- it creates an aura which is hard to define but is distinctively Australian.Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Four Things Meme

Firstly - thank you Omega for you very complimentary comments about Broccoli Tree Horizon and Sally Bramald too and everyone for that matter. Don't know what to say.

Claire Fenton tagged me for the four things meme and as yesterday didn't turn out as planned, and I didn't do the sewing as planned I don't have a photo to share as yet- later today!. I took the kids into town to watch the latest Harry Potter movie as it was the last day of being able to see it close by, otherwise we would have had to drive 100 kms there and then back again to see it.

Four Things Meme

Four Jobs You've Had:

Thistle cutter- gave birth to the line oopsie a poopsie which had my brother and I writhing with laughter- thistle cutting is as boring as that!



Textile artist( fruitcake artist really)- actually Curator of International Travelling Quilt Art!

Four Movies You Could Watch Over and Over:

Pirates of the Caribbean

Thirty Nine Steps

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy


Four Places You've Lived:

Anna Paulowna , Netherlands,

Jerilderie NSW, Australia,

Canberra ACT Australia,

Gellibrand River Vic Australia- and maybe…. one day…. for part of the year the Languedoc in France ( you can dream)

Four TV Shows you love to Watch:

Don’t watch much tv but like old shows on video

Sea Change, Fawlty Towers , Pie in the Sky, Red Dwarf

Four Places You've Been on Vacation:

Africa ( a large part of the continent- Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Zaire now Congo again, Central African Republic where the border police officer had the biggest gold bracelets , Cameroun, Nigeria, Niger, Algeria, Morocco,

Chateau de Chassy, Chateau-Chinon,France

Venice , Italy,

Turtle Beach Qld, Australia

Four Websites You Visit Every Day:

I visit blogs ( I am still on dialup so many websites take too long to load)- Omega, Lisa Call, Claire Bryan, Annabel Rainbow ( see links in my links column) as they manage to post most days- and lots of others every other day or so

Four Of Your Favorite Foods:


Fresh tomatoes sunripened on the vine on wholemeal toast with a dribble of extra virgin olive oil and some crushed black pepper corns

Parmesan cheese

Aubergine or green beans – can’t decide between these two

Four Places You'd Rather Be:

Languedoc France,

Cadaques, Spain

Paris, France

And then in the end I do like where I live so Gellibrand River!.

Four Albums You Can't Live Without

Anything by Youssou N’Dour

John Williams the Seville Concert

Les Choristes

Njava Vetse

And too many others to mention.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Broccoli Tree Horizon for Want of a Better Name

I know I posted a picture of this last week or the previous week but the quilt is now finished, I have even sewn down the binding- just the sleeve to go! I am calling it Broccoli tree Horizon for want of a better name as I printed the trees with pieces of broccoli sliced in half and brushed with textile ink. The dabs of paint are just that- i took quite a broad brush and loaded it with an amount of textile ink and just made dabs ont he fabric. I have then stitched around it with dark thread which really pops them out ( the camera doesn't pick this up very well. ) I am constantly searching for slightly thicker threads with which to sew. I use rayon machine embroidery threads but really like the way heavier threads sit more on the surface whilst still creating texture. Madeira put out a 30 weight thread but only selected colours come in 800 metre spools most are 150 which goes nowhere at all when you stitch as heavily as I do. I have partially solved this problem by using a 90 needle and running two rayon threads through my machine- it gives the desired thicker line but of course you need two spools of thread.

Omega mentioned that the human figure keeps recurring in her own work- and do look at Omega's website you will see what she means- some pretty wonderful things there and i love the way Omega has incorporated traditional textile motifs from Greece, part of her childhood heritage. I find trees recur often in my imagery even when I am doodling and spirals. I once gave a talk at a rather large symposium and was showing slides of my work- and one of the quilts that came up on screen had spirals- someone near the front of the audience said "my spirals"- I must admit that comment took me aback a little, for since when have spirals belonged to anyone? They are so universal. And likewise whilst looking at maori/polynesian motifs- the four leaf image seems to occur very often and one artist using it in a fresh way is Dagmar Vaikalafi Dyck, although she uses other traditional motifs as well. But anyway when I was looking at a book on architecture in Lisbon, Portugal- the same four leaf motif appears on the bulastrades of buildings- wonder whether it came to them via South seas explorations in the fifteenth century or otherwise? When i was doing my lace work ( and I intend to do more) I was looking for motifs I could use that would not appropriate culturally- an impossible task as I found for influences come from everywhere. I found it fascinating that real trends and fashions for motifs occurred in lace for example the introduction of tulips from Turkey saw a rage of lace making incorporating a tulip motif and likewise the introduction of the peonierose from China. Memory and heritage is also something I am looking to incorporate into my work.
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Saturday, January 07, 2006

Quilt Top

So to the serious end of business! When I dyed the fabrics for the commission quilt I dyed enough to make another for my exhibition with Annette and Robert Claxton called Fusion at the European Centre of Patchwork in Salleles d'Aude which begins on 5 March 2006. I made this top today incorporating the river lutradur piece I made in december and I printed some box gum leaves on one of the panels. I have about half a dozen quilts in this exhibition dealing with river or water as it is such an important commodity in Australia and we have precious little of it for such a large land.

I am also aware that Annette and Robert's work is quite abstract and mine is quite organic. I can't abstract no matter how hard i try ( ok I can but I don't like the result and i do like abstract work of other people, like Annette ) and I have been pondering this as I make work for this exhibition. And then when I look out of my window it is easy to see why- I am surrounded by nature , by living organic things- I don't live in a city and have only ever lived in cities as a go-between phase- I have never considered my sojourns there as permanent things. I also love ethnic textiles or whatever you want to call them- I love the rich sumptuousness of them, the colour , the startling juxtapositions - their living presence often produced in the most primitive of conditions- and yet there is such beautiful colour and pattern. You just want to touch and hold and stroke. So my work is a crossover trying to capture this spirit of cloth and incorporating my environment somehow. I do love this land, it is ancient and it speaks, it is harsh and it is beautiful, it is sea and land, and little water.It is dry and lush and the voices of the past whisper in the erosions of the earth. And as i write this, I realise that my love of ethnic textiles and their juxtapositions is just the same as i feel about this land- there i have learnt something which i had never tied together- and there it is staring me in the face..... Posted by Picasa

Friday, January 06, 2006

More Back Beach at Blairgowrie

Back home again and have to get the head down and create as much as I can for the next 16 days before I go to Egypt amidst kids home on school holidays and summer distractions!

I have posted some more photos of another walk we did along the back beach. There is a photo of moi with my eldest daughter Celeste and youngest daughter Ynez. On one of the list i belong to there was some commentary about not wanting to know about the details of peoples lives, the highs and the lows and Annabel Rainbow,commented

but to me you can't separate the two; if you're truly interested in finding out how someone arrived at a finished piece of work, and understanding the meanings they were trying to convey, then their state of mind is important because, surely, how they feel and who they are is expressed in that work?

I couldn't agree more- my life is so intertwined with what I create that sometimes it is difficult to separate the two. What i see ,what I experience what i feel all gets put into the melange of what i create. I also like to include my family in what i do because they are so much the reason that i do what i do and i also have family on the other side of the world who from time to time look at my blog.

I like the photos with the rocks in hollows- it reminds a little of the work of Andy Goldsworthy- except this one has been wrought by nature and also a little shrine like. Isn't she wonderful?

But best news last. Thank you all for the positive comments about the echidna photo- I have to tell you i was lying down in the sand to take it- I entered it in a summer holiday photos competition in one of the State's newspapers( the Heraldsun which i only read as it was at my in-laws)- on wednesday morning- by Wednesday lunch time I knew I had won a Sony Cybershot DSCW7 camera as the daily winner ( great for Egypt!) and when I got home yesterday afternoon the camera was waiting for me! How is that for instant gratification?And what a start to the year. Thank you Sony!

And Felicity- do you use Picasa to load your photos onto your blog? That is how I am creating the collages.

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006


I wasn't going to post to my blog whilst i was away as I wasn't sure I could connect to the phone. However yesterday when we went for a long walk along the back beach at Blairgowrie we came across this little fella and i just had to share it. It is an echidna also known as a spiny anteater and a monotreme- it lays eggs but suckles its young. This one was quite mobile and on his way to somewhere. I was absolutely stoked to get such a clear shot of his face as usually if they feel threatened or a human closeby they will tuck their face and paws into their spine and become like a a spiky ball. They have poisonous spurs on their hind legs.

The other photos are a collage of the colourings and rugged coastline in this part of the world where wind and sea create weathered outcrops of weird shapes. A bit like the Cadaques coast which inspired Dali. Yesterday the sea was both a gorgeous colour and rough as the southerly wind was blowing straight from the southern ocean.
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Monday, January 02, 2006

Commission finished!

My back is aching and I am sick of the sight and sound of my sewing machine but the commission is finished! I have even sewn down the binding.It measures 110cm x 124 cm ( 43 inches x 49 inches) I like it much better now that the stitching is in place. Just have the sleeve to sew and then it is ready to send tomorrow- and another thing off the to do list.

Tomorrow we go to my in-laws for a few days so will take hand sewing with me and finish two pieces I am working on I hope. Egypt is staring to loom closer and closer- we leave on the 22nd of January and I have to get a lot more work done for my exhibition in France. As per usual I think I can do much more that I actually can so am in the process of ditching ideas. Still have a project quilt and article to write for the German magazine Patchwork Ideen- that's next on the list, then quilting the fire quilt which has been patiently sitting around and waiting and then we'll see what energy is left- but it is a flying start to the year!Posted by Picasa