Thursday, May 31, 2007



I am just about out the door to go and teach in Braidwood for three days. It takes 2.5 hours to get to the airport, so there is still a bit of a drive before I hop on that plane! I know I have shared a picture of All the Sweet Perfumes of Arabia before but it wasn't finished at that time- it is now. All the hand quilting is done, the binding is on and it really does remind me of Damascus- the rich colours of the old decorations and ceramics and of course the textiles, the density of the smell of perfume- the layers and layers of history and stories.

Got to keep packing!

Yep and I am still looking to rent a small place in France for awhile- a year or two at least.
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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Stone Angel Panel Done for Lyon


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Thank you all for all the supportive comments and thank you Red Shoes for your comments on your blog. The Dordogne is a favourite area of ours , though our accommodation ran to tents! And yes the forest fabric has a much more European forest feel than Australian forest.

I have finally finished the Stone Angels panel- I am not sure why it has taken so long, but there have been many disruptions to the week , and I have also been dyeing fabric to take up to the workshop I am teaching in Braidwood this weekend.The fabric has to be ironed tonight so I gues it might be a late night!

When I was teaching in france Genevieve Verrier mentioned an artist whom I had not encountered before. The last couple of days I have spent sometime researching Simon Hantai- he was Hungarian by birth but lived in France from 1949. I find his work very interesting because though abstract he has crossed the boundary from painting into the actual materiality of the canvas he is using. There is a very interesting article on his work on the website I have linked. Hantai worked by first folding his canvas then applying the paint and then unfolding the resultant painting and stretching it. The positive and negative spaces both came into play in an interesting way- suggesting pattern and repeats but in actual fact being random. Hantai shapes are also reminsicent of Matisse's cutouts and how they floated in the space of his canvas. The reason I am interested in his work is the use of positive negative space, but also it is in essence how I dye fabric often- letting the folds of the fabric and the cursory manipultions I make have a role in the final appearance- though of course the dye reacts differently with the fabric than paint does with canvas- still.... some food for thought methinks..... and of course then there is shibori- which relies entirely on folding, stitching and manipulations for effect.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Summer Forest

Summer Forest- but which one? I dyed some fabric with the intent of forest- these seem like summer forests to me- and I have to think of some shapes to float over the top- but they are so much like a summer morning as the sun lights through the trees- actually it reminds me a little of the woods around Chateau de Chassy in the Morvan.But which wood to chose?

Sorry about the rant yesterday- I receive a very small amount of parenting payment( not the full amount ) for my children- but it seems that with the new rules that I am expected to earn money, even though I am earning some money , in the eyes of the government it is not enough- it seems that that amount has been specified by the government to be 30 hours per week at a rate of $13.00 per hour ( I think that is what they said)- my business does not earn that amount in a week- in fact it would be lovely if it did. I have worked hard for the last 12 years at getting to where I am, paid taxes as well- with little children around my feet and working in a tiny space ,I even did a Masters degree ( and worked at my business during the whole time) in the hope of perhaps getting some work in the tertiary sector- but that is a field of diminishing jobs.To give that up now to do some other kind of paid job( what kind of employment could I get in this place in any case, and I certainly don't want to go back to being a solicitor) seems kind of crazy so I guess I will forego the parenting payment. It seems that I can walk into many places overseas- that my curating is respected- but not here in my own country. So much for the governments cry of aiding small business.There is very little support for the arts by our governement and what support there is usually goes to arts administration rather than to the practising artists. If it wasn't for the fact that I have some wonderful artist friends I would say that we are becoming a country of philistines- where everything is part of the money equation except sport- where no outcome is worthy unless it has a dollar value and the bigger the dollar value the more "worthy" the outcome.

Anyway that brings me to another matter- perhaps leaving the country- it is a thought that has crossed my mind before- I have so much more work in Europe, but my children go to school here, though they are also getting more independent and mature.The fields of study they are expressing interest in are probably also better catered for in Europe.

I think the solution is to rent a small place in France for awhile-in the countryside, that I can use to store my teaching materials and where I can work and have a sewing machine. Can anyone give me suggestions as to how I might go about this? Does anyone have a small house I could rent?

Monday, May 28, 2007

Another Stone Angel Panel


I have to make work for the Magic Patch Quilt Expo in Lyon for later in June of this year. A lot of my work is on display at Sophie Gelfi's Gallery in la Bourboule and still some more work at Centre Europeen du Patchwork in Salleles d'Aude ( only about 4 pieces there) . This means I am a bit thin on the ground for actual work I can send. I also want to send pieces involving lutradur as Marion Barnett and I are working on a book on that subject and what better way to show the variations possible with lutradur than in exhibition pieces. Marion has also created pieces using lutradur which you can see on her blog.

So when we got home to lots of ill health with parents I sort of felt like I had been hit by a bulldozer and it was very difficult to find the wherewithall to do any work whatsoever.However tucked amongst some lutradur pieces I worked on last year I found a long stone angels panel which had not been quilted. So of course it asked to be quilted- and not only that, I happened to have exactly the right coloured background piece at exactly the right length- so I think this piece was asking for itself to be worked on , to soothe the spirit and carry hopes to the cosmos.

I also have to write some articles about Across Australia this week- the deadline is 1 June. I had hoped that Across Australia might travel to the US-one Museum has given its yes approval but another museum is not so forthcoming. Unfortunately there are not the funding opportunities here, that could support the project travelling to the US- as always I am stuck in a difficult place because I chose to curate as an individual rather than as an organisation which limits the funding I can apply for. And then today I have to have an interview with centrelink about Newstart- they think I should be looking for a job- I have tried to explain before that I do run a business, that yes it's income is not great( how many artists have a living wage income? for starters the daily teaching fee suggested by Ozco- the national body for visula arts and crafts has not altered for 20 years- how many other professions have had no pay increase for 20 years?), and the exhibitions I travel overseas bring much goodwill and indeed Across Australia's travels in the Middle East did much to open eyes to the sheer beauty of Australia- all this without a cent of government funding!! Sense of Place likewise did much to promote good will and certainly has created an opening for rapport between Syrian and Australian artists- again without a cent of government funding.I think sometimes I need my head read as to why I continue to do this, because though I have been fortunate to be able to privately fundraise ( with the help of a grant from Victorian Quilters for Across Australia and a scholarship from OZquilt Inc for Sense of Place) the costs of airfares, much of the time I spend with the exhibitions is all unpaid work.Yet so positive is the response to the Australian work that I have curated that it becomes its own kind of enthusiasm generator and before I know it I have said yes to another project.Anyway how do I explain all this to a public servant tied to a desk?

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Fabric I Dyed


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The fabric in the photo is a piece of fabric I dyed the other day. One of the things I love about dyeing is that there is no such thing as a failed piece of fabric. This piece started as a failed piece of gray ( and as I was low on fabric and itching to get back to dyeing I resurrected it again). The gray had gone too green and had become nondescript- pale yuk .This was also the fabric that was not behaving very nicely in the dyeing process before I went away- or I wasn't gettting the results I normally do- I am thinking the water might have been the culprit after all- with high levels of chlorine to counter algination in the summer heat- because the piece that is in the photo is back to the old definitions of colour contrast- in actual fact the piece in the flesh is even more contrasty as to what I see on the monitor.

We have had a lot of rain during the week has has brought forth a multitude of different mushrooms. I wish I knew more about mushrooms, I have always been fascinated by them. This little red one came up almost overnight- along with other family members- but something is eatig them- so if we find hallucinating bushrats around ( whom I suspect of being the culprits) I will know why!

Went to see Pirates of the Carribean III- The Worlds End last night- story crazy and all over the place as the previous two- but wonderful nonetheless! I loved the Singapore scenes- so visually rich and textural and the costumes that went with that segment of the film.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Antique Salt Bags


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I purchased these antique salt bags from a textile restorer Ahmad al Nakhal who runs a small shop near the Jeron Gate behind the Omayad Mosque in Damascus. I was introduced to Ahmad by Monika Spahl a German textile artist living in Damascus ( her work is wonderful). His collection of tribal rugs and salt bags and cushion covers was seriously wonderful and he was very knowledgeable about them all. The bags i purchased are between 60-80 years old and are Turkoman ( it is difficult to get textiles woven in Syria these days) Ahmad also proved to be a very skilled textile restorer and he showed us how he went about it and he told us how he had learnt his trade starting as a boy of 10 and gradually becoming so impassioned by the textiles themselves that he not only reached a very high level of skill in restoration but also in knowledeg of the different weavings from the region. We spent many delightful hours in Ahmad's shop,hearing stories of how he collected and stories of his childhood and modern day life in Damascus. If anyone should go to Syria his shop is well worth a visit- he may not be the cheapest woven textile seller in Damascus but his textiles are genuine and he can tell you so much about them. His little library of books was also wonderful and I wished I had written down all the titles.

I chose these particular salt bags because they were so colourful- and of course I like anything wioth woven reds or terracotta colours.

Thursday, May 24, 2007





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The photo of the quilt is a piece I finished just before I left Australia- there is also an earlier photo on the blog. When I arrived in Damascus I found that the gallery space had doubled since I saw it last year and Sense of Place had been put together with the previous space in mind- so I was lucky I had with me a suitcase full of work destined for Sophie Gelfi's Gallerie du Splendid in La Bourboule in the Auvergne in france, which fit the extra space nicely. It helped that some of the work was about Syria as this piece was. It looked so much better with proper lighting- it made it much more multilayered somehow as the lights caught the glints of foiling in the background and created much deeper shadows in the areas of stitching.

I love doors, and thankfully there is a world heritage order on the old city of Damascus so that you can still find wonderful enormous old doors. The patterning on the doors is often intricate, sometimes ornate, and the doorways says something about the place you are entering! The Rajabs of the Tareq Rajab Museum in Kuwait have written a wonderful book about "The Carved Wooden Doors of Kuwait.the Gulf & Yemen" ( ISBN994885149-8, it is available form the museum website) and unfortunately most old things inKuwait have been bulldozed in a bid for modernisation in the 1960's. Whilst there are similarities with the doors of Damascus there are differences too- for example decoration reached an amazing level of intricacy and skill in Damascus and this can bee seen in many place including some of the interiors. Many of the old beits ( courtyarded houses ) are being restored as restaurants ( where at least the ordinary bod like me can still see some of the wonderful decorated ceilings and arches) or luxury hotels which I am never likley to see the interior of, as I travel on budget.

The weekend of 31 May to 2 June i shall be teaching in Braidwood at Braidwood Townstay. Tifaifai ( a two day workshop) and transfer printing and stitching a one day workshop. I will be teaching at the residential workshop the brainchild of Kate Marshall and her sister and you can see details in the link I have given. There are still a few places if you are interested.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Here is the photo of the chopped up Roman columns

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They make rather a sturdy wall don't they?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

What to do with Pesky Roman Pillars When They Fall Down





I want to share some photos of stone carved patterns in Palmyra- it is one of those places ,it drags you in- you touch the pillars and hear the whispers of the ancients.As you rub the stone worn smooth by centuries of sandstorms and the hands of ancients you wonder who exactly touched these? It is hard to imagine why the Romans built such a large complex - after all it is in rugged terrain 100's of kilometers from anywhere. It is, and was an oasis , but an oasis can only support so many people, it was on the silk route- but if you look at a map it does not appear to be in a direct line from one place to another or maybe some of the other places have disappeared under the sands of time? Much of Palmyra was submerged under sand until the early 1950's. It appears to have been settled for centuries before the Romans, and whilst the Romans did conquer they never did quite manage to completely subdue the local population who were of an individualistic bent.
Indeed the city's heroine is Zenobia ( though there were rumours that she was implicated in her husbands death. Her husband was one of the Roman governors) She was a headstrong and powerful woman. It is thought that the bend in the central avenue of Roman columns was probably due to the individualsitic bent of the Palmyrans under Zenobia's rule, though no one is sure.

"Palmyra's greatest days however were after the murder of Odeinat, when his wife Zenobia started ruling Palmyra on behalf of her son Vaballath. Zenobia with the help of her Prime Minister Longinus extended Palmyrean power to the west and took over Bosra and occupied as far as Egypt (269-270), then she headed for the north and attempted to take Antioch. This sudden expansion posed a threat for the Romans, and after two years in 272 of being flexible Aurelian retaliated and took back Antioch then Emesa (Homs) and then Palmyra itself. Zenobia tried to escape but was captured and was taken back to Rome as a prisoner."
Today many Palmyrans proudly insist that they are Arameans.

After the Romans left , others came including some that thought that chopping the huge stone pillars into sections would make an excellent wall- admittedly it does create a rather lovely effect ( see thephoto in the next post), but when you thinking of soaring stone colums it is a rather sad end.

Thank you for all your good wishes- Collin's mother is slowly improving, there is still a long way to go.
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Friday, May 18, 2007

Work but not of the Textile kind



I came home to some of the garden still bearing vegetables- tomatoes, peppers, chillies, eggplant and herbs . I was expecting them to be all finished up but managed to pick about 10 kg of tomatoes which will need to be processed. I will also make some lebanese eggplant pickle with the eggplants- although there is not many of them.

Sometimes the generosity of students blows me away- this doll was made edspecially for me from fabrics this student made in the printing workshop I taught in Palaiseau and is the work of Veronique Douillet. I had greatly admired the dolls she had made with the embroidered squares for the fundraising project Pascale Goldenberg organised for the Afghan women. Veronique's dolls were a total delight, picking up on the patterning of the individual embroideries, giving the embroideries centre stage as part of the dolls clothing, but somehow imprinting her own personality and skills to complement. All her work is by hand, and her quilts are likewise quirky and wonderful- alas she does not have a website as far as I know . I hope to see more of this wonderful work in the future and feel lucky to have the doll. Thank you Veronique!
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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Back Home


It is hard to know where to begin- we are exhausted after our flight which we spent worrying about health problems which have emerged in the last week for my mother-in-law and father .So after a quick snooze ,Collin has gone to see his mother in hospital and we called by my fathers on the way home-he will hear next week what the surgeon is contemplating doing.

Othewrwise i will start at somewhere near the beginning and keep it textile related.The first photo is of an old woodblock print from the Al Azam Palace in Damascus- I adore woodblocks and woodcuts. The palace had a dedicated printing area for textiles. The second photo is of Damascene cloth from the cloth souq. Unfortunately the number of stalls selling this cloth seemed to be less compared to last years visit- and my budget and suitcase space did not run to buying some ( the reason why, will emerge)- but then there is next year as it looks likely I shall be travelling back to Damascus ( this will make it more my home city than the one closest to me- Melbourne- and can you see me grinning) The last photo is the fantastic patterning of the ceiling of the Great Mosque in Damascus- this area is one of the few sections that survived a great fire in the nineteenth century and is a marvel- I really wanted to lie on the ground to photograph it, but my pre teen daughter who was travelling with me thought this much too embarasssing.However I have three words to say- I love Damascus!

Once again I met many wonderful people, have put more faces to some of the readers of my blog and will try to post regularly. I have a lot of work to make in the next two weeeks as I have been invited by Magic Patch to exhibit work at their Expo in June of this year- and some of the work needs to be made ( I wish I could say ideas were fully formed in my head, but they are not- but there is always tonight). This is not a totally bad thing as I tend to procrastinate when I get back from such a long trip ( nearly three months)- there is simply no other way than to do.
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