Saturday, February 27, 2016

To The Grindstone

Thank you to all those who responded to my previous post both on my blog and privately. Your thoughts and advise are much appreciated and I value all sides of the story as it is not easy I know.

I have found it hard to get anything done, but I am getting to the panic side of making things for events that I have been invited to ,so there is nothing for it  but to put the nose to the grindstone and just work work work.I miss my own sewing machine a lot, I think if I do spend periods of time in France I may need to buy one.

This week we had a linocutting class and the beauty of small classes is that you can actually also make some of your own work and still keep an eye on the work of participants . Sometimes it is good for them to see how you work in any case.  So I made a new linocut this week inspired by the weeds and drawn extrapolations thereof encountered on my walks.

Some sketches I made of weeds in the vineyards that we walk through every day.

The weeds were drawn onto the lino with a black permanent marker and then the cutting begins. Once the lino has been cut I make a proof print on news paper or magazines just to see if it needs fine tuning or some more cutting away.

I am still undecided whether I will actually cut this into four separate linocuts or leave it as is. And then once I am happy the print  will print well on fabric, I print on fabric.

I am quite happy with it and I think will lend itself quite well to some stitching or combining with other prints.

I have to come up with a piece for the theme "Confiance" for Chartres- yes I know I have left it  a bit late to some extent, though I know I can finish what I intend to make in time. I have struggled to come up with any ideas as I am feeling anything but confident, and in any case how do you portray trust ? Last year  Joyce Hammond who did her Phd thesis on Tifaifai (and I referred to it in my book Tifaifai Renaissnace as there was very little information available) requested the use of an image of one of my tifaifai quilts for an article she was writing. A month ago she sent me a copy of the article about tifaifai and the  internet, published by the Pacific Arts Association . It is the first time an academic has mentioned my work and the article is interesting ,and it started me thinking about tifaifai again. It is such a lovely way to create a design and when I have taught it  students are always surprised at how well their own designs turn out, even simple ones. I ask them to trust their designs will work. So I trust, in the idea that the design will work and create a  tree of life of sorts which is after all the trust we must have  in nature that life will continue.

So I decided something tried and true and I am confident the design will work.As it happened when I was moving my stuff into my shed I found an old piece of Vliesofix with a partial tifaifai design of pomegranates drawn on it.I stuffed it into my suitcase at the last moment on a whim. Once upon a time I made quite a few of these and used to sell them at the Metro Craft Centre in Melbourne, before it was shut down. So this week I dyed the fabric ( I had forgotten how much I needed to dye) and crossed my fingers that the vliesofix wasn't too old and would stick to the fabric. It took quite some time to cut out, as the design was quite fine. The first image is the commencement of the cutting.

The image below is the pile of spaghetti like cut out that you get when all the cutting is done.  You look at it with a bit of desperation wondering if anything will come  out of it.

  Then the laying out, which takes ages as this design is about 90 cm square.

The whole design laid out, and finally you can see how it will look sort of, as it undergoes more changes with the pressing and then quilting/stitching and of course the borders.

And finally the pressed top ready for the attachment of borders. The last tifaifai I made was in 2009 so it 's been 7 years since I made one, and I must say I am  pleased with it so far, but know stitching will make all the difference.

Another image of the Pic- it dominates my life every walk we make and it's always different. Spring has been in the air and the old stone shed continues to bring up intriguing things. This morning I decided to lift the piece of corrugated plastic on the old wagon and found  a myriad of wasps cocoons- built mud cocoons.

And I have had several requests as to whether I will be running my  Travellers Blanket on-line class this year as it is  awhile since I ran it. I have decided that I will seeing I have started another blanket of my own- though it's a bit different to the other blankets I have made- but it is still about a story.

The on-line  course consists of pdf files which are delivered fortnightly and a closed Fb group  for discussion and sharing. The course will start on 25 March 2016. The idea of the travellers' blanket is that  you use stitch and fabric to tell a story with simple shapes and ideas.It is a contemplative process and  participants have often said that in the end the blanket itself kind of determines how it will be stitched and how it will tell the story. The cost of the course is $60 AUS ( 40€ or $43 US). Just email me if you are interested and I will send you details of how to make payment ( by internet banking or paypal) Some images of stitching in progress can be seen here. The blue Travellers' Blanket I made was on the cover of Quilting Arts a couple of years back.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Blue is the Colour for my Week

Firstly- the winner of the gift for my birthday is Els Gauchote- something will come in the post to you if you send me your address please Els- so lovely that it is you!. I want to thank all of you for your lovely comments and wishes- they were much appreciated!

This last week has gone by in both a blue zone and one of hope. Something very momentous has happened in my life, since just before Christmas, it gives me joy beyond reason and at the same time fills my heart with fear, not because it is scarey, but fear that it may not work out. In the week since my birthday I have discovered that words are tricky masters- that there are no words for the emotional territory in which I find myself, or indeed, in which all of us affected by it find ourselves and yet there is hope like I had never dared hope.I always thought the English language had so many words, but it doesn't. There are no words to describe how I actually feel and I suspect this may also be true for everyone involved. And the words that do exist are inadequate to relay what is happening, and that is also an inadequate word, because it is a new emotional territory.And yet discussion ( another hard sounding word that doesn't actually convey what i want to say) needs to happen.

 My daughter that I adopted out in July of 1974  ( she was born in May 1974, though I never saw her or held her) has found me.My other daughters knew about her as do my close friends. I hope we can find a path to meet ,to be able to be a part of each others life in some way, whilst respecting the fact that she has parents and her own family, and dealing with the issues that adoption raises.I know she was brave to contact me because all of this is far from easy, actually it is gut wrenchingly emotional, and there are no road maps of how to travel this territory. But most amazingly she has also spent part of her life being a solicitor and is now a quilter.

 Any words of wisdom or experience would be very much appreciated.

So last week some indigo dyed Khadi fabrics arrived from the Stitching Project. These fabrics are gorgeous- they are shiboried ( is there such a word- I think I need to add to my vocabulary), and some of them did not quite work out, imperfect you might say. But such is the nature of khadi the fabrics are beautiful in any case. The fabric is created from hand spun cotton and is then hand woven, because of this when the fabric is exposed to dye, especially when resist is involved, such as shibori techniques, the dye wicks along the threads almost ikat like- it creates a kind of I don't know- can't find the word- shadow springs to mind but  it's not the right word, echo also might be a word but again it's not quite right. In any case, I eyed the "imperfections" for awhile and decided that they were some how consistent with my life- imperfect and then a friend asked what had I been doing? Well nothing really, walking the dog, some workshops, but nothing out of my hands, so she said "I challenge you to start something" (  you know who you are ;-) ), so I did. I picked up that imperfect piece of cloth and just started stitching- and it started to grow and now I can see there is going to be  a lot of story in this , a lot of tears and I hope joy too- another travellers' blanket to map and I think I have found a way to convey what I am feeling that words can't.

And then the weather has been sunny, thank goodness- those blue skies fill the soul. So I have to leave you with yet another photo of the Pic-I see it every day , I walk towards it and then away and each day it is different.

And then there is the still  bare branches of some trees with those beautiful blue's a wonder.

And then there are the almond blossoms- just about to die off and set fruit, but how heavenly do they look, is it not any wonder that Van Gogh thrilled at them?

Monday, February 15, 2016


Thank you for all the birthday wishes and your lovely comments. I will reply to them all and of course find a winner!
The week has been hectic, as I had some people attend the first two workshops I had planned for my workshop program at le Triadou. There is still time to join if you would like to do any of the other workshops - creating a linocut and printing with your linocut, transfer printing and stitching ( working  with lutradur and free motion stitching ) or Trees Trees Trees. You can see the program here. You can join just one class or all- it's up to you. I am also planning some more workshops once i return from Chartres later in March and early April.

We did dyeing on Friday- and some lovely pieces were made. We tried different techniques- these were done by Nati and Frederique. And Saturday we printed.

Frederique combined different elements of the linocuts , woodblocks and  we had to create a garden scene- on the fabric she had hand dyed on Friday- it created a very whimsical effect on which I can see lots of fun embroidery and stitching! And even though the weather was drab and horrid- lots of rain and the dog was best not happy ( no long walks in the shadow of Pic St Loup) we created lots of colour and fun things.

It's got me all enthused about printing again, and because we were only small in number it gave me time to play as well. My woodblocks- that I had made in  India via the Stitching Project arrived on Thursday. I have had fun playing with the pomegranate block and the leaf shape that accompanies it.Combining opaque textile inks with  black and red

I have also been dyeing fabrics during the week after tracking down some Ditti fabric in Ikea. I sometimes use this fabric in Australia so I was interested  to see how it would dye here, as I presume the source is the same.I think I will be hightailing back to Ikea Monday morning because I am happy with the results!

And I have been printing life tree panels. They are for sale for $40AUS
plus postage. They measure 40 x 50 cm in size and have been printed on hand dyed cotton and because of the size of the linocut and because I am printing by hand they take quite a lot of work, more than smaller linocuts, because firstly you have to make sure you have good textile ink coverage in your linoblock, and then good even pressure to transfer the ink to the takes a bit of elbow grease that is for sure as I used a small disc called a baren.

I am happy with the results and can't wait for some batting to arrive to get stitching! And last but not least I had to take the dog for a walk this morning, otherwise I think the dog might have gone a little crazy. I did take her out for a little walk the days of the workshops, but she just loves it when we do the long walk. We did a medium walk today as it was blowing a gale, cold wind from the Cevennes. So I leave you with an image of the Pic with cloud shadows- light and shadow like so much of life.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


Today is my last day as a 50 year old something and tomorrow a new decade of 60's begins. I am no longer one of the young ones in my quilt group unlike when I started . When I first went to a quilt group I had two  young children, somewhere along the way a third daughter came along and she used to come to AQA meetings with me because I wasn't going to miss a meeting. In those days  around 1995 there was a stellar group of quilters at AQA and meetings literally buzzed. Ynez my youngest daughter would be in her carry basket under my chair, and once I got so carried away with some demos going on that I completely forgot she was under the chair- until I suddenly realised and called out in panic- the last time I went to an AQA meeting last year, several reminded me of that event- it had stayed in their minds and had caused much amusement. Irving Green , bless his soul, used to say I had such a beautiful quiet baby because I exposed her to the hubbub of quilterly noise, whilst  with his baby granddaughter he had to tip toe around for fear of waking the child. I don't know, but I have to say these things seem almost like yesterday.

I started quilting in 1989 and knew almost straight away I had found my passion. I had sewed and even embroidered as a teenager, I had also knitted and crocheted, making my own fairisle designs and  knitted motifs inspired by Jenny Kee- but when I made that first quilt, a grandmothers flower garden block variation from a Pauline Burbidge book, and even though I did not like the resulting quilt, as a result of the fabrics i chose - I had found what I  had wanted to do.

The passion stayed alive despite a few years ago when I really felt like bailing out and getting a full time job to pay the bills instead of the uncertainty of  income that quilting and teaching brings.I think my passion waned a bit because since 2008 I have been a single mum- and I found that the needs of teenage daughters and running a business was crazily hard- harder than when they were babies, teenagers do not have afternoon naps for a start, and I seemed to be in the car a lot of the time for one reason or another. It was a phase that all mothers go through and I have to say that despite the teenage years and their angst my girls have grown into beautiful, independent , talented young women, that I am incredibly proud of and who are following their own paths into the world . I could not ask for more.

And now I am house sitting the house of a friend in Le Triadou close to Montpellier. I spent time here in 2010 because in all reality I had struggled to find equilibrium after divorce. My friend Liwanag Sales ( also a quilter) had been through a similar thing, except she had more children , but together we talked and talked and talked away a lot of the bitterness that surrounds such events. It started me on another journey. The idea of creating a book that  talked about my creative process and how travel affected my creativity, because literally my suitcase is often my studio.I dilly dallied around with the idea when I returned to Australia, and the Sentinelle series intervened including a certificate course in desk top publishing which I loved. The Sentinelles somehow inspired people, though I never really exhibited the whole series in Australia- but people responded to their sense of spirituality and the opportunity to create a story in stitch. I never expected such a beautiful ethereal and  deeply moving exhibition would result.The work of  many other hands working with a linocut image I had made. It restarted me touring things again, which I had stopped doing in 2010.

Then my daughter studied Visual Communication and Design at RMIT and I have to say she pushed me to finally get the book made that I had been talking about. I had made pieces for it, I had kind of created a story, but I had not pulled it together in any coherent way. To create this book as a collaboration with my daughter Celeste  ( Celeste Galtry Creative)was a wonderful experience. She helped me with the Pozible fund raising campaign- which so many of you supported and made self publishing the book possible, and for which I am eternally grateful. She bossed me around, she kept my nose to the grindstone and she designed a beautiful book that sings of her aesthetic, but also showcases my work and the story I wanted to write. Then my good friend Moulin did the translation so the book could be bilingual. I am very proud of what we all achieved and it was a huge learning curve. and I am thinking of embarking on another journey like it in a year or two. It combined two things- my love of textile and my love of books and being able to do it with my daughter and a good friend was a special experience.

Part of a series of work in that book , the Chartres chapter is being exhibited in Chartres from 12 March 2016- 20 March 2016- and I have to say it's a thrill to be able to show the Chartres inspired pieces in the place that inspired them. And then  onto Quilts en Beaujolais in April- it's the fourth time I have been  guest artist at the event and I am very grateful  for the support of  Monique and Geoff , but it also means I have to make new work!. Then in June I will also be exhibiting as a guest artist  along with some other incredibly talented textile artists at Forca Fil in Provence. How can I not love this southern part of France?

So I want to thank all of you - my readers, my friends, and my family who have been so supportive since I first started on this journey. When I began I had no idea, the many friends I would make, the laughter and the fun and the sheer hard work that would ensue, but all of you have helped and nurtured the creative part of my soul, you have kept me going when things were tough and you have kept my buoyed during those times and you have embraced my work so thank you!

And then last but not least- my daughter designed some Moo cards for me- which arrived this morning. Whilst I have had business cards in the past I always printed them myself- this is the first time I have had ones printed by a professional company. There is always room for a new thing! And I love them.( the cards are much nicer in reality- not a very good photograph by me)

So if you leave a comment- I would like to send one lucky reader a gift as my birthday gift to you. Your names will all be put in a hat and I shall send the winner something. I will close the comments on Sunday evening- french time .

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Life Tree Linocut

It's been beautiful sunshine most of this week and the dog and I have been doing the long walk. Sometimes I would prefer to do the shorter walk but when we get to the junction where we have to make that decision the dog has on it's face this look of "You are kidding aren't you- come on we are doing the long walk!" Or maybe she loves the Pic as much as I do. Each day it seems different and each day we encounter something different- the little changes of the season, the moodiness of the clouds, the clear blue sky, lately the birds have been twittering madly.The almond tree has sprung into full blossom almost overnight and everywhere spring is trying to burst.

I have been doing some hand stitching . Have to get some batting to do machine stitching ( am waiting on that from Victorian Textiles who so kindly sponsor me with batting- thank you) I have been stitching on some banksia's - what else, but I quite like how weird and quirky these are turning out- it's exactly what I had in mind for this banksia variation.

I have also been working on a big linocut of a tree. I like to think of it as a life tree/tree of life. It measures 40 cm x 50 cm and is by far the largest linocut I have made. It took ages to carve it out, but as it was wamr and sunny outside I could sit outside and do it.

Inking up the linocut ready for printing. I like to use a denser black textile printing ink these days- that is also on the ordered list awaiting for arrival. But I was really keen to see how it would look after all that work!
The background fabric is quite busy but I like the light shining through the middle of the tree and with stitching it will  bring it alive .

The blue background is more even. This print is for sale in case anyone is interested . The price is $40AUS ( it is twice the size of my previous largest print) plus postage. Email me if you would like a print!

There are still some spaces for the workshops in Le Traidou which begin next weekend. All workshops will go ahead You can look at the program here. There is a real opportunity to develop your work if you are so inclined as well as learn lots of techniques.