Sunday, May 28, 2017

Maria Furlan Bellis- a Living Treasure Alert!

This story started about 4 years ago when I was standing in the office of Cuci Service in Oderzo. I noticed some, what appeared to be free motion embroidered framed images. I asked who had made them  and so begins a story of one of Italia's living treasures. Denise Feltrin told me the free motion embroideries had been made by a 90 year old lady who lived in Oderzo, and that she had made many more such embroideries. She offered to take me to see Maria ( the ladies name). Maria was rung to make sure it was ok and next thing I was whisked off with Denise's sister Doris to visit Maria . What happened next just left me  stuck for words. I took photos at the time but I think I was so amazed by what I encountered I did not set my  camera correctly and only a few photos were good enough to share.

So when I knew that I was going to Italy this time and that I would be close to Oderzo I contacted Cuci Service to see if I could meet with Maria again. I also contacted Alex Veronelli  CBDO from Aurifil threads to see if  they would be willing to donate some threads for Maria's work.

So what can I say??? this is the  amazing story of  a lady who took up free motion embroidery on a treadle machine at the age of 80!!!!! She had painted prior to that and had  once a long time ago made a self portrait in thread.

She was a teacher and has very fine sewing skills. When I asked her why she commenced making free motion embroideries at age 80- she said she woke up one morning and knew that was what she had to do. She has made more than a 1000 embroideries and  the Feltrin sisters from Cuci Service were the first to convince her to exhibit her work. She does not sell her work, so many of her works adorn the walls of her house. Walking into her house is like walking into a cave of wonderment ( well for an textile nut anyway) She has made copies of many of the great masters ( even improving some of them) but has also made embroideries of some of her own paintings which are beautiful.

She works on a treadle machine ( unbelievable that she has made so many embroideries on this machine) with a bare needle and an embroidery hoop. She uses a zig zag stitch to build  up layers of colour in thread. She uses any old thread ( which is why I asked  Aurifil to donate some threads) which she sources wherever she can. Maria is now 96 years old, passionate about her  art and passionate about what she makes, passionate about music and art,still grows her own vegetables in  her vegetable garden and is seeking a renewal of her drivers licence- as the french say "formidable"! When I visited this time she was preparing for an exhibition of embroideries she had made inspired by a popular calendar in Italy.

I will share many photos I took with full permission from Maria . I took photos of the walls of her house covered in her works ( all are framed so there was some light glare form the glass covering the embroideries), some of her great masters works, and some of her own which can be identified because she signs  embroideries made from her own work.

 The first three photos of Maria are in her studio

The photos cannot do justice to the effect of walking into Maria's  house and seeing the walls laden with her beautiful embroideries- speechless is one way of putting it. And this is just a small selection of what she had on display.

The following photos are some closer shots where the lighting would allow- the glare of the glass  frames sometimes interfered with photographing.

Klimt's Three Ages of Woman received Maria's own interpretation she left off the old woman because she did  not like her.

I feel humbled and honoured to have been able to give Maria some Aurifil threads and to be able to visit her house and look at her work , which she so graciously allowed me to share. It was an extraordinary experience-0 and I hope  the Italian art world or certainly the Italian textile world makes her a living treasure!  And last  Maria explaining some of her work- full of passion and insights, on art and life.

Monday, May 22, 2017


Aussie Bush Project-- please let me know if you are participating . I have updated the Aussie bush page with additional information . I need to get an idea of numbers as soon as possible. Even if you have not finished your work yet please let me know. You have until 14 June to finish work and deliver it. I would love to see as many panels as possible- and if you submit your work- it will definitely be exhibited and tour.

It's been a fast and furious last few weeks as I drove to Italy ( much longer than you might think), and very dodgy wifi most of the time. A friend decided to come along in the first week I was here, so we stayed near Ravenna. I did a 2.5 day workshop  at Montefiore Conca with Opficia della Rossa. The workshop was a combination of kamishibai , shadow and print making- and gave me lots of food for thought.
Some of the work I made for the workshop- we made puppets out of paper to create characters for the shadow theatre ( the puppets were inspired by tracing shadows of foliage and other things)- and I tried out some different printing- cutting stencils and such- it is quite different working with oil based inks.

The two  teachers were Umberto Giovannini and Anusc Castiglioni and I was very inspired by their work and approach. And I feel incredibly lucky to have swapped a piece of my work for Umberto's Ferrocarril 1- and ongoing project he is involved with in recording farflung places and peoples.I don't do many workshops , but have found over the past few years that Italy does offer some very good and innovative courses and they are worth looking out for and are often very reasonably priced. Anusc's shadow work for theatre and films she has made has reiginited my interest in lace- and well printmaking and books are my other passions.Being able to see Umberto's work on an evening visit to his studio for a meal and viewing  his new work was simply wonderful. His print works are on a very large scale and full of shadow and layer- really inspiring and atmospheric.

Some images from Umberto's book- he made wood blocks (xylographs) on each day of his travels for 23 days in the outlands in Argentina.Feel very lucky to be able to view this in the flesh.

Then it was onto Lido de Jesolo- not because I am a beach holiday resort  person, but because the season has still not started and it was possible to get very reasonably priced accommodation in a small apartment. Another friend , Caroline Higgs and I had arranged ages ago to visit Venice. She had seen many parts Italy she had never been to Venice. It was lovely catching the boat bus to Venice in the early mornings  with the local children going to school or local people going to work,before the tourist hordes descend. You end up arriving near Piazza san Marco- so you are also travelling against the tourist tide that invades from the railway station. If you ever go to Venice make the effort to get up really early in the morning- it is quite magical and it is easy to get around- none of the shops are open to distract- you simply concentrate on the ambience and you can get very good photographs because it is not as bright and the light is slightly diffused with water vapour.

 There is so many things to see in Venice and at present the Biennale is on. We did go to one or two fringe events but decided not to see it simply because so many were video installations or combinations of such in the top 10 rated exhibits. The one we did want to see was NSK Pavilion but we ran out of time because we did a half day mosaics workshop with Artefact Mosaic Studio, which we stumbled upon in our wanderings around the city. The course was for 3 hours and was very reasonably priced and included materials. Allessandra di Gennero and Romauld Mesdagh are extremely talented mosaicists, with awards under their belt and "master" qualifications from  the Scuola Mosaiciste del Friuli ( the best mosaic school in the world)- their passion for their work was palpable. It turned out that at one time Romauld had lived very close to where Caroline lived in the French Alps- the world is such a small place sometimes- and they had the loveliest "love" story  as only Venice can offer! Allessandra ( originally from Rome) wanted to study at the Scuola Mosaiciste del Friuli because she had seen a portrait made in mosaics when visiting the school- it inspired her to such an extent that she applied and was accepted for the school. During her study she got to know Romauld in classes and on discussing what had inspired her to study at the school she took him to see the portrait. The school does display work of students but usually with no name- so she was aghast when he reached for the portrait, because you cannot touch the work,  and then showed her the name on the back- yes you guessed it and now they run their inspiring studio together in  Venice. You can also commission their work. Take some time to look at their website- the work is stunning- plus  the restaurant they recommended for our last meal in Venice was excellent .

And every now and then you run into a piece of art that stops you in your tracks and simply has you gasping for breath and leaves you with tears in your eyes. We walked into the Chiesa della Pieta because it was a free  fringe exhibit of the Biennale and on the way to the boat bus station. What we had not expected was to find such incredible emotion. I took pictures and of course will give the artist Safet Zec's website- but there is no substitution for seeing the work in the flesh. He works on grounds seemingly made out of layered papers and newspapers, but it is the emotion in the plight of refugees that he has created that is breath taking. He and his family were once themselves refugees- he makes all those human connections seem alive and heartbreaking. For those that say painting is dead- this work proves that it is not. Caroline and I both had the same response to the work and we went back a second time. It  is powerful and moving and asks us the question of what it is to be human.My photo does not do justice to the work.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Aussie Bush Project

The time is drawing near for delivery of your Aussie Bush Project pieces.I have already seen some beautiful finished pieces appearing on Facebook and instagram so am looking forward to seeing all the pieces in the flesh and am hoping for a fabulous exhibition. It will be shown in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, New Zealand, Adelaide and France in 2018.

There is still time to finish your piece!

Important information!

Delivery date before or on 14 June 2017 ( Wednesday)

Payment of your participation fee ( $20 per person and you can submit more than one piece for that fee) the fee covers administration and return postage to you the maker). If you pay by Paypal  the fee is $21 to cover the Paypal admin fee. I have created a button to make payment easier if using Paypal. If doing  a direct deposit via the internet please email me and I will send you details


Delivery address- please email me and I will send you the address

Please email me to tell me of your participation   so that I can start preparing my list of participants ( I return to Australia on 13 June so won't have much time to do this when I return so the sooner I can start my list the better) I will need your name and the title of your piece.