Saturday, December 26, 2020

Where did the Year Go?

 Despite all the lockdowns  ( we had close on eight months with a small break somewhere a third of the way along) time seems to have scurried out of the window. We spent Christmas at my mothers and I saw all my daughters for the first time since beginning June. I have to say that even though it was lovely to see my daughters this is the least favourite time of the year for me. I grew up in a house where my parents did not believe in Christmas- but now years later ,every year the carry on about Christmas starts-  when I had young children it was apparently too far for family to travel  to our place for Christmas, which meant we were often on the road trying to please family- occasionally I succeeded in just having Christmas to ourselves and staying and enjoying home.  My father who professed to be an atheist was somehow strangely attached  to Christmas  especially towards the end of his life and  my mother has  done a similar thing. Now that she has had a stroke it means I have to cart all the food there , cook it all on a stove that needs replacing  ( but she won't because she loves the look of it ) with kitchen equipment that is inadequate. I tried to prepare a fair bit at my house, but I must admit I felt like a packhorse carrying it all to the car driving there and then unpacking it all. Anyhow it is all done and dusted for another year- next year I think I will go camping! And I hope however you spend your time at this time of year that it was enjoyable for you!

And then yesterday listening to the radio whilst driving they  dedicated the day to all the people who had to work- with all the hullabaloo about celebrating and big Christmas dinners etc etc- we seeem to forget that for  a fair proportion of the population work continues as usual-  service station attendants, hospital staff ( cleaners, food deliverers, nurses, doctors), fire station staff, police, zoo keepers, and many other jobs that  continue on as usual.It all gets swept away under this  retail extravaganza called Christmas.

I created a magazine style report of this years doings and things I have made. It was easier to do it that way than putting it in my blog. So I share it here for you to enjoy.

There is still time to enroll for my new courses which you will find under the on-line Workshops tab on my blog  or here.

It is summer here, and the grass in the little Natire Reserve where i walk has all gone to seed and as the hot weather starts it will all die off.

I want to wish all of my readers all the best for 2021, lets hope it will be better than  this year has been and that we  can safely navigate through it  and come out the other end.

Monday, November 30, 2020

On-Line Workshops

 The last two weeks have been ridiculously busy trying to finish work for my new on-line workshops starting in January. I have created a page on my blog especially for the on-line workshops I teach and will be updating that further in the next day or so. The Tifaifai class has been written up and is now available for  you to register. I have created five new patterns, varying in size and complexity so that the class is suitable  for all levels of expertise. I will guide you through all the necessary steps both by way of video and pdf notes with interactivity via a private Facebook group and Zoom. I hope you will join me and try one of my patterns or  better still use your own inspiration to create your own design!

I will also be adding a Linocutting and Fabric Printing on-line workshops in the  next day or so, which will take you through all the steps of designing for linocut, carving your lino (  or easy cut) printing on fabric, layering with different linocuts to create  vignettes and repeat printing.

Lastly I will be runing my on-line Traveller's Blanket class starting 18 December 2020. Christmas and the accompanying holiday period will be very different, and especially at the present time many people  will be alone or at least in environments where limited movement outside the house is advisable. There is nothing quite so soothing as stitching, the rhythm calms the mind and creating colourful and beautiful blankets is a good antidote! The Facebook and Zoom  sessions allows us to get to know each other a little better and also ask questions which hopefully I will be able to answer. I am going to offer this class at a special price of $50 AUS once only, simply because this has been a tough tough year.

I must admit my  mojo had been a bit missing in action until a week or two ago . I did work, but just could not get into a good working routine.  Then when finally I did get my work enthusiasm back, my mother had a fall. At first it seemed it was not so bad and she was walking , but as the days progressed so did the pain. I visited her at home and we spoke to the gp by tele conference, but really there was no improvement. So in the end I had her hospitalised ( which she was not very keen about) simply because she is not always the most reliable reporter of symptons and there have been issues with her blood pressure again which is not great for a person who has had a stroke. Fortunately X-rays and Ct scan showed nothing broken so it appears it was deep bruising which affected her ability to walk stably. Hopefully she will be released today which has meant I have had to cook a lot of things for her as she is not really cooking very much anymore. And I will probably  need to visit her more frequently but this latest incident has shown that if she continues to live independently she needs some help. I am still working fulltime and it's another three years until I reach retirement age ( though I can't see myself retiring as I love what I do) and I live a 3 hour round trip away from where she lives which makes things hard and my time stretched to the limit. I need space to work as I work from home and though my daughters are now young adults with independent lives- this year has been especially tough and I would like to see them as well. Plus my garden apart from the vegie patches  is a bit of a mess simply because I have not had time.

Hopefully some in person teaching will resume in 2021, but I doubt  overseas teaching will happen simply because the government has been saying that borders will remain closed for some time and as my own  health is a little immunity compromised from the cancer treatment I am not that keen to hop on a plane until they find a reliable vaccine and people are actually vaccinated which I imagine will take some time. So hence all the work to get more on-line teaching ahppening. The next step is to build a proper website- which will be another learning curve!

I  hope you will join me in some of my new on-line classes. I have created new content and have basically revised my Tifaifai Renaissance book with different ideas and uses of end product. Like wise the linocutting class will have new content as well.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Need to really get working!

 At last some of the restrictions are easing here in Victoria thank goodness. It has been a tough year since March- with only a little reprieve in May and early June. I have not seen my daughters since early June . I feel for all the people in the northern hemisphere who look like they are going into lockdowns. All I can say is it did work here- we have had two days of  zero new cases and zero deaths in a row- and there is a sense of  relief and even joy amongst Victorians that we all  did this,  despite many whining about the government locking things down, we got there!. Now we need to continue to stay safe- wear masks, wash hands, distance and  be sensible. It has been hard seeing people holiday in different parts of the world, of people taking trips to the outback in states that aren't locked down, but in the end if we are all safe for not having done any of those things then that is to the greater good for those around us.

I must admit as the weeks counted down and the numbers continued to lower it was actually harder to work- there was a real anxiety for many people  as to what would happen if the numbers did not go down as modelled- what if there were spikes. Days just  kind of  funnelled into the next day and then it was the weekend which was no different than other days. It became very difficult to be motivated.

I did get an order for one of my Blackwoods Dancing print so had to dye fabric so I could print the requested colour. I printed up some extras as well and also the Banksia print. I am still selling the prints- they are $23 inclusive of postage .

I have also been playing around with sea horse prints. I ended up cutting two linocuts so that the sea horses could face each other, as they are said to be devoted couples that dance for a small portion of the day and then go their own way for the rest of the day.

These prints are also for sale but you will need to message me about them or email me.

I still walk most mornings and last week went to Woodside beach which is the beginning of the Ninety Mile beach a stunning part of the Victorian coast. It was a beautiful sunny day and I was the only person there. I guess I was researching for my sea side print series but it did feel a little odd, that there was not another soul at such a beautiful spot.

The Crinigan Bushland reserve, where i walk most days has delivered up all sorts of delights from tortoises in the Tortoise dam, to delicate little orchids  amongst the grasses and gum blossoms. It's offered inspiration to make a gum leaf tifaifai. 

Now that restrictions are easing  we can finally  do the videos for the new  on-line courses I have been creating. They will be Tifaifai- or positive/negative free form applique ( which will offer a number of different methods to use the technique and design  the patterns. The paatterns are all new and not the ones contained in my book from 2001. It  will contain extensive pdf notes, videos, a FB private group and zoom get togethers ) and I have been rewriting and reworking my on-line linocutting class for hand printing- it  also will have extensive pdf notes, videos, a FB private group and zoom get togethers. I will be sharing  how i work with these two techniques and hopefully send you off with lots of ideas and new skills. I have had good reports back about the pdf notes I provide- essentially it has the contents that a book would have but as there are no longer any publishers in Australia for textile creation apart from one or two patchwork magazines - I have decided to share my skills in this way.

Thursday, October 01, 2020

Getting Back Into Work Mode

 Finally it seems that restrictions will ease later this month as the number of new cases continues to go down, and we have some hope of some things returning to a kind of normal again.Hopefully postal services will deliver in a more timely manner- waiting for articles posted a few towns away for more than 4 weeks seems a bit ridiculous- but I guess many people are ordering things on-line and the cost of sending parcels overseas is ridiculous.

If the restrictions do ease then hopefully I can get videos done for new on-line classes and  I finally felt some impetus today to get working again. The last half of September felt like I was in some kind of vacuum and one day morphed into the next without much to show for it.

I have decided to offer the Traveller's Blanket on-line class for the  last time in 2020. The class will commence on 23 October. The last group  were really enthusiastic and achieved a lot and as a group exchanged a lot of information and ideas- it was a lot of fun and everyone looked forward to our zoom catchups. The cost of the on-line course is $75 AUS, I send pdf files as lessons over a period of 8 weeks ( one per fortnight) as  this is truly slow stitching and I have made some videos which I share in the private facebook group. You work at your own pace, and you decide the size of the piece, I keep stitching simple but if you are an embroidered then you can go to town with your stitching. Email me if you are interested and I can send you an information sheet.

The images are of work I created for the exhibition of Traveller's Blanket I had in 2018, which seems like eons ago. I also share some of the etiquettes I made for the exhibition with the intention of making them into a hand made book, but I ran out of time.

And the last images are of work  I have completed this year and the One World Traveller's Blanket which I am presently working on.

I have also been working on some linocuts inspired by the Australian bush and Australian  flora. I found some of my drawings I did when I was creating the linocuts for the Aussie Bush project. I love grevillea's- their flowers are really weird and wonderful.

I continue to walk  in the mornings, it's helping me keep my sanity. This morning I found a Tortoise  sunbathing in the Tortoise Dam at the Crinigan Bushland Reserve. There are lots of birds, frogs, and the occasional wallaby so i was delighted to encounter a tortoise!

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Busy But not Going Anywhere

 I have been working on new on-line classes, and I hope we will be able to make the videos sooner rather than later- things have already been delayed because of the continuing lockdown. Restrictions will ease tomorrow in regional Victoria- but that is not much help when your videographer lives in Melbourne and is still subject to stage 4 restrictions . The expanding deadline means that  I have slackened off the pace of work a little until I remembered I had an upcoming exhibition with other artists at Cardamome Gallery in St Prest ( near Chartres) and that I needed to have things in the post at least a month before the exhibition even though I am sending it by Express International parcel post. I do hope it gets there in time as this group of artists have exhibited together several times.

I  kept to the sea theme for the pieces I made as it meant I could use the new linocuts I had been making and I also made a  folded book to accompany the two pieces I made.The pieces I made were not large, and in any case the gallery is not large.

The piece above is tie dyed silk, that has been printed with linocuts in a multi layered print in different colours ( this will also be a technique I will be teaching at Grampians Textures next year). The bordered piece is hand dyed cotton- and  used one of the multi layered prints on cotton which I have had for sale. All of the work was inspired by the beach walks on Atauro Island when I did my residency with Boneca de Atauro and a visit to the Aquarium at La Rochelle last year. I am having a lot of fun with  the wonderfully shaped creatures  and plants and colours.

The book incorporates the trial prints I did on newspaper and which I hand coloured with inktense Pencils and water colour paints.

I had not intended to make a booklet to accompany the quilts but got a bit carried away and then made another one after I had sent my parcel off to France.
I have also made a seahorse linocut inspired by the little seahorses at the Aquarium in La Rochelle. I am waiting on more white fabric to arrive so I can do some dyeing and print them up for sale. The ones below have been printed on newspaper and hand coloured.

I have also been working on new designs using the tifaifai technique which will become an on-line class offering several completely new patterns, but also giving you tips on how to create your own designs and of course how to dye your fabric for these projects as well as how to stitch and free motion quilt the pieces. In fact i am revisiting the book I wrote in 2001 , Tifaifai Renaissance, but  improving it with all the things I have learnt teaching this technique since then plus offering more variations and also some simpler designs so that it is a suitable technique for a beginner . The beauty of the technique is that if you cut your design very carefully you end up with a positive cutout and a negative cutout- so you end up with two pieces, and whilst they are the same subject matter, visually they are different and this perception can be changed even more by adding different borders. I am also including table runners and small wall quilts. if you are interested in doing this course  and want more information please email me.
I am thinking it will be broken up into three lessons, and will include my work books and initial drawings to help you in your own design process.

I love hares and wanted to make a tifaifai which was quite different to ones I had previously made. I have yet to stitch these ( have run out of my favourite batting, Matilda's Own ). I also  like the fact that there are many folk tales associated with hares in many different cultures. I have yet to think of a border for the one on the bottom. I almost like it the way it is.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

And Lockdown Continues

 Where I live, Morwellia, we are in stage 3 lockdown, but Melbourne, where my mother and daughters live are in stage 4- as we deal with this second wave of Covid 19. This is a really difficult time for people and I am fortunate to be able to stitch, create new workshops, read and watch some tv on my laptop, walk in a small bushland reserve and use messenger and zoom for more face to face conversations.

I see people lamenting their inability to travel and to go overseas, and yes whilst i do look at photos from travels past and I do miss travelling I am trying to  focus on small things, small steps and  grabbing enjoyment from tiny moments. This was the one big lesson I took away from cancer (apart from  giving yourself time to exercise and to eat as best as you can with the freshest food possible in season)- to savour the tiny moments and to marvel at the world immediately around us, and to look for joy in the smallest of things. Cancer is also a great equaliser like this virus is - when I was lying in the Women's Hospital after my op and fearing for the future- my thoughts of self became obliterated as I heard doctors telling young women that they would never bear children- I heard their crying as they were told and I saw their inexorable grief for something that would never be. But with cancer there is no choice- and yet here we are in lockdown and we have the luxury of choice to be the best we can for the communities we live in, to protect those around us as best as we can, and to protect those we love as best we can. All it takes is to be careful, to socially distance, to wash hands, to wear masks and for this brief blip in the landscape of 2020 to stay at home unless we need  necessaries for sustenance. It is not a lot to ask in the big picture of things. I have also found that the hand sanitiser plays havoc with my much more fragile skin since radiotherapy, but  I have a huge clump of aloe vera in my garden, and whilst I have used aloe vera to treat burns and sun burn, I had never thought of using it on bad chafing and cracking of the skin on my hands until a friend suggested I try it last night- and within 24 hours of applying it regularly i can say I can't believe the improvement of my skin and the cracks are no longer weeping. Makes me wonder what it could do for my face lol????

I have returned to noticing the small things- I take a daily walk in a small bushland reserve not far from my house- and pretend it is a forest full of  spirit and wonder.  It used to be a dump for abandoned vehicles and a kind of hoonville hooning  spot. But someone with vision saw that it could be something else- something of benefit to the whole community, and something which would allow the return of native bushland to a small part of Morwellia. They built tracks so people can walk, they cleaned up the rubbish that gets dumped ( even now) and deal with invasive weeds. I  can tell you that it is actually full of ducks and screeching cockatoos, parakeets,currawongs, fairy wrens,  the odd kookaburra, magpies, shrike thrushes, wattle birds, asian minor birds, a pied heron, even a bower bird, native pigeons- and I am not a twitcher! I have also seen a kangaroo. It is small but I am so grateful that it is there to let my mind wander for an hour a day whilst my body benefits from the exercise.

I am also surprised- very pleasantly actually- in a town that has a reputation for bad behaviour and crime- that I have only seen one person without a mask. Even the biker on his motor bike yesterday was wearing a mask, and  everyone is very aware of the social distancing except for a few elderly people. Even the hoons are off the streets at night ( even though we are not under curfew like Melbourne) and are hooning in the day time instead. Small mercies... small things... but you know what, it does tell me that Morwell actually thinks of itself as a community and that we need to look out for each other.

When I was diagnosed with cancer and went through radiotherapy I created a little written reminder in stitch of both the good and bad- small things every single day until treatment finished. I acknowledged my fear and anxiety and gave it a place, but also found myself being more upbeat then I was expecting to be, actually bent on noticing small things, and embracing joy from those interactions- whether it was to hold some healing stones sent by a friend, the look at the fibre/textile hearts and cards  sent, or to simply marvel that i could walk, and daily see the changes nature seemed fit to bestow on me. We cannot control the big thing like a pandemic, but we can be a small step in  trying to make our communities safer. I read somewhere if we make a small list of our anxieties once a day at the same time, we are giving signals to the great unknown of our minds that the anxiety is there but you are only giving it a small portion of your day.

I started the Forest Quilt below before the pandemic started to reign. I was making it to exhibit in Moscow and the Netherlands. But as lockdowns started happening , that of course  did not happen and so the quilt sat half finished for ages. But my morning walks made me pick it up again and finish it and happily I have also sold it, almost immediately i posted the image on instagram (quite a lot of happy dancing here)  The fabric was printed with  bracken and she oak and the fabric was especially dyed to reflect a forest environment. It is  free motion drawn with Aurifil Mako 30 thread- this thread has a wonderful sheen and because the weight of thread is slightly heavier it sits on the surface beautifully. The she oak print looks like spirits dancing to me.

Thursday, August 06, 2020

New Normal

Lockdown is well and truly back. Melbourne is stage 4 which makes it impossible to see my children and difficult to see my mother. I have been trying to find out the right way to go about delivering  the groceries and personal sanitary items and medication which I take to her once a fortnight. I am not a registered carer, but as she cannot drive and cannot walk as far as her local shops , I have to take her those things. I also used to stay the night- and cook things for her freezer, but I can't do that anymore either until stage 4 restrictions lift. Sometimes all of this is overwhelming and it is hard to get motivated. I have started walking in a Bushland Reserve close to my home, as I had been missing the bush a lot. It seems to be working, and at least I am exercising and often I am the only person walking so I have the whole 100 acres of the reserve to myself.

This spot is called Tortoise Dam and often there are ducks swimming around. It is quite peaceful even though the noise of birds is anything but. There is a lot of birdlife in this little reserve and I am so glad I found it. The walk is helping blow the cobwebs out, and I like seeing minor changes from day to day.

I also had some good news  recently , a grant from  Creative Victoria , Sustaining Creative Worker's Grant. It is to help me create some better videos with a videographer, and to create new on-line courses and just improve my on-line delivery of things, as it looks like  teaching in this way will be one of the ways forward in this new world. So I am extremely grateful to have succeeded in obtaining a grant .

I have finally finished embroidering all the circles on my One World Traveller's Blanket- all 87 of them! Now for the background stitching. I did start with a dark coloured burgundy thread- but I am not sure I am liking it. I started in the middle if you look closely, I am thinking I need to be using a brighter colour. 

A lot of stitching needs to be done!

I was doing a bit of poking around as I am trying to locate my Tifaifai Renaissance book ( I have two copies and the one I found has some blank pages so I need to find the other) and came across my Plaids Nomades book which I had also been looking for. Sometimes it is lovely to see things in print!
The little stitch maps remind of  maps in general. I suppose "reading" a traveller's blanket is a bit like reading a map, each embroidered circle something in its own right but connected to all other things with stitch, visual weight and colour.  There is still time to join the on-line Traveller's Blanket class I am starting on 8 August. You work in a size of your own choice and also use motifs to reflect your story. There is a Paypal button on my previous blog post.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Lockdown is Back

I have finally been working in my work room with some regularity. I must admit having a Phillipina friend come to stay was the final impetus to get it sorted and to claim it as my work space. My friend was able to get a visa to stay in Australia longer than the normal three months as she arrived prior to declaration of the pandemic and has a son and family who live in Australia. Going back to the Phillipines is not safe nor is it safe for her to go to her sister and cousins in the USA.

I have had a number of requests as to whether I was running my On-Line Traveller's Blanket class again and have decided that I will.The stitching is a very soothing exercise in these troubled times and I have seen some wonderful results from the  two earlier classes I have run this year. I doubt I will be doing any in the flesh teaching this year simply due to the Covid virus. The class will start 8 August 2020.

The traveller's blanket class incorporates the idea of place and memory- using your stitching as a kind of writing and recording of those things. It is a way of incorporating  special fabric scraps- of creating new ones. I use  soft light weight fabrics and often use cotton flannel as my batting as it gives lovely soft drape and feels lovely in the hand. My favourite fabric to use is khadi- which I get from India- but a lightweight linen would also work well or  wool. I use perle 8 weight threads as I like the line they create and allow me to add extra colour. If you are interested in more information or joining the class email me. I will also add a Paypal button at the bottom of this page. the cost of the class is $75 AUS.

I am back working on my One World blanket. it has stalled for about four weeks whilst I worked on the Book Without Words- but I hate leaving  things unfinished. I felt I had made it too big-  but then well it was meant to make a statement of sorts so I decided 87 circles was just the number it should be and that I will finish it by hook or crook- I am presently embroidering  circle number 57 so only 30 to go!

It has been a worrying two weeks with Covid 19 cases on the rise in Victoria , but particularly in Melbourne through what seems to have been the careless activities of a couple of people. The number of cases in ICU has quadrupled- so to all the naysayers and conspiracy theorists- this is serious , and it will continue to be the state of play unless everyone complies with lockdown procedures. I am in country Victoria where we are not locked down, but in all reality I think we should be. The health guide lines are simple- only go out for necessities, don't go to gatherings, wash your hands, socially distance and wear masks if out and about. I am finding the press wearying as well- this isn't about political point scoring or one upmanship- it's about public health and safety- sensationalising any of this, and any of the stories undermines the very real steps  that so much of  the front line care givers, nurses, doctors, care assistants, police  have to face every single day. Imagine going home or not being able to go home because you have been exposed to this nasty virus.

Paypal Button to pay for the class. The class will start 8 August- 55th anniversayr of my families  arrival in Australia. The cost of the class is $75 AUS.