Friday, August 05, 2022

July Disappeared

 July was an entirely forgettable month. Australia Post have not found my quilts and have offered me a paltry sum of money, in reliance upon their limitation of liability clause. I would actually like my quilts found- they add up to a years worth of work and income I can ill afford to lose. I try not to dwell on it too much, but it's hard not to. The hardest thing is to feel motivated about anything at all after this- the naysayer that lives in my head from time to time just says "What's the use? There is no point." So I have been pretty unmotivated to do anything at all. I think this is one effect from losing twelve quilts- how do I replace them- there was so much work involved in each one so why make more?

I did stitch new badges for the No Planet B piece- as I have submitted it to an event but won't hear for awhile. I almost didn't as I had to stitch quite a few new badges and I wanted to replace one or two as well, and I wanted to stitch a river through the piece which all added up to quite a lot of stitching. The idea is that when it hangs away from the wall the shadow it casts would look like a landscape from above.

 I got a bit overwhelmed whilst stitching in that there are so many things that are wrong in the world and as just one little person there is so little we can do, where do you start and can one little person do anything at all? I have decided to focus on climate justice as the concept is about greater equity for the environment and humanity- that we are a whole living organism interdependent not only on each other but for earth as well- that earth is an entity and a stakeholder in all of this. And I decided to narrow it even further to trees- they are the lungs of earth and regardless of all the science of all the knowledge out there that deforestation is devastating for earth, for creatures, for humans, still it continues. The bush/trees/country- it not only happens in the Amazon- it happens everywhere and Australia and Victoria are guilt culprits.

But in thinking about all this I do get despondent and worry for future generations. It does not help it has been a long cold and wet winter so far- too many grey days and nothing growing.

We did have a meeting of a fledgling Textile Experimental Art Group that will meet at ArcYinnar on a monthly basis- we hope to push some boundaries and try some new things. You are welcome to join if you are interested. It grew out of some textile workshops we did in June to create a community art project. We made a cloth book with each participant creating a page. The book will be displayed from time to time.

I have done a little bit of printing, but again that naysayer worm keeps on popping into my head. I have ideas (sometimes) but I tend to fritter time until it is too late to do anything or it is too warm to achieve some of the printing I want to do- so nothing happens at all.

I want to play around with fungi a bit more, but am a bit stuck on where to go next. I also want to explore book structures more, I have been wanting to do that for a long time- and occasionally  delve into it but then lay it aside as I struggle with the idea of content and what am I actually attempting to say at all? I have worked a little on the book about Absolutely Nothing- but in being about nothing it has become about something. I keep wanting to make it a big fat book  but then it becomes highly labour intensive again. I started ti at the beginning of the pandemic and work on it from time to time, and got to a point where I had planned to bind it but now find I want to make it a bigger book which will require more stitching.

Later this month I will be driving up to Ulladulla to teach at the Slow Stitch Gathering organised  by Marilyn Stewart- the dates are 15-18 August and I am looking forward to getting together with like minded people. I will be teaching traveller's blanket, pods, pockets or stitching my lino prints- it's up to you, it's simply going to be a stitch fest! Please come and join us!

Monday, June 27, 2022

Not Good Enough Australia Post

 Some of you who follow me on Facebook know this story but today I am so angry  that I just cannot keep quiet. I have written before how I have written another book on Tifaifai- and that in  rewriting a book I published in 2001 I actually  made all new work which incorporated all the things I have learned in teaching the tifaifai course since the beginning of the 2000's. I also created new work to be in tune with work I am currently making. To create the work and rewrite the book has taken a significant number of man hours- close on a years work as I created 12 new quilts for the book. I had a signed contract with Editions de Saxe which was supposed to have been completed last years but due to Covid restrictions and my heart attack we reached agreement to delay publication until this year. Due to ongoing covid impacts I have not travelled overseas  and had no plan to travel overseas, and so I decided to commit the quilts to International Express Pos with Australia Post for delivery to the photographer in Paris . I had inquired with another courier earlier in the day but got no reply so decided to opt for Australia Post  ( I also live in a regional small city so things you take for granted in cities are not always so easily available in the country).

The quilts then took more than 2 weeks to have attempted delivery in Paris ( they spent the whole weekend sitting in Morwell despite my having posted the parcel around lunch time in order to capture the express post out pickups) It cleared customs in France and delivery was attempted but the recipient was not at home. He was not left any notification and only became aware of attempted delivery when tracking notified me and I alerted the recipient. He then attended the french equivalent postal service and was told they could not find the parcel or that he had the wrong number. In any case the parcel was likely not there as it had been returned to Australia after only 5 days of being held and not the usual 10 business days. The parcel was then in transit for some 2-3 weeks . I was advised by tracking that it was in Sunshine sorting centre on 25 May after having cleared customs and the next day it is in Somerton Sorting Centre awaiting delivery- that was on the 26th of May and that was my last tracking notification. After several weeks of complaining on their social media as well as using all the avenues for complaint  and repeating myself over and over despite having furnished the information multiple times with the appropriate channels ( internet/email/telephone) and finally lodging a complaint with the Postal Services Ombudsman ( who have a backlog)  and after again  complaining on their social media today when they are chortling about how supportive they are of small business , I was notified that they cannot locate the parcel and that they are willing to compensate me $111.80 which is the reimbursement of postage- and basically the parcel is lost. They have been told  the importance  and value of the parcel ,the fact that a small value was put on the parcel due to the work not being for sale and that the works were to be returned to me, that I am in default of a publishing contract and this is what they offer me?????

These are some of the works that are missing

A years worth of work- so much work. It's what kept me going during isolation, knowing I had to make the work.

To say I am heart broken is an understatement and I consider Australia Post's offer to reimburse the postage to be an insult. It is appalling service.

Friday, June 10, 2022

Gathered Threads

 There is some terrific work in  Gathered Threads an exhibition I have curated at ArcYinnar. It would be great to see lots of visitors, though I realise Yinnar is a little bit off the beaten track , but not that far  and certainly not as isolated as Gellibrand used to be. These exhibitions can only ever be as good as the number of visitors that visit and in my experience over all of these years it is word of mouth that is one of the best spreaders of information and exhibition news. A flyer, a poster or an instagram post can only do so much- what we need is foot traffic and for people to be amazed by these wonderful  works!

So I share some of the work here: Gathered Threads

Work by Lynette Weeks- the piece on the right inspired by the Grampians- Gariwerd and the ridge lines visible as you spend time in the Grampians. Lynette uses ecodyeing techniques and is inspired by the natural environment and also uses breakdown printing to create water effects inspired by the sea environment near her home. I have known Lynette since my Geelong years and have had our hand at organising a few things here and there.

Work by Beth and Trevor Reid. This couple have worked together ever since I have known them ( which is quite a long time ) and I have shown off their work  in  a few exhibitions over the years, and continue to find new ways to  express the quilt medium even using very traditional piecing methods which shine with originality and  clever use of light/dark. All of the pieces in the exhibition have been made using the nuances of denim to create these contrasts.

Work by Fiona Wright using the khadi fabric which has become synonomous with the Stitching Project a venture by Fiona and her partner Praveen Najak. This project employs dozens of women on a fair trade basis which sees those women being able to send their children to school and purchasing small amenities to improve their lives - even such things as toilet buildings. I met Fiona when I was doing my Masters degree in the very early 2000's and she was the recipient of the Henry Foyle scholarship for recent graduates which saw here venture to India and so onto the creation of the Stitching Project. Her work involves finding inspiration in words of encouragement and words of courage- In the Words of Ghandi " be the change you wish to see in the world" and of course using khadi.

Work by Sue de Vanny, a very painterly effect achieved with fabric and thread and a bit of paint. Sue is also a painter but her textile pieces bring another dimension- the textures are luscious and create images that beg to be touched- though we can't. These portraits of animals have all been inspired by Sue and her husband Carl's travels in Africa and as with all portraits it is the eyes of these great creatures that capture the soul of these wondrous animals and of course  the textures. I marvel at these works.

Works by Carolyn Sullivan whom I have also known for a long time and who continues to surprise me with the  finesse of her work and the wonderful explorations of macro views of natural objects. These two pieces show the gamut of Carolyn's work which includes machine stitching and applique and incredible hand  stitching on naturally dyed silks.

Work by Sarah Louise Ricketts  some with Alice Nothe. I can't remember when I first met Sarah but I do know I have toured some of her pieces over the years and we have hatched some crazy plots the most recent was her support for a project to bring 4 of the women from  Boneca de Atuaro in Australia in  2019. Sarah's pieces are felted, layered and stitched and no photograph will do them justice .

Gosh- how long have i known Robina Summers??  I think it goes back to 1995 when Robina was exploring transferring digital photographs onto fabric, that eventually led onto study at RMIT and really combining her great loves: photography, fabric, digital manipulation ,stitch, dye and exploration of the environment near her home at Kangaroo Ground and  the larger urban area of Melbourne. Over the years we have hatched many plots- Robina and Tony have been my sounding board for the exhibitions which I have  curated and toured since 2000 when Australian Bounty toured in France and Europe ( the only travelling exhibition of Australian art in the  Sydney Olympic year) and was instrumental in opening doors for Australian textiles to be shown in Europe- they have encouraged me in my crazy dreams and together we have created 3 catalogues of work by Australian quilt artists- the only  such works available in actual book format.

Cheryl Cook is a recent encounter for me- but when I first met Cheryl at a printing workshop at Arc Yinnar I was straight away enthused about how she was using felt, dye, ink and the natural environment in her work. She creates many of her own inks and uses texture  in such a free and interesting way that you almost want to dive into the works. I am sure we will hatch plots in the future!

And finally my own work, some of which I have shared here before but one new piece with the badges ( which are for sale - each badge is $60 AUS)- message me if you are interested.

As i write this I realise I have had a rare privilege that I would not have thought possible twelve months ago.  I have had to privilege of inviting old friends and new to show off their work, to show off their skill, to show off their passion  and create a beautiful exhibition altogether.  And my goodness we have had some adventures over the years! In becoming the very part time gallery coordinator at Arc Yinnar I have been able to put together a curated exhibition of art textiles of work by people whose work I admire, who show great diversity in the practice of textiles and embraced the challenge to create small bodies of work within the exhibition. It was a wonderful bonus that quite a few could attend the opening last Saturday.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Next Project

  This last month since delivering the commission has been busy. I am curating an exhibition entitled Gathered Threads which will open at ArcYinnar on June 4 ( everyone is welcome). The exhibition will showcase work by nine artists, some of Australia's top practitioners in textiles. Everything I have seen thus far promises a feast for the eyes. Don't forget if you visit Arc Yinnar, that  LRG (Latrobe Regional Gallery ) also has exhibitions and are at present showcasing regional artists and work about the region so you could make a day of it in the Latrobe Valley. One exhibition is entitled Hazelwood and of course Hazelwood power station has disappeared off the face of the earth though the coal hole is still there.

I  am also exhibiting work in Gathered Threads and must admit I was not quite sure what I was going to exhibit.  I have been busy making work but the work has been for the book ( the quilts are in transit in France- and I am getting a little worried this is more than a years work- delivery was attempted on 11 May and since then I have heard nothing- there is phone numbers plastered all over the parcel - not impressed Australia Post! neither for your communication and taking my money for Express delivery and 5 weeks after posting the parcel has still not arrived- it has cleared customs) And of course there was the recent commission I completed.

I have been making badges. I initially started making badges years ago but about two years ago I started making them more focused as in badges that address my concerns about climate change/environment. I have not quite worked out how I will display these but they will accompany my One World stitched piece that I finished early last year which I have not displayed yet. That piece grew out of the Climate strike back in 2019 ( doesn't that seem like forever ago) and took me two years to finish. The badges were meant to be quick things to do but they are anything but. Each one takes about 3 hours if not more. They are heavily hand stitched and use discarded printed fabrics where the print has not printed clearly or offcuts of fabric. I am still trying to decide whether I am wasting my time or whether I am better off to think of something else altogether. I still have 8 days to rethink????

Then today whilst printing some fabric for a customer order I decided to print my bush sentinelle linocut onto some silk organza I had- and I am rather chuffed with the way that came out. I thought a lot of the printing ink would squeeze through the weave of organza  and that it would lose a lot of definition of the print but if anything the print is crisp and very clear whilst the transparency of the organza creates a certain fragility. I would like to print this onto a much bigger piece of silk organza I have , the only problem being that the bush rats that used to try and nest inside the shed whilst I lived in my shed in Gellibrand have eaten some holes into the piece- probably using shreds to line their nests. I am toying with the idea of somehow mending or embellishing these holes as part of the structure of the piece . The silk organza is way too nice to discard- I haven't decided whether I will dye it yet, given it has to be washed in any case.

The nights have been cooling  down of late, though we have been having beautiful clear days. My daughters came and helped with rebuilding some gardening beds. The grass which spreads like wildfire had gotten out of control last year in the spring when I was not allowed to do heavy work after my heart attack. And whilst I managed to grow some vegetables, the grass had by that stage become rampant and trying to find a gardener has been next to impossible, When I have money there is no one available and off course when I don't have any money it is possible to find someone. Would really like to find someone who could help out ( and be paid) on a regular fortnightly basis or some such. Meanwhile I have started the winter plantings- and yes it is a little late but things seem about a month slower in the Latrobe valley and in discussing it with someone the other day we wondered whether the hydration clouds from Loy Yang and Yallourn North Power stations might be the reason this happens where I live, as I can see either power station from the ends of my street, although it might also be that cool air sweeps down valley and this is a wide valley at the foot of the Great Dividing Range

The fungi has been pretty amazing thus far, particularly  near some of the pine trees along the road to Yinnar. I am toying with the idea of making another linocut of fungi, there is something pleasing about the shape of  some fungi.

Saturday, April 30, 2022

The Story of a Commission

 I mentioned in my last post that I was working on a two piece commission. Initially the people commissioning had asked for a large piece- larger than what I normally work or can manage on my littlest Bernina workhorse which has a small throat. So we agreed that I make two pieces which are still on the large side of the size I normally work but still manageable. So the pieces were to measure 150 cm x 100 cm.

The commissioners also had suggested some colours in the dyed background cloth. It took  quite a few attempts to get cloth that I  thought would work which I then sent to the people to choose.

Above are some of the fabrics I dyed- there were more but I had to be mindful that they needed to go together as a set, plus I needed to be able to print on them as the commissioners had indicated they liked the monoprinted  pieces I had done with foliage from my morning walks. This method of dyeing gives great results but it is not easy to control where dark and light appears nor how the colours will bleed into each other. The minute you put blue and yellow together you end up with greens and things can become green too quickly - but it also needed dark colour in there for contrast.
Once the background fabrics had been selected I started the printing with foliage that i collected on morning walks,

The photo above is of the  printing on the dyed pieces of fabric-  once stitching goes in then things can be accentuated a bit more. Once I had the first piece basted the people commissioning had an additional request as they were fungi enthusiasts, they asked if fungi could be included in the printing process. By this stage I had already started stitching in the foliage details so the piece was already batted up and had been partially stitched. This took a bit of procrastinatng  as to how I might do it and also as the fungi blocks I had made last year were very blocky and I was loathe to cut them to shape as they are a set with which I intend to do something booky at some point in time. So the only solution was to make some new linocuts that I could somehow manoeuvre into the unstitched spaces.

Phew! It worked, as I was petrified I would spill some printing ink or get a dodgy print which would ruin the whole piece as by this stage I had already done a fair bit of stitching. You can to some extent fix misprints  with stitching but this was quite daunting as it was quite a large piece which already had quite a lot of stitching in place. The end result enthused me sufficiently to make another toadstool linocut after encountering one on a recent morning walk.

It was too difficult to include this little toadstool in the first piece I had already started stitching but I was able to print it onto the second piece I had to make.  These pieces have been very densely stitched- I call it  free machine drawing because essentially I am creating drawings with my machine- and these pieces are large drawings- really large drawings all done on a little domestic Bernina 325 which is the smallest machine in the Bernina range. I dream of a large machine but I am thinking that is what it will remain a dream. But meanwhile whilst it is not easy manoeuvring such a large piece under a small machine it is possible and I have been doing it for a very long time/. Some of the stitching progress...

In this stitching process threads are like my pencil- I use them for line and to create interest in the background and for detailing. I would have to say that thread is of number one importance in the work I create and I have been fortunate to have Aurifil sponsor some of my thread in the past . I use 28 weight cotton Mako thread which is not easily available in Australia but is wonderful to work with and gives such great line and accent.

The selection of threads I used- there are some non-Aurifil threads there mainly as I did not have those colours in my thread box and  it is difficult to get the cobs of Mako 28 thread in Australia as I know of no store that stocks the 28 weight thread in a large selection. ( I am aware that Amity Threads in Torquay stock a good range of Aurifil thread but not much of the 28 weight thread which they can order- but I didn't have the time for this ) . The next most important thing for my work is the weight of batting. I use Matilda's Own wool/Polyester batting - it will take a lot of stitching and not stretch or buckle- and I stitch very densely. 

So the last few weeks have been a marathon of stitching. Then the squaring up which I did out at Arc Yinnar as they had a table big enough . Normally i do this on the floor but because these two pieces will hang together they need to be as much the exact same size as is possible when dealing with textile. I also decided to do faced bindings as I did not really want anything to distract from the flow of the stitching.

And so finally after about 3 months from first contact these pieces have been finished and sent to their new owners. They liked the photos I sent but it is simply not the same as seeing the pieces in the flesh. And so here are the finished pieces, not photographed terribly well I am afraid- there was too much light coming from the left.

In the end  I was actually quite pleased with how they looked- there is always that anxiety of whether the people who have commissioned the piece will like what you have done, the anxiety of whether it really works. Whilst I have made forest quilts before, these are a little different because there is more blue in them than I would normally do in the background dyeing and also the printing I do has subtly changed since last year when I started incorporating foliage from my morning walks into my work. The addition of the linocuts was an additional challenge and something I had not done before but I liked how they looked in these pieces.