Tuesday, 30 December 2008

while we're sharing images...

while we're in image-sharing mode i thought i'd post some work from an artist i hold in great esteem. i've known Samone Turnbull since the early eighties when she and her husband together with their [then] young family were living out on the West Coast. they worked hard,raised their children, grew their own vegetables, made-do...and all the time Sam painted the world. we showed together with Rosella Palleti and Sassy Park in the exhibition 'sanctum' at the North Adelaide School of Art Gallery in 1993. i fondly recall my late grandmother Hanna Schwerdtfeger giving a brilliant opening address.
i find Sam's work exquisitely simple and refreshingly honest. she's a master of light, colour and shade and while there are recognisable influences it is never derivative. somehow she makes poetry of paint and often elevates the mundane and even difficult aspects of living with her paintbrush to create the most beautiful images. 

i have a piece of her work that i traded something of mine for years ago...it's from a series she painted to illustrate a children's book called 'Furry Back and Lizard Thing'  
in it a girl leans on a windowsill gazing up at the night sky while a marmalade cat [that's "furry thing"  in the story] leans up against her, looking immensely dignified...

the image above [a replica of a photo] arrived in the mail in the guise of a birthday card some weeks ago.
it's called 'shepherd girl'  and is painted in acrylic on canvas, dimensions 61 x 46 cms [2007] 

despite her enormous talent, Sam is a quiet, modest and even a humble person. to see more of her work have a squiz at Harrison Gallery [NSW] or visit the stockroom at Hill Smith Gallery [SA]
better still, get yourself on their mailing lists so you can see the work in person at her next show...

Friday, 26 December 2008

enough frivolity...back to work

the joys of Christmas are many and various...and not least is having some serious studio time away from the teaching round [much as i enjoy the latter]. i really needed to find a new direction in my textile work not only to keep the activity fresh and exciting for me but also to make sure what i'm doing still has a bit of magic...

using wool felt to bind cloth fragments from the cutting room floor and then over-dyeing the finished felt with eucalyptus, rose and prunus species  has been a happy diversion during the festive season. the pix above are detail shots from a new series 'landskins'. they've been a good while in the plotting....

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

while shepherds washed their socks by night

December 23 is our traditional date for Christmas-tree sourcing. In the past we’ve had lovely living ones that have been planted out once they outgrew their pots, leaving rather nice green footprints to mark various places of residence. Somehow last year there was no potted tree, so telephonic enquiries were made of the Santa Christmas tree farm, about 15km down the road to check availability and discuss prices. Having established their willingness to do business I duly pootled along in the farm ute, to be greeted by a small and spotted but decidedly unfriendly canine. I generally love dogs but this one seemed to be snarling ‘kick me, kick me’.

The welcome offered by said hound was followed (eventually)… and reinforced… by the appearance of an acne-encrusted youth of singularly surly disposition whose demeanour suggested that he was being forced to offer service at gunpoint and who made me feel only slightly less comfortable than a pork chop at a bar mitzvah.

The maculate one rummaged in the recesses of a shed, extracted a small handsaw and a measuring stick and indicated I was to participate in their self-service program. I sallied forth as instructed. The trees were a depressing sight and had clearly been pruned by someone in the last stages of dementia. I eventually settled on one and applied myself to the felling. Some 40 minutes later I was still sawing away thinking dark thoughts about ringbarking the rest of the plantation before slinking away quietly. Fortunately further contemplation brought to mind the inevitable karmic ramifications of such an act and I desisted.

Eventually as I was dragging my prize down the hill to the ute the patriarch of the proprietorial family appeared, expressing surprise at my presence and requesting considerably more cash than had earlier been agreed on. I informed him of his offspring’s unusual approach to customer service, pointed out that Christmas-tree sellers (especially those who borrow Santa’s name) really ought not to resent doing business given the time of year, reminded him of his telephonic price quote and wished him a Merry Christmas…

This year the Youngest of the Three and I were determined not to repeat last year’s mistake. We visited the national park abutting my parents’ property at Mount Lofty and engaged in the removal of an exotic weed by felling a small pine tree growing amongst eucalypts on the western slops of the mountain. Oddly it seemed to get bigger and bigger as we dragged it back up the hill towards the ute which [once the prize was loaded] assumed the air of a tree on wheels. Thus cleverly disguised as a small forest we drove home to the farm.

And even though it is in Australia now politically incorrect to publicly wish ones fellows a Merry Christmas for fear of offending immigrants who have come here from other cultures, I hope you do indeed enjoy a lovely Christmas, dear reader. Have a good one, we’ll be doing our best! 

Monday, 22 December 2008

be sure to wear a flower in your hair

i still cherish the memory of running long-haired and barefoot in the park on Russian Hill [in San Francisco] at seventeen; accompanied by a borrowed dog. the white cheesecloth top i lived in back then is now worn by my eldest daughter and somewhat threadbare ...the flowered skirt still exists as testament to my much-missed waist. reader, i was sylph-like in those days. 

now some 33 years later i wear shoes and carry a batfone - but the ringtone is Jimi Hendrix "purple haze" and the alarm call is Janis Joplin singing "summertime" [in duet with Jimi]
so you can imagine my delight when i spotted this glorious chariot in the carpark of the public house at a nearby village.

it's good to know someone is still wearing flowers in their hair... 

this version was recorded in Stockholm but it's no less a pleasant trip back in time...and here's that purple haze....

Monday, 15 December 2008


here are some delicious accidents that happen when one remembers to lay paper under the dyepots...[thanks, Christine, trusty handmaiden at the recent workshop in Canberra]...perhaps using silken dropsheets could be a good idea.

sometimes these accidental marks are more interesting than those made with an experimental paintbrush...it's hard to know when to stop when one has the brush in hand. it would be a gift to be able to draw or paint like a child again...

but i'm waffling. i really wanted to say thank you to all those friendly souls [forty, i note with blushing surprise] who have signed up as followers...i'm having some very pleasant journeys following the breadcrumbs through the  forest to your sites, too....

Monday, 8 December 2008

raes of sunshine and joyceful memories...

here's a nice happysnap from the recent workshop, taken during show-and-tell at the wrap-up on Sunday afternoon. at left is 'T' [you'll find her in the list of friendly followers and there's a link from another workshop post] and in the middle is my friend Rae, unfurling a small river of felt [made and dyed by T]. 

Rae and i only met in June this year during the r[eco]fashion workshop organised by Bonnie in Canberra. we spent two days de- and re- constructing cast-offs from participants wardrobes before a big dye-up on the Sunday afternoon. luckily it was a long weekend so we were able to leave the bundles to cool overnight before the revelation in the morning. essentially it was a stitching and fitting workshop with only one dye session.

Rae picked up on that single session, grew wings and flew. in the months since June she's dyed metres and metres of silk, exploring the magic of local flora combined with onionskins and an abundance of scrap metal from the family building business. as each work is finished it's enthusiastically inspected and appreciated by her husband Kenny [generous supplier of said scrap metal] and then if left in an accessible spot immediately claimed by Rupert Bunny and Ludgwig [the two new besties pictured earlier as well]

to top it all, Rae has been kindly sending me emails about her work with lovely pictures attached [as well as an abundance of very funny jokes]. so of course i was really looking forward to re-visiting Canberra and having the opportunity to catch up as well as seeing about 400metres [well, perhaps a slight exaggeration] of rainbow coloured silk with a lovely glass of french bubbly in hand.

looking at the photo of Rae today i was reminded of another dear friend who shares [or rather, shared] Rae's quality of always looking immaculate and fantastic, adorned in her self-designed, sewn and now plant-dyed clothes; together with gorgeous shoes, hats, handbags and last but definitely not least the cupid's bow of rubyred lippy.

Joyce didn't use plant dyes, but everything else lined up. she was a milliner by trade and kindly gave me two of her old aluminium hat blocks. we spent a happy afternoon with a gin tonic or two as she guided me in properly blocking a felt hat. i remember Joyce always driving her signature purple Jaguar and usually wearing an outrageously purple dress with matching hat and shoes. she was the first non-family member to commission a piece of dyed silk from me, way back in the days when i still dabbled with the dastardly and was using procion dyes to paint silk in a kind of watercolour technique i'd developed while living in the desert. i fixed the colour by spraying on a dilute washing soda and water solution before bundling the silk in a piece of black plastic and leaving it to cook in the desert sun [insufficient water for steaming, and i could only gather enough wood to cook our food as it was].

after Joyce passed away i was utterly outraged by her nephews who despite inheriting her vast fortune didn't have the grace to give her a proper send-off; organising a miserable tea and dry bickie funeral for a woman who deserved much better. those of you who have seen that brilliant episode of the British detective series centred on the fictional Midsomer shire in which one of the chief characters 'Isabel' is farewelled with free-flowing French bubbles and big band swing playing in the background will know the sort of thing that i mean.

so when our local newspaper held a competition in which one was asked to describe the perfect martini shortly after she died, i entered, and wrote about Joyce describing what she would consider a perfect martini....

bottle of Bombay Sapphire Gin [large]
bottle of Noilly Pratt Vermouth [also large]
two martini glasses
olives [two]

take two martini glasses, swish about with ice for a bit, tip out the ice. fetch Bombay Sapphire from freezer. fill martini glasses with Bombay Sapphire. return bottle to freezer for future reference. remove cap from Noilly Pratt vermouth bottle, show the bottle to the gin in the martini glasses, put cap back on bottle.
throw olives over left shoulder.
drink martini, repeat performance as required

i toasted Joyce, sent my entry away and pretty much forgot about the competition. some months later a heavy sturdy carton addressed to me arrived in the post. as i opened it, brilliant sapphire-blue tissue paper began to spill out. i still wasn't any the wiser until i saw a bottle of Bombay Sapphire, another of Noilly Pratt vermouth, two martini glasses and a tiny cocktail shaker. then the penny dropped.

that night we had a special private cocktail party for Joyce. i'm pretty sure she was watching from somewhere. we still remember her with love, though it's now years since she left us...which brings me to the point of this very long waffle. to Rae, and to all my friends out there wherever you are in the wide whirled, it's wonderful to have you along for the ride!

here's cheers.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

windfalls and whimsies

after teaching in Canberra for the weekend i trekked still further north ... in order to dye a wedding dress using windfalls gathered in the wild by a magical river. no images of the dress available though, it's top secret for some time yet...

on the other hand i have an abundance or river images ... something we've a lack of here in South Australia!

Friday, 5 December 2008

more workshop pix

after working through the basics of colour extraction we played with bundles...this collection was extracted from the copper cauldron brought to the workshop by one of the group 

we opened the bundles after letting them rest overnight and unfurled them to the breeze

and afterward we gazed into the bottom of the pot and found more magic...

Thursday, 4 December 2008

capering in the capital

it's been a marvellous [if exhausting] week. i travelled to Canberra and found two new 'besties' [and slept with one of them!]. i also taught a workshop 'introduction to Eco Colour'. 

'T' [who also blogs] was there too and has written a very kind account of the goings on here. and a bit more here.  thanks T for your generous words and for taking lots of pictures [even if some of them suggest i need to exercise more!]...it was good to meet the living and breathing you.

colour samples from a range of plants including good old onion skins

and again

the joy of complex cloth, above and below...

it was an interesting workshop which included participants from far and wide, a most delightful bunch who by and large meet through Bonnie Begg's Canberra-based sewing school. the only fly in the ointment was when one participant left [after only one hour] on the first day, allegedly murmuring that she could do this at home. i found the precipitate departure disturbing. perhaps if that lost lamb is out there reading this in blogwhirled she may like to contact me and let me know just what the disappointment was...