Tuesday, 31 March 2009

the fabric of society

i have terrible trouble with bookshops. somehow books attach themselves to me like magnets and beg to come home. this delightful book leapt at me recently in that mecca for booklovers, Kinokuniya in Sydney.

Annette Gero has collected exquisite images of all sorts of quilts i never knew existed along with photographs of the makers and stories about the making.
another source that's recently come to my attention is the International Quilt Study Centre and Museum.  located in far distant Nebraska this museum can be browsed over a cup of tea via the internet.

well worth a visit... 

Thursday, 26 March 2009

handle with care

these beautiful hands belong to Humna Mustafa with whom i will be exhibiting in Following Threads, an exhibition being curated by Maggie Fletcher for the Adelaide Festival Centre Artspace [to be shown during the OzAsia Festival September - November 2009

Humna draws exquisite designs on hands [and also on silk] with henna. during the recent Womadelaide music festival the queues of people waiting to have their hands adorned apparently snaked off into the sunset. 

small wonder. 

visit her pages to see more of her work...

Monday, 23 March 2009

unexpected gifts

it's a gift when a student comes back for a second helping of workshop and even more so when the student has been working all weekend and produces a sample like the one above

all those delicious colours and patterns produced in a single dye session

absolutely magic!

fitzroy songline

Sunday, 22 March 2009

fitzroy crossings

it's a country full of criss-crossing travel lines

with tracks visible and not so visible

of all those who wander back and forth

two days into a 5 day stint

i'm sittting at a window overlooking Albert Street

just down from the Treasury Gardens

my walk to work each day takes me through the lovely

backstreets of Fitzroy

on my way i gather pocketfuls of windfall leaves

and discover treasures on walls

and in gutters

it’s a good thing my pockets are generous in size


the clothes i wear are dyed with leaves

as if i have slept in the park

funny how the city i was born in is the one i look most out of place in now

on my first day here i lug a large leaf dyed bag of samples

another leaf dyed bag full of windfall harvests from the park

and a big garbage bag full of prunings given to me by the florist


parents nervously shepherd their children when they spot the strange bag-lady

in the park, gathering leaves and bark

and the odd twig

back in the middle ages they might also have crossed their fingers behind their backs

making the sign against evil


people walking to work look at me pityingly

a homeless person gives me a challenging look [clearly this is not my patch]

and a police officer sitting in a car by the side of the road takes out a notebook

and makes notes [or perhaps he draws funny faces to fill in time]

Fitzroy has a strange witch haunting the streets

and collecting leaves


the students have each been asked to bring ten windfall leaves to class

to enfold in their samples stitched from fragments of silk, wool, cotton, linen and hemp

those pale zigzag patterns are from banksia leaves acting as a resist

Monday, 16 March 2009

nature or nurture....

late last year i was approached to become a mentor 
initially i said no, i didn't think i could find time to adequately fill such a role
but the asker persisted
and so i relented
and now a star rises - not of my making, i hasten to add

Imbi didn't really need a mentor at all
and knows exactly what she is doing
making beautiful work 
that sings like a small bird anticipating dawn
visit two worlds to see for yourselves 

Sunday, 15 March 2009

ovine ponderings

this painting is called "Shearing the Rams" by Tom Roberts. look closely at the shearer second from left.. not only is he [unusually, methinks] carrying the ram forwards out of the catching pen [it is usual to drag sheep backwards for a shearing  or crutching procedure] but the ram has been lifted bodily off the ground.

i've always found this intriguing...all of our rams are so huge that not even two people can lift the blighters. the only excuse i can think of is that at the time the painting was completed, merino rams were still quite small framed sheep.

graziers don't like to admit it but the British breeds were used to improve the frame size of the merino. typically anything NOT merino in Australia is referred to as a crossbred. this is ironic given the Lincoln and the Leicester played such strong roles in improving the merino breed.

which makes the merinos the crossbreds.

but back to the matter at hand. if that ram was of a size to be picked up and carried, then the gentleman carrying it must have been jolly strong...and perhaps vertically challenged given the suspected small size of the sheep!

Saturday, 14 March 2009


on Thursday i took flight to Melbourne for the day, to worship at the shrine of the late Rosalie Gascoigne whose views on housekeeping were entirely aligned with mine [see the link to Jo's post in the sidebar to hear and view a video interview with RG]

i'd not seen these splendidly orange works before. 
the red coat was a happy juxtaposition

later after wandering to Richmond for a splendid rummage at Kazari Warehouse and then to NGV International to stick a finger on the biggest fish-shop window in Australia i began to wander back in the direction of the skybus stop
and discovered
quite accidentally
not just a wunderkammer
i had read of this establishment many times and had it on the "to do" list but had never quite gotten around to it.
and suddenly there it was...abounding with treasures bizarre and otherwise

further down the street Melbourne had a parting treat in store on the boards surrounding a building site....this delicious palimpsest strangely reminiscent of a Tony Tuckson painting 

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

some pictures [ for rachelle...]

'seven sisters' work in progress for the OzAsia Festival later this year
Elsje van Keppel's delightful "spinifex stitching" viewed through a glass darkly at the Powerhouse museum

playing with blots is most satisfactory...

making caterpillar shapes is also fun

and here's a wee boiled book, drying in the sunshine...

Sunday, 8 March 2009

sunday at the cedars

today was a "baby bear's porridge" day...not too hot and not too cool but just right. a perfect day for the first workshop at The Cedars, for sixty-odd years the home of Hans Heysen - painter of exquisite landscapes and rescuer of eucalypts. yes, you read that correctly. Heysen would negotiate the ongoing life of eucalypts by paying those who plotted to fell them the equivalent that the timber would realise if processed through the local saw mill.
we have a lot to be grateful for!

we spent the morning dyeing silk, wool and cotton samples in fragrant brews of eucalyptus, solidago, allium, viola and prunus. later we took a windfall walk around the property collecting - you guessed it - windfalls so each student went home with their own windfall-dyed milkymerino scarf. a truly delightful day, so much so that a followup workshop is being planned - the date will be set soon!  

students came from across the country [both east and west]. the added bonus is that The Cedars - one of the nation's best kept secrets - gains more friends as well. if you haven't visited yet, please do so when you're next in the region. the house and gardens are absolutely beautiful and the atmosphere in the studio [Australia's first purpose-built artists studio] extraordinary.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

twice blessed by gentle rain from heaven

 after months of dust the rain has been sheer bliss even if somewhat tempered by wild winds.

this windfall gatherer is much blessed as trees shed themselves of nicely presoaked bark [perfect for the dyepot] to reveal hidden 'landscapes' beneath

the colour below indicative of the marks to be had on cloth...

Monday, 2 March 2009


in 2001 i was invited to take part in a fortnight-long residency at Zvartava Castle [more of a Manor, really] in the north of Latvia [the beautiful country of my mother and grandmother]

on the journey there i met my friend Anette. for the past eight years we've been nourishing a creative friendship through emails [aah, the magic of the internet pixies] and the occasional parcel. some time in 2007 we began to plan an exhibition. Ararat Regional Gallery kindly offered to host the only Australian exposition which opened on February 26th 2009.

Anette's works are small, considered and exquisite. the gallery allocated to her works provides a clean zen-like space for contemplation. the work invites close study...

to reach the place of zen one has to walk through a forest...of garments and of groundsheets that look as if there might be a sleeping body hidden underneath. one visitor to the opening told me next day that she kept expecting dancers to emerge and begin some sort of performance. it's a good idea, perhaps next time...

here's a detail of a groundsheet [above] ...which [disconcertingly] hangs on the wall [but without a deceptive shape within]

Ilka White [pictured at right] kindly did the honours and spoke poetically at the opening celebration. she talked about the complex simplicity of Anette's work and kindly mentioned my catchphrase [borrowed from J.R.R. Tolkien] "not all those who wander are lost"

Anette's and my work is very different, but we're singing harmonies from the same songsheet...the curatorial focus in this exhibition is not in the immediately visible... but in the common ground that our similar life philosophies walk...we chose the name 'planeta' as it's Latin and in itself common ground [rather than using an English+Danish title]. it means to journey or to travel as well as planet. further recent reading on a newly anointed 'blog of note' called "dear planetary astronomer Mike" offers more enlightenment...that in Greek planet also equates to 'wandering star'. which fits....