Sunday, December 20, 2009

Spring cleaning

There is something that happens to us when the sun begins to shine and the weather warms up. Something in the air makes us more energetic, and inspired to tidy up our stash. Well this year I decided to not only tidy up the stash, but the whole work space. Major task was to take the old storage cupboard I had been using, or stuffing my bits into, and remake it over into a more pleasant and fashionable storage space. As you can see from the photos, this was not exactlyt a modern, well cared for piece of furniture.

After assembling all the pieces, I first coated them with some Penetrol, which the handy man at Bunnings said was much better than sanding back the whole thing! Thank heavens for friendly handy men. I then applied two coats of antique white. Don't ever use just straight up white. It is far to glaring and looks very odd on furniture. After rehanging the doors, adding a couple of new handles and knobs, hammering the staples to secure them back into the back.... this had come loose from years of me just shoving stuff into the front and hoping it would all fit... I think the new storage space looks pretty good.
Now all I have to do is work out how to fit everything that came out of it, back in! I have tried to cull, but every little bits seems to remind me of possible uses. Or worse still unfinished projects. So next item on my list, finish off some of those projects......

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Lemon meringue pie

Some people love chocolate, some people search for the perfect caramel slice. Me, I LOVE lemon meringue pie. Mary rang me today and told me about a restaurant that had a huge pie, so off we went for lunch. Unfortunately when we got there it was slightly late, so we only had 30 minutes for lunch. What to do? What to Do? Fortunately Mary had an idea. We could have dessert first and then go off for mains somewhere else. Fabulous.
Oh, yummy yummy yummy. The meringue was chewy outside, soft and marshmallow on the inside. Lemon curd very creamy but tart. The shortbread crust a perfect container. The serves were huge, but we both finished our pieces off. I was very happy. Unfortunately Mary felt a little sick, but then it wasn't her favoritist food.
How NOT to make a lemon meringue pie. After a particularly stressful day, I was desperately craving my favorite treat. Idea: stop at supermarket and pick one up. No such thing, next best idea purchase bits and assemble myself. Brilliant.
I purchased some small meringue nests, a jar of lemon curd, a packet of shortbread biscuits, a tin of whipped cream, oh and just in case the meringue is too crisp some marshmallows to add that extra bit of heavenly yum. Too easy!
Excited I raced home, unpacked my car. It seems I always have five loads of stuff to unload every time I go out. Why do we always need to take so many bits with us when we go on a craft outing? Anyhow I digress. Quickly I assembled a huge bowl of what I thought was a pretty spot on assortment of foodstuffs to make the ultimate lemon meringue pie in a rush.
WRONG Oh so very wrong. It was disgusting. The lemon curd was floury and bland. The meringue a hard sugary crust - empty inside. The canned cream tasteless white foam with a greasy after taste. The marshmallows, floury coated lumps of chewy stuff. The shortbread biscuits hard, buttery and okay if you wanted a biscuit. How disgusting. How disappointing.
Thank heavens for good friends who remember and spot the genuine confection when they are out and about. The one we had today was so yum I offered to marry the chef. Unfortunately he wasn't the marrying kind.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas crafts

How quickly the year seems to pass when we start thinking about Christmas. For those people who share the spirit of this event, there are many wonderful creative activities to enjoy. One of these is the sending and receiving of letters and greeting cards from long lost friends and relatives.
As preparation for this, one of my dear friends, recently invited me to an afternoon of card making. As the pictures show, there is much one can achieve from a few scraps of coloured paper and a little creativity. I particularly enjoyed making the ones where we folded up the paper and arranged them in a cascade like a tree.
Lucky for us, she has promised to share a few of her secrets in detail with us next year, so we should all be able to create beautiful greeting cards for any of the special occasions we have.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

weird and wonderful texture

I am loving the whole textural effect I seem to be getting with everything at the moment. I have just had some fun creating "landscapes" with shibori dye techniques. The whole effect of dying on this sarong was to create a set of planets in the night sky.
The exciting part of dying with shibori is the unknown - what the fabric will do. In this case the bonus mountain like formations that have lifted onto the surface. Best of all, they don't wash out!!!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Facinating textures with minimal effort

After a very shaky start, I have finally started to feel comfortable with the silk painting process. I wouldn't claim anything near competent, but at least I am now starting to see what magic lies underneath the craft. With a few brush strokes and different dyes one can create the most amazing fluid stripes, as soft as soft, or bright as bright as one wants. The simple addition of salt, either rock salt or table salt (no iodine) added to a pool of colour or several circles of different colours, one can watch as the dyes magically move and swirl into patterns and extract the colours that have been mixed.
The silk I used for this was habutai pre rolled scarves. There are many types of silk, and it can be confusing. Tissue or chiffon is very very fine and often used for nuno felt. Habutai is a more dense weave and provides a firmer surface for applying dyes. Sometimes, this will also be called Japanese silk or Pongee. There is also thicker and more densely woven silks, all of which are okay to use.
This is probably the most expensive part of the whole process, but when the cost of a silk scarf is compared to the cost of the fabric to paint, it really does make a very reasonable gift for your mum, friends or even cris cringle.
A good reference I used is Silk Painting: New ideas and textures, Jill Kennedy & Jane Varrall. There is a lot of information on all the different techniques one can use.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Waiting for inspiration

Look what I got... yes a very good friend, reading my blog about getting back into creating, promptly busted her stash and delivered me a series of silk painting trays, frames, books and even included a set of scarves to get me going. She is off to New York for the summer holidays, and I have the use of all her wonderful stuff while she is away. Only requirement, I send her updates of my progress. As is often the case, best laid plans are sure to go awry. For two days it rained and thundered and rained some more, so I was not able to even consider setting up. Then today, the sky was clear, the wind had stopped and every other thing I had listed to do for the day was quickly sorted, or reshuffled on the list.

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I set up on the front porch, fresh air, lots of open space good light, dyes ready and pot of tea at my side. Quick refresher from the 'how to section' of one of the books and oops, I realise that the gutta has not arrived. I had ordered some with other dyes late last week, but as can happen the post had not yet arrived.
Oh well, I can report I have begun. I have set up, I have gotten the workspace comfy, and I am sure by tomorrow I will have collected the final bits and pieces.
If not, then maybe I can jump straight to the more exotic processes like, wet on wet, salt tossing and marbling!!!!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Big Knit Debacle

I cannot believe it, well maybe I can... this is one piece of public art that I suspected might be braver than brave from the moment I heard of it.
A dear friend of mine told me a while ago of her involvement in developing a public art programme with the Western area of Melbourne. The Big West Festival ( As a person with a long period of experience of working within the western suburbs of Melbourne, and also aware of the current racial undertones of reported acts of violence (international student bashings, attack of Dr Mukesh Haikerwal, fatal beating of Dr Zhungjun Cao to name a few), I was keen to know of a positive programme in the area.
I am very sad to report that today my optimism has been destroyed.
The news today is that the installation of this major project, a large knitted scarf for a long bridge was deliberately destroyed within 12 hours of its installation. Dave Cole ( who was one of the major creative forces behind this project has been recorded as being totally overwhelmed by the violent attack on this project.
I for one am very disappointed that this has happened. Although a strong advocate of ephemeral art, I do not accept that one has the right to violate anothers work without appropriate discourse. So far it seems there has been no indication of why the attacker/s have done this, with both Karen (organiser) and others being shown in the public arena as shocked and searching for reasons why their hard work has been destroyed.
Will we be told why this has been done, or will it become another senseless act of bullying by stealth of night? An awful way of intimidating and silencing those who wish to live a more open and free life.

Friday, November 27, 2009

existential crisis's

How does one spell crisis plural? I am sure someone can tell us.
well, it has been a few weeks since I managed to sit at the computer and feel able to share anything slightly creative. I feel guilty at not having responded to a few comments people had sent to me. Especially one related to my last blog, where it seems the pictures of my tapestry did not upload. I will try to restore these asap.
I have been out and about a bit and look forward to sharing some of the interesting art and craft work I have been enjoying, but for now just want to check in and say hi!
Existential crisis's are not fun, and I feel as if I have been in a big deep hole. Although I was generally out and about "doing" "stuff" it felt as if most of the time I had a large veil covering my brain and I couldn't quite see or think. Of course I was doing lots of thinking, maybe too much. Then one morning, poof, just like that the veil seems to have lifted and my energy returned. While a struggle at the time, now I am coming out the other side it feels as if it was worth it.
somewhere in all of that thinking and wallowing I managed to readjust all the bits and find a direction for where to from now. One plan is to do a lot more silk painting and shibori work. So lots more about that soon too.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

tapestry weaving

Tapestry weaving is a very ancient craft. Pieces of weaving have been recorded as far back as the Coptic period. Small pieces of tapestry weaving were created as decorative inserts on plain cloth woven for clothing.   texture sampling

During the Medieval period (C12th - C16th) these tapestry weaving became much larger wall hangings that were used to keep the interior of stone castles warm.
More recently Tapestry weaving became a less functional form of craft work. William Morris was known as one of the pioneers in creating decorative panels of tapestry weaving for the modern domestic interior.  

There are few full production art houses currently in operation across the world.
In Australia we are lucky to have the Victorian Tapestry Workshop. The workshop was established through a government grant in 1976. Although tapestry weaving has been established as a major component of commissioned artwork for industry and public spaces, educational faculties that provide instruction are becoming very rare.
I am lucky at the moment to be studying this beautiful form of artistic expression through one of the foundation members of the VTW, Cresside Collette, and Joy Smith through the Studio Arts programme at RMIT, Melbourne.

Monday, October 19, 2009

rather large lap rug

I started this small lap rug as a winter project to pick up in the evenings and just do a few rows as I wound down from the day. Somehow as I slowly pottered it grew, and grew and grew. Now I have a very large warm blanket for my bed. I love the way crotchet seems to find its own rhythm and the various colours in this project sit happily with each other, even though I didn't pay much attention to which colour I used when. Somehow I think the randomness of the colourways adds to the snuggly homely feel of the overall piece. I think my nana would be well pleased with this one.
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Saturday, October 10, 2009

A week of breaking things

Now for a tale about a very frustrating week. After returning from our retreat, I was invited to visit friends in Gippsland. Lovely opportunity to explore the outdoors, scramble in their large garden and enjoy some delicious meals and good wine - he being a wine buff and consumer for many years. After having enjoyed some excellent rain, the countryside was looking very lush, and so was the garden. So off we went to do a little spot of weeding. First mishap, bitten by a bee. Yes I was wearing gloves, but it got right through and into my knuckle. Ouch... big pain and panic as the finger throbbed and began to swell. Rush indoors with friends to find 1st aid, swallow anti histamines, swab area with tea tree oils and laugh over mishaps as we calm ourselves with a cup of tea.
Not to be outdone by a small bee, we gallantly return to the site to continue our task of clearing the weeds. With my right hand now out of action for small motor tasks I decide to use the left for pulling weeds and somehow the right hand became a holder of tree branches that are hanging low. Well, next moment, hand slips, branch lashes back and slices into my left eye. Owwwww... big pain, major rush back to 1st aid kit, lots of ice packs, 2 large brandies, several pain killers and about 2 hours later bundled into car for trip to hospital. Fortunately the drugs worked and the ice seemed to freeze all possible sense from face... I arrived at hospital with very black swollen eyes, rash over extremities of body, finger throbbing... as I had now broken the top joint (probably when I let go of the branch) and feeling quite groggy.
I didn't even feel the tetanus injection or antibiotics. Finally numb, tired and ever so tipsy, I was returned to the 'safety' of home to recover. Two days later, feeling a bit better, and with a moderate return of vision I decided I might just do a few little tasks. Next thing I know I am leaping around the room in agony, having not quite seen the edge of table and stumped my left foot. Yes, it hurt... and yep I broke my toe!
So here I am, a week later, feeling ever so slightly tenuous of touching anything, one very sore finger, one very black swollen toe and one nearly recovered eye. However, I did just check out a friends blog (marymac)and it has cheered me up immensely, and inspired me to think of what I might do tonight. I know I was always told to not play with my food, but..... Check it out and let me know if you have ever done anything similar.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

visit to the highcountry

Wow what an amazing long weekend retreat we have just had. My friend Sally Harvey opened her artist retreat cottage to a group of us textile artists to play and catch-up. Situated in Mansfield, the cottage is designed as a self contained apartment with the twist of having a large full equipped artists studio that accommodates 15 people easily for workshops. From the windows one can view Mt Bulla and Feathertop Mountain, which as you can see in the photos were covered with late winter drifts of snow (apparently there was 5cm on Saturday night).

The garden is situated so that one can wander in and out of the workspace to sit and draw, pick herbs or plants for inspiration, or have a relaxing sit and meditate. I have lots of photos to share, but for now need to unpack, document and organise my skeins of yarn and shibori pieces, before I scoot off to the other side of Victoria to visit a Homestead outside Yarrawonga. More on that later. In the meantime if you are looking for somewhere to go and refresh that jaded soul, check out the link attached.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Strange colours

I am not sure what happened to the dye pot today. I was looking forward to creating some gorgeous warm browns from the eucalyptus tree which had fallen down in the winds last week. Somehow what I got was a variety of purplish greys. Not so sure what I will do with them yet, as it isn't quite what I was wanting. A friend suggested that it may be the water supply. The drought has meant our water supplies are low, leading to possible increase in mineral content. Could be an explanation. Any suggestions???