Monday, 15 September 2014

observations from another edge



this week past i had the joy of a roadtrip to the beautiful Arid Lands Botanic Garden at Port Augusta [South Australia]
where i installed 'elegy' 
a sculpture composed of bones
for the Arid Sculptural Exhibition
[in turn part of the wider Arid Festival]

the bones were from cows who had died on our paddocks
mostly due to age and infirmity
one of them from snakebite

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the exhibition [and festival] takes the theme ‘life on the edge’  and i had proposed an installation created from animal bones gathered while walking on the edge of the land, the edge that is the surface where the land meets the sky. these collected bones seemed to me to celebrate the lives that have passed while providing nourishment for future life.
i have for some years now undertaken the stacking of found rocks as a meditative aside to my work in textiles and writing. these bones are a softer material. i planned them to form an interlocking cairn, using white clay as a bonding medium. the bonecairn, a placemarker intersecting the edge between earth and sky, would mark the edge between life and death and be devised to respond to the elements. rain might soften the clay, wind might influence the form, wild animals could likely create interventions of their own. to all this i was open. 
arriving at my allocated site it seemed to me that a cairn was not appropriate.
i felt [rightly or wrongly] that it would be too intrusive, would pierce the sky
and so i worked just a few feet to one side of that spot. 
laid the bones out in a big curve and sat in its gentle arc, listened to the land
and then one by one
bone by bone
built a circle. no clay required.

and after that
i wandered off again









Sunday, 7 September 2014

on the western edge

last week i was on the western edge
[although i will confess now that i did not find time to dip my toe in the ocean]
for another workshop in Jane Flower's splendid shed

this time our work involved shapeshifting
transforming pre-loved garments into celebration dresses
cutting and splicing
hand-sewing
delighting in transforming two-dimensional cloth
into something much more complex
Lizzie giving her lovely dress a quick field test
Rona making some adjustments in our 'fitting room'

each afternoon we fired up the cauldrons
so there would be presents to open in the mornings
[thank you Jonathan for collecting all those armfuls of twigs]
the wildflowers at this time of year are spectacular
i think they are [top to bottom]
Diuris brumalis
Caladenia sp
Drosera sp
Anigozanthos manglesii [which happens also to be the state floral emblem]

other local colour was also pretty stunning
work above by Chez
not sure whose the sample above was - but i DO know the roots were harvested on private property as 'salvage botany'


 the south west of our beautiful red island is home to something like 70% of all of the plant varieties on the continent.
but before visitors to this country [or locals for that matter] decide to leap in and avail themselves of this wonderful resource it is worth becoming familiar with the law as regards plant collection.

it is illegal to harvest native plants in the wild anywhere in Australia
- even though the irony is that timber fellers and builders of airports and freeways are permitted to completely destroy forests, wetlands and anything else that gets in their way

in some circumstances it is also illegal to harvest wild plants on private property [unless you can prove that you are a traditional owner...or that you planted them yourself]

and some places that you might think are private property
are actually leased Crown Land [this includes pretty much all of the outback] in which case you can't pick there either
the only plants you can legally take from the wild in Australia are weeds.
or windfalls [but not if they are rare or threatened species]

and if you think you can get away with it, think again
ecoprints make for indisputable evidence!

on the bright side, tip pruning street trees in urban areas
especially where they are overhanging or obstructing paths
might be seen as a community service
[unless, of course, there's a local bylaw...]

i found some of my favourite weeds growing in abundance



my visit to the far west was all too brief
due to an over-filled dance card
next time i wander that way i hope to make a much longer stay
...i'd have liked to see those dresses unbundled, for one thing
 

Thursday, 28 August 2014

adrift in a cloud of Aesop

 i think we can say it has been a mixed week
during which i discovered that a silk jacket
[pre-loved Liz Claiborne]
did not dye well.
suspect it has been coated with stain resisters
 
the lesson is not to purchase in a wild rush
but take time
do the drink bottle test
ie splash a tiny bit of water on the surface of suspect silk
if the damp silk has a whiff of gas station
or worse still if the water rolls off 
leave the item in the store
the lesson is, in fact, to s l o w down
and smell the flowers
it's spring
 just be careful with Geraldton Wax
they seem to harbour a lot of flies
 happily some other things yielded better results
 i have been wandering the paddocks
gathering up bones
that are the remnants of cattle and sheep 
who have shuffled off this mortal coil
mainly due to age and infirmity
 it is not as gruesome as it might appear
and is in a good cause
in a week or two i will be taking them to the 
where they will form a bonecairn 
anyway after my gathering
i tottered off to the Post Office
where a delightful parcel awaited me
thank you Aesop
for sending me a sample of your new perfume
it mingles bergamot and orange
jasmine, rose, clove and cardamon
and two things i had to look up
Fusianus spicatus [which turned out to be sandalwood
...i always think of Santalum album together with that common name]
and
Cananga odorata [ylang ylang]

it smells so much better than bleached bones
that it had me dreaming
of places and people faraway
in the way that certain fragrances do

and though i miss their old fragrance
which has been discontinued
i will say that this one is quite delightful
thank you, Aesop!

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that scent makes me want to take a tent
to the far paddock
wrap myself in teasilk
and dig a natural swimming pool

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

nine years later





back in 2005 i had the absolute joy of undertaking my first [formal ie paid for] costume commission.
the production was 'petroglyphs - signs of life' and the company Leigh Warren + Dancers

i designed and made the costumes, twined a large ball of string that became a key prop and devised the poster image.

it was a wonderful experience.

working on 'petroglyphs' led [in 2007] to creating costumes for the West Australian Ballet production 'debris'...dancer Frances Rings [who had joined LW+D for 'petroglyphs'] had been commissioned to choreograph the show and requested to have me as costume designer

now nine years later i have the delight of working with Gala Moody and Michael Carter who were also members of LW+D back in 2005

both now live in Spain but have been in Adelaide this month working with Leigh Warren and State Opera on the Philip Glass Opera trilogy, Leigh's last production before he hands the dance company that he founded some twenty-five years ago to a new artistic director and heads for fresh fields

the morsels on their bodies were part of the blue series i began in New Orleans and continued in Portland [last year]

kicking myself that i skipped taking a photo of Michael in one of these shirt collar pieces


but am hoping that [sooner or later] a moving image will appear on Michael's website

&

my favourite production so far for  Leigh Warren + Dancers

two bodies dancing

about Frances Rings

lastly, clicking on the photo below will take you to a link with more images from Debris

http://www.artfulmanagement.com.au/_/html/forseen.html

photo above by Jenni Large, borrowed from the Artful management website for purposes of tempting readers toward the link

Monday, 18 August 2014

in the air and on the ground

silkymerino rolls looking much like bread dough

 last week i followed an old marmalade stain on the map
and found myself back at lovely Glenmore House

it had been a long day so i was particularly happy to be lulled to sleep
by the scent of my favourite jasmine [polyanthemum]
thoughtfully placed in my room by Mickey, bless her


a sniff and a whiff of that particular flower and i am seventeen again
at least
on the inside

we had a glorious sunshiny bluesky day for our "heart and hand intensive" 
botanical alchemy workshop
during which i was so busy that i hardly managed to take pictures
fortunately Mickey [and Alex the kindly gardener]
took lots. you can find them here
i did manage a happy snap of the cumquat icecream and rhubarb compote
swoonworthy deliciousness. 
and of our cooking fire

had there been time we would have stitched the glowing morsels [below]
into tsunobukuro bags
but by 4pm everyone was worn out



the next morning i prised myself out of bed
and hit the road for Tamworth
where I had been invited to come and inspect the gallery
prior to my exhibition there in December
the plan was to arrive on Friday evening, in time for the opening
of the 2nd Tamworth Textile Triennial

unfortunately
the inadvertent slashing of a tyre
caused by avoiding a close encounter of the unpleasant kind
with another motor vehicle
delayed my arrival until well after ceremonies had concluded
it would have been cheaper and faster to fly
even without the added cost of a new tyre
but the four hour wait was good writing time
and the five hour + drive was good thinking time
even if i did have to drink an awful lot of coffee





wandering around Tamworth on Saturday morning
i found a lot of men in hats



a rock from which someone had chipped all the bits that did not look like snake



an old friend far from home
[California poppy in a dry creek bed]



some stones to play with



and some rather too friendly seeds
Bidens pilosa
which had to be individually removed
NOT something i want to take home to the farm
even if they do resemble tiny stitches

after i had picked my dress clean
and had some breakfast i betook myself to the gallery



my favourite among the works in the Triennial
was that of Ilka White



the work below, by Gillian Lavery
based on a simple premise
of timed daily sitching
10 minutes with a piece of thread that measured from her
mouth to her belly button and back
needle in, needle out
breath in and breath out



every day for one calendar year
remarkable in its dedication and execution

there were others too
that i would have liked to have shown here
[but did not want to embroil myself in Viscopy issues]
including Kate Campbell-Pope
whom i had last encountered when we were together in the 'Seven Sisters' exhibition curated by Kevin Murray in 2004

it is an exhibition well worth seeing...and as it is touring Australia for the next couple of years many red island readers stand a good chance of finding it not too far from home.


Monday, 11 August 2014

happy [and dreaming of another roadtrip]



today is one of those days
on which i really really love my day job
doing what makes me happy


even if it does give me cracked hands
and appalling fingernails

the thing about my day job
is that it funds the indulgence of exhibiting
and
to a certain extent
my teaching

travel does not come cheaply
and workshop fees do not always
cover the spaces in between engagements
but [despite bringing me into disfavour in some quarters]
i love to wander
being
a wanderbear at heart


i had such plans to take a sabbatical
but teaching is fun
and
so is wandering
and wondering

and so is
patience with bundles
taking time to open
is rewarded


with slow magic



which leads me to think
that 
while i really love teaching four or five day retreat classes like 'being (t)here'
perhaps it is also time to offer some one-day workshops
because not everyone has the time
to take the time
and
as my friend John Parkes so beautifully writes

"strange that time is more uncertain than water"

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so
i am considering offering a retreat
that would begin in the early afternoon
which would mean that
the dyeing has the benefit of a restful night
and
we can share a leisurely evening meal
which i will very happily prepare
also
the cocktail hour can be appropriately acknowledged
without having to rush back to work

and then
next morning
not too early
allowing for a lovely walk after breakfast
[and time for yoga]
we would gather again
to open the bundles
and wonder at their beauty

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the benefits of this structure
would be many:

less rush to get to an early-start class

one night of retreat away from home
in the company of like-minded souls

not having to forage for supper in a strange place

and

going home with something beautiful to remember it all by

+

i can think of quite a few places i would like to take this...
among them
lovely Lopez Island, that magical wee house in Inverness (California)
Fort Bragg (in the same state), anywhere in New England in the fall 
riverside in New Orleans, outback Australia, an Oregon beach
Tayside in Scotland, on an island off Tasmania
somewhere up near Cairns (Australia)
as well as possibly

Germany, Austria (in which case the workshop language will be German)
and Japan (where the workshop language might have to be sign language)
oh and i'd love to visit Ireland too
and that is just the very tippity tip of the iceberg
but 

i would also be happy to hear from any kindly souls 
who would like to host this kind of retreat
 because
i think i feel another roadtrip coming on

+

did i mention that i have been working on a new cocktail too?
allow me to present my
'ginger bear'

ingredients :
gin [preferably that nice one from San Francisco that has a bear on the label]
ginger beer [in Australia, use Ginger Joe]
some fresh ruby grapefruit juice
and the zest of the fruit also
freshly grated ginger root
wild strawberries
  
method :
shake gin and ice and grapefruit juice
strain into well chilled glasses over more ice
dilute slightly with ginger beer 
garnish with grapefuit, freshly grated ginger and some slightly crushed wild strawberries