Saturday, 30 August 2008

doorway to another whirled



twas indeed a pleasant surprise to be pinged a sticker of approval from the kindly Annette at Fairy Shoes . this now means i am faced with the tricky challenge of trying to decide to whom i should pass the baton. there are squillions of interesting reads out there!

so here goes. i'm nominating Ahipara Girl, my friend from across the ditch; Silver Solo and Free Falling from the land of Uncle Sam, maple syrup and margaritas; Little Brown Sparrow and Uniform Studio for their posts about Things Wearable; Million Little Stitches for her reports from the sub-continent and the Hoarder's Daughter for her lovely post about Mirka Mora, one of my favourite Melbourne artists.

Oh, and for something completely different, the blog of Unnecessary "Quotation" Marks...



and here's the deal. for those named above, please

1. Put the logo on your blog.
2.Link to the person who gave you the award.
3.Nominate at least 7 other blogs.
4.Put links to those on your blog.
5. Leave a message on those blogs.


Wednesday, 27 August 2008

festina lente


I reach Havelock well after dark in pouring rain. The fuel gauge is hovering near dreg position and the only petrol station in the town has a sign on it reading ‘closed until further notice’. Not promising. My search for a cabin or something similarly cheap has thus far proved fruitless and guzzled fuel I could ill spare whilst making detours following promising-looking signs (and roads that seem to have been incidentally designed by the local soothsayer using cast intestines) to places enticingly labelled ‘Cable Bay Cabins’ and ‘Mount Richmond Chalets’…all as echoing and empty as the Marie Celeste.

I settle for the Havelock Motel that promises cooking facilities. The receptionist confirms this as I hand over the plastic fantastic but yet again I am doomed to disappointment. The room boasts a microwave. Zapping something briefly with radiation does not, in my mind, constitute cooking. Nor is a microwave oven remotely useful for what I have in mind…dyeing several articles with an armful of Nothofagus obliqua, the windfall treasure harvested roadside in the Lewis Pass earlier in the day. Nonetheless I nuke a test-bundle and am at least reassured that this particular tree, one of my favourites, is very likely to impart some colour to cloth. Finding somewhere to do the cooking before I attempt to take said bundle on an international journey is the tricky thing and also vital if I am to clear Customs with it.

I depart Havelock with some trepidation as the fuel situation hasn’t magically rectified itself overnight. The rain is thumping down in sheets making visibility intermittent at best. Despite this I take Queen Charlotte Drive as it is rather shorter than the main highway and likely to be considerably more interesting. My expectations are exceeded. The road is partially missing in several places and liberally adorned with rocks, mud and trees in piles ranging from barrow loads to truck-sized. Negotiating these is mildly exciting especially when they jump out from corners and surprise one. I stick to the middle of the road where possible in order to prevent accidental disappearance over the edge or into a bottomless pit. After 35 minutes I arrive on the outskirts of Picton to find a bunch of sodden gentlemen attired in glo-vests attempting to make a ‘road closed’ sign stand up on the bitumen with the help of a tyre and two sandbags. I wonder briefly how the semi-trailer that passed me got past the motor home I passed earlier. Tight fit, I imagine.

Much later in the day I arrive in Wellytown on the ferry. It makes slow progress against big waves and torrential rain. Being blessed with a cast-iron tummy I simply enjoy the ride. In Wellington it continues to rain and on observing the evening news I discover that the roads around the south island have literally been closing behind me on my journey. Beginning to feel more than a little Frodo-like.

I spend the morning packing up my dye samples in the hope that I can convince Quarantine and Customs on Oz that my intentions are pure. Alas, they are deeply suspicious and confiscate all my beautiful Nothofagus obliqua leaves. Tempting as it is to have a serious hissy fit I take it as a sign that the Universe has plans for me to return some other time…

and just in case you think I'm fibbing about the weather...click here for the Marlborough News

Sunday, 24 August 2008

breaking the silence


your correspondent took a wee hop across the ditch last week in order to support the Aotearoa Feltmaters at their exhibition 'Window on White' at the Millennium Gallery in Blenheim. the ferry to the South island essentially floats through a Colin McCahon landscape.




i am now able to tell you that the Flying Burrito Brothers on Cuba Street have a magic touch with a margarita . properly prepared this is the last sip the angels take before trashing their harps, flinging their white robes into a dyepot, plucking out their feathers and taking up residence at the right hand of Mr S de Vil. yup, that good.

i can also warn you never, ever to even think of asking for a margarita at the Checkers eatery in Blenheim. no, i don't know what possessed me, but may God forgive me i had a weak moment and set in motion a chain of events i will regret for some time.
in response to the offer of a drink i foolishly said yes please, in the absence of Bombay Sapphire i would settle for a margarita. the person doing the ordering disappeared for quite some time and eventually returned to inform me that the wee laddie behind said bar had to go and look up the recipe but despite that left out the Cointreau, sloshed half the salt off the glass and after swilling a tiny splash of tequila about in a cocktail shaker together with Lime cordial (yes, you read correctly) deposited the dregs WITH the melting ice into the glass. words fail me. a former San Franciscan present on the occasion nearly fainted.


the exhibition opening was followed by a workshop, held in a four-stand woolshed on 'Burnside', a rather delightful property in the Wairau Valley. the samples shown above were dyed using madder root grown by one of the participants.

and in turn the workshop was followed by yet more celebrating. eventually pootled off down the coast this morning on a Great Escape and after absorbing a pleasant and steaming cup of chowder by the seaside outside Kaikoura (scene of earlier horror stories) eventually found myself at Hanmer Springs. essentially these are warm water puddles of which some are rather sulphurous....
i soaked in them until i was red-faced.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

found words


paying a visit to the Carer's Garage sale (a shed full of treasures) in the Barossa Valley yesterday i found (to my joy) that an old metal trunk that had been originally set aside for someone else was available for sale again due to lack of collection (and associated exchange of funds).

so i bought it.

and when i opened my pirate chest at home, i discovered that the newspaper (The Adelaide Advertiser) lining the inside was dated September 14th, 1938. here are some snippets from Alexander von Humboldt's birthday nearly 70 years ago.
the opening lines of the article about the Spanish Civil War (since when has war been civil? que?) are somewhat chilling...that reference to the 'strategists and students of war'. nasty. but on to a lighter moment below

followed by one (of only two) references to the worsening political situation in Europe

the area described below, once home to almonds, sheep and dairies; is now a housing estate.
but to end on a highlight...a delicious design for a cocktail bar from Woods, Bagot, Laybourne-Smith and Irwin; architects. Laybourne-Smith's name now adorns the School of Architecture at the University of South Australia, Woods Bagot is still in business...and the last Irwin I knew practising architecture went off to Harvard University in 1983 and hasn't been heard of (well, not by me) since...


Thursday, 14 August 2008

enfolded magic

yesterday i received the most delightful little parcel, enfolded in calico, stitched around the edges and then (for good measure) adorned with small red dots of sealing wax. it felt rather naughty, cutting my way into it.



inside was a delicious silk shawl, handwoven especially for me by a weaver working with the Avani project (AVANI is a voluntary organization working in the Kumaon region of Uttaranchal, located in the middle ranges of the Central Himalayan region). the 'eri' silk, soft and light as a feather; is gathered from the wild.

why was i so blessed? twas a lovely swap in exchange for a copy of my book, sent to them earlier this year.

i had the good fortune to meet Rashmi Bharti (one of the organisers of the Avani craft project) at the UNESCO Symposium on Natural Dyes in Hyderabad a couple of years ago and we've been corresponding from time to time since then. the craft project helps establish sustainable practices in textile production so that participating villagers can earn an income (and plan for the future) and alongside this they've also been developing simple solar-powered technology to make life a little more comfortable.

it's a long way from anywhere. my little parcel had to be carried for some distance on foot before it was able to join the postal system, thence hitch a ride on a train and eventually wing its way across the ocean.

click here to see more about Avani

the difficulty facing me now is deciding what colours to dye my lovely shawl....

Saturday, 9 August 2008

off left field

on Thursday morning i was up before dawn, drove to town and caught a plane to the Big Smoke (Sydney)










in hidden corners i discovered beautiful old brickwork (English Garden wall bond, I believe...)





then i spotted a famous coathanger (and did silly things to it in Photoshop)




standing underneath i made a portrait of my shadow-friend...



who very nearly fell into the water, but luckily i stepped away from the edge in time, so she was able to catch herself



in time to see these lovely freesias adorning a post



later there was a huge rainstorm...and much, much later i was back on the farm, business completed (in between box brownie snaps).

modern broomsticks beat the hell out of the old ones, on which it was tricksy to carry parcels and which didn't have on-board refreshments...

Friday, 8 August 2008

someone's doing me a kindness...

just letting you all know that Diane Bronstein is posting a story about my work on her lovely blog 'Inspiration by Design'. Apparently it's going up at 9 PM Pacific Coast Time in California on Aug 7th

it's well worth visiting and great company to be in...lots of interesting designers to read about (scroll down and look at Mary Grant's delicious fashions mmmm)

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

hey honey, how was your day?



When the fictitious life-partner comes home this evening (see somewhere over the rainbow) and says ‘hi Honey, how was your day?’ I’ll be able to give a good account of myself.
I chopped wood, fed the poddy, screwed the door handle back on again, sharpened the gardening tools, played relatively harmonious noises on the saxophone and cut grass for the chooks and bunnies…and, oh yes, I spent an hour carefully cutting leaf shapes from Spanish onion skins.
Yup, it’s true. And why?

Blame Adelaide’s reticulated water supply, folks. One of the costumes I’d made for Leigh Warren & Dancers’ recent production “Seven” had changed colour suddenly after a recent laundering. It had been ecoprinted with purple prunus leaves and was holding up very nicely until now. My suspicion is that the reservoirs may just have received their annual dose of copper sulphate (about 40 tonnes per pond) and that this, along with increased levels of salt in the water (concentrated due to evaporative activity) may have tipped the little apron over the brink. The leaf prints had, for whatever reason, turned a deep tan.


August is not a good month for finding purple prunus leaves in the southern hemisphere, so what’s a girl to do? Yep, sit down and trim a bag of saved purple Spanish onion skins to the right shape. A true labour of love happily undertaken for my favourite dance company; all in all quite a productive day, I thought.

Pity I forgot to wash up, vacuum my bedroom and hang out the sheets...good thing the dream-boat partner remains just that…a figment of fiction and dreams!
but if you're looking for the picture of true love, look at the photo below. Rodin, eat your heart out!

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

those hands is my hands!

idling in a bookshop recently i nearly fell out of my socks as i recognised one of the pairs of hands on a hitherto unknown book.

they are mine.


flicking through the pages it became apparent that my enterprising publisher (Murdoch Books) had collated projects from 'handmade' (a series of softcover how-to books on subjects ranging from quilting to papermaking to beading to feltmaking and a lot of things in between) and reprinted them in this very nice hardbound tome appropriately named 'textiles'.

so of course i sent them a mildly surprised (but friendly) missile. mind you they were fully within their rights to reuse the material...the text i had written for them had been signed over for a flat fee-per-word giving them full book and film rights. i was happy with the contract then and the contentment holds good...as the proceeds from that book 'handmade style: felt' funded the purchase of the camera with which i shot for Eco Colour.


today at the post office i found myself in receipt of a lovely parcel...a copy of said weighty tome, sent to me with compliments by Murdoch, bless them. it's a nice book. i can confidently recommend it as a useful starting point for those who wish granny had taught them how to '_________' (fill in blank space as required.

and it has a sturdy set of brown farmer's hands on the cover.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

zen moment close to home



Sometimes I have occasion to wander into the wild. In 2007 an urge to see some more glaciers before the world turns into a giant sauna drew me to the West Coast of New Zealand. Here in a nutshell are a few places to look out for as well as a couple to avoid at all costs. None of this is in particular order…it appears as various memorable moments bubbled out of the stygian gloom presently enveloping the grey cells…travel in summer if you are sensitive to coal smoke!


Both the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers offer walks through beautiful rainforests, past and through streams and waterfalls, across spectacular moraine areas. The Franz Josef Country Retreat provides a cosy haven and a fabulous deep bath in which to contemplate all this extravagant geography. They also have a welcoming and hospitable cat and will let you play at barista with their gleaming coffee machine.

The Greymouth Working Men’s Club deserve sparkling gold stars for their warm and friendly welcome, offers of tea and invitations to play pool. I’ll be back.


Keep walking past the Frauenreisehaus in Christchurch if you are sensitive to battery operated stuffed sleeping puppies with simulated breathing. There is one in the office. It was probably a beloved pet before Mr.G.Reaper handed it untimely to the taxidermist. Avoid also the Admiral’s Court at Kaikoura. It is a depressing and dismal establishment which illustrates the sort of pit a person unfamiliar with the location (me) can fall into when booking on the internet.


Leap back on to the train (after you’ve seen the seals), travel north and stay at the Harbour View Motel in Picton instead. It’s comfortable, clean and decorated in refreshingly simple style and does indeed have a rather nice view of the harbour. That way you won’t be tempted to order chowder at the Aroma (or was that AmorĂ©?…I forget) CafĂ© in Kaikoura and won’t get a nasty surprise when the glue-like substance that arrives in front of you is full of funny pink-dyed fish substitute masquerading as crab and bears as much resemblance to traditional chowder as coffee whitener (or its cousin gesso) does to cream.

In Wellington make a bee-line for the Wellington Trawling Sea Market on Cuba Street (just up from Roger’s Tattoo Art). The fish and chips are unrivalled for freshness and flavour. Still on Cuba take your coffee at Midnight Espresso. In fact, have breakfast there too. Whatever you do, don’t risk your teeth on the offerings at Dorothy’s Patisserie a few doors down. The croissants would have made handy paperweights, but proved disappointing when offered slightly nuked as an accompaniment to the lukewarm brown substance masquerading as coffee in that establishment.

Visit Moore Wilson across town to stock up on Whitestone Farmhouse cheese, fresh fruits and vegetables and other comestible delights. Wander up the hill to the Botanic Gardens (where the Magnolias are magnificent) and adjacent historic graveyard. Take your left-over bread for the denizens of the duck pond. Back on Cuba the Irish Bar is good for a game of pool (free for as long as you can stretch a drink!) and the house band is brilliant at churning out old favourites. 

Roll on Mustang Sally.