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... 

Monday 24 November 2008

time out

gazing at this most delicious of roses i often wonder why David Austin named it 'Jude the Obscure'. despite adoring red roses in my misspent youth this delicate buttercream rose with its rich applebutterrose fragrance is now quite my favourite

if i were the Little Prince this is the one rose that would be blooming on my tiny planet...

it dawned on me too that even though i can make lovely marks on cloth using leaves and plant dyes it would be nice to be able to splatter about with watercolours and make marks on paper resembling what i felt about the rose rather than the cyclopean image that is produced by the camera (nice though that is)

so when a watercolour workshop was advertised by the Art Gallery of South Australia recently i signed up. led by Arthur Phillips  it began at the Gallery (in Adelaide) and then wandered up to The Cedars near Hahndorf in the Mount Lofty Ranges for the second day.

where we pottered about happily on the property now owned by the grandchildren of South Australia's best-loved watercolourist, Hans Heysen. his purpose-built studio is pictured above.

i spent the day happily settled by this lovely pond, puddling watercolours on my page, with Arthur making the odd friendly noise of encouragement. i won't sear your eyeballs with the result. suffice it to say the indulgence of taking a day out from work (which given i work from home isn't easily left behind) to spend four hours observing the light changing across a small pond, watching the zebra finches bathing and hearing the frogs chirpings cease every time they were in danger of becoming a reptilian lunch was truly good for the soul.

and it's good to be a student every now and then...constant teaching is a bit like pumping water out of a dam...sooner or later there's nothing left [unless it rains]

i had a fabulous day but jonniecat didn't give a hoot...

Wednesday 19 November 2008

how do you bury a cow?

our lovely if slightly mad Jersey GinGin breathed her nembutal-assisted last yesterday afternoon, after a ten-day long battle to survive being bitten by a brown snake.
we'd been hopeful, given seven out of ten large animals have been known to overcome the venom. our vet administered intravenous vitamin C (considered best practice for cattle) and we lugged honey-water and food to her a couple of times a day.

but yesterday morning she gave me a sad weary look that indicated she'd had enough. drinking was becoming a struggle and she couldn't even get a wad of cud up to chew.
so rather than leave her to gradually fade away covered in a million insidious flies, we called for help.

if i'm ever struck with the big C (not the vitamin) or other debilitating condition and if it comes the time when there's no hope for recovery and everything is ghastly...i hope somebody calls the vet to me too. intravenous nembutal seems a fairly gentle way to depart on the next big adventure.

later that evening all the other cows gathered around, singing a low and mournful song. this morning i buried her. so i can tell you now how a cow is buried. one spade-full of dry earth at a time. it took me an hour and a bit. mounding up, as opposed to digging down, given the bone-dry state of the land.

worst of it is, the next big wind we get will probably undo my work...dry dusty soil doesn't have a lot of staying power.   

Sunday 16 November 2008


my first thought on being tagged (by Darlene) was of the "oh dear, must i?" variety...however after a calming cup of tea i'm going to 'fess up. here goes, then.

seven little known facts about me...

1. english is not my first language
2. my favourite stitch is running stitch
3. the only athletic event i have ever won was the egg and spoon race in Grade 3 at Shelford Girls Grammar (i still have my blue ribbon)
4. when i was little i wanted to be an Indian (not the subcontinental kind, but the First Nation American kind who rode palouse ponies bareback)
5. i write poetry....but each poem takes at least three years to edit to my satisfaction
6. the new crescent moon (known in our family as a "cradle-boat moon") is my favourite
7. i abandoned dreams of a thespian career after being cast as the witch in three consecutive productions at school (there seemed to be few other roles for one of dark skin and dark hair)

and now to pass on the baton

over to you!

oh, and in case you're wondering, the picture above shows my dog Kip doing what she does best...bringing in the sheep

and a postscript... with thanks to Helen (see link above) who worked out what the system was despite my completely forgetting to post the instructions. silly me. here they are (copied from Helen's page)

The rules of this Tag are:

1. Link to the person who tagged you.

2. Post the rules on your blog.

3. Write seven little known facts about yourself.

4. Tag seven people at the end of your post and link to them.

5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog

6. Let the tagger know when your entry is posted

Thursday 13 November 2008

heysen exhibition

it's been a bit of a roller-coaster ride here this week....beginning with sheep-shearing (still haven't finished pressing up all the wool yet...nine bales and counting), then frocking up for the 'petroglyphs' performance....then another farming challenge as our Jersey cow, Gin Gin was bitten by a snake (lots of nursing still required, but seems to be on the mend) and this morning the discovery of a cracked pipe (part of the main irrigation system). bit of a mixed bag, all in all.

so it was with some delight that i accepted an invitation to attend a media launch at the Art Gallery of South Australia today.  the 40th anniversary of the passing of the artist Hans Heysen is being commemorated with a truly magnificent exhibition of his work.

i found the picture (above) of his wife working at her sewing particularly delightful. 

not only did Heysen have a sure hand when it came to painting, he was also a conservationist with a passion for eucalypts...purchasing pockets of farmland in the Mount Lofty Ranges in order to save his favourite trees from the axe. if you can't make it to South Australia to see this exhibition in person, at least buy the catalogue by mail...you'll be guaranteed hours of happy browsing and dreaming 

Tuesday 11 November 2008

interior design new york...

i'd been wondering about the rush of enquiry from north-east USA and i think i may have worked it out...found a friendly article on my work here 

there's a bit of poetic license here and there, but no more than usual...

Sunday 9 November 2008

it's an ill wind

when i was a wee thing one of my favourite books was "Little House in the Big Woods" by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Pa (her father) was often quoted as saying "it's an ill wind that doesn't blow somebody any good". i was minded of this today.

my mother (a pretty impressive gardener with all fingers in green, not just the thumbs) had coaxed a crimson flower from a recently acquired tree paeony. sadly a vicious toddler tornado decided to rip off all the petals. not to be outdone (and knowing my propensity for making strange brews) Mama diligently gathered the petals for me.
here's what they did when i wrapped them in a fragment of silk...

pictured: fresh petals on the petal-dyed silk. to see the original flower in all its glory, visit the blog of the dedicated gardener here

Wednesday 5 November 2008


this evening i had the pleasure of watching my favourite dance company "Leigh Warren & Dancers" perform in a return season of petroglyphs, which premiered in 2005 (and was the first of my costume collections for the company)

costumes hang in the space, some to set the scene, others for on-set changes

it's fantastic to see one's work come to life on the dancers' bodies. this work is particularly moving as it is performed in promenade with the audience milling about between the dancers - somehow it feels as though one is assisting at a ceremony (and the music, by Australian composer Brett Dean, is fantastic)

here's a bit of the 2005 version

Sunday 2 November 2008

ecological day - a thought

now i'm NOT trying to upset readers from the sub-continent or be culturally insensitive...but here's a thought. if the plastic non-biodregradable rubbish that drifts around India were instead collected and used as a building material the environment could become much more pleasant for all concerned.

just as straw and old rope is traditionally mixed with mud to give strength to adobe housing, so too plastic could be shredded and mixed with mud to give strength to mudbricks.

salvaged plastic waste could also be used to stretch concrete when pouring concrete slabs. admittedly neither of these two solutions is ideal - but images such as that above are common in India. the advent of plastics pushed the traditional recycled paper packaging (that Asia had down to a fine art) aside. the streets of Indian villages and cities abound with scenes such as the one pictured.

and yes, I am aware that Australia doesn't have all the answers either. here at Hope Springs we try to re-use, recycle, re-invent or reclaim as much as possible but there are still too many things that do end up heading for the landfill.

plastic waste is an insidious problem....and apparently at least 3/4 of the worls's crude oil is guzzled by plastic production. i say wrap your goods in folded bags made from old telephone book paper, avoid plastic as much as possible and direct the few oil reserves we have left to transport needs rather than packaging...

Thursday 30 October 2008

on a rather lighter note

homeward bound from Bangalore i had a day to wander about in Singapore before a pumpkin-time flight back to South Australia. there's nothing that excites me less than a day spent trawling the shops so whenever i'm in this island state i hop on the free SIA bus, head into the city and find my way into the Botanic Gardens. here i spend a happy day inhaling orchid perfumes and reading the labels on the spice trees. 

curious things abound in these gardens and there is much to be learned. did you know that bananas belong to the Ginger family?
i didn't as well.

these brilliant blue berries/fruits are from some sort of ficus

and this delicious flower is that of the vanilla orchid. i have trouble believing there are sufficient of these precious plants in the whirled to support a certain soft-drink company's output of vanilla-flavoured stickiness

on the way to the Bot this time i became somewhat distracted by these delightful windows, so much more beautiful than all the motor spareparts shops at streetlevel below...

much later while walking back to the city along Nassim Road, i discovered leafprints on the pathway, stains from the heavens above. 

wished i'd taken my tiny travelling dyepot (recently acquired at a thrift shop in Ararat) with me. it's a miniature deep-fryer, electrically heated (airlines won't allow camping stoves in ones luggage) and just the right size for making small bundled dye samples. Unlike the Adelaide Botanic Gardens where one isn't permitted to pick up so much as a feather, many other such institutions have no problem with modest windfall collection for research purposes.

Singapore and Wellington (Aotearoa) are two such friendlies....and i'm looking forward to taking the travelling cauldron over there again in January! 

Tuesday 28 October 2008

a thought

if public transport in India looks like this (much like public transport in St Petersburg, Russia) what do the nuclear reactors look like? and do they really, truly, think they'll plant a flag on the moon (a possibility suggested in the Hindu Times last week). just wondering...

BTW those of you who've signed up as followers...in case you're wondering why I haven't signed in return, well, I don't really need to....I can just click on your icons on the side of my page and make a quick visit, thank you!  (and so can others who visit this page)

scheherezade smiled enigmatically and continued

the colour schemes in India are seductive. no prizes for guessing who likes green and shades thereof..

one evening we were all invited to partake of nourishment in one of the village houses. and before you all start muttering about the quality of the image...YOU try taking a photograph when there are 31 people milling about in a room about 8 by 10 feet. i don't like having my retinas burned out and assume my fellows prefer to maintain their vision as well; so the flash on my camera is permanently turned off.

but back to the story. we all assembled at the home of one of our hostesses (forgive my lamentable memory, their names have escaped me - this is why all my former students are addressed variously as Blossom, Petal, Beloved and Sweetness) about an hour late for dinner.

we were late because of India time. those of you who have been there will know this means that the transport either didn't arrive at all, was late arriving or arrived early and then hid in a bush until we went searching for it. in our case it was the latter.

after the greeting and handing over of various offerings we were invited to sit. this is fine for those of us who do yoga or ride horses but i swear i heard sotto voce mutterings about the probable need for a crane in order to regain vertical positions later. but i'm not saying who (which would be Blossom, Petal, Beloved or Sweetness anyway so you'd be none the wiser)

our hostesses did the rounds with a jug of water and bowl, followed by a cloth for the ritual washing of hands (a custom it would do no harm to introduce over here!) and then the onslaught of food began. i use the word advisedly.

coconut dosas were served (delicious) accompanied by a hot sweet spiced milk. i skipped the milk, being a farmer means i have too much information about the sorts of diseases local dairy cattle are likely to carry. Listeria and Ovine Brucellosis are only two of the potential suspects.

then came dahl, all manner of vegetables doused in chili and spices, enormous scoops of rice (both plain and spiced), more dosas, pappadums, salads (skipped by old Missus Unadventurous again) and finally an enormous plate of boiled eggs. i was well defeated long before they did the rounds. our hosts didn't eat with us, simply stood and watched us munching their lovely food. 

goodness knows how they rustled up so many plates (suspect the whole street lent theirs for the evening). neighbours and friends kept popping in to inspect the visitors cackhandedly scooping well-sauced rice grains into their mouths. better than television.

eventually we all staggered out to the bus, shaking hands (like the Queen) with a guard of honour along the way. even the village idiot (sounds cruel but is simply the truth) stood by the bus with a benevolent air dispensing farewells.

a night to remember.

i found this denizen of the forest (who too closely resembles a former Australian Prime Minister) in my happysnaps, reminding me of another incident of consumption which happened some nights later. i didn't actually see the event but am assured that a monkey nicked a bottle of coca cola from an outdoor eating area, shimmied up the nearest tree, ripped the top off the bottle and downed the contents before hurling the emptied vessel to the ground. wonder where he learned that behaviour?