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.


  1. Truly unique individuals always leave an indelible impression on ones mind.

    I was not lucky enough to meet Joyce, but can picture her from your beautiful description.

    It is great that Rae is flying. Its great to meet new friends and see them grow, while doing so much amazing stuff.

  2. Seems to me you teach your students how to fly.
    I'm working on my wings!

  3. what a lovely tribute to a person who obviously meant a lot to you. Your words brought tears to my eyes!

  4. Do I need to drink the whole bottle of Gin and Vermouth (plus assorted olives etc)
    before I start blocking my hat?

  5. drinking the whole bottle of gin ensures the hat looks good [in the eyes of the gin-soaker beholder] no matter how it ends up after blocking...

  6. Joyce sounds like she should have done what Jennifer from the 'two fat ladies' cooking show did. She had her wake in hospital before she died
    telling everyone to wear bright clothing and fed them caviar, drank champagne and generally created mahem.

  7. Sensational first image...
    Great post about Rae...and very special post about Joyce.
    Life is a great ride...and how wonderful we get meet people like Rae & Joyce (friends) along the road...Love the "Sapphire" too...a little bit more so now!

  8. Your work is a true delight! I just visited your site -- gorgeous pieces there!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog.


  9. Lovely tribute, India. Reading about the felt blocking, gin swilling episode made me feel as if I was there too. What fun!