Sunday 30 August 2009

got you covered

recent conversation in a bookstore

Friendly Young Person [hereafter known as FYP] : that's a nice coat you're wearing

me [hereafter still known as me] : thank you!

FYP : did you make it yourself?

me : yes, and it's dyed with eucalyptus

FYP : there's a book over there that would interest you

me : has it by any chance got a green cover?

FYP : yes

me : is the author possibly India Flint?

FYP : yes

me : that's me

it was a surreal moment. but pleasant withall.

and it was the sort of thing that DOESN'T happen when one is idly browsing Amazon or other net-based purveyors of literature.

i fell into the latter trap a few weeks ago, freshly back from Tasmania and armed with a new reading list thanks to an erudite friend
over-eager to acquire books without the bother of seeking them out.
i found a few
but was also seduced into selecting a few others
pretty covers and cleverly worded paragraphs.

however when they arrived some while later it was a salutary lesson. purchasing books online that are otherwise out of print makes sense as often a pre-loved treasure can be found
but buying things that look promising on the outside isn't always quite so satisfying

nothing is really quite the same as browsing happily through a bookstore
turning a few pages
having an amusing exchange with another patron

and deciding whether the contents of the cover live up to the promises made on the outside.

especially pleasant when the bookshop smells nicely of fresh flowers
beeswax polish
and perhaps a hint of some gentle incense

so i'll try to stick to the real thing in the future
with the exception of things that are out of print

and make regular visits to these bookstores when i'm in the neighbourhood

Matilda Books, Stirling, South Australia

Artisan Books, Gertrude Street, Fitzroy

Minerva Books, Cuba Street, Wellington [NZ]

Ariel Books, Oxford Street, Paddington

City Lights in San Francisco, USA

and that splendid store, William Stout Architectural, at 804 Montgomery, San Francisco

meanwhile, for South Australian readers who haven't anything planned for September 3, 2009 and can bear to leave their cosy fire, glass of red and good book for the wilds of the night

i'm telling stories at Mostly Books, Mitcham Square, 119 Belair Road, Torrens Park
at about 7.30pm

if the present weather continues, awards for bravery will be handed to those who turn up....

Thursday 27 August 2009

La Rochelle, 2011

a little earlier this year i had it fixed in my tiny mind that there would be a dye symposium at La Rochelle in April of 2010. and vaguely thought i might, as a consequence, be wandering Europe in May next year.

i was wrong.

the good news is that there will indeed be a plant dye symposium at La Rochelle, France, in April of 2011. ISEND2011 will follow on from the UNESCO Symposium held in Hyderabad in 2006. the event will run from April 24th to 30th and is being organised by Anne de la Sayette and Dominique Cardon

register your interest for this important natural dye event by emailing

info [at] isend2011 [dot] com

...see you there?

Wednesday 26 August 2009


in the previous post i grumbled about the local propensity for clearing life from the verge. in the picture above [shot in Yamaguchi in 2006] grass has been allowed to soften the edges of the built environment. it doesn't seem to be doing any harm.

in New York a now disused elevated freight train track that was built in the early half of the twentieth century is being sown with greenery

the map looks pretty impressive
as do the pictures

the Mount Lofty Ranges of South Australia also have an ideal strip of land from which to form a public wandering corridor... the railway reserve remnant from 1963 when the far-sighted authorities tore up the tracks from Adelaide to Mount Pleasant [just think how useful that utility would be now!]

dedicating this as a bicycle track would be a splendid way of keeping those lurid lycra-clad wheeled insects out of the paths of trucks
and of my car

i too own and ride a bicycle but don't feel the need to dress up as a Christmas Beetle

nor do i ride in the company of others, several abreast holding up traffic on narrow roads.
given the unforgiving nature of heavy metal at speed, creating a separate bicycle way would be a sensible idea

Monday 24 August 2009

the icing on the cupcake

it's been a dark weekend. on Sunday morning i spotted a local government employee sneaking about in Mount Pleasant spraying poison on any leaf that had the temerity to grow on public land.
land that is also part of the riparian zone of the River Torrens, the sad little stream used as an aqueduct to transport water pumped from the Murray into the Kangaroo Creek Dam that provides some of the water consumed by residents of Adelaide.

are they forgetting that the stuff will be washed off the sidewalk and into the cocktail?
and they wonder why cancer is on the rise.

the oceans to the north-west are being ruined by an uncontrollable oilwell spewing its contents from the sea bed - to which the Australian Government is responding by spraying 'chemicals' [probably detergent] from the air. meanwhile we've just signed a contract that will give the last of the natural gas to China [while Australia continues to burn brown coal]

this morning's mailbox has brought further fascinating tidbits. apparently some enterprising Japanese scientists have been extracting protein from poo. it's then mixed with a little soy and some beef flavouring and can be slapped into a bun as fast as you can say "i'm Hungry, Jack".

visit the fascinating folk at 'wurst & fleisch' to read the full and gruesome details

i'm surprised that this is something new...from the aromas that waft from Mc Donalds [an establishment i've always referred to as the Golden Buttocks] you'd think they'd been on to this idea for years.

thank you, waiter, i'll take the steamed spinach, please.

Friday 21 August 2009


looking for a place to stay in Perth? don't put the All Seasons Hotel at the top of your list.
my booking through resulted in a windowless dogbox room that i wouldn't have offered my worst enemy.

reception disclaimed responsibility and said it was all the fault of wotif.
not impressed. All Seasons should bear in mind that 'word of mouth' is not only the best but also sometimes the worst, form of publicity. [think of Charles Dickens]

so for an extra $30 per night i moved to a room upstairs to where i could at least stand on a ledge near a window and gaze at the rising moon before dawn

in the upstairs room there was another bonus

some enterprising previous guest had shower-capped the smoke alarm.
highly illegal but rather helpful to one who likes boiling up the travelling dye cauldron

on the bright side, if you're looking for good coffee in Perth, head for Milk & Honey 82 James Street Northbridge
lovely smiles
good service
lovely blooming moth-orchids
and theatrical strength hot coffee on request

for more substantial nourishment head to Mela Indian Sweets & Eats, corner of William and Robinson, also in Northbridge. best masala dosa i've ever eaten [and that includes the real McCoy on the sub-continent]

and for the curious, here's what the surreptitious dyepot rendered...

Thursday 20 August 2009

not just another brick in the wall

i've been in Perth for a few days...that's about as far west as you can go in Oz
before getting your feet wet

shortly before i got thoroughly soaked in a relentless downpour

i saw the writing on the wall

Saturday 15 August 2009

three tenths of the square root of Pi times __u__k all...

today we were crutching sheep and marking lambs. relatively mindless tasks that allow for lots of thinking and musing time

i began to think about possible formulae that might avoid the actual counting of lambs during marking

you know, if there are a certain number of green rings used what might be the proportion of males to females and how might they be allocated. this of course took me to remembering the wonderful Canadian author Stephen Leacock
and his musings on the fate of A, B, C & poor D as well as 'monkey's mother' and the length of her tail.

not to mention this brilliant story

Puzzle III

(With apologies to the Strand.)

A rope is passed over a pulley. It has a weight at one end and a
monkey at the other. There is the same length of rope on either side
and equilibrium is maintained. The rope weighs four ounces per foot.
The age of the monkey and the age of the monkey's mother together
total four years. The weight of the monkey is as many pounds as the
monkey's mother is years old. The monkey's mother was twice as old as
the monkey was when the monkey's mother was half as old as the monkey
will be when the monkey is three times as old as the monkey's mother
was when the monkey's mother was three times as old as the monkey.
The weight of the rope with the weight at the end was half as much
again as the difference in weight between the weight of the weight
and the weight of the monkey. Now, what was the length of the rope?

My Solution: I should think it would have to be a rope of a fairly
good length.

when i was quite young i managed to reach a figure but now i don't remember how i got there.

but all this musing then took me on to other things. on a recent bus trip in the U.S. my seat mate confided that she was afflicted with ADHD. i asked her what the defining behaviour patterns were.

and when i came home i looked up the symptoms [out of curiosity]
and it pretty much reads like a description of my life

but i wondered, why take drugs to obviate this? i like being the way i am.
admittedly school was a nightmare from which i absconded as much as possible [ with exception of PLC in Melbourne]
and i have trouble staying in conversations in which i am not rivetted
televison puts me to sleep very quickly
and my "office" floor is kneedeep in receipts
files need to be visible in order to stay on the radar


but on the bright side there is always some new and intriguing train of thought to follow
dull moments are enlivened by [possibly] mad imaginings
and life is anything but boring

this [to my mind] is as it should be...

have a nice weekend.

Thursday 13 August 2009

runNing with scissoRs

for a long time now i've been making objects as 'blanks' [all white] and then dyeing them
i've been forcing myself
run with scissors
and reverse the order of things

landscape drawings with eucalyptus

Monday 10 August 2009


yesterday i collected up an armful of sticks and lit the fire out in the studio for a nice boil-up. just for a change i decided to collect water from the various vessels that had been standing about in the open - and so had been kindly filled by the heavens

one of those vessels is made of copper

the dyebath comprised various prunings [lavender and roses], tempered by a pocketful of windfall eucalypts and a handful of Oxalis pes-caprae [that's soursob if you're Australian, Bermuda buttercup if you hail from across the ditch]

a pile of bundles were cooked and then allowed to cool in the brew overnight...on fishing them out this morning i discovered that the shiny new clips i'd used as resists had been beautifully coated with copper and even the black bulldog clips had acquired a very nice patina

nature's alchemy at work

i rather like my colours dark and murky, influenced by a few fragments of iron in the dyebath but had a sudden attack of hysterical giggles as i laid the samples out for a look.

i've only had two [publicly] grumpy students in the last 12 months. one walked out of a workshop in the first hour, claiming she "could have done this at home". fair enough, but if it had been me i would have stayed and gotten my money's worth...the first hour in any workshop i run is largely taken up with establishing dyepots, allocating space, saying hellos and how-do-you-dos and talking about the work ahead.

the other made the comment that her husband could have achieved the same effects using the cloth as cleaning rags in his workshop. sounds like a very talented chap, i think he could be on to something there....just imagine a huge pieced cloth, stitched together from oil-soaked rags.

i can picture it hanging in the Venice Biennale in some deliciously dilapidated old building...wouldn't mind seeing my own work there, either!

Sunday 9 August 2009

the way of the duck [and an angel playing piano]

yesterday was a truly splendid day
it began well
i awoke breathing
[always a good beginning]
the sun shone and twinkled
on ice-rimed grass
and the spring blossomsnow
was everywhere

we wandered to the farmer's market
a happy saturday habit
where we found
among other things

cartoonist Michael Leunig has good advice
'study the way of the duck'
these ducks had good ways
they needed to come home with us
and join the other rescued ducks

who knows what fates might otherwise have overtaken them?
someone might have thought they were food
not recognised their real purpose as great teachers
and philosophers
so here they are

with their new friends

i mentioned earlier that it was a splendid day
a wonderful day for weeding
finding small things that had been buried in the garden
and forgotten in the general buzz of things
there are few activities quite so satisfying
as carefully weeding out grass
from in between the freesias

while an old
and slightly tubby
Border Collie snores contentedly nearby
observed [a little disdainfully]
by a small fluffy CatfishWeaselBear
[for enlightenment scroll down the right hand side
to the image labelled 'Martha']

at sunset my parents and i
washed our hands and faces
put on clean socks
and tucked fresh hankies into our pockets
got into The Beastie
drove to Adelaide
and sat rapt in the audience
as David Helfgott
played piano, like an angel on speed

a truly splendid day

ps dear Mr Leunig, i know your images are copyright but i hope you don't mind me borrowing them cos they do link back to your site...

Friday 7 August 2009

coCo aVant cHanel

here's a film well worth seeing

Coco avant Chanel

Sunday 2 August 2009

some new work

i've barely finished stitching this piece and haven't really had time to make friends with it properly and already it's rushed off to have fun in Sydney without me

it's made up of silk fragments dyed in Lier, London, San Francisco, Wellington, Warrnambool, Columbus and of course Hope Springs.

it's a document of wandering, hand-stitched together using linen thread

if you're in the Sydney area you can see it at
114 Commonwealth Street
Surry Hills

trails of entrails

i'm in the national capital this weekend...unusually not for work but in order to celebrate the semi-centenary of a very dear friend.
wandering about this morning trying with no little difficulty to navigate the labyrinth of convoluted paths that encircle the city it came to me that not many people really know the true story behind the designing of Canberra.

dear friends, i'm here to enlighten you.

Canberra is popularly believed to have been designed by Walter Burley Griffin.

i'm inclined to think the true story goes more like this. Mrs Burley Griffin [well, actually the architect Marion Lucy Mahony] had a large Persian cat called Pinky. one day when Walter had wandered into the kitchen in the middle of a tricky session of designer's block to fetch himself a calming cup of tea Pinky strolled into the studio in search of amusement.

she sat up on the drawing table and enjoyed a quick wash. regrettably her tail rested on Walter's watercolour palette [remember these were the days before CAD when plans and elevations where all rendered by hand]. just then Pinky espied a sparrow through the window. morphing instantly into killer-cat slink mode she swivelled across the page and hurled herself at the offending avian.

moments later the drafting assistant entered the rooom, spied the watercolour swirls on the paper and decided to ink them in. and there it was, cat-made marks in psychotropic swirls , just waiting to be embellished with trees,parks and houses.

thank goodness it was only a cat's prints and not the soothsayers casting of the entrails of a sheep....our demented deviations might have been a lot longer