Friday 30 July 2010

those cloud-draped islands on the horizon again

oh yes!

i love going to New Zealand. i've met so many nice people there
and had wonderful times
and i love it when the cute guy at the airport says
'KaiOra, is it a welcome home?'

so i'm thrilled to bits to be booking tickets to that wonderful country again
a visit to Nelson in November this year
with some forest wandering after the communal cauldron cools

and a revisiting of Waiuku February 2 - 7 next year
we're calling the class  'return to fields'
which is followed by some time at Dairy Flat [10-14 February]

you don't know where that is either? it's north of Auckland
in what is [for me] as yet unexplored territory
we'll be working on feltquilts
and it will be a splendid time...

ps i haven't forgotten the other nice people who have invited me to teach in Aotearoa
it's just that i'm doing it a little bit at a time
[like eating an elephant. s l o w l y. but of course i wouldn't be nibbling on an elephant because they're far too nice and i'd rather eat vegetables and fishes]
pps that image above? is from a tea bag tag...

Tuesday 27 July 2010

making something of julia gillard's climate confab

our [for the moment] Prime Minister Julia Gillard has announced that she is calling a meeting of 150 interested parties to discuss Australia's potential responses to climate change.
i have some advice for her.
Julia dear, save the airfares and cut lunches and the money and just stop logging the forests.
now we've got that sorted, give the loggers some shovels and seeds and send them out to plant more trees
they'll find it far more satisfying [and less dangerous] than chopping them down
legalise the planting of hemp for paper, cloth and nourishing food from the seeds
put systems in place to harvest 'storm water' in the cities
and use it to keep urban trees alive
[they help clean the air]
make safe bicycle lanes AWAY from roads
and then set about tidying up industrial emissions

and on a lighter note
the kind person who writes the 'make something' pages
has put up a bunch of really nice photos of the recent workshop in Toronto
in case anybody would like to see what we got up to there....

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Monday 26 July 2010


dress by Cleo Thorpe-Ngata
photo by Rachelle Toimata

when i first ventured to Aotearoa to teach at Kapiti 
i met the two people whose names appear in the caption above 
then both students at Whitireia Polytechnic
it's been wonderful to see their work bloom
and i'm delighted to hear that Cleo's dresses are off to the other side of the whirled
something tells me that Rachelle's camera might take her places as well...

Sunday 25 July 2010

mapping and stuff

map-folded book made at the 'mapping country' workshop
 held in Toronto recently

i have a thing about maps and mapping. i teach a class called 'mapping country' and have a growing collection of books and images to do with maps. i use plant dyes and colours gathered from the land as a means of trying to make sense of where i am, together with a bit of writing and the occasional happysnap

[i wish i could recall where i found the image below]

i'm not alone in this fascination. Indigenous Australians make paintings that are a kind of mapping. Dorothy Caldwell has made work about mapping. Hannah Lamb is making a project about mapping, spending time in a wood somewhere in the UK.

and two books below that contributed to the substantial lengthening of my arms as a result of bag-schlepping during the recent trans-Pacific odyssey  [thank you Shakerag for your kind faculty discount not to mention your beautifully stocked store!]
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Friday 23 July 2010

skin and bunny [possibly not what you might think]

it's been a week of highs and lows [thank you everybody who sent kind thoughts, tis wonderful indeed to know so many warm hearts read these pages]
now let me tell you about the high -
the formal confirmation letter from my lovely publisher
accepting the manuscript for second skin*

and then yesterday i pootled down to the Art Gallery of South Australia
to see the exhibition Rupert Bunny, artist in Paris

like me, Rupert was born in Melbourne [1864]. i think we have a couple of other things in common -
you can see by the way he paints them that he loved dogs

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Tuesday 20 July 2010

pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood

yesterday i buried my best friend
things may be a little quiet here for a while

Sunday 18 July 2010

new orleans

the mention of amulets, talismans and charms over at Art Propelled
put me in mind of New Orleans
and the voodoo that is never far from the surface

look carefully
a wee skull grins below
amidst the fripperies

i know i've shown one of these images in an earlier post
but sitting here with the dog
rummaging through pictures while she dozes
with her head in my lap

couldn't help but put a few more up

half the fun of travelling is reminiscing
after the suitcase schlepping is done with

Saturday 17 July 2010

variations on a theme

saturday night on the sofa [happily still with the dog]
well, you know what they say
the devil finds work for idle hands
been doing a bit of rummaging
[cos i've been having trouble threading needles in the dark]

just substitute SF for LA in the song...

and then there's this one

the Animals had their tuppence-worth too

for the secret romantic

or for some spectacular frocks

Friday 16 July 2010

thanks Leslie

thanks to Leslie Avon Miller
i've discovered the highly entertaining John Medina

there are more reasons than one for taking Walks in the Woods...

what lies beneath

i'm back in the season where day comes late
and night falls early
keeping watch on the sofa in the wee small hours
with my now very frail best friend
between pats she sleeps
head on my knee, wrapped in an old padded kimono
and while she sleeps i wander virtually

found news of an exhibition worth sharing

Substrate, Structure, Surface - Leonie Andrews

click on the link to read the review written by Julie Ryder

Monday 12 July 2010

wool gathering?

the stuff in the picture is wool from an English Leicester sheep [Leicester Longwool for UK readers]
despite being long stapled, strong and lustrous [or perhaps for those very reasons] it is worth nothing at the wool auctions in Australia.

it could however be of great value in dealing with the oil spewing up the the Gulf of Mexico

oil loves to adhere to felt and especially to felt made of strong wool [or human hair for that matter]

having a felt barrier on the inside of those floating walls they're putting about would be a way of collecting oil. my imagination hasn't run to how it might be dealt with after that [or with how it would be transported]
perhaps mass composting in old open-cut mines?

Sunday 11 July 2010

use for a piece of felt no #1001

use number #1001 for a piece of felt
= wrapping the gin bottle to keep it cool in the car...

Saturday 10 July 2010

things to remember

fireflies in Tennessee
catfish in Memphis
the Oregon Coast. all of it.
New Orleans. all of it.
SOMA chocolate from Toronto
the smell of that bakery in Quebec
the sounds of the bells on the buoys in each little bay
are all firmly imprinted

driving down Highway 1
has just taken 30 years off how old i feel

next week it's back to work
time to bring in the sheep
mow the hayfield that is my garden
and sweep the dust from the studio
so as to get cracking on work for Surface Design next year...


as we reach Astoria to join Route 101
the fog wraps itself around us
like a big soft blanket
cool on the cheeks
but wonderful

someone has built an elegant stack
on a roadside post
the midday sun has eaten the lovely fog

an abandoned sandcastle at driftwood beach
is our marking point
so we can find the trail out again
more fog

and the night time amusement
reconstructing the dress
that had been intended to stay in Montreal
but didn't

we're back in California now
dinner was dried salmon and bread
followed by peanut butter and buckwheat honey
eaten together with a small spoon
i have a passion for honey
and seek it out wherever i go
the buckwheat honey found at the Pike Street Markets
in Seattle
liquid gold but oh so dark...

the road-trip continues tomorrow
along the old route 1
by the coast

thirty four years since i was last on this road
unlike Montreal
it retains its magic
despite widened roads
and many more buildings than i remember...

Wednesday 7 July 2010

à bientôt Quebec

there might be other ways to play with leaves
there's no better place than the Panetier du Faubourg
for breakfast in Quebec

only the foolish [or ridiculously disciplined]
could resist the aroma of freshly baked bread
wafting down the Rue StJean at 7am

being neither
we didn't.
the Brioche aux Raisins
is to die/dye for

and we may yet return
to acquire rations
in order to sustain us on the flight out

resuming normal transmission

not roadkill but windfall
a flower from a tuberous begonia
finds its way from the pavement of Quebec
into my pocket
where it meets a nasty end
squashed on to the piece of paper
i have been stitching on my travels
that blue at bottom right
is a result of the kaolin
on the surface of the backing paper
reacting with the red from the begonia
the top layer is gampi
in Toronto

dreaming of returning to Quebec in the Fall
it's full of maples and aspens
and sourwoods
all magical when muttered over
whilst in the cauldron

Tuesday 6 July 2010

blessed are the cheesemakers

The Montrealers have quite a lot to thank the French for, such as brutally claiming Quebec [province] from the original inhabitants, introducing their lilting language, giving the region some quite delightful architecture and establishing the production of cheese. Despite this the Montrealers seem to hate the French even more than they despise Les Americains.

Noted local musician Dan Bigras, playing at the Montreal Jazz Festival, opened his set by enquiring [in English] if there were any Americans present. Three hapless persons in the front row innocently raised their hands, whereupon the great man spent the rest of the evening speaking ever broader Quebecois and making jokes at their expense. Sometimes he switched to picking on the French instead and once or twice had a go at the ‘other’ Canadians. That would be those who are not Quebecois. In between he sang [great voice, terrific range] and expertly played keyboard [again, respect].

I’ve wandered quite a bit in my life and [perhaps foolishly] consider myself a traveller rather than a tourist. In general I travel for work rather than amusement. I’ve slept in places as diverse as an abandoned cowshed in the Swiss Alps, the railway station at Boulogne and on red sand in the wilder bits of Australia, where the trick is to unroll your swag only as you’re getting into it for the night so as to be sure that nothing reptilian [or otherwise] occupies it before you do. I’ve mended mosquito nets at the youth hostel in Suva before turning in for the night and walked down the west coast of Scotland in wild weather hefting a pack. I think it’s fair to say I generally maintain a fairly optimistic outlook and am pretty flexible except where bedbugs are concerned.

I try to become familiar with at least a few words of the local language wherever I go. I find it helps. For example, if you make the effort to speak French in France the locals invariably respond in a friendly fashion. They might find you slightly hilarious but they will be gracious about your massacred attempts to mumble pleasantries.

J’adore la France.

I came to Montreal to revisit what was once home [hey, my brother was born here] but with the exception of the charming young lady serving at the epicerie on Maisoneuve, the lovely people at the Fairmont Bagel bakery and lots of friendly dogs; I encountered nothing but venom and sullen stares from the Montrealers [or are they properly called Montrealists?]. I even tried dressing sedately in jeans and a Tshirt in case my distinctive clothing style was the problem. Same response.

So after some thought here’s my advice to the residents of Montreal. If you want people to continue visiting your city and giving you money to prop up your economy, try at least to pretend that you don’t mind them breathing.

If you want the rest of the whirled to leave you alone why not declare yourselves La Republique de Montreal, close the borders around your town [most of it should be easily defensible, being on an island] and keep the rest of us out. That way you can enjoy yourselves without all those nasty foreigners cluttering up the place. Perhaps you could put a box at the border so those people who like being insulted can just put their money in and listen to a recorded message about how pathetic they [and the rest of the whirled] are and then go away again. Et moi? I can take a hint and have gone somewhere else.

After a short train journey we’ve arrived in Quebec City, which by contrast appears to be full of genial folks who bear with my rusty French, are helpful and actually know how to smile. As opposed to just baring their teeth.

Tomorrow should be a lovely day.

Monday 5 July 2010

more Montreal musings

best meal in Montreal
spinach salad [with chipotle peanuts, smoked blue cheese, grape tomatoes, goddess dressing and cajun seasoning]
prepared by The Precious
in the helltell icebucket
served in gelato containers saved from SOMA
[in Toronto, go there]
and eaten using nifty stainless steel chopstix
[that double as felting tools]
acquired on Stockton in San Francisco
that's my laptop cover serving as table cloth

wool fragment dyed with
windfalls gathered on the Mo[u]nt
silver and sugar maples
and some oak leaves [not shown]
wrapped around that nice dogspike found in New Orleans
on the tracks down by the Mississippi

here's what we're going to do next


pas ce soir, Josephine

it's been a long time since i was last in Montreal
about 27 years if we're counting
i had fond memories
and looked forward to revisiting a few of them
while researching a few other possibilities
and gathering some windfalls
in places i had walked as a child

i had also planned to donate a work
to a Museum here
glowingly billed [on their website]

it took a while to find it
a while being a 5 hour trek aux pieds
made memorable by rude bicyclists
indicating they would cheerfully have hurled us off the Jacques Cartier Bridge
despite that we were being well-behaved and walking on the side reserved for pedestrians
[where les bicyclettes were completely interdit]

clearly things do get flung from the bridge
from time to time
we saw a perambulator in fragments far below
the sort of pieces and splatter pattern that are produced when something
gets on the wrong side of gravity
in conjunction with a very hard surface

we hope the occupant had wings
or a parachute
or had simply outgrown and discarded the chariot

but i digress
here is the museum

charming, n'est ce pas?
[those are little bird houselets hanging on the posts at front]
but perhaps not the place to deposit a frock.
shall give it to the Precious instead
so she can make something of it
and wear it
rather than having it stored in that attic
waiting for visitors who never come
because they are lost on an island in the St Lawrence
or being hurled from a bridge by a passing cyclist

and slipping off topic for a moment
how do we think the inhabitants of
numero 155 Riverside drive [above] felt
when the powers-that-be
ran a freeway interchange
as well as a couple of overhead railway tracks
[couldn't get them all into the picture]
within spitting distance of their once charming cottage

a highlight of the walk was the Habitat building
designed by Moshe Safdie

and being serenaded by some wee black birdies
that had scarlet tufts on their shoulders

contents of the bundle to be revealed later

Saturday 3 July 2010

the textile blog

John Hopper of The Textile Blog has kindly mentioned my work on his pages - it's an honour to be among such illustrious company

do swing by for a visit [make sure you have a few spare hours and a cup of tea]
there are lots of interesting links to follow...

and here's an orphan
found towards the end of the workshop
dyed [so far as i can tell]
using a combination of
purple-leaved Agonis flexuosa
[from the florist's garbage]
a scrap of iron, a maple leaf
and some onion skins

Friday 2 July 2010

trundling on in Toronto

the delicate hues of the northern flora
strengthen in tone as the bundles are unfolded
and exposed to the air
meanwhile less and less of the communal table top
is visible
as busy hands
and many many leaves
begin to drift across the surface

Thursday 1 July 2010

toto in toronto

the workshop in Toronto takes place in the Contemporary Textile Studio
a beautifully set up workroom
looking into trees through two lovely big windows

we're far from the woods
[although there's magic to be found at High Park]
the local florist is kind
and has delivered much treasure

we have fun with paper, cloth and stitch
and i drool happily over the pages of this book...