Friday 25 March 2011

some days of silence

i'll be off the radar for nine days or so
brewing cauldrons at Yankalilla
[note to burglars, don't bother - there'll be someone here at all times and they can be quite fierce]
which gives you plenty of time
to swing across to Sophie Munns' page
and read about things that are really important

Thursday 24 March 2011

correspondence, and other things

i get quite a lot of correspondence
although it lacks the romance of yesteryear [stamps, drawings on the envelope etc]
is very entertaining

i respond to the students who politely enquire whether i will answer a series of questions to help them in their work.
i ignore the ones who boldly demand i send "photos other than what i have available on my website together with descriptions of how the objects are made and dyed". one person recently even suggested i should send "quite a lot, as there are three of us"

i also ignore the emails that tell me "_______[insert name] wants to skype with you". my friends know i have a reluctance to use the telephone, let alone sit there with the camera on my macbook pointing up my not insubstantial nose. eww.

someone just the other day hoped i could send a pattern for the garments that were featured in a magazine recently. i couldn't. not because i had anything to hide, simply because i hadn't used a pattern.

as i wrote to my correspondent, i use the sewing machine as a kind of 3D drawing tool. i attack the cloth with scissors and thread and hope for the best. of late i have been borrowing a little from Julian Roberts' sub-cutting technique, but adapting it to my own way of working. Julian is the master of the "tunnel" - i like to work from an open piece of cloth and give shape by taking chomps out of the skirt with the delicious terror of the slice-and-dice overlocker [serger] that cuts as it stitches. fun. and then re-inserting the cut aways in other places so there's almost zero wastage

and i still prefer to work in white and add colour at the end, that way no pretty bits are lost to the scissors

but while we're on the subject of patterns
here are a few links that may be of interest
Mary Huang talks about computational couture here
and links to a lot of fun here

you might like to check out Holly McQuillan too

and the image? much to my amusement i spotted a camouflage-printed dress at a store in Adelaide yesterday...the funny thing was that i was wearing something that was similarly coloured and patterned, except that my version was coloured by mother nature

Tuesday 22 March 2011

on the bright side

the last few posts have been a bit grumbly
not a good look
time to count a few blessings instead
and to direct you to these pages
at Ode Magazine

there's a lot of really good writing there

i've particularly savoured Anne Thomas' contributions
documenting life in Japan since the earthquake and tsunami
her inspirational "letter from Sendai" has been doing the rounds
- seek out the rest of her writing if you have time
or think about making time to do so

why border inspections are important

i hear a lot of grumbling in my travels
from people who resent the caution exercised by those monitoring our borders
but here's a good reason for it all

while out wandering the fields on a misty autumn afternoon

gathering stuff to make more things like this

i found record numbers of these disgusting creatures

they're everywhere, crawling outside and inside the house
in writhing waves of black
dropping from the ceiling
and crunching underfoot

these accidental immigrants only appeared in South Australia in 1953.
conditions have been just perfect for their world domination plan.

scourges aren't limited to things that creep and crawl. think of the diseases that have decimated tree populations around the whirled as well [the chestnuts of eastern USA, for example, not to mention the dogwoods now under threat]

and while i have in the past [when it was permitted] cheerfully imported leaves [carefully packaged and labelled, leaves later incinerated after processing] in order to steam/boil them for dye samples it's not a risk i want to take anymore.

nor do i need to - the trusty travelling cauldron is all i require to gather windfall treasure on the run

Sunday 20 March 2011

not happy.

it has come to my attention that somebody has created an on-line profile in my name and used it to post "projects" from the Eco Colour book.

this is an infringement of my civil liberties and a theft of my identity. it constitutes fraud.

in the event another person may be considering something similar, be advised that any misuse of my name will result in legal action.

Thursday 17 March 2011

to do list

1. dye the travel blanket that is going to Alison [thank you Alison and everybody else for your generous donations to the Canterbury Earthquake appeal - nearly AUD$2000 was gathered through your kindness]
2. make up little parcels for the other donors too
3. work out exactly what is going to go into the exhibition at Orange Regional Gallery next month
4. post some of the pictures of 'breathe' taken by Joshua Penley
5. try and stop feeling so utterly baffled by the whirled

number 4 can be sorted immediately, then i'll close the time vampire and go and attempt to deal with the rest
[and some other pix can be found here]

Tuesday 15 March 2011


somebody wrote me recently in regard to a workshop later this year and asked me what my 'objectives' were.
this is what i wrote

what a curious question. i've never considered "having an objective" for a workshop, as whatever results from the class is determined by 'x' unknown factors [insert number of students for 'x']. just as an audience determines whether interactive theatre will sink or swim, so too does a group of students.

 i intend to present a range of techniques and possibilities, tell a few stories and pull the odd surprise out of my sleeve. each workshop is a fresh page for me, who knows what will come of it.

but it made me think a bit. i'm not sure i have any objectives*. just dog-paddling [and cat-napping] with the tide and hoping for the best without being too fearful of what might happen

*as in for life in general, not workshops specifically - in case there was any confusion about that

Monday 14 March 2011

it's a good thing i've got my big girl pants on

have just found a review of 'breathe'
lucky i'm wearing a good thick skin
Alan Brissenden didn't think much of my double dress
ah well

outside the sun shines
birds sing
and i'm not having to make snap decisions about what to stuff into a suitcase
or how i might get 6 cats [and the rest]
to safety

suspect Mother Earth isn't happy with us
and i have a horrible feeling that recent tumultuous events may just be the tip of the iceberg

loose threads

i'd so like to be able to show you some footage of 'breathe'
but it was hard to get reasonable images
let alone moving pictures
here's the best i can do

a valiant effort but not really up to much.

while wandering the compound before this evening's performance
i discovered an interesting designer
slogging it out in the WOMAD market.
Tina kindly permitted me to take a few pix
and has promised to let me know when her website will be up
she was showing a limited range - skirts , trousers, dresses
in really interesting shapes

the dress on the left reminded me of those i made for 'Debris' in 2007 [see image below]
similar cut at the top
but without the clever moon-shape at the bottom
some of the Sakki* dresses had nifty clips
so that the pointy bits at the side could be clipped up
a nice touch
and i found this link 

a scene from 'debris' choreographed by Frances Rings
costumes by your correspondent

and while i can't show you bits of 'breathe'
i've found footage of 'seven'
a production we worked on together a couple of years ago
[ie i made the costumes]

*curiously, Sakki translates from the Japanese as "a thirst for blood"

Sunday 13 March 2011

the peripatetic ecoprint

ecoprints seem to be popping up everywhere...
yesterday i spotted someone in the crowd at WOMAD
wearing a eucalyptus-printed dress

that made at least 3 on the day
[including a friend wearing one of my sewing attempts and also me]

while dancing with the interpixies the other day i also found this


go here to read more about the work

and at Julian Robert's workshop i spotted this
the dress made by Julian at his Wollongbar workshop
from locally supplied fabric

and flickr
is full of them

it's very satisfying to see folks dyeing with leaves
rather than with toxic [although often very pretty]
synthetic colour
the stuff absorbed into cloth can, after all, impact your health
for better
for worse

although i wish that people would find their own words to describe the magic
i read an article last year
rippling with familiar phrases
things i'm sure i've said myself on film/published in print
ah well

finishing on a warm fuzzy note
especially for my friend Jo

Friday 11 March 2011

felt like telling stories

i've discovered a new diversion on the Time Vampire
the possibility for making amusing 9 patches
or whatever number you like
i just happen to like the number 9

here's the link

but what i really wanted to share today
was the story of how my writing went from
occasional story-telling in Textile Fibre Forum mag
to books - so many folks have asked if i have an agent, how did i find a publisher etc

it goes something like this.
way back at the turn of the century, Qantas
[Australia's Skippy emblazoned national carrier]
contacted me wanting a sample felt bowl to shoot for their Japanese inflight magazine
called Spirit
so i sent a couple of bowls and
some months later
they enquired about a photoshoot

it duly happened, a story was published
i couldn't read it cos it was in Kanji or Katakana or something but the pix were cute
shot by my bro
i put it in the filing box and got on with life

some months later the phone rings
-this is an Event in itself in our house -
and a shy voice speaking in strongly accented english
asks if i will teach a private felt workshop at home.
first instinct in head screams NO WAY.
but universe taps me on shoulder and says, hey, listen.

so i ask why...and who
turns out it is Toyoko, who was Art Director for Spirit.
the magazine has been scrapped [good old cost cutting]
and she is now jobless

so i take an unusual dance-step
and invite Toyoko to come stay for a weekend.
no charge.
[most unusual, for me. i'm a complete hermit and we hadn't even met at this point]
some weeks later we collect a slight bespectacled figure
wearing a somewhat frayed but still gorgeous velvet detailed Comme des Garcons coat
from the hangar where Virgin used to land when they first started flying here

i teach her how to make felt
let her play in the studio
introduce her to sheep
and take her back to the airport at the end of the long weekend

again, i get on with life
from time to time an exquisite letter arrives in the post
and tells me that Toyoko is managing to sell felt at various markets
which pays the rent
and puts a scrap of food on the table
this is good.

skip to about three years later
and i get a phone call from Murdoch Books
"would i be interested in writing a book about felt?"
well, yes of course, but how did they find me?
turns out Toyoko had been to see them with her portfolio
[she's a book designer by profession]
and they'd looked and made "how nice noises"
but seemed more interested in her bag
which was made of felt [by her]
Toyoko kindly told them where she'd learned
and they'd rung me.
which is why we did that first book together.
me doing the writing and the two of us sharing the projects.

so i never went looking for a publisher, nor do i have an agent.
Toyoko designed the look of Second Skin
and also published a gorgeous book of her own
'pass me a smile'

now i just need to work out a plot for our next collaboration...
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Thursday 10 March 2011

and while we're reminiscing and handing out bouquets

just thinking about the happy connections that have spread
a bit like mycelium
over the past quarter century
i'd like to acknowledge Kay Lawrence
who, while sitting dam-side by a campfire on my folks' farm one day
"why don't you do a Masters?"
when i was [as usual] rabbitting on about plants and dyes
so i did
and then on my last day at the post-grad studio
i picked up the telephone
and [very boldly]
rang the Leigh Warren Dance company
fully expecting to be fielded by an administrator.
the great man himself answered the phone
and when i stammered that i would like to show him some textiles
"why don't you pop in now, seeing you're just around the corner"
which led to me doing the costumes for
'petroglyphs', 'wanderlust', 'seven' and now 'breathe'
[and because Frances Rings was dancing in 'petroglyphs'...and quite liked her frock, i think, she asked me to do the cozzies for 'debris', the production she choreographed for the West Australian Ballet]

and where do i turn to source the materials for this work?
Beautiful Silks.
and where did i first meet Marion [the Supreme Bird who manages that magical resource]?
you guessed it
at a Fibre Forum
organised by the lovely Janet de Boer

while i scour thrift stores and op shops, vintage suppliers of Japanese textiles
and the tip shops of the whirled to make all sorts of things
when it comes to making costumes that dancers will wear night after night
it's kindest to put them in new cloth
silk is gorgeous to dance in
and dyes beautifully

for 'breathe' i've used silk [satin and gauze and organza] from Beautiful Silks [this link takes you to their blog]
and of course also Milkymerino TM
which [while i sourced it directly from the producers] will be stocked by BS
and so available to all who have lusted after it in the past

the big dress in the pix is based on Julian Roberts' subtraction cutting principles
[except that because i built it before i went to his class so it's put together a little differently than he would have done]
it's a double dress
two bodices
cut from a rectangle [Julian worked with tubes in the class]
of silk organza that measured 12.5metres x 5.2metres*
try and fit THAT on a sewing table

 a composite lapshot pasted
together using the panorama app -
that blurry thing in the foreground
is my studio assistant Martha...

*the rectangle was stitched together using my overlocker and favourite thread 65%silk+35%cotton
my students will know i have a passion for it...but how to fit the thick stuff through a machine? easy. i talk to my friend Marion and make bleating noises about "wouldn't it be lovely if my favourite thread were available thinner"
a few weeks elapse
and a parcel arrives
the perfect response to my request. oddly the mixed thread dyes better than the pure silk, i think because the surface isn't so smooth and there's something for the colour to grip on to....

Wednesday 9 March 2011

orange and last minute stitching

i pasted this image together from 3 taken in the gloom of the wee small hours last night
freshly dyed cloth [milkymerino TM]
for extensions to parts of the mens costumes for 'breathe'
one of the hardest things for me is to cut into a piece of cloth like this
for me it's a kind of map
of the day
of the plants
of the bio-region where i gathered the windfalls
[or, in this instance, did some community pruning
to save pedestrians from getting wet hair while pootling along the sidewalk
under a low-hanging eucalypt]

which is why i prefer to make things in white/greige and dye them after the last stitch has been inserted
since attending a Dorothy Caldwell masterclass some years back
i have also been piecing smaller cloths together
[but i still can't bring myself to cut or shape them]

the mention of maps brings me to thoughts of Orange
as in the Orange Fibre Forum
where i will be giving a class next month

Janet de Boer [the creator of TAFTA, editor of 100 issues of its splendid magazine and fearless leader of over 20 years' worth of Fibre Forums]
kindly paved the way for me to show an exhibition of my work at the Orange Regional Gallery
which will open on April 1 and run to May 6

the exhibition is called
the windFallMaps
[which will also travel to Surface Design this year to be shown at their conference]

i'd like to publicly thank Janet for her support, enthusiasm and mentorship over the years.
she was one of the first to publish my writing
gave me my first 'big' teaching opportunities
and has been hugely generous in drawing attention to my various activities

her creation of the amazing textile community that has met through Forums
along with her boundless pastoral care [i'm but one of the many who has benefited]
is just astonishing.

Janet dear, i dips me lid.

Monday 7 March 2011


i've been working like a beaver
on costumes for 'breathe'
dress rehearsal this thursday
i keep handing over stuff
having forgotten to take pictures
and then
shooting the odd happy snap
using the batfone
at a distance
resulting in blurry images that don't do either the work
or the dancer

so here's a shot of something else entirely
ecoprints on handwoven silks

Friday 4 March 2011



every now and then it's necessary to strain out a few lumps
especially if you want to apply a liquid to something
through an atomiser squirty thingy.
lumpy bits make it clog up

i may have mentioned this before somewhere
but today's effort involved a new sock
different jar
there may just be someone out there
desperate to strain something
and not wishing to sully the tea-strainer

besides, i was having fun with the pix
and with 'nevercam'

you need [besides a lumpy liquid]
a jar
a sock
[preferably one whose mate has gone to Jesus]
you can simply rinse it and put it back on your foot if you wish
[the sock, not the jar]


jar with sock at left

sock has wormed its way into jar

sock smoothed over jar [with toe hanging down
inside] and a nice dam for pouring in the liquid
oops, should have darned it while it was
nicely stretched

gently squeeze out the sock to harvest as much liquid as possible
in the event you wish to return the sock to its former condition,
turn it inside out, give a good shake and rinse

Thursday 3 March 2011

for open hearts and kind hands

some more quick news about how to help the folks in the Canterbury region
Phillipa of Christchurch is organising the making of snuggle dolls
find her here

the tireless Kaite [who must have fingertips of steel] is still making quilts
now extending her reach from flooded Queensland to shaken Christchurch
find her here

my skinsister Rachelle has been so busy gathering food and goods and probably cold wet babies off the beach too [sorry, girl joke here, you had to be there] that she hasn't had time to write anything here lately

and there's still time to put your name in the hat [or score the blanket for the biggest donation]

Tuesday 1 March 2011

Nature's Colours in the City

after months of musing and murmuring, Beautiful Silks announce a southern hemisphere follow-up to both ISEND2011 [to be held in France in April this year] and the UNESCO Natural Dye conference in Hyderabad 2006.

'Nature's Colours in the City',  a natural dye symposium focussing on ecologically sustainable practice will be held over two weeks in Melbourne, Australia in June-July of 2012.

Look forward to exhibitions and seminars, museum visits, a range of workshops and to seeing Julian Roberts [subtraction cutting] and India Flint [botanical alchemist] work together on a week-long collaborative project in the new Textile Gallery at Beautiful Silks.

the committee is open to Expressions of Interest for workshops, lectures and associated exhibitions in Melbourne , please contact 
with your proposal.