Wednesday 30 May 2012

roundabout and roundabout and roundabout we go

early in 2010 i travelled to Japan for the express purpose of studying the textiles on show at the Amuse Museum
the Boro cloths were marvellous indeed and i wrote about the visit here
there was something i didn't mention
something i kept close to my heart while i was waiting to see where it might lead
- that something was the weaving of cloth

a skill i had not used for some forty years
rediscovered thanks to a friendly weaver working on the top floor of the Museum
who was happy for me to take her photograph
[my apologies, i do not have her name]
and who kindly invited me to try weaving at her loom

in doing so
she lit a small flame that has been gradually growing.
and while i've been keeping my weaving fairly quiet
it will play some role in the exhibition "muddy waters"
to be shown at the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery in March 2013
along with paper and cloth, felted/stitched/dyed marks

i've never much taken to being limited by labels and i can't for the life of me see any reason for restricting my practice to a particular medium
- i want to tell my story the best way i can
and will utilize whatever is necessary to do so

and while i admit to showing "finished objects" when presenting work publicly
it's really not about that at all
the "things" that are shown
merely tell a Reader's Digest version of the bigger story
and that bigger story is all to do with the process of the work

...stitching on another plane the night before last
the woman to my left asked "what's it going to be?"
and was i think a little confused when i said "it might not be anything, it's what it is now that's important"
then wanted to know whether i was using a pattern

my response was "well, no, i'm just drawing with a needle and thread"
and she took her arm off the arm-rest and reduced herself into the middle of her seat
and focussed on her crossword puzzle.

maybe she thought it was contagious.

but back to weaving. i realised it was in the bones
[literally handed on in a long chain from mother via grandmother via great-grandmother and so on]
and that it had been subtly in my work anyway
woven pages in books, interwoven photographs
interlaced cloth pieces embedded in felt,
in making rag and stick and wire fences in our tiny garden on the Andamooka Opal Fields
so i dived back in

there are many weavers whose work i admire and respect
[Sandra Brownlee is one of them
Chiyoko Tanaka is another, along with Jun Tomita]
but i have no intention of trying to copy any of them
- i will be weaving my own path
in my own way

lucky for me
when i need to know something about weaving
i can still ask my Ma

 the last words for today go to Frank Lloyd Wright

"The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes"

Tuesday 29 May 2012

some time later

following on from the last post
[no pun intended - am aware it is Memorial Day in yesterdayland]

i bundled a $4 silk dress [branded "Trent Nathan" but found in a thrift store] with fallen stars
gathered from the gutters in Stirling

said dress now absorbed into the wardrobe of one of the grandchildren of the visionary who initiated the tree-planting scheme

Friday 25 May 2012

scarlet stars

when we first came to live in South Australia
in the early 1970s
[yes, children, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth
and your mother was dodging lava puddles and errant meteors]
there was barely a tree to be found on the main street of Stirling
there was one brave oak
that marked the position of the local hamburger joint
[now a jewellery store]
and the deli next door
which some ambitious soul designated as the "Oak Tree Plaza"

Mount Barker Road was an expanse of bitumen
wide enough for a bullock cart to be turned in
[even though the chances of a bullock cart struggling up the hills from the plains were by now pretty slim]

so my Pa
who in those days was quite a bright chap
and coined phrases such as
"the driest state on the driest continent"
-  a snappy descriptor still applied to South Australia -
hit upon the notion of planting a few trees

due permissions were gathered
not without protest from the traders of the time who argued that it would take away parking spaces, people would be killed by running into [the trees], falling limbs would crush cars etc etc
Liquidambars were selected, not only for their glorious autumn colour but also as a fire safety measure...eucalypts are lovely trees but rather prone to explosive combustion and in the likely event the Mount Lofty Ranges are again consumed by fire 
having less flammable trees in the main street is probably a good thing

this winter it will be 40 years since we mucked in
with other hardy souls in the community
and helped plant some fifty trees
that now provide welcome shade in summer
scatter scarlet stars on the pavements in the fall
and whose branches trace delicate drawings in the mists
of our most chillsome season

might be time to gather a few leaves
and make a commemorative bundle
- i'll let you know how that goes

Monday 21 May 2012

roses roses all the way

roses, roses all the way
unlike the Browning poem
no "myrtle mixed in my path like mad"

merely the nice chap at Central Market Flowers
calling out to me in passing last week
that he had a lovely pile of rose petals
and was sure i could find a use for them

i'd always liked the thought of being showered with rose petals
- this is as close as i am likely to get -
so smiled broadly and accepted the pile with glee

the fragrance was heavenly
and i enjoyed it for a few days
while pondering what to do with them

i had a little white book, made in Dorothy Caldwell's class
- the intent was that it should have marked pages
that it was to be stitched/woven together with coloured threads

my eyes don't work well with colour
i find white much more restful
so i was a little naughty and quietly bent the instructions

which meant i had a lovely blank/blanc book
awaiting play

warning : the fragrance of semi-dried rose petals is utterly intoxicating

the wee book was bound, gagged and submerged
under the close supervision of Johnnie
who likes to drape himself along the masonry
that backs our wood-burning stove

this was good
because i didn't want the pot to boil
we all know
a watched pot NEVER boils

and then i went to bed

this morning i opened my present

a rose-scented dorothybook
just for me

Friday 18 May 2012

madeline island

i like islands.

so when the kind folk at Madeline Island in Lake Superior asked whether i would care to join them next summer i jumped at the chance

the last time i was on the shores of that lake was in 1976
when our family was travelling across Canada in a $200 jeep
there were holes in the floor that let in exhaust fumes
- we chewed a lot of gum and plugged them with it

the jeep died in San Francisco
at the end of an epic journey across the continent and down the West Coast
- i visit the oil stain it left on the pavements of Russian Hill
each time i swing through my favourite city

Pa left his camera sitting on a log on the north shore of Lake Superior
but that's another story.

so in July 2013
i will be taking the ferry to Madeline Island
for five days of dyeing, stitching and storytelling

the class is the "Wayfarer's Wanderbook and Windfall Cloth"

the contract is signed and nailed into place on my calendar.

...they wanted a bio photo
which is a bit tricksy. there are not that many images of me stored in the electronic retrieval system

i sent them two to choose from

this one

using the Pacific Puddle as pre-mordant

and this one [i'm the one in the dress]

photo credit : Nancy Zeller

wonder if i will find a dog-friend on the island?

Wednesday 16 May 2012

remembering to breathe


the class in the Forest of Dean had filled nicely and i foolishly thought all was well
and then my friend and organiser
Sally Stafford kindly inspected the Festival website with a view to attending the performance of
[which was my reason for coming to the UK in the first place]
and found
the dates had changed from those i had been told

so there's been an enormous muck up
and a number of people have been inconvenienced
and i am very sorry

but there may be someone out there who would have preferred to attend on August 27,28,29

i hope so.
trying to remember to breathe.

Tuesday 15 May 2012

in quiet retreat

it is time for quiet retreat in the cool of the Deep South
a time for wordlessness and mindfulness in the season of mist and fog
preparing for summer days in various parts of the North

and of course for the Natural Dye Symposium taking place in Melbourne [AUS] in a little over a month's time [where i think a couple of places remain available in the classes i have been assigned]

the class planned for Santa Barbara [USA]
has filled, as have those in Cleveland [USA] in the Fall

the class in London seems to be getting some interest [despite a certain large sporting event vying for attention] and there's a possibility of two days in France early in September...pencilled but not permanently inked at this stage

so i have some things to think about
materials to gather
marks to make on paper
and marmalade stains to apply to maps

Monday 14 May 2012

draped in fur

after some hours happily stitching inflight
and then a couple more spent chugging through the ranges
in the Red Terror [otherwise known as the Farm Ute]
i am home again
draped in welcoming cats and consuming quantities of honey-sweetened tea

having enjoyed eleven or so blessed days in paradise

all colours derived from locally gathered plant material - including windfalls, garden prunings and the dessicated contents of a vase

with grateful thanks to the keepers of this blessed garden.

Saturday 12 May 2012

ontrack in the wide brown land

it's been a while, but
i have been enjoying gentle wanderings in very good company in this beautiful Wide Brown Land

along with my friend r
who kindly spent two days stoking the fire under this marvellous cauldron

and who took the photo below as proof of the pudding [the workshop was held in the building second from the right in the distance]

the group shared splendid lunches [** a hint of turnip/swede in one of the delicious soups took me straight back to a similarly warm and friendly workshop at Gore NZ some years back. KiaOra in case any of you are reading this!!]

we enjoyed much laughter and story-telling, joyful singing and lots of bundling

wonderful colours were produced

and did i mention the Prickly Bears? sometimes Cochineal insects can be found on them...

on a less pleasant note...short-sighted politicians and mining companies have a plan to dig up this magnificent piece of country, literally the food bowl for the region, in order to flog the coal for short-term gain. sure there might be a few jobs for the next decade or so, but after that it will be a desert. the soil here is like chocolate cake. it's been built up over millions of years and will not easily be restored if the carnage goes ahead.

lastly for those of you nibbled from your sleep by kittens at dawn on Sunday May 13 and in need of something to put you back to sleep
a link to Radio National's small soundbite from yours truly