Saturday 29 September 2012

nine days later

it was a glorious week on the shores of Corio Bay
[conceived, organised and brilliantly run by Janet de Boer and her fabulous team of dedicated volunteers]
where i taught as part of the "Design Focus" group

the weather threw everything at us 
from thunder and lightning and soaking downpours
to balmy blossom-filled spring sunshine

it was a wonderment to see how many people are including 
ecoprint items in their wardrobes these days
often as foil to bold pinks and purples
and it was a joy to be told by former students
[taking part in other classes]
that they had brought their plant-dyed samples
to incorporate in new work.

being at a Forum for a week
is a little like being encloistered
away from incoming news and most other media
in the quiet evenings i managed to work my way through some of the reading pile
which contains delicious and devourable text  [example below]

we all worked solidly, even on our one afternoon off
and there was much burning of midnight oil
as people dyed and stitched into the wee hours

on the last day
we sewed some rather lovely garments

and the students all wore theirs to the last supper

and now i'm dashing home for a day
to wash my socks and scanties
empty and refill my suitcase
ready to fly out to the United States
on Monday morning

Thursday 20 September 2012

Marking Time and Mapping the Spirit

this is the title of an exhibition i am in
together with Susan Gaylord
Christine Mauersberger has bravely been hanging the work
challenged by a compact gallery space
and by a somewhat erratic correspondent [me]

she has kindly sent a few pix of the bump-in

meanwhile i am at home in amongst the blossoms
marking time and mapping the spirit in another way
sewing a dress [and a nightie to replace the lost one]
fashioning a cardiganthingy from a woolly jumper [that's 'sweater' for Americans]
and wondering just what i will do in the last week of October
[too short a time to hop home and back]

there had been talk of visiting Alabama
but plans seem to be skittering about like fireflies on a warm June night

it's a sign
to take time out 
before heading to New Orleans on All Hallows Eve
ready to take up my residency on All Souls Day
east or west
flip a coin?


Marking Time and Mapping the Spirit: Two Artists of the Natural World

will be on display at the Howson Gallery at Judson Park, Cleveland, OH, September 21, 2012 - October 28, 2012.

The Howson Gallery is located at Judson Park retirement community, 1801 Chestnut Hills Drive, Cleveland Heights, OH 44106. 

Call (216) 791-2885 for gallery hours.

Wednesday 19 September 2012

the eye of the whirlywind

the calm days at the eye of the whirlywind have been a delight
yesterday in perfect weather
Roz and i pootled off to Reedy Creek

...after i took advantage of a Qantas special and booked my flight to New Zealand for the workshops there in January...which may quite possibly be the only Southern Hemisphere classes for me next year unless the pencilled plans for Queensland are inked soon - i'm locked in now so if NZ doesn't fill i'll be in the Land of the Long White playing somewhere anyways :o)

where [the story is back in Reedy Creek after that quick aside]
in the slightly sideways light of
i spotted a petroglyph i hadn't noticed before
quite possibly because i have usually followed a trail that passes directly beneath it
when following that trail had been keeping a firm eye on my family of mountain goats
looking up for signs in rocks

unfortunately the pocket pinhole camera doesn't have quite enough resolution
to clearly show the image from across the canyon

so i'll show you the tannin-rich water instead

there was just enough time
to build a calming rockstack
before the airport run

Monday 17 September 2012


it's good to be home for a bit
and be involved in life

this weekend we celebrated a wedding
it took place a while back but didn't get the attention it deserved at the time
because there was deep sadness in the family
about a passing
and the dancing feet were limping

 the woolshed scrubbed up very well
especially as Roz swung in from Queensland
to lend a hand
draped the place with twinkle lights
and apple blossom

the feast comprised both Latvian and Maori yumminess
[including Hangi, Pīrāgi, potato salad, delicious cakes]
with a little southern US influence
[pulled pork] 
thrown in for good measure

and of course there was a bonfire

next day the coals called for a dyepot


and when i awoke this morning
and was looking at the stains here and there

i was put in mind of Stuart Kestenbaum's beautiful words
photographed at an exhibition on Deer Isle recently

Friday 14 September 2012

the TSA had fun

the TSA certainly had fun this time
they left two notes in the leather hold-all that is my portable studio
took the gaffer tape off my jar of maple syrup
[guess who will be experimenting with maple syrup stains on cloth as pre-mordant]
and i can't work out whether they kept my nice silk nightgown
or whether i foolishly left it behind at the last helltell
at least my crown
[thank you Sally and Ben]
arrived home intact
tucked safely inside my North America 110 volt dyepot
[thank you Monika, the little sputnik is travelling well]

Tuesday 11 September 2012

i know it's not fashionable to say so in Australia

i know it's not fashionable to say so in Australia
i love America*

maybe it's cos i have some history here
but i think it's a bit more than that

i've had wonderful times here
many pleasant encounters
deeply quiet moments
amusing conversations
along with unfailing politeness and courtesy

i'm as familiar with the woods in New England
as i am with the sclerophyll forests in Oz
thanks to my mother who told me what was which
when i was little

this week past i took some days
flying solo
on a roadtrip north from Boston to Haystack
and then back down again
an excursion for which i didn't once need a map
...that says something, i think

waiting at Logan airport for my flight home
reflecting on the journey
and gazing happily at my new boots
[bought in New Hampshire cos 
the stitching finally gave out on my old trusties - 
which will now become the sloppy farm boots for home]
i am well content
especially with the thought
that i will be back

*and that doesn't mean i am being a disloyal Australian,
just that i feel i have two [and quite possibly more] homes....
things that happen in childhood seem to have long-lasting effects

Monday 10 September 2012

thank you Haystack

i was among the lucky ones
 able to attend the New Works session at Haystack 
this past week

on the first morning
i wandered out on to the deck
to gather a few leaves
here is the very first thing i found


as a portent it was spot on.

we spent four nights and three blissful days
working from early until very late
being fed wonderful food
lulled to sleep by the waves
and greeted cheerfully by jolly redbrown squirrels

Naomi Shihab Nye led three writing workshops
in themselves a revelation
i had not been to a writing class since year 10 at Heathfield High School
[which left much to be desired]
i would like to spend two weeks at Haystack 
[or anywhere really]
working with her
[just putting it out there]

i am replenished in body and spirit.
thank you Haystack and and all those who sail
and sail in, in this most marvellous vessel

Wednesday 5 September 2012

blethering blissfully in Belfast

i'm wandering north to Haystack
hugging the coast 
[and this morning discovered to my joy that i had miscounted the days and have an extra one up my sleeve]
last night i stayed at a slightly dodgy hostelry
[the sort that might feature in Psycho III]

it's been raining paws all day
thanks to the Dogs Above
 stopped just as i decided enough was enough

tonight i have this outside my window

when i saw the field
i thought i had gone to heaven
[without even dyeing]

so many dye plants in one small patch

i'll spare you the binary nomenclature for once
and just give a quick list

queen anne's lace
jewel weed
golden rod
wild strawberry
at least three sorts of asters

and then at the edge and even down to the sea
wild roses

and by the sea 
an abundance of seaweeds
[and very fine rocks]

in the morning i may do some gathering
if the breeze picks up there should be some nice windfall

i could live quite happily in this wee house
within earshot of the bell ringing on the buoy
which is the tiny dot on the horizon
in the picture below

on my journey i even found reading material

which is about a woman writing a novel
about the things that she knows
this is funny
in England last week
i decided to revisit the novel that i had euthanised
earlier this year
maybe i'll find some tips

Sunday 2 September 2012


the eucalyptus ecoprint began as a serendipitous discovery
back in the nineties [last century, in fact]

the situation was created by a broody hen
who sat on an egg during three days of rain
in a nest made of dried eucalyptus leaves

the warmth of her little fluffy bloomers
just enough to coax brown leaf prints
on to the shell

the egg led me to experiment with bundling eucalyptus leaves on cloth
where the results were so exciting [and so efficient in terms of the volume of plant material used in relation to the results achieved]

that i gave it the name


a concept that is now spreading like wildfire around the world.

even as far as a commercial printing conference in Berlin
being held this month
that bears no relation at all to the technique.

a friend [who happens to be a patent attorney] advised me to patent it, many other people have wondered why i published the method...the answer is that it's so simple and so easily replicated that i wanted to have evidence in the form of a book [now two books] that it came from me. just so i could say to my as-yet-not-even-thought-of grandchildren

"your granny did this"

and of course, that if more people are dyeing simply with plants and water
& leaving the more toxic dyes behind
then the whirled has a better chance of surviving a bit longer

the secret is in the pages of this book

 or you can take a class with me sometime

Saturday 1 September 2012

learning to expect the unexpected

we had another splendid day at St Augustine's
quite appropriately
ecclesiastical purple seemed to prevail
[the pagan orange usually provided by eucalyptus was in abeyance]
although a couple of pre-loved teabags did their best on this landskin


this little flower may prove to be the new love of my life


and in a remarkable coincidence
i said to the class "i'm about to hand out a little present"
and one of the students, Aviva
"i have a present for you too"
handing me a lovely ball of wool dyed in yellow and green
oddly similar the the silk thread i was handing out

 at lunchtime i swung into the Selvedge shop
conveniently situated just up the road
yesterday i found a book of Chiyoko Tanaka's work
and i thought i'd have a look to see what other treasure might be on the shelves
[particularly as they were having a 20% off sale]

imagine my surprise when i found the catalogue
from my 2005 L'Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival exhibition
"benedictus ex-dress" on the shelves amid the books being offered for sale
[i sent it to them way back then as part of a media kit]

especially remarkable as Selvedge declines to stock both